The Right To Play Dress Up

For a couple of years, my best friend was a floppy, red-haired figure named Raggedy Ann. She loved me no matter what. I knew that because her heart told me so. One day, with the help of some fabric, yarn and a creative mom, I became her. I made those around me giggle and smile. I was “cute” instead of buck toothed and awkward. That was the very first Halloween I remember.

As years changed, so did the fads and costume changes. I have stayed true to my appreciation of the day that society says it’s OK to be something other than yourself. Though my children now have memories of embarrassment and questioning my sanity, I selfishly have no regrets. It felt good to step away from the roles of maid, chef, homework checker and nag.

The right to responsibly have fun and escape from routine once in a while has no age limit. I strongly suggest you exercise this right as another Halloween draws near.

To the princess: Let that sparkle make you feel like the beautiful person you are every day, but forget as chores and deadlines wear you down.

To the villain:  Here’s your chance to be the bad ass you sometimes wish you were. Be proud that respect and professionalism lead you to the right choices when things get tough.

To the superhero: Enjoy the cape and shield, but remember you don’t need them to fight sadness, worry, disrespect or any other emotional intruder.

And to you, no matter who you are or choose to be. Every day. Remember.

YOU are a treasure!

Nature’s Orchestra: A comparison to the Rolling Stone interview “The Salvation of Brian Wilson”

In a recent story published by Rolling Stone Magazine titled “The Salvation of Brian Wilson,” the singer/songwriter discusses how music helped him through episodes of depression. I could not agree more with his choice of therapy:

Most of us have experienced what I’ll call “random red light entertainment.” In other words, you’ve chuckled at the headbanger, the steering wheel pounder, and the “like no one is watching” singer.  My friends, I am all three. And whether you’ve seen my performances in person or just smirked at the visual, you’re welcome….that second of distraction was a treasure.

One day, the consequences of playing my music too loud may surface.  But, I am not going to ignore my need for a screaming guitar anytime soon. That sound dissolves sadness, worry, and stress. From the twelve minute drive to work to the all day cleaning spree, music is my drug.

When I am alone and in control, I avoid silence at all costs. Peaceful environments are not appealing. They are open doors that welcome stupid thoughts. I work non stop and clean things that already shine because of an illness I hate, not because I strive to be better than anyone.

I am slowly working on my ability to hide it. In doing so, I often find myself secretly scared when those around me are not. Please remember I am not a bragger or a hypocrite. In fact, I still fail more than I succeed when it comes to remembering my mission. However, when I do stop, look and appreciate, the world becomes somewhere I want to be.

A recent mini-vacation brought me to one of the most peaceful places that I am willing to travel by car. Because I packed my mental ammo, I was able to turn crickets into cymbals, a crackling fire into slaps of a bass, and a friends laughter into some of the most beautiful lyrics I have ever heard.

To my fellow professional depression hiders, you are right. This trip was far from tear-drop free. But,  guess what? I did not let it control the memories of those that deserved to be there, most importantly, me! Indeed, there is proof to my grandpa’s words “practice makes perfect.”

Please remember that whether your enemy is silence, chaos or something else, you are not alone. Close your eyes. Bring the band back together.

YOU are a treasure!

MSCT

A hand made sign hangs by our bathroom mirror and it reads “Make Smart Choices Today.” Purposely, the first letter of each word also begins the first name of each member in our family. You could call it our motto. Over the years, I am certain these four words have been read and interpreted many different ways: “Do your homework,” “Avoid peer pressure,” “Eat well and exercise,”Fight that depression.”

Choices are not just actions, they are also reactions. They are opportunities to peel back ugly layers that hide some really valuable treasures. These layers call themselves jealousy, selfishness, denial, and defeat. Victory does not satisfy temptation and negative emotions. They never go away. But, each time we lift our chin to the sky, the devil will raise a brow. Our strength makes him nervous.

You can chase rainbows, or you can chase rain.

You can forgive, or you can hold pain.

You can seek vengeance, or you can forget.

You can recover, or you can regret.

The choice is yours.

YOU are a treasure!

 

 

You Can’t Smell Google

Based on a true story, today’s thought will open similarly to a joke, but end with a punchline in the form of a treasure:

A guy walks into a bar. He finds his place at the stool he unofficially owns as the barmaid prepares his order without asking what it is. He was already there when my husband and I arrived, but I would bet that is a pretty accurate scenario. To put it simply, he was an obvious, harmless regular.

Our dining entertainment was the friendly banter between the two. And that night’s topic… a seasoned member of society’s theory behind what’s wrong with the world today. In the opposite corner, an equally passionate individual defending the world, for there is so much of it still ahead of her.  She tried to explain that the “evil” internet is the reason she is still able to pursue a degree while working the long hours required to get by. He countered with memories of conversations without screens and the set of encyclopedias he’s proud to still use. Both had valid points. He preached. She poured. They both smiled the whole time.

It was hard not to eavesdrop. At first, I tried really hard not to. But, then it happened…the patron turned friend referred to the world’s lost piece as appreciation. My ears perked like a puppy and I turned to face him. After what I hoped was his last sip of the day, he sat his empty glass down and said: “You can’t smell Google.”  The glass was retrieved with the promise to see him soon.

The routine visit and opportunity to give another lecture probably made his day. The hour or two with her mind off the daily grind may have made hers as well. Stumbling upon this beautiful relationship most certainly made mine.

My son gave me a flower on the eve of his graduation. That night, I placed my nose to a pedal and slowly inhaled. You are so right, friendly stranger. You can’t smell Google.

YOU are a treasure!

Scratch and Dent

My house is full of character. I am not talking about my collection of Disney figurines. I am referring to those distinguishing qualities that make things unique. You know, that scratch, that dent, that crayon drawing on the wall. These are traits that are often called flaws.

Let me tell you the story of our first piece of furniture that did not come from a curb on garbage night.  I chuckle knowing that I once thought that buying a new oak dresser for an elementary-aged boy was a good idea. That dresser got character before it’s first coat of pledge. It’s still there today…a five-pointed star with two eyes and mouth smiling from ear to ear (if stars actually have ears.) Boy, was I angry at this unexpected introduction. I did not care if it was a star. I did not care if it was smiling. I did not care if this was my son rebelling or marking his territory. I was angry.

The inability to afford another dresser kept me from discarding it. The lack of time and energy kept me from buffing it out. My friends, as I share these words, I am just weeks away from my carving artist being on his own. I promise you that I am going to look at that star and finally give it the returned smile it’s been waiting for.

The moral here is that we all have imperfections, some on the surface and some beneath. Think long and hard before deciding to change or discard. People will still love you with that blemish or scar. People will still visit if there are weeds in your garden or dust on your shelves.

By the way, just because I upgraded to Craigslist doesn’t mean I stopped my treasure hunt. I have projects waiting that were inspired by things another person no longer had use for. There is accomplishment, quality time and beauty in my future. It is true that one man’s trash could be another man’s treasure. Share with me yours! What do you currently have that didn’t shine the same way for another?

YOU are a treasure!

The Night Shift

My friends, I need your help. It appears that Mr. Sandman is mad at me because I will no longer allow him to be an enabler. As I work on being an optimist, I am deciding to embrace each new day instead of wishing it was over. My pillow is a temporary comfort zone, not somewhere to bury my face.

I multi-task to the point of exhaustion, so the world at 3:00 am should be one I do not know. But, I know it too well. This world is quiet, it is lonely and it allows unnecessary worry to bleed through my walls.

Some say that when insomnia comes knocking, you should get up and make the most of your idle time. Unfortunately, for the distraction chaser, the dishes are already washed, the laundry is folded, the emails are answered. Most of you who can relate are probably anticipating plans that haven’t even happened yet. It is comforting to know that some of you also understand random and unexplained sadness.

Here is my commitment to you. I will count treasures instead of sheep, no matter how difficult that may be. In return, I ask you to do the same. Remember, the purpose of my words is to help us all make more time for happiness and appreciation, even if it happens to be in the middle of the night.

So, talk to me! Share with me the treasures you thought about to help escape from gloom. Share with me the positive thoughts that have helped you remember that….

YOU are a treasure!

The Bodyguard

I have bodyguards. Believe it or not, so do you. They are just not easily recognized because they don’t look like Hercules in a suit and sunglasses. Because we are not royalty or of celebrity status, we may not purposely seek protectors. But, we are worthy of them and, like the treasures I speak of so often, they are around us.

Indeed, the bodyguard that responds to the ad on Monster will most likely need to know how to throw a punch to qualify. But, we are made of more than skin and bones. We can be hurt without being hit. Harm’s way does not always lead to large crowds or dark alleys. For some of us, an idle mind is a scary predator.

I can throw some darn good pity parties, but I don’t subscribe to them. Instead, I seek out distractions. I call this treasure hunting. It has made red lights, pumping gas and long lines much easier to deal with.

These words are dedicated to some people who will probably never read them. This includes the woman who started a conversation with me at Wegmans, the co-worker who talked me through what was not a real crisis, the guy who broke out in random dance while waiting for his bus to arrive, and whoever posted the most recent adorable monkey video. For a few moments, you fought off worry, my worst enemy. You lifted some weight off my shoulders by just being you.

Thank you, strangers. Thank you, friends. Thank you, inventor of those tiny televisions at gas pumps. You sparkle like diamonds.

YOU are a treasure!

Lost and Found

Maturity has a lot to do with how we perceive our treasures. One day when I was young, my Grandpa gave me a five dollar bill for polishing his tools. It was the most money I ever had at one time. It represented pride and about ten Kit Kat bars…until I lost it soon after. I think that may have been when I learned what guilt felt like. I was young, but my pain was very real…until Grandpa replaced it. He never liked to see me cry.

The real treasure in my memory was not that five dollar bill. It was the hug that followed my “thank you.” It was the “I love you” he said in response. I think that may have been when I learned that it was ok to be imperfect.

To find the silver lining means to see hope under the gloom, the positive under the negative, the something to hang on to that is hidden beneath the layers of ugly and unpleasant. Sometimes these layers become lessons. In the case of my Grandpa, it took me years to realize just how special of a man he was. A long time ago, I lost a five dollar bill, but I found a man who made me feel secure. Last year, I lost what I thought was a friendship, but I found my self-respect. And soon, I will lose a child to the world of adulthood, but I know I will find a young man that I am proud of.

Peel back the ugly layers and if they are too heavy, ask for help. You may be pleasantly surprised at what is waiting for you. It is not easy. I struggle with this often. However, each moment we choose optimism over despair is a treasure in itself.

YOU are a treasure!

Hello, Dolly.

Imagine, if you will, a doll…any kind of doll. How do you see her? Is she on display with other still and delicate conversation starters? Or, is she an heirloom…an imperfect focal point whose value is in her journey, not her ribbons and lace? Is your doll a female or am I stereotyping? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As beholders, we want to protect our treasures. If we don’t, we become vulnerable. Just how vulnerable depends on how selfish we choose to be. You see, often times it is ourselves we are trying to protect. The fear of loss and the guilt of being irresponsible are unpleasant emotions, to say the least.

The right relationships are a multitude of irreplaceable treasures that mesh together over time. These are treasures in the form of good emotions such as support, forgiveness, appreciation and, most importantly, unconditional love. When your treasure is perfect, the fear of losing it can sling unrealistic scenarios at your mind and turn just about anything into catastrophe. The result of being too protective can lead to an unhappy treasure.

The porcelain Scarlett O’Hara cannot be admired without the risk of falling off the shelf. The durable Raggedy Ann cannot truly comfort without soaking in some snot and tears. Let your treasures do what they are meant to do. They, will then, treasure you in return.

YOU are a treasure!

Two More!

“No pain, no gain.” four words we’ve all thought or said to maintain motivation. But what kind of gain are we referring to? Think about it, people gain things all the time, often not on purpose. Just this past week I gained a new friend and the process was actually quite joyful. There was no pain involved at all. And last month I gained a cool cutting board. Before that, an extra hour of sleep. Am I the person I am today because of these? Of course not. What is needed to achieve progress that has real value? You guessed it…pain.

My fitness instructor reinforces that popular motto several times a day through words of her own. Just when I think I can’t possibly do another squat thrust, she predictably shouts “two more!” I’ve wanted to scream. I’ve wanted to cry. I’ve wanted to vomit. But, the result of countless “two more’s” has been less worry and fewer unexplained tears. That is a gain that means something.

So, what is your “two more?” Four years ago, mine was two more minutes without a negative thought. Pain takes more forms than just physical. There was pain involved in making my decision to fight after ignoring and denying for so long. I did not wake up one day and say “I’m going to work out.” I woke up one day and said “Enough is enough.” Before taking two more steps towards the studio (plug: Power Fitness Exercise Group), there were two more minutes spent researching a regimen that would work for me. And before that, there were two more affirmations reminding myself that I deserve to be a happy person.

You deserve to be a happy person. Start your journey with your own personal “two more,” whether that means steps towards your front door or miles on the treadmill. The end is value added gain.

YOU are a treasure!