No negativity please

“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own?”

-Paulo Coelho

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is people who constantly judge others. Being judgmental is part of human nature and it is impossible to avoid even when we make a conscious effort not to judge.

Something I’ve realized throughout life is how fear and uncertainty bring about judgement and condemning others. When we are afraid or in uncharted territory, we tend to immediately judge, to point fingers, and act like we know what’s best. 

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I think it’s safe to say we’re in a time of fear and uncertainty. One great thing about difficult times is how it has a tendency to bring us together and unites us in a single cause. I love looking on social media and seeing all the support for essential workers and seeing people trying to help in any way they can. However with many areas of our lives going virtual now and facing so many new regulations, we are in “uncharted territory”. It‘s so easy to judge everyone for not doing enough or doing too much. To point out their mistakes and complain about their failures or lack of doing what you think is right. Our world has enough negativity, there’s no room for judgmental attitudes. Just love, understanding, and kindness.

“While you were busy judging others, you left your closest open and a lot of skeletons fell out”

-Anonymous

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Don’t lose hope

“If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today I still have a dream.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I guess there’s no point anymore in trying to avoid talking about the elephant in the room, COVID-19. After a week of staying home, I’m starting to go stir crazy and lose hope that’s there no end in sight. I feel like I’m on an emotional rollercoaster, as I’m sure most people are also feeling. Some moments, I’m overwhelmed with panic and anxiety, while at other times I hand it to God and wash my hands of the worry.

Something I discovered, although I kind of already knew, is how dangerous and depressing Facebook can be. But as I was reading an article, it was discussing the differences between SARS and COVID-19 and it reminded me of my experience with SARS.

In April 2003, I was scheduled to have facial surgery in Toronto, Canada to bring movement back to my face. Being near the end of my eighth grade year, I was disappointed that I would miss many of the end of year activities because of the surgery but I was beyond excited to hopefully have my smile back in time for high school. However because of the rapid outbreak of SARS in Toronto, the surgery was postponed until they had the virus under control. Doctors didn’t want to expose me to the virus while in surgery or during recovery. So the date of the procedure went from planned for the near future to TBD.  I was definitely disappointed. My hopes of having a smile and facial movement by the fall when I started high school seemed like it wasn’t going to happen anymore. I waited years for this surgery and searched for a doctor able to help me and now, I had to wait even longer. I even arranged to make my Confirmation early without my class because I planned on being in Toronto. But instead I ended up being at home in Maryland when the rest of my class got confirmed.

Looking back now, I’m thankful for my doctors not wanting to risk my health. Despite all my fears and worries about it not happening, the surgery ended up being rescheduled for the end of May, only a month later. I started high school that fall with a new smile.

That’s the thing with life, you never know how it’s going to end up or where it’s going. At the end of the day, all you can do is hope, pray, and have faith.

“In the meantime, don’t worry to the point of losing your inner peace. Pray with perseverance, with faith, with calmness and serenity.”

-Padre Pio

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A Lack of Sense

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”

-Randy Pausch

 

In my last blog, Blind Joy, I wrote about how I can now see 20/20 with my contact. It is truly incredible to see all the things that I’ve overlooked for years. However, a downfall of it is that when wearing my contact, I am extremely critical of myself! I look in the mirror and feel as though there is always something wrong. My hair is too frizzy, my eyes are red and misshapen. I need to wear more makeup because my cheeks look dead. My lip color looks like a hooker, I have a ginormous zit, and the list goes on and on. But after my momentary freak out and a little positive self-talk, I remind myself that beauty isn’t about outer appearance, it’s about who we are as a person.

I love being able to see so clearly with my new contact but isn’t it interesting how sometimes our senses tend to get the best of us. Our senses enable us to experience so much but they also cause us to judge others, to form opinions, both good and bad, and to focus only on what is directly in front of us and lose sight of what truly matters.

The other week, a friend asked if I close my eyes when I pray to which I said yes but not because I’m super holy but because it helps me focus. By taking away that one sense, I’m able to shut out all the distractions around me, at least those that are in my line of vision. I’m not busy looking at other people at church or if I’m at home, I’m not distracted by how dirty my room is or seeing what else I could be doing with my free time.  By simply closing my eyes,  it helps me to focus on what really matters to me and not be consumed by the unnecessary things surrounding me. And it is in my momentary loss of vision I am humbled and able to forget about my own stupid worries. It allows me to block out the world around me and focus on God.

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Our senses enable us to gain different perspectives and constantly be aware of the world us. But when we take the opportunity to turn off our senses, we are able to shift our focus and see more clearly.

“If you plan to build a tall house of virtues, you must first lay deep foundations of humility.”

-St. Augustine

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Blind joy

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. “

-Helen Keller

How often do we take our five senses for granted? Our sense of smell, touch, taste, hearing, and vision.

Out of all of my senses, vision is something I always try to stop and appreciate. I’ve been legally blind in my right eye since I was eight years old which means I can really only see out of my left eye. However, my left eye is extremely nearsighted and my vision is pretty blurry. Without my glasses, I can clearly see maybe a yardstick length in front of me.

While I’ve grown used to wearing glasses, for years I begged my doctor to let me try a contact for my left eye. My eyes also don’t automatically blink like most people and when they do shut, they don’t close completely. So they are constantly dry and easily become irritated which was a concern with a contact but so far it’s been a risk worth taking.

Earlier this week, after being fitted with a new contact this summer, I saw my doctor for a checkup. We started out with a basic vision test of looking at and reading letters from a distance. As usual, my right eye pretty much couldn’t read anything but my left eye kept going further and further down the chart! I was able to read the tiny letters across the room. With my new contact in, I could see 20/20, something I haven’t seen for most of my life! For the longest time, I used to see pictures of trees and notice their individual leaves. I always thought it was so beautiful how a photographer captured that and wondered why trees (at least the ones I saw) didn’t look like that. But now with my contact and thanks to other advances in technology, I can finally see the individual leaves! They aren’t just in pictures, they’re real! On my drive home, it was mesmerizing to look out the window. Despite being gray and rainy, there was so much newfound beauty and sights that I’ve overlooked for years.

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I feel like most of my blogs end with something about gratitude and how having an attitude of gratitude leads to happiness but it’s a message that never gets old. For me, it’s so easy to not be grateful, to overlook the simplest of things, to get caught up in the daily routine and become blind to the world around me. My contact is a small reminder of how much I have to be grateful for. How there is beauty everywhere despite the difficulties in life, even in the simple things like leaves. It reminds me to have a childlike point of view, to approach life with wonder, awe, and joy. It reminds me, as my mom puts it, to take a look in the rear view mirror. To stop thinking only about yourself and take a look at the impact you leave on people. Earlier this month, a women I briefly spoke to at a Christmas Bazaar actually ended up writing an editorial later that week including me it and the impact our short conversation had on her. There I was just volunteering, doing my own thing and look what came from it. It was very touching and moving to read. 

Everyday is filled with simple joys and moments of wonder. Before becoming blind to the world, take a second to be grateful for the moment at hand and to approach life with childlike innocence.

 

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Baby steps of love

“Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.”

-Mother Teresa

“Love your neighbor as yourself”. That’s so much easier said than done.
The other week, I was reflecting on this golden rule and how much I fail to follow it in my own life. I always start off the day strong, determined to treat everyone the way I want to be treated but inevitably, someone always comes along that seems to test the limits of my patience. They complain too much, are judgmental, rude, won’t get out of my face, or absolutely drive me insane. How easy it is to react in a negative manner. To choose anger over love.

Someone once told me “It is better to be a friend than to have a friend.” For me, this simple phrase contains so much wisdom. Although it doesn’t directly state anything about love, I feel like it can be applied to how we should approach every relationship in our lives. That it is better to be kind than to only receive kindness. It is better to love than to be loved.

In those moments of feeling annoyed and frustrated, it’s so easy to respond in anger. To be rude, inconsiderate, to gossip, and to judge. But it’s in those moments I try to remind myself of the golden rule and put myself in their shoes. Only then can I fully understand. And it is in understanding, having patience, and having compassion for one another that we take baby steps towards love.

“What you must do is love your neighbor as yourself. There is no one who knows your many faults better than you! But you love yourself notwithstanding. And so you must love your neighbor, no matter how many faults you see in them.”
-Martin Buber

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Beyond September

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” 

-Jimmy Dean

Life has a way of giving us things we never expected. Moments that cause us to stop dead in our tracks and challenges how we think.

Although it may sound weird to some to memorialize such an event,  22 years ago yesterday was the day I became physically disabled. Technically it was the first of many days I started to experience severe side effects from radiation treatments that caused me to become physically disabled. It’s amazing to think back on how life has changed since then, in good ways and in some not so great ways.

Growing up, I never imagined becoming disabled but I honestly cannot imagine life without my disabilities. They have strengthened my faith, my character, and every little part of me. They have given me opportunities I never dreamed of. Being disabled has taught me many things including the true meaning of perseverance and humility. That sometimes you have to step outside of your comfort zone, take a look from a different angle, and readjust your plans in order to fully embrace change. That there will be moments when all you can do is dust off your hands, say “okay God, I give up” and hope for the best.

But above all some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years are to always look for the simple things, to have an attitude of gratitude and to know that God may not always be fair but He is generous. There are times in life where nothing seems to make sense, things don’t work out how you expected them to, and everything feels like it’s going wrong. But if you sit back and take the time to notice the tiniest of blessings in life like the sunset or the moon at night, you’d be surprised at how much you have to be thankful for. To realize how generous God is even when things aren’t going as you planned.

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One of my slightly embarrassing childhood dreams was to be an Olympic gymnast and to go on to compete at gymnastics at a college level. After watching the Olympics one summer, I fell in love with gymnastics and immediately begged my mom to enroll me in a local gym. It is such an exhilarating feeling to be on the uneven bars, flipping through the air. Obviously once I got sick with cancer and became disabled, plans changed. However, years later, after re-teaching myself to walk and when physical therapy started to become repetitive, I quit therapy and picked up gymnastics again. This time though they were one-on-one sessions with my coach and everything we did was specially modified to fit my needs. I wasn’t on a team and didn’t compete but that didn’t matter. I was just happy to be back at doing something I loved and never thought I’d be able to do again.

Life is not what I planned as a child but it has brought me so many wonderful adventures that I never even imagined existed. 

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.”

-Richelle Goodrich

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Humble but also courageous

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. “
-C. S. Lewis

Growing up with three older brothers and a dad that was a referee for high school and college football, I think it’s safe to say sports have always been part of my life. From knowing each position, anticipating the play calls, and even memorizing the roster just in case, I was raised to know football.

As I watched my brother coach his team earlier this week, a thought crossed my mind. If I had to guess how many hours in my life I’ve spent watching football games and practices, it would probably come out to some ridiculous number. I totally enjoy watching a good football game and seeing both of my brothers coach but how many times have I’ve been on the other side of the fence watching someone else play the game? How many times have I chosen to just sit back and not actually participate? And not just in sports but rather in life? To confuse selflessness with self-denial.

To live life selflessly, putting others before ourselves is truly noble. There is nothing more beautiful than someone who forgets themselves, their own personal agenda, and desires in order to make life better for others. But at the same time, I feel like there’s a fine line between selflessness and self-denial. That sometimes we become content in watching others play and worrying about those around us that we never really put ourselves out there. So often we think by putting ourselves first we are being selfish or lacking in humility but that’s not necessarily the case. Rather, we are actually helping those around us by becoming who we are truly meant to be. It takes courage to be selfless but it also takes courage to step outside of our box or follow our dreams instead of those around us.

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Watching my brothers coach and listening to them talk about their teams, it’s obvious they were meant to coach. They are both passionate about the game and care about their players as though they are family. Although I love watching football, I am in no way meant to be a coach. We all have our own different interests and different abilities. We each are created to fulfill a specific role in life. It is by denying ourselves and ignoring our unique talents that we act selfishly. By just watching someone play at life and always standing on the other side of the fence.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak,
courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. “
-Winston Churchill

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