Hope

Today as I was walking outside to get my clarinet from the music building, I had an interesting thought, which I later shared on Facebook.  Although it was just shy of ten degrees, I could feel the warmth of the sun peeking just over the trees.  That was when it hit me.

“Maybe we are sent to places we do not want to be so that we can make a difference-so that we can bring goodness, and love, and hope; and maybe, just maybe, we are sent to the darkest places to learn the brightest lessons.”                                                                                                  -Amanda Reimer

This year happened to be filled with a lot of those dark places that I didn’t want to be in.  There were deaths and struggles, lies and hurt feelings, sicknesses and pains, stresses and worries.  But above all of those things there was always hope.  Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for peace and love, hope for healing and relaxation, hope for joy and happiness—and maybe that’s something we all need to remember.  Kindness and love are the greatest gifts you can give to another person, and I think that they truly make a difference and nurture hope in those bad times—whether you’re giving or receiving.

I may not know what 2014 will bring, but I know this much: it will be filled with ups and downs, it will be filled with sorrows and joys, there will be trials and celebrations, memories and laughter, but above all there will be hope.

Things You Learn In A Long Distance Relationship Part 2

4. You’ll make it through the goodbyes.

When it’s time for you or your significant other to leave each other again, you probably feel down.  You might cry or have a lump in your throat or a terrible stomachache.  But as bad as you feel in that moment, try to remember it will get better.  You won’t stop missing your partner, but with time you’ll realize you’re down less often, and the things that remind you of them make you happy, not sad.

5.They aren’t really goodbyes.

If you really think about the meaning of goodbye, then the gaps of time apart from your partner aren’t really goodbyes.  Joey and I always say, “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.”  It’s a great way to think of an entirely unappealing situation.  After all, just because you’re spending time apart it doesn’t mean you’ll be apart forever.  You’ll be together again soon enough.

6. You don’t have to be sad to be missing someone.

I know I’ve touched on this one already, but I think it’s important to reiterate.  This is always something I come back to because my first instinct is to be sad about missing Joey.  But I think we can all agree, that our partners don’t want us to be sad, and we don’t want them to be sad.  They still love us, we still love them, and most of the time they’re just a phone call away.  Remember the happy moments (it doesn’t hurt to have pictures to look at of the two of you together!) and look forward to the new moments you’ll make together.

Why Do You Rush?

Have you ever wondered why everyone always seems to be in such a hurry?  We rush to school, rush to work, rush to get our tasks done, rush to finish our meals, and rush to get home again, go to bed, wake up and do it all over again.  Day after day after day we rush, but for what reason?  It isn’t like we’re going to wake up one day with someone knocking at the front door saying, “You’re out of time.”

Yes, I know we all die, and yes, I know time is valuable; but isn’t that why we should be enjoying every second we have of it?  We’re only here on this crazy beautiful planet for so long, nobody knows how long or how short, so there’s no point in rushing around like a bunch of cows being herded onto a cart for the slaughterhouse.

Have you ever heard that saying, “Stop and smell the roses?”  Try it. Stop and smell the roses—literally.  Stop what you’re doing and actually smell the roses.  How often do you actually take time to appreciate their fragrance?  Their color?  The way the petals feel on your cheek?  The way the petals curl out at the ends just like how your sister’s hair flips out when she doesn’t straighten it all the way?

I bet you never noticed that, and now you’re laughing because you never thought that a rose and partially straightened could be compared to one another—but they can.  Just think about little things like that.  There is so much to be seen in this world.

Have you ever stopped to watch a squirrel eating a nut?  They sit hunched over and if you get too close, make a chirping noise that I can only describe as that of a dying baby eagle.  Did you know that?  Have you ever noticed the look in someone’s eyes when you say hello to them after not seeing them for some time?  Their pupils dilate, and it’s because they’re excited to see you.

Maybe it’s because I tend to be creative and because I love poetry, and beauty, and pictures, and words, but there are so many things that we miss when we go blustering about our days on a gust of wind.  We say that we know people like the backs of our hands, but do you know the back of your hand?  Are there hairs on your fingers?  Do your knuckles dimple when you lay your hand flat?  Do you have freckles or scratches or dry, patchy skin?  Maybe you do, maybe you don’t—either way it’s still beautiful, individual, and it takes time to notice it.

When I ask, “Why do you rush about your lives,” really think about it.  What if you stopped and opened up your eyes?  What if you really smelled the roses?  Time is fleeting, but a moment is what you make of it.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

Earlier this evening, I chatted with my friend who is studying abroad this semester.  She told me about some trouble she’s run into with other students who are being judgmental and catty.  While, I was upset to hear that a few people are making her trip less enjoyable, I was not surprised that judgment and unkindness know no cultural boundaries.

I have written previously on judgment in my post “Let It Go,” but after several similar conversations, I’ve decided to dig a little deeper on the subject.  It seems that more and more often people judge one another mostly because they have a desire to compare themselves to the people they judge. But what grounds does this comparison stand upon?

For example, say two people are in a room that is room temperature.  Subject A is too hot and Subject B is too cold.  Both think the other is wrong, but under what grounds?  Subject A says that Subject B should just put on a layer, while Subject B says Subject A should take one off.  They’re comparing based on their own standards, but this isn’t fair.  Everyone is different and some people have naturally higher or lower body temperatures, and thus natural aversions to certain temperatures.

The same thing goes for every other comparison that comes to mind.  Not everyone has the same tolerances, and people certainly don’t respond to criticism in the same ways.  And you know what, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

People go on and on about how we need to accept people’s differences, but then turn around and judge based upon comparisons. What we really need to do is put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

Yes, I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but really think about it for a moment.  When people are judging you, don’t you want them to think about how it makes you feel? Exactly.

So to my readers, let’s all try to be a little bit more open, you never know who’s spirit you might encourage just by putting yourself in their shoes instead of judging.  And to my dear friend on the other side of the world, try not to be down because people are mean.  Just remember the friends who love and support you.

Things You Learn In A Long Distance Relationship

Two years ago, when I started my freshman year of college, everyone told me not to worry about starting a long distance relationship.  Joey and I had already been dating for almost two years, and besides, it was just college.

Joey and I the summer before we started college.

Joey and I the summer before we started college.

It wasn’t like we were being shipped off to war and might not see each other again.  It would just be four months apart, Christmas break together, four months apart, three months of summer break together, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat.  Piece of cake.

“It’ll get easier,” everyone said.

Two years later, now engaged to Joey, but still in separate states, and with just a little over a year left to go in my undergraduate career, I can look back at that moment, smile, laugh, and say, “Boy, were they wrong!”

Long distance relationships are anything but easy, even now, though I’m only in Wisconsin, while he’s home in Illinois.  Take it from me, Joey and I spent two years in Florida and Wisconsin respectively, it isn’t an easy feat!

Joey and I now.

Joey and I now.

I know what you might be thinking, isn’t it easier now that he’s two hours away instead of sixteen?  No.  It’s not.  Apart is still apart.  In fact, I’m finding that it’s even harder being so close because he’s close enough that I could in theory see him if I just drive two hours, but I can’t. 

Even though saying goodbye and being apart doesn’t ever get easier, I have to say that I think both Joey and I have learned a lot by experiencing a long distance relationship. Here are a few thoughts:

1.     It’s okay to spend time apart.

Every relationship needs a little bit of autonomy.  Some people like more than others, but regardless, everyone needs it.  Think of it as a time to relax or a time to grow and learn something new that you can share with your partner.

2.     Don’t take your time together for granted.

Treasure the little moments.  Not everything you do together has to be an extravagant dinner date.  Go for a walk, go shopping together, enjoy a bike ride, or just sit on the couch and talk about life.  It’s your relationship, just do the things you love together, even if right now that means sitting on the phone for an hour to talk about last week’s episode of The Voice.

3.     Risk everything for love.

Time is fleeting and nothing is certain.  So, if you find love, and it’s really, truly love, don’t let anything get in the way of that.  If you keep waiting around for the right situations to arise, your relationship will never be successful.  Take chances and enjoy love while it lasts, whether it’s a few days or a whole lifetime.

Let It Go

Throughout my whole life, I have struggled with the idea of being accepted by others, of being free from judgment, of making sure I always make others happy, of being good enough.  The only problem with this equation is it leaves no room for error.  It does not take human nature into consideration.

What happens when I do the “right” thing, but it still upsets people?  Have I really done the “right” thing? What happens if people I care about lie to me?  Does it mean I never really earned their respect?  What happens if I say something intelligent, but cannot defend it?  Am I really saying something unintelligent?  More importantly, what will others think if I respond to these situations in the wrong ways?

Anyone could try to answer all those questions, but it would not stop anxiety, bitterness, and ache from wedging into the mind.  It would not solve any problems.  Perhaps the real question to ask ourselves here is if it matters what people will think of us.

While it is true that in a perfect world everyone could accept one another and live free of judgment, true agape* between humans is only attainable in a perfect world. So, though the Bible, our parents, our teachers, our peers, and society teach us that it is wrong to judge one another, and that we should love and accept one another, it is human nature to err, and nothing changes human nature.

The point here, then, must be to not take the things other people say and do personally.  In life, people are going to dislike you, disrespect you, and belittle you, all in attempt to feel better about themselves.  We are only human, and therefore flawed, so of course this will happen.  All we can do is let it go and try our best to respond with love, respect, forgiveness, and poise.  It will not be a simple feat, but the higher road carries a lighter load of emotional baggage than does the road of vengeance and contempt.

* The word agape comes from the Greek noun for love, signifying unconditional or selfless love.  It is used in the Bible to describe the love Jesus has for us; it is also one of the six styles of love in human communication.

It is okay to be a failure

How is success measured?  Is it by how much money you have at the end of the day; or what about how many people follow your social media sites; maybe it is how many material possessions you have?  If society defines these ideas as being successful, then I do not want to be successful.  If that is society’s definition of success, then I want to be a complete failure.  I want to make mistakes.

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

He was right.  Although the idea of failing seems negative, there is happiness in learning from and overcoming failure.  If you do not make mistakes and fail then you have not tried.  Trying means that you have motivation, desire, and purpose.  Without purpose you cannot be happy, whereas with purpose you can attain happiness.  Therefore, there is happiness in failure.

But what does happiness have to do with success?  Absolutely nothing.  You can be society’s idea of the most successful person alive, rolling in wealth, loved by fans, living in a mansion, but this does not mean you are happy.  So what is the value of this “successfulness” without happiness?  The answer again is absolutely nothing.  If you are not happy, then life becomes purposeless and you give up trying.

Under these contexts, it makes more sense to measure success by the quality of life, not the quantity of things in life.  After all, when you die, you can’t take your Porsche with you.  So give thanks that you have clean water to drink, that you have the power of knowledge at your fingertips, that you can walk, that you have a mother to bicker with about doing the dishes.  Love, knowledge, and health carry a far greater value than wealth and material possessions any day.

Put simply in the words of Albert Einstein, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

You might still be asking what do I mean when I say I want to be a failure, and I am not saying that I want to become a bum and do nothing with my life.  I have dreams and goals for the future.  But there is value in failure.  You learn from mistakes, grow, and feel a sense of fulfillment from overcoming failure.  If you mix that with happiness, you cannot possibly go wrong.

The Nature of Change

Change scares many people.  Whether we experience death, divorce, loss, beginnings, or endings, change makes us confused and fearful, uncertain of how to proceed.  Though change may cause anxiety, change is natural, inevitable, and able to be overcome.

Someone once told me to think of myself as an oak tree.  She said oak trees are strong, sturdy, and resilient, and though the branches of my oak tree intertwine with the branches of my loved ones, they are not reliant upon one another.  To be strong, you must have confidence in yourself.  Some of your loved ones’ branches may assist your branches, but if the other person’s branches go away, your branches will still stand and your tree will not die.

If you think of yourself like an oak tree, then change does not become so frightening.  To be rooted in the ground and to have faith is enough to keep your tree sturdy even if a tree around you falls or changes.  If this is true, then change does not need to be feared.

Think of the leaves that currently fall from the trees during this beautiful time of year.  They turn from green to red and brown and gold, beautiful colors.  But we do not mourn the changing of the leaves, nor do the trees die or lose their rooting because of the changing seasons.

Seasons come and seasons go, as does change. Your roots can withstand falling and changing leaves.  So celebrate the changing colors of the leaves in your life.  You might just find some hidden beauty scattered in the leaf piles below.

Are you living?

Lately, I am trying to be more understanding of others and more interested in the world around me.  I aim to live more day-by-day and focus less on what is to come and what will be.  It all started in my wind symphony rehearsal, when my director, Dr. Harper, gave a piece of life advice.

“Stop trying to live in the future!” he said.  “It isn’t possible.  You can only live in the present!  How many of you have ever experienced the future?  Can you feel it now?  How about now?  You can’t possibly experience the future, it will always be the present!”

It’s an interesting thought to throw at someone during a band rehearsal, but it rings true.  The future will always be in the future.  Even though this is true, however, many people try to live in the future.  Perhaps they sit at work mindlessly doing their job, but trapped in thought of what needs to be cleaned at home, or what to do over the weekend, or a number of other things.

We encounter these “live for tomorrow, the grass is greener on the other side” type people more and more often every day.  In fact, maybe you are this type of person.  But trying to live in the future is an impossible feat.  It stifles, drains, and depresses the mind.  Where does living in the future leave time for enjoying the scenic route?  How can you dance in the rain if you are always in a hurry?  How can you be open to the marvel and surprises of life if you don’t live in the present?

Life is full of surprises, some good and some bad.  These changes are inevitable, but to someone caught up in the future, they are heart wrenching, immobilizing, and chaotic.  The future is full of expectations, but when the present and reality do not meet those expectations, people become caught in a web—an obscure web of confusion, disillusionment, and disappointment, all things, which life should not be.

Living is not expecting future happenings, or hoping for something better.  Living, as previously mentioned, occurs solely in the present.  As a matter of fact, the word live comes from the Old English liffian, meaning, “to be, to live, have life; to experience” (Online Etymology Dictionary).  If living is to experience, then one must experience the present.  Therefore, experiencing life in the present is key to living.  But this is easier said than done, the present cannot be experienced until you stop trying to live in the future.  Whether you do so or not, though, is something only you can decide.

Works Cited

Harper, Douglas. “Online Etymology Dictionary: Live.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Web. 21 Oct. 2013. .