Monday, May 17, 2010

Take Control of Your Life

You cannot start a life over, but you can change the way it ends.

You have (or certainly will) hit many potholes in your life; you may even have already driven into a ditch. But you survived. Today when you get back behind the wheel you must choose between two beliefs – the fact that you once drove your life into a ditch dooms you to do it again, or, you have the freedom to choose a new road, one with guardrails in case you become weak at the wheel. You cannot erase your past, but you can separate yourself from it. Change your life by envisioning a new ending to your journey, and steer yourself in that direction.

Your To Do: Make a list of the bad decisions which prevent you from being the person you want to be, and one at a time, working from easiest to most difficult, conquer those bad habits. It is best to do this with the encouragement of friends, your guardrails.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Gift of Forgiveness

You cannot be forgiven without also being one who can forgive.

It seems natural to remember the trespass one has committed against you, and to then steer clear of that person, avoiding future negative encounters. But keeping score and holding grudges are exhausting exercises that ultimately harden your heart, and the real result is you have one less person in your circle of friends. Have you ever been excluded from someone’s circle because you were not forgiven? Would you like to be invited back into that person’s life? What would it take for that to happen? Is there anyone you’ve excluded from your life but with whom you wish you were friends again? Try forgiving her, not just in your mind and heart but in a face to face conversation. Forgiving is easy to do once you’ve tried it, and can be done often. The more you forgive, the more you will be forgiven. Try it, you’ll see.

Your To Do: Identify one person you are angry with, and carefully think about what she did to upset you. Weigh that trespass against all the positives you enjoyed when on good terms with her. Go to her and tell her you value those positives more than your grudge, and offer your forgiveness.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why a Son Needs a Mom

On my mantelpiece rests an aging photograph of my mother, one taken as she was about to graduate from high school, a few short years before choosing to alter her life with the decision to become a mother. She was beautiful then, with hair that fell upon her shoulders, big eyes that reassured and a smile that warmed. I am told she was energetic, vivacious and popular back then, when she was young and had only herself to be concerned about. This photograph is my favorite picture of my mother, and although it has yellowed and faded, it has been lovingly displayed wherever I have lived, and serves to remind me of the nest from which I flew, the home that my mother kept for my four siblings and me, and the bosom to which I always return, the unconditional love and acceptance of my mother.

My memories of childhood include all the many things my mother did for us to provide us comfort and make sure we were happy. Everyday began with a hot breakfast, often including biscuits made from scratch, lunchboxes that were filled with what we each liked to eat, and dinners that always included something that was a favorite of at least one of us. With a family so large, cooking consumed much of her time. My love for cooking and belief that it is a sincere gesture of love is traced back to my mother and the way she never failed to bake a birthday cake of your choice, brought soup to the child sick in bed, altered recipes to suit our tastes, and made the house smell like the season or holiday that was approaching. But our mother did far more than cook for us to let us know that she loved us.

My mother made clothes for us, tended to what we thought were life-threatening wounds, drove us to our respective after school activities and cheered for us, sought out obscure but coveted gifts for Christmas, helped with difficult homework, wiped tears away and endured tantrums, all the while making sure not a child was overlooked, and doing or giving whatever each needed, as though she had nothing more important to do. My mother helped me to negotiate my conflicts with my dad, she taught me to ride a bicycle, balance a checkbook, sew on a button, check a turkey for doneness, and how to change diapers, treat a cold, and understand what my own infant needed when she was unable to tell me. My mother did many other things for me that taken one at a time may seem inconsequential, but when taken all together, made me who I am. My mother also did things for me that others are unaware of, and knowing her, I am confident I am not alone in that privilege. But still, our mother did far more than these kinds of maternal tasks for us to let us know that she loved us.

Each child in their own turn has found out how very much our mother loves us. One child got into trouble, and my mother was there to help find a new way. One child fell onto hard times, and my mother was there to help ease the burden until times got better. One could not see beyond a broken heart, and my mother was there to provide comfort and bring hope. One child became sick, and my mother was there to provide care. One child carried a secret, and my mother was there to make it no longer necessary. Our mother has loved us collectively, but also individually in a way that expresses to each of us, in the way that only a mother can express, that she is, and shall remain, there for us, no matter what. Gone from her nest but never from her heart, fully grown but always her beloved sons or little girl, each can call upon her still, and she will come. It is this, her unwavering devotion, her tireless effort to help, her unshakeable faith in our goodness, her absolute belief in our worth, that let us know then and lets us know now, that we are loved.

I am the first of her five children, and over the forty-plus years since my birth I have seen much change about my mother, and I have seen much remain the same. Although now much older than when pictured in the photograph I treasure, her eyes still offer reassurance to whomever she gazes upon, as does the gentle touch she often gives while listening with great interest to whatever one might be sharing with her. Her smile still warms, as does her laughter and the heartfelt embrace all have come to expect when coming upon her. I still receive birthday cards, enjoy a favorite meal when I go home, and hear from her the applause and affirmations that tell me she is proud of my accomplishments. Now walking more slowly, her hands less able than they once were, her health requiring more and more concessions from her, she struggles at times to keep up with her former pace. Yet, in spite of these changes, she always manages to be there when needed.

I do not know what my mother’s dreams were, what plans she had in mind for herself as she grew up, where she wanted to visit or what she might have become if she had chosen to live her life differently. I am ashamed that I do not know these things because I have never thought to ask, but I also do not know because my mother has never uttered a word of disappointment about the life she has lived. I do not know of her regrets for she does not share them, if they exist, nor does she lament about what her life used to be like or otherwise give off signs of disappointment about what age has taken from her. Perhaps she has just accepted her life for what it is, thinking it is too late to change it. Or, perhaps she is happy with her life for what it has been. It is the latter, I like to think. I think this because I know my mother has enjoyed being a mother, and a grandmother, and a surrogate mother or grandmother to those in need that have been fortunate enough to enter her life. I know this, because she never fails to seize the opportunity to act like a mom, to be there for someone.

I love my mother dearly, and I have a long list of things I want to do for her one day, but most of all I want to tell her “thank you” for all that she has done for me. I believe that a child, especially a son, can never express adequately the gratitude for what the mother has done. I know that I cannot, except that I know what I will do to try. I will do what my mother did for me, I will be there when she needs me, no matter what. I love you, Mom.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Count to Three - Again.

Make counting to three a habit.

Counting to three implies self-control; it leaves enough time between a stimulus and a response to change your mind. Self-control refers not only to abstinence from self indulgence, but control of the temper, the tongue, and the lust for money or power. Be careful not to act or speak rashly, especially in anger. Under the influence of anger you are not in your best state of mind; an angry person will show forth something very different from what she might when in a peaceful state of mind.

Your To Do: Take stock of your hot buttons; know what topics, events or situations trigger your fight response. Analyze how you react in the face of those triggers, and when you feel those sensations swelling inside of your chest or hear those sirens wailing in your ears, take a step back and count to three. Count to ten if you have to. When you do respond, pay attention to how you do. If necessary, count again.