To a lot of people that means Valentine’s Day. The anguish, the joy, the
disappointment, the thrill, the pressure, the blah of Valentine’s Day. Because it’s all those things: depending on where you are in life.
To a third grader, it’s the excitement of a party, and getting all those fun and
silly valentine cards in the paper bag you decorated with white lace and red
To a sixth grader, it’s longing for some sign that your true love loves you
back. Maybe a smile. Maybe a word or two. For my son, it was a cafeteria
When he was in 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, my son was in love with Allison. For Valentine’s Day each year he would spend hours making her lovely, sweet homemade valentines, plus pick out just the right heart full of chocolates for her.
All that was missing was the courage: I have the valentines in his memory box, and he, ate the chocolates.
Still he was completely pumped when he ran through the door that 6th grade Valentine’s to tell me that he had sat by Allison at lunch that day. Then he added, “Well, not at the same table. She was sitting right behind me, the next table over. But pretty close!” I would have paid a million dollars to have been able to capture his smile and glee that very moment. It seemed he was actually vibrating with joy.
Later, in high school, the boys buy the roses and teddy bears that the choir is selling as a fundraiser. Their girlfriends feel special. Life is simple.
Ah, sweet memories of Valentine’s Day.
Yet that’s not the whole story, is it? What about the broken heart Valentine’s
Days? The lonely ones where we feel unloved and unlovable? The sitting by the phone and waiting for it to ring ones? How about the ones where we try to please our partner and they end up crying instead? How about the first one after our spouse dies?
I figure we get around 80 or so Valentine’s Days in a lifetime, and here’s the truth: some are glorious, some are filled with anguish and despair, and most are somewhere in the middle ranging from feeling pressure, “Not to blow it,” to “Oh, is it Valentine’s Day? I hadn’t noticed.”
So basically, all this is to say wherever you are this Valentine’s Day — in
love, in despair, in blah — that’s normal. You’re normal.
Because life is a river. It flows, it moves. The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said we can never put our foot into the same river. Actually, there’s a lot of hope in that. It means that as Buddha taught, emotions are just temporary because life keeps moving.
This is my biggest argument against suicide. Suicide is tragic because it is a
permanent solution to a temporary problem. Because life is a river that moves, if you wait just a bit, what you are feeling will pass, will change. Every single person I have ever met in my life who seriously contemplated suicide, a year later will tell me they are very grateful that they didn’t follow through with their plans because their life is BETTER now. Yes, it gets better.
And then it gets worse.
And then it gets better,
And then it gets worse.
Then better, then worse, better, worse, better, worse, etc.
The trick, of course, is to learn to value all of it. The trick is to come to
know that the worse parts have a purpose in our lives, too. They teach us
lessons, they wake us up to higher understanding and compassion, they help us grow into stronger, wiser selves. As Victor Frankl said in his brilliant
Holocaust book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the suffering seems to have a purpose, too. The suffering doesn’t always make sense when we are in it — and it’s no fun — but later, after we have flowed down the river a bit more, we can connect the dots backwards and see that things unfolded and developed in a beautiful way.
For example, I have a new client who came in for the first time right after his boyfriend of thirteen years broke up with him. He was in the depths of his darkest hour and was thinking of taking his life. I said, “Slow the roll. You are just grieving. You have just experienced a major loss in your life and when that happens, to any of us, we grieve.” He was stunned. He looked at me and said, “It never occurred to me that I was grieving.” In other words, it never occurred to him that the pain he was going through was normal.
We then talked about other losses in his life including the abandonment by his father when he was 8, and the death of his beloved grandmother. We talked about his grieving process during both of those huge losses, how painful they had been, and how the tears had really been a way of expressing his love for both his dad and his grandmother. Then we talked about how long the grief lasted, how long it was until the sun came out again. Because when we are in grief, it seems just when we think the rain will never end, the sun breaks through again and the raindrops slow — then stop. He reminisced about life returning after the grieving. He told of his many years of happiness between those losses and the current one. He began to see the rhythm of life and to believe he had more chapters to live ahead of him.
I always tell people who are grieving to let themselves grieve — big belly sobs — but to then, when they are ready, change the radio station. So if you are grieving a loss right now, grieve for a while, then change the station to doing something else. When you need to grieve some more, change the station back to grief once again. Then, after a while, switch the channel back to non-grief. Let your psyche have a rest from the loss for a while. Think of something to do different than grieving: read a book, go for a run, play the piano, walk around the mall, plant some flowers, watch a football game. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you practice being in charge of switching the station back and forth. Then you, too, will begin to see that you have more chapters to live ahead of you — better ones.
It’s like Valentine’s Day. If it’s a crummy one this year, don’t worry, another
one will come around and you will get a new chance at making it different. Life is so amazing and wonderful: it always gives us another chance by opening up a new, unexplored path to us that we hadn’t noticed before. I promise you, after your grief, the new path will start to appear.
To me, that’s what makes this life so exciting: it twists and turns, has bumps
in the road, has sunshine and rain and sometimes a blizzard, but, like a river, keeps flowing. May we learn to let go of our resistance to it, let go of our trying to make the river go a certain way, let go of our fantasy that every Valentine’s Day will be fantastic, and just flow with it all. May we come to know that it all — the good and the bad and even the blah — is part of this wonderful adventure called life.
Of forgetting the meaning of it all.
According to “Material World: A Global Portrait,” by Peter Menzel:
The Getu family in Ethiopia wishes for a second set of clothes.
The Wu family in China, with a household of 9, wishes for a refrigerator.
The Yadav family in India wishes for a cow to milk.
The Costa family in Cuba wishes for a car, though admits it’s only a wild dream.
The Delfoart family in Haiti has no radio, telephone, television, DVD player, computer, bicycle, or automobile. They wish only to have food to feed their family.
And 27 families in Newtown, Connecticut, wish only to turn back the hands on the clock 8 days and hug their loved ones once more, take all the guns away from the Lanza household, and get Adam the help he needs.
So, while you hustle about this holiday season with at least a little money in your pocket to buy presents, and food in your belly, and your children safe and sound, remember how blessed you are: every moment of every day.
So take a second, close your eyes, and say, “Thank you.”
After all, you are a miracle.
The abundance of your life is a miracle. ENJOY it.
And may you laugh and sing and dance this holiday season spreading that joy wherever you go. An extra smile for the check out lady, a hug to a lonely senior, and love, love, love to all you encounter.
John Lennon had it right, you know: all we need is love. Spread it, wherever you go, and you will experience the real meaning of all the special holidays — holy days — that are upon us.
I love you and send you peace.
November 2012 Thought: Community
copyright 2012 Patti Henry
I have a client in New York whose family of four spent last week staying with another family of five. Hurricane Sandy hit; the lights and heat went off. Those families who had gas generators took in those who did not. It was snowing up there, afterall. My client’s story: the two families were acquaintances who met through their sons’ pre-school. They were friendly before. Chatty. Happy to check in with each other about what’s new with the kids and the school.
And then they moved in together.
Can you imagine taking in a family of four relative strangers? with a baby? while you are trying to manage your own baby and two more?
And yet it worked. They had a big ol’ slumber party. Laughing often, cooking for nine (and more when the neighbors came), telling their stories, sharing good wine, washing the dishes together, taking turns in the bathrooms, and snuggling the kids into sleeping bags at night time: living in community.
We are meant to live in community. We are meant to belong, and feel like we belong. This is when we are happiest: when we feel part of, included, connected, and loved.
Living in Houston, I can personally attest to the sheer joy of community after a hurricane. When Hurricane Ike hit in 2008, the trees were felled across the streets and electric lines by the thousands, and the city went black for days and, in some places, weeks in a row. That’s a simple statement but it means this: no electricity in your home, in your grocery store, at your gas station, at any restaurant, nor at the water plant; plus no street lights, no phone service, no airplanes, and no place to charge your phones, laptops, Kindles, or anything else. No televisions to watch or movies to see.
And wonderful. What happened was everyone came out of their houses! For the first couple of days nobody could go anywhere because the streets were blocked by fallen two-story high trees. The men and teens went down the streets with their gasoline chain saws and got the trees cleared. It made for long, tiring days. And yet they were happy. Connected. Felt a team victory.
Others prepared feasts for each meal — trying to use up the food before it spoiled. We barbecued just about everything with our gas grills. We had huge meals with tables set up in the street, open to all to come and laugh and share. Fortunately our water station got back up and running fairly quickly so we didn’t all stink, but that would have been okay, too. We enjoyed the nighttimes together, as well, marveling at the thousands of stars we could now see.
After six days our neighborhood got back on the grid. I remember when the electricity kicked back on. It was about 2am. I heard the air conditioner come on. I looked outside and saw the streetlights flickering back to life. Suddenly a wave of sorrow washed over me: it would be back to normal in the morning. The community that had been so nourishing to the soul would be gone, everyone back in their houses.
We need community. We need to eat together, dance together, tell stories, laugh, sing, and cry together. Strangely, we need each other to feel fully alive.
In New York City after 9/11, a similar miracle occurred. People who normally wouldn’t even say hello to a neighbor who was going into their apartment one door down, came out of their apartments. They needed to talk; to process. The questions were, “Did you know someone in the towers? Did you lose someone?” There was an overwhelming yearning for community.
This inspired two young techies, Matt Meeker, and Scott Heiferman, to start a new way to connect: Meetup.com. This is the world’s largest network of local groups where people get together face-to-face and share common interests and goals. From their website:
Meetup’s mission is to revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize. Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference.
Today, there are more than 9,000 groups in local communities that get together every day through Meetup. There are groups for just about everything you can imagine. There’s a drumming meetup, a philanthropy meetup, a rock-and-roll meetup, a single parent meetup. There are meetups for people who love poodles, Miatas, contra-dancing, Chinese, genealogy, computer apps, coffee, puzzles, and bicycling. You name it, it’s there. All you have to do to find a group in your area is type in Meetup plus your city and interest into a Google search. I belong to a German meetup because I speak German and live in the United States where most people don’t. And as the old saying goes: if you don’t use it, you lose it. So, it’s such a gift to be able to hang out with other German speakers. What interests you? Maybe it’s time for you to get out and join something. Meetup is a great place to start.
Or maybe it’s time for you to have a dinner party. When was the last time you had friends over for dinner? Or to watch a movie or play video games or to share in whatever it is you do for fun?
There is a great documentary film called Happy that looks at what makes people feel happy, fully alive. One person’s story stood out to me. It was the story of a Cajun man who lived in the swamps outside of New Orleans. He took people on “swamp tours” for a living. He didn’t make much money, but he just glowed with happiness. He loved where he lived, what he did, and with whom he interacted. In fact, one scene shows him putting on a big dinner party with the huge batch of crawfish he had caught that day. There were 15-20 people crammed around picnic tables having a messy, happy feast. The tables had all been pulled together forming a long community table. It was a joyous, loud, laughing scene. But the most impressive moment came when the narrator asked how often the big group got together for such a feast. The answer: at least once a week. Wow. And they had been doing that for close to 20 years. Wow. No wonder the Cajun swamp man was so happy: he lived in community.
Do you? If not, what can you do to start?
Now, a word of caution. Some people are great at connecting to groups — in church, through school, through work, through Meetup — but have neglected to create community in their marriage and/or family. Mother Teresa says it this way:
Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house.
How do we get in community with our partner?
As a psychotherapist and a marriage counselor, I see this break in community within marriages everyday. This, of course, makes people unhappy because we are wired for community, for connection. We long for it with our partners most of all. So how do we get it?
I want to introduce you to two books that address this. Both are written by Willard Harley: His Needs, Her Needs and Love Busters. Fair warning, however: they are, in my opinion, a bit dated and a wee bit sexist (written in 1985 and 1992, respectively). However, if you can read past that part, they are brilliant. I highly recommend them.
In his books, Dr. Harley introduces the concept of a “Love Bank.” He writes that practically everything we do impacts our partner in one way or the other — either putting deposits into the Love Bank, or making withdrawals. That is profound to me. It is saying that, whether we are aware of it or not, EVERYTHING we do and say, or don’t do or don’t say, impacts our primary relationship either in a positive way or a negative way. That is, there is no neutral.
So, we better be careful. Are you spreading love or are you taking love away? Does your partner feel your love? Divorce courts are full of people who love each other. The problem is not whether or not you love your partner. The problem is: does your love come across? Does your partner feel loved? If not, the community, the communing, is not happening.
So, how to fix this. Dr. Harley, as Stephen Covey, as many others, states it very simply: time. Time will fix this. If you are not having the connection you want with your partner, you are not giving your relationship the time it needs. Most couples give their relationship “leftover time.” That is, if there is any time left over after doing all the important things we do like work, childcare, house cleaning, exercise, fun with friends, etc., then the relationship gets that time. The reality, of course, is that there is very little time, if any, left to give.
The lack of time, neglect, is what ends the community in marriages and what ends marriages as well. What I like about Dr. Harley’s books is that he quantifies time. He recommends that you spend a minimum of 15 hours a week giving undivided attention to your partner. Every week. Undivided attention. That means no kids, no relatives, no friends: just one on one time with your partner for at least 15 hours a week. Watching television together or going to a movie, though important, wouldn’t count in the “undivided attention” fifteen hours.
That sounds like a lot of time, I know, but, it is THE most important time you will spend all week. We are awake about 110 hours each week. Giving 15 hours to your partner is what it takes to make a relationship fantastic. There are no shortcuts.
Fifteen hours, however, that are positive. Fifteen hours that are focused on making Love Bank deposits — and not withdrawals. To do this, you must understand your partner’s emotional needs. Then, do things that will meet those needs. Dr. Harley outlines ten most basic emotional needs in marriages. These are the need for:
affection, conversation, financial support, sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, honesty and openness, attractiveness to spouse, admiration, domestic support, and family commitment.
I can think of some others, like a need to demonstrate adult, non-reactionary, proactive behavior, and a need to feel seen, etc., and you may be able to add to the list as well. What’s important, however, is to understand what your partner’s top needs are. Dr. Harley suggests each partner pick their top five needs and give that information to their spouse. How simple, yet brilliant, really. TELL your partner your top needs and then focus on meeting those needs for each other. This is how to make the deposits into the Love Bank and how to build community in your primary relationship.
I believe if you can become an expert at meeting the top two needs of your partner, your relationship is on the path to being amazing. That is, focusing on the top one or two, while being aware of the others, is enough. Just do a really, really good job of making love-unit deposits in those one or two areas.
And then have some friends over for dinner. Or the neighbors who just moved in. Or the widow down the street. Or show up for a meetup group. Reach out, join in: the community of the world awaits you.
I believe that marriages go through two lifetimes. The first life of a marriage is run by our wounded child. That is, all of our unresolved issues from childhood show up — and we act like children! We think in terms of ME and getting MY needs met. We try to pull love towards us, instead of giving love from us. We get our feelings hurt, we cry, yell, shut down, and eventually feel like: I married the wrong person.
However, this is not the case. You have just come to the wall between the first life of a marriage and the second life. It is similar to running a marathon. Every marathon runner will tell you that, at some point, they hit a wall during the race. They feel like they can’t go on. They want to quit. Their legs and feet are screaming in pain. Yet, also, every marathon runner will tell you that they have learned to overcome the part of the brain that says, “No more!” and to keep pushing themselves through the wall.
That’s what has to happen in order to get to the second lifetime of a marriage as well. Nowadays when people hit the wall, they file for divorce and look for another partner who won’t be as awful as their first spouse. But they will be. For
each marriage starts with love, respect,and hope. Then that wounded child shows up and everything flip-flops. The person who used to be my best friend has become my worst enemy. We hit the wall again – with every person we try this
with. And that is why our divorce rate is well over 50% in our country. We quit at the wall.
So, how to do it differently?
First of all, it helps to know there is a wall, and you are going to hit it. I think maybe that’s why older married people cry at weddings: they know this sweet innocence is going to end and this couple, like all others, will hit the wall.
Sometimes a crisis happens when a couple hits the wall: one or the other will have an affair, start facebooking an old flame, get caught at a topless bar, lie, hide money, etc. All of this, of course, keeps the marriage in the first lifetime. So this is step number two in doing things differently: when you hit the wall, which you will, don’t panic and do stupid things.
The next thing you need to do is realize — when your heart is in excruciating pain standing there at the wall — that you have been wrapped in a chrysalis and now must do the very hard work of breaking out of it to become the beautiful butterfly that you actually are. You, your partner, and your marriage, are in a metamorphosis process. So, in the first lifetime, you and your partner were both caterpillars. Then each of you, individually, got all wrapped up in a chrysalis where your original bodies, your original self, pretty much melted away. In the chrysalis, a new you was formed. Actually, a beautiful you. A more authentic, adult you who is capable of doing the very hard work of getting out of that hard shelled chrysalis.
All this is to say, there is no way to move from first lifetime marriage to second lifetime marriage without working hard. It’s sort of like a fairy tale, actually. In the first scene of a fairy tale we meet the hero/heroine and see them as wonderful. Please note, though, the next scene is not happily ever after. Ever. Oh, no. First there is a dragon to be slain, or a wicked witch to overcome, or an evil spell to break, or something big and dangerous that has to be conquered.
That’s true in marriages, too. That big and dangerous thing that has to be conquered is inside of YOU. That’s right, the work is inside of YOU. Why do we always think the work is inside of our partners?! Well, wouldn’t that be easier? If HE or SHE needed to do a lot of work, and I, on the other hand, don’t? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Each and every one of us has to go into our very own chrysalis, melt away the old self, and form a beautiful new adult self. We each have to move from our wounded child self into our adult self.
And nobody can do this for us. It’s like trying to get someone else to drink water for you. No matter how much they drink, it won’t keep you from getting dehydrated. We can scream and yell, rant and rave at our partners thinking they will save us somehow from having to do our own breaking out of our own chrysalis, but it doesn’t work that way. YOU have to face the hard stuff inside of YOU.
So how to do this?
Simply stated we need to move out of our wounds from our childhood: out of our fears of not being good enough, worthy enough, or lovable enough. It is moving out of these fears into our humanness. It’s coming to know that we all have a big, bumbling, bozo twin that we carry around with us who seems to make himself known at the worst possible times and just embarrasses the heck out of us. And, that’s okay.
I can hear you screaming, “WHAT?!”
Yes, that’s right. To move from lifetime one in our marriage to lifetime two, we must come to love ourselves EVEN THOUGH we are human and have a bozo twin. There is an old saying that goes like this: you cannot love another until you love yourself first.
That’s what I’m talking about. We have to fall in love with ourselves and come to know that our big ol’ bozo twin is part of us, too. And lovable. We have to let go of this perfection idea and to realize we all came from caterpillar stock.
I think part of that process involves feeling the pain of our little child for all the times we got the message we weren’t lovable, worthy, or good enough. For all the times we got the message, “You’re just a worthless caterpillar!” When we connect to what happened to our little child, that’s when we have to do our best to let the tears flow. I usually tell my clients to hang their head down and FAKE crying to encourage the real tears to come. Have a good belly sob. Embrace the idea that, “Yes, I WAS a caterpillar — and that was enough!! I needed to be a caterpillar before I could become a butterfly!” Cry, cry, cry as much as you can, and get it out.
Get you out: of the chrysalis.
Start to notice what a beautiful butterfly you have turned into. Your caterpillar days are over and now you can fly! Really notice the talents you have, the things you do well. Really notice how when you put your mind to something, you can get it done. You are so capable, so amazing. You have a unique and beautiful journey on this planet that is yours, all yours. Step up and CLAIM IT. Oh, yeah, and Bozo? He’ll come along, too. Finally realize that your Bozo self is a joy. Yes, he bumbles and messes things up sometimes, but, he helps keep you humble, and allows you to love others even though they have a Bozo self, too. Time to kiss that quest for perfection goodbye and admit: I am human, and I will never get it all right. In fact, I don’t have to! I am free and I can fly!
Then, once we know in our core that we are lovable in spite of being human, then we can take 100% responsibility for having gotten our relationship to the place that it is. We can admit wholeheartedly everything we have done that was hurtful when we were stuck in the first lifetime of our marriage. We can beg forgiveness without it diminishing us AT ALL. We can name what we did wrong, claim what we did wrong — that is, take ownership of it without shame, and apologize for it — and then, change what we did wrong.
We can say things like, “Yes, I DID totally abandon you emotionally. I got so mixed up in just making money and getting accolades at work. No wonder you didn’t feel safe!” Or, “Yes, that was absolutely MY issue that came out of MY childhood and I am so sorry I kept throwing it on you! No wonder you haven’t felt loved!” Or, “I am so, so sorry I raged at you. I didn’t know a better way. Now I do.” Or, “Wow, I have been so stuck on all these stupid little things: keep the house clean, make me dinner, wear different clothes! I cringe to think I beat you up about those things. I got totally lost on the love part. I love you so much and I’m sorry you haven’t had the experience of being loved by me.”
Also, when your partner says, “You did this to me! And this! And this!” Validate that by just saying, “I know! I did! I am so sorry!” Name it, claim it, change it.
Move out of your reactionary first lifetime marriage into your responsive second lifetime marriage. Let go of fear, move into love.
And then you can begin to love. So many times couples come to me completely in the quagmire of the first lifetime of their marriage and they are surprised to hear, “The love hasn’t even begun yet.” But it hasn’t. It can’t begin until YOU break out of your childhood wounds, and grow into your butterfly self.
But what if you do this metamorphosis and your partner doesn’t? Because almost always two people in a couple do not do this evolving at the same rate. And that’s the test: how to love when your partner is still living in a reactionary way. It is very hard to do. It is discouraging. And so then one of two things happen. Either your partner evolves, too, or you outgrow the marriage.
This is where the “Be the Hero” part comes in, the title of this article. I always say there has to be a hero in the relationship. This is the person who “gets it” before the other person does. With your new found loving self, it is now time to go back and own up to everything, EVERYTHING, you have done hurtful in the marriage as stated above, and It is time for you to ask forgiveness. It is time to do all of this expecting NOTHING in return. It is time to lay down your sword unconditionally. Not, “I’ll lay down my sword if you do.” No. It’s, “I lay down my sword. I am so sorry for how I have hurt you. Can you forgive me?”
I apologize for quoting the Bible if that is offensive to you. Even though I have read the other Holy Books and find them sacred, too, the Bible remains the text I know the best. So, in the Bible Jesus only said one prayer, the Lord’s prayer. One prayer. And in that prayer he said, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is when you ask your partner, “Is it possible for you to ever forgive my trespasses against you?”
Hopefully your partner will be able to say, “Yes, I think I can. With time.”
And then you have to BE the change you wish to see in your marriage. Respond, don’t react. Go inward when you feel fear instead of blopping all that stuff on your partner. Work hard to make sure your partner has the experience of love. One of my colleagues says it this way: Loving your partner is not enough; they must experience feeling loved.
That’s what lifetime two in a marriage is all about: both you and your partner get to experience the feeling of loving and being loved almost always. Why not always? Because we are human, there is no perfection, and we all have a Bozo twin.
My best to you always,
According to the many active countdowns on the Internet, December 21, 2012 is only 248 days, 16 hours, 51 minutes, and 23 seconds away as of this writing.
Some believe that the world will end that day based on the fact that the Mayan Long Count Calendar ends precisely then: December 21, 2012. Hmmm…
Here’s the story. The Mayans lived for thousands of years, and were by far the most advanced civilization of their time. They were mathematical geniuses actually. They figured out the length of a year, they understood the concept of zero, and they were able to perform calculations into the millions — some calculations that would even be difficult for someone today with the help of a calculator. They were also able to predict the position of the stars accurately thousands of years in advance.
And, they made this calendar that ends on December 21, 2012. There is no record for the sun to rise the next day. Does this mean the end of humanity?
Well, in November of 2007, the Grand Elder of the Mayan people brought together the chiefs of aboriginal cultures from around the world. Their task was to accurately interpret these glyphic prophesies.
The Grand Elder made these statements:
“We are at the doorsteps of the ending of another period of the Sun, a period that lasts 5,200 years and ends with several hours of darkness. After this period of darkness comes a new period of the Sun. In each period of the Sun there is an adjustment for the planet, and it brings changes in the weather conditions and in social and political life as well. The world is transformed and we enter a period of understanding and harmonious coexistence where there is social justice and equality for all. It is a new way of life.
With a new social order there comes a time of freedom where we can move like the clouds, without limitations, without borders. We will travel like the birds, without the need for passports. We will travel like the rivers, all heading toward the same point, the same objective. The book of the Counsel tells us: It is time for dawn; let the dawn come. This will be in the next period of the Sun.
Many people write about prophecy in the name of the Maya. They say that the world will end on December 21, 2012. The Mayan elders are angry with this. The world will not end. It will be transformed.”
When I got my cancer diagnosis on March 10, 2011, the world as I knew it ended. But I did not end: I was transformed.
I want that for you. Not the cancer diagnosis — but the transformation, the transformation promised by the Mayan Long Count Calendar.
Because I won’t lie to you: cancer is not the best way to get to transformation. Cancer treatment is brutal. It actually is inhumane. There were days that I was so sick, I wondered if I’d live through it. I was allergic to the chemo they gave me and I would shake so violently and vomit uncontrollably that I felt physically assaulted, beaten up on the inside as well as the out. I was exhausted beyond words.
It was not fun.
But what I learned is: even when things look bleak, feel bleak, seem very, very dark, hang in there: transformation is happening.
So, if you are going through an AWFUL time in your life right now, hang in there: transformation is happening.
But perhaps you’d like an easier process and a way to speed it all up.
I am convinced the only way to do this is to come to love ourselves and to love absolutely everything that happens to us on our journey here on this planet. Even the hard stuff.
For me, I learned to surrender to each chemo treatment. I said thank you to the chemicals for coming into my body and working hard to get rid of the tumors. I surrendered to fighting my journey, and embraced it as a sacred part of my life. I labelled it as good.
You can do the same with whatever is happening in your life.
For I believe, deep in my soul, that each one of us is on this planet on purpose. And that each one of us has the charge to outgrow our fears and to become the person we were born to be. That is, you were given a unique brain and talent — both of which need to come to full fruition for you to become the person you were born to be, and your transformation to happen. Sometimes you have to go through hard stuff to get there. That’s okay: as long as you keep moving through your fears, fall in love with yourself and your journey, and get there.
I further believe that if each one of us moves out of our fears and into this beautiful, wonderful, talented, transformed person that we were born to be, we really could get to peace on earth. And here’s the good news: all you have to do is shift yourself out of your fears and start living your authentic life. That will be enough. Don’t worry about healing the world or healing your partner or anybody else: just work on healing yourself. As you walk through each of your fears, they will go away, opening room for the “real” you to appear. The authentic you.
This authentic you will then be free to join the healing energy of the world.
I have stories of three men for you to think about as you work to learn to step toward things that are fearful to you, instead of away from them, and to embrace the authentic, transformed you.
First, I want to tell you about and encourage you to watch a documentary film called, “A Man Named Pearl.”
This film epitomizes what it means to love yourself and to embrace YOUR particular talent and use it to be a healing force in the world.
Pearl worked for 36 years at his job in a metal factory. And then he retired and started developing his most unusual talent: topiary. At first his wife thought he had lost his mind. He started shaping and trimming the trees, bushes, and everything else he could find to plant. He’d work until one in the morning making his three acres into a fairytale land that looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. In the middle of it all he has grown plants that say: peace, love, and good will.
Today, about 40,000 people come every year to see him and his plants. His goal: to love each and every one of them. And did I mention he’s a black man in one of the most prejudiced cities in America? He’s using HIS talent to heal that.
You’ve got a talent, too. Are you using it? Or are you too afraid? This is the year of transformation: it is the year for you to let go of your fear and become the person you were born to be. Really.
Secondly, I want to tell you about John Kralik. He is the author of the outstanding book, The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life. From his book cover:
One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams–including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge–seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.
Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.
Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal–come what may–of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year. It transformed his life.
Maybe it’s time for you to write 365 thank you notes. Just one a day. To get you focused on what you have — not on what you don’t have. To help you shift out of 1/2 empty into 1/2 full. To help you learn to love and embrace YOU and your life.
Finally, I want to end with one more man’s words: Martin Luther King, Jr. He is one of my mentors, one of my teachers, who inspires me daily. I want to share some of his “I Have a Dream” sermon with you that I read at least once a month:
I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
And I tell you, I have a dream today, too:
I have a dream that every man and every woman will someday walk on the planet without fear of not being good enough, and will become who they were born to be. And that every man and every woman will be able to embrace life however it’s handed to them, and enjoy the adventure.
I have a dream that every man and every woman will come to know , that all of life’s challenges, all of life’s pain, and all of life’s puzzles — are about transformation, and all part of this marvelous adventure called life.
I have a dream that someday we will ALL choose to leave fear behind, to love ourselves as imperfect human beings and that each of us — each and every one of us will be able to be thankful for absolutely everything that happens in our lives.
I have a dream, that as we learn to love ourselves we will be able to love others — and to heal the world — and that peace on earth will finally be possible.
Is it the time for peace on earth? I say YES! Let the peace begin with loving yourself and your journey, and then sharing that love with the world.
Claim your gifts, your talents, and rise up to the new dawn of 2012. Remember, this is the year of transformation. This is YOUR year to transform.
You are an amazing human being — don’t forget that.