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.

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

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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

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.

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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.

 

 

Three Things I Wish I Knew a Year Ago

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

― T.S. Eliot

new-years-day-4157632_1280 (2)Nothing will teach you more than the book of life.  As I reflect over the past year and look forward to 2020, I am reminded of some hard lessons I wish I had taken more seriously a year ago.

  1. Nothing will change you like pain will.

In April I was walking to my car and ended up tripping over a crack in the broken sidewalk. Putting out my right arm to brace my fall, I had gotten away with a cut on my knee and a scrap on my right hand.  As I drove home, my arm and shoulder grew increasingly painful.  I didn’t think much of it, though, and simply iced it.  After about two weeks, the pain seemingly went away.

The following month I was making a U-turn in a tight driveway and felt a snap in my right shoulder followed by piercing pain.  After about an hour, the pain subsided so I assumed I had just pulled a muscle.  Since that day, my shoulder would continue to hurt every time I moved in a certain way. Then in August, I woke up in such excruciating pain that I was rushed to urgent care.

To make a very long story short, I was misdiagnosed by two doctors and spent two months in physical therapy before going to another shoulder specialist who found a huge calcium growth in my rotator cuff tendon.  I had surgery on November 21, I’m still recovering and now have what is known as frozen shoulder. I have not felt so much pain in a long time and the experience has certainly put me behind on my work.

2019 definitely dealt me some rough cards but I was also reminded time and time again not to ever take things for granted.  To put things in perspective, I could not even brush my hair for several weeks and I needed help just pouring myself a cup of coffee.  Nothing will teach you to appreciate the simple things in life then not being able to do the simple things anymore.

Lesson learned:  Appreciate. Appreciate. Appreciate!

  1. Make moments; cherish the memories.

Let’s face it.  Life can be hard.  Sometimes we spend so much time working and getting through the daily grind that we forget to make time for the things that matter most.  In July, I lost a beautiful friend to cancer.  Rosemary was a renowned author and afterlife researcher and we became fast friends.  We talked about all the things we wanted to do together that never happened.

Looking back, I wish I didn’t put things on hold.  We all think that we’ll have tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Part of the problem is that we often associate who we are with what we do.  Our work becomes our identity and it becomes increasingly difficult to separate a rewarding career from a fulfilling life.

You are not your work.  Yes, what we do for a living is part of our identity but it is not our identity entirely.

Lesson learned: Make more time. Make more moments.

  1. Put yourself first. Be honest.

This one is a difficult one for me to admit but nonetheless very true.  I spend so much time trying to be there for everyone else that I often neglect myself.  Time and again I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will.  Recently, I read a quote by Penny Reid which said, “Don’t set yourself on fire trying to keep others warm.”  Well said, Penny.

Putting yourself first and foremost also means being honest with yourself.  It’s not easy to admit that you actually are setting yourself on fire at the expense of others.  Take a good look at your life and the people in it.  What do you see?  Part of being honest and putting yourself first also means taking responsibility. Don’t play the blame game. You are where you are now because of every decision—right or wrong—you made in the past.  Own up to your mistakes and move on.

Lesson learned:  Make yourself a priority.

Last year’s mistakes are this year’s lessons.  May we learn, discover and treasure the moments.

Advice about Life: A Final Facebook Post

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

Why is it that we don’t appreciate what we have until we don’t have it anymore?  Why can’t we see the value in what we already have?  We are always thinking of the next best thing and wanting more.  In fact, what we had in the past and what we want in the future get so blurred and distorted that we can’t focus on what’s right there in front of us until it’s gone. 

On January 4, 2018, Holly Butcher, a 27-year old from Grafton, Australia, passed away from a rare bone cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma.  Just before her death, she wrote a sad but inspiring message to her friends and family.  Below are her wise words taken from her final Facebook post.

So why is it so hard to appreciate what we already have?  I think Holly said it best:

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Holly Butcher (Facebook photo)

It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey—most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; it is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared—I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to its inevitability. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!

Those times you are whining about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively affect other people’s days.

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; it is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that—breathe.

You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.

Let all that shit go. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.

I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise. Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.

I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.

Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body. Work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness, too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not. Be ruthless for your own well-being.

Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is shit but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away.

Whine less, people!  And help each other more.

Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; more than I could ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.

It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.

Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewelry for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.

Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are shit at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate. You will gain respect too! Amen sister.

This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves . . . strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. Mind you, it was also easier to do in our house because we had no little kiddies there. Anyway, moral of the story—presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas. Moving on.

Use your money on experiences. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.

Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.

Get amongst nature.

Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo . . . enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.

Random rhetorical question. Are those several hours you spend doing your hair and makeup each day or to go out for one night really worth it? I’ve never understood this about females.

Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises.

Listen to music… really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.

Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.

Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay?

Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.

Work to live, don’t live to work.

Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.

Eat the cake. Zero guilt.

Say no to things you really don’t want to do.

Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life… you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay.

Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.

Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.

Anyway, that’s just this one young gal’s life advice. Take it or leave it, I don’t mind!

Oh and one last thing, if you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple.

Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year—a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.

..’Til we meet again.

Hol

Xoxo

 I share Holly’s inspiring, beautiful words and dedicate this blog in her memory.  As Holly said life is unpredictable and “each day is a gift, not a given right.”  Appreciate what you already have before you don’t have it anymore. Go out and enjoy the breathtaking sunset and if you can, watch the sun rise again and again.

God Works in Mysterious Ways

“You have no idea the numbers of people that God may want to influence through you.” Andy Stanley

One of my favorite Bible verses is, “Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”  (Matthew 7:7 NRSV)   But what does it mean exactly?  Does it mean God will give us whatever we ask for no matter what?  No, of course not.

In Matthew, Jesus goes on to explain that God will only answer to what is good.  Our requests and prayers must also not interfere with the lessons we came here to learn. I once had a deep conversation with a Catholic priest about this verse.  Why is it that some prayers are answered and others aren’t?  Why are some cured while others aren’t?  Why do bad things happen?  His response was, “God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, He only allows them to happen.”

Growing up, I was raised Roman Catholic and always believed in the power of prayer.  My Godmother Lucy was extremely religious and I loved going to Sunday mass with her.  Despite so many hardships in her own life, her faith never wavered.  Lucy was one of the first to teach me how to pray but as I grew older my prayers have become more conversational than formal.

birdEach night before I go to sleep, I always ask God to help me do what I am meant to be doing.  I ask that He guide me in everything that I do.  As an author and motivational speaker, things are sometimes so overwhelming.  I feel a tremendous obligation to my readers and to the members of my Facebook groups, etc. but I also need to put my family first.

Last month, I was having a tough week and asked God if my work was really making a difference.  I felt like I wasn’t giving my work the attention it deserved and asked for a sign that I needed continue writing my books.

That same day I had to make an appointment with my daughter’s pediatrician in order for her to get her required immunizations for college admission.  When I called I was told that my doctor could not see me but since my daughter was only getting two vaccinations they would give me the nurse practitioner.   I did not recognize the name of the nurse practitioner and had never taken either of my daughters to her before.

When we arrived for my daughter’s appointment we waited in the office for the nurse practitioner to join us.  After about 10 minutes, she walked into the room and introduced herself and I told her why we were there.  I noticed her looking at me but didn’t think much of it until she said, “Varga?  Are you the author, the one who writes about near-death experiences?”

You have to understand that this doesn’t happen often and when it does I am always thrown off.  Yes, I am an author but it is always odd when people recognize me.  I looked over at her and said, “Yes.  How did you know that?”

“Because I read your book,” she responded.  Remembering my request for a sign, I looked at her dumbfounded.  She told me how much she believed in the afterlife and how much she admired my work.  I thanked her for her kind words.  But she gave me much more than kind words, she gave me the encouragement I so desperately needed.

Recently, I asked for another sign.  In September, I will have two daughters in college and have been worried about how we are going to make ends meet. One night I was again feeling very conflicted.  I know if I take another full-time job it will take away from my afterlife research.  It will certainly impact my work as an author and motivational speaker.  So on this night I asked for another sign.  “Tell me Lord if I am meant to stay on this path.”

The next morning I sat at the kitchen table drinking my coffee when a bird suddenly appeared.  I watched it as it sat on my patio chair for several minutes.  (Actual photo is above.) I was amazed by how long it remained in front of my window seemingly staring straight at me.  I wondered if this could possibly be a sign and grabbed my phone to capture a picture just as it took off.

Our loved ones in heaven are in spirit form and are pure energy.  This means that they can direct their energy into animals when they want to bring us a sign.  When this happens the bird or animal will act in a way it typically would not act.

Later that day I went on to my computer and found a private Facebook message from a woman named Anabel.  Her message read, “I recently bought your book and I was listening to your podcast and I just wanted to thank you.  You opened a part of my heart and I am so grateful.  I recently lost both of my parents and I have felt so lost without them but your books have helped me.  You gave me the biggest gift.”

Unbeknownst to Anabel, she had given me the biggest gift.  She went on to tell me how she had followed my advice in one of my podcasts and started talking to her mother asking for a sign.  That night she had a dream visit from her mother.  Her dream proved to her that her mother did, in fact, hear her.

At one point in the dream she asked her mother if it was really her.  In response, her mother replied, “Of course, it is.  Who else would it be?”  Anabel’s letter truly warmed my heart and literally brought happy tears to my eyes.

Anabel, thank you for allowing me to share part of your story.  You wrote, “You have opened a part of my heart that was so lost.”  Thank you sincerely for your immensely kind words.  But I hope you can now see that you opened my heart as well.  God works in mysterious ways.  It is up to us to listen.