Gratitude Adjustment time


11/1:  consciously noticing the things to be grateful for.  11/2:  The opportunity several years ago to even begin practicing gratitude.

There will be stones thrown and multiple winged creatures killed.  I have not blogged for some time because I want my posts to be meaningful and thought-provoking.  Some recent starts to posts have ended up feeling either too repetitive or too self-absorbed.  I write to process my thoughts but to also encourage others to process their thoughts as well.  As the month begins where we celebrate our gratitude, and as I see friends posting a daily “grateful”, I realize I am behind.  Bird number one.  I am catching up with posting a gratitude a day for the entire month.  I realized that it was going to be hard for me to catch up, even after two days, in a Facebook sized post.  Bird number two.  I have material enough for a blog post.  Here goes, fearless readers:

I am not a stranger to the idea of practicing gratitude.  Even before my stroke I began keeping track of what was good in life.  After a bit of a bad patch in my life I listened to expert advisors strongly suggest I keep track of that for which I was grateful.  At the time, I was regrouping emotionally from a relationship break up and believed it would be challenging to find things that were actually going well.  It did not come easy for me. I faked it a lot.  Blah, blah, grateful for a roof over my head (boy I took that one for granted), blah, blah grateful for food in my fridge, and so on.  An interesting thing began to happen though.  As I forced myself to come up with things I was grateful for, I found myself spontaneously being grateful for things that I didn’t notice before, or if I did, I wasn’t fully being with the gratitude.

Now here’s the cool thing.  Studies have shown that you can’t feel appreciation and fear or anxiety at the same time.

During that time, my anxiety was pretty much through the roof although I didn’t acknowledge it to many others or even to myself.  I knew I was unhappy but didn’t want to admit that either but again, the wisdom and insight of others around me encouraged me, as I was seeking to understand myself better, to find things to be grateful for, twelve things every day.

I started off with three or four but I decided that I would also start a list of people for whom I was grateful.  It was my intention, and still is, to personally thank the people on my list at some point.  (My list is in the hundreds and I continue to add to it regularly.) My list of gratitudes (after the faking phase) were really stretching it I thought:  1.  Grateful for a dog under the covers in bed with me.  2.  Grateful for a bedroom window facing East so that the sunrise wakes me every day.  3.  Grateful for songs that remind me that I am strong.

As I read those things now I can see that they are no small things.  What continued to amaze me was how much easier it became to notice and truly feel grateful about things.  Smells, sounds, thoughts, absence of thoughts until soon I could easily list a daily dozen gratitudes…with sincerity and gratitude.  It is not unusual or uncommon for me to notice myself feeling joyfully grateful during the course of my day.  After my stroke, it became even more important to recognize and celebrate the things I could be grateful for.  And there are many.

I have been reading others’ post sharing their gratitude and told myself I would also post but I have been busy and distracted.  Driving home from my newest vocational adventure I noticed a small jolt of joy rising as I smelled leaves and fall air.  I rolled down the windows of my pickup and inhaled and quietly was thankful for the hour plus commute home because I get to smell the leaves, feel the chill and chase the moonlight through the trees as I drive through the wooded state game lands that appear after the wide open stretch of farm lands I cross eventually leading through the small “towns” made up of old homes with candles in every window and country churches with adjoining cemeteries that contain the bones of the many who passed through this way before me as settlers, soldiers, or solitary seekers of the next big thing for which they’d feel grateful.  Such a wide variety of landscape options in just an hour’s drive.  Tonight, the moon is not yet full yet provides enough light when it evades the clouds, to illuminate the scenery around me as I drive with a joyful and grateful heart. I am grateful for the drive, grateful for my pickup which makes me feel like a badass, grateful to no longer be a teacher but grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I received from the colleagues and students with whom I worked, grateful that there remain many a strong soul fighting the good fight for our children, I am grateful I walked that walk with you.  I am grateful for the dog by my feet on my bed tonight.  I am 1. grateful that I notice being grateful and that there are things to be genuinely grateful for and 2. glad I started practicing many years ago because it really does take practice.   And it’s only day two!  I challenge you, my friends, many who are on my list of who I am grateful for, to comment with your own gratitude.  Or twelve.

Advertisements

What started as an idea to engage readers…


has resulted in multitudes of blessings for me.  I am presented with the gift of unwrapping personal, heartfelt, unabashedly brave narratives and chronicles that my unbelievable friends have chosen to provide.  I have concluded that storytelling is one way to guarantee our immortality. I have stories of my parents, grandparents and I am lucky to have stories from great-grandparents that I have and will continue to share with my son and hopefully he with his own children creating oral and written documentation of all of our existences and impacts.  With each story that my friends have shared, a piece of all of our history remains.  Thank you all for trusting me with your personal history and legacies!  Now, introducing Barbara…

Kim asked me to give some thought to commenting on her blog… and I am humbled and quite frankly, astounded that she would think I have something of value to say to her readers.  I will let you judge for yourselves.

I was named Barbara Ann at birth (over 65 years ago, a big name in the 50s) and called Barby by my family – notice the spelling?  Then in 1958 the Barbie doll arrived and I decided to change my spelling, assuming folks would think of me as that lovely doll.  That worked fine until puberty when all pretense of looking like that early icon of womanhood was cast aside by one look in the mirror.  So I returned to Barby and carried on without a backward look.  Well, until the song, “Barbara Ann” which captivated my imagination for a bit; and of course, Barbra Streisand made another impact on my name spelling.  By the time I went to college, I had returned to just Barbara and often Barb (although I have never introduced myself by anything other than Barbara).

You are probably getting a sense of my vivid imagination – which shows up over and over and over almost every day – even now.  I am pretty sure I would have been the poster child for ADHD in the 1950s and 60s, had there been such a thing.  Instead, I was labeled as lively, imaginative, chatty and somewhat of a rascal.  To this day, my 94 year old Dad feels quilty and says, “Oh Barby, we spanked you so often”… which has no merit as far as I am concerned since I always knew there were consequences for any behavior, and accepted the simple swats on my fanny as the price to pay for my miscreant maneuverings.

By the way, I spent the first 15 years of my life in York, Pennsylvania, as the middle daughter of a “Leave It to Beaver” type of family.  My baby brother came along when I was a teenager.  My Mother and Dad were (and still are) loving, kind, family centered and deeply caring people.  Our household was filled with good times, firm expectations, fair rules and the aforementioned consequences, both good and not so good.

We were all expected to be good examples of fairness, honesty, and good character…. And despite our various attempts at stepping over the line, I can truly say my parents did a wonderful job of showing us all how to live that way.  The prevailing ideals in our home were shown to us everyday in every way.  I am very grateful for that as it set a standard for my life that I continue to try to maintain.

Both my parents lived a life of service to others – not in the “get-a-plaque-with-your-name-on-it” kind of way, but in the simple everyday things they do to make a little impact on those around them.  My Dad has never walked through a shopping center without going out of his way to return an abandoned cart to its rightful place. My mother will stoop to pick up a piece of trash anywhere she spots it. Once when my Dad noticed that a young woman with an infant having to take her baby in the car without a proper car seat, he purchased one for her – no strings attached.  I saw these selfless actions as the routine way to live one’s life.  The rewards of these small actions are endless… a personal natural anti-depressant that changes one’s world view.

Early on I decided to become a teacher.  I LOVED school and especially my special seat beside the teacher in almost every grade right through middle school.   I even got to correct the spelling tests with my own red pencil.  It struck me one day as I was teaching in my own elementary classroom, that my “special” seat and attention from all those teachers had a reason – keep the rascal occupied.  Those many teachers corralled my interest and energy in a very loving way.  I was a pretty good student – until hormones and high school had to fight for my scattered attentions.

College was a fun-filled experience with all the opportunities to try to fail or try to succeed.  I was a pretty tame co-ed, especially by the standards of the 1970s.  The Age of Aquarius was mostly just a song for me, but I did have some striped bell bottom pants that would make Cher proud.

I met my husband of 45 years while in college and although I probably chose him for all the wrong reasons (tall, handsome, football player, smooth talker), I must have felt his deeper value unconsciously.  Phew!  I witness the same spirit of giving in him that I hold so dear. Our two daughters are the most precious gift I have ever received – and like every mother, I have no way to express just how deeply they have enriched my life and continue to do so. I am one lucky girl.

So by now you must be rolling your eyes and be ready to quit this blah, blah, blah…  Please don’t give up yet.  I have just described the most positive experience of my life – a loving, caring, family who laid a great foundation for decision making and attitude adjustment, a love of helping and teaching, and striving to do better.

Now to address the challenges of my life, and how those experiences test me.

As you may have figured, my family is the most important thing in my life.  Leaving them behind was and is the most challenging thing that I have ever done.  Through the course of my adult life, with the exception of my husband, I have physically moved many times, always farther and farther away from all of my family.   Parents (both still living), sisters, brother, daughters, grand daughters and life long friends are all scattered by life’s wayside, all held dear in my heart and not nearly often enough in my arms.  The emptiness left inside me is a challenge to fill.

With each change in my location, came the challenge to find a new fit, a new way to connect and fill my life with meaning.  It was and continues to be a struggle for me.

Over the years, I have learned to fill the longing for the connection to my dearest ones with service to others.  Finding ways to be positive, to teach and share with others in my life.  In my career(s) – remember, we moved many times – I always sought positions that allowed me to teach and serve others.  I found personal fulfillment as a classroom teacher, a library assistant, a card shop worker, a preschool teacher, a bank teller, an assembly line worker, a bank loan officer, a technology teacher, a corporate trainer, a hospital volunteer, and more.  In every capacity, I found that the people I worked with and the people I served filled my desire for connections and meaning.

Professionally and personally, I strive to make a positive impact on everyone that I meet.  In my experience, looking for ways to make a positive impact is simple… I talk to everyone, I listen to others, I try to find a way to bring a smile or a helping hand and of course, I look for that abandoned shopping cart and return it to the store!

Do I sound like Mary Poppins?  Hardly.  Inside I am often grumpy and sad, but I do find that helping others to be happier rebounds back to me many-fold.

Admittedly, I have had a very lucky life… at least on the surface.  But that luck is earned, not given freely.  I firmly believe that consciously looking for the good and positive things in everyday life will show you that it is all around you.

I think the idea “You will find what you are looking for” perfectly explains how one can choose a path.  If you are looking for the bad, it is all around you – and conversely, looking for the good reveals an abundance of that, too.  If you search for the little ways to make a difference for someone else you will be happier for it.  Look that cashier in the eye and say hello, ask a question about someone’s life and listen to the answer, pick up some trash, pay for the next person’s donut, tell that stranger that they have some toilet paper on their shoe (or just step on it for them – I did that today and it cracked me up!)…you get the idea.

Choose for yourself, every day, every time, with every action and when you find that your view is becoming clouded with despair, dig deeper and look harder.  Change your attitude and direction.  It is your choice – always.

One of my favorite quotes – which exemplifies this idea is from Maya Angelou

“If you walk up a path and you look ahead and you don’t like where you’re going, and you look back and you don’t want to return, step off the path. Pick yourself a brand new road.”

The challenge for me and what keeps me moving forward each day, is finding the good, the kind, the positive in all that I do.

If I have to choose just one sentence of words to live by… again Maya Angelou sums it up nicely.

“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.”

For dear Kim, you (her readers) and myself, I hope our challenges are few and will be overwhelmed by positive thoughts and actions as we look for the good and ways to share it.

 

Introducing……


I thought it might be interesting to share the perspectives of some of my friends and readers.  I want to inspire and I have decided to lean on some other experience and wisdom.

I would like to introduce guest blogger Millie who inspires me by impacting people with her passion.  I know her courageous honesty will change many lives.  Introducing Millie:

Hi, All. I am a Tennessee girl living in Mississippi. (Hey ya’ll!) I am an accountant. (Lord, help me) It is how I pay my bills. I have two teenagers (Lord, help me) a boy and a girl. One is a boy scout and the other is a cheerleader. I’ll let you decide which is which. As a hobby, I am a newly certified Harley Davidson Rider Coach. It is how I give back and how I find purpose these days.

I fell in love at an early age and married at nineteen. My passionate and selfless nature was used against me and led to a breakdown of personal boundaries. Boundaries that should have protected my soul were overrun, deemed contrary and outright sinful to our union of marriage.

Over-time my husband weakened me, molded me and changed me repeatedly. I never knew where I stood with him. I only knew he stood a head taller than I ever would. I could never measure up. I could not be perfect enough. My voice had no value to him. He was controlling of all aspects of our life, treated me like a child, was manipulative with his affection, and used isolation and religious doctrine to keep me in check. I blamed myself.

A little less than two years ago, I came very close to taking my own life. I thought the world would be a better place without me. I thought my children would be better off without me.

I got help. Thank, God. Many suffering from depression feel that they are meant to suffer alone. Don’t, don’t be afraid to ask for help. With much counseling and self-evaluation, I began to understand that I had been a victim of abuse. The spirited little girl inside of me had been silenced too long. I came out of that breakdown to declare, “No More!”

I separated from my husband of twenty-one years and began the long trek of healing. Six months after the breakdown, I was maintaining my health but I was not healing, yet. It was as if I had died. Which really, I had. Life had broken me and the pieces were not going to be put back the same way. I still grieved for the little girl inside. She was no longer silenced but she was struggling to find her voice. This was when a girlfriend asked me to take the Harley Academy Basic Rider Course with her. I thought, “Yeah, that will be fun,” and agreed to go.

The first night of the class the instructors asked the students, “Why are you here?” When it was my turn to answer, I said, “I’m just here for her,” and motioned to my friend. The instructors could have discounted me then and there. They could have rolled their eyes and thought to each other, “This one will be the first to wash out.” But they didn’t. They treated me with dignity and respect while challenging me to excel. I pulled up my big girl panties and finished the class with a feeling of confidence and positive self-worth that I had not felt in a long time.

Upon completion of the class, my instructors encouraged me to pursue rider coach training. I remember laughing. When they asked why I was laughing, I told them, “My daughter asked me before this class if I was going to buy a motorcycle and I told her, ‘No, baby. I’m just going with Ginger so she will not have to take the class alone.” I paused, still smiling, and said to them, “I guess I need to buy a motorcycle.”

A few months passed until I saved up enough money to purchase my first motorcycle. And Oh, can I tell you, it was pure freedom! The little blond accountant was riding a Harley. The Vance and Hines pipes announced my entrance at work before I even made it in the parking lot.

Eight months later, I completed the MSF basic rider skills coach training. One year from the time of my own basic rider skills course, I completed the Harley Rider Academy Coach training. I also reached a personal milestone by riding my bike to the Harley training in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was a nineteen-hundred-mile round trip. I made the trip alone.

Up to this point, I think what made me put one foot in front of the other each day was anger. Yeah, after twenty-one years of changing who I was to be loved, only to find out there was nothing wrong with me in the first place, made me a little pissed (just saying). Please understand: The anger, which helped me build walls against further hurt might keep out the bad but, unfortunately, it also keeps out the good. Anger was a coping mechanism that worked for me but is unhealthy if carried long term.

I have always been a compassionate person; putting others before myself. Many would consider this a weakness and the source of my abuse. Yes, it was used against me as a measure of control but I have learned that what the world calls weak is truly my strength. Now that I understand personal boundaries are healthy and necessary, I can use my compassionate nature to its fullest.

Coaching for me is not just about helping people learn basic motorcycle riding skills but is more about helping the student build confidence in themselves. I do not take this lightly. Some that come to a class are, as I was, at a life changing point.

My healing is ongoing. I have days when the past will not let me alone and I struggle to even get out of the bed. My early coping mechanism of anger turned to bitterness. (Still trying to nip that one and I am succeeding for the most part.)

I have started a blog, ImJustHereforHer.com, where I share more of my ongoing story. If you are or know of someone who is a victim of this type of abuse, take heart. God has shown me that His promises are real. There is beauty from ashes. There is joy after mourning. There is peace, wonderful peace to all who seek it. He does not allow pain without causing something new to be born. And God’s love for us is true and pure and without blemish.

Friends who know what I have been through have called me courageous. If being courageous means I was pushed off the cliff’s edge but then, I found my wings then, yes, I guess I am.

Showing Up!


Balanced stones in water

I love when the universe delivers additional confirmation of my beliefs.  I believe we are here to share our unique gifts and to connect with other beings doing the same.  I believe that the connections we make help to support the impact we make during our lifetime.  I believe that love is bigger than we can fathom.

 

This past weekend I had my soul lifted (just in the nick of time) and my fire lit (figuratively that is) and after pondering like I do, I realized some things.

 

I am not alone.  I have many tribes to which I belong.  They sustain me, encourage me and challenge me to be the best version of myself.

 

When I wonder if I’ve had an impact, I only have to meet with my motorcycling tribe and marvel at the connections.  When I started the journey in the motorcycling world nearly 17 years ago, I had no idea what a thrilling ride it would be.  I have met wildly wonderful people, seen wildly marvelous parts of the country and gotten to travel places I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t have.  But that’s how I was changed which is cool, but not nearly as exciting as the other side.

 

I have taught people who have taught others who have become teachers of others all across this country.  If I were a pebble and you threw me in a pond, the ripples would go on endlessly.  And I’d get wet.  It’s hard to get my head around how far out the influence of one of us can go.

Now you think I am talking about motorcycle safety but that has only been the conduit for a greater thrill:  seeing people gain confidence, inspiration and self-love.  I have gathered in my damaged brain, a collection of stories and memories of lives I’ve influenced. I don’t say that without tremendous humility and honor, believe. I have no idea how I got to share some of these things, to share these experiences.  Let me give you some examples.

 

Many of the stories are as simple as a change in confidence.. People discovering tha they can accomplish something that seemed impossible, something that they dreamed about for a long time and finally jumped in.  Though the story is simple, it makes me tear up sometimes when I think of how many mornings on the second day of range exercises, students showed up thinking it would be the day they failed.  I would find that people, particularly women (we are culturalized not to take risks like riding big, powerful machines) on their second day of riding, would start having doubts about their skill.  And how many times I would remind them that they showed up for this.  While we were up and teaching and learning at 8:00 in the morning on a weekend, there were thousands of people still in bed that will wake up one day and wish they would have taken the risk, taken the chance.  So day 2 of riding might not be perfect, but it was further along than those people in bed.  I believe we have to show up! And get dirty and feel fear and feel passion, excitement, adventurous…feel it all!

 

I had a young woman in one class who had just lost her newly-wed husband.  She had made a pact with herself to accomplish three big things in the year after in order to not give up on life completely.  She wanted to jump out of a plane.. She did.. She wanted to go scuba diving.. She learned..  Day two of class she was struggling but I knew she was just doubting herself.  She told me she didn’t think she could do it.  I talked her down, pointed out how far she had come.  She finished the class and passed.  Afterwards she thanked me for saving her life.  You see, motorcycling was the third thing she had on her list and she shared that on day two she didn’t think she would do it.  She was on the edge of an abyss that was dark and hopeless.  She saved her own life, but wow!  To be a small influence.

Then there was the hard-core Marine sharpshooter who burst into tears after passing the course.  He shared that his entire life he was told how stupid he was. He went into the service because he didn’t think he could do anything else. But now, in his 40s, he passed a motorcycling class.  He had decided that he would go back to school now.  I think the entire class cried with him, myself included.  Those were only a few of the stories I have, and there were just as many that I never heard either.  When I think about these stories, I find myself asking, “Why me” but I know why.  It is because I love life and love connecting and accidently or on purpose that leads to becoming involved in other peoples’ stories.  I show up.  On my bad days I try and remember that, I’m not perfect, I’ve made some really poor choices but, I showed up for life.  That knowledge makes me feel like I got some of it right.  It’s not always neat or pretty, but it’s real.

 

So this was just going to be a short blog because I hadn’t posted in a while.  I guess I had some stuff that needed to come out.  What started off as an emotional reunion with like minds, ended up releasing my inner pebble.

 

Tomorrow is a new day.  I’ll show up, but I’d better go figure out what I’m going to wear!  Live fully, love hard, laugh harder.  Show up!