‘Antly’ Diligence

1258071-Cute-Carpenter-Ant-Carrying-LumberI love working in our yard, cutting the grass, trimming trees, planting and growing different plants. We have a peach tree and several plum trees that I am still trying to figure out, but overall, I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when the yard looks really nice, and you can smell really beautiful  flowers as you walk around outside.  I hope to eat some fruit from those peach and plum trees, but for now, I have resolved to just buy them until I figure it out. However, not everything is pleasant in the yard; a hideous villain lurks in the grassy shadows, waiting to attack the flesh of anyone who stands still: that’s right, the evil and heartless fire ant.

Now whether you hate them as much as I do or not, you have to give those guys, and all of their regular, non-biting cousins, some due credit. These guys are strong, lifting between 20 to 100 times their body weight. They build intricate mazes of tunnels into ant “condos”, springing up everywhere after fresh applications of insect poisons, or torrential downpours. These guys are fierce survivors, banding together to ward off attacks, and even building a floating mound of ants during floods where the ants rotate out from the bottom of the pile to the top to breathe. Lastly, they are diligent workers, storing up food and supplies for leaner times, and constantly on the go. The crazy thing is they just do it without laws, supervisors, or even finding reasons  to impress others. The best description of this is in Proverbs 6:6-8; take a minute and read that.

If I could bring myself to admire any of the traits of an ant, it would be that of diligence, that faithfulness to do something to the best of your ability, and not because your boss told you to or somebody was watching either. I was speaking with someone recently who shared with me that she has decided to make it a point to encourage, genuinely encourage at least one person each day. She shared a wonderful example of where this already has been done, and what a beautiful experience that was for her, and the person she was encouraging. She is a newly retired teacher, and her love of the piano alone is an encouragement for me as I hear her play.  Of course, our conversation started my brain cells up, and I thought “What if we were as diligent as ants in carrying out encouragement each day?”

I know that almost sounds silly simple, but what if our life’s work each day was simply about making other people’s lives better, offering kind words and a smile to at least one person that intersects our lives each day; not because we have to, or not because we are told to, or not even because we want someone to witness it? What if it was so ingrained in us that it was just what we were supposed to do, and all we knew was to be diligent in doing that? How much better would our world be?

Encouragement does cost each of us something: effort, and a commitment to another individual. Other than that small cost, encouragement is free. The great thing is that a large part of the time; encouragement almost perpetuates itself after it begins within one person, able to spread quickly.  Think about all of the wonderful ‘pay it forward’ stories and the ‘restoring faith in humanity’ stories that we witness from time to time. Encouragement is by far one of the best gifts we can give someone, but we must remain diligent, just like the ant, to recognize the opportunities we get each day to do just that. When you’re out in your yard again, take the time to notice the ants, and how diligent they truly are, and how they amazingly need no supervision for their diligence. There is one catch though; do not be standing in the middle of the ant hill. I wouldn’t want you to experience their diligence in attack mode.

#justbe #noquit #parkinsons #litwithin  #bike2live #move4PD #teamfox

Rx: Attitude

2000px-Rx_symbol_border.svgAn American poet and writer named Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Although not one of my first thoughts when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, this has sort of become my mantra, possibly even my battle cry, as I am early in my fight with this crazy and inconsistent disease. I have never liked beets or cranberry sauce, I am just recently fond of squash, and I definitely cannot bring myself to eat blueberry muffins, as I associate them with a short season of childhood sickness. However, not “liking” my diagnosis is probably an understatement. Hating, denying, mourning, grieving, anger; those would have been some of my first feeling descriptors.

That’s the funny thing. If you Google any life-changing disease and attitude, you will find a whole host of “positive think” information about changing your attitude to fight whatever disease you may Google. All of this information recognizes the need for the denial and anger and grief, but then all of the “positive think” will tell you that  you have to move past it to become fruitful, to at least win some of the battle you are facing. For me, the first step towards changing my attitude was acceptance. That’s like the gigantic antibiotic pill they give you to swallow when you have a swollen and strep infested throat. It tastes awful, hangs up, and is almost impossible to swallow. But when you do, the healing process can start. Acceptance is the antibiotic for the bad attitude.

After taking antibiotics, you have to strengthen yourself with the proper rest and vitamins, and most of all, mama’s chicken noodle soup. After I was diagnosed with PD, my wife and I started forming plans for the short term and the long term. These plans included an exercise regimen, dietary changes, and even life and scheduling changes. Some of the longer term plans include discussions surrounding very real subjects such as mental changes and role changes in our home. This made the chaos of the diagnosis and disease manageable, and provided for some healing. So yes, all you smart cookies, planning became mama’s chicken soup to strengthen my attitude and help heal it.

Finally, after you are back to 100%, you have to live life fully again. You have taken the antibiotics, eaten the soup, and now you have to get after it. That is simply called purpose, and is as equally important as the antibiotics and the soup; without it, you can’t strengthen and could, in fact, relapse. With my PD, I couldn’t do all of the things I could before, and I am sure I will have to let more go, but I have found purpose in encouragement of others. I have found purpose and strength in exercise, which makes me feel better and gives me a better outlook when dealing with others. I wake up and name and claim the reasons I am thankful so I don’t feel defeated. That’s why I started writing; that is the purpose that drives me: encourage others. My hope is that those who read what I write will find encouragement or inspiration, regardless of the Googled thing they are facing. I understand some of the feelings and fears that others could be facing, and I never get all of this right on any given day, but if a word I share helps them feel a little better about themselves or their situation, then I am getting after it; I am following my purpose. In these words, also from Maya Angelou, “They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel”, I only want for you to feel hope and thankfulness and joy in your situation. Oh, and by the way, if you do remember, my name is John  🙂

#justbe #parkinsons #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox

Footprints…

footprintsMy wife and I like to go to the beach occasionally, just to sit in the sun, smell the salt air, and of course, eat some ridiculously good seafood. As I have sat in the sun many times, I have watched probably thousands of unique people, short and tall, thin and not so thin, and young and old. I have watched as they played Frisbee, sat in their sun chairs, played with their kids, or just walked along the shore. As you look down at the sand, you realize that each of these unique individuals has left something in common behind on the beach: footprints. Whether it is where they have been, where they are standing, or where they are going in the very near future, they leave a temporary impression of themselves behind.

That is the funny thing about footprints left in the sand on a beach. Other travelers, the wind, and even the water, can remove all of the traces of our temporary ‘footprints’. They are just that; temporary, and simply changed by time and elements and other people. Often times, we can be guilty of living our lives this way, never really concerning ourselves with our ‘footprints’, never worrying if they will just be changed or covered up with something else. I think that we can sometimes even hope that we don’t make an impression, that we don’t have to answer for where our lives intersect other lives, and our impression is left behind longer.

I also think about another type of ‘footprint’, although this one may have gotten one or two of you in trouble; I know I found a little trouble this way. Ever walk by wet cement and leave a footprint, or handprint, or initials; just some sort of impression that you hope gets left unnoticed until the cement dries? This ‘footprint’ will be there long after we walk away, long after we move on to something else. A grandparent may see this impression as precious, while the cement finisher can be stirred to anger. Questions is, are the permanent ‘footprints’ you are leaving for others precious, or do others find them to be troubling, annoying obstacles in their lives?

I imagine that those of you who are older, like me, can think of someone who has left a more permanent ‘footprint’ in our lives. If you are younger, I would imagine that there are people who are entering your life right now who are leaving more permanent ‘footprints’.  These ‘footprints’ can consist of words, relationships, encounters, business dealings, and casual acquaintances, and like the wet cement footprints, can become a very permanent part of our lives, good or bad. With that, a lot of individuals move in and out of our lives, and their ‘footprints’ can be like the ones in the sand, and be shaped or removed by time, our direction, and other people, also in a good or bad way. The thing to always remember is that we control the ‘footprints’ that we make, whether they are where we have come from, where we are standing right now, or where we are going. We also determine if we allow ‘footprints’ left by others in the ‘wet cement’ of our lives to shape us as we mature and season, or be left in the ‘sand’ of our lives, to change  as we move towards maturing and seasoning. So wherever you may leave ‘footprints’ in other people’s lives, whether permanent or temporary, always try to leave good ones. And when it comes to ‘footprints’ left by others, don’t worry about the sand ones; they will change. And as for the permanent ones, well, you are both the guardian grandmother of the precious ones, able to treasure them, and the grumbly cement finisher of the bad ones, able to smooth out the ones you don’t want, before the cement dries, and makes a lasting impression in your life.

#justbe #parkinsons #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox

What the heck?

WTH

As a perspicacious bellwether, one could tend to be somewhat of a sesquipedalian, trying to appear ebullient to saxicolous peoples within earshot. As a sesquipedalian, one may feel that he is excogitating, when in reality, he may appear to be gasconading by speaking with circumlocution.

Okay, I know, right. What the heck did I just say? Sometimes, even I can be guilty of speaking in a way that makes me sound just a little smarter, maybe stand out as a little more impressive or educated (but trust me, I do not use the words in the previous paragraph very often, actually, ever). Given the world of technology, we tend to share our words more today, much more than we ever have in times past. Heck, I even blog now. But in this time, we share and speak and talk and pour out volumes of words, but have we lost our ability to communicate with the world around us? Are we merely speaking just to speak, and not to validate the impact that our words may have on others? Are we mainly valuing ourselves only with our words, all while ignoring the words that others have that truly shape and complete our world?

I have been reminded that in my conversations, I tend to be sort of self-centered, and that sometimes I neglect to directly ask other people what their thoughts, their experiences, and their feelings are on day to day things. I have found that as PD has entered my life, I can tend to talk long about the effects of that disease, the changes it has made in my life, and how I am doing, but in the length of that conversation, I begin to leave the other person out of the conversation. Even though some of my brain’s ability has been challenged in this area, self-centeredness is the only true explanation.

So in this world of sharing our thoughts, what are we missing? First of all, our message may not be all that great. Our pastor held up his hand, and beginning with his thumb, began to explain ‘THINK’ before you speak. Is it Thoughtful, Honest, Inspiring, Necessary, and Kind? Are our words thoughtful, building others up and motivating them, demonstrating love and caring? Do our words encourage and inspire? Or do they simply tear down and become roadblocks, or simply become a method to build ourselves up so we feel better?

The second part is applying active listening skills, which is increasingly difficult in an electronic world. My suggestion: go old school and call someone. Instead of an email, write a note. Better than all of that, if permissible, meet someone in person to have a conversation. But above all else, actively identify with what the other person is saying, feeling, or sharing. Don’t formulate responses; don’t judge; don’t be distracted. Just listen, and show genuine interest in someone else. Communication is not one way: that would just be a lecture. Communication is an amazing blending of thoughts and ideas between people to grow and hope and love and fuss and disagree and laugh and feel connected. It doesn’t take large words, but it does require a commitment of you, and the other person, and definitely a two-way sharing of words and ideas. Show true interest in other people by genuinely listening to them.

So, to state the first paragraph differently, so you don’t need a dictionary like I did, as a clear sighted leader, one could tend to be somewhat of a person using big words, trying to appear zestfully enthusiastic to people who live under a rock. As one who uses big words, one may feel that he is thinking something out carefully, when in reality, he may appear to be bragging by speaking with unnecessary wordiness. Always say what you mean, and definitely always listen. And remember to be #coruscantwithin and #anomalistic and as always, #justbe.

#justbe #parkinsons #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox