I stumbled on this fantastic quote someone had pinned on Pinterest:
I won’t let pain turn my heart into something ugly. I will show you that surviving can be beautiful. Christy Ann Martine
Which started me thinking. When I was young, “beautiful” meant everything perfect (my definition of perfect), lovely (my definition of lovely), and no pain (again, my definition of pain). Beautiful meant bordering on a fairy tale, but not quite, because I mean, life isn't perfect, right? I couldn't be too greedy.
Oh, Gina, Gina.
With adulting and aging, thankfully, I've learned that beauty can be those things, but it has so much more richness and depth and POWER which can spring from the difficulties. The unpleasant. The gut wrenching hurt. NOT the fairy tales.
Beauty doesn't always feel good to me. Beauty doesn't always look "pretty" and in style and all hair strands tucked in. Beauty can be pain, humility, and that miserable trio of blood, sweat and tears. But boy, is it worth it.
When life shatters superficial beauty, something much grander can emerge. Before I lose you with flowery descriptions, let me plainly ask: Do you know what I’m talking about? I meet these people. They aren't the most put together, with the perfect home and family. They aren’t the most stylish. Yet there is a beauty about them that comes from something deep. It can even be a little intimidating, yet it pulls me toward them.
Then I learn their beauty came the hard way. Through ugliness: depression, pain, horrible circumstances. And this is good news for those of us that face the hardships of life. Every. Day.
Because suddenly the past and the future seem more bearable. There is a greater purpose to my own hurt. Like that mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, we too can emerge and show others that “surviving can be beautiful.” Despite the unspeakable ache and unstoppable tears and deep, deep wounds. It just may not be instant. It takes time.
But that is such hope for all of us.
I really enjoy sending old-fashioned snail mail. I mean, let me be honest with you: I even just love the phrase “snail mail”.
Recently, a friend of mine discovered a box of letters that her grandmother, Mimi, (who has now passed) had sent to her throughout the years. She showed me a picture of the beautifully typed pages: it was line after line of carefully typed Hungarian, her native language. It went straight to my heart in an incredible way. (And not just because I’m smitten with old typewriters, and clearly, Mimi had used one.)
So yes, what an impact those letters made! I wasn’t even the recipient, and I felt a little misty-eyed. No doubt my friend was even more affected. More than just paper – those letters became memories, feelings, and love, carefully composed. I think each one was like a mental hug tucked into an envelope.
I want to be like my Mimi. No, I can’t speak Hungarian, but isn’t it neat how she created a piece of the future for her granddaughter? I wonder, did she realize she was initiating a wave of comfort for her granddaughter that would reach out far beyond her own life span? And it was at a time when my friend really needed it.
And it’s something all of us can do.
I want to keep alive Mimi’s same spirit. Little did she also know she would encourage me to continue to send postal mail and even give out handwritten notes, especially when expressing affection and encouragement to others. Because I believe those messages will then stand out among the various digital fonts and emojis that come streaming in at us throughout the day (and no doubt start to blur together.)
No, I’m not going on a digital strike or anything in that direction. The only “strike” I want to make is a difference in a typical day of someone I care about. Just as Mimi did. Will you consider joining me?
One of my friends was experiencing back pain. I spent a chunk of the day with her, and I noticed she was obviously hurting, but she was doing something else. She kept talking about her “younger years.” Too many references to the good old days, and I had to interrupt her and say, “Why are you talking like this? Where is this coming from? Do you suddenly feel old because of your back pain?”
And we both laughed. Really loudly.
It seems we are just conditioned to assume certain situations mean “old.” For my friend, back pain was one of them. I’m guilty of it too. I was recently diagnosed with tendinitis in my left hand and had to strap on a big hand brace. I told my sister I felt like I was ninety. She had the right attitude with her no-nonsense response:
“Seriously, Gina? Tendinitis is so common.”
And just like that I realized I had fallen into the same trap many others do: associating negative physical problems with getting “old.” I had to counter myself with this: Do people in their late teens and early 20s experience back pain and tendinitis?
And in my dramatic moment to my sister, I was so negative and talking in a way I never want to. I’m thankful my nieces and nephews hadn’t heard me. Because I don’t want to perpetuate that cycle of thinking. While sporting that brace on my wrist, I realized two healing and challenging truths:
And so, I changed how I talked about the tendinitis, and I felt more positive overall. Did it heal my wrist? Maybe not, but it helped heal and challenge my attitude. Jim Morrison said it best, I think: “There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” Changing myself might not seem like I’m doing much, but it’s a powerful first step toward changing the world for myself and others, like my nieces and nephews.
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely finding myself in the kitchen more and more during the quarantine. I find comfort in creating and eating yummy, home-made food. The problem for me is finding too much solace in food, if you know what I mean. But there are so many delicious comfort foods! Pancakes, cookies, spaghetti, tacos, pie, ice-cream etc… (I could do the backstroke through the list!)
I have a chef friend in London who is also a health coach. She wrote an excellent article about stress eating, “Overeating & Emotional Eating During Difficult times.” I highly recommend giving it a read. It really helped me understand some reasons as to why I’m so quick to bite into that delicious, homemade blueberry muffin (I LOVE blueberry muffins). The article also shares some techniques to help keep us from mindless eating.
For example, by asking simple questions such as “Why am I craving this?” and “What am I really craving?” We might be able to stop some of our needless eating and focus on what we REALLY need. And it may be that blueberry muffin, but it may not be.
And there it is again…another nudge toward living intentionally: to pause, and really think through our potential actions and the potential consequences. In this quarantine time, many of us feel like life is one giant pause. And it can be incredibly frustrating. But my friend’s article was a reminder to me that pauses can be a good thing. A healthy thing.
When used carefully, a pause can keep us from choices we regret. And while it might be (relatively) unhealthy food, it could be something even more. Something bigger. Something that can change the direction of our life in an profound way.
In essence, I’ve realized that this current quarantine should be used carefully. I want to step into the future with purpose and intention and wisdom. I don’t want this pause to go to waste. I don’t think any of us do. So may we use this time wisely, carefully, and maybe ...with that blueberry muffin as our treat.
Creator of Love, Auntie.