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Archive for February, 2010

Sometimes, we all need a little distraction in our lives – something to take our minds off of our daily stresses. It’s so easy to over-think solutions to our problems and to drive ourselves nuts in the process. We end up with more issues than when we started! When I was submitting my targeted essay for grad school, I ruminated on this one specific sentence over and over again until I got so frustrated, I slammed my laptop cover down and said “Screw it! I’ll get to it later!” I was driving myself nuts trying to edit to perfection. I finally realized that the more I seem to focus on a problem, the more problematic it becomes. When we are stressed out, upset, confused, etc., it’s good to take a break from emotional triggers and to focus our mind elsewhere. We can, eventually, return to the original problem with a clear head and clean perspective.

Yesterday, I was reviewing my “To Do” list (I write one out almost every day) and became instantly overwhelmed at what I needed to accomplish in such a short period of time. I can easily freak out thinking about everything I want to get done, and instead of actually moving forward with daily chores, I sit and wonder if I’ll be able to “do it all.” Then, I don’t get it all done, and the never-ending battle between “thinking” and “doing” plays out again and again.

This time, instead of really stressing myself out, I looked at my list, took a few deep breaths, and pushed the day’s impending busyness out of my head for a solid 15 minutes. I saw an article on Fox News entitled “Mind-Bending Optical Illusions” that grabbed my attention (who doesn’t love a good magic trick or optical illusion once in a while!?). Instead of filling it up with the worries of the world, I cleared my mind and directed all of my focus on these 12 amazing optical illusions. Afterward, I re-focused my attention on my “To Do” list with a new sense of vigor and refreshment. I had given my mind a much-needed break from the stresses that bombard it every day.

If your mind needs a break from your day (and I promise it does) – check out a few or all of these images – or find another good 15 minute distraction that will help to re-focus your brain and to push your worries out for a short time. Get up and stretch, take a 15 minute walk, enjoy some hot tea, meditate, doodle, read a children’s book, etc. You’ll feel instantly refreshed and will probably get more done than if you went a mile-a-minute on each task without taking a second to breathe. “Break” your never-ending cycle of panic by giving yourself a well-deserved “break.” ūüôā

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Attitude

So here I am¬†sitting at my mom’s kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee (I gave up Diet Coke for Lent – I’m already having carbonation¬†withdrawals),¬†while I figure out¬†the day’s events. I’m visiting my family in Virginia this week – spending a few days in Roanoke, a day in College Park, MD, and the weekend at The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA (I hope my planned combination of ice-skating and white wine mix well together… ). Anyway, Tuesday night, after I made it in to town in record speed (leaving Atlanta at 11:00 A.M instead of 5:00 P.M really does make a HUGE difference – traffic avoidance: what a positive¬†aspect¬†of the jobless lifestyle!) and my mom and I finished downing margaritas and chicken fajitas¬†at our favorite local Mexican establishment, I hit the fridge looking for something sweet (she is always hiding cookie dough in one of the drawers) to¬†munch on while watching the latest American Idol episode.

The front of the refrigerator¬†looked¬†like it always does¬†– same ole¬†magnets, same ole¬†pictures, a few business cards and some appointment reminders – but right splat in the middle of the door was a piece of paper entitled “Attitude.” It must have been a recent clipping (I’ve mentioned, in previous posts, mine and my mom’s affinity for¬†cutting out quotes, stories, and articles from newspapers and magazines),¬†for I hadn’t noticed it at Christmas. It took less than a minute to read but had a profound impact on my perception of “attitude,”¬†and I’d like to share¬†Charles Swindoll’s¬†words¬†with you. Grab your cookie dough (I’d share that with you as well, but my mom and I polished it off last night while doing our taxes – sorry!) and learn to embrace the positivity in life.

Attitude

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important that facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.”

—Charles¬†Swindoll

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One of Japan’s most read and best-loved authors, Kenji Miyazawa, once said: “We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.” I am unfamiliar with many of Miyazawa’s works, but his quote resonates in my soul, and I am sure many of you will remark its relevance in your own lives. Each one of us is fighting our own battles – at war with people, ideals, thoughts, diseases, our own minds, etc. At any one moment, we are working to overcome various adversities in our lives so we can hopefully discover, at the very least, contentment, and at the very most, pure and utter happiness.

To say that the road to happiness is “difficult” is an understatement. It is full of perils, unexpected obstacles, and, sometimes, lessons you were hoping you never had to learn. But what is a journey without all of these obstacles? Well, I would argue, it’s not a “journey” at all. Yes, in the literal sense, a journey is an “act of traveling from one place to another” (thank you Merriam-Webster), but in the mental, physical, and emotional sense, a journey isn’t just another word for “trip.” The dictionary forgets to mention the hard work, perseverance, despair, heartache, sadness, accomplishment, and every other emotion in the realm of possibilities when it belittles the word to its simple one-to-two-line(s) definition. Getting from the defined “one place to another” isn’t easy, and we have to come to terms with all of the physical and emotional roadblocks along the way. But as painful as the journey can be, if we embrace the pain and we use it for fuel, we can keep on going – keep on chugging along no matter the pace.

We are constantly journeying through life in an effort to follow our dreams; at times along the way, we’ll take two steps back, and other times, we will have leaped ahead three. What’s important is remembering that the journey is where we find out who we are – where we realize the fight we have within us and the will to never give up. What kind of life is worth living if you are always walking through the raindrops? What sense of accomplishment do you glean from being handed your goal – from never having to work to achieve your dreams? Embrace the individual rain that pours down on each of you – the rain that drenches your perfectly planned life journey – and just get wet once in a while. See the adversity. Relish in the disappointment. Really feel the heartache. Envelop yourself in the pain. Then try and overcome it – burn it as fuel – the victory will taste that much sweeter, and the journey will mean that much more.

In the end, the destination is not really the reward…

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I recently began reading Too Soon to Say Goodbye – the last book Pulitzer Prize winning humorist and columnist, Art Buchwald, wrote shortly before he passed away. Buchwald, known as the “Whit of Washington,”spent 4 decades chronicling and satirizing the Washington political scene, and, at one time, his syndicated column appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. At age 80, Buchwald had part of his leg and foot amputated due to blood clots and learned his already failing kidneys were totally failing. He began extensive and lengthy kidney dialysis, but after trying dialysis 12 times, he decided to throw in the towel. He no longer saw “a future in this” and didn’t “want to do it anymore!” Stopping the dialysis was, in a sense, signing his own death certificate, but in February 2006, Buchwald proceeded with checking himself into a hospice with the offshoot chance he would survive for about three weeks.

His three planned weeks turned into 5 unplanned months and “the man who wouldn’t die” was able to coin his last book and move back home to die on his “own terms.” Too Soon to Say Goodbye gives us an intimate look into Buchwald’s life and allows us to experience his hospice care and impending death with grace, dignity, and humility. I am only a few chapters in, but I can already tell what a special, inspirational person Art Buchwald is from just reading the first chapter. While essentially waiting to die, Buchwald still says of hospice care: “In case you’re wondering, I’m having a swell time – the best time of my life.” Buchwald is able to face death with joy and humor, and he reminds all of us to live life to the fullest and be grateful for every day we have. I hope his words will help to put your life in perspective and encourage you to find the humor in even the worst of situations. I’ve always believed that no matter how sad or bad you feel – if you can laugh – you will make it. I am so pleased to discover that real-life hero, Art Buchwald, feels the same way. ūüôā

First chapter from Too Soon to Say Goodbye – entitled On Standby for Heaven:

“I am in a hospice and I have this recurring dream. I am at Dulles airport and I have a reservation to go to heaven. I go into the terminal and look at the list of flights. Heaven is at the last gate.

I don’t know if they have reading material on the plane, so I stop at the magazine stand and pick up “Vanity Fair,” “The New Yorker,” and “Playboy.” I also buy a package of gum and some M&M’s. Then I head toward security.

I have bought my ticket, which says, “When you go to heaven, you need only one bag, but do not include a cigarette lighter or sharp scissors.” I stand in line for hours. I didn’t realize how many people were on the same flights.

I run into several friends, and I am surprised to see them. They hadn’t mentioned they were going too. In my dream several of them are younger than I am, and I know two who were smokers.

I finally get to the security gate, holding on to my bag for dear life.

The agent says, “You don’t have to bring your computer with you. They have them up there.”

“I say to the agent, “I want to hold on to my bag because I don’t want you people to lose it.”

Then they make me take off my jacket, my belt, and my shoes.

When I ask why, the agent says, “You don’t want to wear shoes in heaven. They scratch up the floor.”

They send me through another gate because I have a pacemaker. Then they make me stick out my arms and they scan my legs with a wand.

I finally get to the departure gate. Dulles is crowded. In my dream, there are no seats in the waiting area, so I got to Starbucks to kill time. I am not sure if you get lunch on the plane to heaven. For all I know, they give you a bagel and cream cheese and a soft drink. I am warned by an attendant that I can’t get ouf of my seat on the flight.

This is kind of silly, because who would hijack a plane to heaven?

It’s open seating on the plane. I know heaven is a wonderful place, but on the way there you have to sit three across. As with all flights, there are emergency exits in case the pilot changes his mind. There are also life jackets under each seat. In my dream the flight attendants are very beautiful, and they hand out blankets and pillows.

I enter the waiting area. The loudspeaker says, “Heaven is at the last gate. There will be intermediate stops in Dallas, Chicago, and Albuquerque. The plane has just arrived.”

I go up to the desk and ask, “Am I entitled to frequent flyer miles?”

The agent says, “You won’t need any, because you’re not coming back.”

Now, this is the part I love. (Remember, this is my dream.) The loudspeaker says, “Because of inclement weather, today’s flight to heaven has been canceled. You can come back tomorrow and we’ll put you on standby.”

Art Buchwald: 1925 - 2007

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