A Lesson in Positive Thinking

roses

“You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your own mind.” – Louise Hay

Recently I attended a bridal shower. Someone had spilled something on the floor and the wait staff were busy drying it up. Well, apparently they missed a spot because I ended up slipping and falling hard on the floor. It hurt but feeling embarrassed and not wanting to draw any more attention I quickly got up and brushed it off.

A young waiter came rushing over to me, “Are you OK? Can I get you some ice?” I responded that I was OK and made my way over to the buffet line.

As I got my food, the same waiter was there serving me. “Are you sure you’re OK? You fell hard.”

I appreciated his concern and again told him that I was OK, despite my painful and throbbing right knee.

A short time later I went down to the bar with my sister to get a glass of wine for my aunt and again ran into this waiter. “You say that you are OK. Are you sure?” he asked yet again. “You are limping like crazy.”

I looked over at him appreciatively and responded, “I have C.P.” He looked at me both puzzled and confused. “I have cerebral palsy. That’s why I limp.”

He didn’t know quite what to say at this point and only said, “Oh.” After we walked away I asked my sister, “What does he mean ‘limping like crazy?’” My sister didn’t answer. Truthfully, though, she didn’t need to.

Fast forward one week. My sister and I then attended a wake for a family friend. The deceased and her family lived upstairs from us for many years and we became close. I went up to the receiving line to pay my respects to her husband when her daughter introduced me saying, “Dad, this is Josephine. You remember Josephine?”

I can’t say I was prepared for his response, “No, that can’t be Josephine. Josephine could not sit up straight or even walk.” I stood there stunned at first not quite knowing what to say but soon responded, “Well, I guess it’s a good thing that you don’t recognize me.”

Now, what’s my point in telling you all this? Growing up I never thought of myself as disabled. Sure, there were of course times when the thought would creep in like when kids made fun of me or when I fell down. But I never dwelled on my disability. I never thought of myself as limping. In my mind, I walked just like everyone else. In my mind, I sat up perfectly fine.

As I’ve said countless times, you get what you focus on in life. Our thoughts create our reality. Our thoughts create our actions and our actions then create the end results. Had I thought of my disability and all the things I could not do, I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have went to college for journalism had I thought of myself as disabled.

The day after the wake I was really upset. I kept replaying those words over and over again in my mind, “Josephine could not sit up straight or even walk.” What did he mean I couldn’t sit up straight? That was certainly news to me.

Later that evening I called my mother and told her what happened. “Is it true, Mom?” I asked. “Was I not able to sit up straight?” My mother, who has always been brutally honest with me, replied, “Well, he remembers you when you were little. I used to hate seeing you like that but I never let it show. I used to go to sleep at night and cry.”

Now, I really felt bad. First I didn’t even sit up straight and now my mother cried into her pillow at night. For the next week or so, I wallowed in self-pity. Why? Because unconsciously I started to think of myself as disabled. I started to worry about what others think of me. I started to wonder if everyone could notice my limp. I became so self-conscious and insecure that it drove me crazy.

But I soon realized, however, that my experiences were a powerful lesson in positive thinking. My experiences were a beautiful reminder of the importance of a positive mindset. My reaction to both the waiter at the bridal shower and the family friend at the wake was yet another example of something that I have been practicing since I was just a little girl walking with leg braces. That if you concentrate on what you can do, and not what others say you can’t, then what they say about you not only doesn’t matter, but can actually serve as motivation to prove yourself right and them wrong.

It has been scientifically proven that thinking positive thoughts actually creates new neural pathways in the brain. Hence, you can actually change the makeup of your brain simply by changing the way you think. Changing your thoughts really does change your life.

As I write in my book, Make Up Your Mind to be Happy/page xv, “So, then can we change our reality? Absolutely, we can by simply changing the way we think and what we choose to focus on. These choices then precede action and reaction. For example, say I choose to focus on the fact that one of my friends lied to me in the past. I may then become upset and opt not to speak to this person again. Let’s try this from another angle.

Now, say this same friend lied to me, but I choose to instead focus on his good traits. I may then laugh his action off and continue on with the friendship for many years to come. How we respond to the past will continue to control what happens in the future unless we learn to take control of the present by changing the way we think.”

We all have setbacks in life. Perhaps the end of a long-term relationship has you feeling lonely or maybe the loss of a job has you feeling insecure. Sometimes we can’t control what happens to us in life but our response is always within our control. Our reaction is always our choice.

One of my favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln is, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” When I was little, we had a beautiful rose bush in our backyard that would bloom big pink roses every year. I remember one time trying to break off one of the roses and getting pricked by the thorns.

Later instead of trying to break off the roses, I would simply smell them and admire their beauty. Sure everything in life is not beautiful but there is something beautiful about every day. You need only look. When you do, you’ll cherish the roses and not waste time fretting the thorns.

Is God Responsible for Our Misfortunes?

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Suffering is but another name for the teaching of experience, which is the parent of instruction and the schoolmaster of life  –Horace, Ancient Roman Poet

Yesterday, while taking my dog Jake for a walk, I ran into a neighbor of mine (we’ll call her Jane).  She is in her early 90’s and is such a beautiful, kind soul.  She always greets me with a smile and never has a bad thing to say about anyone.

I hadn’t seen Jane in quite a while and greeted her with a hug.  We stood on the sidewalk catching up and the conversation eventually turned to my book writing.  Jane wanted to know if I had written anymore books and I told her about Divine Visits, my recently released book about angelic and divine interventions. As we talked about the book, she asked why I wrote it.

“Because miracles do happen, Jane,” I told her.  I went on to tell her about my own breast cancer scare and the divine intervention I had experienced in the midst of completing the book.  Suddenly, her eyes saddened and I could sense the weight of her heavy heart. “I’ve lost faith in God,” she told me sadly.  She went on to tell me about how her niece tragically saw her daughter die after being hit by a car.  Her niece, she said, was picking her daughter up from school.

Jane went on to explain how her niece, consumed with grief, later committed suicide.  And as if that weren’t enough, she then continued telling me how some time later she had made plans with one of her best friends to bake one day.  Arriving with another friend, they found the door locked.  When their friend didn’t answer, they eventually went home.

Later she received a phone call from her friend’s daughter.  Sadly, her friend, too, committed suicide.  Jane was clearly heartbroken and upset.  I put my arms around her to comfort her as she continued. “Her daughter actually yelled at me that day because she said we should have opened the garage door.  Maybe we would have found her in time.

“So I’ve lost faith in God,” she told me.  “Why do these things happen?”

Feeling the pain in her voice, I asked her if she felt that God was responsible for all the bad things that happen in life.  Jane didn’t answer me but only waited for me to continue.

Let me pause here to say evil and all the misfortunes we see in this world are not part of God’s plan.  God does not cause all these bad things to happen to us.  Why would an all loving God cause evil or pain in this world?

Personally, I think most of us know God doesn’t cause our misfortunes. It is only natural that we get angry when bad things happen and who better to blame then God, right?  Two weeks ago, I had to have surgery to remove a cancerous mole.  Since first being diagnosed with melanoma in 2000, I have had many surgeries and often say that I feel like a piece of Swiss cheese because of all the scars on my body.

As I once again waited impatiently for the biopsy results, I went through a whirlwind of emotions:  hurt, sadness, fear, anger, etc.  Was I mad at God?  No.  But I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was angry because I had to go through this ordeal yet again.  Yesterday, I was back in the doctor’s office.  I developed some sort of a reaction and my incision is now all puffy and red.

Is it uncomfortable?  Yes, it is.  Am I irritated?  Yes, I am.  Did God cause this?  No, He did not.  When I was young, I was a little sun Goddess.  I loved to bath in the sun with my mother.  I have light, sensitive skin and would often burn.  But this didn’t stop me from continuing to lay in the sun.  I am going through this because of choices I made in the past.

And what happens in the future will depend on the choices that I make today.  Think of it this way.  We live in a world of both good and bad.  It’s part of the natural laws of the universe.  But if you take a good look at your life, you will likely see that more good has happened than bad.

These bad things don’t make us lose our faith, we choose to.  And we chose to because of all the hurt and the anger.  A few years ago, I was going through a very tough time.  I was angry about a lot of things going on in my life.  I didn’t agree with some of the practices at my church.  So what did I do?  I stopped going to church.

Then during lent that year, my friend Christina told me that she wanted me to go to church every day during lent.  Did I listen?  Yes, and I’m so glad I did.  Going back to church helped me to face the anger that I was feeling and also helped me to realize that I was taking it out on the wrong person, God!

In life, we experience highs and lows.  Suffering and love. We can’t experience love without suffering and we can’t experience suffering without love.  Good and bad.  Yin and Yang.  It’s part of the human experience.  How we react to what happens to us will determine what we get out of our lifetime and the lessons learned.  So I ask again, does God cause our misfortunes?  No, He doesn’t.

Yesterday, as I stood there talking to my neighbor, I did my best to explain why she shouldn’t blame God for all the bad in this world.  Jane looked at me and said, “You know I have to read your book.”  I smiled back, “I’ll tell you what.  If you promise me that you’ll read the book, I will give you a copy.  OK?”

She came forward to give me a hug.  “OK.  I will,” she promised.

As I walked away feeling love in my heart and much lighter than I did before our encounter, I turned back to her and said, “Don’t lose faith, Jane.” To this she gave me an adorable smile and wink of her eyes, “I won’t, Josie.  I won’t.”

Are You Missing the Bigger Picture?

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I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose. When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.
–Ellen DeGeneres

Those of you who have been following my blogs know that I often mention Fr. Frank. He is one of the priests at my local parish. Very often Fr. Frank’s sermons seem to speak directly to my soul and this Sunday was no exception.

Fr. Frank told the story of a young boy who was a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. One day his father surprised him with tickets to the World Series. The game was between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. The boy was thrilled and couldn’t wait until the big day.

When the day finally arrived, he was extremely excited. However, that excitement soon faded. Inning and after inning, three Dodgers would come to bat, and all three would make an out. He waited and waited to at least see somebody make it to first base. He thought once that first hit would come, more would follow and the Dodgers would finally score some runs. But unfortunately for him, those runs never came. In fact, not even a single hit or even walk ever came.

That was October 8, 1956. Don Larsen of the New York Yankees had just pitched the sixth perfect game in major league baseball history and the only one of the post season. It was game 5 of the World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers and ended in a score of 2-0.

Afterwards and years later when people heard that he was present at this historic game, they would say things like, “OH WOW, you were at that game?!” Fr. Frank’s point was that this boy was so focused on the negative (the fact that his favorite team did not score) that he couldn’t see the bigger picture (the fact that he witnessed one of the most monumental moments in baseball history).

As I sat there in the pew, I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement. Fr. Frank went on to talk about how sometimes we are so focused on the negatives that we don’t realize the good or the purpose behind something. He spoke of how we sometimes get so upset when friends don’t react the way that we expect them to or when things just don’t turn out the way that we expect without ever considering that there may be a reason. He spoke of Jesus’ Apostles and how they were, of course, upset about His crucifixion but didn’t realize that they were part of something so much bigger. Three days later, they witnessed His resurrection.

The Apostles spent a lot of time with Jesus; they left their jobs and families to travel with Him. They did not expect that things would end the way that they did. They did not expect Jesus to die and leave them. But the resurrection of Christ changed all that. They realized that it was not over. Jesus was still there for them. They were not abandoned.

Very often we are so focused on the pain or what we perceive as a misfortune in our lives that we fail to see the bigger picture. We fail to understand that we may actually be a witness to something far greater in our lives.

When I was a little girl, I also failed to see the bigger picture. True, I was extremely fortunate to have only a mild case of Cerebral Palsy. True, I spent time in a wheelchair and learned how to walk with leg braces. True, I didn’t always want to be that little girl looking back at me in the mirror. But at the time, I was missing the bigger picture.

I’ve come to realize that my life turned out exactly as it was supposed to. Had I not had all of my experiences (both negative and positive), I would not be the person that I am today. Had I not had my experiences, I would not have written my books. I would not have been able to help others as much as I have.

Now, looking back and realizing the bigger picture, I would not change a thing.

Think about the more trying times in your life. Maybe you lost a job, or a relationship ended. Maybe you have struggled with addiction or abuse. Perhaps you are still trying to come to grips with these or any number of other things that life has hurled at you.

Did you end up getting a better job? Or were you just happier without it? Did you end up in a new, more fulfilling relationship? Did you end up breaking free of your addiction or abusive situation? Sometimes it takes a while to finally see the bigger picture. Sometimes it takes reaching an extreme low to make you realize your strengths and build yourself back up to greater and better things.

As you look back at your life, you will see that some failures were opportunities in disguise. You will see that some disappointments were actually blessings. You will also see the bigger picture that got you exactly where you are today.

 

Spiritual Pangaea

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The Law of Oneness, also considered the first universal law, basically states that everything that we see around us comes from the same Source. Some refer to this Oneness as God, Love, Energy, Light, One Mind, or Universal Consciousness.  Whatever we choose to call it doesn’t matter.  The point is that the world as we know it does not consist of separate things and we are not really separate from one another. We only seem to be.

Universal Laws are the principles which govern the underlying harmony of the universe.  Sadly, most people never take the time to develop an understanding of these Universal Laws.  They go through life relying on what they can see and touch on the outside to determine their perception of reality without ever realizing that things are interconnected and made “real” because of what’s going on the inside (One Mind).

There is proof of this Oneness everywhere.  For example, Pangaea is the theory that the earth was once one super continent.  Just look at a map.  It’s easy to see that the continents look like they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Many rock formations end on the coast of one continent and coincidentally begin on the coast of another.  Also similar fossils have been found on two separate continents thousands of miles apart.

Hence, what is known today as the Spirit of Pangaea is a cue to all of us that we come from one Source.  It is a reminder that we are all interconnected.

Trees are another example.  When you think of the trees in your backyard, you most likely just think of the trunk and the roots that are above the ground.  However, scientists are realizing that there is so much more going on beneath the soil.  In this You Tube video, Professor Suzanne Simard demonstrates how trees in a forest ecosystem, though seemingly separate, are actually interconnected with the oldest ones serving as hubs.

Yet another case in point is dark matter and energy in the universe.  Scientists know the universe should be contracting by now, as the initial “blast” from the big bang would eventually be overtaken by the universe’s collective gravity. However it continues to expand, but not too fast.  Some “dark energy” as it is called is keeping everything nicely together. Scientists and astronomers alike are baffled by this energy.  We know it’s there but we have absolutely no clue what it is.  Scientists also can calculate the expected mass of the universe, based on its estimated size.  However when they “add up” the mass of all the known objects in the universe, it only accounts for a small fraction of this expected total mass.  Something called “dark matter” is thus assumed to make up most of the universe (roughly 70 percent).  Where is it? Again we have no idea.  But we can hypothecate that, whatever this dark matter and energy are, it is everywhere and likely involved in “connecting” everything, seen and unseen, across all time.

Although everything looks separate, there is actually something strong but unknown “binding” every single thing together (and that includes people).

In the early part of the 20th Century, Albert Einstein proposed that if quantum theory were correct, a change in one particle in a two-part system would instantaneously affect the other particle even if they were separated.  In 1964 another physicist named John Bell came forward with Bell’s Theorem to prove that Einstein’s predictions were, in fact, correct.  Bell was able to show that two particles, once entangled together (around the same nucleus) and later separated (even at two ends of the universe) will change instantaneously when a change to either one occurs.

The implications of this are astounding because it shows the inter-connectivity of the universe. It forces us to reconsider the idea of a purely objective world and consider that both the physical and mental world is constantly interacting.

Science has long known the inter-connectivity of all things.  American-born British quantum physicist David Bohm is well-known for his theory of holomovement.  As stated on Wikipedia, his theory is based on “the idea that everything is in a state of process or becoming (what he calls the ‘universal flux’). For Bohm, wholeness is not a static oneness, but a dynamic wholeness-in-motion in which everything moves together in an interconnected process.”

Mind and matter, he believed, are all abstractions from this universal flux.  In other words, we and everything else in the universe are all part of this holomovement (Oneness) and are constantly changing and moving.  Bohm believed that the universe is in a way a holographic structure and this holomovement could neither be measured nor defined.

In the metaphysical world, Edgar Cayce, recognized as one of America’s greatest psychics, performed thousands of readings during his lifetime.  Interestingly, many of these readings state that part of the problem (our unawareness) is due to our ignorance of our Oneness with one another.

In most cases, Cayce was not with his subjects at the time that the readings occurred. He remained in his trance state while lying on his couch and needed only to know the subject’s name, address, and where the person was at the time of the reading. This led some to refer to him as “The Sleeping Prophet.”

The unconscious mind, he noted, has access to a wealth of information not available to the conscious mind. Cayce’s readings present an optimistic approach to spirituality and religion that intricately ties all of humanity together in a perfect knot. Each reading focuses on the importance of Oneness and the fact that each soul manifests an awareness of this connectedness while living on this earth.  In order to reawaken this awareness, we first need to understand that God is One and we are One with God.

Time and time again, Cayce mentions the problems that our ignorance of this Oneness creates.  Ironically, our ignorance of this Oneness causes us to separate from our true reality or Spirit.

Perhaps no one mentioned the connection between mind, body and spirit more than Cayce when he stated, “Spirit is Life. Mind is the builder, and the physical is the result.” This concept of Oneness is truthfully the underlying philosophy of his readings.

Much of his material has been verified by doctors, psychologists and scientists alike. Cayce was able to provide information on the afterlife, religion, consciousness and more that was previously unknown.  All thoughts, he stated, are things.  In fact, everything that we see is an expression of God’s thought.  Everything that we see came into being because of this One Universal Mind or Spirit.

 “Each soul in entering the material experience does so for those purposes of advancement towards that awareness of being fully conscious of the oneness with the Creative Forces.” (2632-1)

He was considered by many as a modern day prophet who understood the importance of coordinating mind, body and spirit.  According to his predictions, we are all living in a time during which many will become aware of their true nature and this false separateness and ignorance will be chipped away.   For the reason we come to have an earthly experience, Cayce notes, is “for the evolution or evolving of the soul unto its awareness.”

Science is thus now echoing what ancient texts and religions have been telling us for a very long time and that is that there is an unseen connectedness between all things.  We are all part of this universal energy field and that is why every thought or feeling we have and every action we take affects the whole.

The great physicist Nikola Tesla noted that we are constantly receiving and transmitting energy.  Everything is constantly intertwined.  He wrote, “If you wish to understand the secrets of the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.”  Tesla understood that we create our own reality through certain Universal Laws.  What we think, we create.  What we give, we receive.  From Tesla’s words we can also extrapolate that is why if you want love, you must also give love.

With all this scientific and metaphysical evidence of universal interconnectivity, it then makes sense how in today’s world, there seems to be a gradual yet undeniable shift from the concept of “boxed in” religious dogma (only “our” religion is the right one, God won’t save the others), towards the more consoling realization that we are all one spirit and mutual love is the ultimate, and really only goal. This return to Spiritual Pangaea is mankind’s true destiny, and our generation is the first where we can see real progress towards this common goal.

Why Do We Hurt the People We Love?

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The shattering of a heart when being broken is the loudest quiet ever.
Carroll Bryant

Last night, I attended a Lent Reconciliation service for children at my church. Fr. Michael stood up to speak briefly before the services began and I found myself glued to his every word. He first read the story of when Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time after the resurrection. After they had all finished eating, Jesus asks Simon Peter, “Simon Peter, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus goes on to repeat the question three times. Simon Peter’s third and last response is, “”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Fr. Michael went on to explain that Simon Peter was the disciple who had denied knowing Jesus three times before His crucifixion. (NIV 60-61): “Peter replied, ‘Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!’ Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”

Jesus, according to Fr. Michael, was not mad at Simon Peter. He loved him and forgave him. Simon Peter wanted to be forgiven and it was done. But, he asked, “Why do you think we want to be forgiven? We don’t have to ask for forgiveness if we don’t want to. We do it because of love.”

He told the congregation that the love that we feel for someone leads us to want to be forgiven. It is because of that love that we seek forgiveness in the first place. He told everyone to imagine their own life. “Think about a time when you were hurt in your own life. How would you feel if a friend you loved did this to you?”

I almost felt like Fr. Michael was speaking directly to me. I, like so many others, have been hurt more times than I can count. But Fr. Michael’s point was we all get hurt but it doesn’t mean that person doesn’t love you or that you don’t love them. Sometimes the people we love are easy targets. We don’t mean to hurt them.

The following is a verse from a song by the Mills Brothers called You Always Hurt the One You Love:

“You always hurt the one you love, the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can’t recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it’s because I love you most of all.”

In the case of Simon Peter, I’m sure it was fear that led him to deny knowing Jesus, a man he loved dearly. But obviously there are varying reasons why we hurt the people we love. Just look around you. How many times have you seen best friends become enemies and two lovers become strangers? Many times, right?

So why, then, do we hurt the people we love? Well, for one, the ego has a good role in all of this. Our ego prevents us from expressing our feelings. When we love someone so deeply, it is only natural that we expect certain things from them. We want them to feel the same way we do and do the same things we do. But when we feel that our feelings or actions are not reciprocated, we often react by hurting the one we love. Sometimes, unfortunately, this is intentional but more often it’s not.

Think of it this way, when you meet someone new and there is a conflict, what happens? You don’t think much about it. You are able to just go on with your life. But when it involves someone you love, it’s not that easy. You’ve given the other person a piece of your heart. You’ve told this person your deepest secrets. You trusted this person and this makes things all the more difficult.

There is conflict in every relationship sooner or later. Change happens. Life happens. How many times have you promised never to hurt someone only to hurt them in the end? Sometimes these conflicts lead to the end of a marriage, make strangers out of family members or turn friends into foes.

I’m not making excuses or implying that it’s OK to hurt the one you love, far from it. But if we could all just put our egos aside and look at the bigger picture, just maybe we’ll see that certain relationships are worth fighting for. Maybe we’ll realize it’s worth holding on for just a little bit longer. And just maybe it all begins with admitting your pain, acknowledging your own vulnerability and asking for forgiveness.

Vivere: Will You Dare to Live?

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To thine own self be true.  — Shakespeare

I hate it when people think they know what’s best for me and even more so when they are right. Recently I went out to lunch with my cousin Sal and confided in him how I was feeling so overwhelmed by everything going on in my life.  I told him how I sometimes felt like I was living everyone’s life except my own. Sal looked at me and said something that made me stop my ranting in mid-sentence, “You’re losing yourself.  That’s what’s happening.”

His wise words hit me like a ton of bricks.  It wasn’t something that I wanted to hear but Sal was absolutely right.  I realized that I have been spending so much time trying to make others happy that I was neglecting the one person that truly counts: me.

The late Leo Buscaglia was a professor teaching at the University of Southern California in the late 1960’s when a student of his committed suicide.  Her death had a tremendous impact on him and led him to start a non-credit course entitled Love 1A.  Although no grades were given, this course grew in popularity and led to the publication of several bestselling books.

Buscaglia was a renowned motivational speaker who believed “the hardest battle you’re ever going to fight is the battle to be just you.”  No doubt, there is a certain level of contentment we feel when we are part of the crowd.  There is a level of comfort we feel from knowing that we fit in and are accepted.  But sometimes we need to find the courage to walk a path which is truly our own.

Looking back at my life, I can tell you that I didn’t always feel this way.  When I was a little girl I wanted more than anything to fit in.  Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I felt like an outsider looking in.  At that point in my life, I didn’t want to be “different;” I wanted to be just be like everyone else.  I didn’t want to be that little girl with kinky, curly hair looking back at me in the mirror.

Well as they say you live and learn.  It’s amazing how your life experiences can force you to make a complete reversal in your way of thinking.  Through trial and error and all my ups and downs in my life I’ve come to realize that I didn’t come to this earth to be just like everyone else.  I came here to live my own life and fulfill my own purpose.  And at that time, maybe I didn’t want to be considered different.  But today that’s just what I want. I want to be different and unique.  I want to be my own person.

Buscaglia was so right; one of the hardest battles we will ever face in life is the battle to be true to ourselves.  Far too often, we pretend to be someone else for the sake of gaining acceptance.  We ignore that inner voice that’s crying out for our attention for the sake of gaining someone’s love or friendship.  We all do it.  We say yes when we really want to say no.  We pretend to be happy when our insides are filled with dread.

Bronnie Ware spent years working as a palliative nurse caring for those in the final stages of their lives.  Ware questioned her patients about their final regrets which later led to her bestselling book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.”  It doesn’t surprise me that the number one regret among the dying was:  I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

She writes, “This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

The next four most mentioned regrets were:

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Living a life true to yourself means following your own inner voice.  It means listening to your deepest thoughts and honoring your most precious desires.  It means not losing yourself at the expense of trying to make someone else happy. It means finding the courage to live your own life.

Whenever I need a nudge or help in being true to myself, I always listen to one of my favorite songs by Andrea Bocelli (duet with Laura Pausini) called Dare to Live.  The words touch every crevice of my heart and always make me take a step back and really listen to the moment. Here are the words in English:

Try looking at tomorrow not yesterday
And all the things you left behind
All those tender words you did not say
The gentle touch you couldn’t find

In these days of nameless faces
There is no one truth but only pieces
My life is all i have to give

Dare to live until the very last
Dare to live forget about the past
Dare to live giving something of yourself to others
Even when it seems there’s nothing more left to give

But if you see a human
In front of your entrance
Who sleeps wrapped in a box,
If you would listen to the world in the morning
Without the noise of the rain.
You are that one who can create with your voice,
You think with the thoughts of people,
Of the God who is just the God.

To live, no one has ever taught it,
To live, it’s impossible to live without the past,
To live is beautiful even if you have never asked for

It will be a song, someone will sing it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5q67TA8bv4

Today as I write these words, I am making a promise to myself to listen more deeply to my own inner voice.  I am promising to live more of my own life and not the life my friends, family and the public expect of me.  I am promising to follow my own inner wisdom.  I am daring to live.

Have you been true to yourself?  Are you with me? Will you dare to live or as they say in Italian, vivere?

Aside

What is True Love?

truluv


“…true love comes in many colors, not just red.”

Have you ever wondered what true love really is?  As I little girl, I was mesmerized by such fairytales as Cinderella and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I dreamed of one day meeting my own prince charming and hence finding true love.

Most of us think of true love as something experienced by a man and a woman, or a person and their significant other.  I mean, after all, doesn’t true love require physical attraction and intimacy?  A psychologist by the name of Robert Sternberg came up with the triangular theory of love which is made up of three parts: intimacy, passion and commitment.  According to his theory, the amount of love one experiences will depend on the strength of these components.  And a relationship lacking any of these components, according to this theory, is less likely to survive.

Well as they say, I must agree to disagree here.  True love doesn’t have to involve sexual or physical attraction.

Sunday was my daughter Erica’s 14th birthday and to celebrate we decided to do dinner and a movie.  Her movie of choice was Disney’s blockbuster hit, Frozen.  Both of my daughters had already seen it but they wanted to see it again as a family.  Although I had heard wonderful reviews and was expecting a good movie, I must say I was pleasantly surprised.  The movie far exceeded my expectations.

Although this film has love as its central theme like so many other Disney animations, Frozen was far more than your kiss me and we’ll live happily ever after fairytale ending.  The plot of the story revolves around the relationship between two sisters.  Anna, the youngest sister is searching for love and companionship while her sister, Elsa, keeps her sister at bay because she is afraid of harming her with her magical powers.

I don’t want to give the film away for those of you who haven’t seen it but in the end Anna needs an act of true love to save her.  But instead, Anna risks her life to save Elsa.  As the film comes to a close, we realize that this movie is not about your typical fairytale ending but rather about the unconditional, relentless love between two sisters.

As I watched the ending, I admit tears fell down my face.  I looked over at my daughter Lia and hugged her as she smiled back at me and whispered, “I knew you’d like it, Mom.”  Afterwards we went out to dinner and the conversation turned to the movie.  “I can see why you two like that movie so much.  True love is not just about love between a man and a woman.  It’s about the deep love you share with anyone in your life like grandma or grandpa.  It’s about the love you share with your sister or the love between two friends.”

Both of my daughters nodded in agreement as we sat at the hibachi grill.  After two weeks of dating my husband, I realized that I was falling in love with him.  Up until that point, I hadn’t told him that I was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy and hearing loss.  I was afraid that he would end our relationship as others had done to me in the past.  But I figured, I had to tell him because I didn’t want to risk being more hurt later.

One night, I looked at John, struggling to find the right words.  “John, I have to tell you something.” But before I could utter any words, tears fell down my face.  John looked at me scared of what I was about to say.  “John, I was born with cerebral palsy.”

I looked down afraid to face him but John quickly took my face in his hands.  “So you are still the same beautiful woman you were before.”  Is this true love, yes, it is.

When I graduated from college, I had a difficult time finding a job.  I was told by one prospective employer that I should get out of the field.  Because of my hearing impairment, she told me that I would never make it as a journalist.  Needless to say I was crushed; I went home and cried in my mother’s arms.  My beautiful mother looked at me and said, “Now Josie, you listen to me.  These people are ignorant.  You can do anything that you put your mind to, Josie.  You can do it.”

I spent the next hour or so sobbing in my mother’s reassuring arms.  Is this true love, yes, it is.

More recently, when a mass was found on my breast, my friend Vanessa came with me for my biopsy.  She took a half day off of work to be there for me.  Although I told her that I would be fine and I would be OK going alone, the truth is I was afraid and didn’t want to be alone.

Vanessa saw through me and took the time to come with me.  Although I was worried, it was an immense comfort to know that I had a wonderful, caring friend sitting in the waiting room.   Is this true love, yes it is.

My point here is true love comes in many colors, not just red.  It’s about the love and commitment between two hearts, not necessarily a man and a woman.  It’s about two people caring for one another and loving unconditionally.  It’s about seeing beyond someone’s faults and imperfections and loving them just the way they are.

Many single people go through the Valentine’s Day blues.  But the truth is you don’t have to have a date on Valentine’s Day.    Seek out a friend, family member or anyone else who touches your heart.  Make it a day to celebrate all the different shades of love in your life.

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