What Really Matters

When something really matters, you should never give up or give in.” Gordon Brown

The stars seemed to be our only intruders as we sat with our backs up against the windshield of my car.  Two hours earlier my friend Karen jumped in the driver’s seat telling me she was taking me for a ride.  I had no idea where we were going but never asked.  We had recently graduated high school and I was game for anything—well, almost. 

We ended up in Round Valley—a park covering 2,000 acres in Lebanon, New Jersey and home to the state’s deepest lake.  Admittedly, at 18, I didn’t truly grasp the significance of that night as we sat there both enjoying the silence and at other times talking about our hopes and dreams and everything in between.  It was a beautiful, warm summer night and we could see fireflies over the lake to our right and literally hear the stillness of the water. 

We were both dealing with so many insecurities and unknowns with college just ahead of us.  Everything seemed so fast paced but on that night, we hit pause.  Karen and I are still friends but we haven’t done anything like that since.  Like I said, I didn’t really get it then.

But life has a way of teaching us what really matters.  And although I may not have fully realized how significant these precious moments are as a young teenager, I do now.  And after almost 40 years, I have never forgotten about that night.

Last week, I was talking to my friend Chris and the conversation turned to what really matters in life.  The point in our chat was that the older we get, the more we realize how little material things and money actually matter.  As I told my friend then, what’s important are life’s beautiful moments and making them count. 

One of my favorite quotes by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is “the things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least.” Unfortunately, some people get so caught up with getting the bigger house or the fancy car that they don’t take time to notice the little moments in between.  They lose sight of the fact that less is truly more.  Trust me, when you’re on your deathbed, you won’t be thinking of either the size of your house or your bank account.

I’ve experienced both pain and joy over the years and realized many things about my life.   The pain, loss and disappointments have been tough.  But they have also given me a deeper understanding of what truly is invaluable.  The way that I see it what matters are the relationships you keep, the love you give and the moments you are lucky enough to embrace.

Take advantage of every opportunity you have to be with the people who matter most in your life.  Love fully and give freely. Recognize the moments that make your heart sing and cherish the times when you are lucky enough to make someone else smile.  When you can make another life a little happier, you will brighten your own.

As the Buddha once said, “In the end, these things matter most. How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?”  Very wise, indeed.  The things that count the most in life cannot necessarily be counted or even measured.  They can only be given, received and treasured.

Looking back, I only wish I could have appreciated many of my life moments a little more.  But at least now I know the value of those precious memories and will never take anything for granted again. 

Register 14, Please!

“There will always be a reason why you meet people. Either you need them to change your life or you’re the one that will change theirs.” 

Angel Flonis Harefa

Patiently, I waited my turn making sure to stand at least six feet away from the woman in front of me.  I had stopped at the local supermarket to grab a few quick things but nowadays there is no such thing as quick.  I have no idea how many people were in line behind me but I would guess there were at least 10.  I must have been daydreaming hoping to be anyplace else but in a crowded supermarket when the employee monitoring the line called out to me, “Register 14, please.”

 I looked up shyly at the employee.  “I’m sorry.  Did you say 14?”

Turning to face her, I tried to picture her face.  Her voice sounded almost fleeting and surreal behind her white mask.  It is very difficult communicating these days but even more so for the hearing impaired.  Honestly, I never realized just how much I rely on reading lips until COVID-19.

She glanced at me momentarily and quickly turned her attention to the long line of registers.  “Yes, 14.” Still, unsure if she said 14 or 13, I decided to go with my gut and head over to register 14.  Once there, I noticed that register 13 was empty and there was someone ahead of me in 14.  I started to second guess myself and wondered again if I had misunderstood her.  My first thought was to just head into the empty aisle but something told me to stay put. 

After a few minutes, the customer ahead of me paid and left and I proceeded to put my things on the checkout counter.  The young woman working the register looked over at me quizzically.  Even though her face was covered, her kind eyes welcomed me.

“Do you have any coupons?”

“Oh, I’m sorry . . . what did you say?”

“Do you have any coupons? She repeated.

“No, I don’t.”

“Do you have anything at the bottom of your cart?”

“I’m sorry.  I’m hearing impaired. Did you ask if I have anything at the bottom of my cart?”

She gave me a quick nod affirmatively.

“No, nothing.  Thanks.”

She then proceeded to scan my items as I began to help her bag my items.

Raising her voice slightly so that I could hear her she noted, “My son is hearing impaired. So I understand.”

Looking up at her, I smiled beneath my mask.  “Oh, really?”  She went on to tell me that that he was seven year’s old and would be mainstreamed in the local public school.  I stopped bagging for a moment and gave her my full attention.

“That’s interesting because my mother fought for me to attend a Catholic school when I was the same age.  I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy.”

Undeniable shock now peered through her brown eyes. “OMG, my son has cerebral palsy!”

“WOW!”

“I can’t tell that you have CP at all.  Can I ask what you do for a living?”

“Sure, I’m an author and motivational speaker.”

At that moment, I could see her eyes begin to water as an impatient customer now showed up in register 14 waiting for his turn.  I pretended not to notice his stares knowing the universe had put me in register 14 for a reason.

We chatted for a few more minutes and she finally said, “Thank you so much.  You never know the truth about someone just by looking at them.”

“You’re very welcome.  And, yes, that’s very true.  You will never know what someone is really going through.  But you can tell a lot about someone when you take the time to look through their eyes.  Or maybe I should say behind the masks.”

She gave me a slight chuckle as she handed me my receipt.  The early stages of tears still apparent in her eyes.

“Do me a favor and tell your son to always get back up, no matter what happens in life.”

She looked up at me—a tear now rolling down her face.  “Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

Somehow I knew she could see me smiling as I walked away from register 14.  I made my way towards the exit and into the parking lot feeling much lighter than I did when I walked in.  Life really does have a way of putting us in the right place at the right time.  For me, it was register 14.

Justifying the Cost of Online Vs. In-Person Learning

I want all tuition to stop growing.

Rick Scott

As students start the 2020-21 school year across the globe, no two plans seem to be alike in the midst of the pandemic.  Our education system has been shocked in unprecedented ways as most schools continue to use a remote learning platform.  Others are using a more hybrid method combining both in-person and online learning while some have been able to conduct their classes in person.

student-849825_1280 (2)My two daughters, both college students, have received word that all of their fall classes will be conducted online.  While this, of course, does not surprise me I can’t help but wonder how colleges can justify charging the same for virtual instruction.  With off-campus living expenses included, the cost for sending each of my daughters to school is about $50,000.  Now that the classes have transitioned online, the cost remains the same.

I wrote to both colleges voicing my concerns and was very unhappy with the responses I received.  It does not surprise that there are so many class action lawsuits against colleges.  When I asked for some kind of credit, I was told that the cost for online instruction was “actually higher.”  That same letter ended with “….we are attempting to be thoughtful and consistent with what we can do as we continue to navigate through continued uncertainty.”

Recently, I googled the pros and cons of online classrooms and found negatives like the lack of social interaction and in-person networking opportunities or the need for intense discipline and time management.  Other sites claimed that quality is lacking and argued that virtual education continues to have a bad reputation and is judged unfavorably by major companies when seeking job applicants.

To be fair, there are also advantages to online learning.  For one, you have much more flexibility and can often study when, how, and even where you want to.  It also presents an opportunity for more individualized learning because you can work at your own pace.  However, one of the top advantages often noted is the affordability of online classes and this is simply not true in the midst of the pandemic.  At least, it’s not the case for me.

My youngest daughter Lia, after finding out that all of her classes would be online, opted to take a leave of absence and attend an in-state school for the fall semester.  Doing so will save us well over $10,000.  My daughter is not alone.  Many students have opted to take a gap year and explore other options.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have heard much hype from seers about the “new normal” in which everything from the way we live, work, worship and even hug and shake hands will be turned upside down.  Some are even predicting that the future of higher education will forever be transformed as more and more question both its value and cost.

A recent study of incoming freshman found that 40 percent are likely not to attend college this fall—many opting to take a gap year instead.  Google recently announced that it will offer a selection of professional online courses.  These courses which are being called Google Career Certificates are designed to be completed within six months at a fraction of what is spent for a four-year degree.  I truly hope we see more follow in Google’s footsteps and hopefully the insane costs of higher education here in the United States will eventually come down for future generations.

More than 30,000 have signed a petition calling for the elimination of fees and a 20 percent tuition cut at Rutgers University.  Others are calling for the refund of housing related charges.  Some have turned a deaf ear while others have heeded to some of the demands of both parents and students.

In Virginia, for example, Hampton University has reduced tuition and fees by 15 percent while Spelman College located in Atlanta will give remote students a 10 percent discount.  Kudos to them.  I truly hope we find more colleges and universities following suit in the days ahead.  If we are truly in this together, they are no exception.

Being Mindful in the Midst of the Coronavirus

The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another.”   Jack Kornfield

The world has literally been turned upside down.  As of today, there were 14,619,746 COVID-19 cases reported worldwide.  Currently, the number of deaths stands at over 608,000.  The past several months have drastically changed just about every aspect of our lives. Everything from the way we learn, work, travel, interact and even love.  In so many ways, it feels like we are grieving a life we once lived as we struggle to adapt to a new normal.

beachThe coronavirus has restructured our personal relationships in ways none of us could have ever even imagined.  Last week, I visited with a friend and her husband.  We hadn’t seen each other since the beginning of the pandemic and we welcomed the chance to catch up.  However, we sat outdoors, six feet apart and did not greet or hug each other.  To me, this was the hardest part.  It is really ironic how we are not allowed to hug each other during a time when we need human contact and affection the most.

During these uncertain and difficult times, however, it is perhaps more important than ever to remain mindful of the present moment and find ways to manage our fears and anxieties.  As Lao Tzu brilliantly said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past.  If you are anxious, you are living in the future.  If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

I know these stressful times don’t exactly feel peaceful.  But the truth is the only thing we can ever master or control is the present moment.  Most of us spend so much time either dwelling in memories or thinking of the future that the present moment takes a backseat.  But in reality, everything only really happens in the present moment and it is the only place to find calm amidst all the distress.

Easier said than done, I know. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about my husband’s job, our health insurance or the ability to continue to pay for the steep college tuition bills our daughters have handed us.  Of course, I’m worried like everyone else but I’m also grateful and mindful.   It is important to remember that happiness is not a place, it is a state of mind.  No matter what is going on in the world around us, we have control over our thoughts at all times. How we think matters.  How we respond matters.

Here are some “TCC” tips to help you stay in the moment:

  1. Take a Step Back:

Stop, breathe and take some time to focus on the NOW.  I mean really take note of the moment.  How do you feel?  What do you see?  What do you smell? What are you thinking?  Notice the colors around you.  Take a moment to pause and be still.  Focus on right now.

  1. Count Your Blessings:

Make a mental note of a few things you have to be grateful for.  No matter what is going on, there is always something to be grateful for.  Gratitude won’t change what is going on in the world right now but it will change the way we look at the world.  In many ways, it is gratitude that helps us to see the roses and ignore the thorns.

  1. Choose Your View:

Our state of mind.  Our happiness.  Our choice.  What we see depends on what we choose to look for.  As we look back over the heartbreak dealt to us by this pandemic, let us remember how far we have all come.  We have faced unprecedented challenges but we’ve also witnessed unimaginable strength.

An American professor named Jon Kabat-Zinn wisely said, “The little things? The little moments?  They aren’t little.”  He’s so right; they aren’t.  It is in those little moments that we will find our greatest strengths.

Find Your Own Beauty

It’s not the face, but the expressions on it. It’s not the voice, but what you say. It’s not how you look in that body, but the thing you do with it. You are beautiful.     

Stephenie Meyer

My Godmother Lucy would always tell me how special I was.  She would tell me that God had a special place in heaven for people like me. I never really thought much about this when I was little.  I didn’t feel special in any sense of the word.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As many of you already know, I was born with a disability known as cerebral palsy.  Growing up, I did not like that little girl with kinky, curly hair and leg braces looking back at me in the mirror.  I did not want to be her.  I wanted to be someone else.  I wanted to be “normal.”  I wanted someone to make my life all better.  I wanted someone to make me feel beautiful, happy and accepted.

But eventually I realized that this someone was never going to come into my life.  I came to understand that the only person that could make me happy was ME.  And I certainly didn’t have to go anywhere to find happiness because I already had everything I needed.  Happiness is all about what’s within us, not about our life circumstances and what’s going on outside.

Likewise, true beauty is not about what you see when you look in the mirror.  The difference between those who are happy and those who are not has a lot to do with not what they see but how they feel.  True beauty is not about those curves but more about the love in your heart, compassion in your eyes and the smile on your face.

Recently, I came across a quote on Facebook which read, “I’m not beautiful like you; I’m beautiful like me.”* These wise words really struck a chord in me. In short, you define your own beauty.  Honestly, you can find beauty in everything if you truly take the time to look for it.  And when you do, you’ll be more willing to accept and appreciate what you see in the mirror.

I’ll be the first to admit that changing your mindset and how you feel about yourself is not always easy.  That little girl with kinky hair that I once saw in the mirror looks a lot different these days.  She’s older and wiser and her once smooth skin is now sagging and showing signs of aging.

But those winkles represent the love I’ve both given and lost, the pain I’ve endured and the many joys my heart has had the pleasure to experience—lessons learned throughout my life.  If I had the chance, there are things I definitely would have done differently but this is my life and these are my lessons.  Looking back, I appreciate and treasure every single one.

Sometimes we all just need a little reminder to find our own beauty.  Consider this yours.  You are beautiful; you are enough.

*Lyrics from “Beautiful” by Joy Drop

The Different Shades of Control in Relationships

“I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.” Lucille Ball

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Abusive and controlling behavior in relationships comes in all shapes and sizes.  A commonly held definition of abuse is a “pattern of behavior in which one partner seeks to gain or maintain power and control over the other.”  Although most people instinctively think of physical abuse, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse can be just as harmful if not more.

As the definition above implies, this abuse involves trying to control or manipulate the other person.  Often this behavior is driven by those who exhibit narcissistic tendencies.  It’s important to note that these relationships need not be romantic and show up in all facets of our lives—friends, co-workers, family members.

Often times, the abusers tend to have a grandiose and inflated image of themselves in order to protect the shame or insecurity they are actually feeling on the inside.   In order to deal with these insecurities, they are quick to judge and challenge while attempting to control and even belittle the other person.

There are several “red flags” to look out for and many of these signs can be subtle and elusive.

  1. Attention Grabbing: No relationship should demand too much of your attention or time.  An example, may be getting upset if you don’t answer their call or text message right away.  Also, spending excessive time together is not healthy.
  2. Jealousy: Although some may think of this as normal, jealousy is just another form of a controlling behavior.  There is no need to be jealous when there is complete trust involved. Jealousy equals insecurity.
  3. Gaslighting: According to Wikipedia, gaslighting is a form of manipulation which involves covertly planting seeds of doubt in another person. For example, they deny things ever happened causing you to second-guess yourself and feel confused.  They’ll tell you that you are overreacting and are oversensitive.
  4. Shifting Blame: When confronted, they will often attempt to shift the blame to someone else.
  5. Isolating: A relationship should never keep you away from another relationship. Those who are controlling will attempt to gradually isolate you from your family and friends.  A healthy relationship whether platonic or romantic is inclusive, not excluding.
  6. Snooping:  Have you ever been in a relationship where a friend or partner reads your text messages or even answers your messages for you?  This screams insecurity as well as control.  Of course, it’s different when you ask someone to check your phone.

For obvious reasons, those who are arrogant and controlling often look for partners who are submissive and lack self-esteem. No relationship should ever make you feel unworthy or inferior for any reason.  And, as a general rule, you should never give someone permission to change who you are.

Being free to be yourself and having time to yourself is an essential part of every relationship.  Never allow someone else to speak your mind or be your voice.  As Eleanor Roosevelt brilliantly said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

COVID-19: Together As One

venice

Photo Credit:  Gulf News

Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.” Albert Einstein

In March, Italy announced a country-wide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Today, Venice’s canals—stripped bare of its usual water taxis and gondolas—are clearer than they’ve been in decades.  Carbon monoxide emissions are down drastically in Los Angeles and in New York City you can actually hear the birds singing.  In Beijing and Delhi, reduced smog and air pollution has given way to beautiful, clear skies.  As we witness these incredible transformations, it is an important reminder to us all that our actions affect everyone and everything.

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.  I’ve written about the Law of Oneness many times over the years in both my books and my blog and I know it is difficult for our earthly minds to understand.  We live in a world of contrasts which gives us the illusion of separation but, in reality, we are not separate at all.

If you think this is pseudoscience, look around you.  If the global pandemic we are experiencing right now is not proof of the interconnectedness of all things, I don’t know what is. Our very actions today are literally making the difference between life and death and affecting the future of humanity as a whole all over the world.

After taking a trip to Jamaica with my family, I wrote about the concept of oneness in a former blog post.  Here is an excerpt from my post of July 23, 2017.

When asked what your body is made of you might automatically think: blood, bones, skin, organs, etc. But if you break down everything that you can see and feel to the subatomic level what you will find are particles and atoms.

As you look deeper and deeper into the workings of the atom, you will discover that nothing is there. Well, at least nothing very tangible. What you will find is an energy field or energy waves. These atoms, in other words, are composed of nothing less (or nothing more) than pure energy. So everything that you see around you (the trees, the sand, the sky, the ocean, your house, computer, cell phone, etc.) is made up of this energy and everything is connected to that energy.

Science has discovered that matter is 99.999999999999 percent empty space. So what looks and feels solid is not solid at all. It’s actually energy. In 1911, Max Planck was the first to demonstrate that the seemingly empty space between the planets, stars, etc. is actually teeming with energy.

If we all truly understood the implications of this on the nature of reality, the changes in our way of looking at life would be immeasurable. We are all connected by an unseen force that in turn infuses everything else. This is why it is so important to make sure we surround ourselves with positive people. The energy waves that make up who we are constantly collide or join with the energy around us.

We get back what we put out there in the universe. Taking this one step further, everything that we think, say and do influences our reality. If you want good, you have to do good. If you want love, you have to give love. You create your own destiny.

If you want proof, turn on the news or take a walk outside.  Here in New Jersey, one of the places hardest hit by COVID-19, we remain on 24-hour lockdown.  My niece Brooke and her fiancé Joe had no choice but to postpone their May wedding and I am growing increasingly worried about my elderly parents in Florida.  I know several people who have either died from the virus or are recovering from it.  Over the past few weeks, my prayer list is sadly getting longer and longer.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if the world just stopped?  Again, take a walk outside.  Turn on the news.  Streets are eerily quiet, stores and restaurants are padlocked, schools are closed and businesses are shut down as many employees struggle to work from home.  In New York City, Time’s Square is virtually empty.  As you know, no more than 10 people are permitted to gather at one time and when we do we must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines.

What we are experiencing is something I thought I would never witness in my lifetime but it’s nonetheless very real.  What’s more, there is really no definite end in sight and we have no idea when things will return to “normal.”  And speaking of normal, we may never see life as we used to know it again.

As we spend our time quarantined away from those we love and care about, I hope we can all reflect on and appreciate the many blessings we have been taking for granted for so long.  As we deal with the loneliness and fear of the unknown, may we remember that we are all in this together and know that we can only survive this together.  When we turn on the TV, the current message is that we are “alone together.” But the correct message should be “together as one.”  In reality, we are never really alone.

Science is now echoing what ancient texts and religions have been telling us for a very long time:  there is an unseen connectedness between all things.  That is why every thought and every action affects the whole of humanity.

As we take this time to catch up on things and maybe even fit some exercise into our days in quarantine, may we also remember to exercise our minds.  Be mindful and stay in the NOW.  Doing so will help us to be grateful for all that we do have.  I may not be able to see my parents or my daughter Erica, for example, but I’ve never appreciated my family or missed my friends more than I do now.  There is a positive in every negative and a lesson to be learned in every experience.

Besides the environmental benefits, people across the globe, for example, have voluntarily made sacrifices to protect the lives of those who are considered more vulnerable to the virus (the elderly and those with diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases, etc.).  As doctors and nurses work tirelessly to save lives, others deliver medical supplies and hand out food to the needy.  The list is numerous but there are many unsung heroes out there who are putting the needs of others before their own.

When asked if the worst was behind us, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted, “I’m a very cautious person, but we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.”  While there are no definitive answers, I must say that I do agree with Dr. Fauci.  As we all get through these uncertain times, may we remember that light will always prevail over darkness.  Love will always carry the day despite the loneliness and hope will forever conquer fear.

In the end, we will emerge a stronger, more compassionate world.  As before, and perhaps now more than ever, we are together as one.

This blog is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives or who are fighting the coronavirus.  I would also like to acknowledge those who are on the forefront (doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters, EMT’s, etc.).  Thank you.  And to all those essential workers, for example, who continue to deliver our mail and stock our shelves at the supermarket, thank you so much. 

SEEDS REPLANTED

Photo by Jude Beck

Never forget the world at this moment

Take nothing for granted ever again

Let your hearts be not silent

As the memories of these days remain

 

As we get through this

Remember only what truly counts

Family, friends, a handshake, a hug, a kiss

Precious gifts, may we recount

 

Life’s many pleasures

Dinner, shopping, dancing . . .

Appreciate all those simple treasures

Love and romancing

 

Once taken for granted

Now gone in an instant

The seeds seemingly unplanted

Now so precious, yet distant

 

A walk on the beach

On a warm summer day

Once within reach

Now all kept at bay

 

We shall rise

Stronger than ever before

Amidst the uncertainty and cries

Footprints left upon the shore

Seeds replanted

A testament to all that we adore

When Anxiety Strikes

“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” Charles Spurgeon

Roughly 40 million people live with some kind of anxiety disorder in the United States.  While the condition is certainly not chronic for me it has happened to me over the years but the occurrences are luckily few and far between.

Last week I was vacationing in Turks and Caicos with my friend Karen.  On our second night there, I had what is known as an anxiety dream.  These are unpleasant dreams which cause feelings of distress or fear in the dreamer upon waking.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what the dream was about.  I only know it wasn’t a pleasant one.

anxietyphotoI woke up at around 3:30 a.m. with my heart racing feeling like I wanted to jump out of my skin and I had no idea why.  As I struggled to catch my breath, it took me a few seconds to realize that I was away from home in a hotel room which only made me feel worse.

Anxiety is typically caused by rampant thoughts that spin out of control. There are steps we can take, therefore, to regain control of our thoughts and hence calm down.

  1. Just Breathe: Take long deep breaths.  This is the fastest way to help your body calm down.
  2. Recognize Your Anxiety: As you breathe in an out, recognize that you are having a panic attack. Tell yourself that everything is alright.
  3. Move and Release: Get up and move around.  Go for a walk, for example, or go to a different room.  Since my friend was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her, I went to the bathroom and splashed water on my face.
  4. Change Your Focus: Concentrate on something positive or familiar.  In my case being over 1,000 miles away from home did not help but knowing my friend was there with me helped to calm me down.
  5. Talk to Someone: Whenever possible, reach out to someone for support.  It is important to understand that you are not alone.
  6. Get Some Fresh Air: These panic attacks are often accompanied by feelings of suffocation and claustrophobia.  Walk outside, open the windows, and get some fresh air.
  7. Stay in the Moment: Don’t jump ahead worrying about things in the future.  Remind yourself of where you are try to stay in the moment and recognize how irrational your thoughts are.
  8. Relax and Think Positive Thoughts: Recognize your thinking pattern and replace them with calming, positive thoughts.

There are many things that can trigger anxiety and panic attacks.  Among them are stress, fatigue, worry, diet, caffeine and alcohol.  Anxiety can also be brought on by trauma or pain.  For females, hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause can also lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

My experience last week marked the first time I had ever had an anxiety dream.  Truthfully, I have no idea what triggered my panic attack that night nor do I know if and when it will happen again.  But as Wayne Dyer once said, “You can’t always control what goes on outside.  But you can always control what goes on inside.”

I am stronger than my fears and so are you.

Love is the Bridge

“I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.”
Roy Croft

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Everyone knows the words to this now infamous poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  And with Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’m sure we’ll be hearing them a lot more.

liabrooklynbridge

My beautiful daughter Lia Varga on the Brooklyn Bridge/Photo by Larry Yu

I’ve always had mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate the expressions of love and gratitude.  My husband still makes my heart skip a beat when he walks in carrying a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses and my ears will never tire of hearing the words, I love you.  While my arms will be forever grateful for his embrace, however, I expect and want these expressions of love every day of the year.

Valentine’s Day has long been recognized as a day when we can show our appreciation and express our love.  Many believe this is best shown through big gestures like expensive jewelry and romantic getaways.  However, several studies have continually shown that the small, repeated gestures are what matter most.  Not surprisingly, researchers also found that people prefer behavioral actions over verbal expressions.

As I often say, words are cheap if your actions don’t follow suit.  The small little things we do are what help us to feel loved and appreciated every day and this applies to both romantic and platonic relationships.  It’s important to feel loved, wanted, and needed by all the significant others in your life.  Those little gestures that say, Hey, I’m here for you, I care about you or I still love you, are important to any relationship because they keep the bond of love going.

Recently, I went out to dinner with one of my closest friends, Karen.  We have been friends since high school (Yes, a very long time!).  Over dinner, we were talking about our high school years and I recounted how she bought me a new pair of sneakers with her very first paycheck.  Karen looked over at me and laughed asking, “How do you remember these things?”

At the time, I only smiled at her in response.  The truth is, though, I remember because those little gestures and those beautiful moments have left footprints on my memory.  I remember because each gesture, each memory has left an imprint on my heart.  And when the day comes for me to leave this Earth, there they will forever remain.

Naomi Judd’s career came to an abrupt end in 1991 after she announced she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.  The announcement was made in the midst of their Love Can Build a Bridge Tour at a time when the Judds were at the high point of their career.  Thankfully, she is now doing well and has since resumed some concert tours with her daughter Wynonna.

“Love Can Build a Bridge,” written as a heartfelt farewell song to her fans, won Naomi an Emmy.  Speaking of her mother, Wynonna said, “This next song represents the 10 years I spent on the bus with my queen.  Those were some of the best years of my life; I just didn’t know it back then.  But looking back, I now realize more than ever that the history we made together was a true miracle.”

(Wynonna Judd singing “Love Can Build a Bridge”)

Beautifully said, Wynonna.  I, too, have a fond memory with my mother on the bus.  My mother took the day off from work to accompany me on a school trip to the Bronx Zoo when I was in first grade.  I can still remember how proud I was to be sitting next to her as she sat holding my hand.  Like you, I was too young to realize just how precious those moments truly are.

Love cannot only build a bridge.  Love is the bridge.