Tuesday, April 16, 2013


"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver 5 minutes longer."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yet another tragic act of violence in our country. Of course we immediately start to ask why?

That question we have no control over. But in true American resolution we have also learned to focus on the men and women who defy the violence by being heroes. The first rescue workers, law enforcement, military and scores of spectators that ran toward the chaos to help the victims in any way they could are what keep the creators of such tragedies from ever winning. 

I love the fact that we can recognize the level of courage such acts take. We've had the sad opportunity to witness so much courage in our history. The most recent example being the amazing faculty at Sandy Hook who gave their lives for their small charges.

But what does it take to have that level of selfless courage, whether it's running into a bomb site, facing a shooter, entering a burning building, going willingly into war, or any other scenarios where people are tested to their core?

That act of brave self-sacrifice has to come from an understanding that the vast majority of human life is worth saving. Of course it has to have courage as the catalyst to react toward the chaos instead of retreat for self-preservation.

I remember watching the carnage during the Oklahoma City bombing. I was living in Virginia and my new son had just been born. So I held my baby close as I witnessed daycare children's bodies extracted. 

That same baby is now 17 and hoping to be a Marine. Does that scare me? Hell yes. Do I think he'd be excellent at it? Hell yes. So I get to be supportive and help him in any way I can while internally screaming a little. 

But being a hero is something we can all be in our own way. We experience smaller heroes all of the time. It can be that high school teacher that takes the time to listen to a troubled student, a volunteer at a shelter or Boys and Girls Club or a loving foster parent. Or even smaller versions; helping an elderly person with packages, adopting a pet, giving food to the homeless person you pass every day on the way to get coffee or doing any number of other "pay it forward" acts of kindness.

I propose that we always look for the hero moment even in the small events of the day. By always acknowledging those around us, really looking, we are showing the courage to see what others hide from. The struggling mother in the grocery store, the overwhelmed waitress that made a frazzled mistake, the sadness in the older women's face that hands you coffee every morning, all could use just a small bit of kindness and acknowledgement to lighten their hearts and feel less alone.

Because as our recent history has shown, we are never truly alone. We are actually surrounded by heroes.

"Courage: the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."
~Maya Angelou

Saturday, April 6, 2013

From Ashes Rise a Phoenix

"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
~Lord Alfred Tennyson

Possibly the most famous quote combining love and loss is that of Tennyson. Those that have had their heart broken or experience loss of a loved one may have a hard time seeing the bright side as it is. There is, and has to be, a definite mourning period. That process can be different for everyone.

I've lost seven people in my life. Three were way too young to be taken and four were my grandparents. I don't always deal with loss well. My mode of operation is to cloister myself. I'll still function in life and do what needs to be done, but beyond that I shut down and place a "do not disturb" on myself. And usually small things will light a spark, interactions with friends or happy surprises that bring out the joy in life. Then slowly I'm back. I'll still miss that person but my life will then go on.

Pets can be every bit as hard to lose as people in a family. When I had to put the dog I had since I was 16 asleep I was a mess. I tried to get my then husband to take her but he said he couldn't handle it, so it had to be me. Blind, deaf, lost almost all of her hair and could barely move, I carried her in to end her life. Still one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

Loss of a love requires the same devotion to mourning. If you've never had your heart broken I'm not sure if you're lucky or lacking. I guess if you find that perfect love and keep it forever you're lucky. If you've never been in love you may be lacking that experience.

For us to have a broken heart means we gave our heart to someone fully. Falling in love is that incredible period of excitement and wonder, full of sparks, passion and hope. But if your heart is given back it's often in pieces. Fixing those pieces requires tears, hurt and a sense of loss for a future we believed in. 

There is an anonymous quote: "If someone you love hurts you, cry a river, build a bridge, and get over it."

It's the building of the bridge that's the hard part. Loss of anything important to us feels like we've been victimized in a way. But there is always a reason to get over the bridge, it's just a matter of finding it. If it's not for the main purpose of preserving ourselves it can be for the love of others. Channeling our emotions to a new goal or purpose past the grief and changing our perspective on what the future holds without that person can be the difference in wallowing or prospering.

I've done many blogs around moving forward, either with a battle cry, a happy place or simply finding yourself and deciding where you need to be at this moment. There is no set recipe for rebounding after a great loss. I'd be rich if I could say it's one cup tears followed by 2 cups of hugs or some such nonsense but everyone has their own way of finding the light at the end of the tunnel. The key is to keep moving toward it without getting lost in the dark. Let's face it, sometimes the dark can be comforting. No one can see us there and we can envelope ourselves in the soft blanket of our sadness.

The legend of the mythological phoenix has always been one of my favorite symbols of rising above our own destruction. The phoenix is reborn out of the ashes of it's predecessor. 

"The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise."
~Miguel de Cervantes, The Book of the Bizarre: Freaky Facts & Strange Stories

Find what will give your spirit flight again. It's there, you just have to stop sifting through the ashes and build your fire.