Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gratitude

This is never a good time of year for me. It is dark and cold and gray and gloomy in my little corner of the world. I am not a fan of any of those words. I am determined that I will live on a sunny beach at some point in my near future, taking long walks to the sound of waves crashing onto shore, soaking up the warmth of the day on my bare shoulders. But for now, I am here, and I am full of undeserved self-pity. I am certain that my life is pointless and that I am in no way contributing to the well-being of any with whom I cross paths. I have, and it pains me to say this, crossed over to the dark side. That is so not me.

I shared my plight with friends. One suggested I hole up with a cozy blanket, a latte, and keyboard, and pour my thoughts onto the page. Another prompted me to start up a gratitude journal. Given that I preach gratitude, believe in the power of gratitude, and am fully aware of the health benefits of gratitude, it surprised me a bit that I had dug a spot in the graveyard of my mind and given it proper burial. Time, I think, to resurrect the dead. So, in my effort to focus on all that I have and not what I don’t, I share with you that for which I give thanks. As much, though, as I appreciate what you bring to this blog as reader, these words go a little higher up.


Blessed Father in Heaven,

Let’s get the formalities out of the way. Yes, I am thankful for my family and my friends and the fact that I am warm and fed and clothed, but there is so much more. You know this, but I will say it anyway.

I am thankful for the opportunity to teach and to write and to further my education. I am thankful, too, for the childhood into which I was born and for the fact that that childhood nearly ended almost before it had begun.

Every day you provide me opportunity to stand in front of others and make a difference. Isn’t this all any of us really want? Give me the words that others need to hear. Put before me those who need what I have to offer. Help me to show others what it is they have to offer and to encourage them to go out and use that to do your work. Let me be a light in the darkness. I am tempted, here, to break out into song. You know me. You know that I would do that. This little light of mine. I do so want to let it shine.

Every day you provide me opportunity to put to page the words you have given me. Every day you give me opportunity to move, motivate, encourage, inspire. Please give me the words that someone needs to hear. I know that what I say may not be needed now, but may be needed, instead, at some point down the road. I know that maybe my words will not speak to all, but may be for one. I am good with that. I am totally fine with it.

I have a friend now writing on his experience with cancer. His words move me. I know these words. I have seen them in my friends. I have seen them in my father. I am holding onto them. I may need them again. I pray that you give my friend guidance and strength and courage to face what it is that he will need to face. Be with him and guide him and comfort him. Comfort him with your love as he comforts me with his words.

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to further my education, an education I never thought would even begin let alone get to the point it has. I love school. I love everything about it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn and to, in turn, share that experience with others.

I have heard that those who believe in past lifetimes believe that when we incarnate into physical form we choose the situation into which we are born. We choose the lessons that we will learn. We choose our parents. If this is so, I thank you for that choice. As an adult, I do not believe I would choose to be born into impoverished circumstance. The ridicule, the humiliation, the hardship is something no one ever can understand without experiencing and few would even acknowledge. As an adult, I would prefer to study the issue on an academic level. I am glad, though, for the cold nights and for the hunger when there was no food. I am glad for the loss and the loneliness and, even, yes, for the humiliation. Through this gift, you have given me strength. You have given me great compassion. You have put a love in my heart that is deep and real. Thank you. Thank you so much for that.

And thank you that you almost took it all away before it even had gotten started. Thank you for nearly taking this life when I was only six. I never gave that much thought. I’m sorry for that. I never gave it much thought until a friend nearly lost his own life some forty years later. How tragic, I thought, to lose such a wonderful opportunity. How tragic to not be on this earth to do your work, to spread your love, to help others to love themselves and to see what it is they have come to do. And, then, I remembered. I remembered that I nearly lost that opportunity myself, that I am here only because there is work I have yet to do.

And here I am sulking and complaining.

So I thank you. I thank you for the opportunity to teach, to write, to further my education. I thank you for my childhood and for the opportunity you give me each day to do what it is you have put me here to do.

Thank you.

Amen.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I am Alive



What would you do if you had a second chance at life? I was asked this the other day. My answer was easy. You’re looking at it. I would encourage others to love themselves, to love those around them, to love their lives, to use their gifts to bring good things to the world. I would uplift, move, motivate, encourage, inspire. I do these things now. I do them because I figure each morning I wake up, each morning I open my eyes to the beauty all around me, each morning I take another breath, each of these mornings IS my second chance.

I posted the following awhile ago. I feel the need to share again. I feel the need to share with the message that you are beautiful and you are worthy not because of what you do or where you live or how you look, but because you are breathing, because you exist.

If you would like to read more essays on my childhood, feel free to check out my book, Outside the Lines: Essays on Poverty, Possibilities, and the Power of Love, available through Amazon.





Sometimes I say things because I don’t want to say the other things. That last essay I posted? That was nothing. I didn’t even want to write that. I didn’t care. I wanted to write this, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t because when I write, I have to go to a place, in my head, in my heart, in my soul. If I go to THIS place, though, I realize that I may not even exist. I realize that my children, my writing, the effects of my teaching, may all not even exist. I realize that my marriage would not be my marriage. I realize that not only would I not know you, but that any impact I have had on your life would never have happened, that you would be you, without me. If I go to THIS place, I cry inside. I cry inside because I would have been me, without you. I cry inside because on birthday number six, my story would end.

I have just turned six and my family has taken the long trip from Tennessee to Michigan to pick cherries. My dad has heard that people can make money like that. I don’t like this place. It is cold. It is the coldest place I have ever been. I will never come here again. Ever. Also we sleep in a big room with lots of beds and people I don’t even know. They are not really beds. My mom calls them cots. And the floor is not a floor. It is a sidewalk. I don’t like this. It is cold, and I am sleeping with people I don’t know. It makes me nervous. I throw up I am so nervous. My mom says I have the flu, that it’s just the flu. I am sick in this cold place with the strange people. I want to go home.

Being home, though, turns out to be not much better. My tooth is loose, and it won’t come out. It is sort of out because it is not connected. It is only hanging. My dad says come here, and he will take a look at it. He is working on his car. I don’t want him to look at it. I am scared he will try to pull it. He says, no he won’t, but he says let me look at it. He looks with the pliers he is holding. He looks, and then he pulls. He pulls with the pliers. I run back inside. I am running, and I am crying, and I am throwing up Spanish rice all down the sidewalk. I will never eat Spanish rice again.

I am sick, and I am whiter than I have ever been. I get whiter, and I get whiter. I get sicker and sicker. I never go to the doctor even when I am sick. We don’t have money, and we don’t have insurance, and I know doctors need them, but I don’t know how to get them. When I am sick I just lie on the couch until my mom makes me better, but this time she can’t make me better. My Pop tells her that you’d better get that girl to the doctor, that something is wrong. My mom tells my dad that she doesn’t care if we have money or not. She tells him that she doesn’t care if we have insurance or not. She tells him to go get a job and get some insurance because she, by God, is taking me to the doctor.

But the doctor says it is just a five-day virus and that my mom doesn’t need to worry. It will go away.

But it doesn’t. It’s been three more days, and I am getting sicker and whiter. I can’t do anything. I can’t play. I can’t watch television. I can’t do anything. I can lie on the couch. I am so sick and so white. My mom says that doctor was a quack. She says some other things that I can’t tell you because I am not allowed to swear. She takes me to another doctor.

I don’t go home. I go to the hospital.

This doctor says it is not a virus and that it will not go away. He says it is something called peritonitis. He says it is an infection of something about my stomach. I don’t understand. I don’t understand, and I am too tired to try. He says that if my mom hadn’t brought me in today, well Mrs. Wadley, you may have lost your daughter. You are lucky you got her here when you did.

I am in this hospital bed for two weeks. The nurses always come in with shots. They say it is penicillin. They say it is medicine that will make me feel better. They give me shots in my butt when I am awake and when I am asleep. For two weeks I get shots in my butt over and over and over, every six hours I get these shots, all the time I am here. I cannot sleep because I have to get shots. My butt is sore, and I am tired, and I want to go home. But my mom stays with me all the time, so I am not scared. Also, I am feeling bad because I itch and my face is big and I am getting red all over my body. The doctor says I am allergic to the shots, but I have to get them so I won’t be dead.

And I am not dead. The doctor makes me better. And I am excited because school starts very soon, in just a couple weeks my mom says. I like school. This is my first time in school. I practice spelling my name over and over when my mom drives me on the first day. I am so nervous I will forget how to spell my name. And I get my school pictures. But I don’t like them because I look bad. My mom says it has only been three weeks since I got out of the hospital, so not to worry about my droopy eyes and runny nose. She says they are the most beautiful pictures she has ever seen.

There is a beauty pageant at school. My mom and dad think it would be great fun for me to participate since mostly I was in the hospital and in bed all the end of summer, since I didn’t get to play or do anything fun. I have never been in a beauty pageant before. I am excited. I think I will like it.

Mostly, though, I can tell that I am not pretty like the other girls. They are all pretty and happy and smiling. They did not have to go to the hospital. They did not have all those shots or that bad thing in their stomach. They are not white or sick or tired. But I don’t even care. I don’t care because I am on stage in my beautiful pink princess dress. I am on stage, and my mom says that I am special, and I am beautiful, and that that is what’s important. She says not to worry about not winning the pageant. She says I already am a winner. She says I am a winner, because I am alive.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Whose List IS This, Anyway?!


As I sat down to conjure up a few wise words for my obligatory New Year’s post, I decided it more important to fold a bit of laundry, take a bowl of soup out of the freezer to thaw, and to put away a few Christmas decorations. Before I put fingers to the keyboard, then, I lit a couple of candles to set the mood, turned on some soft music and put on a pot of tea. Nothing. I updated Twitter, checked my email, posted a Facebook status, looked a bit into my birth chart. I’ve always found astrology fascinating. Maybe I’ll take it up as part of my New Year’s resolutions. Except that I don’t do resolutions. So why am I doing a New Year’s post? Focus, Tammie. Focus. And why can I not string together two words in the spirit of motivating and uplifting?

Lord. What’s the matter with me?

This is, after all, the year I turn fifty, the year I celebrate twenty-seven years of marriage, and, for Pete’s sake, I’m a writer. This is what I DO. I should have some major soul pouring to do at a time like this. Why, then, do words escape me at the very moment I choose to send a bit of hope and encouragement your direction?

Can I confess a minute? I’ve never been much a fan of this time of year. But, it’s a time for change, for renewal, for hope. Excuse me, but isn’t that EVERY day? Don’t we have opportunity at ANY moment to choose the better way? Every morning we wake, as I see it, is a time for change, for renewal, for hope. And yet, most of us will wait for the turning of the calendar to scribble out a list of improvements that aren’t even our own (admit it, do you REALLY want to drop twenty pounds and hit the gym three times a week?), take manic steps to pursue those improvements, and then promptly discard that list by month’s end, at which point we will begin hating on ourselves because we are quitters, losers, failures of quantum measure. Can we not get more creative than this? Can we not dig deep within ourselves and acknowledge that which has been doing its best to seduce us since we entered this world and consider ourselves try-ers for making efforts toward progress rather than quitters for saying, “Hey, I’m glad I gave it a shot, but, you know, it’s really just not my thing?” I’d put big money on the fact, for example, that most of us have some secret desire we would love to pursue but feel it ridiculous, inappropriate, or somehow unreachable. Please, for the love of God and your own growth and sanity, make THAT list.

My daughter wants to travel the world. She is headed, right now, into her last term in her undergraduate studies. At a time when her friends are suiting up for the big interview, she is booking a two-month work-stay at a bed and breakfast in Scotland. She goes from there to visit a friend in Spain. This, after spending the past summer as an au pair for a family in New Zealand. Roman Krznaric, in one of my favorite blogs, suggests that “if we wish to transform our own lives, we may have to defy cultural norms and risk standing out from the crowd.”

Why is this such a difficult concept?

Pardon me, but as much as I like you, I have zero time to live YOUR life. What you think of my actions, how you judge my words, and where you believe I should go with my talents, gifts, and skills are of no concern to me. I seem odd to some, strange to many, and silly to more than I can name. So be it. I have a mission in life. That mission is to empower others to move to a more positive place in their lives, to uplift, move, motivate, encourage, inspire. I want to positively impact the lives of huge numbers of people through speaking, writing, and teaching. I want to bring peace, love, and compassion to those with whom I cross paths and those I may, in fact, never meet. Idealistic. That’s what people call me. They say I live behind rose-colored glasses and operate with lofty, worthy goals, yes, but that my vision could never possibly happen. So? What’s the worst that could happen? I only make ONE person happy when they’re having a crap of a day? I inspire just ONE person to leave a soul-deadening job? How is that a bad thing? How is that failing?

I think too many of us put our dreams aside because we feel them too big, too elusive, an all-or-nothing prospect. We make a list of other people’s dreams, dreams that are easy, doable, within reach, and then we fail because we’re not interested, because they aren’t our dreams at all. Or worse, we succeed and we begin living the life someone else would like us to live, in which case we truly fail. On my part, I choose to follow my own dreams. And, seriously, if I can make one person smile, fill one heart with love, or elicit just one laugh I’m checking that baby off my list. And I’m not waiting until next year to do it.