Every once in a while, there’s a moment in time, an experience, a revelation that shifts the direction of your life forever.
Mine happened about eight years ago. We were visiting my ninety-five year old grandmother for Christmas Eve dinner. It was a beautiful night of family and celebration, of warmth and love. My grandmother, however, performed a fantastic, flawless rendition of the Cranky Old Lady, as she often did.
As I sat across the table from her in my Christmas best, I could see so clearly the wall around her heart that kept her from feeling any of the love surrounding her, from joining in the laughter, or even from recognizinganything positive about the evening. At age ninety-five, with perfect health, no financial concerns, and surrounded by family, she was miserable and bitter.
As I watched the tight press of her lips and the hardness of her face, I saw myself in her. I knew that was the path I was on, because I often let myself get bogged down by the things in my life that weren’t going right. I was living a life of “once I can fix these things, THEN I will be happy.” But as I sat across from my grandmother, I realized there would always be things that needed to be fixed in my life, and if I continued in the direction I was heading, I would end up like her.
Dead, even though I was still alive.
In that moment, I resolved that I would never let myself become that person. I promised myself I would always fight to see the goodness in my life, no matter how challenging life became.
And life did indeed become tough for me. My personal and professional lives imploded around me in ways that utterly rocked my world, with aftershocks continuing to wreak havoc for years (and continuing to this day).
But in the midst of all the carnage, I never forgot that Christmas Eve. I never forgot that moment when I realized that the most important gift we can give ourselves is the gift of humor, of being positive, of letting ourselves see that no matter how bad things are, we still have the right to feel okay or even happy.
When life is crashing down around us, when things are spinning out of control, it’s so tempting to scream with frustration, to think the entire world sucks . The irony is, when we take that approach, the day does keep getting worse, and we feel awful all the way to our gut. Before we know it, another day has passed us by, never to return, and we suffered through every minute of it. In fact, we probably ended up throwing ourselves into bed that night, exhausted, drained and wishing for a miracle that would somehow stop the hell that seemed to be chasing us.
But if we pause.
But if we take a breath.
But if we stop and quiet our mind.
But if we take a moment to release the weight in our hearts and allow ourselves to giggle, to laugh, to see the lightness in the moment, then the things that seemed so bad suddenly feel a little more manageable.
Even if nothing has actually changed, even if that same hailstorm is beating down upon us, we still have a chance if we let go of the grief and stop fighting so hard. We can feel better, truly better. We can have hope. We can see our loved ones walk in the door and remember why we love them. We can notice the softness of the carpet under our feet. We can laugh when we burn dinner, instead of wanting to fall to our knees and cry. We can remember that we love that little furball that snuggles on our lap so sweetly while we’re on the couch. Little things, tiny things, but things that ease the tightness from our chests ever so slightly.
Here’s the thing: even if nothing in your life improves, you can still feel better anyway. You can still feel like things HAVE changed, even if they haven’t. And isn’t that why we want things to change? Because we think we will feel better if they do? So, yeah, how empowering is it to realize that maybe nothing has actually changed, but life can feel brighter?
We don’t need anything in our world to change in order to feel better.
That’s a very powerful realization.
Screw waiting for my life to change so I can feel better. I’m doing it now, all by myself. So there.
Our souls want to dance. Our spirits want to laugh. Our hearts want to sparkle. When they do, we feel so much better. The miracle of laughter is powerful beyond words. You can do it every day, no matter what. You have that power. It’s yours and no one can take it away.
But you know what? It’s not that easy to stay on the lighter side of life when things are hellacious and tough. I know that.hooo boy, do I know that. Honestly, some days it feels impossible to adopt a positive mindset, and I want to hurl used kitty litter at anyone who tells me to suck it up and look on the bright side of life.
But in truth? It feels so much better when I can rise above the stress and not let it get to me. I like feeling happy. I want to be me, not my grandmother. So I’ve spent many hours working to keep positive, and this book is the result.
This collection of essays are my thoughts that I wrote down during tough moments to help me shift my mindset and feel better. These essays are the updated versions of blogs I wrote to help myself and others stay upbeat and believing in feeling better. This book isn’t about how to change the not-so-shiny things in your life, because sometimes those things simply can’t be changed with a snap of the fingers. It’s an acknowledgement that life is always going to give us things that hurt, so, we have to find a way to feel better, to feel relief, to feel peace now instead of waiting until everything is in order (because everything will never be completely in order!).
Many of the essays in this book are grounded in my experiences with writing, but the truth is that those same feelings and frustrations are things I deal with in every part of my life. I simply used writing as a platform for giving them context. I tried to write these essays with the goal of helping people who aren’t writers see themselves in my experiences.
I hope you find something helpful in the following pages. I hope they help you find laughter and respite even when you feel like you can’t take another step. If I can do that for you, make your day a little better, help you make your life a little more bearable.then that’s a gift I will always treasure.
Let yourself have a fantastic day. Skip down the halls. Sing in public even if you’re a terrible singer (especially if you’re a terrible singer, because people won’t be able to keep from smiling at your tone-deaf glee, and when they smile at you, you won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling back.and then the sun begins to shine). Remember to smell the flowers (even the fake ones, because you just never know).
By the way, my grandmother is almost 103 now, doddering about in her wheelchair. She’s no longer able to remember why she is supposed to be cranky, so she is finally happy, really and truly. We are never too old to lighten up, but hey, why wait until we hit the century mark to let ourselves enjoy life even when things aren’t perfect? Be inspired by my grandmother, let go of that tension in your heart, and start seeing the sunshine.
Maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel better, even if it’s just a little bit, or just for a moment. There is no greater gift than relief from feeling bad. Even a little bit makes a world of difference. You deserve it. We all do. Make it happen. You have that power. Rock on.