The Beauty of Love

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Whether I’m speaking to a group of women at the local women’s shelter, interacting with   my teenage students, listening to the stories of a  WWII veteran, or catching up with a  close friend going through a rocky relationship, there is a common thread that binds them all;  a need for acceptance and reassurance that they are valuable and loved in spite of their flaws.

Some of these courageous people that I have the pleasure of knowing and working with in the community feel lost, weak, incomplete and that their sense of purpose has dissipated in the fog.  I believe it is in these times when people are often at their weakest where love is most needed.

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Not given handouts or pity thrown freely rather loved and healed with  empathy, honesty, someone to truly  listen, create deep connections and  provide hope and support  where possible.  A love that will carry  them through the painful times, walk beside them through the challenging times,  encourage them to become the best versions of themselves and honor their successes.

When we reach out and do this, it not only helps another recognize their worth, it strengthens the bond between two people, a small inner circle and can have a beautiful rippling effect throughout our community.

Where do you see the beauty of love being extended in your hometown?

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Turning Pain into Power

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With tears in his eyes, my son spills out, why doesn’t Dad  want to hang out with me, Mom?  Despite my best efforts to communicate with my ex husband the importance of spending quality time with his son, I’m afraid it has fallen on deaf ears.  It is so hurtful for him at such an important age in his life and with everything he has been through to know that someone he loves and cares for deeply simply doesn’t make himself available anymore because it doesn’t serve his needs.

The absence of someone we love and care about is common place for many whether it be due to death, business travel or the ending of a relationship. How can we take these difficult times, the hurt and pain we feel and use it to make our lives better rather than bitter?

Although there is no magic pill one can take to cure this, there are a few steps forward that people can take to turn their pain into power.

Find ways to serve others.

This is a two fold benefit.  When our focus is shifted elsewhere, we put our mind and efforts onto serving others in positive ways whether it be volunteering at the local homeless shelter, visiting the elderly in nursing homes or putting together care packages to send to veterans overseas.  This strengthens our community one person at a time. It also helps to increase our moods by raising our  levels of oxytocin and serotonin in our bodies.

So for my son, who continues his battle with Chairi Malformation, I have spoke to him about the importance of how he can spread awareness of this disorder and be a  mentor and a friend for a new kid at his school who also has the same disorder.  Helping him to see the opportunity to be a leader to many of the younger, more inexperienced players on his team is another way to create bonds and feel appreciated.

Get Your Body Moving.

When we  feel strong physically, this helps us become stronger mentally and vice versa.  Running, yoga, crossfit,  team sports, biking, hiking or simply taking a brisk 30-40 minute walk every night helps to increase our dopamine levels and the reward centers in our brain. This is why, after we are done with a workout even though we may feel sore our mood is most likely improved and not focused on what’s missing in our life.

I keep my son moving by playing baseball, continuing with his physical therapy, swimming, and bike riding.  This season I am now one of his coaches for his team so those kids sure keep me moving !

Ask for Help When Needed.

Unfortunately, it seems we live in a world where so many think that if we show our emotions, share our story and express a need for help, that we are somehow flawed… weak.  Researcher Brene Brown states…

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It takes courage to share your story, to ask for someone’s trust,  to be truly present in their company, to listen, show empathy, provide support and encouragement where needed.  Sometimes this help may need to come from a professional.

Or be the person who picks up the phone and  extends the olive branch to  friends and family in need and remind them that you are there for them not just during times when it is convenient but rather more importantly in the times when it is inconvenient. Perhaps when they feel others have walked out on them.

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Nature’s Arena

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To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; 

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or

a redeemed social condition; 


To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. 

This is to have succeeded. 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson


Lessons from the Trail

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She broke the world record by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine… in 46 days.  

Pretty dang impressive!

The calls and requests for interviews came quickly for Jennifer Pharr Davis. What were her stats? How many calories per day did she eat per day? How many pairs of shoes did she go through?  As she stood in front of our high school students recently sharing her remarkable and courageous journey she noted that ‘not one of the reporters asked her what she learned or how she felt, what obstacles did she endure and overcome’ while trekking through fourteen states. She admits she was pleased with this record however that was not what was most important.

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She had made this hike before as a young recent college graduate looking for something greater then your typical 9-5 job.  She found it on her first hike -which on average takes 5-6 months, hiking through the 14 states that make up the AT.  With a wry sense of humor about her extreme exhaustion, foul smell and wanting to quit, she pressed on… one step at a time.  Battling nature’s elements, meeting people from all walks of life(if you ever get to hear her speak, ask her about the stalker), seeing her inner strength shine through in a way she had never seen before and most importantly, discovering and learning to love and believe in herself.

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Since her capture of the world record in 2011, someone else has gone on to beat her by only three hours.  While she admits that stings just a bit, it’s ok because no one will ever be able to take away the incredible journey, lessons and love for the Appalachian Trail.

Her experience has in fact led her on a different path; one that she didn’t plan or anticipate.  She has gone on to travel the world hiking many of the long trails on six different continents including hiking all 50 states with her now four year old daughter. And has since started sharing her passion and love for hiking and nature with others by founding the Blue Ridge Hiking Company and gave her first Ted Talk awhile back.

What I know for sure… there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with others through storytelling.   When we truly take the time to listen, ask questions, show empathy and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our stories,  we often will see ourselves through their journey. This connection can happen anywhere- with students in the classroom, book clubs, chatting with an old veteran or coworkers working the midnight shift at the hospital.

While many of us are driven towards accomplishing our goals and dreams, perhaps the greatest moments and memories of our lives are when we trust the journey of the path unknown.

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Nature’s Arena

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she talks to me

not in words

words would just not do

they’d fall short of saying

all she had to say

fall short of reaching

the soul

she sings to me

in misty shades of purple and blue

in a way that only she can do

she lifts me

high above the skyline

to a mountaintop

high above the noise

the chaos down below

she loves me

like no other can ever do

she touches me

in misty shades of blue

~Michael Traveler

Traveler on the Backroads


Asheville, North Carolina

photo by Jaki Miller

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