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

alesia-kazantceva-364341-unsplash-700x466.jpgShit happens.

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/

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In the wake of the Orlando Shootings, the latest massacre of innocent victims, I turn my attention not to the victims, but the shooter. The person who was so filled with hatred, that he opened fired upon unsuspecting human beings who were simply out to enjoy themselves. How does one go from an innocent baby to a mass murderer? How does one acquire so much hatred in his heart that he unleashes his fury upon not just one, but hundreds of others? These are the question we need to keep asking ourselves.

Most can not help but focus on the victims.  They are the ones who suffered.  They are the ones whose families are going through shock, disbelief and unbelievable grief.  It is the same way, I turn my attention towards my son when he has been bullied on and off this year.  It is natural to turn our attention and our hearts to the victims, not to the offender who somehow, someway, turned his feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, loneliness, self-hatred, anger and self loathing upon others. So why am I focusing on someone who committed such a horrendous act?  Why would I want to help a bully?

It is a not a new saying that “hurt people, hurt people.” And there are a lot of “hurt people” walking around our world.  Thankfully most of them do not unleash their pain on others with semi automatic rifles.  But all we need to do is to look around to see the pain in another’s eyes, the disconnect and loneliness so many people feel who walk upon this earth. Forget loving ourselves, most people don’t even like themselves.  Is this shooter just an extreme example of how many people feel in this world?

In order to stop the hurting, we need to face our own feelings of self-hatred. So many of us search for so much in this life. We search for money, fame, relationships and achievements, yet all of this leads us down a path away from ourselves. So we keep searching and we don’t even know what we are searching for.  And when we come up empty. We drink, we work too much, we become addicted to pain killers, we worry about our weight or how we are aging. We dye, nip, tuck, and hide. And we still come up empty.

What we are searching for cannot be had, obtained or kept. It cannot be stolen. It cannot be taken. It cannot be felt by hurting another.  What we are searching for is love.  More specifically, self-love.

You do not need to be religious or to be in a relationship to understand what it means to feel loved. This is temporary love, the kind that disappears when the person or object goes away. Most never know what that feels like – to love themselves.

What does that even look like?

I saw a post the other day by Anita Moorjani , a woman who became physically sick with cancer, and was given a few days to live. That was ten years ago. The post read, “How well does love thy neighbor as thyself work, if you don’t even love yourself?” How Anita is still alive today? The lymphoma had spread throughout her body, and on the eve of her inevitable passing, she had a near death experience. You can read about it in more detail here, in her book, Dying To Be Me.  Anita defied all medical knowledge. Within weeks her cancer was 50% resolved, and within months, not a trace of cancer found within her body.  The message she received was “Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it does!” She speaks today about the importance of loving ourselves. That is why she is still here.

And I cannot agree more. We need to love ourselves beyond what we think we deserve.  And then when we are spilling over with love, well beyond our expectations, then we give this love away to others, well beyond their wildest expectations.

This is not about becoming self-centered, but performing self-care.  What is the difference? Self-care is about taking good care of our own feelings so we don’t project them onto others, act badly, or cause problems in relationships. Being in touch with our own feelings and embracing them is the healthiest thing we can do. Being honest when we feel jealous, angry or sad. Feel them all and allow them to come and go without lashing out. Self care is about taking care of our hearts, bodies and soul on the deepest level imaginable. Self centeredness or narcissism is an inflated sense of someone’s own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. There is a big difference.

Are we loving ourselves enough?

Enough to find time to meditate so we can feel the rhythm of our own breath?

Enough to feed our bodies nutritious foods?

Enough to find balance between work, play and family?

Enough to say no when we are asked to stray from our truth?

Enough to stand up for what we believe even in the face of opposition?

Enough to come out of the closet?

Enough to set boundaries with others, especially those we love?

Enough to be honest with our how feel?

Enough to speak kindly to ourselves?

Enough to realize that we are good enough, just the way we are?

Enough to listen to our bodies when we are thirsty, hungry or tired?

Enough to say to ourselves what we never heard from another?

Enough to love ourselves no matter what we have done, said, or thought?

We Matter.

You Matter.

I Matter.

If we all loved ourselves beyond our expectations, our hearts would be transformed; our lives would be transformed; our world would be transformed.

This is dedicated to anyone who never felt they were good enough. Even those that pulled the trigger.

 

Endless Moments, Endless Chances

 

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As I sit here on a Sunday morning, the rain falling mindlessly outside, I think about this moment.  There are so many moments in our lives, and what we choose to do with them determines the path we take, our next adventure, even the happiness or suffering, we may feel.

In this moment, we can become angry at the insensitivity of an ignorant politician, remembering his hateful words that hurt, like darts to our hearts.  Or we can even make it more personal.  We can become lost in our head about something that happened yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago.  Dwelling in the unfairness of the situation or blaming another for the pain we were caused.  We can even worry about the future, allowing the unknown to stall within depths of our motor, throwing obsessions at us for free.

We have all done all of these scenarios.  We know how to do them.  It is a habit. We know how to get lost in another time, another feeling, but we do not quite know how to stay in the moment, how to just be. We become anxious, fearful, angry or depressed. We have become so caught up in our lives – doing, achieving, acting – that we do not know why we are here, or care to find out. We do not know how to create peace in our lives and the world around us.

This realization truly hit home the other day, when I walked into the nail salon and there was a girl in a wheel chair, living out her life with a physical disability. She was having a conversation with a woman about how she felt.  She was loud, without a care as to who heard.  I smiled.  Her words were muffled as her mouth did not quite work as efficiently as ours, but we all got her point. While she was trapped in a body that did not work as well as most other humans, she was free to be who she was, acknowledge how she felt at any given moment without regret, fear of judgement or guilt.

These examples are all around us.  Each week that I bring my son Drew to child therapy, there is a boy who is always there.  After Drew goes inside the playroom, the boy looks up and says, “You always go shopping.” The first time, I was taken aback, but looked at him, and replied, “Yes, I do.”  The boy continued, “Why do you always leave?”  I told him that there are stores nearby and it is a good time to do my shopping.  He smiled.  I smiled.  And now my heart melts a little more each time I see this boy.  He does not care that I am a stranger. Most special needs children have this wonderful gift of forgoing small talk. They have their own way of being, and it is more than refreshing, we can learn a great deal from them.  They live from their hearts, often with no filter.  They say what is on their minds, cutting through the chains we so often place on ourselves. They live in the moment.

We have so much to learn from those who are not like us.  We can often feel sorry for those who are different, but they have so much to teach us.  How to love without fear, speak without lies, and live each and every moment just as we feel.We see others who have a disability or special needs, as a liability, yet it feels as though, we are the ones trapped in a world with rules that often stuff the truth, choke the spontaneousness right out of us, cause us to live anywhere other than right here in this moment.

Yet, we do not need a disability, nor a developmental diagnoses to live in the moment.  We can take back our hearts from our minds that so often leads us so often away from the moment.  We can do this by becoming aware when we are anywhere but the moment.  We can spend time in nature, walking, observing, breathing.

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And with practice, we gain back our power.  We are no longer reacting to life, but living consciously.  We can begin to choose each and every moment to be in the moment.  We only need to remember to breathe, and just be.  We can see when we are off in another place, and gently bring ourselves back to the moment.  For it is in the moment, that we find who we are and why we are here.

In the moment, it does not matter what we do – sit alone or find company, cry or laugh, dance or sing.  It only matters that we open our hearts, and honor ourselves in every moment.

And when we do this, something magical happens.  For it is in the moment that the fear disappears, the blame evaporates and the truth emerges.  It is here that we find peace, forgiveness, forgo addictions, release hate, and find compassion for who we are, as we would a child.  We begin to stop caring what others say or think, for loving ourselves, outweighs another’s judgement, a million to one.

If we want something out of our life, whether it be happiness, peace, a soul mate, even greater financial abundance, then the way to receive everything you desire, is to go back to the moment.  Everything we want, every question we have, every emotion we feel is right there, inside of us, ready to be loved.

All we really need, is this moment.  Lucky for us, our lives are made up of endless moments, endless chances. So if you miss one, remember, there will always be another, waiting just for you.

 

A Whole New World

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What if when you woke up this morning, you found a whole new world?  What if the magic carpet ride with unbelievable sights and indescribable feelings was real, and you could climb aboard anytime.  Would you come along?

What if your dreams are guiding you as to how to see this whole new world?  People you run into unexpectedly, street signs, weird thoughts that pop into your head are all messages on how to reach this brand new world?

What if in this new world, you find magic and miracles.  The flowers blooming in colors so vibrant, you almost need to shield your eyes, and the brilliant skies make you stop and stare in awe.

What if it is only your beliefs and limits you place on yourself that keep you from seeing this world?  We have the power to see this whole new world now, to feel the truth of how we are all capable of loving beyond borders, to understand that everyone we meet, we are to help in some way.

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I can see this whole new world, now.

I can feel the care we take in treating our animals with respect and dignity, the cleanliness and wholeness of our foods, the honor of our natural wonders – the oceans, forests and the sacredness of our land.

I see a place where cooperation and compliments replaces competition; where love replaces fear.  In this space, we love ourselves and each other so deeply, that our addictions have nothing more to teach us.  That we give ourselves everything we never received, instead of looking for it from another.  That the one who was abused, neglected, judged and taken advantage of, is loved so deeply, there is no space left for blame.

A place where all our children are raised equally, fed and clothed.  One is not viewed as being better, for being stronger or smarter.  That we look at all of our children with how we can help them have the best experience they can, for they are the ones who are already living in this brand new world, and are here to help us see it for ourselves.

In this whole new world, we know that each time tragedy and terrorism strike, we look for the helpers.  And we keep our hearts open, so there is no more need for these atrocities as a reminder to love one another with reckless abandon.  We send love to everyone, even those we feel have wronged us.  We open our hearts to the person we see crying beside their car because her mother is dying.  To the child being bullied because of how he is different.  To the person in front of us in line at the post office because we have no idea of the suffering they have endured.

In this new world, the colors are brighter, the laughter is abundant.  We trust ourselves because we know that what we used to see out there – the hatred, lies, bigotry, racism – all the labels we used to place on ourselves and others, but have no place in our brand new world. We celebrate our differences.  We love our bodies, our minds and our hearts no matter what.

Will you take the first step within yourselves, your families and communities? Is it not time to come aboard this magic carpet ride? This is your invitation.

One one heart, one light, one person at a time.

This whole new world is already here.  We just need to open our eyes, and follow our hearts.