I Can Do Hard Things

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Sometimes I read Facebook posts and think, “Been there, done that.” Come on, admit it. So have you. Often this thought occurs when reading about the trials of being a mother/parent/employee. But today I’m thinking of three young women who’ve done things I’ve never done and likely never will.

One of 30-somethings was walking around Habitat with me last week, looking at treasures and talking about life, families, love, and work. We commiserated just a little about no one “here” knowing much about our families and the vast network we are part of elsewhere. It works both ways, of course. No one “back there” knows much about our lives here.

I realize the above is true for every person who’s left his or her place of birth to go out into the wide world. It’s also true for people like me who’ve had the opportunity to live, love, work, and play in other areas and then return home sweet home. In Myrtle Beach, friends at work and church saw me as Jayne the friend, wife, mother, and teacher but rarely as Jayne the daughter and sister. When family members came to visit, they were perceived as “visitors.” In Camden, many acquaintances see me as I am now, without the people and roles that I formerly held.

Back to my young friend’s visit to Habitat. I learned from our chat that her first child was born by C-section, a fairly common practice within the past twenty years or so. But here’s something that’s not so common. Within two weeks after her baby’s birth, she was driving a tractor, stopping now and then to nurse the baby. I was amazed to hear this. This feat, so casually mentioned and evidently easily performed, stopped me in my tracks.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve had babies but never driven a tractor, much less a newborn who needed nursing.

Another young woman of whom I’m thinking drove from South Carolina to California with her five children for an Easter visit with family and friends. She’d said goodbye to them a few months ago when she and her husband and children moved to the Palmetto State and was hankering to see their faces.

Again, I was amazed. If the weather looks threatening or messy (like Monday), there’s no way I’m going to drive to Columbia, much less across the country. The young mother mentioned above drove 6,000 miles across nine states—with five children, one of them a toddler. Just thinking about bathroom breaks with kids makes me kinda crazy.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve driven alone with young children but no further than 150 miles.

Without going into specifics, today I spent about three minutes with a beautiful young woman who’s been stuck in Camden for four days. And yes, stuck is the appropriate word for her plight. Between destinations, she’s waiting on money to be wired for a bus ticket out of Dodge, She had a black eye, black and blue and painful to look at. No wonder she was so antsy and apprehensive. I’d be looking over my shoulder, too.

I leaned forward and told her things would work out. She murmured something likeIt’s got to.” I could have piled on some platitudes, but I refrained. Later, I saw her pacing back and forth, back and forth. She’s in the middle, her old life behind and the new one ahead and vague.

Have not been there, have not done that. In the middle, yes. Abused and afraid, no.

I’m not saying I’m a wimp or a softie–although I could be both and more. I’m just saying that my admiration for the young generation shot up during the past several days. All three of these people impressed me with their courage, confidence, and choices. And they reminded me of my grandchildren who’ve already been taught, “I can do hard things.” Now if I could follow their example….

What about you? Have you witnessed examples of people doing hard things? Have you done some hard things?

No Regrets

Earlier this week, I read The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, a book I’d heard about on a podcast and that fit perfectly into a course I often teach, Human Growth and Development. By an interesting and circuitous path, Bronnie Ware, the author, left her successful banking career and became a “carer” of the dying. A genuinely compassionate person, Ms. Ware grew to care for all of her patients, and as they felt her affection and concern, they opened up to her and shared their life stories, complete with regrets.

As she listened to her patients, the author began to perceive the repeated recurrence of the same five regrets. This realization affected Ms. Ware so much that she decided to write a book of her findings. Not only does she tell of the patients themselves, their personalities and former lives, but she also applies their teachings to her own life. Being with them gave her courage to be true to herself.

The dying helped her live more fully.

While the five regrets might sound like psychobabble to some people, there’s actually quite a bit of overlap between Ware’s findings and those of developmental psychologists. In the order they’re listed in the book, the regrets are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Interestingly, earlier this week when I mentioned the first regret on Facebook, a friend commented that he wished he hadn’t worked so hard and that he’d stayed in touch with his friends. Reading his comment prompted me to contact a dear friend, and she and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and long overdue lunch. It was awesome. No regrets.

From teaching Human Growth and Development, I learned that the #1 regret of older people facing the end of life was not doing the things they really wanted to do. Even if they  failed in achieving the goal, they felt that was better than cowering on the sidelines waiting and watching for the right time or circumstance.

As it turned out, however, many did just that (cower on the sidelines, procrastinate, or make excuses) rather than face possible rejection, disappointment, loss, heartache, or humiliation. I’m not saying those who said YES and then lost money or suffered ridicule were happy about that. I am saying, however, that they died with no regrets. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all—and all that.

Just about everyone I’ve talked with today has said 2015 was an okay year or that it was a terrible year or that they wanted to make some changes. Some people on Facebook said it was the best year ever. What about you? Are there things you want to change? Are there things you want to do that you’ve been procrastinating? If not now, then when?

What will you do during the next twelve months that will better assure that 2016 is a year of no regrets? As for yours truly, I’m working on a plan.

Bravery at Harbour Town

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One of the many things I’ve learned about writing is that you (a writer) have to pay attention. You have to become increasingly mindful of the events going on about you, including sights, sounds, gestures, expressions, breezes, hummingbirds, and just about any and everything else you might have ignored before. You have to zero in on conversations and mood changes and sound inflections. AND you need to have a pen and paper nearby to write these things down before they’re forever gone from memory.

Until a year or so ago I would have smiled at a couple of phrases uttered by my grandchildren and perhaps written about them in my gratitude journal. But now, these words and the accompanying experiences have taken on new meaning, and it’s not because I’m one of those doting grandmothers who thinks that everything the little darlings say is worth noting for posterity. It’s because little ones have so much to teach us if we’d only pay attention.

 Last Friday we rode caravan style to the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head for the sole purpose of climbing atop the Harbour Town lighthouse. We wanted to do a little something different to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and climbing the 114 steps to the top of the red and white striped lighthouse appealed to all of us. We’d never climbed a lighthouse together before, and this one overlooking the yacht basin seemed to beckon us to “come on up.”

By the time we finally arrived at Sea Pines, it was already a sweltering afternoon. Everyone, even the usually adaptable children, was sweaty, sticky, and a little out of sorts. Once we saw the lighthouse and realized how miserably hot it would be and that someone would probably have to carry the 2-year-old all the way to the top, his mother decided to stay behind with him.

Undaunted, the rest of us went into the museum/lighthouse and plunked our money down. As an aside, the cost is now $3.75 per person, something tourists need to know. One website advertised $3 person, and another announced a fee of $1. When I mentioned this to the nice lady selling tickets, she said that although their prices had changed this year, the website(s) had not been updated. Good to know.

My daughter Elizabeth and I began the ascent to the top of the lighthouse with four young children, and all was well for the first flight of steps. Emma, the 6-year-old, got scared and begged her aunt Elizabeth to carry her. Despite the insufferable heat, Elizabeth complied…at least for a while. Then 4-year-old Colton’s courage began to flag, and he wanted to be carried too. Upon reaching the next landing, we stepped to the side and explained that we could either continue climbing the museum/lighthouse to the top with everyone walking OR we could go down and miss the view from the top. After a moment’s hesitation, it was onward and upward.

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Slowly and haltingly, we began our ascent, moving aside a few times to let faster, braver people go by us. Little Colton reached for my hand, and I was surprised to feel that he was shaking. “Hold on tight,” I said encouragingly.

Elizabeth turned to look at us, and Colton announced, “I’m teaching Grandmama how to be brave.”

“I see that,” she said.

We continued to the top and felt pretty proud of ourselves for making the trip without further hesitation. There’s a neat little gift shop at the top of the lighthouse, but instead of stopping to browse, we walked right outside to the observation deck for a few photo ops. We circled the deck, snapping pictures and mingling with the other tourists who were also enjoying the view. I took pictures of a family, and the father in the group took a few pictures of us.

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I’ll go back again, and next time I’ll pause long enough to study the photographs and other artifacts placed along the entire ascent of the lighthouse. I’ll also remember a courageous little boy, who despite his fear, bravely held my hand and went forward, never looking back. The lessons:  (1) Hold hands and as Joyce Meyer advises  (2) “Do it scared.”

Stealing Second

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This morning as I read some end-of-semester journals, I noticed that many students had opted to post entries on the psychology blog and then copy and paste their posts into their journals. That’s fine by me, especially since their responses piqued my curiosity enough to go back and revisit the blog. One that particularly caught my attention is about taking chances and going for it, a theme we often discuss in positive psychology.  With only one additional sentence, here’s the copied and pasted post.  Can you see any applications in your own life? I can.

Truth surfaces in the most unlikely places. One minute you’re scurrying into Wal-Mart to pick up some bread and shampoo, and the next minute you’re pondering the words on a person’s tee-shirt.  The message is one that’s been explored on this site fairly often, and yet it’s worth mentioning again. Why??? Because it’s a fact  that some people need reminding of it again and again.

Here goes: “You can’t steal second base with a foot on first.” Clever, very clever. And so true! On the baseball field and in life, you can’t move towards making your dreams become reality if you can’t let go of the safety of your current life situation(s).

Do any of these scenarios ring true?

*You want to travel but are too afraid to board a plane.
*You want to be a professional dancer, but you just can’t leave Podunk, USA to receive the training you need.
*You want to meet someone “special,” someone who makes your heart sing, someone you could spend your life with. You can’t find this special person if you’re sitting in front of your television night after night
*You want to pursue a degree in Golf Course Management, but the only school in the state that offers that degree is two hours away. How can you leave your family and friends?
*You want to attend school full-time, but you’re afraid to take the financial plunge that could make it happen. How can you live on less? It’s better to stay on first base. Or is it?

What’s holding you on first base?  Just do it!  Some of Abraham Maslow’s advice to anyone on the ascent to self-actualization is to say YES to life, to possibilities, to opportunities, to challenges.  As John Greenleaf Whittier said, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”

What’s keeping you from stealing second base? Why is your foot still on first when you could be literally running towards a better life?

“Yes, June, I Have”

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I love Queen Esther. Since she’s become one of my role models, I have no problem being brave and doing what it takes to appear before the king (or anything symbolic of a king). Although I might be daunted by critical readers, difficult people, or possible rejection, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! I just put on my equivalent of a queenly robe and whisper, “If I perish, I perish.”

There are at least half a dozen lessons I learned from Esther, and with limited success, I attempt to put them all into practice. Yesterday after my talk in church about Esther and some other women of the Bible, I learned that many of the little girls (princesses) in our ward (church) have Esther as their role model. One of them, little Tia, even drew me a picture of her that I now have on my refrigerator. I gleaned two things from that drawing: these little girls are on the right track and children listen to talks in church. About the former, if they already know about courage and loyalty and timing, what will they be able to achieve as they mature into their queenly lives?

But back to the major subject, the woman in the Bible that I have a problem emulating. It’s Hannah. Remember her? She’s the woman who wanted a child so badly that as she fervently prayed for one, Eli saw her and mistakenly thought she was drunk. Hannah assured him that she was completely sober and told him that she was praying for God to send her a male child. If that happened, she would willingly turn the child over to God.

Eli told her to go in peace and promised Hannah that her petition would be answered. Soon thereafter, Samuel was born, and when he was still a young child, Hannah brought him to Eli and left him there. According to 1 Samuel 2:19, Hannah saw her son once a year after leaving him in the temple with Eli. Can you even imagine that? It’s not as though he was an adult. He was just a little boy.

I don’t think that I’m quite as trusting, giving, or selfless as Hannah was. When my children were little, I hovered over them like a mother hen, and even now I’m aware of their goings-on, interests, friends, and activities. I think God entrusted my children to me and that He intends for me to take that trust seriously. At the same time, I’m wondering if this story of Hannah and Samuel has a latent meaning for me, for us.

Fortunately for me, my three children are all young adults with their heads on straight. They’re responsible, kind, hard working, smart, and healthy. I threw in the healthy adjective because that’s something I don’t have to worry about—at least not today. They have their “moments,” the times when they’re down, discouraged, anxious, or stressed (they are human, after all), but they know how to figure things out. They know how to ponder and pray and then press on.

Yet still, I wonder and worry. At times I recall my friend’s earnest question, “Jayne, have you turned your children over to God??”

“Yes, June, I have. And yet…”

Well, you can see what I’m getting at. I need to develop some of Hannah’s faith. What about you?

Somewhere Someone

Words are powerful. They can lift and inspire us, soothe and comfort us, and hurt and humiliate us. It can be one simple word like “Loser” tossed our way or it could be a series of words like, “You can do it!” Knowing the power of words on a person’s psyche is probably what convinced me to buy the little sign above.

My book was going to be available in a matter of days, and  I was feeling concerned about how it would be received. Would people laugh, scoff, call me names?  Although worrying about people’s reactions was a waste of time at that point, I couldn’t help it. In need of a little confidence, I spied the above sign while browsing through a neat, eclectic store with my sister-in-law and niece.  I picked it up and smiled, knowing it was going home with me. The tiny wooden sign now sits in my window, a reminder that while not everyone will like what I have to offer, somewhere someone will.

Naturally, the message has numerous other applications. For the person who’s afraid of starting a new career, meeting new people, or opening a new business, somewhere someone is looking for exactly what that person has to offer. If you don’t change careers, who will provide physical therapy for those people who can respond only to you? If you don’t relocate to PA and open a daycare center, who will take care of those darling kids while their moms work to bring home some bacon? If you don’t dance in the community theatre’s production of Oklahoma, how will that someone be entertained in the way that only you can entertain? Who will landscape the city park, write the primer on how to use social media, paiant the mural, or open the bookstore/bakery if you don’t?

Businesses, books, songs, and services are the only things that somewhere someone is looking for. People are looking for YOU. It’s not much of a stretch to think of these words in terms of personality and the whole “person package.” Whether romance or friendship, someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer.

I don’t expect anyone who reads this blog to go out and change his or her lifestyle, at least not right away. However, I hope that seeing and thinking about these words will give someone the confidence to KNOW that what he has to offer is valuable and good, very good.

Chin up. Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer. Doesn’t that give you a little boost of confidence to go forward with your dreams and ideas?

Yes and No

I’m not sure what the secret is to a long and happy life. Some say it’s to stay engaged and productive while others declare that diet and exercise are vital. While those ideas have great merit, lately I’ve been reminded that knowing when to say yes and when to say no are also important.

Sometimes you need to say a resounding yes while at other times, you need to say NO as loudly and as clearly as possible. Saying yes to new experiences and opportunities can be a good thing. A week or so ago, I saw that several people had posted a list of 100 things they wanted to eat before they died, and although I didn’t open the link and read the list, I must admit that I did start thinking about all of the tastes, textures, and appearances of food that I have yet to taste. Heck, until five years ago, I hadn’t tasted Panini bread, and now I love it. The same goes for Greek yogurt, especially the kind with the fruit on the bottom. Yum. Yesterday I tasted fruit salsa. Double yum.

Saying yes to opportunities is crucial to one’s growth as a developing, evolving human. Whether its traveling to different countries or accepting a personal challenge, stretching ourselves keeps us from getting in a rut. While the rut might be comfortable and safe, after a while it can become dull and stagnant. Who wants that?

Saying no to the right person at the right time is important too. Some of my biggest time drains have been doing something just because someone asked me to do it. It might be a supervisor, a family member, a friend, or even one of my children’s teachers who was making the request. Because of my inability to say, “No, find someone else,” I’d find myself agreeing to work overtime, bake the brownies, teach the extra class, or make yet another cash contribution. Once I succumbed to the not so gentle pressure to give blood and nearly passed out. Seriously.

These days, I follow Ann Lamott’s quote: “No is a complete sentence.” I don’t  have to explain or offer some kind of lame excuse about why I can’t or won’t give in to the request. No. No period. Don’t try using guilt with me or preaching to me about my moral responsibilites.

Here’s what I’m saying yes to: kisses from grandchildren, any and every opportunity to Skype or have Face Time with my children or grandchildren, healthy food, exercise, travel, meeting new people, walking in the rain (well, mist), drinking rich dark chocolate, being kinder, learning new things (including vocabulary words), and walking on the beach. The picture above was taken from a lighthouse in Hunting Island State Park. Saying no to the arduous climb would have been easier, but saying yes gave me that awesome view.

I’m saying no to fear, dream slayers, negative energy, gossip, and sloth. And a big NO to being around people who bring me down either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Yep, I plan to sidestep those folks and their negative energy field as much as possible.

So basically, I’m saying YES to life and love and to whatever helps me to develop as a person. And do you know why? It’s because if I take care of Jayne, then there’s more of her (me) to share with others.