Dealing with Grief and Loss This Holiday Season

During this holiday season, there are many reminders of love and the air is filled with the anticipation of new memories. Everywhere you look there are commercials and shows reminding people to cherish family during this holiday season. The joyful songs are played in every store and the sparkly holiday lights are gently wrapped around every tree and every standing structure making the “joy” of the holiday somewhat inescapable.

In the midst of all the love in the air, I often think about those whom have lost loved ones, and those that see this time as an internal conflict between choosing tears of sadness and/or joyous-filled memories. While everyone is smiling, somewhere deep inside someone has the wish that they might see that loved one once again. There are questions lurking in the back of their mind: where are they, are they well, and will I really see them again? Somewhere inside, their only wish is to open up a Christmas gift and have that loved one pop out like a Jack-in-the-Box.

For those for which this holiday is difficult, rest in the fact that you can keep your loved one’s memory alive through the laughter in all the happy stories. Your loved one is all around you. Feel their love. Do something with the family that would put a smile on their face if they were watching down on you from heaven. Collect all the stories from your family members and record them for your future children, grandchildren, and great-children. The memories only die if you let them. As long as you have memories, you have them. So, try to smile, feel their love, embrace your family, and find some comfort in the fact that they are still alive through you. And if you need to, cry… it is medicine for the soul. And, hopefully, every holiday will get a little easier for you and your family.

It may never make sense, but someday when we arrive at destiny, we will understand it all. Until then, don’t let go of your faith or the wonderful memories.

These are my prayers for you.

3 Things You Must Believe To Conquer Fear

Fear. The ugly beast that everyone wishes would stop talking in their ear. The intangible feeling that people have either conquered or have allowed to conquered them. As if the defeat releases a somewhat magical power that can move mountains, we have been told that if we conquer fear, we can achieve whatever we envision in our minds. However, I have come to realize that success is not the result of the single task of conquering fear, but also the gargantuan task of activating and sustaining belief.

We are admonished that we should not let fear conquer our lives, but seldom do people teach us how to believe in our ability to even conquer fear itself. Sometimes the greatest reason we do not succeed is because we are afraid that we cannot, or will not be able to sustain success. We are scared that if we succeed there might be a chance of being criticized, ostracized, or marginalized to nothing more than a failure. Embedded within those thoughts is the struggle to believe our self capable of great success.

Imagine a person driven to a fork in the road and told to choose one of two paths, neither of which have been traveled before. Unafraid, the person chooses Path A and begins walking forward. Attempting to anticipate what lies ahead, this person is faced with the task of acknowledging the potential obstacles, and unerringly believing they are capable of not only travelling this unknown road, but are also strong, creative, and bold enough to handle anything that happens on the path. People instruct us to not be afraid to walk along this path, but they do not do enough to highlight the importance of nurturing and strengthening our innate belief(s) about our inner potential.

We are all born with greatness inside of us, and I happen to believe that we have all been born on this earth for purposeful reasons. As a believer in the existence and power of God, I also think I might have great strength within me and am capable of great accomplishments if only I believe and put consistent action into my goals. Throughout my life, I prayed to God for strength and the faith to accomplish meaningful things here on earth. However, recently I have started to think that success is less about what God empowers me to do and more about if I believe that I have this great power and strength inside me.

In all your efforts to be fearless, do not forsake the often pain-staking, but critical need to believe the greatness about you.

Three things you have to believe:

1. Believe that you can be fearless.

2. Believe that you are capable of conquering the unknown along Path A.

3. And finally, believe everything that God and the universe believes about you. Don’t believe yourself weak, when God sees you as great.

Other The Life Me Blog posts on fear: A Thought On Fear and On the Other Side of Fear

I Think I will Just Go Ahead and Live

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs

I can be so backwards at times. Thinking about death is not my most exciting pass time. Honestly, it scares me, although I know that it is the one equalizing factor of humanity. So with the thought of death, I am also inspired to live; simply let go and be free. I wonder what I am afraid of and consider what I have to lose, because then again I only have one life to live (or at least that is what they say). Sometimes I wonder why I can’t just activate my super wings, run to the edge of my dreams, and just fly… without fear.

What I have come to realize is that the question “what do you have to lose” cannot really be answered. Well at least, personally, I cannot. I have no idea what I might lose if I lived each day fearlessly. I might fail, lose friends along the way, be criticized without cause, never be a great parent, forget to enjoy the journey, choose the wrong goals, or any number of other things. Either way it is a gamble. Whether I live freely or live a limited life, it will all still come to an end.

People often laugh when I say that no one has died and come back to tell us how that experience went for them. I once heard that death is an aspect of life that requires the most faith; faith that there most be more than this life. If someone could just tell me what it is like, I would probably feel more free to live this one. I have heard the story in church about the “heavens” but no one has lived there and written a national bestseller on that other world. If I find out what I did on earth matters after this life, living fearfully might leave me with buckets full of regret. However, if I live a fearless dream-filled life and find that it never mattered, I would have only lost living a great-life filled with happiness, dreams fulfilled, satisfaction, purpose, and passion (which is not that bad of a life). I guess, I am starting to realize that I rather find out I did not need to live such a big life, than have regrets of the greatness I could have lived. Maybe true faith is trusting that the life God put us here to live is meant to be lived in light despite the unknown risks. Then again, isn’t faith believing in the hope of what we are not able to “see” or envision? Since we do not tend to hope for what we already have or can easily obtain, within the concept of “faith” it sounds to me like dreaming big is encouraged, if not required.

I am finding my balance of fearlessness, meaningful living, and child-like fun. This is life; uniquely painted and perfectly experienced by us, in ways particularly directed for us. But, we can only paint it, experience it, or create it if we are willing to take it with the risk attached. So, let go, find a lane, buckle your seat belt, put the peddle to the metal, lift off, and soar.

Cheers to living a bolder, “bigger” life.

When You Moved On, But It Still Bothers You

As I was talking to a young person currently dealing with a difficult disappointment, I realized that there are just some things in life that will always bother us. People often say, “You will get over it,” and literally, we do; we find a way to move on. But, when we think about or are reminded of the experience it may bring back significant emotions, even if for a moment. I mean, how can you tell someone that the death of a loved one, the collapse of a major dream, or an unanticipated disappointment may not always bring back not-so-happy feelings? The feelings will likely not be as strong as when the experience first happened, but you will likely never recollect with elation.

So, I gave that person many different examples of some of my worse disappointments in life in an attempt to encourage them, only to find myself ending each story with “there may always be a part of it that still bothers you.” As they confidently asserted that they will never get over their disappointment, I could only respond with “for the rest of your life it may bother you, but you will find a way to get over it.”

Some people will tell you that you must arrive at a perfect place of contentment in order to truly get over something. They may argue that you need “closure,” to which I completely agree. However, closure does not always need to contain “happy” feelings about the situation; it only means that you come to a place of acceptance… “It happened and there is nothing you can do about it except move on and worry about the next steps of life.”

After the conversation, it made me think about the hurdle race in track and field. As a former runner, I understand that the ideal way to complete the race is to successfully move over every hurdle without touching or knocking any over. Each contacted barrier has the potential to slow race time because it interrupts the optimal stride. If the hurdle is completely knocked over, the runner stays focused, quickly regains running form, and readjust so as not to knock over the next hurdle. I do not think that for every hurdle we hit in life we are meant to look back on it and be “happy” that we knocked it over. We knock down barriers and move over hurdles, so in this analogy the often used expression “knock down those hurdles” does not apply. Yes, at the end of the race, win or lose, the runner evaluates the race to determine how each hurdle affected the overall race time, but you will never find a hurdler that is ever “happy” they knocked over a hurdle. The only thing they focus on is learning from it, training harder, and racing more efficiently so the next time they move over the hurdles as opposed to knocking them down.

Such is life. Many times disappointments are like the hurdles we touch or knock over. Ideally, we may not want to experience disappointment, but typically, we do. It is a part of life. When we hit a hurdle, the feelings will likely never be ones of pride or ecstasy, so all we can do is focus on moving over the hurdles to come.

What they should say about life is that most times we will get over it, but we may never feel “happy” about it. Thankfully, there are many other things in life to be happy about, so in the end, the good will often outweigh the bad.

Forgive Yourself.

“Forgive yourself,” he said. I thought I did, but I had just barely scratched the surface.

Forgiveness. According to most self-help books, it is one of the words that can make or break the strength of our emotional development, and in some situations our emotional recovery. There are times in life when people, whether intentional or unintentional, disappoint, hurt, scar, or maim us leaving us oddly re-inspired, refocused, scarred, or even emotionally handicapped. Most times we are told to forgive those people. We are told that forgiveness is “more for you than it is for them,” It is supposed to grant you peace within and the liberty to move forward weightless and healed. Unfortunately, in reality the one dimensional word “forgiveness” is both multidimensional and intangible. In essence forgiveness is an intangible word meant to cure real, tangible problems.

Most times, in others, we look for the signs of forgiveness in apologetic words and changes in behavior and we hope that an intangible word can produce healing that we can truly feel. An apology from a remorseful person is the easiest wrong to overcome. However, more difficult times to forgive are those in which (1) the other person(s) apologizes but we perceive no change in their behavior towards us, and (2) the times in which the other person is not remorseful and there is no apology anywhere in sight. The even more difficult times are those in which we have no answers for the other person(s) behavior toward us and no possible way of getting those answers (i.e. death, estranged, etc.) The truth is, sometimes you can say you forgive someone but the hurt doesn’t quite disappear as easily, especially when something reminds you of what that person did.

I remember experiencing disappointments by a person that I considered a role model and in many ways a mentor. In this case it was nothing like being physically violated, though there are more people than care to admit that are struggling to find peace after a person has left them emotionally scarred in that manner. This was more a case of being a young person looking up to someone for approval, wisdom, and guidance in life and instead receiving confusion, contradiction, and disregard. Over the next ten years, I ultimately lost a mentor and slowly became an enemy in that person’s mind. Long story shorter than short, those initial small disappointments turned into more hurts and confusion, and eventually turned into emotional scars.

Notably, my emotional response was likely more intense than their actions. Sometimes, our “hurt” is more intensified by experience and personal expectations and can often be interpreted by others as an exaggerated response. Everyone’s feelings are valid whether we agree with them or not, so at the time, my feelings felt extremely valid. But eventually, I forgave, or so I thought I did. Surely, at many moments over the last couples of years my forgiveness was very genuine. I felt free, happy, silently praying and wishing the best for them. However, every now and then (mostly when I was frustrated in those areas of my life that I believed suffered the most as a result of the hurt from the broken relationship) I would find myself bitter, yet in denial of the fact that maybe I was still angry with the other person, wanting something more like an apology, remorse, or to see a change in their behavior. Maybe I did not even know what I really wanted. Sometimes the only thing that will really quiet your emotional pain is to rewind time and rewrite history, which is impossible.

One day during one of my “animated” discussions about this person, a close friend said “You really hate ____.” Flabbergasted and appalled at the idea that he thought I could have hatred toward someone, but personally more scared that I might feel that way, I denied it quickly responding with “maybe a long time ago but I have forgive them. We are good now, really.” Hate was too strong a word, but it did make me question if I truly had forgiven them. Then he said, “You need to forgive yourself…”

There was much more that followed his statement, but this part matter the most to me. I realized that I was still affected. Since I never received what I thought was a sufficient apology, I still had some need for closure. My second realization was that I was upset with myself for even allowing this hurt to still affect me after so many years. Supposedly, I had moved on. I was stronger and more confident than anything that someone could do to me. I was unaffected. Or at least that’s what I wanted to believe.

Whether you have forgiven, are still waiting for your emotions to allow you to get to that point, or are somewhere in between, don’t forget to forgive yourself for any of the following:

…for being in the situation in the first place

…for maybe expecting more from a human than their personal experiences even allow them to give

…for forgiving, but still being affected by the memory

…for replaying the wish that it never happened

…for using a grudge as an excuse to not move on

…for putting maximum effort into your healing but finding that it still hurts

If I left anything off the list, forgive yourself for that too. It is easier to hang on to pain than it is to forgive, but hanging on to pain only brings more or the same. Set yourself free, and move on.

Time: Quality over Quantity

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.)

This quote has cost me hours of silent questioning, and sometimes doubt, over the course of my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of time as an equalizing factor among people. Hypocritically, I have also preached the essence of this quote to others during many of my inspirational convulsions. Most times, I was simply restating what I had been told and aspired to do while subconsciously wishing that practice makes perfect, or in this case “words have power,” might transform my words into ways. At the end of some days I am left asking myself…

  1. Why didn’t I accomplish more?
  2. What is wrong with me?
  3. I did many things, but did I accomplish enough?

From the Nelson Mandela’s and Einstein’s to the Steve Jobs’ and Jefferson’s, most of the people to which we compare our 24 hours of time are those that have in some ways had great impact on the world or those that we deem to be more productive, successful, or more well-known than ourselves.  Some days the greatest impact that I feel like I have is changing my clothes, exercising, laughing, having a solid work performance, and on a great day, maybe inspiring a person or leaving a footprint in someone’s life. And after a day, I then, in the back of my mind, compare my daily feat to that of others both dead and alive and question whether my time was really spent doing anything that really matters, because then again, I didn’t change the world like everyone in the quote. Why are passing days not more like the Michaelangelo’s of the world? Better yet, am I even supposed to be like the Michaelangelo’s and Mandela’s? In reality, the only question I probably should be asking myself is if I am using time to the best of my ability to produce the greatest version of myself. Maybe my hard work is changing the world in different yet just as meaningful and memorable ways as that of the “great ones.” But, of course I am human so the societal pressure to be a superhero or die forgotten overtakes my over-analytic mind.

On the pendulum of emotions, feeling like Mother Theresa one day and an ant the next, I think I’ve discovered something about this quote on time that might grant me some mental peace and freedom from comparison to the “heroes” of the world. It is impossible to do all things in one day, even if you never sleep. It is true that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, however, everyone does not have the same life, purpose, skills, resources, attitudes, health or goals. Since these factors prevail, it is therefore impossible and foolish to continue to toss this concept of time around as a reason that everyone in the world should and can achieve what looks like the same greatness.

But seriously, how are “they” able in one day to exercise, cook, clean, study, read, respond to all emails, stay informed, plan, work, pray, take care of family, talk to friends, start and finish a new project, maintain and build intimate relationships, change the world, and make a list for how to do it all over again before I have even finished half of that! The truth is that most of them do not complete all of that in one day. They prioritize, organize, take small steps, take huge steps, fail some days, and succeed in others more than we care to notice. We tend to look at the picture without acknowledging the pieces of that picture. It is most likely because we are human and do not enjoy the process of success, but I digress.

I think will try to stop condemning myself for not producing a masterpiece at the end of a every day and start spending more time examining if my time was spent purposefully and productively for my given goals, dreams, and life’s work. Instead of expecting to do the same amount as others, I think it better to analyze if I spent my time as meaningfully. In this case, meaning is sometimes found in quality over quantity. After weighing your personal differences and goals, make sure each day is filled with things that will productively allow you to die having few regrets. And when looking at the moguls, heroes, and highly successful, examine how they find ways to complete tasks more efficiently and steal (or borrow) that idea/practice and then consistently give the same dedication and discipline as they did/do. That my friend is a good use of time.

How to LOL (Laugh out Loud)

They told me that laughter was good for the soul. Well, that’s awesome because I LOVE to laugh. However, does anyone else find that you don’t laugh OUT loud or AS loud when you are alone at home?

Lately, however, I’ve found myself literally laughing so hard ALONE in my apartment to various television shows, movies, YouTube videos, commercials, or things on the internet/social media that my neighbors probably think I’m crazy. An unknown author said that “if you smile [or LAUGH] while no one is around, you really mean it.” I am now starting to really believe that to be true.

So, here are a few light-hearted steps to help you release your inner laugh when you are alone:

STEP 1: Find the comedy in the situation or just find something funny to watch.

STEP 2: Don’t take your too seriously.

STEP 3: Don’t be overly concerned about who hears you and in turn wonders what you’re doing.

STEP 4: Yes, they might think you are crazy, but it’s only because they wish they were laughing too 😉

STEP 5: Finally, let yourself be FREE and just LET IT OUT.

There you have it, How to Laugh OUT Loud. Better laugh than cry, right?

Traffic Signals for LIFE: 15 Rules

Pay attention to the traffic lights of LIFE. They will give you direction and guidance along this life journey.

RED

STOP letting fear cripple you.

STOP allowing people to plant seeds of doubt and negativity in your mind.

STOP refusing to forgive people that have hurt or disappointed you.

STOP looking for love in all the wrong places.

STOP getting hung up on what people think about you (positive or negative).

 YELLOW

SLOW DOWN when you start feeling your emotions spiraling out of control.

SLOW DOWN when you feel yourself beginning to act out of character.

SLOW DOWN when your body starts telling you it is overworked or stressed.

SLOW DOWN and take time to reflective on lessons life has already taught you.

SLOW DOWN and enjoy the moments of the PRESENT.

GREEN

GO exercise and try to take better care of your body.

GO spend every day more happier and productive than wasteful and angry/sad.

GO dream in the face of opposition.

GO explore new places and ideas.

GO forward when others are too scared or unwilling to join you.