My great aunt will be 96 this month.
Her only child died last November.
He was in his seventies.My aunt is doing quite well.
She gets up every day.
She dresses herself.
She walks, or as my kids say, she scuffles.
She eats her meals in the senior center.
She gives. She listens. She loves.
She smiles at everyone who lives and works in the center.
She is alert.
She is vital.
She is not in denial.
When I am down, or overwhelmed or stressed,
or when I have a challenging decision to make,
I visit her.
I have asked her how she manages her losses.
She says managing stress is quite simple:
Life is not perfect.
Not everyone is kind, but everyone needs kindness.
Control what you can control (which is very little),
Let go of everything else.
Keep life’s routines. Get dressed. Exercise. Be spiritual.
Give love every day.
It always comes back.
When I teach stress management, I hear about alcoholism, abusive relationships, money worries, failed health, job problems.
I know my aunt is right–managing stress is simple.
Knowing, however, is different from doing.
May you live to be vibrant at 96,
To give love and be loved by those around you.
I still remember the first time I noticed fall. I must have been four or five years old. I was with my family driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I, through some miracle (or, more likely, maternal intervention), was sitting by the door, nose pressed against the window.
“It looks just like a bowl of Fruit Loops,” my brother Rick said.
“Why are the trees all different colors?” I asked. “Why are some of them still green? Why are there red ones and yellow ones and orange ones?”
My mother didn’t go into detail about chlorophyll and day length. She just said, “The forest has lots of different kinds of trees, and when it gets colder and there’s less sunshine, they all respond in different ways.
Another brother chimed in, “It’s a good thing they’re different, or fall would just look like Rice Crispies!”
Whenever I present a program about diversity, I remember that eye-opening drive in the mountains. People often equate diversity training with ethnic diversity in the workplace. That’s profoundly important, and essential.
But I like to remember, and include in the discussion, that all kinds of diversity–different backgrounds, work styles, attitudes, and perspectives–improve an organization’s ability to respond to change, and to meet the needs of their diverse customers. Just like trees, people come in different kinds, and respond differently to their environment.
So look around you. Do you see Fruit Loops, or Rice Crispies?
Julie and I went to college together.
When others saw lemons, Julie made lemonade.
It’s not that Julie had fewer challenges than the rest of us,
It’s that Julie wrote the book on turning challenges into opportunities.
These days, Julie and I don’t talk as often as we’d like. After all, between us we have two jobs, two husbands, five kids and one house to manage.
Before Ivan, we had two houses to manage. But now Julie’s house is floating somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico.
I’ve talked to Julie often during the past week.
I can’t help her rebuild her house, but I can let her know I’m thinking of her.
Julie is sad about her “new” life, but as usual, she is making lemonade.
“After all…” she says, and begins her “I’m-thankful” list:
“Nobody in my family was killed or injured.
Phil and I still have jobs.
My parents can take care of the kids until we find a place to live.
We just moved in, and I hadn’t even started decorating.
And guess what? I found some of Grandmother’s china buried in muck in the front yard.”
Julie has a new perspective about her bills, her colleagues, her work responsibilities and her life. And she’s thankful for that, too.
I don’t want to depend on a natural disaster to remind me to be thankful. Got any good recipes for lemonade?