Be Grateful In Any Circumstance

Pap-Pap

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” Henry James

When I was little, I used to love visiting my grandfather in Pennsylvania. I would play with the two teddy bears that lived on his bedroom chair that kept my place when I was not there. He would take me down to the shuffle board court for a game and then rough house with me in the pool, without a care about the other “retirees” who looks indicated we were too loud and rowdy. There were always the smooth little mints, pink, green and yellow, topped with tiny white dots, piled into the crystal candy dish and I always assumed they were put there for me.

Perhaps this is the view from the eyes of an only grandchild. But I believe that partly, this is the view from the eyes of a child. The world belonged to me and I belonged to my grandfather.

Eventually, when I was grown, I look back on those times and realize that life was much more intricate for the adults in my life than I noticed at the time. And although I know those things now, I still choose to relive the memories the way the five-year-old me lived them.

Last night, my grandfather passed away. And even though his life was long and full of wonderful things, death has a way of reminding you of the things you no longer have or of the way things once were. But what I know is that no matter what I feel at the moment, I can choose to see every moment in front of me as a blessing and work even harder to bring joy and kindness to the lives of others, knowing that those things might someday become someone else’s memories.

There’s a reason that people actively practice gratitude–it heals. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own world, that we fail to see the little gems of good that exist despite our own discomfort or difficulties. Remember, when you can find the strength, be grateful in any circumstance. Maybe one day, when you really need it, someone also works to find grace in every situation, will bring peace to you too.

When You’re Feeling Vulnerable, Choose Courage

https://www.flickr.com/photos/miikas/109320999/ I’m going to tell a story that’s not my own. It’s one that has affected me deeply and has been a powerful reminder many times, when I’ve been faced with the fear of feeling vulnerable in my life. It’s also a story that embodies what this blog, The New Remarkable, is really about–authenticity, courage, fear, failure, imperfection, challenge, change and as Brené Brown puts it, Daring Greatly. This story  (in my own words) belongs to Brené Brown, who encourages us all to live as our authentic selves.  Brené was getting ready for a work trip. She was with her elementary-school-aged daughter, Ellen and they were running in to Nordstrom so Brené could grab something for the trip. Ellen asks her if they can go to the children’s department to exchange a pair of shoes her grammy had gotten her. Feeling messy and rushed, Brené wanted to say no, but told her daughter, “yes, we’ll do it quickly.” In the children’s department, there were three beautiful women. They were all tall, thin, impeccably dressed with high-heeled boots and not a hair out-of-place. With the three women were their three girls, equally as beautiful. Brené and Ellen walked past them to the children’s shoe department, close by.  There was music playing and while she was picking out shoes for Ellen, Brené noticed a flurry of movement out of the corner of her eye. She looks up and sees Ellen dancing to the music. She was performing her latest dance obsession, the robot, without an ounce of self-consciousness or worry. While Ellen was busy breaking it down in her own world, Brené looks over and sees that the three beautiful mothers had completely stopped what they were doing and we’re just standing there, wide-eyed, with their heads turned towards Ellen. The three beautiful daughters, also focused on Ellen, seemed right on the verge of laughing out loud. In that moment, Brené wanted to say to Ellen, “come on, pull it together–be cool.” But in the back of her mind, she heard a voice that said, “Don’t betray her.” Instead of telling Ellen to stop dancing and move on, Brené looked back at her daughter and, while she admittedly, did not turn and do the moonwalk, she did  bend over and did her own version of the robot and said to her daughter, “awesome moves, have you seen the scarecrow?” I know this story is not my own, but I’ve got hundreds, thousands of instances in my life where I’ve been faced with the decision to “do the robot” or to choose to be someone else; someone not authentically me. Moments like these are not unique to me. On some level, we all experience this pressure nearly every day. But when it’s real to us, that potential vulnerability can feel like weakness. We want our children to feel beautiful as they are, squash that inner critic that we adults listen to too often and for them to make decisions that embody who they are–not who they think they should be. But it’s not about what we want for them–it’s about how we treat ourselves. On a day like today, Halloween, I think about Brown’s reminder to live authentically. Instead of seeing this dress-up day as one where we hide behind the outward masks we chose to wear, we could choose to see ourselves each as that child with the ability to dance like no one is watching. There’s a lot of joy in authenticity but it doesn’t come easily. What we see as courage in others, we see as vulnerability in ourselves. As Brown says, “courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled. Credit belongs to the man who really was in the arena, his face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs to come short and short again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming. It is the man who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows the great enthusiasm and knows the great devotion, who spends himself on a worthy cause, who at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement. And, who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly” Theodore Roosevelt

Photo Cred: Miika Silfverberg

Don’t Live In Fear-Take More Chances

Chance

I was taught, from the time I was born, that everyone was out for themselves–in fact, I was the only person who could look out for me (besides my mother, of course) and that I should always be prepared for this. I learned that the best way to stay alive was to live in perpetual fear of everything.

Stray dogs and cats surely have rabies. Restaurants will always over-salt the food which will lead to heart disease. A person loitering the streets will most certainly attack me. Flying would eventually lead to an airplane crash. And of course, by leaving the blinds open at night, I was inviting criminals in to my house.

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life trying to undo some of these irrational fears of the world I’ve developed to shelter myself from disappointment and let down. Sure, the more I have let my guard down, the more I have opened myself up to the opportunities for exposure and risk but I’ve also gotten to experience life at its unadulterated and imperfect best.

Who decided that those risks weren’t worth the experiences? We may not be able to control life, but we sure can control how we chose to live it.

Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold. Helen Keller

Tell Yourself Yes & Tough It Out; Setbacks Are A Part Of Success

Grit And Play-Doh

“Perseverance and audacity generally win.” Dorothée Luzy

When I was in pre-school, I really wanted Play-Doh. No, I take that back, I really, really, really wanted Play-Doh. And of course, Play-Doh meant berry-colored stained clothing and sticky spots in the shag carpet, so my mom emphatically said “no.”

But no did not mean no to me at that point in life. No meant I was not asking the right question or maybe just not in the right way.

Picture me at the dinner table in my little brown and red booster seat.

“Mom, can I have some Play-Doh?”

“No.”

And then again the next morning on the way to school with my best friend in the back-seat next to me.

“Mom, Celeste has Play-Doh. Do you think I could get some?”

“No.”

In front of my Nana, in the cart while we were grocery shopping, as my mom tucked me in at night, on our neighbor’s swing set.

“Play-Doh?”

“No.”

It was probably time to lay off the Play-Doh request, but I could smell the sweet-scented putty and feel it molding into a cat-dog right in my very own hands. It was my dream to have Play-Doh and four-year-olds do not let dreams die easily.

In preparation for our Pre-School Graduation, my teacher had someone interview each of us for our own special “Looking Back” tape as a present to the parents. I was asked what my favorite thing about school was. I sang “Where is Rainbow Brite” to the tune of “Where is Thumbkin” and I even divulged the difference between a girl Easter bunny and a boy Easter bunny. Show stopper, I know.

And as the interview came to a close, I was asked if there was anything else I would like to say. I knew this was a special video for my mom and that meant mom would love anything I said, sang or did for her on this tape. I stopped fidgeting in my chair just long enough to look at the camera, all smiles and I said “My momma’s gonna get me some Play-Doh!”

As an adult, I often envy the pre-school Erin who didn’t take no for an answer and the audacity it took to make a public plea during my recorded graduation interview for the Play-Doh I was already sure would one day be mine. It wasn’t a matter of if  I would achieve my goal, it was a matter of how.

In the grown-up world with goals and dreams on the line much bigger than Play-Doh, why is it so much easier to accept a no? I think we often convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy, credible or smart-enough or that we don’t have the strength to endure what it takes to get us to the goals we dream about before we even start the journey.

Howard Gardner studied some of the most genius minds of all time and in his book, Creating Minds, An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through The Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Elliot, Graham, and Ghandi, one common trait that they all had in common was that they had grit.

“…when they fail, they do not waste much time lamenting; blaming; or, at the extreme, quitting. Instead, regarding the failure as a learning experience, they try to build upon its lessons in their future endeavors.”

Grit is most commonly associated with the concepts of resilience, perseverance, hardiness, ambition and conscientiousness. And while the will and determination to secure some Play-Dough as a little kid might not qualify truly as grit, it’s certainly something that we should consider when we’re told no along the way of the pursuit of our dreams.

French economist and visionary Jean Monnet said, “I regard every defeat as an opportunity.”

Every “no” makes us smarter and every setback pushes us to stretch beyond what we believe we’re capable of, as long as we don’t start out by being the one to tell ourselves no in the first place.

Recognize Your Remarkability

messy gift

People generally know a present that comes from me–no “To, From” tag or card necessary. They can identify it just by the wrapping itself. Yeh, much of the time, I pick colorful and unique paper. It’s not uncommon to get gift from me with hot blue sharks biting in to neon green cupcakes.

But that’s not what makes my presents identifiable. It’s the wrapping job itself. Sometimes there’s too much tape and other times, one of my cheerfully wrapped boxes comes with the corners of the paper already lifting up, from lack of enough. 

And here’s the thing–it’s not for lack of trying. I carefully pick special paper and match it with shimmery bows or soft, touchable ribbons. I set everything out on the table before me and size up the gift for the amount of paper I’ll need. I cut with care and fold the corners on a hard surface so they crease just right. None of that matters.

In the end, a present from me is a present from me and my wrapping talent leaves something to be desired.

I was coordinating with my friend recently who was going to wrap a gift we were giving together to another friend and joked that “I’ll bring the wrapping and you can do it.” 

She responded with “Why? You’re the world’s best wrapper!”

Last week I was at a talk by Mark Fernandes, the Chief Leadership Officer for Luck Companies. His passion is people and helping them believe in themselves and live up to their own potential. He made a comment that really hit me.

Mark asked the audience to picture a room full of second graders in which the kids were asked to raise their hands if they could paint. He asked us to imagine what most of these 7 year-olds would do—raise their hands! Of course, any kid will tell you they can paint. 

He looked the audience square in the eye and asked the same question of us: “raise your hand if you can paint.” About 5 out of 400 raised their hands. 

Mark believes we are all born extraordinary and that we spend the rest of our lives being told that we aren’t. And after years and years of this conditioning, it’s hard to believe how remarkable we really can be.

Maybe my wrapping doesn’t lineup to Martha Stewart standards, but I sure used to be proud of it when I was younger. There they were every year under the tree, sitting brightly, proud and slightly crumply for my parents. And there they were at the birthday party, piled up on the table with everyone else’s presents, again, completely identifiable by the eccentric choice of cats sharing cake with mice or the cluster of coordinating bows on top.  

Instead of passing on the things we think we don’t do well enough, maybe we should do more of them. It’s running that race even though you know you might come in last. It’s volunteering to chair a committee even when you think you could never live up to the last person who held that position. It’s applying for that job even when you think you’re not as qualified as the other applicants. It’s about raising your hand, speaking up, speaking out and doing things because they make you happy.

It’s about living authentically. Who really is the authority on gift wrapping anyways? 

Make Life Easier: Look For The Positives In Every Experience & Eliminate The Negative Self-Talk

Live United

One popular American thing to do on the Fourth of July is to participate in a run. I’ve been doing this since I was little. I can remember lining up with dozens of others at a chalk drawn start line on a busy road, closed off for the race, almost always in the scorching heat, and feeling the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself. 

The Fourth of July race hasn’t changed much. Sure, the distance and location has varied for me over the years, but the run itself remains the same. Only, this time around, I caught myself feeling differently about it. I’ve been injured, running used to be easier and also, running has not been the main focus of my life in the last few years. 

After the race, friends and family will ask, “How was your run?” 

This is what has really changed. 

Once it was “It was awesome. I’m so happy I started the day like that.”

Eventually, it became “It was okay. I placed 5th for my age group and I just know I could have been 3rd if only I held out a little longer.”

One year, I answered “I didn’t run. I’m not conditioned well enough.” I knew I could have run it but my pride stopped me from getting out there. 

Finally, last year, when the question was asked, I simply answered “It was good.” And secretly inside I was disappointed in myself for not being better, faster or placing higher. 

As the same tradition lays ahead, I know tomorrow morning, hundreds of runners, walkers, friends, family and community members will crowd the pavilion where the local race starts and finishes. I think back to the last few years of Fourth of July racing and cannot remember my place or performance.

I can, however, remember meeting my group of running friends and pushing each other through, racing each other for fun for the last 100 meters. I remember winning a gift certificate to a local burger joint as part of the raffle and laughing that the vegetarian in our group won that one. There were breakfasts at the local diner afterwards where we ate stacks of pancakes and planned our next get together.

Two years ago, I ran the race with my best friend–she was 7 months pregnant with twins. It was my first run with the three of them. And I remember how I felt last year, running again with my best friend, but also with the girls in their double stroller, smiling and enticing even bigger smiles from spectators. 

But until I stopped to really think about the lasting memories I had from my runs, I was focusing on the wrong things. It’s important to take note of the things we say to ourselves and about ourselves to others. Negative self-talk can quickly take over what has the potential to be a really positive experience. The times when I have given in to my own negativity are the ones I don’t have much else to remember those experiences by. Choose to live more positively. 

 
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