Today I looked into a camera and said my weak things in a strong voice. I told my story about my intense struggles with PTSD after my apartment building fire, and how that recovery turned me into an author. I told my deepest, darkest secret, and I feel fierce and free. Link to video will be live soon.
The most valuable gifts we can give others are our time and attention. So often what others need is just someone to really listen. Grateful for my good set of ears and my ability to offer help, support, and encouragement. We’re all just walking each other home.
Mark A. Smith posted this story on LinkedIn this week. It was so powerful for me that I have to share it with all of you. My favorite of his learnings detailed here: “No one learns in the middle of a crisis. Survive. Breathe. Reflect.” If this doesn’t personify the power of yes, then I don’t know what does. Thank you, Mark, for you bravery and tenacity. I’m so glad you’re still with us.
“23 years ago today my parents and doctor walked into my ICU room, held my hands, and told me I had only a few months to live. I had a rare disease called Wegener’s Granulomatosis and had 18 tumors throughout my lungs, kidneys, and airway.
16 years of chemotherapy, 200,000+ pills, 34 surgeries, and a million prayers later and I’m still around to annoy everyone on LinkedIn. Here is some of what I’ve learned — I’ll hope you find some value:
– We have the capacity to find joy in all things. A negative attitude is worse than a tumor. The best of life can come from the worst of life.
– Everyone has a difficult trial. Everyone. Be compassionate.
– When your looks get taken away, you better have a solid character or you’re screwed. – Priorities are revealed when abilities are stripped. Put them in order before life forces it upon you.
– No one learns in the middle of a crisis. Survive. Breathe. Reflect.
– Life is too short to take offense. Assume the best and move on. One day our children will struggle. We must endure our own trials so that, when needed, we can look in their eyes with perfect credibility and say, “I’ve been through the same struggle. I know your pain. You can do this.”
Happy New Year, my friends. Thank you for all you add to my life.”
See Mark’s post here.
As you fly swiftly underground
with a song in your ears
or lost in the maze of a book,
remember the ones who descended here
into the mire of bedrock
to bore a hole through this granite,
to clear a passage for you
where there was only darkness and stone.
Remember as you come up into the light.
New York City’s subways have a program called Poetry in Motion in which they commission works to post on our subway trains. This one by Billy Collins was posted in my subway yesterday and it was a beautiful reminder that there are so many reasons to be grateful.
Sometimes not getting what we want is exactly what we need. Last year, I almost bought a home in D.C. Three times. Each of the deals fell through for different reasons. After the outcome of the Presidential election and the uncertainty in the future, I couldn’t be happier that I didn’t get what I wanted even though I felt defeated each time. Those momentary disappointments turned out to be incredible gifts that I didn’t yet understand. If you’re currently facing disappointment, and wondering why what’s happening is happening, I hope my home-buying situation is a comfort to you. Rest assured that eventually it will all make sense; the universe protects us in ways we can’t even imagine.
Knowing that we only have a finite amount of time a gift because it helps us figure out what matters. It helps us understand what we want to do and who we want to spend our time with. I was recently offered an opportunity – a wonderful opportunity – but when I put it through the filter of “is this really how I want to spend the next few years that I will never be able to get back?” it was very easy to turn it down. If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that time is the most precious and sacred thing we have. Let’s honor our own time and the time of others as the priceless gift that it is.
Today as I travel to the Philadelphia area to ring in the new year, I’m thinking about the wonderful things that happened in 2016. I opened up my wonder jar that I created in January 2016, and this is what I found:
1.) I got a new job through a recruiter on LinkedIn in healthcare working with artificial intelligence. And it came with a promotion in title and a raise to boot!
2.) I went to Cuba, a lifelong dream trip, and met some fabulous people whom I’m sure I will travel with in the future.
3.) I moved into a new apartment in a new neighborhood and discovered a whole new side of D.C.
4.) I went to Puerto Rico for a dear friend’s wedding.
5.) My amazing friends Ken and Tom got married, as did my dear friends Rachael and Jon. I was so thrilled to celebrate them and share in their joy with some of my favorite people in the world. Love wins!
6.) I made new friends, reconnected with others whom I hadn’t connected with in years, and had the best times spending time with so many friends whom I love.
7.) I turned 40, and had one of the very best birthday parties of my life thanks to wonderful friends.
8.) I finished my book Where the Light Enters, and a small press is considering publishing it.
9.) I greatly expanded my freelance writing opportunities, and am looking forward to even more of that in early 2017.
10.) Phineas came through a couple of difficult health challenges like a champ, and is now super healthy at the ripe old age of 7. We took a lot of long and happy walks together all over D.C. and we had plenty of snuggle time. I also found a great daycare / boarding place and a dog walker that take wonderful care of him.
11.) I saved a down payment with the hope of buying my very first home in 2017, and got my finances in order in a better way than ever before.
12.) I attended fun cultural events all over Washington, D.C. all year long.
13.) I had one of my collages accepted and shown at an art gallery in D.C.
14.) I expanded my personal art collection with works from all over the world that inspire me on a daily basis.
15.) I started the Breaking Bread Podcast.
16.) I had the chance to support a number of nonprofits that I admire and that make this world a better place.
17.) I greatly enhanced my cooking and baking skills, churning out some delicious and nutritious meals from my kitchen.
18.) I worked on my first television project as an Associate Producer.
19.) I learned to trust my gut more than ever before. I laughed, I smiled, and I loved.
20.) I saw a ton of great live music in D.C. including Josh Ritter, Andra Day, Elephant Revival, 2 Cellos, Janelle Monae, Rhiannon Giddeons, The American Pops, Ben Harper, and Grace Potter.
21.) I created and taught creative writing workshops for kids at 826DC.
I’m sure 2017 will bring many more blessings and learnings. And that wonder jar was a wonderful thing. I plan to start a new one tomorrow in honor of the new year.
I have a very special gratitude story today about the power of community and kindness. Nick is one of the handy men in my apartment building. He’s always helping people out and doing odd jobs around our neighborhood, too. He and Phineas are good pals. Yesterday, Nick was outside working with no gloves in single digit temps. I bought Nick some warm gloves and Nicole, the concierge in my building, helped me get that gift to him.
Nicole said he was so surprised and touched that he started crying. She said he hopped on his bike with the gloves on and headed off to help a friend who was having car trouble. Apparently, Nick stopped into our local Petco and asked what would be a good small toy for a dachshund. The manager of the Petco asked “Are you buying a gift for Phineas? He’s our best customer!” Nick said he was and told him about the gloves I bought for him. The manager at the Petco was so happy to hear this story that he gave Nick a limited edition Star Wars dog toy of Kylo Ren to give to Phinny. They put it in a gift bag, and Nick left it with Nicole for us.
Phineas started jumping around when we opened it in the lobby, and Nicole said he and Nick had the same reaction. I learned that Nicole’s been having a really tough year and she said today made her believe in the goodness of people and the meaning of Christmas.
Doing big things that help a lot of people is a wonderful thing. And there are also dozens of small things we can do right where we are to help people in our community. Kindness and generosity are two of the greatest resources we have. Let’s use them to make the world and our own little corner of it better for others. Today I’m grateful for my community and the opportunities I have to help my neighbors.
Can we get real for a minute? Seriously, pull up a chair, grab your coffee, and let’s talk. How many times have you told yourself you can’t do something because of X reason? I want you to cut it out, and here’s why. The Donald, arguably the most unqualified person to ever run for any office, anywhere, whose ego is only matched by his bank account and his tangled mess of conflicts of interest, who is deteriorating foreign relations with his late-night Twitter obsession, who has had a perpetually bad hair day since the 70s, won the electoral college to be President of the United States of America.
And you, an intelligent, conscious, curious, compassionate, hard-working person who wants to make a difference can’t do something? Really? I promise you that you can do this, whatever this is.
I’m grateful to Donald Trump for exactly one reason: he showed us that we can do anything we set our minds to. So the next time the imposter syndrome sneaks into your psyche, please allow me to pop into your mind a split second later, knock the imposter elf to the ground, and tell you to get out there and do the work you’re meant to do. Your grace, talents, and passion are needed now more than ever. Please keep shining.
American Public Media gave me the chance to wax poetic about my favorite holiday song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the importance of gratitude, and my love for James Taylor. Here’s a 1-minute soundbite of our conversation.