Say Thank You

“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

Zig Ziglar

Last week as my family and I sat down to enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner, we first took a moment to say thank you and acknowledge our gratitude. It was a touching, yet emotional time.  Not only did we express gratitude for our blessings that day but we also acknowledged our loved ones who were no longer with us and thanked God for the time we did have with them.

thankyouIt was beautiful and transforming as it really helped to shift the attention in the room. In that moment, we were reminded of the importance of focusing on our blessings rather than our misgivings and hardships.

Two words, “thank you,” have the power to create stronger, lasting bonds. These two words have the power to make people feel appreciated and work harder.  They have the power to increase our joy and happiness.  Yet, these two words are largely underutilized.

I once sent a gift to a friend. Afterwards, as time went by, I never heard from her.  Not a simple text; not an email or a thank you card.  Nothing.  To me, right or wrong, this sent a message that my gift was underappreciated.  This may not have been the case, of course, but I wouldn’t have known. Unfortunately, some people fail to see the benefits of these two simple, yet powerful words.

Gratitude is essential for healthy, long-term relationships—both personal and professional. In fact, studies show that the number one reason people leave their job is because they feel underappreciated.  You would automatically think it would be to earn more money but this isn’t the case.  A little show of gratitude can make a big difference to a company’s bottom line.

The benefits of showing thankfulness are endless. Here are just a few:

  1. Not surprisingly, people who focus on gratitude, live happier, more fulfilling lives. When people feel appreciated, negative emotions like anger, frustration and jealousy diminish. They also have a higher level of self-esteem.
  2. In addition to improving mental health, feelings of gratitude also improve our physical health. People who feel appreciated have stronger immune systems and live healthier, longer lives.
  3. Those who feel appreciated are more willing to be of service to others. They are not as materialistic and see the value of the simple things in life.
  4. Grateful people are naturally more optimistic and have a greater capacity to forgive others.

Simply put, feelings of appreciation lead to positive thinking and positive thinking leads to positive action. Positive thinking hence leads to a more positive, fulfilling life.

However, don’t say thank you if you are not sincere. Say thank you when you truly mean to say thank you.  Your insincerity will only show if you don’t really mean it.

Also, don’t sweeten the deal with a promise you can’t keep. People sometimes offer things that they have no intention of giving.  For example, if you say thank you to someone and also offer to follow up with a dinner, do just that.  Don’t offer things you can’t give or make promises you can’t keep.

So as you go through the holiday season, remember to say thank you often. When we focus on and appreciate what we already have in our lives and not what is lacking, we inevitably draw more abundance into our lives.  When we give thanks, we bring thanks.  And this is key to living a healthy, happy, fulfilling life.

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The Gift of Heart Failure

I remember the day well.  My friend Dan Weiniger and I were hanging outside of the middle school awaiting the arrival of our daughters at the end of the school day.  As usual, we enjoyed each other’s company chatting about life and everything in general.

But on this day, Dan surprised me by asking, “So, Josie, do you really think there is an afterlife?”  As an author and afterlife researcher, people come up to me all the time asking about the afterlife.  But Dan, though a loyal friend and huge supporter of mine, was agnostic.

I looked back at him leaning against his car, “Yes, Dan.  I don’t think.  I know.”  Dan told me that he wanted to believe but wasn’t sure.  For the next several minutes I answered his questions about heaven and the afterlife ending with, “I’ll tell you what Dan.  If I go first, I’ll bring you a sign and if you go before me, you bring me a sign.  All I can tell you is when you die, you’ll going to be surprised. Because, yes, we die in body but not in spirit.”

He gave me a serious yet cheerful laugh and said, “OK, Josie.  You got a deal.” That day was February 18, 2014.  Below is a picture Dan took of us that day and posted on Facebook. Pictured with us is his dog Popcorn.

Daniel H Weiniger February 18, 2014 · Discussing life & afterlife with my good friend Josie Tropeano Varga — feeling great with Josie Tropeano Varga at Thomas Edison Intermediate School.Daniel H Weiniger

One year later, almost to the day (February 4, 2015), Dan suffered a massive heart attack losing 80 percent of his heart’s functions.  Basically 80 percent of his heart was dead and there was no place to by-pass to; no veins to stent.  Dan opted to have a LVAD (left-ventricular assisted device) implanted in his chest which is a mechanical pump that helps to pump blood. The surgery was a success and he was then placed on a list awaiting a heart transplant.

Sadly, Dan passed away on July 25, 2017.  The heart he so desperately needed never materialized.  The fact that a heart failed such a wonderful, kind, loving person is beyond my comprehension.  Ironically, he was all heart.

In April of this year, Dan released a book, The Gift of Heart Failure.  While he was working on the book, he called to ask if I would write his foreword and also wanted my advice.  We talked at length about his book and his reasons for writing it.  I advised him to include an introduction as well as a final thoughts section.  I explained that it was important to tell people why he was writing the book.

“Heart failure has taught me how precious life really is,” he told me.   “And what do you want people to remember when they finish your book?” I asked.  Dan quickly answered, “Be grateful for the tough times because they mean you are alive.”

In Dan’s memory, I am sharing some of his enlightening words of wisdom from the book.

Kindness:

What I learned from this is that there is more to being kind than simply just being nice, more than being a good neighbor, more than doing the right thing. All of that can be driven by ego and have self-serving adulation and recognition.  True kindness is generated by our true essence and attitude not by our ego.  It taught me, besides my mother’s insistence, I am not the center of the universe.

Kindness is born of compassion for others.  It is a deep sense of understanding and caring that comes when your heart is open and your mind is not solely focused on your universe.  It is again showing us the importance of being able to look at our situation and ourselves from an unemotional, detached angle and see more than one perspective.

Your actions may appear to be kind.  I always try to display kind behavior.  However, what this experience has taught me is your thoughts have to be kind, kindness must initiate from inside, from your heart.  Are your thoughts kind?  If not, you are not expressing true kindness and compassion, because inspired kindness flows from the soul and it treats all things and all people with gentleness and respect.

Enthusiasm:

Your enthusiasm can cause a chain reaction of good in the world.  So live your life with enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  Every great endeavor has been fueled by passion, which is the byproduct of enthusiasm. By passion, I mean zest and zeal, a fiery non-stoppable enthusiasm.  I’m talking about an inner force that relentlessly drives you forward.  Setbacks and frustration just fuel your passion to try again, and climb that mountain.  It is a burning desire that creates a commitment to obliterate one’s obstacles and live the life you imagine.

Mindfulness:

Control your thoughts and your mind.  To live more in the now we must control our thoughts and our mind.  To live in the present moment we need to develop more mindfulness. Mindfulness is the art of paying attention, nonjudgmentally, to whatever arises in the present moment.  When we are mindful, we experience what life presents to us, and we are no longer resisting the flow of life. The flow of life energy, when you go with the flow, you are surfing life’s energy force. When we are mindful, we realize that we are not our thoughts; we become an observer of our thoughts without judging them.

Forgiveness:

There is always an opportunity. Mistakes offer a fork in the road. They represent a chance to choose one path or another.  Choose forgiveness, choose kindness and choose love. Use your past and a broad perspective as a light to identify the opportunity so that you can forgive yourself and others. One of the best opportunities and paths to forgiveness is to seek opportunities to help others. When we shift and focus on others a real shift takes place in us and in our lives: you can feel it. When you move pass your worries and look back at your mistakes and you are focused on helping others in this world, that is when some magical things begin to happen.

It takes a lot of strength to forgive someone who is not sorry and to accept the apology you never received. However, unforgiveness is a negative emotional mindset where you, as the offended party maintain feelings of resentment, hostility, and anger toward the person, or persons who offended you. If you do not forgive, all you see is an injustice.  This unforgiveness will take a huge toll on your physical and mental health and will destroy your relationships.

Personal Perspective:

Most of us see only the trees; we cannot or choose to not see the forest. We live our lives in small 24 hour segments, or even smaller.  The answer is personal perspective. It is not easy to step back from a present obstacle, especially a painful or emotional obstacle. However, by stepping back we can see a bigger picture, find the new angle, and look for the always-present opportunity. Yes, personal perspective is the key, and what a wonderful way to achieve wisdom.

Be a Miracle:

By making the choice to live as if everything is a miracle, every moment becomes something to appreciate and be grateful for. One of the biggest miracles I see in my life is my family, friends and the love we all share.  Love is the most amazing thing in our lives.  It is what makes us sing, dance and smile. The miracle of love also leads to what we have already discussed and that is the acts of kindness, forgiveness, thinking of others and seeing life from another person’s point of view.

Difficult times will happen. To find the light, we have to go through the darkness. Please remember while you’re in the midst of it, to try and take a deep breath and remember that the lessons you are learning from the very obstacles you are facing, will shift your view of life. You will learn what matters, who matters, how strong you are and how lucky you are to exist. That is what difficult times teach us, and they are some of the most important lessons we can ever learn.

I loved what Dan had to say about appreciating the little things in life.  “When we are faced with difficult challenges and when death stares us in the face, it is then that we often realize that our smallest joys and accomplishments are what matter most.”  As I wrote in the foreword to his wonderful book, The Gift of Heart Failure, sometimes it takes something bad to teach us something good.  Sometimes it is our greatest challenges that teach us our greatest lessons.

Dan once told me that if you wanted a miracle in your own life you had to first be a miracle in the lives of others.  I truly hope he knows as he now watches from heaven what a miracle he was and what a difference he made.  Thank you, Dan, for the gift of your friendship.

ONE LOVE, ONE HEART

“Remember that all is One… and what you do to your neighbor, your friend or your foe, is a reflection of what you think of your Creator.”

Edgar Cayce

This month my family and I vacationed in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had a wonderful time. Although I found the beaches to be breathtaking and the many scenic landscapes to be unforgettably beautiful, what I will cherish most about our time in Jamaica is the people.

Everywhere ybobmarleyou went everyone was kind and free-spirited. One day we decided to go shopping and stopped in a gift shop to buy some souvenirs. While there, we struck up a conversation with a petite Jamaican woman (Nell). She asked how we liked Jamaica and I commented how much I loved the people. She looked at me smiling, “You know, one love.” All of a sudden, Nell began to singing the lyrics to the classic hit, One Love (written by Bob Marley and the Wailers).

My family and I quickly joined in singing, “One Love! One Heart! Let’s get together and feel all right. . .” We left that store with something far more important than t-shirts, we left with smiles on our hearts and the feeling of oneness within.

Marley, who died at the age of 36 on May 11, 1981 after suffering from melanoma, was said to be very spiritual and intuitive. In fact, I’ve read that he used to read palms for people as a young boy growing up in Nine Mile, Jamaica. As some of his songs imply, he believed in monotheism which is the belief in one God or one supreme source. He also believed in oneness for all and the connection of all things.

The concept of oneness is difficult for our earthly minds to comprehend. Honestly, it’s not our fault. We live in a world of contrasts which gives us the illusion of disconnectedness and separation. But in reality, we are not separated at all.

The late Wayne Dyer explained it well when he wrote, “The idea of oneness is next to impossible to grasp because we live in this world of contrasts, and contrast requires more than one element. So here we are, persistently in our world of twoness. How can we grasp the idea of oneness in the world of nonbeing that we occupied before we came into beingness? One way might be to think of our fingers, legs arms, toes and eyes: We don’t think of them as separate entities from our total being. We don’t refer to our fingers as being separate from ourselves. So it is with our relationship to Source or God before we came into this world—in that world, we and God were one.” (www.healyourlife.com/what-is-oness.com)

If you think this is pseudoscience, think again. Albert Einstein once said, “Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one.” Let’s start with the human body. 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 very tangible. 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.

I will never forget the kindred spirit of the Jamaican people; someday I hope to return there. As we left the store that day, our bags filled with souvenirs, Nell looked over at us with her contagious smile and warm heart, “Remember, one love, one heart.” It was a day and a lesson that my family and I will not soon forget.

Is Technology Really Making Life Go By Faster?

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” Lily Tomlin

Last week I was chatting with my youngest daughter Lia. We were talking about life and how often people and friendships change. I brought up a friend of mine whom I haven’t heard from in a while despite my efforts to stay in touch.

She looked over at me with her young, 15-years of wisdom, “Mom, people sometimes get so caught up in life that they forget what’s really important. They need to slow down and live in the moment. Life goes by too fast.”   I smiled at her both surprised and somewhat saddened.

Things were so different when I was a kid. For one, things were so much slower—at least

liame

Me and my beautiful daughter Lia.

they appeared to be. I don’t think I ever thought about the importance of living in the moment when I was Lia’s age. I mean aren’t kids supposed to do just that . . . enjoy the moment, lay back and be carefree?

 

Part of the reason things are so different today is technology. Of course, the technological advancements have improved our way of life in many ways. Admittedly, I feel lost these days when I’m without my cell phone. But that’s not always a good thing.

Research has shown that technology is distorting our perception of time. While all the technological advancements of recent years have helped our brains process information faster than ever before, they have also deceived us into thinking that time passes much faster than it actually does.

James Cook University professor Aoife McLoughlin studied the effects of technology on our perception of time. “It’s almost as though we’re trying to emulate the technology and be speedier and more efficient, she said in an interview with ScienceAlert. It seems like there’s something about technology itself that primes us to increase that pacemaker inside of us that measures the passing of time.” (https://www.sciencealert.com/research-suggests-that-technology-is-speeding-up-our-perception-of-time)

McLoughlin found that technology is improving the brain’s ability to process information. But while we can process information faster, we also incorrectly perceive time as moving quicker than it actually is. And because we are more connected via social media, there is an added amount of stress.

With this increased sense of time comes a false sense of urgency and with that comes stress and the constant pressure to keep up and do more. Our extreme dependence on technology has literally taken us out of the present moment in many ways because we are constantly thinking of our next move. We are constantly distracted by the latest social media post or the latest text on our mobile device. We are so connected all the time that we have no time to just disconnect.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, the author of The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life, explains it well, “We’re simply being in that moment to take the next action,” says Zimbardo. “It’s really minimizing the quality of life. It’s minimizing the joy that we ought to be getting from everyday life.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/06/technology-time-perception_n_4378010.html).

One of my pet peeves, for example, is the use of cell phones at the dinner table. If my daughters are not checking their phones in plain view, they are hiding them under the table. This constant need for information and instant gratification has changed everything about life—including family dynamics.

The world is moving at such a swift pace these days that we feel busier than ever before. We speed through dinner so we can get to the next task. In a sense technology is a double-edged sword. In some ways it has improved our quality of life but in other ways it has hindered it.

As a writer, the internet has certainly made my life a lot easier. Gone are the days of going to the library to search for the latest information. Nowadays everything is easily accessible online. Constantly being connected, however, has in many ways blurred the boundaries between work and non-work.

Since we constantly feel the need to stay on top of things we rarely take the time to disconnect. And, yet, this is exactly what we need to do from time to time. We’ve all become so crazed by all the big, amazing technology out there that we’ve forgotten about all those small things that used to amaze us.

Here are some simple tips:

  1. Take the Time to Detach: Whenever possible, leave your smartphone home. Take a break from Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  2. Focus on the Moment: How do we concentrate on the moment when we are constantly worrying about the next thing on the agenda? Practice mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness means bringing your awareness to the present moment. That may sound easy but with all the distractions that we have going on today, it has actually become harder and harder. Take a deep breath and truly acknowledge your thoughts and feelings at that moment. It’s a great way to stay grounded and focused on the things that really matter without jumping ahead to all those things that don’t matter. For example, stop constantly checking your Facebook post to see what people are saying. Ethel Barrett, a writer and speaker, once said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”
  3. Take Note of Your Priorities: We spend so much time jumping from one thing to the next that we forget, as my daughter Lia pointed out earlier, what’s really important. Stop. Take a moment to think about what you are doing and decide what is truly important to you. Then spend more time thinking about the things that matter and less time fretting over the things that don’t.
  4. Make Time for Friends and Family: As I sit here writing this blog, I can honestly think of several people that I regrettably lost touch with. Yes, as a mother, author and speaker, I am busy. But I don’t care how busy you are, you make time for the people you want to make time for.
  5. Be Spontaneous: Everyone has such jam-packed schedules these days that it has become increasingly difficult to just be spontaneous. Do something unplanned once in a while and just enjoy the moment.
  6. Don’t Lose Sight of YOU! I added this one last because if there is one tip that I would like you to take away from this blog, this would be it. We get so caught up in the everyday grind that we forget about the one person who matters most: YOU! Believe me when I tell you that I’ve been there and done that. I’ve often been so busy worrying about everybody else that I’ve forgotten to take care of me. Sound familiar? Don’t lose sight of you. Allow yourself that much needed time out and do something for YOU!

Actor Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (more commonly known by his stage name Moliere), once said, “The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” If you take the time to slow down if only a little, you’ll begin to notice beauty you’ve never seen before. Not that it wasn’t there before, you just never took the time to notice.

To Be, Or Not to Be There

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Suess

“To be, or not to be: that is the question,” is undoubtedly one of the most famous lines of all Shakespearean literature.  In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet questions whether it is better to live or die.  He compares the pain and struggles of life with the uncertainties and fears of death.  Which is better, he ponders?

There are many couples out there staying together for the benefit of the children.  A recent study, however, showed that 82% of young people aged 14 to 22 who have gone through family divorce and breakups prefer their parents’ divorce than stay unhappy.  (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/22/children-divorce-resolution-survey-rather-parents-separate)

pairMany couples are there but not really there.  For example, they are in the same room together but not paying any attention to each other.  One may be watching television while the other is reading or at the computer.  This is, of course, OK sometimes but it’s not OK when it’s the norm.

As I get older, I am both surprised and not surprised by how often I have heard this.  Just recently I ran into an old friend who told me that though she remains married, she and her husband actually live separate lives.

We had a lengthy chat about it and her feeling was that far too often one partner changes and the other doesn’t.  Eventually one or both partners realizes that they are no longer compatible and one even begins to lose respect for the other.

Why do so many people stay together?  The main reason is fear.  Fear of being alone and not being able to make it on our own.  Or maybe you’re afraid there is nothing better out there.  As my mother always says, “The grass is not always greener on the other side.”  That may be true but it doesn’t mean we have to stay in a muddy relationship in the meantime.  But this is not limited to romantic relationships.  This also includes our relationships with other family members and friends.

We may put up with abuse from a family member because they are family.  Or we may put up with an arrogant friend because we ironically don’t “want to hurt their feelings.”

How many times have you stayed in a friendship because of “the history” you both have together?  Maybe you put up with abuse because you don’t want to lose your mutual circle of friends. Or maybe you are afraid of making the wrong decision.  Some people reason it’s better to stay in a bad relationship than no relationship at all.

I get it.  I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t stayed in a bad relationship or two.  Change is not easy.  Sometimes it’s easier to stay within our comfort zone.

But rather than just maintaining the status quo, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Be honest with yourself.  If you’ve tried everything to improve a relationship and it isn’t working, then you have a decision to make.  Do you love your partner or friend enough to stay in the relationship as is?  Or do you love yourself enough to move on?
  2. Acknowledge your feelings. You can’t be honest with yourself if you don’t first recognize how you feel and why you feel the way that you do.  If your partner is refusing to see a therapist, go yourself.
  3. Welcome change. You can’t improve what you don’t change.  Without change, there are no opportunities and no areas for personal growth. You’ll never know what you are missing.

Far too often, we stay in a relationship hoping to change our partner.  Truthfully, the only person you can change is you.  You have no control over the other person.  But you certainly have control over your thoughts and actions.  You certainly have control over how you respond to any given situation.

Being in a relationship whether it is platonic or romantic does not make you happy.  You make yourself happy.  No one else has control over your emotional state at the moment.  So don’t give up control.

Think of it this way.  Relationships can be wonderful and they certainly add to our lives but they don’t complete them.  The people in our lives don’t make us whole.  We are the only ones who can make ourselves and our lives complete.

As Hamlet says, “To be, or not to be: that is the question.”  One that only you can answer.

WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”
Wayne Dyer

We’ve all heard the popular wise sayings, you reap what you sow and what goes around, comes around. Growing up my mother was a bit more frank with me. She’d say things like, “You better be careful what you say and do because it might come back to bite you in the ass.” This was just her way of saying you get back whatever you put out thands-1150073__340here in the universe.

But how true is this? Today, I went to my local Shoprite to do my weekly food shopping.  Rain fell in the damp air outside as I shopped.  As many of you know, I had surgery on my right Achilles tendon in April 2016.  I’m still recovering and the pain seems to worsen whenever the weather is rainy.  Today was no different and, honestly, I could not wait to go home, take some Advil, and put my feet up.

As I was in the checkout line, the cashier was chatting with the boy who was bagging my groceries. She explained that after 13 years of marriage she was getting divorced.  I could clearly see how upset she was but didn’t say anything at first.  But then she went on to say that she had been both verbally and physically abused by her husband.  “Everyone told me I deserved better,” she said.  “My friends would tell me that I was a beautiful woman and shouldn’t take that from anyone.”

Sensing how upset she was, I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to her.   “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear what you were just saying,” I said.  “Yes, you are a beautiful woman and, no, you don’t deserve that.  No one deserves to be abused.”

I’m sure the other customers who were waiting in line were not happy with me at this point but I continued. I told this woman about a friend of mine who was in an unhappy marriage for a long time.  I went on to repeat to her what I had also told my friend, “It’s not over until you say it’s over.”

She nodded in agreement as a smile warmed her face. “You will find the happiness you so desperately want but you have to first let go of toxic relationships,” I added.  “When you let go of all the bad, you will make room for all the good.”

I’m proud of you, I told her. She looked at me seemingly stunned by my words and reached forward to take my hand.  “Thank you,” she told me.  “I really needed to hear that.  People don’t usually listen to me like that.  Thank you so much.”

I said goodbye and made my way out of the store. When I reached my car, the rain continued to fall and so did the pain in my leg.  I’m guessing I was limping a little more than usual.  Suddenly, a woman came up behind me.

“Here,” she told me, “let me help you.” I looked at her a bit dazed as she helped me put the rest of my bags in my trunk.  Then she quickly took my cart and walked it over to the holding station for me. “Thank you,” I said.  “That was very nice of you.”

I got in my car thinking of the kindness this woman just showed me. It made my day a little brighter despite the dreary weather and ache in my leg.

The Law of Attraction is one of 12 Universal Laws. The law basically states that like attracts like.  Our thoughts, words and actions give off energy which, in turn, attracts like energy. So, in other words, you will harvest whatever you plant in this world. If you want good, you have to do good.

Today, I witnessed the truth of this law. I helped a stranger and, in turn, a stranger helped me.  I begin and end this blog with one of my favorite quotes by Wayne Dyer, “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world.  Same world.”

True, same world. One world. The choice is ours.  Why wouldn’t anyone choose love?

BE WHO YOU ARE

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something. Neil Gaiman

The Disney cable network decided to offer a free month of movies. Yesterday, my family and I opted to watch the Disney classic Aladdin.  In the 1992 film, a street urchin named Aladdin happens to meet a beautiful girl (Jasmine) who has run away from home.  The two become fast friends and fall in love.  But when Aladdin realizes that Jasmine is actually a princess in disguise he understands that he is not worthy of her.

3_wishes_by_kevomacWhen Aladdin later comes in contact with a magic lamp, he is told by a Genie that he has three wishes. Thinking it over, Aladdin’s first wish is to be made a prince so he can then marry Princess Jasmine. But in the end, Aladdin’s true identity is exposed.

The Genie then tells Aladdin that he has one final wish left and can be made a prince once again in order to marry the princess. But Aladdin decides to keep his promise and free the Genie with his third wish instead feeling that he cannot continue to pretend to be someone he’s not, not even for the love of his life.

This movie may be a Disney animated classic. But it’s not only legendary for the story.  More importantly, it’s legendary for its simple, yet timeless message.  Always be who you are. In the end, as in the movie, true love will prevail.

But if the message is simple why is it so hard for us to be true to ourselves? There are several reasons.  For starters, maybe you are in denial and really don’t know who you are and what you want. Maybe you are still trying to find yourself.

As in the case of Aladdin, most times we deny who we are in favor of acceptance. Think about it. How many times have you denied who you are, how many times have you buried your true feelings deep within in order to satisfy or please someone else?  How many times have you kept quiet for fear of being ridiculed?

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, said it perfectly when he noted, “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are.”

We all crave acceptance. We all want to fit in.  But we shouldn’t have to lose ourselves in order to get there.  In a society that is constantly trying to make us something we’re not, it has become increasingly difficult to be true to ourselves.  For many, it’s a constant struggle.

Being who we are means having the courage to turn a deaf ear to what others expect of us and tuning into what we expect of ourselves. It means reaching within and being totally honest with ourselves.  It means not only being aware of but also listening to our deepest desires and being true to our own personal values.

By the end of the movie, Aladdin’s three wishes are granted by the Genie. They are:

  1. Make me a prince.
  2. Save my life and
  3. I wish for your freedom.

Likewise, I wish for your freedom. The freedom to just be you.