“Nosce te ipsum”

“Nosce te ipsum”; a phrase I had penciled onto a piece of paper and taped to the wall next to my desk my freshman year of college. The Latin phrase literally translates to English as “Know thyself”. I have since lost that piece of paper but, have not forgotten the phrase. If only my 18 year old self had known then what I know now and that is you will lose yourself many times in life. 

Sound daunting? Absolutely. There are few absolutes in this life but, losing one’s self is going to be one of them. I have lost count how many times it has happened and so will you. I’m not the type of person that will avoid a good pruning. You are probably wondering what that even means. Think of the four seasons and the trees we marvel at during those seasons. A tree must lose its leaves which give it it’s beauty and appearance of vitality so it can withstand the winter and come spring, form new growths. Just like the inevitable seasons of our life, the branches and leaves become stripped from our life exposing the trunk which keeps us standing. This is where you get to ask the question “what am I made of?”. The answer to that question lies in how well you handle the inevitable pruning of our souls during life’s seasons. For my children, I use the analogy of “The Three Little Pigs”. You know the story I’m sure. But, for children to know early on that strength and endurance build character and not what brand they wear or who they are related to, is one of the most important lessons you will ever teach them.

As a mother in the modern world, trying to raise two little boys is no easy task. It is easy to lose yourself in the mundane, every day tasks that go with being a mother and a wife. That is why it is important to, as a parent or not, remember that YOU matter. Your needs matter. Your health matters. Yes, you have responsibilities in this life, we all do. But, don’t lose sight of the joy you, yourself, add to those responsibilities. Your joy will inspire others to find their joy.

I will be completely honest. Lately, I have lost myself in the appeasement of others. I have always struggled with saying “no”. I do not like to let others down. But, we all have to remember we are not responsible for the happiness and joy of others. Would you rather be respected or be known as “the nice pushover”? Because those two people rarely are the same. I appreciate the opportunity given by those who have put me in the position requiring me to reflect on my self-worth giving me the courage not to lose myself in living for others. All those opportunities remind me to “know thyself” and respect myself as well. In what ways have you lost yourself and in what ways did you grow from those experiences? I’d love to know.

Peace.

 

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“Still, Still, Still”

I was in the mood to listen to Christmas music the other morning. So, with my coffee in hand I made myself comfortable in the recliner to relax and drink my coffee and spoke out loud: “Alexa…play me Christmas music by Robert Prizeman.” For those that haven’t heard of him, he is a composer who has written beautiful works of music but, especially Christmas music and it is all sung by a young boys’ choir named Libera. (You should listen to them…they’re AHH-MAZING) The first notes ring through our speaker and I pause…no…I froze. I instantly think of my mom sitting in her green chair, coffee beside her, with the same song “Still, Still, Still” coming through her speakers during winter mornings. She always woke up early to do her morning readings and prayers, basically to enjoy the silence of the day before the chaos of working 3 jobs. The irony of me being frozen in my chair while the title of the song being “Still, Still, Still” flowed through my speakers was anything but, a wonderful experience because before I knew it was reduced to a puddle of tears and I am not a crier. Amazing, isn’t it? One song can flood your heart and mind with a memory of someone and you remember exactly where you or they were when you would hear that song play. There is nothing wrong with missing someone. There is nothing wrong with crying about it once in a while. There is definitely something wrong when you refuse to acknowledge that it’s okay to have those uncomfortable feelings because “It’s Christmas-time and you can’t be real for the sake of being jolly”. This is a serious problem in our world, especially with women.

We’ve all been there, smiling because that’s what we “should” do or because that’s what is expected of us but, on the inside you are sitting there freaking out. You can be in a room full of people and look like you’re holding it together but, what you wish you could say to them is “Help me!”, “I need a break!”, “I’m afraid”, “I’m uncomfortable” or whatnot but, you sit there and smile instead, talking about the latest adorable craft pins you saw on your friend’s Pinterest just the other day. But, at what expense are we compromising our feelings when we aren’t honest with ourselves, our family, and our friends? There have seemed to have been a bundle of uncomfortable situations lately where it seems God wants me to grow in one way or another and I am faced with the opportunity to face my feelings, head on with 100% honesty and I’m getting better at it but, it’s not easy. And how will our children learn how to face the world if we do not teach them that things are uncomfortable, they will need help, they will be afraid at times, and they will need breaks at times? If they are not uncomfortable, they cannot learn to build character. If they don’t ask for help, how will they learn humility? If they aren’t ever afraid, how will they conquer new skills? If they don’t take a break at times, they will wear themselves out and run themselves thin. These lessons are important to learn from an early age and the best place to learn them is in the home and we as parents, especially mothers, are the best ones to give that gift to our little ones through the gift of being real with everyone around us. Now, I’m not saying “Be a drama queen and wear your heart on your sleeve” but, show your children that feelings, whether they are positive or negative are still feelings and should be validated and experienced. There is a huge social expectation on us, as mothers and women in general, to be happy and “on point” all the time and that simply isn’t a reality that is attainable when you look at the bigger picture of all the demands of motherhood itself. So, let’s be real.

The whole “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all” phrase is a crock of crap if you ask me. Sometimes what you need to say is the truth and sometimes the truth isn’t pretty but, sometimes the truth helps us grow. Sometimes the “not nice” thing is acknowledging those not so pretty aspects of life so you can move through them and on from them. You can’t tap dance around the truth. If someone is unkind to you, acknowledge it, don’t dwell on it, and move on. If a loved one passes away, grieve it, feel it, stay in those feelings as long as you need (there’s no time limit on grief) and move forward whenever you feel fit. If you break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, same deal. If you are stressed out by your kids and you need help, there is nothing wrong with saying “Help me!”. It’s when you start isolating yourself from your child(ren) and loved ones that your feelings have become manifest in an unhealthy way.  You have to acknowledge your feelings, there’s no other way around it. Our dinner table is a place where anything goes. Our boys know they can bring anything to the table, ask anything and we talk about a wide array of subjects when we have our family dinners each night. The family dinner table is a great and safe medium to bring those feelings out. I don’t know what it is about the dinner table but, it’s as though it just beckons you to an honest front to those around you and loosens you up. If you don’t do family dinners with your spouse and child(ren) in the evenings, I implore you to consider doing so. The communication it brings is beautiful.

I know the Holidays are difficult for many of you. It has a tendency to stir up a whole pot of emotions for many people this time of year. You miss loved ones and you want to cherish the memories you had with them and you likely feel guilty for missing them but, you still miss them. That’s completely normal. Or perhaps you are away from your family this year? If you are, I’m sorry. Maybe that is a great opportunity to reach out to another person who could use someone else like you who understands those feelings? What’s important is that you put names to your emotions. Just the other week I cried (again…I’m not a crier…I know, real convincing, right?) that we had to cancel our family photo session because I was too sick. We had never had family photos done in the almost 8 years we’ve been married and my son just came to my side and gave me a hug. I try not to let my children see if something is bothering me but, that day it just did. My son gave me the gift of compassion in that moment. All these little moments are moments of learning for them. If we can’t be real with them, they simply can’t learn. And if they can’t learn, then we need to reevaluate our role as parents. Our world needs people who have feelings now than ever and it has to start at home.

“Totus Tuus”…and you are mine.

My little legs swinging off the edge of the pew, I lean forward and look over to see my grandmother and her sister , my great aunt, on their knees pushing the beads through their hand with their thumb and index finger as they mouthed the words to the rosary. They were always there early enough to get at least a decade of the rosary in and it was always enchanting to watch them. Mass began, kneelers went up, they sat down and the rosaries went back in their purse. And this was my earliest memory of falling in love with and wanting to adore Mary, Queen of Heaven, Mother of God.

“Totus Tuus” was St John Paul II’s apostolic motto, meaning “totally thine/yours” in Latin. He had such deep love and adoration for Mary, originating in the great writings of St. Louis de Montfort. I was born in 1989 when he(Pope John Paul II) was on the rise as one of the most important world figures and anyone who was going through their most formative years during his 26 year pontificate was known as the JP II Generation. In the post Cold War era, Pope John Paul II brought the world charisma, peace, hope, and greatness when tensions were quite high on a global scale and his diffuse was unmatched by any international leader. Though he has since passed on and amazingly enough been beatified and declared a saint by the Catholic Church, he and his motto “Totus Tuus” has been one of my guides for all seasons in my life.

Just as I remember when I first fell in love with Jesus’ mother, I vividly remember diving deep into the the life of St John Paul II when I was a freshman in college where I was fighting a mountain of anxiety and the only place I could find solace was daily mass, the rosary, and what I would discover was contemplative prayer. There are many different ways to pray but, if you break it down into three categories, the rest emerge from those three. The three traditional forms of Christian prayer are vocal, meditative and contemplative. Vocal prayer is fairly self explanatory and as is meditative, which is the category the rosary and any novena prayers fall under. However, it is contemplative prayer that beckons you to trade yourself in for a moment of solitude to sit with Christ. For me it was and still is taking the time to listen to music or sit in silence for an hour or so each day and be with Him. In our busy world, it is difficult to get enough of that. As an introvert, I definitely cannot get enough of that. But, there is more to it than just sitting alone, uninterrupted, not being asked for snacks or another glass of water if you are a parent like myself. When you have anxiety or are going through difficulties and feel alone, being able to sit with Him, feel his presence and know that nothing around you in those moments matter, that is love. It is the same feeling I get when I sit with my husband doing nothing, knowing he is simply there; what comfort that brings! It was in these quiet moments, these minutes, these hours along with my heavenly Father that I got to know Him as someone who loves to spend time with me, who loves to hear how my day is going(the good and the bad), and it was then when I realized that if I didn’t have even one person (though I have many) who understood my anxiety, fears, feelings, troubles, or even anyone to share my joys with, it didn’t matter because I had Him and He has me. Or as St John Paul II beautifully said, “Totus tuus” (Totally yours).

These quiet moments alone with Him were vital to what I would encounter in the next year. I started my sophomore year of college in another bout of anxiety spending a lot of time on the receiving end of a lot of pep talks from my brother Kevin. I was working my tail off to pay my tuition and I wasn’t going to be able to make ends meet. My dreams of attending the college that I loved so dearly were in jeopardy when after daily mass one afternoon I was asked to meet with the head of campus ministry. First of all, let me say, this person already made me anxious to be around for whatever reason I don’t know but, I vividly remember thinking “Well crap! This is not what I want to be doing with my day!” So, I nervously sat down and she said “So, I’ve been contacted by someone who would like to pay your tuition. I can’t tell you who it is unless you accept the offer but, I want you to think about this offer and pray about it and get back to me.”. I could have passed out. I wanted to. Someone wanted to pay MY tuition!? Why can’t I know who this benefactor is? Who is this? I had so many thoughts running through my mind but, all I could muster was “Wow! I’m speechless! I will definitely let you know before the week is over!”.

That week I was a nervous wreck because I wanted to know who would care about me and my education enough to pay for it. After much prayer and contemplation, I decided to go accept the offer. When I found out who was offering me the scholarship, I realized how even more amazing it was. This was a person who didn’t know me from Eve and I certainly didn’t know him but, he valued my charisma for education, faith, and the college itself. So I was able to continue my education for a few more weeks until the unthinkable happened. One morning after class I went up to my room to retrieve a hat from my fourth floor dorm room, for what reason I don’t know but, the fact that I did was important. Upon leaving the dorm and heading down the stairs, somehow I fell down the concrete steps and wound up with significant injuries to my spine, shoulder and head. Being the stubborn person that I am and being in a state of shock, I got up, walked to the nearest building and asked someone for “a bandaid”. Little did I know I needed a lot more than “a bandaid”. Days passed and I could no longer shake off the pain. I decided to go to the ER when my mom convinced me that me crying because I was having trouble breathing warranted being checked out. The ER physician referred me to an orthopedic doctor whom upon our first meeting, his words were “Had you come to me about 24 hours later and you’d have been dead or operating a wheelchair through a straw for the rest of your life young lady. Do you realize how fortunate you are to be alive? Many people don’t survive the injuries you have. They just don’t.” So, why did I? And why did I cut it that close? Remember when I said all those quiet moments I had with God were vital to what I would encounter in the coming years? Hindsight is always 20/20. I thought anxiety was a lot to deal with? Hell…I had no idea what was coming my way sophomore year, did I? Did I know I was going to need His hope? No. Did I know I was going to need His divine intervention? No. Did I know I was going to need his peace? No. Did I know I was going to need his fortitude? No. But, once I got there it all made sense and none of it mattered because I was totally His.

In the midst of all that I met the man I would eventually marry. Meeting him was the biggest surprise of all because I wasn’t searching for him like I was searching for God in those moments of contemplative prayer. Psalm 37:4 says: “Be happy with the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”. In all those moments of weakness through my recovering from my horrible accident, you’d think depression and anxiety would have befallen me but, strangely enough it was quite the opposite. I felt an overwhelming peace and happiness in God because I knew I was taken care of. And in the midst of all that, my would-be husband was there delighting in the Lord and his goodness alongside me. When you are recovering from a head injury, you spend a lot of time in darkness. So, in the darkness Chris(my husband) and I sat next to each other and though we barely could see each other, we would talk for hours about our lives and we got to know each other as friends before we really entered a romantic relationship a few months later. It felt as though in those moments, in the darkness, His light shone through in what was blossoming to become a beautiful relationship between me and my would be husband. Most people get to know each other in a way that allows them to fall in love with each other’s physical self before falling in love with each other’s heart but, it was as though the Lord knew the only way to his daughter’s heart was through His heart, so in those quiet moments in that dark room, my husband and I fell in love with each other’s souls before we ever fell in love with each other’s faces. In today’s world, that seems so backwards. But, my heavenly Father had high expectations for his daughter and had to make sure they were met.

This year, my husband and I will have been married 7 years. Not too long but, long enough to have been through quite a bit together as a couple. Together we have faced many challenges and together we have overcome them. We have given life to two beautiful sons and love loving and raising them. Many things have changed in these seven years, too. The person I deem closest to me other than my husband, my mom, has since joined a monastery where she, too, participates in a contemplative lifestyle. She is now a nun in a what is called a “cloister” which means they have little contact with the outside world. They take vows of chastity, obedience and poverty. This means that in her commitment to her contemplative lifestyle, my relationship with His mother has become even stronger. When Christ was on the cross and he looked down at his mother ,Mary and his disciple, John, he spoke the words “Son, behold your mother. Mother, behold your son.”. In that poignant moment in human history, Christ gave us, the Church and his children, His mother! Jesus, even in his dying moments cared for His mother and for us! He knew the grief of his mother and a child ! I, as a child of a mother whom I have limited contact with, take great solace in the fact that I have a heavenly mother that adores and cares about me, too!  This is why, as a mother, as a daughter and as a wife, I can look at the tenets of Marianism and contemplative prayer knowing that I am never alone in all that I am and all that I do. His divinity is what breathes life into everything I am. I am totally His and the love of both a heavenly Father and Mother is beyond the divide of any concepts that our mind can grasp. It can only be experienced and in hindsight, seen. Totus tuus.

No, I cannot be your God.

“I’m just done, I’m burning out”, I said to my husband as I sat on his lap and began to rest my head on his shoulder. We had just returned from his work Christmas party where we brought our sons bowling, they met Santa, and overall had a great time. “I’m really angry that I can’t enjoy these times because I’m in so much f***ing pain I want to crawl in a hole and scream.” Now, is this a side I let others see of me? Absolutely-freaking-not. The gap between what you see vs. what is really happening in my life is wider than you think and I think most people can relate to that.
My mom always used to joke about the fact that I had a public persona that she called “Plastic Ann”. Plastic Ann is happy all the time, doesn’t struggle and in fact, has all the time in the world to take on the problems of the world and others. But, behind closed doors she knew that “Plastic Ann” would turn back into a normal human being with the typical struggles and emotions of a fallible human being. Now, we all have a public persona of some sort and to some degree and depending on our professions we are expected to have a persona to appease the demands of the public. I don’t know where I learned to be “plastic Ann” but, I know growing up I admired my father for being able to suit up and go to work as a funeral director, comfort others in his calm and stoic manner then, parent us. As I grew older, I seemed to be able to be that face for others and I’ve learned that is an attractive trait to have however, it is easily taken advantage of when other’s poor planning lands at your front door or floods your phone in what they label an “emergency”. And what happens when your job is being a stay at home mom and wife whose public persona is that of a person who is loved but, not respected? Well, we will dive into that shortly.
“No” is a word that I got very comfortable saying this past year. It was like drinking vinegar while saying it, though. It tasted awful but, once it went down I knew it was doing my body good. Vinegar is known to improve cardiovascular health and lower blood pressure (Today’s fun fact!). So, the reason I use vinegar as my analogy is that every time I said “No, sorry. I am unable to watch your offspring today”, “No, sorry I don’t want to join your pyramid scheme or listen to your pitch”, “No. I can’t afford to at the present time”, “No, we do not want to join your church, we are happy being Catholic. Yes we are still Christian. No, we don’t need your saving. Thank you for your prayers”…and any other rebuttal to someone’s need for me, is that before I became comfortable saying no, it did my heart absolutely no good to be at everyone’s beck and call. People saw something different in ‘Plastic Ann’ than they deserved and I have been doing people absolutely no favors (catch that irony?) in not providing people with the genuine self that I provide to my closest circle of friends.
As an introvert, it’s hard but, I also have this fun, what I like to call ‘character defect’, that I can honestly say I got over this past year, called APPEASEMENT. I used to think that if I rode the waves of people’s moods and gave them what they needed, they would be kind to me. Sure…but, did they respect me? Absolutely NOT. So, I have been swallowing the vinegar by the spoonfuls this past year in refusing to appease people’s need of me, disagreeing when needed, and to be honest, seeing their face and hearing their reaction is amusing, which probably doesn’t make me the best Christian. However, it’s them figuring out that there is no more “Plastic Ann” and that what they thought they knew about me, isn’t me at all. It’s them figuring out that they cannot use me anymore. It’s them finding out that there are boundaries to their behavior that if I don’t place with them, nobody will. These spoonfuls of ‘No’s’ have done my heart a lot of good. My level of anxiety is lower and overall, I have more time for my family, which if you know me, my family is everything to me. To be honest, I was angry at myself for allowing them rob me of my time with my family. I allowed them to walk all over me.
This past Fall and now, Advent season, has brought about a new birth within my heart. A birth which was not without the labor pains of a soul shedding its former layers like the leaves of autumn fall so that come spring, its roots may flourish into a tree that no longer droops but, stands tall and can withstand the demands of the wind and rain. When I was a child, one of my favorite books was Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree”. The line “And the tree was happy…but, not really”, sums up my heart for the past few years. I have a giving soul. I love to give, give, give. But, if you remember that in the book, the tree wound up being nothing but a stump, albeit a happy one, at the end of her life. Well, when I reached my burnout Sunday night I realized I was starting to reach the point of a stump prematurely because I was stretching myself too fast, too often. I found myself falling back into the pattern of saying “Yes, I’ll do that”, when in my mind I thought to myself “Well, shit! I can barely take care of my kids today and this medicine has me so nauseated the last thing I want to do is that”. I am not exactly sure why I fell back into that pattern but, onward I pushed and that’s where my husband found me Sunday night, burnt out and about ready to turn into stump that couldn’t give anymore of herself.
I am not a typical stay at home parent. I have a chronic autoimmune illness, paoriatic arthritis, and it is a royal pain in the ass. If i dont treat it the effects are debilitating. It’s annoying and incredibly inconvenient because I like to take life full speed ahead with such vivacity that the only thing you are left with after an encounter with me is, I hope, is a smile. I will never “get better” as people say in their well wishes, bless their hearts. Sometimes a smile is all i have to offer but, on the inside I am wondering when I can get home to cuddle up with an ice pack. Definitely your typical “cuddle buddy” for a busy mom on the go, is it? So, you can imagine the demands of mothering two young children while making regular trips to my specialist where we talk about where we are in the course of my treatment, how “twisty” my joints are looking, which disease we want to treat most of the time, and discussing the labwork that seems to stare back at me, demeaning my age and aspirations… it’s exhausting. I burned out because I didn’t rest, I didn’t say “no” when I should have, I didn’t ask for help when my joints were hurting from pushing through each day. I was turning back into “plastic Ann” and I became heart sick.
Moms….Dads….a burnout is NOT a normal part of parenthood. It is not a glamourous thing to discuss within that circle of moms you meet at the mall play area who look like they “have it all together”. It happens in shallow waves. It happens in small doses of “Yes, I’ll take that on”, too many times. It’s where the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back” came from. And P.S. -Nobody has it all together. Stop placing unnecessary demands on yourself and others and pretending to have it all together. If you see a parent struggling, ask how you can help. If you see a parent ask for help, it may have taken them a lot of courage to get to that point. If you are like me and incredibly stubborn, asking for help is the biggest blow to your independence you can imagine. But, it’s a humbling one. And did you know that giving a piece of yourself to others when you actually have the reserved energy to do so is a beautiful feeling, not for yourself but, for the other person. It can actually physically help the other person to feel better. I know where many of you are at this holiday season and how you feel you are on the brink of breaking. Don’t be like me and be so damn stubborn that you are not able to grace others with the beauty of giving themselves to help. A friend recently brought her family into our home to cook for us one evening and it was such a wonderful feeling to let go and be weak. To be weak is not a bad thing, it is an incredible act of humility, surrender, and strength and allowing someone else to be your strength is divine. First, lean on the Lord and he will provide for you those who are meant to hold you up. Second, in doing so pay attention to your needs. You cannot fill from an empty cup. We are not God…that would be exhausting! Can you imagine being him? I can’t. During this Christmas season I hope you can all meditate on the fragility that is your life and also, the life of the Lord’s. Think how he came into this world not knowing he was going to have to take on the problems of the world. It is not our job. He is God and we are not. You should find relief in repeating that each day. I hope that during this season you may grow in God’s grace to allow your heart to flourish in the humility to let go of what you cannot handle and the strength to carry what you can. Again, I repeat…if you are struggling, do not be afraid to reach out…do not let yourself burn out…and remember God is God, you are not. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yule and have a blessed new year!

“How DO you do it?”

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Wouldn’t it be nice if life had a manual with all the solutions to any potential problems you could ever face in life? You know, like something Fredrick Frankenstein found in his grandfather’s private library that revealed secrets of giving animation to lifeless people? One can dream, right? Like the many lessons I’ve learned through the years, the movie Young Frankenstein always speaks to me in my darkest hours. Humor is how I have always coped and recently an encounter made me face the reality of my unique situation as a young mother and wife; One that you may not be facing yourself but, hopefully one you can learn courage and strength in the face of whatever adversity or troubles you may be facing.

“How DO you do it?” is a question I often face. Surely all mothers wonder this about themselves, right? So, how do you answer it, though? I recently had an encounter with an individual who in conversing, asked me many questions about how I go about my day without throwing the towel in the bag and giving up. Well, I never know how to respond to that question, to be honest. But, this time I laughed nervously while drumming my fingers on the leather arms of my chair and said “I don’t know but, humor helps.”. As I got in my car and drove away I began to really ponder the question I was just asked. Why? Because I’m an over-thinker, that’s why. Always thinking. Always wondering. My mind feels like it has a running commentary ALL. THE. TIME.

“Enjoy the ride”, a phrase I remember my father penned on a letter to me for a retreat long ago, instantly falls into the forefront of my mind. Angrily, I think to myself, “How can I enjoy the ride when I am 26 years old and fighting autoimmune diseases that makes my young body feel 80 years old?”. So, I humorously start to talk to God as if I am Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. “Really? You REALLY think I can handle all this? If this is how you treat those you love, no wonder nobody wants to be your friend! You have a twisted sense of humor up there. I’m getting real sick and tired of your crap!” Angry at God? Hell yeah I was! And you know what? That’s okay because, He, of anyone, can take it. We all have our moments of anger. Even Christ got angry. The main thing to remember, though, is to keep your anger in check and make sure it is righteous anger. That means, prioritizing what you choose will get to you. Someone cut you off in traffic or make your latte with too much foam? Get over it. That’s small potatoes. Life is going to be really miserable for those that decide to get upset over such trivial things, capiche? Now, someone hurts your feelings? You can still choose to brush it off. But, their criticism, whether it be constructive or not, will always be a good launching point to learn how to treat others. Let’s take it up a notch, shall we? You’re trying to play with your children and your knee gives out from beneath you and you fall to the ground giving out a yell that scares your children. How about the moment your doctor tells you “I’d like to start you on a low dose of chemotherapy to see if it will put your autoimmune disease into remission” and you spend the coming months having to turn down any social engagements because you don’t know how close a bathroom will be in the event that the chemo you are on makes you vomit? It’s those evenings you go to bed crying because you can’t lift your children for 3 months because you just had a spinal fusion to save you from potential paralysis. Know anyone with these challenges? I do. I have faced EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. But, I haven’t faced them alone and that is why I don’t lose faith and sight of the beauty of that which is life.

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“Give my creation LIIIIIIFFFFFFEEE!”

Sometime’s I feel like “Froderick” as he stood over his creation yelling “Give my creation LIIIIIIFFFFFFEEE!” as I get up in the morning. I try not to question why I have the “luck” with my health that I do as I am just as annoyed with it, if not more annoyed, than anyone else. All that matters is the how; How is the best way to approach breakfast this morning?, How should I go about potty training a 2 year old who is afraid a toilet will eat him?, How shall I go about the housework today and fit in grocery shopping, playing with the kids, and running those endless errands? How should I go about treating the amount of pain I am in today? Nobody is responsible for how you go about handling your day to day questions, struggles, and situations but, you. You are ultimately responsible for how you react to everything that happens to you. You can choose to get angry, like I did before. You can choose to gracefully take every blow, big and small, in life with a grain of salt, which isn’t realistic but, good for you if you can! Life isn’t about being anxious about why everything is happening to you. It is about how you plan on taking those bulls by their giant(or small) cajones and saying “Just for today, I am going to live. Just for today, I am going to laugh. Just for today, I am going to love those who really make me angry. Just for today, I’m going to forgive those who have wronged me”.

We aren’t promised tomorrow. We are only promised today. So, the next time some barista carelessly makes your latte wrong, think to yourself “Is this fatal?”. The last time I checked a coffee made wrong hasn’t killed anyone but, perhaps the fragile heart of a pompous coffee connoisseur. And the next time you receive news that a loved one has died, cry it out. Let yourself feel. Life is to be lived. So, the next time someone asks you “How do you do it?” about whatever trials you may be facing. Joyfully respond with “I have no idea what I’m doing but, I’m doing it well” because if they are wondering how you are getting by, you are doing a good job. Pat yourself on the back, life is hard…with or without a manual.