I consider myself an
avid reader. Bookworm, if you will. Step into my apartment and you will see
Readers Digest and animal and cat magazines and stacks of fictional and
cookbooks all over my coffee and kitchen tables and even on my bed. I often read two books at the same time. I go to the library religiously at least two
times a month just to get lost in the aisles among all these authors,
writers, and creators and lovers of words and stories. As everyone picks up their Kindle and
Tablet, I love nothing more than the feel of the pages to flip through and the
intoxicating scent of a book in my hands.
I am ashamed to
confess to you that the one reading material you will never find in my
possession is the newspaper. I rarely
ever pick it up. I find shuffling
through the pages cumbersome. Sure I can
scope out the latest news headlines and bulleted factoids on the Internet, but,
again, I love nothing more the paper and pages over keyboard and mouse
clicks. However, lately with my sister
as a journalist for a newspaper, I find myself drawn to and picking up the
newspaper much more often. Immediately,
I target my two favorite sections: The Comics and The Obituaries. Such polar opposites, right? I just think that The Comics and The
Obituaries summarize life. There is birth
and death, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and living life as loud as can
be or as quiet and calm as can be in the chaos.
The Comics is only
about one page or half a page. Garfield
and the Peanuts/Snoopy are my favorites.
The Obituaries take two or three pages or even more. Nearly all the obituaries are wrote in third
person and hone in from the reporter’s perspective and research of where a
person was born, age of the person’s death, remaining loved ones, interests and
hobbies, perhaps even passions and purposes, and how the person died. I devoured reading these obituaries that I
felt was much more about life than death.
I was very surprised
when I came across an obituary that was written in the first person. It was a
woman who went into full detail about her life, her loved ones, her purpose in
life of how all she wanted to do was help people, and how she wished for her
funeral to be fun and full of laughter rather than tears. I thought how smart of this woman because the
best person to write about his/her life was the actual person, but how very
difficult it is to actual write about our own lives from an unbiased point of
view. The one missing piece in the
obituary is HOW she died. I read the
obituary aloud to my sister and asked: “How do you think she died?”
My sister said, “Maybe
she was suffering and wanted to make it a point to write her own obituary. It could have been an assisted suicide.”
I gasped and
sputtered, “That’s terrible! I hope she
didn’t kill herself or assisted suicide because she was suffering!”
I thought about this
woman, knowing that I will never know how she died and came to write her very
own obituary. I thought about pain and
suffering, and how we all go through it.
I thought about the fight for life and hope, and how we all may not have
it to hold on to. If it were not for pain and suffering, how would
we as a society and people birth and grow compassion, purpose, character,
strength, and, above all else, hope?
struggles, and pain are essentials in life to develop character, strength, and
hope. By no means am I going cheerleader
on anyone going through the worst or the bad, but if it were not for these and
if everything was perfect and just dandy, how would we appreciate what we do
and do not have? How would we come to
know and grow into ourselves and into life?
Would we ever see the beauty of hope, faith, and ourselves in the face
of adversity? Would we ever taste victory when we overcome our obstacles? And, if you were to write
your very own obituary, what would it say?
Keep smilin’ until we
Way back in the early 2000’s
when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed college student, I took an
introduction to a communications class that fascinated me so much that
communications became my minor. One of
the facts that fascinated me was that first impressions are important because
we make our judgments about people in a mere few seconds and definitely in less
than five minutes.
I could not believe that. In less than five minutes, people (myself
included unto others) would unknowingly and unconsciously judge me, which would
then either jumpstart a potential relationship or the person would just dump me
on the spot.
This factoid has carried
on in my life with always trying to put my best front in hopes that my best would
click or connect with someone from the start.
My gut feeling about people was also turned on and has heightened with
time. Although I know that no experience with one person is the alike and to
judge on my own merit and encounters with a person, my judgment is affected by
people’s experiences with others being bad or good. Does the same happen to
you? I thrived on the people I met who I
felt and was sure the other felt an instant connection. Like many and especially in this fast-paced world,
I thrive on an instant connection and turn my back on those who do not really
rub me the right way from the very beginning.
I think we live in a time and place where we are all about instant
gratification with these technological devices used with every intention to try
to fill a void we all have. We all want
to be connected, but are we really connecting?
Then, something happened. A light
bulb moment, if you will.
Those who I felt a fast
connection with would usually crash and burn just as quickly. Those whose first impressions did not really
impress me from the beginning actually ended up surprising me with slowly
revealed softer sides that was a sharp contrast to their initial edges on the
surface. The relationships that hit me the hardest are the
ones that lasted the longest only to fade away slowly or end very suddenly. After being rejected and dejected by many
while also and especially treasuring the very few gems in my lifetime thus far,
I’ve come to a realization that my trust level has done to subzero and my
suspicion level has gone sky high. I no
longer believe in people’s words and only believe in their actions. As one of my family members summed it up to
describe the me I am now: “You do not trust anyone. You are also very hypersensitive and tend to
judge based on what others say about a person.
Your trust only grows with time pr never move or grow at all.”
Over time, I understood
that first impressions will mean something, but they do not mean
everything. It is the last impressions
that mean everything—these are the impressions encased in actions and people
being there for you at your worst, best, and in between. These are the impressions that made me learn
that it REALLY takes time and efforts to get to know people and that people
will surprise you with the best they can and will do for you or shock you with
the worst they can do to you. Everyone
actually SEEMS normal and nice until you get to know them. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has softer sides and sharp edges. Everyone has beautiful and ugly to them. I go on my gut more than anything else when I
first meet someone than on their external image, because now I know more than
ever that it is only internal truth about someone that will only be revealed in
time. People are people. Most of all, nothing and no one is a waste of
time. Everyone and everything serves a
purpose in your life.
There are people who have
made first and last impressions on you, but how many can you say have made an
everlasting impression? Do you go on gut
and on your first impressions of people?
Who are the people who you did not think much of in the beginning and
even disliked, only for that person’s softer side to be revealed in due time and
for that person and the relationship to grow on you? Who were the people who made a great first
impression on you where you felt an instant connection only for it to crash and
burn as quickly as it started? Do you
put your best impression in the beginning, or are you much more guarded and
will only reveal your true self within time?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,
Close the eve of this past Valentine’s Day and after exhilarating and thrilling fun at a Methodist Church about 30 minutes north from me, I wrote out a check to enroll in Square Dancing class. I cannot even recall the last time I enrolled in any class and was in the active student learning mode, completely dependent on experts to teach and guide me along. I did not miss being a student and, contrary to popular belief and surface appearance, I am not an academic embracer. Then again, I always said and believed that I was a student of life and that we learn something new every single day more so from life experiences than sitting in a classroom listening to lectures.
Every Monday night for an hour, I would dance. For as long as I could remember, I have always loved to dance. Even when the pain was really bad with my body that felt so broken before my hip replacement, I loved to and would be the first one to get up and dance. However, my idea of dancing was the move freely without formal steps and lessons and to the rhythm and beat of the music. The music would guide and teach me. I would move with the music. After my hip replacement, I embraced dancing even more by taking Zumba and even Line Dancing briefly. I have always been so full of humbled gratitude for movement and even more so after my hip replacement surgery. You never realize how bad your body or really how anything was until you are pain free and until you no longer have the weight of whatever was troubling you weighing you down. You only understand the great gift that our bodies and just moving is when you can actually physically do it that frees you emotionally and mentally.
I never laughed so hard and so much until I did square dancing. Some of the other members nicknamed me “The Giggler.” I laughed so hard that my stomach would hurt and tears of joy would roll down my face, and people exclaimed to me: “You are having way too much fun!” If only they knew that there is never such a thing as TOO much fun in this one life that can often be much too serious. I loved Square Dancing for many reasons that went beyond the dance moves because you learned about the power of listening over talking, trusting complete strangers until they became familiar faces, and, above all else you—you were never alone. There was always someone right next to you with a hand to hold right or multiple hands to grasp on to in complete faith that you would all complete these steps together.
Then, disaster struck with nausea and dizziness after one too many circular movements. Since my latest surgery that cut into my abdomen yet again, my nausea has worsened significantly. The nausea will come on suddenly and sharply. I literally feel like my body and the world is shutting down around me. My previous transplant doctor says my blood pressure runs low and he thinks these nauseous and dizzy episodes are my blood pressure dropping or dehydration. Through a dizzying haze, I heard many of the members call upon me to get up and dance. I felt like I was going to pass out and weakly joked: “I feel sick. I do not think you want me puking on you.” I purposefully waited for the twang Country music to start so all the dancers could dance and I could slip out quietly to collect myself and before I started crying out of physical and emotional exhaustion. Before anyone could see me, I left. I did not want them to see me at my worst. I did not want them to comfort me. I wanted to be alone. I wanted them to see me at my best, even though, I knew as the ultimate worst critic of myself that my best was not good enough this time around and that my body could never keep up with my brain.
That night and into the next day, a couple people from the Square Dancing class checked in on me if I was okay. I explained to the presidents and to a very dear member that I kindly had to bow out. My body has always spoken loud, and I always listen to it even louder. As usual, people do not know what to say (I am guilty of this to), so I say to them: “I do not expect you or anyone to know or what to say. If it weren’t for my hip replacement, I would not even have been able to take this class. So, how can I be sad when I am just grateful? I always focus on what I can do and not on what I cannot do, because I have done my best and the best is yet to come.”
My father had recently said to me that he always wants people to remember him at his best. I am just like my dad in this sentiment, but as the ultimate student of life, I am understanding that we may want to be remembered for our best but it is the worst that is the most vital that builds us to our best. We think of the ‘best’ as ‘that is it,’ but I am learning that there is always a work in progress and it is about ‘being better’ and not ‘the best.’
Do you always want to show your best? When have you been at you worst that has led to your best? When have you done your best only to realize and understand that your best is not good enough? Do you remembered for your best?