Dissipation has become a common way to cope with anything that may ail us. We have become very good at keeping ourselves distracted from difficult memories, situations or challenging relationships. Many of us sink ourselves into our duties at home, our work or activism. I’m not even entirely sure it is a bad idea. Some situations really are too painful to face sometimes. I’m as guilty as anyone else. It took me nine years to visit the grave of my unborn child. It amazes me how much we can stuff and file into the back of our minds, while managing to live what seems to be a normal life. Sure, we can go on. The question is, how much do we lose when we close ourselves off and only try to survive and get by, instead of embracing the very love that is able to help us heal?
A dear friend reached out to a few close friends to pray for the love of his life, his wife, who has been battling cancer for decades. My first reaction was to be angry at the injustice of cancer. I think it is safe to say that most of us have been affected in some way by the hideous nature of cancer. I completely hit a wall. When I’m boxed in, I try to take inventory. I ask myself what is good about the present situation and what has been gained by the struggles faced. When I look at things this way, I begin to feel freedom instead of the imprisonment of a box.
Witnessing the love, courage, grace, dignity and strength of the individual suffering, I am in awe. Combine that with the way a dear one’s presence has, and continues to touch so many lives, my eyes are opened to the powerful and victorious nature of real love. Love is stronger than any other force. Real love is the appreciation of a person for who they are. Of course we need people. We desire to connect on a deep level with others. However, the greatest love is a detached gratitude for what a person holds inside of them. Like a flower with a fragrance, their beauty has nothing to do with us.
This month it has been 21 years this since my brother, Tommy, passed away. There are not enough Fourth of July Fireworks or parties to make me forget. Unfortunately it is not possible to remember the person and forget the pain of their loss. It takes courage to hold on to what was special and beautiful about those we have lost along the way. If we cannot find this courage, what is the point of life? The only thing we can take with us to the next life is how we love. Isn’t it logical then that we should love as much and as often as we are given the privilege to? It is up to those of us left behind to remember and honor that love. In order to do that, we must continue to love on their behalf, and for our own fulfillment, even if it is with an aching heart.
When it comes to loving anyone, the true magic happens when we love them for their own good, not ours. There is joy, even in sorrow, when we focus on the greatness of the ones we love, or have loved, and not on the cost of loving them. Anthony De Mello sums it up in his book, THE WAY TO LOVE, “When you are in love you find yourself looking at everyone with new eyes; you become generous, forgiving, kindhearted, where before you might have been hard and mean.” The ability to keep an open heart in spite of tragedy and pain is the greatest challenge of life, but I cannot imagine a better way to live.
The thing that scares most people, is one of my favorite things about life. We do not know what’s around the next corner. Our entire lives can change in an instant, whether it be a visiting a new place, making a decision, new career or project, or a new person coming into our lives. Sure, tragedy and loss are also possible. Most of us are not strangers to some type of loss. Hopefully, we have gained more than we have lost. Even if we have lost more than we have gained, if we are still alive then we have a chance and the hope to gain. That brings me to the word ‘IF’. The word ‘if’ signals the change if you will allow it. ‘If’ is only found in silence.
I had the amazing privilege and honor to visit a dear friend at a cloistered Trappist monastery, St. Joseph’s Abbey, this past weekend. Amidst the noise and busy-ness of life I have more than once imagined a life of complete silence-for a minute or so, of course! 🙂 After all, I enjoy people and conversation. As I walked the halls of the Abbey, I noticed a sound that was distinct and vaguely familiar, but I could not place it. After standing in the library surrounded by the knowledge of books on endless bookshelves softly lit by the gentle rays of sunlight that peacefully fell through the large wooden windows, I identified the sound. It was silence. The deep, unhindered, powerful sound of silence. It was beautiful. We live in world that runs from silence. Even if we do manage to get some silence, the noise in our head keeps us from really understanding its significance. I stood there in the quiet for a few moments and my new favorite word ‘IF’ came to me.
Silence is full of possibilities if we are open to it. Silence asks two questions: Who do you listen to? What do you really want? The first question reminds me of Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. Imagine for a second you could believe there is a very personal God out there who loves you and wants to tell you something. Wouldn’t anyone want to listen? The next question addresses the noise in our lives. Our culture constantly tells us to get ahead, acquire more, gain more power, more money, more pleasure and entertainment. If we could break free from those ideals for a moment and ask ourselves what we really want, deep down I think most of us would want more love, happiness and peace. Possessing money and power will not attain these objectives. Pleasure can be a cheap counterfeit for what we sincerely seek. The world has confused sex and pleasure with love. At times love contains sex, but sex never contains love. We as a culture stay on the hamster wheel with distractions and noise, so we do not have see the emptiness of our vain pursuits. What if we could see silence as the place for wonderful possibilities, instead of the void where we see our disappointments? This is the secret that monks have discovered. Silence is the place where we can recharge, prioritize, and see possibilities beyond our greatest dreams if we are open to it.
Summer has suddenly parked itself right in front of us. Don’t panic, even if you haven’t seen your legs (or anything else in daylight) since last November. However brief, Spring gives us a great window of opportunity to maximize our Summer experience. A few steps and you’ll be on your way to a fabulous Summer!
1. Evaluate the Situation and Act. That extra 5-10 pounds? I’m calling it a defense mechanism against the cold weather. We just don’t need the insulation anymore. Figure out honestly just how much insulation you’d like to get rid of. But ladies, for God’s sake, don’t punish or starve yourselves. You are more than the ever changing and subjective numbers on your clothes. Instead, pick an activity that you enjoy and make time for yourself to do it. I recently bought the first bike I’ve ever owned. Riding is not a chore or drudgery, like the gym at 5 am (I’m actually nauseous just thinking about it!) Biking is something I look forward to and it also gets me into tip top shape. Find your activity and have some fun!
2. Wear the Correct Size Clothing. As a former Booking Director at AMS Models & Talent, I can assure you that unless you’re an 18-25 year old runway model, size doesn’t matter. However, what does matter is that you are wearing clothes that fit you, not 1-2 sizes too small. This is a common mistake in a size obsessed culture. It’s also an issue because a 12 in one brand is an 8 in another. Again, get over the number. Make sure your clothes fit you. Wearing clothes that are too small looks sloppy and can actually make you look bigger than you are. Not to mention the discomfort of cutting off your circulation. Imagine a life where you’re not desperate to get home just to unbutton your pants. 🙂 This leads to my next tip.
3. Be Kind to Yourself. Take inventory. Trust me, even supermodels don’t look like supermodels. They are heavily made up and then photoshopped. Don’t compare yourself to someone who isn’t even real. Figure out your attributes and accent them. Everyone has something that makes them beautiful. Remember, there is nothing more attractive than personality and kindness. My guess is that if we are kinder and more encouraging to ourselves, we’ll be kinder and more encouraging to others, leading to an overall sense of happiness. You are beautiful!
4. Make a Checklist to Get Summer Ready. It can be overwhelming when you think of all you have to do after being bundled in layers for months. It is also very expensive. Make a list of all you have to do to be the best version of yourself. Then, choose your plan of attack. If you cannot afford to go to the spa, google ideas on how do it for yourself at home. One popular trend is to use coffee grounds to exfoliate your skin. A Spa service provider, Ha, insists the result is baby soft skin. (Caution! This may wreak havoc on your tub). You may also decide to get one service a week until you are in good shape for Summer. Making a Summer maintenance “To Do” list will help you manage time and your wallet, and keep stress at bay.
I was recently reminded by my friend and Dale Carnegie educator, Jeff Goldstein, that we should always be enthusiastic no matter what age we are. No excuses! The trick is to focus on what we want, not the cost of getting there. The point of getting ready for Summer is that we can enjoy it. These tips are only a few ways to help in the process.