How a Margarita Helped me Learn the Truth about Life.

I love rejection. Yet, each and every time, if given the choice I would opt out of rejection. It is a good thing we don’t have that choice because without rejection life would be boring, and very confusing. We would all be going in the wrong direction down a one way street, and nobody would be shouting at us to turn around.

If there truly is a life path mapped out for each of us like I believe, then every failure, mistake and rejection makes sense. I have heard all the arguments about free will. They do not negate the bigger plan/fate theory.

Free will relates to freedom of choice, and we always have it. If we want, we can go back to the same toxic relationship time and again. If we wish to start our morning with some shots of vodka in our orange juice, we will find a way. If we choose to wake up every day, and complain about our dead end job, never updating our resume, we can do just that.

But, what if when this life ends, and we cross over to never never land, God will be waiting along with our dear Aunt Francis, saying, “Didn’t you hear me? Didn’t you see the signs? Was getting fired not enough? Was your need to get drunk every night not a sign?”

This is why I am giving you the answers to the test. So when you face your next mistake, failure or rejection, you do not look at it as doom and gloom. It is simply life’s way of giving us a nudge, saying, “This is not your path, not your person or not your moment.”

How do I know?

What if I told you, I talk to God. When life sucks, and when it is great. And when I called upon God, (I call him God. You can call him  The Universe, Your Higher Self, Higher Power, or Daddy Warbucks), and asked him about rejection, I heard him reply, “What if every rejection was a gift in disguise?”

He then showed me an image of myself waiting in line before coming to this life. It looked like the airport terminal, complete with a food court and numbered gates. When we are about to come here, to have a new life, we all go to this holding place. Some of us drink our Starbucks, or eat our Au Bon Pain sandwich, before boarding our flight bound for a new life. Others read the newspaper, or have a drink at the bar.

I had always wanted to believe that I had a few too many margaritas at the bar and got on the wrong plane; that I was meant to go to Hawaii and ended up in North Dakota. What God then told me, this was not possible because we each have our own flight attendant, which boards the plane with us, and joins us here on earth. They help guide us, especially when our direct line to God is fuzzy. They work for God, acting as our district managers.

My flight attendant, who looks just like Aerial with long red hair, but wears jeans and white high top sneakers, explained with patience, that  I did not get on the wrong plane. How I made all the decisions myself about what I would be experiencing in my next life. She showed me how we pick out everything we are to experience from our bodies to our college, even the people we “accidentally” run into on the street. How we all plan our life experiences before we go and live it, from the miraculous to the heart wrenching. And we are all just here, bumbling around, trying to remember what we decided before we got here. Our mistakes, rejection and failures point us in the right direction.

You know the saying God gives us only what we can handle in life? What if you gave it to yourself? God was just the boss who signed off on what you chose. If you have been having a hard time, or have had many challenges in your life, instead of blaming God or someone else, look at yourself and ask the question that I ask myself over and over, “What was I thinking?”

Maybe I did have a few drinks before boarding, as the ride here has been bumpy. But there have also been many moments of turbulence free flying. I met my husband and soulmate at fourteen years old. My friendships have been lifelong and I am blessed with three of the most incredible children. Music, books, writing and weaving stories, as well as my dogs, always ground me. 

What if each amazing gift, along with each challenge was well thought out for you, too. What if your flight attendant blindfold you while you were opening our bag of peanuts, and in order to remember, we all need to learn to crawl, then walk, then run. If we are lucky, we get to fly — and that is when the fun begins.

Looking back at my life — every rejection, every mistake, every failure was turning me a little to the life I was meant to live. I am still making mistakes because we do that, as humans. We sometimes need to be extra sure we are to walk away from that toxic person or quit that awful job. Sooner or later, we figure out that we all have a purpose, a reason for being here. It is not just to find the best frat party, run that marathon or get that promotion.

What if life is about so much more. And each failure is a gift. Each breakup is pushing you one step closer to finding your soul mate, and maybe it is the guy or girl behind you in the Starbucks. Look up from your iPhone the next time you are waiting for your double espresso and see who is around you.

Even better, why not look at your life like you are figuring a massive floor puzzle. Do the easy ones first. The borders. Sit down and ask yourself, what choices you can make today that just feel right. Do I like chocolate milk or orange juice with my breakfast? Where should I go on vacation? What do I really want to wear today?

Once you create your border, it is much easier to fill in the middle pieces. Those harder questions like, Where is my soulmate? Why am I here? How can I change my life?

While you wait for the answers, get busy becoming grateful for all you have. The pieces will fall into place. With each piece that fits, you will feel peaceful, relieved, happy, even accomplished. Conversely, If you try and shove a piece in that does not fit, you will feel out of sorts, anxious; it is even painful.

If you miss any of it, you will have a chance to do it over again, to get back in line. But I always think, why would I want to do it all again? Why not learn our lessons now, and then next time, I know it is not a mistake when I get in line for Margaritas. I am just here for the party.

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How to Stop Feeling the Monday Morning Blues.

Do you have Monday morning blues? The feelings creep up on you Sunday, around midday, or the day before coming back home from vacation. And then, pow, we get punched in the face with them immediately after opening our eyes, Monday morning. It feels like there is no stopping them, that we just have to wait it out.

These are different than feelings of grief which are caused by losing a loved one or a relationship and this deep sadness needs time and attention for healing. I am also not talking about addiction because that is a much longer period, and a deeper escape. Monday morning blues are empty feelings, let down feelings and are what happens when we temporarily escape our real life, for the day, weekend, or week. Monday morning blues are an indication that somewhere, at some point, you checked out. And now, you have to face reality, your life, or whatever it is you checked out from.

Working life sets up us for this with our weekends away. We party hard on Friday, go out and about on Saturday, and lounge around watching football on Sunday – or something that looks close to that. It is not that we should not have breaks, but it is our thinking and avoiding of something, that causes us to feel blue when this temporary hiatus ends. 

What if there was a way to rid ourself from Monday morning blues altogether? 

The first way to end this vicious cycle is to come out of denial. It is not the rain, nor the cold that causes Monday morning blues. While The Carpenters sang about rainy days and Mondays, this was never the true cause of the blues. 

The second step is to figure out what you need to change in your life. What are you needing to escape from. Is it your relationship? Your job? What are you unhappiest about? Stop procrastinating and do it today. Nobody woke up on a Monday from a job they loved and felt blue.  

I love watching motivational speakers, and my favorite today is Gary Vaynerchuck or Garyvee, as he calls himself. He has a following of on Instagram 4.6 million (@garyvee) because he loves what he is doing, and it shows. He also calls people on their shit. He is real. For those of us who fake it, the life we dream about will never happen, and those blues will creep in sooner or later.

Find your passion, somehow and do that. It does not matter what it is, but that you do what makes you happy. Start on the side, and then go to full time. I know you didn’t come here in this life, to be miserable. I know you didn’t come here to wake up each and every Monday morning feeling dreading the day and week. If you want to get off the rollercoaster, stop riding the waves of what you are supposed to do, and grab some cotton candy for once. It is ok, you are entitled as a grown up to eat some pretty pink colored blown up sugar, and feel happy as it melts onto your tongue, along with the Monday morning blues.

It is not about Monday morning blues or Hump Day or TGIF. Each and every day is the same, and you can either be happy or miserable. These so called special days are an illusion to pull you into fake happiness – to encourage you to escape from your life, which will never work.

The only things that will work will be to change your life, so you don’t need to escape it. Do that thing you have been dreaming about. Leave that relationship. Share your gift. Take care of your business today, not tomorrow or next week.

Stop hiding behind a mountain of what if’s and if only’s. Start today, and you will find the life you have dreamed about, without the ups and downs. Life will be smooth sailing once and for all.

I woke up this morning feeling blue, and I do what I normally do when I don’t feel happy. I ask myself why. I look to see if there is a valid reason, or if I am avoiding something. I can be a queen procrastinator, and I realized this morning, if there are things in my life I am avoiding, I will feel blue sooner of later. With guidance this morning, I asked for how to release myself from this cycle of Monday morning blues. And whether it was God, or life or my higher self, I heard plain and simple, “Deal with your shit.”

Therefore, I am sharing this guidance with you. Time is an illusion, and facing the reality of what you are avoiding or running from releases you from the endless cycle of Monday morning blues. Face your self. It does not matter if you are avoiding a bad life or a bad day; if you hate your job or your partner. Deal with it, and you will find each and every day feels the same. It may not feel like the anticipation we experience as we hop aboard a plane for the Caribbean but it won’t feel like waiting for your baggage on the carousel before heading back home.

It’s not whether your glass is half full or half empty. It is whether you put that glass into the dishwasher or let it sit on the counter for weeks, staring at it each time you go into your kitchen. Thinking to yourself, I should put that it in the dishwasher and then walking back out.

So today, I encourage you to deal with your shit, and I will deal with mine. And I will meet you next Monday, and the Monday after feeling much lighter, freer than we feel today. The sun will be shining no matter what day it is, or what the whether is outside. I know it’s hard, but you are not alone. I am facing it, too. Take my hand and we will do it together. 

Love Wins

My favorite game of a child was tag. I was a fast runner and competitive when it came to sports. I always felt strong as an athlete. Yet, when I hear of something horrible happening in our world, I feel it deeply within my heart. I don’t feel strong, but sad, and helpless. But, I do not let it get me down. I am too competitive to let hate win. That would be too easy. Hate does not cure hate. Love does.

Today, I tag everyone with love. I send love to everyone – those involved in the latest tragedy, those in my life and those I don’t know. There is an abundance of love in our world, and I refuse to point the finger because that does not solve the problem. It is not a one person problem, but a worldly problem. We are all connected, and when someone feels lonely, hurt and angry enough to lash out and hurt others, we need not lose hope.

Yes, we are stronger than hate because love is stronger than hate.

I send love to those who are hurting, and those who hurt. May you one day find peace and know you matter. Post a photo where love shines, drop a photo or comment of love on a person’s wall or tag them #lovewins.

Love is contagious.❤️

 #strongerthanhate

LAUGHTER (AND A WATER BOTTLE OF VODKA) HELPED ME LET GO OF MY COLLEGE DAUGHTER

They said the second time around was going to be easier. They said that having another empty room would encourage me to fill my time with things I love.

Problem is, I love my daughter, and now she is gone.

I admit it. Another daughter, barely off to college, and I was wallowing. Unprepared for the mess, I choke on my last sip of coffee. Not that I expected her to clean up her room before she left. It was a whirlwind final week picking up last minute pharmacy items, closing bank accounts, printing out pictures, triple checking her packing list (well my packing list).

My daughter was not an organized person, often with her head in the clouds. This is what I have always loved about her. Yet, standing in her room now, feels like I have walked onto a battlefield, the remains of her eighteen years strewn mercilessly across the floor.

From inside her closet, cleats caked with mud from her last varsity soccer game call out to me. I move in to get a closer look. Like it was yesterday, I recall my own excitement playing soccer, the scars I used to collect upon my body like battle wounds. How did we get here so quickly?

On the floor, a clump of mud momentarily irritates me. All those times I had asked to leave her muddy cleats in the garage, and the same number of times I was ignored. Teenage rebellion. Or was it simply distraction that led her to defy my requests – cell phones and boys did that to her.

Turning away from her t-shirts, each holding a memory of summer camp, road trips and sports teams, I walk back to her bed where her bookcase headboard resembles a display of offerings at a second hand rummage sale. Old nail polish, eight bottles; half of them dried and caked. An unwrapped newly bought phone case and a half used bottle of saline nasal spray rests upon a notebook filled with rainy day doodles.

Dumping this, tossing that. I gain the courage to look behind her bed. Among a mess of garbage, I find her promposal poster and recall her pale shoes offsetting her blood red dress. Undeveloped prom pictures sit idle on my cell phone, reminding me of all my unfinished to do lists. Perhaps I will get to them later today, or next year.

For now, I am too busy hearing the laughter, recalling the feeling of prom night with its fairy tale moments. How we so often measure time in seemingly endless nights, thinking it will never end.

I have had enough – wallowing, and cleaning. I am about to leave it all a mess when I stumble over something.

On the floor, I pick up my favorite drawstring bag – borrowed and never returned. I sling it across my back, taking with it the contents of two half filled water bottles and a few hair bands. On my way out, I catch a glimpse above her door of the bumper sticker she had bought freshman year of high school.

“Do Something Amazing.”

While brewing a much needed second cup of coffee, I click on our latest string of text messages. How could she forget so many things? Today I am thankful for social media and my daughter. In her memory, as the ultimate recycler, I open and begin dumping the water into the plant. Proud of myself, I think, I’m not wasting water, Lia.

As it empties, a familiar smell begins to permeate the air. I stop pouring, albeit way too late. I would know that smell anywhere. At a fraternity house, late night bar crawl, or just before the last song at a wedding.

Stale alcohol.

In this moment, I have two thoughts. I can’t believe I have just watered my plant with a vodka filled Dasani bottle. And, can plants get drunk? #AskingForAFriend

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My son, barely ten years old wanders into the room as I am wiping away my tears of laughter. I glance at the plant. I could swear it just hiccupped. I wonder if it will sing bad Karaoke or drink and dial. Maybe it will just sit and chat for hours about nothing, and everything. I hide the lampshades nearby, just in case.

“What’s so funny, mom?”

Yes, I still have him keeping me honest, as that is one of his strengths, to tell it like it is. I dump the rest of the vodka/water bottles in the sink, and toss a bottle of Advil near the plant, just in case. As I walk the half-filled black garbage bag out to the street, I notice I feel better.

Laughter is the best medicine.

While it doesn’t feel right tossing her life memories, I know these are just things. I welcome the cliché that I will carry her laughter in my heart, feel her bear hugs on my skin and bring up the image in my mind of her blond curls and dimpled smile whenever I choose.

Glancing upward, I notice the sun’s stark contrast moving out the last bit of black cloud above my head. Yes, I think I will be just fine.

That night, I sit by my plant – just in case. I mean who will hold back her leaves if need be? No need for cranberry juice. We share a toast with the rest of the watered down vodka from our liquor cabinet.

After all, today, I did something amazing. Through tears and laughter, I let my daughter go.

This post was also published on Grown & Flown, group blog.

“The Birds are Mad at Me.” Tales of an Empath’s Life.

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This morning, while enjoying my first coffee, I looked outside and noticed the bird feeders were empty.

Crap.

I totally got caught up in my daughter leaving for college, the latest Netflix series, and you know, eating and other life stuff.

If it sounds like an excuse, it is.

I’m thinking what you’re thinking, is it my job to take care of the birds? Unless it actually is my job, and I am getting paid to feed the birds, the answer is no. Still, they’re helpless creatures and in a roundabout way, I signed up for the job because I put up the bird feeder.

Grabbing the bird seed bag, I hastily filled each feeder, and sent the birds a silent apology. After a few minutes, I peeled myself away from the trees and walked into the bathroom where my husband was shaving. “The birds are mad at me. I haven’t fed them in weeks. I filled the feeder this morning but they’re not coming by to eat.” I looked up at my husband who was now brushing his teeth.

“Birds don’t think like that, honey.” He smiled at me, but also peered in closer to see if I was serious.

I was serious. And yet, I wasn’t.

I knew the birds weren’t mad at me, but when you’re an empath, you feel everything. And sometimes, without realizing, you project.

In other words, someone, somewhere was mad at someone and I picked up on it.

I don’t remember when I first felt that someone was angry. It could have been yesterday, or last week. It could have been a second ago. And I didn’t realize it.

What we take in, needs to come out.

And when we’re not aware, it comes out in a whole bunch of strange ways, like me and the birds.

There’s a benefit to staying awake as an empath. Like a tick: if you find it within 24 hours, you’ll probably be okay. In other words, if you catch it, name what you’re feeling, or move through it—it ends fairly quickly and innocently. If you don’t, and it builds, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically.

A spiritual teacher once told me, “As an empath, you need to take out the trash.”

This is why a mindfulness practice for empaths becomes just as important as a healthy diet.

It is not just empathic adults who need to know what it means to be an empath. Many children are empaths and have no idea.

My son, often distracted in school, is exhausted when he returns home. He has been feeling for everyone else—all day, every day. He has no idea why. He just feels and releases. It’s why he goes into the woods as soon as he comes home. He unwinds with the salamanders and frogs. It calms him. He also likes dim lights, soft music, and time alone.

I’m the same, although I can do without the amphibians.

It’s also why we live on six acres and I work from home. As an empath, being around people can be exhausting. We can feel like rubber balls being bounced around by other’s emotions. We don’t know that it’s happening until one day, you look up and think the birds are mad at you. And you realize that something else must be going on. You’re too smart to think the birds are really mad. You know if you wait a little longer, they will begin feeding.

So you laugh at yourself, often.

And you spend time alone.

And you avoid the news.

And you make it daily habit to name what you’re feeling, and you ask often if it’s yours or someone else’s. And you begin to get used to not knowing why you’re feeling whatever it is you are feeling. And it starts to not matter.

And you even laugh, if you can, at some of the labels you and many other empaths have unknowingly taken on: depressed, anxious, ADHD, ADD, paranoid, phobic, introvert, and agoraphobic.

And you think, if they only had one label for all empaths it would be ESEP, Energy Sensitive Empathic People or ESEC, Energy Sensitive Empathic Children.

And you hope one day that all empaths will realize what is going on, and know that being empathic is a gift, not a curse. That being sensitive can have its perks.

You hope that others can see how empaths are helping others—by feeling the feelings for them.

And that spending time alone can lend itself to an active imagination, creative endeavors, and the time for self-reflection, a necessary and often eye-opening part of a life journey.

So the next time you think someone is mad at you, stop and think about the birds.

And then let it go.

After all, it was never yours to keep.

This article was also published on Elephant Journal. You can find it here.

 

 

The Sounds of Silence

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Simon and Garfunkel got it right when they wrote the timeless song, Sounds of Silence, over fifty years ago. Many remakes hit the charts, and then in 2015, the song was given an upgrade by heavy metal band, Disturbed. Not that the original needed any tweaking, but the incredible feeling and power behind David Draiman’s voice brings the song to a whole new level. The first version creeps quietly into my heart while the second, reverberates throughout my body. I listen to both, often.

Like our music that often permeates our homes and our cars, the sounds of silence are anything but silent. As I sit this morning, bringing forth this blog post, I feel the power within and beyond the silence. For many of us, it is rare that we sit in silence. It has been awhile for me as well, yet today, the sounds within and around me, feel like music. Like an old friend, I am welcomed back with open arms.

My home, usually quiet on a Saturday at seven am, feels no different today.  It has been years since babies and toddlers woke us much to early, with their wide eyes and intense hunger. Like a reward for all those sleepless nights, older children sleep late, especially on a Saturday. Two years ago, we emptied one of our bedrooms upstairs as my oldest went to college. In the space she left, we could feel the silence. The first to fly the nest left our house feeling different, a bit awkward and lonely. Yesterday, my second daughter left for college, and along with far too many clothes, she took her laughter, loud music and friends dropping by at all hours of the night. Our newfound silence, again unnerving, but now, more familiar.

Yet, it was not just the empty bedrooms. I had no choice this morning but to sit within the silence. When things call to me, as I follow that inner voice which feels anything but silent, I listen. Sit and do nothing, it said. While I do miss my daughters, the silence they left behind in this moment feels welcoming. A chance to reunite with myself.

I have heard all the arguments why people do not like the silence:  I have no time. It makes me uncomfortable. My mind always wanders. I just can’t sit there and do nothing. I know them well because I have used all of them.

Maybe it is because we don’t ever visit with silence that we fear the worst, and then we think we are proven right when we finally sit quietly. Our thoughts go on tangents, seeking rabbit holes without our permission, and our feelings, having been stifled, seem to bring forth the most inconvenient emotions. Perhaps this happens because we never allow them to come out, we never give them a chance to run free. Like a dog kept in a cage or cows prevented from grazing, it is only natural for it to be awkward when finally given a voice, a chance at freedom. Perhaps that anxiety and depression that seems to coming knocking is actually our soul’s need for silence. It is our inner voice of our soul that is banging on the bars of the cage, begging for freedom.

I have only two rules when it comes to silence.

  1. What happens in silence, stays in silence. It need not be discussed, unless that is your desire. Forging your own relationship with the voice of your soul for the first time can look messy.  We may think strange things, or feel that anger that has been buried for years. We may have intrusive thoughts about what we said in jest to a friend or feel the grief from our grandmother passing decades earlier that we never fully felt. It gets better. If we ride out the wave of what happens when we allow ourselves to sit quietly, things will settle. We will begin to hear the music playing so beautifully from the silence of our surroundings.
  2. Be comfortable. No need to suffer in silence. Grab a blanket, a mug of hot tea, a glass of water with ice. Sit in a field of grass or lay in bed. Even driving can be a wonderful place for silence when we turn off the radio. I like to hear the silence with my morning coffee. It seems that if I do not sit first thing, I do not sit. Emails, errands, writing, cleaning, my son – all take precedent. When we don’t label it, or think that it has to be done in a certain way, silence feels like a warm bubble bath, both soothing and invigorating.

As much as I love the mindfulness movement, the encouragement to meditate, it has created an imaginary box, a way of doing something that puts many people off. Sitting in silence is not about setting a timer and closing our eyes, chanting or listening to our breath, unless it works for you. There is no time limit or method. It is just about sitting, in the way that feels most comfortable for you, and just being. You can write things down, or not. Focus on your breath or not. Close your eyes or leave them open. Go for a run. Garden. Bake.

What do you hear? Smell? Feel? Sense? 

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With my coffee this morning, as I sit, I can both, hear sounds I usually overlook and feel what lies beyond the silence. I hear my husband snoring from the other room, my dog breathing lightly, and the birds making  plans around the yard. I can feel the emptiness of my daughters’ rooms, and the anticipation of my son’s excitement waking on a Saturday morning, having no school. I sense the flowers on the deck making their final offering to the bees, before giving in to the cold and snow.

As I sit longer, the sounds continue. An alarm from a watch goes off for ten seconds. It calls to me from a distant room of the house, likely lost behind a dresser. The white noise from the environment increases in intensity, its energy pulling me into the remembering that so much is going on behind the scenes in our lives, that there is another world going on within our world. Ideas, plans, to do lists begin to elbow their way to the forefront. I greet their existence, and having been welcomed, they simply take a number and wait their turn for my attention. Body sensations become known – last night’s dinner having a rager, while cool water settle its rumblings.

The sounds of silence are never silent. It is filled with hope, sadness, passion, expectations and anticipation of what is to come. As it was sung, “Here my words and I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you. But my words, like silent raindrops fell. And echoed in the wells of silence.”

In the end, it is not my words that will teach, or another’s. But the walls within your own desire to sit within the silence and all you need to know will reveal itself to you. Your questions, desires, hopes and dreams. Don’t be afraid of the silence. It has everything you want and need. You just need to open the cage and walk out.When we welcome silence, it receives our invitation. As often as I forget, silence is always waiting, patiently. It will always invite me back no matter how many times I shun it, or put it off.

The world is your oyster. It is waiting for you. You just need to be quiet enough to hear it.

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is on a permanent vacation in the Bahamas.

How to Respond when Tragic, Awful, Overwhelming Sh*t Happens in Life.

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I remember seeing this saying on a bumper sticker and loving it. I have always felt its accuracy in describing life.

Today, when I scan the news and take in the problems of the world, I find myself repeating these profound words—shit happens.

It is true. Shit happens all the time and everywhere.

While opening my news app this morning, the first thing I read was a tragic death—a head-on collision involving two moms and six kids in Oregon. Nobody survived, including the driver who caused the accident.

As I looked up from my phone, I could feel the darkness, the rabbit hole egging me on to jump in. In that moment, I had a choice. I could continue reading through the problems of our world, or I could look up, take in the beautiful sky welcoming the traces of clouds dancing by, birds flying between trees, the sun shining upon the green grass, the innocence of children, so filled with love, and how it is a miracle just to be alive.

We all have a choice. We can concentrate on the shit or the miracles, dwell in the darkness or the light. It is all out there for the noticing—the miracles and the shit.

I am only so readily able to do this, to forgo the negative, because of how often I used to dwell there. Still, I slip, I forget, and I get lost in a problem or a tragedy. It is an old pattern—to become entrenched in fear or worry—and it is something I have observed in my parents, as well as so many others.

Focusing on the miracle, while becoming gracious and humble, is also a pattern that we can cultivate.

I am certain that, if we thought we had a choice, we would all choose to focus on the miracles. Yet, we believe we have no choice. We think we have to blindly follow the news reports, allow our minds to wander down the rabbit holes of worries and what-ifs, and accept the conditioning that was handed to us as if it were truth.

We have a choice.

It was over two years ago that a miracle was brought into my life. It was so blatant that I could not have missed it if I tried. It changed everything for me. It was the moment I knew I had a choice and that I was not victim to the news reports or my conditioning.

It was 4 p.m. The day was unusually hot for the beginning of summer. The phone rang. As a parent, picking up the phone and hearing your child in tears and unable to speak fills you with panic. With my own heart in my throat, I asked what was going on. In between sobs, my daughter was trying to give me the pieces of a story, one that included an ambulance, a child, and a beautiful afternoon at a lake turned horrific in the blink of an eye.

The story, which I finally got out of my daughter, began like any other summer afternoon. Many families had gathered by the lake for a few hours of fun, swimming, and barbecue. My daughter was there babysitting a three-year-old girl.

As they were getting ready to swim, a mother came screaming by the edge of the water—she could not find her seven-year-old boy. It seemed he had disappeared, and they feared the worst—that he had wandered into the water.

The first miracle: fire department first responders happened to be at the beach that day. Along with a nurse and lifeguards, they all sprung into action, combing the lake.

Almost 10 minutes had passed when the second miracle happened. One of the responders accidentally stepped on the boy, who was facedown in five feet of water, unconscious. They performed all necessary medical procedures and rushed him off to the hospital. Things did not look good.

“He drowned! I saw them pull him from the lake,” my daughter’s words rang in my head for days as I obsessively scanned the obituaries and the local news. I found nothing. Her sadness cut deep into my heart.

Tragedy, death, and accidents are the shit that happens, and as parents we want to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this dark reality of life. We know it happens, but we just want to keep our distance for as long as possible. We want to fill everyone we know up with cotton candy, laughter, and bear hugs. We want to keep them safe and happy.

Yet, life is unexpected, and we cannot control what happens to us or to others. We can hope and pray that our loved ones are safe, that we don’t witness the shit, but sooner or later it is right in front of us. We hear about a famous actor committing suicide, a cancer diagnosis, or a teen passing on from a car accident. But death is a part of life, whether we think about it or not. We cannot protect anyone from the shit.

And maybe the point isn’t to try to control and protect. Perhaps the point is how we respond and how we choose to spend our time. We can choose to love, see the miracles when they are brought into our lives, dwell in gratitude instead of misery, and allow ourselves to feel through the shit when it happens.

Four to six weeks after that call from my daughter, she took off on a three-week trip to Tanzania. Her heart was still aching for that boy, but her zest for travel and discovery was healing the sadness and carrying her on. On a whim, I texted the family she had been babysitting for that fateful day, asking if they had heard anything further about that boy. I received this response: “If you talk to Lia, tell her the boy survived. No brain damage at all. A true miracle. His name is Nicholas.”

We have all heard the saying that bad things come in threes. So do miracles.

We all have a choice to stop, breathe, notice, and make a different choice. It takes practice, but it is possible. Whenever I find myself pulled into the messiness of life, the darkness and the void of the rabbit hole, I think of Nicholas, and my heart opens.

Life is beautiful and amazing, and Nicholas is a wonderful reminder of the miracles that happen every day in life.

Shit does happen, but not always. If we’re keeping score, there are far more happy moments, amazing sights, incredible acts of courage, loving connections, and even miracles in life.

The next time we find ourselves looking down into that rabbit hole of worry or fear, we can look up, consider whether we want to focus on the shit or the miracles, and remember Nicholas. I do.

My post was originally published on Elephant Journal. As it has been placed in the most popular posts section, I wanted to share it with my blogging audience. Thank you to Elephant Journal for editing and sharing. Here is the original post: 

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/08/how-to-respond-when-tragic-awful-overwhelming-sht-happens-in-life/