Are You Still Looking At A Closed Door?

The past two months have been excruciatingly painful for me on a personal level. An event occurred that led me to believe that I could salvage an important relationship and I spent most of my summer trying to do just that. I did everything humanly possible to put the broken pieces back together and to try to create something new out of it. A relationship that I believed could be wonderful.

In my mind everything was perfectly clear. There was no reason why it couldn’t work out. I had a logical argument and strong feelings so everything made perfect sense. At least to me.

But, sometimes, even with the clearest vision, things don’t go as you plan or as you would like. By hanging on, I set myself up to be hurt on a daily basis, to the point where I could no longer tolerate the pain.

I finally came to the realization that in order for me to survive, thrive, and find peace, I must accept the situation, let it go, surrender, and move on. And while this may be a decision I didn’t want to make, and is perhaps the most difficult thing I will ever do, it will be the most self-loving.

The let it go and move on cycle applies to many areas of life. You may have to let go of a relationship or significant person. Or you may have to release a painful experience like losing a job, a financial loss, or the death of a loved one. Beginning the cycle is difficult because we tend to hang on to what we know – what is comfortable – even if it is pain.

According to spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hanh, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

But holding on to the familiar, painful past keeps you stuck and creates an environment in which you can become physically and emotionally sick. You feel the pain day in and day out and that’s no way to live.

Usually we do not decide to release people or events until the pain of holding on is so unbearable that we feel we have no other choice. We are forced to accept the situation and mourn an important part of our life. And this acceptance and mourning is vital in order to thrive; we must let go of the past.

Letting go is an act of will, a decision to let go of the person, event and circumstance. It is the choice to move on. To let go you must surrender your control and admit that you are powerless over other people and situations. Once you relinquish control and accept what is, you can begin to embrace the change and get on with your life. You can learn from the experience and allow it to make you stronger and wiser.

Is it always what we want? Hell no!

Is it easy? No!

Is it worth it? More than you will ever know.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Find a support group, spiritual director, therapist, coach, or trusted friend. And remember to have faith. I chose to relinquish my control and turn it over to God. Once I stopped begging for what I wanted and decided to ask for the strength to follow what He has planned for my life, my entire perspective changed and I found peace. I am now looking forward to the next opportunity.

As Helen Keller so eloquently stated: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one, which has been opened for us.” Don’t spend so much time looking at your closed door that you miss the wonderful doors that are opening up for you.

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Slow Down You Move Too Fast

Recently a friend who was contemplating separating from her husband gave me a call and asked my advice. A few years ago when my emotions were spinning out of control and I was in the throes of my marriage breakdown I would have shouted “Divorce the bastard!”

Now, two years post-divorce, I have gotten off the emotional rollercoaster called relationship breakdown and a cooler head prevails. My advice to her: slow down you move too fast!

What’s the rush to get a divorce? Unless you or your children are in physical danger, why rush? Divorce can be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

When my marriage was breaking up, we both got on the merry go round and didn’t know how to get off. I hurt him. He hurt me. I hurt him again. He one upped me. And so on and so on and so on. If only we had someone that loved us both sit us down, shake us, and say, “Get off the ride!”

I’m not saying that divorce isn’t the right choice in some cases; sometimes it’s the only thing a person can do. But when one in two marriages end in divorce, perhaps we need to slow down.

So, if you’re in the middle of a breakup or thinking about initiating one. Slow down. Breathe. Seek counsel. Confide in a trusted friend – one who will not fuel the fire. Put your pride aside and extinguish your anger. Open your heart. Talk and talk and talk until you can’t talk anymore. Listen. Remember why you fell in love. Do anything you can to work it through.

Think about how things will be down the road a few years after the dissolution. A new girlfriend or husband. Children from other relationships blended into your family. Financial upset. Loneliness. Regret. It is estimated that within five years, one-third of divorced couples regret their decision to split.

While the grass may look greener on the other side, remember that’s because of the manure.

Slow down. What’s the rush? You have plenty of time for forever.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

How many times has someone told you that he or she was going to do something and then it never materialized? How many times have you promised something to another only to let that person down?

Promises are powerful. They are given to fulfill a need of another. When someone makes a promise it is usually made with the best of intentions and in that moment, the person believes that he or she will be able to complete the offer. Then the person goes off like a busy little bee, involved in the tasks of daily life, and his or her words become a distant memory.

The problem is that the recipient of a promise remembers every word said. Often, spoken words are a life jacket to a drowning person and that person clings to them for survival.

After my mother and sister passed away (my last two remaining nuclear family members) and my divorce became final, a few people told me that I would never be alone, that I was a member of their “family”; I was their sister. Surviving unimaginable grief, I clung to those words as a source of comfort. Then, as time passed, holidays came and went, special occasions were celebrated – graduations, birthdays – and no offer of inclusion was made.

My story is just one example of the many letdowns people experience. What about a child who is promised your attendance at a dance recital or sporting event? A boss that is guaranteed a completed task? A friend that is offered help with a problem?

Heartbreak and disappointment are the result of empty words and offers made in haste, even with the best of intentions.

The next time you are about to make a promise think about what you are going to offer. Take time to reflect before you state it. Weigh the pros and cons and examine your life situation to be sure you can fulfill your end of the deal. Think about the long-term ramifications.

Be honest about your capabilities. Stop being a “yes” person or “the big man on campus”. You can’t please everyone and it’s much better to do nothing or say you can’t do something than offer an empty promise.

Examine your motivation for making the offer. Are you trying to make someone feel better for the moment? Do you want to be liked? Are you trying to gain something for yourself?

Remember that your words may only be words to you but to another they can mean the world. If you’re not sure that you can fulfill a promise, then don’t say anything. Adopt the rule in life to say what you mean and mean what you say.

Close the Stable Door Before the Horse Bolts

Does this sound familiar? You’re having a particularly stressful day and someone does something that you perceive to go against your belief or what you are trying to accomplish. Rather than finding out the facts or taking time to cool off, you immediately pick up the phone and call the person or compose a less than friendly email. Then, minutes after your knee-jerk reaction, you are full of regret and wonder how you are going to rectify the situation.

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. In the not too distant past I was probably one of the most impetuous people you will ever meet. I had to address every situation in a flash, usually without much thought to the facts or the consequences. I was an emotionally charged individual.

I like to believe that I am becoming finer with age, just like wine, but the reality is that it took many knock downs for me to finally learn the lesson. Situations don’t have to be addressed immediately. It is OK to take time to review the facts, analyze what happened, and to breathe, calm down and think rationally. No good decision is ever reached during a highly emotional state.

I was recently the recipient of a “fly off the handle without thought” response from a professional associate, and I can tell you, the person that dished it out, not only did not get her point across, but I now perceive her as extremely unprofessional and someone with whom I will have a limited working relationship.

Any impulsive reaction usually, at some point, requires a cleanup action, when you must apologize and try to repair the damage. In some cases, the wounds are too deep.

My advice? Practice patience. Create a plan for these types of situations. Try taking a walk around the block a few times to cool off. Call a friend. Write a note or email and then trash it. Think before you speak. Assess the situation to gain clarity. Get the facts.

It’s not always easy but remember there is no point to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Learn to keep the door shut before the horse gets out; it will lessen the amount of manure that must be cleaned up later.

 

 

Do You Want To Be Great?

I recently heard about the passing of a man to whom I was introduced to a few years ago. We met when I had just created the CYACYL brand and I was unsure about how I would proceed. He had media experience and professional contacts and offered advice and support. He even introduced me to a few people that later went on to become guests of the show.

I was not what one would consider to be a close friend of this man and our contact was limited to sporadic phone calls or periodic emails and Facebook messages, but when we were in communication, he always made me feel like I could accomplish anything. His words were so kind and reassuring and he had such a gentle nature about him that one couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

When I heard that he passed away, and at a young age, I was heartbroken. I couldn’t understand why his death had such a deep impact on me, after all, we weren’t particularly close. Then I realized that he approached life with love and kindness and an open heart. He would do anything he could to help another person, even an acquaintance. He looked for the upside of life and really seemed to savor the moment. He was grateful for what he had and treasured his family and friends. Even during his physical challenges and progressing illness, he was faithful to God. Every time I was around him, even briefly, I left a better person. He made me feel special. I would miss that.

Perhaps Maya Angelou summed it up best when she said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Often we touch others in ways we will never know. A smile, an extended hand, a kind word or gesture, support, an invitation. Simple things in life, that we take for granted, that can mean the world to someone else.

We all have tremendous power over one another. Our words and actions can reinforce the courage to press on or provide one more reason to give up. We can extinguish the flame of pain and suffering or be the one to add another log to the fire. We can offer light in a time of darkness or build another layer to a wall of isolation.

When your life comes to an end, how do you want to be remembered? Me? I want to be remembered as being GREAT because as Mark Twain said, “Really GREAT people make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Forgiving the Unforgivable

On the morning of December 14th, 2012, Jesse McCord Lewis walked out of his house and down the driveway towards his father who was waiting to drive him to school. Along the way, Jesse stopped to write a message with his finger in the frost on his mother’s car: “I love you.” Just hours later, Jesse was gone. He was one of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Days prior to the tragedy, Jesse wrote three words on his chalkboard at home: “Nurturing. Healing. Love.” According to his mother, Scarlett Lewis, he had never done anything like that before. His mother understood these final words as a calling from Jesse to teach people how to change an angry thought into a loving one – because it is a choice. And that is exactly what his mother is doing.

Scarlett has taken the pain from the period that she refers to as her “dark night of the soul” and turned it into a mission to teach people to choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness. She is doing this through the foundation she created: the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Scarlett about the tragic events of that December day and the impact that it has had on her life and her family in the past year. I was nervous before our conversation because, as the mother of two boys, I can’t imagine how one could survive that kind of pain.

One year ago as I watched in horror and cried along with the families I never thought that I would be speaking with one of those mothers and that the topic would be forgiveness.

According to Scarlett, during the days and months after the shooting, her family received support from their family and friends, their community, and from people around the world. It was from that support that she derived her strength and began to focus on her blessings instead of her pain. It was during that time she decided that to get out of the black hole, she had to choose to do so. She had to choose to take the focus off of her grief and turn it outward in service to others. She had to choose to live in gratitude. She had to choose to forgive the person that changed her life forever.

I am humbled by Scarlett’s faith, message, and determination to make the world a better place. She would have had every right to be bitter, resentful and angry. But instead this woman has chosen to live a life of service, gratitude and forgiveness. Scarlett has taught me that there is nothing that can’t be forgiven, if we so choose.

Scarlett is another example that in the wake of every tragedy, no matter how horrific, there is a gift or blessing if we choose to look for it and that we can heal and move forward if we choose nurturing, healing, love. One year ago as I watched in horror and cried along with the families, I could have never imagined that I would be speaking with one of those mothers, and in some teeny tiny way be able to offer something back to them. Today I am so humbled by my blessings and thankful for what I get to do.

Listen to my interview with Scarlett: http://youtu.be/YuVi-yraI_A

The Miracle of Friendship

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. – Elbert Hubbard

Recently someone asked me what I believe are the qualities of a good friend. To be honest, I had to stop and think about this for a while because it is something to which I really hadn’t given much thought. I have always been surrounded by an army of friends, many of whom have been by my side since childhood, so I probably take friendship for granted.

To answer this question, I decided to look at the people in my life to find some commonalities and examine my behavior towards them. In doing so, I compiled this list of what I believe makes a good friend. There are many more qualities that can be added, but I think these are the biggies. Finding someone who embodies these attributes and being this person for another is a true gift.

Loyal to the end. Perhaps one of the best ways to determine true friendship is to see who keeps your secrets. A true friend would never make you the subject of idle gossip and would go to the grave with something you said in confidence. Finding a confidant can be quite challenging, but when you do, cherish that person and hold on with everything you’ve got.

Doesn’t judge. We all make mistakes and do stupid things. A true friend does not judge you and will not treat you differently, no matter what you’ve done. He or she will stand by your side when everyone else has turned against you.

They’ll be the mirror you’re afraid to look into. Sometimes you may not see that you’re involved in harmful behavior, physically or emotionally. You may be in a romantic relationship that doesn’t serve you well, have a dead end job, or be abusing substances. During these times a true friend will tell you things you don’t necessarily want to hear. This person will speak the hard truths and will be someone on whom you can depend for brutal honesty.

Motivates you to do better. A true friend is your best cheerleader. This person is not jealous about your accomplishments and will always encourage you to believe in yourself, because he or she believes in you. This friend challenges you and builds you up, he or she doesn’t tear you down.

Unconditional love. You don’t have to work for a true friend’s affection; the love is not based on what you do for him or her. This person doesn’t care about your financial status or job position. You are loved solely because of who you are.

Always by your side (even when you don’t ask for help). Everyone has times of need, and a true friend will be by your side helping out, or just sitting with you in silence. He or she provides support and comfort and you get through the difficult time just because this person is there.