Ah, such a darling little phrase that seems to be uttered during tumultuous times whether they be turned outward (world events) or inward (personal struggles). Life sure has a funny way of dealing you a crappy hand sometimes. Some people get dealt several and yet most of those type of people I meet are the ones with the most upbeat and positive attitude. Why is that? Surely they are hiding some type of mystical secret that enables them to get through the bad times. Or it could just simply be that being miserable about your circumstances does nothing to improve the situation. I've met a few people also who firmly believe that by having a positive attitude you send forth a positive energy which in turn attract positives energies back to yourself.
But I think that even the most upbeat people have their moments of weaknesses. I mean after all they are only human also. It does take effort to keep up that happy perspective on life especially during difficult times. I mean if it was easy then we would all be skipping around with big cheesy grins on our faces. Turning lemons into lemonade is a reminder to ourselves and others that we just need to tweek our perspective a bit. I actually adore this metaphor and try to keep it in my mind during tricky circumstances. It's my way of reminding myself that good things can come out of not so good situations. I'm not perfect here; there have been times I threw this tidbit of inspiration out the window, into the street, and laughed as I watched it get run over by a truck. We know it's always easier said than done; it's the actions and follow through that turns this cute motivational phrase sour.
Many of us rang in the New Year with family and friends while others enjoyed the festivities in the comfort of their own homes. But one common thread binds us all no matter how we celebrated and that's the feeling of hope and change that the beginning of a New Year brings. We try to leave the hardships of the previous year behind us and move forward with resolutions and optimism. We set goals for ourselves that we believe will improve our health, finances, or relationships. It can almost be compared to hitting the reset button but do these aspirations set us up for failure?
Don't get me wrong, having goals is healthy - it motivates us. Some goals, however, are set too high which in turn can have a negative effect. A goal needs to be seen as a ladder with many rungs; it's time consuming and tedious but a sure fire way for achieving success. Think of it this way - a war isn't won by one massive battle but a series of smaller ones. Of course, it's easier said than done. Perseverance seems to be the #1 culprit in sabotaging our desires. I wish I had the magic answer for keeping on track but I believe that when we constantly try to keep the focus on our goals eventually we change our habits and mindset.
Who doesn't love to snuggle up in your favorite chair, with a glass of wine or tea, and dive head first into an alternate reality? No. I am not talking about mind altering drugs being slipped into your drink. I am talking about a book. Yes, a book. One of the oldest forms of media that has withstood the test of time. We just don't read a book. We visualize it like a movie being created in our minds with each sentence read. We savor it, feel the emotions of the characters, laugh, cry, hope, and fear along as the story unfolds before our very eyes. It is a very nice, little, and inexpensive escape from reality. Especially for people like me who hardly can afford putting food on the table let alone a sweet island vacation. But when does this little escape become more and more like a permanent leave of absence from reality of our ordinary lives? Is there such a line to be crossed? If so, is it a very fine line or does it depend on your personality or the reality of your own life?
Very interesting questions that really no one can answer but yourself. There have been plenty of days that I have found myself escaping more and more into my reading and writing passions. Sometimes it gets to the point that I feel I have blurred the boundaries between reality and fiction. Other times I prefer to being in this alternate universe than my actual own life. Let's face it, our lives are so much more awesome and exciting in our heads. It becomes easy to want to be in your head more when your life there is more adventurous, thrilling, and pleasurable. But I do believe there is a line that needs to be made aware of. The more you become engulfed with a different reality the more you disconnect from the actual reality your are living. That in turns leaves feelings of not only distance, but sadness, anxiety, and loneliness. And if we spend so much of our time in a made up reality how can we ever turn our actual reality into something more pleasurable to ourselves?
During hardships, like the Great Depression, do you know what activities became prominent? Of course, the obvious answer is suicide and getting drunk but besides that do you know? Library book rentals. That's right. People wanted and needed an escape from the harsh reality they were living in. But that escape from reality can be both a life vest and an anchor. Which bring us back to the to the one sure and redundant answer...moderation. Everything needs to be done in moderation such as drinking, partying, eating, exercise, and yes even reading. But don't let that discourage your passion for reading. It is a timeless form of entertainment that is to be enjoyed. Just be sure to put some effort to bringing joy in your ACTUAL lives.
Today marks the first day of the Lenten season for Catholics. It is called Ash Wednesday. It is a holy day of obligation for Catholics in which they receive the ashes, that were made from last year's palms, placed on their foreheads in the shape of a cross by the priest. The ashes represent a few things. The first thing they represent ofcourse is the beginning of the Lenten Season. The second thing they represent is an outwardly sign of being in a state of penance. Finally, it represents what God told us in the Bible. Don't quote me exactly; "From ashes you were brought forth and to ashes you shall return." As you can probably tell from my knowledge, yes I am Catholic and yes I attended 12 years of Catholic school.
I kind of like the one about us returning to ashes. It is a simple reminder that our life here on earth is only temporary. This life is just a pit stop on our whole journey. Of course it is hard to fathom this since we only really are aware of this life that we are living now and it seems to be everything and the only thing to us. I grapple with that too. It's hard to imagine this as being just a pit stop but then I try to remember that my faith teaches me that it is just that. Returning to ashes also reminds me of how fragile we really are. Sometimes we forget that. With all of our technological advances, medicinal advances, and being the superior species we tend to think of ourselves as sometimes indestructible or untouchable. But we are! We see it everyday on the news of death, violence, assaults, and illnesses. We see this news so much we are almost desensitized towards it. (I don't think I spelled that word correctly, oh well.) Death is all around us all the time. Yet somehow we still think of ourselves as somewhat untouchable like we are thinking, "That would never happen to me. Not in my neighborhood." But it does and it will at some point in time. We are fragile. We do return to ashes. We need to stop over-inflating our egos and realize this. We need to get off of our pedastool. The impact we are having on the world, different species, and the environment is tragic. It's like we are all wearing over-sized combat boots as we stomp around this delicate earth. We need a slap of reality that we are only but a mere thread in the fabric of life and the tapestry of the universe.
Lent is a time to share in the Passion of our Lord. It isn't a joyous time. It is the time Jesus is sent to be crucified. It is a time of sorrow, deep repentance, fasting, alms giving and abstinence. I'm not trying to make it all to be all gloomy because it isn't. If Jesus didn't go through this then we couldn't end up celebrating His Resurrection and our entry way into heaven. This is a time to reflect on our sins, faults, and behaviors. It isn't just for Catholics because anyone can do this. Not just for Lent either. It is healthy and keeps us humble by acknowledging our mistakes and asking for forgiveness to any god that you worship and to any person in our lives that we should vocally apologize to. It's a cleansing. And in today's world I think everyone could benefit from a cleansing of the soul, mind, and heart. I honestly believe it should be a necessity.
Think of Jesus' passion as a seed. A seed loses its shell and dies in order for it to take root and spring forth new life. This can apply to our troubles in life also. Hardships are bestowed upon us so that we can lose our tough exterior and break us down in order for us to have new life.
As you know I am currently working on a book titled, I Bet You Didn't Think MS Could Look This Good. Recently an idea just hit me out of nowhere like as if someone just slapped me across the face. I have an idea for another book, fictional this time. I sat with that idea in my head for a few days because I thought I should be putting all my efforts into the one that isn't even done yet. I mean it is like 90% done but hasn't been copyrighted, edited, and most of all published yet. But this idea kept burning my mind. The passion to start writing it grew more as I tried to deny it. I have to say I did like that feeling. It has been such a long time since I felt passionate about anything. I'm not talking about sexual passion but passion for life or for a set goal. I adore that feeling. It drives you. It sustains you. It gives you hope and purpose.
When I was a teenager I was passionate about almost everything. I looked at graduation high school as my sweet freedom to live life the way I wanted to and not how I was told to. That didn't last too long. Once out in the real world that passion gets sucked away pretty quickly. Before you know it you are just another cog. Someone working a job they hate but don't quite because this isn't like the movies. This is real life. If you quit your job you fall behind on your bills and eventually could lose your house among many other things. So you stick to this mundane routine because it's the responsible thing to do. I wish it was like the movies where you can throw caution to the wind and just get up and do what you want, whatever you want. Honestly though, that thought kind of scares me because I have become conditioned to be responsible especially when you have children relying on you.
Passion is surely needed though. It doesn't matter for what but we have to have it for something because otherwise your world becomes just a gloomy place. It's definitely hard to hold onto that passion also. It can be so much like trying to hold sand within you hand, but yet it keeps slipping out between the cracks of your fingers. It's very elusive and when you finally feel it, well, it like an addiction. You want it more and more. I have no idea how to try to keep the passion burning inside of me or inside of you. Life, jobs, bills, kids, and many other things chip away at it. I would be content if I could feel that passion just three times a week. It would be something to sustain me in hard times and quite simply mundane times. My dog feels that passion every time she hears me get her leash out to take her on a walk. A WALK!? Where's that simple excitement in us anymore? How do we hold onto it once we felt it? I believe it's as necessary as food and water because it feeds the soul. Fueling the soul is a lot harder task when you really thing about it. I would probably say, and I might be wrong, that 1 out of every 5 people suffers from some mental illness. I am one myself. I have had clinical depression along with panic attacks since I was 18 years old. We as a people do need "soul food" and we need to get it more often. Otherwise, life can be so bland and gloomy. The trick is finding that passion and not letting it slide out of fingers too much. If anyone can tell me how to do that please, I beg of you, let me in on your secret.