Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy

“My recovery has not been easy. Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” 

—  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsbur

Many of us can attest to that.

In his last words, during yesterday’s State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said:

“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy.  Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.  Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.  But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.  The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.  But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach. 

Believe it.”

I do.

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In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In the words of the late, honorable Martin Luther King, Jr. :

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” 

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.” 

When hunger hits close to home… what would you do?

“America is the richest country in the world. And yet tonight, thousands of your neighbors will go to bed hungry.
It may be your child’s schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach.
Or it could be a co-worker, a working mother whose low-wage job doesn’t make ends meet.
Perhaps it’s an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries.
The faces of hunger are as broad as the faces of America.”
~ David Nasby, General Mills

How many of  us (and our families) could survive on $30 per week?
If we knew a family member, friend or neighbor who was starving, would we give him (or her, or their family) food?
Would we even notice the signs, or would we wait for them to have to swallow their pride and ask?
Some soul-searching questions, indeed.

Sometimes, the only way to fully understand the gravity and indignity of hunger is to walk in a hungry person’s shoes.  A very interesting experiment that would be, wouldn’t it?

Here’s a little food for thought:
http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2011/09/28/the-food-stamp-challenge-eating-on-30-a-week/

And some more: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/tag/detroit

Writer’s Motto: Press On

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Calvin Coolidge

And so, it’s time for me to press on…

… the manuscript awaits.

heatherfromthegrove’s Seven New Year’s Revelations Wrap-up… and on to new beginnings

As I say each year, on this day, the 8th of January:

 “For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s an ongoing journey, as I’m sure it is for all of you, as well.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):

New Year’s Revelation No. 1 Today is Tomorrow

New Year’s Revelation No. 2Humility is attractive, and Arrogance… not so much

New Year’s Revelation No. 3 Stand by what you say and what you do

New Year’s Revelation No. 4 Be comfortable in your own skin

New Year’s Revelation No. 5:  Freedom from Fear

New Year’s Revelation No. 6:  Respect Human Dignity… through Kindness

New Year’s Revelation No. 7:  Love Thy Neighbor, it’s that simple

And on it goes.

I’m looking forward to whatever 2014 has in store for me.  

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2014 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom… and loads of wonderful opportunity and adventures!

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

New Year’s Revelation No. 7 of 7: Love Thy Neighbor, it’s that simple

“When strangers start acting like neighbors… communities are reinvigorated.

Ralph Nader

Given the year I’ve had, I could not end my seven New Year’s Revelations without speaking (once again) about the blessing of having good neighbors and, more specifically, the importance of being a good neighbor.

“It is your business when the wall next door catches fire.”

Horace

How many of us know our neighbors?

For those who live in a large, urban environment, the transient nature of its residents make it almost impossible to really get to know who lives next door. Yet, who among you would not rush out to help if you smelled fire in an adjacent apartment or townhome?

“The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.

Hubert H. Humphrey 

In suburbia, people tend to have mixed feelings about their neighbors. Some, they love… but others, they deplore. Fences are built, not to be crossed. And some neighborhoods are more community-minded than others. They fill the gap that government entities leave wide open ― the need for community programs whose sole purpose is to help its neighbors flourish and grow.  

Fences and hedges aside, whether you’re fond of your neighbor or not, surely you would run to his aid if he collapsed on his driveway? 

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Martin Luther King Jr.

In the rural and mountain communities, neighbors are essentially a Godsend. Anything can happen (and often does).  A neighbor may injure himself on his tractor or digger and, if not for the help of his neighbor, may be left there to perish in the elements.  In these communities, there is a moral code that neighbors live by. 

I’ve experienced this, firsthand.  It has completely changed the way I feel about neighborliness.  You see, I grew up in suburbia and then moved to the big city, as a young adult.  Now, I live  in an area that’s a cross between urban and suburban, but also have a place across the country… up in the mountains. And it’s the compassion and loyalty that my mountain neighbors have shown in the past eleven months that has filled me with a sense of incredulity, deep respect and profound gratefulness.  They have shaped the way I now think about neighbors and neighborliness, and the way I act… towards my neighbors, and as a neighbor.  

For this, and for so much more, I thank them.

“To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.

John Locke

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Photo via thepicklepatch.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 6 of 7: Respect Human Dignity… through Kindness

On Kindness:

The healing power of touch, through a simple hug. Spending the night listening to a troubled friend.  Offering to carry bags of groceries from the supermarket to the car, for someone you don’t even know.  Giving some wildflowers to an elderly stranger sitting on a park bench.  Feeding a hungry stray cat.  The opportunities to show kindness … are simply endless.

On Human Dignity:

To treat a person ― any person, every person ― with respect and human decency… this should be the standard, not the exception.

To help ease the suffering of another human being… is the most noble act of all.

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’
Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks — but homeless because of rejection.”

Mother Teresa
Catholic Missionary, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

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Photo via steveberger.gracechapel.net.

New Year’s Revelation No. 5 of 7: Freedom from Fear

“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
 — Marilyn Ferguson

In her insightful blog, Cauldrons and Cupcakes, Nicole Cody recently wrote a post titled What’s Your Power Word for 2014?”  She explains that she ditched the whole New Year resolution thing, and replaced it with a more streamlined system: one single Power Word. This Power Word is at the center of all her intentions for the year.

My Power Word for 2014 is Freedom.

  • Freedom from the predators who have been looting methodically through our property, on the other end of the country, until almost nothing is left (see my post In Search of Mayberry).
  • Freedom  to wage the mother of all legal battles against these people. They will be brought to justice.
  • Freedom from the economic encumbrances of this prolonged (Recession) Depression.
  • Freedom inside my heart, so that I may let go of all the negative energy that has followed me around the past six years, like a relentless mountain lion tracking the scent of blood.

And this is only just the icing on my cake of intentions for 2014.

But today’s Revelation is about Freedom from fear.

Most of us have fears.  We have phobias, like the fear of flying, public speaking, bees, rejection … the list goes on.  Some fears may seem silly but they are very real to the people who harbor these anxieties. Sometimes, they can be paralyzing. 

When we overcome our fears, we feel lighter.  That “lightness” is what freedom feels like.

When I was a child and teenager, I was rather shy (many who know me today, are raising an eyebrow as they read this).  So, I decided to enroll in theatre classes, to overcome my shyness. Apparently, it worked. I haven’t stopped talking since.

Beware of hypotheticals. 

Sometimes, we are anxious or fearful about what we imagine will happen.  We’re not sure that what we imagine will happen, will actually happen… but we fear it nevertheless.  This is a difficult one to overcome, but if we try to rationalize it by saying:  Okay, what’s the worst that could happen?…  then think about it. Live with the idea for a bit.  If the worst actually happens, then it’s over and done with. The sun will still come up the next day.  Life goes on. And so will we.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face.

Courage, mes amis. Courage, my friends.

We shall be free of fear.

 “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

Photos via ssy.org and thewisemag.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 4 of 7: Be comfortable in your own skin

“The moment will arrive when you are comfortable with who you are, and what you are– bald or old or fat or poor, successful or struggling- when you don’t feel the need to apologize for anything or to deny anything. To be comfortable in your own skin is the beginning of strength.” 
― Charles B. Handy

At what point in our lives can we say that we are truly comfortable in our own skin?

Are we ever content with who we are and what we are, or do we spend our lives striving for  perfection?

Is perfection really attainable, or is it an illusion?

Does  the continual quest for perfection set us up for failure?

What is perfection?

Perfection is, of course,  subjective.  

For example, a successful billionaire may live a lifestyle that  ― to the rest of us ― appears to be a wonderful fairytale existence but, if asked the question “Are you comfortable with who and what you are?”…  he may  surprise us all by saying “No. My life is too complicated, too demanding. I’d rather live by myself on a houseboat, with a collection of good books, some jazz CDs, a well-stocked bar filled with single malt scotch, and a stash of Cuban cigars.”

It is one thing to try to be the best that we can be.  It is quite another to seek something that, for one reason or another, will never happen.

There are people who spend their whole lives chasing dreams that they’re not suited for and can never realize… like the person who wants to be a dancer, but has two left feet or an aspiring opera singer who can’t hold a tune. Rather than focusing on what they can do, they are obsessed with an illusion.  They set themselves up for failure, and unhappiness.

Being happy and content with who we are and what we are does not necessarily mean that we’re complacent or stagnant.  There’s always room for improvement.  We should always be flexible enough to welcome change.

We are human.  Therefore, we are flawed and imperfect.  We strive to be the best we can be, to live the best life we can possibly live. Our life experiences and relationships help to form who and what we are.  The point in our lives when we can say we are truly comfortable in our own skin varies from individual to individual.

Personally, I am pretty comfortable in my own skin. I have no illusions. I know my strengths and my flaws.  Some flaws are part of who I am, and I embrace them.  Other flaws still need some adjustment.  As for what and where I am ― at this moment in time ― I’m not there yet, but I know I’m moving in the right direction. I’ll get there, eventually.

How about you?  Are you comfortable in your own skin?

“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” 
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

I love this quote by Steve Maraboli.  I’ll add one of my own, taken from my blog post back in April 2012 ― The Story of Your Face ….

“When you stand back and look at someone, really, carefully, you’ll notice that her (or his) face tells a story.  It’s the story of a life — well-lived or not, beset with tragedies or joys.  A roller-coaster of experiences that can be discerned in every laugh wrinkle, frown line, deeply-etched pain crease and sometimes, like a surprise rainbow, a dimpled cheek followed by lots of  )))).

Every line across your face tells a story. Mine certainly does.  If you look very carefully.

Don’t erase those lines.  Despite the latest beauty fads or what the trendy plastic gurus babble on about, your lines are beautiful.

After all, they’re who you are.” 

Heather Joan Marinos, heatherfromthegrove blog post “The Story of Your Face

Cheers,

heatherfromthegrove

Photo via justjennee.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 3 of 7: Stand by what you say and what you do

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” 
― Frederick Douglass

Authenticity. 

When we say something, we shouldn’t have to feed an impulse to waver or retract our words. Why? Ideally, we should think before we speak, choose our words wisely and then say what we want to say…. and own it.

In reality, we sometimes “insert foot in mouth”, speak hastily and instantly regret the words. They’re still our words, so we need  to own them… and, if need be, apologize when we speak in error or haste.

The same  applies to our actions. We should always think before we act but, regardless, we must own our actions.

There are always consequences to anything that we say or do. There is no such thing as “off the record.” 

When we own what we say and what we do, we are being authentic and with authenticity, comes clarity.

When we own what we say and what we do, it diffuses conflict and encourages civility.

Also, it feels so damn good to be our authentic selves, doesn’t it?

“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.” 
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

Integrity.

We must always strive to speak and act with integrity. 

When we speak and act with honesty, our words and actions are met with respect (even the people who may not agree with us, will nevertheless respect the honesty behind the words and actions).   

When we speak  reasonably and act fairly, our words and actions hold more weight.

When we make a promise or commitment and honor our word, we have integrity.

Integrity should be the foundation beneath everything we say and do.

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” 
― Dr. SeussHorton Hatches the Egg

Belief.

When we speak and act on the strength of our own beliefs/convictions, we are saying and doing exactly what we mean to say and do.

What we say and do are a reflection of our own beliefs and truths.

Whether these  beliefs and truths are popular or not, conform to other people’s beliefs/truths or not… is entirely irrelevant.

What is relevant is that we are saying exactly what we mean to say and doing exactly what we mean to do… and are fully prepared to  accept the consequences.

Let the chips fall where they may.

At least we can stand tall, confident in the knowledge that we are being true to ourselves.

Authenticity.  Integrity.  Belief.

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Photo by GS+ via Flickr