Thursday, August 15, 2013

Celebratin' the birth

I LOVE birthdays. Like children love candy. I live for them. I love celebrating my own, and I love being invited to celebrate with others. Anyone who knows me, and is part of my life can attest, I like celebrating others' birthdays as well.  I like to give the gifts, I like making cards; If you have a party, I will get excited about bringing something to eat at the party....I love birthdays.
My birthday dessert at Ruth's Chris.

This year was no exception.  It actually started early with some reflecting about my life, and why I am excited to keep learning more. My FB page contained lessons I've learned along the way, and in a few more years there will be more lessons to add to the list. The reflection began with this memory:

At the young (and very impressionable) age of 20, to fulfill my undergraduate requirements at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, I signed up for psychology and sociology.  This has, and always will be the semester of hell that keeps on giving. In every controversial topic from abortion, to whether AIDS research on monkeys is ethical, I had to write a substantial paper, and there was ample class discussion.

In this class there was a Mennonite, a hippy from Vermont, a Catholic priest's son, a lesbian, myself, the lack luster "I just want to pass this class" soon to be educator, and an agnostic. Just reading this, one may think that this was the recipe for disaster, or a really good episode of Jerry Springer, where the host receives the highest ratings of the season.  

That, however, is not how it was. The professor was in fact a pure genius. A mediator whose thought provocation in our assignments, was not to prove how accurate you are, but to challenge WHY your thoughts exist in the first place.  I grew 50 fold that semester. 

We actually are the result of every one of our thoughts. All of them. In fact, everyone is who they are, because of their surroundings from the moment they are conceived. And none of us did anything right or wrong to deserve that. Period. Sociology exists because of that fact. One of my favorite moments was when the conversation of public funds to those with less money arose to the person who grew up in one of the most elaborate and expensive neighborhoods in America.  It was very hard for this person to even comprehend growing up in the projects with parents who are in and out of jail their entire life, let a lone, that our society may want to make sure they have government money for an education.   

But if you don't talk to your counselor, and accidentally sign up for psychology in the same semester, like myself, you expand your understanding even more! Great thinkers, and psychologists have been studying this very thing and drawing their own conclusions about human behavior....and advocating for a more conscious set of thought processes. Behavior is a choice. Thoughts are sometimes deeply ingrained and must be redirected so that our actions are conscious.

Why so many ramblings before I celebrate my 37th birthday?  Because so many people, and so many experiences have shaped my life.  Speaking of people, I understand that everyone is different. It is my favorite thing about life. I enjoy, and thrive in a well rounded environment. I am fascinated by people, especially what they feel they are.  I also have noticed that people overcome some of the most brutal life circumstances and use their overcoming of challenges to better those around them.

I am surrounded by people who are conscious. I have learned SO much from them.  And this year, I embraced all the things I have had to learn to be happy.  It has been a magnificent year.  In fact, I have celebrated more this year than any other in my life. Not because I have anything really great to celebrate, I have not won anything, or even landed a gig. I don't have a lot of money, and my efforts at what is important to me don't always get a lot of praise.  But, I genuinely know, that all of my actions are conscious.  That although at the very core of my thoughts is a giant "nay sayer" I am in charge of my actions. My inner voice is a silly ninny. Instead of listening to her, I surround myself with the most important ingredients needed for mental health.

#1-Integrity
Integrity is one of the most important aspects to me, in any relationship. Most importantly to myself.  If I say I am going to do something, I do. I don't make excuses, or blame anyone else.  If I don't do it, I apologize and fix it. 

One of the best examples of this is my very own, dear sister. (www.rabidrunner.com) She inspired me this year more than I can adequately express in words. She struggled with an injury that put her down and unable to run. Running is a large part of her life.  She didn't sugar coat how hard that was for her, but she pressed through and committed to doing what it took to get her back in the game.  On June 8th I went to watch her come across the finish line at her first marathon since her injury. I began sobbing before she even came across the line. She is amazing. I stood there, overwhelmed with intense pride. I was insanely proud of her. Her integrity about running is what is amazing. She runs because she loves it, she sets goals, and meets those goals.  She makes those promises to herself and doesn't make excuses. This inspires me, even as I write it. I am very good at keeping my promises to others, but when it comes to making promises to myself and keeping them (especially fitness) I willingly bow away. I am so grateful for this example. Speaking of amazing, she beat her expectation time by over 20 minutes.
My sister's really nice friend took this pic for us. I LOOOOVE it.

My sister sporting her swag....she also took second place in her division and won a metal.


#2-Resilience
Resilience is key. To ANYTHING.  I have a friend of 22 years. Resilience is her middle name. Heidi Resilience Campbell. Watching her bounce back from negativity, set backs, deployments, weight gain, disappointments, is like watching a stand up comedian in their very best on caffeine. One might say it is her sense of humor that keeps her resilient, but I disagree.  I think she has a sense of humor because she is resilient.  Because she knows in a very short time, that it will be a belly ache for the two of us, because we laughed so hard!  I am a better person every time I watch this resilience in action. Her mind is alive, alert, smart, and quick to recover from negativity. It is awe inspiring. I have always taken so long to recover from negativity, I am so grateful for her ability to show me through her greatest strength just how to do it.  The bumps in my life have demanded that I get back up and keep trying. 
Here we are dancing in the street of Jackson Hole Wyoming.

More dancing.

#3-Control!
Or rather, what you can't control. Control what IS in your control, and politely let go of anything that isn't. One of the most assured, calm, and happy people I know happened to marry my husband's brother.  She is the queen, and should write a book about how to gracefully handle what is not in your control. I was blown away by watching this...when we were new mothers and both of our husbands were in school.  I have no doubt that her ability to love others, and be happy is because she recognizes what is not in her control.  I have always thought that if I treat others well, and have good intentions others will treat me well in return.  She has been my guiding light, and helped me to love, and understand God's love more clearly.  God does not have expectations attached to his love,  and those who understand that, don't desire to control others. They allow others to be who they are, and love them. I have been blessed by this, in ways I can't express. I now understand, by watching her do this (others preach it) of just exactly how this works. I control the issues at hand in my own life, and supply love and support to those around me.  If they chose to love me in return, that is their choice.  I can't only control how they react or perceive me.
Here she is with her family. 


#4-Tolerance.
Here is where I toot my own horn.  My friend of 22 years gave me a quote, that read: ".....There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone......"-Marriane Williamson.  I speak of my talent for tolerance only to celebrate the very tool that has brought me peace.  Tolerance has been a crucial part of my forward momentum in many relationships and conflicts in work.  I don't get bent out of shape because of someone else's beliefs, or how they spend their time, or what they spend their money on, or how they talk about food, or whether their love language is right for me. I consider all love languages effort and effort is all it takes.  There is peace in accepting others. Understanding that they are the product of a series of events in their life, and that their personality, actions, strong opinions, what they spend their money on, how they dress their kids, whether they shop at Walmart, what church they belong to,  etc. is not personal.This tolerance guides how I react to differences, or obvious issues I see preventing them from being their best.  This tolerance then gives me peace in how I address them when honesty is needed.  I have always yearned for a more tolerant world.  What is wonderful, is the kind of peace that lives inside a heart that is tolerant. My most unhappy moments in life, were the years I lacked tolerance for others. I pray I never go back.

Integrity, resilience, understanding of control, and tolerance are what comprise my life support tool box.  They are by no means tools that I use efficiently, consistently, or with ease, they are however, the tools I have recognized to being happy and there are excellent examples around me.  As I learned in psychology, we can't always control our thoughts, but we can make choices in how we react. Actions are behaviors. Behaviors are a choice. I am thrilled to have this knowledge and to delve into another wonderful year of life.

I have a vision of myself in my 90's....and I see that vision a lot. I wear a lot of color, and I talk a lot. Neighbors come to visit me and I am still mobile. I have had almost every joint in my body replaced....:-)  I bustle about in the kitchen (slowly) as I make tea and listen to the exciting world that is changing around me.  Young mothers come to speak with me about their current challenges and I listen and share the amazing experiences I have had in my life; challenges that prepared me for a better, more full life. They are all very diverse and loved........ I hope to keep the forward momentum going and keep myself healthy so I may see that day.  I am pretty sure that there will be many challenges this year, but I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned thus far. In
Ryan and I at my surprise b-day cake festivity.

“Birth is the sudden opening of a window, through which you look out upon a stupendous prospect. For what has happened? A miracle. You have exchanged nothing for the possibility of everything.”

4 comments:

Chelle said...

You always write the most thought-provoking, insightful, full-of-wisdom posts. And I agree with you, Christie IS always calm! Isn't it great that we have so many great people in our lives to look up to and emulate?

Ben and Julia said...

I certainly have been blessed by your many gifts my dear Aubs! I'm so grateful for how powerfully you live your life. Thank you!

rabidrunner said...

Holy smokes. That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me. Wow. Thanks.

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