Have an extraordinary life…

November 26, 2016

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things – Veronique Vienne.

It seems to me that the key to that quote from Veronique Vienne is the word “find”. It is an action word that assumes that one is not sitting there waiting for things, and the associated pleasures, to come to them; it says that some overt effort is being made to seek out those pleasures.smell-the-roses

The opening quote is really a variation on the old saw, “Stop and smell the roses.” It is stopping and making the effort to discover the extraordinary that is to be found in all things that brings the pleasure to life. While it is pleasurable to enjoy things like roses or great works of man or even other species of living things; I would submit that the saying might be much more meaningful and rewarding if it were phrased, “Stop and meet the people.”

handshakeIt is in meeting other people that we have our most profound experiences of the extraordinary, because we can relate to their life experiences as if they were our own. We can imagine ourselves living their stories. It is really impossible to imagine yourself as a fish or maybe even living as a lion or elephant; but, one can imagine the life of the fisherman or living in Africa alongside the animals through the stories of other humans who live those lives. One only hears stories like those and imagines those extraordinary adventures if one makes the effort to stop and meet the people.

There was an old late 50’s and early 60’s TV show called Naked City and it’s closing tag line was something like, “there are a million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them.” There are billions of people on earth and millions within this country and every talking-2one of them has a story, some of them quite extraordinary. Each of those stories allows us to escape the capsule of personal experiences that we live within and imagine new and different experiences, many of them extraordinary indeed.

Imagine meeting a refuge family from Iraq that just moved into your town. As you talk with them about their experiences you are whisked away in your mind to Aleppo, huddled in a bomb shelter or just taking cover under some rubble, with bombs dropping all around you. After the bombing has stopped, you are amazed to see children emerge and start kicking around a ball made of wadded up paper and tape; improvising a game of soccer in the midst of this chaos. How extraordinary is that?

Perhaps you meet an immigrant from an impoverished African country and you suddenly find yourself imagining walking across vast stretches of the plains and desserts in search of food and shelter. In their stories you experience living in the squalor of a refugee camp while awaiting your turn to apply for safety in another country and then the wonder and amazement, along with the fears and uncertainties, of coming to a country where there is men huggingfood and shelter for all in need, but where you don’t understand the language or customs. What an extraordinary journey.

Maybe your travels bring you in contact with Native Americans and they share stories of their heritage and traditions. Perhaps you stop and take the time to talk with an African American who is protesting that black lives matter. You might encounter a member of the GLBTQ community and turn towards them to learn, instead of away from them to shun. It could be that just finding time to share your thoughts with a loved one – your hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments – is an extraordinary experience for you. Make the effort.

In each of these encounters there are people to meet, stories to be listened to and things tolisten be learned. So, stop and meet the people and fill your life with the extraordinary pleasures found in sharing life experiences with others. Making that effort will certainly result in expanding your thinking and may even make you a better person for having listened to, and hopefully considered, that other persons point of view.

Stop and meet the people today and you will have an extraordinary life.

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There’s a party goin’ on…Smile

September 30, 2015

“I might look like I’m doing nothing, but in my head I’m quite busy.”  (Spirit Science) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I can relate to that little saying, especially sometimes at night when I wake up and my mind takes off on its own. Does that ever happen to you?

I used to work for a technology company that had a corporate trainer who used this line to open his training sessions  – “To the world outside I may look calm and composed, but inside this body there’s a party going on”.  Hechild dancing was a great trainer who let some of that partying out in his sessions and made the learning experience fun. Is there a party going on inside of you? Do you let some of that out and share with others or just hold it all in?

Many people, and I count myself among them, have an exterior mien that masks their emotions. They have “at rest” facial expressions that either looks disinterested or maybe even angry. I always thought that House Speaker John Boehner looked unhappy whenever he was shown on TV, especially as he sat behind the President on State of Union speeches. Perhaps he was always unhappy then. How do you look when you’re not trying to smile or frown or make any face at all?  Most people would probably be surprised at how uninviting they look in their “at rest ” face.

There is a tendency in our society not to make eye contact or engage others and, in fact, to discourage engagement by others. We’re in too much of a hurry to get somewhere or do something to stop and talk to others, especially strangers.  These days much of our focus may be directed to the palm of our hand where our ubiquitous little friend, the smartphone, demands our attention. How ironic that we would rather check out what someone posted on Facebook than to spend actual face time with another person. There’s a party going on all around us inside the people that we pass, but we don’t join the fun because we make no effort to get invited in.

Perhaps the easiest way that we can invite people to join our party or to get invoited to join theirs is to make the effort to smile as we pass them. I like this little saying from Jarod Kintz – “Smiling is the way the soul says hello.”  So, smile and invite people to join smiling dogthe party that’s going on inside of you. You won’t be sorry that you did.

The thing about a smiling person is that, when you meet them, you have a reaction. You may wonder what the heck they are smiling about or you may wonder if they’re smiling because they see the jelly from this morning’s donut still clinging to your shirt. Perhaps their smile keys off some good feeling that you have inside and that brings a smile to your face, too. Maybe you can then pay it forward by smiling at someone else and helping make their day better.  “For a moment at least, be a smile on someone else’s face.”  ― Dejan Stojanovic

Invite others in to join the party that’s goin’ on inside of you. If you happen to be alone, take a moment to think of something that makes you smile and remember this little saying from Andy Rooney – “If you smile when you are alone, then you really mean it.” You’ll make your own day better.

Smile and have a great day.  ;^)


Share your heart through a letter…

July 29, 2015

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”  (Phyllis Theroux – as seen on Jack’s Winning Words some time ago.

It’s Wednesday (hump day to some) which may make you feel happy that the week is half over. Why not make someone else happy and write a letter or card to them today. There’s something much more satisfying about holding a card or letter in your hand and reading it than just staring at the screen of your computer or phone. Applications like Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter have made sending short little notes or messages to people relatively easy; however, they have also made it much less personal. The fact that many people use a form of shorthand to communicate takes even more of the personal touch out of it.

letter writingSitting down to write a letter does take an effort on your part. As part of that effort you actually spend more time thinking about what you want to say to the other person. There are no spellcheck do-overs if you are writing with ink (maybe a few cross-outs), so you spend a little more time on it and consider a little more the words that you are using. I think you also spend a little more time thinking about the person to whom you are writing. Even if you are writing to relate some news about you  or your family, rattling around in the back of your head are the memories of times together with the person to whom you are writing and probably the memories of the reason that you are taking the time to write to them.

One seldom dashes off a letter to unknown recipients, like one might do in a blog post or Tweet – the exception maybe are those nasty letters to complain about something or maybe a letter to the editor of the local paper. For the most part letters are a form of communicating that is almost as personal as being together and having a conversation. That is why they can come from the heart.

Many people save the cards and letters that they get from loved ones or letters they might have received from important people. Those letters, many times discovered much later, often document the love of people separated by events or the progress through life of good friends or relatives. Often it is the letters that were saved by someone close to them that allow us to get a better view of long gone famous people – their thoughts and views on the events happening in their time.  Do you posting a letterhave letters or cards from someone that you’ve been saving? Do you ever go back and re-read them? Does re-reading them still make you smile or feel good?

So, take the time today to sit down and write a letter or card to someone. You can get blank cards at stores that sell cards. Nicely written cards are sort of like the Tweets of letter writing, but they are still better than just a Tweet or Facebook post to someone. Make someone’s day. Share your heart with them through a letter. You’ll feel better when you’re done and they’ll feel better when they get your letter.


Someone needs you; will you be there for them?

March 2, 2015

“We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”  (Erik Erikson)

There was a long story in the Sunday Detroit Free Press about a local woman, whom repairmen discovered dead in her garage a while back. She had been dead for five years and no one had missed her! The story went into great detail about this woman’s background and how something like that could happen. It wasn’t as if the women had no relatives. She had brothers and sisters living in different parts of the country. And this didn’t happen in some out of the way place; but, rather in a nice neighborhood up in Pontiac, Michigan where homes are fairly close together – she had neighbors. The story recounted that she wasn’t really what we might call a hermit, just a very private person, with no friends locally and with a history of not communicating with her family members, sometimes for years. Sadly, her mummified body was found in her own garage, sitting in her own car. The body was so badly deteriorated that the coroner may never be able to determine the cause of her death. One might classify it as death by isolation. It certainly was death in isolation and that is sad.

In the paper’s recounting of this woman’s back story It is documented that she did have friends and co-workers at one time and even showed up for family events on occasion (rare, but it did happen). She was always recognized by everyone who knew her as someone who kept to herself and that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But she took her need for privacy to the extreme and got to the point where she apparently needed no one. She established this image so firmly in everyone’s mind that there was no one that saw it as unusual that they had not seen her or heard from her in years. She had set her bills up on an auto-payment schedule, so they just kept getting paid after her death until such time as the funds ran out. Eventually her house was repossessed through foreclosure and it was when workmen showed up to repair a hole in the roof that they discovered her body.

Had she taken to heart the little saying from today by Erik Erikson she might still have died, but she would have been missed a lot sooner. We’ll never know if she perhaps could have even been saved by someone who cared and became concerned about her when she didn’t show up somewhere or wasn’t seen for a while.

Gristly stories like this account aside, there is more to Erik’s statement than just watching out for each other. While humans aren’t classified as “pack animals”, we are normally social beings. We depend upon social interactions for reinforcement, feedback and self-assurance. It is important that we learn to like ourselves, but it is also critical thatfriends holdi hands we have the interactions with other humans that confirm who we think we are or help us to become the person that we would like to be. At its most intense and important level this human interaction is with our life-mate. I can no longer even imagine life without the one in my life who completes me. Perhaps that is why the loss of a husband or wife can be so devastating and really why those left behind often seek that level of companionship again.

Another obvious reason that we need each other is that we are all dependent upon the work and contributions of others to supply almost everything that we need. I haven’t seen anything but the trailers for the movie about “The Last Man on Earth”, but I can imagine that initially one could run around breaking into stores for whatever is needed; however, that supply is finite and since no one else was around, there would be no new supplies of anything. Systems such as the power grid that are fairly highly automated might run for some time, but event hey would faultier and quit after a while if there was no one around. So the things that everyone else is out there doing is important to me and what I do somehow is important to them, too.

From time to time we may be in situations where it feels like we’re alone. Maybe we are away from home, maybe even in a fairly isolated location. It is important in time like that to savor our memories of loved ones and friends and woman workingperhaps even to take advantage of modern technologies like Skype to reach out and touch them, if only for a moment. Texting also has a feel of immediacy that is somehow comforting; at least you know that the person on the other end of a texting exchange is there and aware of you. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that sense of loneliness and reaching out to someone for relief. There’s no great honor in being known as a loner and it is no proof of your independence to shun friends and family when you could use help.

On the flip-side of this coin, it is not the right thing to do to allow this to happen with someone that you know. Being concerned about them is not being nosy. Taking steps to communicate with them, even if they have not made thecaring effort with you is reaching out, not reaching in to their lives. It’s not snooping when it’s driven by love or concern, so don’t let your friends or relatives become hermits. Sometimes, if the secrecy and withdrawal of a loved one is caused by factors like drugs or alcohol it is only through your aggressive actions to communicate that you might be able to save them from themselves.  Make them see you and then help them see themselves. Remember that we need each other. Help them see that and we’ll all be better off.


Put on a happy face…

December 22, 2014

“When I see someone who’s grumpy, or looks like he or she is having an awful day, why not brighten their day with a positive song?”  (Ellis Kalomiris) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’m not sure that me bursting into song would brighten anyone’s day (maybe after a good laugh); however, I’m pretty sure that putting on a smile and offering a cheery girls hugginggreeting will at least force them to pause from their grumpiness to respond. The same can be said about offering a cheerful “Hello” and your hand to someone who might look lost or afraid at a social gathering. There’s something about seeing someone who is smiling and who looks happy to see you that is disarming and can change your outlook (at least temporarily). So, like Dick Van Dyke in this movie clip, put on your happy face and make someone’s day a little brighter.

If you are the person who is having a bad day, let those in who are trying to help. These are people who love you enough to try to cheer you up, so don’t fight themlistening off; let them help. Drop your defenses and let their smiles or songs and cherry greetings wash over you. Maybe they’ll wash away the thoughts that were making you unhappy.  If nothing else they may be able to get you to look at things from a slightly different perspective and you will realize that you are not alone (which is where being in the grumpy or unhappy dungeon puts you).

Grumpiness, unhappiness, and sadness are all states of mind. Remember this saying from Seneca – A man’s as miserable as he thinks he is.  So, if you can think yourself into misery, you can think yourself out of it, too. Let the people who love you help you find a way out of your unhappy thoughts.

girl with smile pictureA side benefit from sharing your happiness with others is that, the more of it you give away, the more comes back to you. Your happiness will actually increase as you share it with others. Soon you will be surrounded by happy people and what a great place to be. Put on your happy face and share it with others today.

Have a great and happy week ahead!


Machismo not required…

November 26, 2014

“You got to go through it to get to it.”  (Joel Osteen) – as seen on a recent post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

That little saying, if taken out of context, seems to be just dripping with machismo, to which I would reply No Mas! The phrase men butting heads“man up” has taken on way too much testosterone over the last few years. To be a man is not about being able to withstand pain or shaking it off and getting back in the game. There is way too much evidence that the whole “shake it off” mentality is wrong and harmful. “Man up” was, is and should be about taking responsibility for your actions; and it really isn’t just about men; although “person up” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

But, do you really have to go through it to get to it? And what are the two it’s in that little phrase all about? I guess you had to hear the context in which Osteen used that phrase and it had nothing to do with going through some sort of trial or pain or test to get to heaven. Osteen’s sermon was about persevering through the tough times by remembering that God is always with you and will not abandon you, just because things are tough.

We’ve become a country full ofpills people who believe that taking a pill for things like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol  is a better answer than doing the exercise and weight loss work that really would help the most and maybe even provide a cure. Sometimes we don’t preserver and do what is needed in our relationships either; we take short-cuts or the easy way out of resolving issues with people, by using email or text messages, rather than confronting them in person.

So, there are some things that you may have to go through or figure out in order to get through life; however, you do not have to fight your way through them. I have found that taking the time to analyze the situation and trying to find a win-win solution is a good alternative answer. Life is not a football game; life is more a game of compromises and partnerships; small set-backs and small victories and making sure that you are striving for the right things and not just things. Maybe the saying should be, “You’ve got to figure it out to get to it.”

The other issue that the quote can seem to allude to is that you have to go through life’s trials alone – Mano a Mano!  Macismo, again! That was not the point of his sermon, which brought God into the picture and assured his audience that we are never alone. After all, he is a preacher and that is one of the most powerful messages of the Good News that he is trying to spread.

In Maine they have created a program called Mano en Mano (which they define as Hand in Hand) to provide assistance and guidance to those in need, especially those of diverse cultural backgrounds.  Somehow that seems to be a much better answer than just standing back and telling the people in need to tough it out.

Community Sharing logoAs we approach our uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving, we should be thankful for people who create and run programs like Mano en Mano and all of the rest of helping and sharing programs that provide help to those in need. In our area, Community Sharing, Lighthouse of Oakland County  and Meals on Wheels and so many other volunteer organizations provide assistance so that people don’t have to go through pain and suffering just to live day-to-day. If you want to be a part of the solution and not just stand by lamenting the problem, sign up to volunteer at organizations like these. Then you can say, “”I’ve got to do it tothanksgiving family help others through it; then we’ll both get to it.” Machismo not required.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

 


“You can’t do life by yourself.”

July 30, 2014

Today’s little quote comes from a news story on the local news last night that concerned an international soccer competition for the homeless of the world. The story concerned this athletic competition which is between people who were homeless in various countries. Click here to see the ace of the homeless from around the world. As one participant from the U.S. was being interviewed about it he expressed his thankfulness for the program and the assistance that he has received and he said, “you can’t do life by yourself.”

That statement was much more profound than I’m sure he realized at the time. You don’t have to be homeless to come to that conclusion, but people who have lived on the streets probably realize it quicker and more deeply than most of us. None of us lives in a vacuum, by ourselves; however, many homeless people come awfully close to that – cut off from the rest of society many times they form a little society of their own out on the streets, because “you can’t do life by yourself.”

gloomy guySometimes there are people who aren’t homeless, just friendless. These are people, who for one reason or another, are cut off, or have cut themselves off, from others. They have a home and maybe even some pets (many time way too many pets), but they don’t have friends or relatives or anyone else to interact with, so they become little islands unto themselves. They are cut off and become hermits or recluses because they don’t realize that “you can’t do life by yourself.”

Hopefully you are not homeless or like one of those people who have become islands unto themselves. What you can become, without realizing it, is someone who by their actions and reactions pushes people away, refusing help or advice when it is really needed. You may be trying to live life by yourself and not even realize it. If you are lucky you will have friends who see this and realize that you need help, even if youcheering up can’t find a way to ask for it. Those are true friends; let them into your life. They know that “you can’t do life by yourself.”

There are those who, for reasons of pride or arrogance or bullheadedness, can’t seem to admit that they need the support or help of others. Some are people who will steadfastly resist a hug and may need a slap up-side-the-head. They may resist your help, but don’t give up on them. Sometimes you just need to grab them by the shoulders and give them a good shake and yell at them “you can’t do life by yourself.”

For the most part, though, I think you’ll find a welcome smile and warm embrace from someone that you see needs your help and concern. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can help. Don’t be shy about offering to help caringand don’t hold back when your help is accepted. You’ll feel good about helping and you’ll feel better knowing that when your time comes to need help, others will be there because they too know, “you can’t do life by yourself.”

So, go out today and be a friend, be there for someone in need, listen to someone’s sad story and offer comfort and help. Help someone who is down and out. Reach out to someone is alone and lonely, even if they won’t admit it. Basically be a human being, because as a human being you know that “you can’t do life by yourself.”