Rise Above It

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“Rise above it, Jayne. Rise above it.” That’s what my friend Murph used to say whenever the two of us would get upset over a work-related issue, especially the ones involving people. She was right, of course. There’s no point in getting bent out of shape because someone is being irresponsible, smart-alecky, bull-headed, or downright belligerent.

There are at least half a dozen other phrases that convey similar messages, and I’ve been thinking about them quite a bit lately. We’re told to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:39, and in Matthew 18:22, there’s that seventy times seven thing. You know what I’m talking about, the reminder of how often you’re supposed to forgive. Sometimes forgiving is easier said than done, and yet I know that being unforgiving can be especially poisonous to the one holding a grudge.

The Bible isn’t the only source of reminders to let things go. “Don’t take anything personally,” reminds Don Miguel Ruiz in his book The Four Agreements. According to Ruiz, if someone hurts you verbally, physically, or emotionally, it says more about the other person than it does about you. If someone tells you to stop that caterwauling when you’re singing your heart out, don’t take it personally. Maybe the other person doesn’t know good singing when she hears it. Or maybe she doesn’t appreciate that particular type of singing. Then again, she could just be tired and in need of some peace and quiet.

Then there are quotes from famous people that often ring true. Regardless of what you’re going though, there’s a perfect quote from someone you admire who’s “been there, done that” that can make you feel okay again. Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Thanks Mrs. Roosevelt. I will not, will not, will not give my consent.

Even among the best of friends and the closest of family ties, there are occasional comments, oversights, or slurs that can break one’s wings. At those times, you just have to rise above it, be forgiving, refuse to take things personally, and decline to give your consent.

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.