I am a volunteer tax preparer for a non profit organization during tax season. This is my second season doing this. I absolutely love it. I help people, I learn new things and I experience a part of Philadelphia that I would not have ever experienced otherwise. Suburban Station. Milkhouse Grilled Cheese & Milkshakes. A Lebron James look alike. A Mike Epps look alike. Despair, hope, grief, sadness, joy and excitement.
I recognize it’s the small things in life that give the greatest joy. Today a woman confided in me that she has stage 4 colon cancer. Her hair was up in an opened top head wrap and the style was beautiful. When she handed me her driver’s license as I began to prepare her income tax return she said with sadness in her voice, “That’s when I had beautiful, long hair.”
I looked at her and said, “You’re still beautiful and don’t you let anyone tell you different.” Her eyes watered as she told me how she no longer feels beautiful. I understood her feelings completely. A few months ago I had three wisdom teeth and two molars extracted. No big whoop except two of the molars were on the same side as one of the wisdom teeth leaving a gap in the back of my mouth. For two weeks I cried everytime I looked in the mirror. I felt ugly without all of my teeth. I didn’t want to smile. I didn’t want to look at myself. I saw the same feelings in this woman’s eyes. So I shared my experience with her and reminded her that she is still beautiful.
She was very grateful for the encouragement. Once her tax return was completed she gave my colleague and I the biggest hugs and it felt good to help her smile.
See, so many people are stuck on the island of ME that they don’t acknowledge others until they need something and that’s the real tragedy of life. Because they miss out on experiencing the joy of being genuine to someone else, of being genuine for themselves. I had nothing to gain by sharing my story. Empathy costs us nothing but gives much.
I hope I see her fully recovered this time next year so I can give her another hug because by encouraging her, I encouraged myself. Thank you.
My youngest child started preschool today. My last born, my last first day of school and I didn’t cry. The reality that my son’s external educational journey has begun is stirring up mixed emotions in me. We’ve waited a long time for this day but now that it’s here I don’t want my baby boy growing up too fast.
And that’s what it is. Today marks the end of his baby days. The hugs, kisses and snuggles will soon be traded for friends, toys and school crushes. I’m not ready, but I’m preparing. My daughter, who’s going into kindergarten this year, is already writing love letters to some boy from her class last year. Surprisingly, I didn’t react. I listened as she read her letter. I observed my daughter and then reflected on my personality at her age. Damn. She is like me, but bolder. She’s a lot more gutsy than I was at five years old. I feel like time is getting away from me.
This is a very different mental space for me. My children are growing, my parents are aging and I’m in the middle of life’s upward escalator unable to backtrack. Transitions. These moments kind of sneak up on you unexpectedly. But they are necessary. I don’t always like them, but I understand they are catalysts for growth and change. And we all know that change is the only constant.
I read a blog post last month by Allie D that caught my attention. She listed 50 of the Best Preschool Books that she has read to her boys. I instantly wanted to read her post because I love books and I was curious to see what books she recommended. Also, because I have a preschooler and a kindergarten-er who enjoy books also. After reading her post I discovered that quite a few of her books were favorites of my children. One reason I thought Allie’s post was awesome is the reading. I have been a reader since I learned the magic of reading back in the early 80’s. That is something I pass on to my children because – reading is fundamental. Anything on this planet you want to know about, you must read something.
Why I love reading – because of all the interesting stories and characters I discover. I am a romance fiction fan but I also enjoy adventure, science fiction and the occasional biography. I gravitate towards books with a conversational writing style where I can become the main character and transition through the book. Reading is fundamental for me because:
- It is how I honor my ancestors who were unable to learn to read because of the color of their skin. Every book I read is for my grandparents who couldn’t.
- It is how I learn new things and comprehend what I learn.
- Knowledge is powerful. How you wield that power shows what type of person you are.
- I love being able to help others using what I have learned through reading.
- I love hearing my children laugh when I read to them.
I enjoy reading also because based on the statistics of the neighborhood I grew up in, I shouldn’t be any good at it – but I love proving people wrong when assumptions are made about me.
According to an article by Lauren Gelman for Reader’s Digest (www.rd.com/health/wellness/benefits-of-reading/), reading is good for you for other reasons:
- Reading can protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Reading can melt away stress.
- Reading boosts your vocabulary.
- Reading improves empathy.
- Reading can encourage life goals.
But don’t just take my word for it. Read the article for yourself and then comment with a good book you would recommend for me. I’ll look over the comments and add those books to my list. I’ll start with a couple of recommendations of my own.
I just found out the singer, Chester Bennington, from the group Linkin Park committed suicide. If you are not familiar with the group this may not bother you, but for me this hurts. I discovered Linkin Park in 2000 through my then-boyfriend. He didn’t know it at the time but when he popped Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory CD on, the tracks spoke to me. I was depressed. I was also in denial. I knew something didn’t feel right with me but I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to appear weak or whiny. I pushed on and pushed through and through the music I was able to hide my feelings with a smile.
Earlier this year a good friend of mine, Chris Collins, committed suicide. Right after the New Year started. He spent the last twenty years of his life fighting for equality in the LGTBQ community here in Philadelphia. Fighting for those who felt they had no voice to be heard and yet he felt no one heard his voice. Losing him hurt, especially like that. He was one of the first friends I made in high school as an awkward teenager and his friendship helped me through a lot of dark days over that initial four years. He didn’t realize how much he meant to those around him that he had touched over the years.
See, depression does that. It creeps into your mind and takes root into all of your memories, old and new, and tries to twist them this way and that. Depression loves to feast on the negative memories. Those memories are like protein shakes, making the depression stronger and harder to shake. Constantly whispering how bad you suck at life and reasons why bad things happen in your life. Depression is the voice of evil whether you want to believe in it or not.
But even with all of the infomercials and poster boards describing the symptoms of depression, many people ignore the obvious because once you acknowledge something you become responsible for how you react to it. Imagine if everyone actually paid attention to how their loved ones were feeling. The slightest deviation from their normal behavior would be an initial clue that something isn’t right. As a friend or loved one it only makes sense to inquire if everything is okay. Because I know what depression feels like and I had to wrestle with that beast head on to reclaim myself, I can spot subtle changes in those around me (even my co-workers). So naturally, I’ll ask if everything is alright. I let the individual know that if they need anything to let me know and then I quietly observe them without being obvious.
Why do I do this? Because I do for others what I wish had been done for me. I have survived the darkest part of my depression, I haven’t completely conquered it but I have learned how to manage it so I understand wholly what it feels like. Some people will twist their faces and proclaim that you’ll be institutionalized if depression or the hint of it is mentioned, but that is due to misinformation and fear. Once we stop reacting on the basis of fear and find out the facts, then we as a collective can help prevent someone we know from succumbing to their depression.
I am currently in another transitional phase in my life. Hence, why you haven’t heard from me in a while. Children graduating, seasons changing and children preparing to begin their school career. But amidst all of that change (because change happens regardless) you can steer it in a way. There is a way to direct some of the changes with a chance to reduce the amount of ‘pains’ associated with growth.
We all have those moments where we wake up one day and our inner being is screaming that something has to change! It’s during those moments that we have to stop and listen to what else our inner being is telling us. Chances are, our inner self has been speaking to us for a while and we were just too busy being busy to notice.
It was during one of these moments that I had to stop and listen because I was on the verge of screaming at the top of my lungs and snapping on my co-workers at my day job. I didn’t like that feeling at all. I listened to what my inner being was saying and discovered that I absolutely hated going to work; not because the job sucked, but because the politics at the job sucked – bad.
My inner self screamed at me to GET OUT!!!! I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve heard enough reviews to know that when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. We all have those moments at the day job where we want to walk out of the door and not come back but the responsibility of bills and families (for those of us who have them) weighed down on us. I evaluated my interests and came up with three ways to foster change in my life, became a notary public and quit my day job.
- Assess Your Interests – Make a list of the things or areas you are interested in. What do you enjoy doing (outside of watching t.v. or playing video games)? Write down 5-7 areas that you are interested in. Write down why you are interested in each of those areas. Ask yourself whether you would be able to participate in this interest for the next 20 years without being financially rewarded and still enjoy it.
- Assess Your Skills – Pull out your most recent resume. When did you last update it? Have you acquired any new skills? Have you improved any of your current skills? Are there any skills you need to acquire or that you are interested in? Research where you can improve your skills.
- Decide on a Path to Pursue – Go back over your lists. Cross out the ones that don’t make you feel anything. Focus on the ones that light you up inside.
Which interest makes your heart soar? Gives you goosebumps? Most likely those are the ones you should focus on. By taking steps toward your interest there will be a lighter feeling to your day and a twinge of stomach flutters as you realize that you are in control of your hearts’ desires. Make a decision about what you want in your life and go for it, you deserve it!
Using these ideas I have recently become a notary public because I truly enjoy helping others. What dreams have you chased and caught or are currently chasing? Comment below.
I found one of my notebooks in my desk at work today (I have several notebooks stashed in various locations at home and at work). Looking through that notebook I discovered some of my poems that were written about six months ago.
Talk about surprise. I am caught off guard sometimes when I re-read my work because the intensity of my poetry is amazing. But alas, it is my poetry, right? This one particular poem, Imperfection Perfection, is one of those poems…
Staring at my reflection
at the results of bearing life
stretch marks gracefully swim
across my abdomen in waves
of caramel kisses.
The low slope of my breasts
reflect the nourishment
I provide for all who came forth
from my body.
My body is imperfectly perfect
in it’s own way
loving me as I love it…
– Why Yet 11/29/16
I just finished reading Mini Habits For Resilience by Tom Meitner on my way to my day job. He breaks down little ways we can develop a stronger resilience in our daily lives. I came across Tom’s book accidentally while searching for free books I could download for my children. (In case you are new to reading my words I am a word nerd, book nerd, however you’d like to describe it – I love books).
In life we tend to be harder on ourselves than anyone else, especially when we fail to reach a goal we’ve set for ourselves. This book shed light on the truth of how set backs can effect our view of ourselves and our abilities. Tom also offered ways to build resilience so setbacks aren’t as devastating to our sense of ability and accomplishment.
I think everyone should read at least one self-help book a year to improve in an area of life you may feel needs sprucing up…