Tag Archives: hope

Talent or Delusions?

Talent or Delusions

I don’t watch a lot of television. Except lately that seems a little less true. Last year I got a bit hooked on America’s Got Talent for a while. I was hooked until I discovered that talent was defined as a guy willing to get hit in his privates with baseball bats and the like and somehow  endure the pain.   After that,  I pretty much decided there were better things to do with my time. But the other night the TV was on and when I went by I saw this little old lady dancing and it caught my eye. I recognized her from an article I had seen a few weeks back. Her name is Tao Porchon-Lynch and at 96, she is the worlds oldest yoga teacher and apparently dancer on America’s Got Talent as well.

She is a sight to behold for sure. It’s admirable. I’m happy for her. But I don’t aspire to be her. I have neither a wish to be Debby Downer or self-deprecating, but realistically speaking, Tao is an anomaly, not the new poster child for 96 is the new 46. Yes, people are living longer than our predecessors, and I hope to be among that crowd. That said, the reality is that living longer doesn’t mean we are all going to be capable of doing in our 80’s and 90’s what we did in our 20’s and 30’s or even our 50’s and 60’s.  Why hold ourselves to this as the baseline standard?

I’ve been reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gwande. It is a phenomenal book. But don’t pick it up unless you have time to read it in a relatively short period of time. The first half of the book is pretty tough to take in because it doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of aging. The goal is not to depress us, but rather to wake us up to accepting the inevitability of death. The author’s wish for his readers is that we live out our end with autonomy and agency rather than abdicating that responsibility to the medical community. Gwande, a physician, asserts that our society has turned dying into a medical war and people are often “sustained” and kept safe to achieve a quantity of life.  Further, He believes this strategy comes at the expense of achieving quality of life.

In our society, old age is something to be dreaded, feared and managed. I’m as guilty as the next guy. Yes, I’m used to my hearing aids, but I don’t embrace my aching joints, the lines in my face, or even the ever exposed “blonde” roots near my scalp. That said, I can contemplate at least intellectually that I’m logistically closer to death than I am to my birth. Emotionally, and perhaps this is only because I don’t consider having to confront it any time soon, I feel reasonably at peace with the prospect. I have lived a life I feel content with and have had the luxury of far more than I ever anticipated possible as a young girl. Still with the responsibility for my own young children, I’d like the opportunity to stick around at least long enough to ensure their launch into the world.

Beyond that point, I hope to have the presence of mind and the ability of body that will allow me to bead when I want to, eat and sleep when I want to, and to hang out with people or be alone if I choose. I hope as most people do, to not spend my last segment of life either hooked up to life support or in a nursing home. But the point is, most people currently in those conditions, also prefer not to be.

My mother died in a nursing home. She didn’t want to go into one and I knew that when I put her there. I felt I had no other option. She broke her hip and became immobilized. I work, have a family and neither, she nor I, had the funds to hire round the clock care for her. This is neither confession nor persuasion of justification, but rather an illustration of how these matters so often transpire. They happen because of the lack of a viable alternative.

Being Mortal is an invitation to consider an alternative to the status quo of how we currently manage aging and death. Instead of ignoring its realities and holding the fantasy in our mind that we will dance at 96, go home and quietly die comfortably in our sleep, we can make decisions in our life and our death. We can think about and discuss what we are and are not willing to endure when we inevitably become too frail to enjoy life as we know ourselves to be. This includes contemplation and some frank discussions with those who may be the executors of decisions on our behalf. It is not enough to simply say “I don’t want to be in a nursing home.” It is imperative that we make known what we individually consider quality of life to look like for ourselves and consider what options available best achieve those goals.

Would you trade a being gravely ill for 3 months of chemotherapy in order to live 4 months more?  If you have a heart attack or a stroke, what measures do you want to help sustain you? For those of you who are younger, what if you were in an accident? Would you be willing to stay in a coma indefinitely? How damaged of a body are you willing to live in? There are no rights or wrongs. Stephen Hawking has lived so many years in a body unable to move or even speak and has continued to make enormous contributions to the world. These are personal decisions for you to make. Don’t let someone else determine what you should or should not endure, be it family, children, and least of all institutions that do not know or understand your individual needs.

Heroes

 

 

To hear an audio version click on the link below.  On a smartphone scroll to the end of the message and click on the sound icon.

I want to highlight and recommend a couple of books. These recommendations are not for the sake of reading a good book,  but for the importance of the message they deliver about the perseverance of the human spirit.

They are: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (Unbroken is under production as a movie due out 12/25/2014). A little less strong, buy yet still a good read is Crazy for the Storm- Norman Ollestad

Each of these books is based on true stories of survival.  But far more important than the harrowing experiences that these individuals had to endure and overcome is, the sense of gratitude and affirmation of life they developed from their experiences.

They are all interesting stories.  Each offers detailed accounts of what hardships the individual experienced and how they managed through their life threatening ordeal.  Each discusses their physical capabilities, their mental resources, the connection to family and loved ones, and most importantly, a spiritual component.  Each of these men is certainly heroic in the having conquering odds that would make most of us (or at least me), crawl into the fetal position and beg for it to be over with.  And yes, each of them has a more than fair share of brutal and stomach turning details to digest (no pun intended).

I had a professor who defined a hero in a less traditionally thought of way.  He said (paraphrased) that, a hero is one who has come to terms with bearing the flaws of his humanness.  He referred us to the example of the Greek Tragedies, particularly Oedipus the King.  Upon learning Oedipus had fulfilled the prophecy by unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother, she hung herself. In contrast, Oedipus continued to endure the pain of his knowledge by moving forward.    I realize this is a little deep and theoretical for a casual blog- but I wanted to provide some additional context for what follows.

We can look at Louis Zamperini (Unbroken) or Nando Parrado (Andes) and call them heroic because of their survival.  Most of us will never come close to what these men endured in their disaster.  But I found the real gem of these books to be how the men talked somewhat universally that, their greatest obstacle wasn’t getting out of a prison camp or climbing down a mountain.  It was their fight to find meaning in their own existence and whether or not it was a value worth fighting for.  Each ultimately had to keep stepping or breathing or whatever was required, in order to, prove their own essence had merit.  In both cases, it was largely dependent upon their willingness to see themselves as part of something larger, yet significant within that largeness.  These men had to come to realize that they mattered and it mattered if they kept going towards life.  They had to choose over and over both during their ordeal and even more so after they were safe, whether their next action was life affirming and preserving, or life rejecting or destroying.

The choices I have to make minute to minute or day to day or obviously not in the ballpark of what these men had.  That’s true for most of us, although certainly there are people walking around suffering from many afflictions and maladies, both mental and physical which are weighty and burdensome.  Sometimes no one else will ever know about those challenges.  However, when we don’t have circumstances so grave, we are more likely to interpret the ones we do have with the same type of scale.  For example, it’s a sunny day, everyone is getting along, a great item I want is on sale equals a good day

It’s rainy, I have a flat tire, I didn’t sleep well,  I’m late for work, I feel challenged equals a bad day- Those are the two poles that I judge between.  Yet, I suppose if I had cancer or a sick child, being late for work might be higher up the scale towards good day because the range has changed.

I hope what I want to say is coming through clearly, which is that, our individual challenges are less the focal point in determining our heroism. Our individual challenges are such largely because they come from our own lens. Easy and hard are relative terms not defined equally between people.  What is universal, however, is the need for each of us to have to choose to do what we feel is hard (when it leads to life affirmation) for the solely because we believe there is purpose in us doing so.  That something greater than just us benefits from us doing so.  That we accept that connection and the responsibility to the degree that, we are willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other to make it happen…. Even when it’s hard, painful, muddy, cold or any other number of conditions which apply.

Are you heroic?

Are you waiting for a set of conditions to pass in order to realize your significance?

How do you know that you don’t already?

And if you already do, I would love to hear what helped you to know that you are a hero.

 

If you liked what you read, please pass it on to someone else with the suggestion they subscribe.  Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies are Free

For an audio version of todays post click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message and look for the sound icon.

 

 

 

I often say that you just never know when and where guidance will come from. But I never expected it to come from Ashton Kutcher. Well, actually Ashton was the messenger, but the real wisdom comes from Steve Jobs. Let me clarify.

A couple of months ago Ashton quoted a little piece from his movie in which he plays the role of Steve Jobs. So, Kutcher was accepting an award and he offered advice to his young audience he attributed to Steve Jobs.   By the way, The Jobs movie is surprisingly worth watching, but if you want the short cut version of Kutcher’s speech, this link will take you there.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT-jbMHbiwk

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

 

It prompts these kinds of thoughts for me.

How much depression is caused by the exhaustion of holding all of your potential locked inside? Or from trying to fit into a life that someone else decided the rules for?

How did the guy who decided to make a bunch of money picking up dog poop in other people’s yards deal with all the people that laughed at him when he came up with the idea?

Who stands to lose the most if you stop following all of the rules inside your head?

How would we be traveling today if Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers and others followed the status quo and did things the way they were familiar with? The ways people understood. The way people before them told them it was supposed to be.

What is the price you are willing to pay to color outside the lines and take a path or a project that no one else has thought of?

These are not questions to run through quickly. They require time to let you mull them around. But if you were willing to let yourself do something that doesn’t already exist, how might you change the world?

Changing the world doesn’t have to mean the whole world. It doesn’t mean your city, your neighborhood, or even your whole family. It just has to begin with you.

Have you heard of the Butterfly effect? I’m not talking about the movie, which ironically stars Ashton Kutcher. I am talking about a concept in chaos theory that took its name originally from a short story written in 1952 by Ray Bradbury. It’s called “A Sound of Thunder”. I won’t detail that story here because you can find it pretty easily online, or let me know if you can’t.   But the bottom line is that changing one small thing can have dramatic impact on much larger systems.

 

Translated it means making a change in the way you are “supposed to live as defined by others” to living in a way fueled by your own unleashed creativity can change things for years to come.

Admittedly, the world probably won’t be changed on its axis because you paint the walls in your house purple instead of white.

But someone one day, someone sounding crazy said “hey, I think we can talk to people all over the world instantaneously through electronic mediums. “ Another crazy sounding person said we could send a space ship to the moon.

Do you have some “crazy” ideas that you need to unleash?

So the next time you see a butterfly, remember it can change the world. And you are free to as well.

 

 

 

Happy Easter

Easter

What does it mean to you? Perhaps it is a time of great religious contemplation or absolutely nothing- When I was a kid I remember that my mother often bought each of us a solid chocolate rabbit.  She worked in restaurants and was able to purchase these from a wholesaler making them more affordable.  It would literally take us months to consume them and it often became a kind of game between my  brothers and me.  I’ve eaten my ears… My head is completely gone… and so the race to finish would carry on.

When my own children were small Easter looked like hiding plastic eggs around the yard or going to a Community Easter egg hunt.  The giant and imposing rabbit walking around usually scared my son’s,  and they were consoled only by the colorful plastic ovals filled with candy.

Whether or not you have a religious attachment to the day, Easter is still a day embedded with message of promise yet to come.  Whether it’s unwrapping a chocolate bunny, opening a surprise filled egg or the blossoming of redbuds and spring flowers, there is something of jubilance on the horizon.  Whatever is yet to bloom for you, I hope it is filled with joy, happiness and child-like wonder.

Grrrr

for an audio version of this post click on the following link- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom to find the sound icon

 

 

 

My blog today begins with a message from my 4 year old self.  I’m cranky, I’m disappointed, the world is unfair.  I did not get my way and I’m not happy about it.  I have been active in my local school board election, supporting a long shot candidate and she/we lost.  People are stupid.  The world is stupid.  I’m going to move to a country that I can’t pronounce the name of and live happily ever after, surviving on natural berries and weaving my own clothing out of the fibers I pick up in the wild.

Fast forward the time machine to my adult self.  Yep, I’m still disappointed.  I don’t even think angry as much as I’m just plain disappointed.  The election loss was not about a personal candidate, but about an agenda and a philosophy chosen, which is different than the one for my family.  But not everyone thinks the way I do.  Namely about 17000 people who voted differently.  I can take a hint.

So now what?  I can try again next time, toilet paper the house of the winners, or move to another district, country, universe.  Or, I can live today just like I did yesterday.  My world hasn’t changed.  I still have the same goals, hopes and aspirations today that I did yesterday.  It’s merely that one of the paths I had hoped to travel down has a “no entrance” sign posted in front of it right now. I think it also has a “no loitering” sign as well, which means, time to let go and move on.

But this post isn’t really about an election- or my mood as much as it is about a way to look at how does one let go and go with a plan b?  I am reminded of one of my very favorite books of all time “Life is Good” by George Dawson.  If you haven’t read it, consider doing so.  George is a black man, grandson of sharecroppers.  As a young boy he witnesses a tremendous injustice and his reaction is similar to the one I started this blog with (although a bit more mature).  But his father instills a wisdom in his son that remains with him throughout his lifetime.  “Life is good and it’s only going to get better”.    The book is a telling of events throughout George’s life that, illustrate his father’s message into a reality.

So today, when I get cranky, I have a list of things I have to work at remembering:

-I have a family I love dearly

-I live in safety, I have a roof over my head, a job I love, food in my belly, friends that are loyal and giving

-I am healthy as is my family

-my life is good… and it’s only going to get better.

-and even this- I moved to this place largely for these schools.  Agree with them or don’t agree with them, they continue to provide an education for my children.  But it is not the only education my children will receive.  I always have the option, as do they to supplement or change that course.   More importantly, my children’s education is one tiny piece of my world- and their K-12 years are actually only a small piece of THEIR world-   Put it in perspective-  it doesn’t deserve this much energy or focus.  Look at the bigger picture.

So, this is my plan B:  working on staying in my adult voice, broadening the perspective, and most of all switching to a posture of gratitude and connection to something larger than me as being in charge of the world.  On that note- I hope you have the same kind of wonderful day, that I’m going to work towards having.