Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Antidote

In the wake of the devastating news from Orlando, I've been unable to find the words to describe just how I feel about such a circumstance. It is wholly undeniable, however, that this is an attack on the LGBTQ community and that makes it attack on my heart. The biggest mass shooting in the history of the United States was perpetrated by a man who walked into a nightclub - more specifically, a gay nightclub - and killed 50, wounding over 50 more. Lives ended, lives changed, lives forever damaged by the choice of a single person with a gun and a terrible idea. Blame it on ISIS, blame it on homophobia, blame it on a lack of gun laws, but in the end there's only one thing to which the blame will really stick.

Hatred.

"Whoever says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." --1 John 4:20

Of course guns don't kill people. Guns are inanimate objects, they do not choose their owners or their victims. But a gun in the hands of the wrong owner can wreak havoc on not just a hundred people, not just a community, but an entire country. Because of hatred.

Words don't kill people. They are simply a construction of 26 letters of the alphabet in different lengths and orders to make up our language. But words chosen by the wrong person in the wrong order with the wrong motives can ruin a person for a lifetime. Because of hatred.

Beliefs don't kill people. The wrong actions perpetrated by those who carry certain beliefs can devastate the masses. Because of hatred.

If love does not reign supreme in our hearts, in our country, in our world, then slowly another ruler will find its way onto the throne. Hatred is borne of ignorance and ignorance is born of misunderstanding, misinformation, and apathy. Choose to educate yourself, choose to care, and choose to love.

Stephanie Jean

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Good, Good, Good... Good Vibrations!

Wah, WAHHHH. 
I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to let myself get totally thrown off track when something unforeseen happens. I'm an organizer. I like to plan, make lists, cross things off as I go -- it gives me a sense of accomplishment which, to me, is like a drug. On days when I don't feel like I've accomplished something, I find myself more depressed and annoyed. But even the best laid plans must be waylaid from time to time and, when that happens, how do you respond?

I know how I respond. I get really upset right away, start listing all the awful things that are going to happen because of the unforeseen problem, then I commence complaining about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. I mutter under my breath, I use phrases like, "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or "Why does this crap always happen to me?"

Newsflash: none of that helps the situation. Nor does it make me feel any better, not in the long run or the short run. It just makes me sound like one of those people I don't want to be around; you know the kind? There's always something negative falling off their lips even in the most joyous of times. Like Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live, you expect the dismal "Wah, WAHHH" sound to follow them every time they speak. Man, I don't wanna be that guy.

I keep re-reading stuff Joyce Meyers writes about 'words'. "Change Your Words, Change Your Life", "Power Words"... things like that. And I get very enthusiastic about it, deciding 'once and for all' to change the way I phrase things, to eliminate negativity from my speech, to speak good things as if they were (not that I can conjure them into existence, but just to breed positivity in my spirit while I wait and hope). And I'll go through a really great period of time when I focus on this and I'm all in.

Unfortunately, that period of time is about three hours.

What is it about us that lets things eat away at our spirits so much and so quickly that we can't just enjoy each day of our lives? Someone I love with all my heart can do something that irritates me, just something small, no big deal... and it's like it's the end of the world to me if I'm already in a negative mood. But therein lies the rub -- just as we can breed positivity in our spirits, negativity also breeds more negativity. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we need an infusion of positivity.

My highly anemic sister has, in the past, had to go to the doctor to receive an infusion from time to time to get her blood counts to be in the right place. Beforehand, she'll be lethargic and afterwards she's like a new person, full of life and energy and color.

What the doctor does for her blood, we need to do for our spirits. Soak up positive vibes, do things we thoroughly enjoy with the people we love, express ourselves through art and other passions. We need to talk to other people with encouragement, talk about situations with hope and joy, and talk to ourselves -- yes, ourselves -- with affection.

I know this is June 2 and I'm a day late if we're doing one of those 'for the month' things, but, hey, better a day late than trying to start next month, right? Here's what I'm envisioning:

For the rest of this month, commit to a few things together. First, identify your phrases like I did. "I hate this" or "This drives me crazy" or whatever yours happens to be. When you find yourself thinking it, try not to say it out loud. Try to find something else to replace it with, like "I'm frustrated but this will pass" or "I'm annoyed right now but not for long". This is the first step in changing a negative to a positive. It's hard work, right? You can't just quit cold turkey or become one of those people who sing a simple tune and woodland creatures come to help you with your laundry. (P.S., if you CAN do that, please get in touch with me. I have a lot of housework and could use the help of you and your rodents.) Next, find some time or some situations each day in which you can compliment someone, express joy out loud over a situation that's happening, and/or uplift yourself by remarking on something positive about YOU. And last but never least, do at least one thing you love each day. Whether it's a short walk outside, listening to an 80s song you haven't heard in forever and dancing your heart out alone in your living room, reading for a half hour, drawing a rainbow with sidewalk chalk, or whatever happens to bring  you joy... DO it. Do something

We need joy in our lives. We need to be positive as often as possible. And trust me, with the regular media and social media, we certainly could do with a lot less doom and gloom every day.

-Stephanie Jean