It’s hard to miss the grand gestures of love–the dramatic proposals, flashy gifts, wining and dining. But love is also in the little invisible day-to-day things–making someone their favorite meal, putting gas in your partner’s car before their trip, folding laundry, wiping runny noses and tying little shoelaces, remembering someone’s birthday, keeping someone company in a hospital room. All those little silent, maybe unnoticed, labors of love are the glue in the fabric of our relationships.
What little thing has someone done for you today? Maybe there’s a little thing you can do in return…
In the movie Citizen Kane, Charles Foster Kane’s last word ‘rosebud’ is an enigma. What did this fictional tycoon think about with his dying breath? In a life filled with vast wealth and power, countless deals, many enemies and some friends, he remembers the name of his childhood sled that he was riding before a loss of innocence. A moment. Not the first million dollars, or his first business deal, but a childhood moment of bliss.
Occasionally, we get a glimpse of something bigger, truer than the day to day. Often we get these moments, unexpectedly. Notice them for the little treasures they are.
Would it surprise you to learn there are people in this world actively trying to make you unhappy? It’s their job. For others, stirring up discontent and friction between people might be an avocation. More like sport. And we, faced with people actively working to make us unhappy, have the choice about how we respond.
Some of those attempts to unsettle us may be fairly invisible. Consider this passage by Matt Haig in Reasons to Stay Alive:
Add to this list, all the media posts designed to separate people rather than bring them together, governmental warnings about the danger level designed to keep people in a state of fear, and the negative rhetoric coming from people living in a deeply divided world, and it’s hard to not be overwhelmed, let alone happy.
But seeing attempts to manipulate us by our emotions and fears for what they are helps us to not get played. Instead, of rushing right to a knee-jerk response, we can notice that a message is trying to get us angry, or sell us something, or to make us turn on our neighbors. That breath between stimulus and response is where we can bring our critical thinking skills to analyze what is before us rather than responding mindlessly to the attempted manipulation and just jumping right into the fray. We don’t have to play along. We don’t have to be angry or dissatisfied.
Apparently, the videos I’ve embedded haven’t been coming through on email, so here is a link to a delightful woman who has been ballet dancing for over 70 years! Or you can see it here: https://quotablecreek.com/2018/01/16/do-what-you-love/
Do you ever feel pulled down by the people who tell you that you can’t do something? You should mouth the words when people are singing because you can’t carry a tune. You shouldn’t dance because your moves are awkward. Don’t write unless you are going to be a best-selling novelist. Don’t take up something in your middle years that you’ve always wanted to do because you might look silly. Don’t, can’t, shouldn’t–those kind of words.
Maybe it is you telling yourself those things, afraid to start something and be a beginner after you’ve spent decades learning how to do other stuff and have gotten quite good, an expert even maybe. We encourage children to try new things–to paint, to skate, to sing, to play. But something happens when we get older. We may even hear ourselves holding someone back, “Are you still doing that? If you’re not [insert adjective here–famous, discovered, wealthy, accomplished] by now, you’re never going to be. You should give up.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to lay down all that judgment and dance again? Or sing your heart out? Or write a love poem? The joy is in the doing, and how lovely it is to remember that and embrace whatever it is that makes your soul sing!
Freedom and justice are not won and done. Often the road toward freedom, justice, and equality twists and turns, full of progress and steps forward, but pitted with set-backs as well. We have made progress since Martin Luther King, Jr. led a movement for civil rights, but his work is not done. We cannot relax. Indeed, we need to preserve and build on those gains in every generation. We need to be shocked but not surprised to encounter those who have no desire for equality but would rather return to an era of overt discrimination. Theirs is not the right path forward for any of us, including them, and they must be defeated because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
What are we here for anyway? What’s the point? Some people joke, ‘Life is hard, and then you die’, and there’s some truth to that. We are finite. We struggle. But there is purpose to life, and it lies in what we do for others. Andre Agassi says,
“Remember this. Hold on to this. This is the only perfection there is, the perfection of helping others. This is the only thing we can do that has any lasting value or meaning. This is why we’re here.”
Others joke ‘The one who dies with the most toys wins,’ but those things we do purely for ourselves are vanity. Instead, when we use our gifs and talents to reach out and help others, we’ve upped the good in the world. We’ve made a difference.
We need to periodically take time out to laugh– for self-preservation and to enhance the quality of our lives. Things can easily get too heavy, too fraught, too dire. A good laugh can release the tension and help us to regain our balance.
To assist in the laughing department, take a look at this BBC clip ascribing voices to odd animal behavior. It’s a good one. 🙂
There may be those who want to silence you or refuse to hear your perspective. Perhaps you are afraid to speak your truth. Take heart. As Brené Brown says:
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor– the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences–good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage’.”
Can you remember what you were worried about this date last year? Often, we forget yesteryear’s worries. Even more often, what we were worried about never comes to pass. It was wasted energy. All those sleepless nights and anxiety were spent on the thought of something that happened only in our imaginations. And, studies show, constant worry is bad for our health, ironically, giving us more to worry about.
Today, focus on your tasks at hand. Today has enough worries of its own. We don’t need to pile on tomorrow’s worries or the next day’s. The more we immerse ourselves in concrete action, the less our minds have time to churn away on what might or, most likely, might never be.