In the states, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Today, I will be making potatoes and breads. Tomorrow, I will rise early, and make stuffing and my turkey. After the bird is done, I will throw rolls and pies in the oven and get ready to eat.
Our crowd of guests will be one this year; my mother in law. We are adhering to Covid requests because my family wants to be part of the solution rather than contributing to the spread. My family has done our best at quarantining these past two weeks to protect Jeff’s mom. Three of us work from home and live much like hermits, and Jeff has been wearing his mask at work, social distancing, and washing his hands like crazy.
So, tomorrow, I hope you all enjoy the holiday, are grateful, and that despite this crummy year, we have all survived 100% of our bad days.
This week, since in the states it’s Thanksgiving on Thursday, I wanted to take a moment and ask my readers what they are grateful for. I know, 2020 hasn’t exactly been a year full of blessings. Let’s face it, this year has been remarkably stressful. That said, there must have been silver linings for some of you.
I am incredibly grateful that I finished my Master’s degree in April. Because of that degree, I landed a wonderful job as an Information Technology Security Awareness trainer. I love my new job and my coworkers are the most supportive and appreciative group of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
I am also thankful that I DO NOT have breast cancer. I had a scare, and I’ve had the surgery to remove the pre-cancerous mass. The surgery went better than expected and I’m on the road to recovery.
Finally, I am very thankful quarantine has brought my family closer together. I’ve spoken with coworkers and friends who have been pushed to the brink because of all the togetherness. We still have moments, like everyone, but in general we learned we really like each other’s company.
So, what are you grateful and thankful for this year?
Life is a circle, elegant in its design. Our circles begin to form at birth. The length of our lives determines the diameter of our circles. Some of us get really large, elaborate circles. Others unfortunately get smaller ones. When we die, our circles close. For a moment, think about the design of a circle, specifically an unfinished one. A quarter or half of a circle is a hook of sorts, it can collect things; for example, other hooks, like a Barrel of Monkeys. Thus, we fly through the universe as unfinished circles, collecting other open circles, grabbing onto one another as we meet new circles.
Imagine all those circle elements flying through space, creating beautiful chains. Sometimes the integrity of one’s chain is weak and it breaks apart, scattering the other links throughout. Sometimes those scattered links cling to one another and create a new chain. Some circles resist adding new links because their link was damaged early in life and don’t know how to form a chain. Others are very enthusiastic about forming a chain and latch on to any link that floats by. Some of us protect our links more than others, needing to vet potential joiners, fearing the repercussions of that link leaving. As our rings form, no matter what, our chains will grow and we will add more links. That’s how our worlds evolve and change.
But, no matter what, no matter the chains that have been created and the bonds that have been forged, a ring must always close. The beauty of life is in watching a ring form; the anguish is when it closes. I have watched so many people bear the anguish of a ring closing in 2020. I have put a fur baby to rest; if memory serves me correctly, everyone in my ski family lost their fur baby in 2020. I have friends who have lost parents, siblings, and other dear family members. Unable to share their grief in person because of Covid, we try to support one another from afar. But, the elegance of loss is that when that ring closes, we are part of it, forever. Even though our ring is open and still forming, we cannot be removed from the closed ring. We are inextricably bonded to it, so our loved ones live on with us. The burden for us is that we have the added weight of that ring to now carry. We will always carry the burden of that ring but over time will adjust to the weight, and the ring will become lighter and we will be able to look it at and admire its beauty with less pain.
We cling to each other throughout life, and remain bonded in death. We never know when another’s ring will close; it just does. When a loved one is sick, the process of the ring closing is accelerated, but the time of closure is only known to one. He makes the final call; He closes the ring, and we sit and wait. Other times, a ring closes on a Friday night while a loved one is driving home from work; the impact of the accident closing the ring. Sometimes, it happens gracefully in sleep. Goodnights exchanged and one wakes without the other. The circle of life.
A ring closing is never easy; grief overwhelming. Sometimes a ring closes and we are prepared, other times not. When one leaves us by degrees, it softens the blow. It allows us to be part of helping to close their ring, and are prepared to be bonded with it. When the loss is sudden, the bonding to the ring is painful. A slow loss is no less painful than a sudden loss, it’s just different because we were allowed to be part of the process. In the end, it’s those of us left behind who must carry the weight and the burden. Being able to share that grief is what allows our rings to forge together and be stronger. It allows us to revel in the beauty of connection and the resulting chains enhance our beauty and that of those we are connected to.
I think about this topic often. To hold a grudge hurts only you. The person you are angry with usually has no idea you’re upset with them. And, if you are in a dispute, it physically hurts to remain angry. Not letting go; holding on to anger and bad feelings is not healthy. It raises blood pressure and clouds the mind.
Feeling the need to avenge a wrong serves no purpose. It eats at and consumes you. Again, it hurts physically to carry around anger. Let go. It feels so nice.
The greatest gift one can give a friend or loved one is to listen. Over the last few years, I’ve become acutely aware of people who don’t listen. They join your conversation or strike up a conversation with you in order to be heard. They will monopolize or continually steer the conversation back to their direction. This is distracting and it also leaves the others in the conversation feeling less than or left out.
I am aware of this practice because when I was younger, I was very much like that. In the past decade, I’ve become acquainted with dear friends who have great listening skills. I’ve also been to conferences where I learned about active listening and how to become part of a conversation and not BE the conversation. Because of this, I am aware of those who don’t know how to talk, are not able to be present in a conversation, or those who just don’t have the ability to listen.
I still struggle with falling back into my old ways. Also, since I have a bit of a memory gap because of my brain tumor, I interrupt sometimes because I’m afraid of losing my thought. However, I am working on my listening skills. Because of that, I felt it necessary to share this quote with you today, because it is so mindful and it’s an important mantra to me so that I can be a good listener and a good friend:
Based on my history, it’s clear I’m a resilient person. It’s inner strength that keeps me going and an unexplainable desire to put one foot in front of the other that compels me to move forward. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary. Why? Because, I have a full, blessed life worth living. So, despite the setbacks, I soldier on. That said, the core of my strength, the essence of my resilience comes from my faith. I’ve touched on this in other posts, but I’ve never really explained where my rock-solid belief stems from.
We are on this earth together and here for a reason. That reason is because God didn’t want to be alone, putting us here to share his creation. And he loved us. He loved us so much, he gave us free will. He didn’t want to force us to prostrate at his feet each day to thank him for our lives. He wanted us to come to him on our own, in our own time. That timing needed to be perfect for us to be thankful and grateful to him for our blessings.
My faith has always been in me in one form or another. I’ve questioned it. I’ve been angry with God; I’ve ignored him. But, throughout my entire life, I have never questioned His existence. I was born into a family of faith. I’ve lived life as a Catholic and now a Christian. My faith is my essence, and it has grown tremendously throughout my life.
And, although my faith has been a constant, the jobs I’ve held have not been consistent, at all. I’ve lived a very circuitous life in regard to jobs and careers, and I’ll talk about that at the end. However, the job I had which allowed me to discover a deeper meaning in my faith, believe it or not, was when I worked for a ski shop. This was the job I held before my current role at a university. You’re probably wondering how I made the jump from selling skis to working in higher education. It’s simple. Selling skis was a season in my life. The university became another season. Looking back now, there is no worldly reason for why I could go from a ski sales person to an office manager except to say that it was His plan for me. Let me explain.
Towards the end of my five-year tenure at the ski shop, I was becoming weary of my work. Store management was contentious; I had a coworker whom I butted heads with, and I was desperate for a change. But, it seemed no matter where I looked or what job I applied to, nothing came my way. I was becoming worried because it seemed I would never move on. I felt above the work I was doing and wanted to be done with it. So, I continued to apply for jobs but I also prayed.
My final selling season, September 2011 to March 2012, the store was very busy. We had some incredible sale days, and when I was at work, I was always busy. Selling skis and boot fitting is physically demanding, and after what felt like a marathon of very busy weeks, in late January I found myself sitting at home one afternoon on my day off reflecting on my role, how I was becoming tired, but also how grateful I was that I could keep up the pace. I reflected on the demands of my work, the aspects that made me tired. Boot fitting is challenging. You must haul multiple pairs of boots out, open them, put them on the customer’s feet, and assess fit and comfort. Wash, rinse, repeat. You do this for every pair of boots for one customer, because they could try on multiple. You do this multiple times a day with each customer. I could haul out dozens of boots for one customers. As I thought about this, I then saw myself in my role as a boot fitter; always on my knees at another’s feet. It reminded me of Jesus at the feet of his disciples: humbled. At that moment it hit me. I was being “asked” to stay in this role because I needed to learn humility.
Not finding another job forced me to stay for an additional year and allowed me to learn the value of my work, appreciate the effort, to see it as a service, and above all else, learn humility. Whether my customers looked down on me for being a lowly salesperson was of no consequence. I had learned I wasn’t lowly but I always wasn’t better than my job. I was in the role I needed to be at that moment in my life so I could find some insight into myself, become a better person, and to appreciate being of service to others.
In March of 2012, one day I had a notion to rewrite my resume and change my job title from salesperson to administrative assistant. The idea came to me when I was in the receiving office creating new signage for the store’s spring golf sale and literally popped into my head. Devine intervention? I think so; it was time for a new season in my life. After rewriting my resume, I began to actively look for a new job, applying to many, I had a couple interviews, and by August of 2012 I was hired by the university.
I began my new job feeling excited and nervous, but I focused and learned all I could. In other blog posts I talked about some of the tribulations I endured in that role. One coworker targeted me and made me feel that I could do nothing right, another occasionally made fun of me for my faith, and another micro managed me and stole my voice. I understand, at the end of the day people can’t inflict cruelty upon you unless you let them. I was aware that rising above it would have served me better, but sometimes it was difficult to overcome and deflect all the blows. However, looking back now, those were tribulations I needed to endure to build my resilience.
And, please don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always bad. My entire tenure in that role wasn’t eight years of trials. I made some incredible connections with students. I worked for a fun office, and I made some great friends. Also, I earned a bachelors and a masters degree by taking advantage of the resources that were given me. I flourished academically and prostrated myself at the feet of my bullies and endured. The last few months before lock down, I had been actively looking for a job outside of the university. But, I understand now, that wasn’t the almighty’s plan for me. I was broken down to be built up the way he needed me for my new role which was waiting on the horizon.
An interesting twist to my story is that both of my university roles were brand new to the offices that hired me. I endured the last year at the ski shop because, unbeknownst to me, I needed to bide my time and grow while the role I was to be hired for was approved. The desk and office that I occupied for eight years weren’t even built the day I had the realization about my faith. The role I have now was being planned during the time period I was actively looking for a role outside the university. I was trying to control my discomfort by looking for a new job, but in both instances, I needed to stay the course I was on to wait for my new season. How’s that for divine intervention?
Because of these reflections and realizations, when I go through rough patches, I understand I need to whether them. I know they serve a purpose, so I look for the silver lining. While I’m struggling, it’s not always evident to me, sometimes becoming weak. Upon reflection, after I’ve made it to a peak I generally find the purpose when I look back over the valley I ascended from; there is always a river running though it, and a bright patch I just couldn’t see when I was next to it. I needed to rise above it to gain perspective. Victories and trails are all part of His plan.
A final interesting note: every job I had throughout my life gave a skill which I need in my current role, feeling like I have studied for my current role my entire life. Right out of college, I was in banking, where I began learning customer service skills. Years later, I worked in inside sales where I learned order entry, which enhanced my organizational skills, and I learned Excel. At the newspaper, I honed my writing skills and learned how to create and layout pages for the paper and manage a web site. I closed mortgage loans for three years, which taught me legalease, privacy, information protection and disclosure. Working in the ski shop brought me humility and understanding. Working for the university game me a Master’s in English and Creative Writing. Every skill I listed above is essential in my current role as an Information Security Compliance Specialist. If I was missing any of the skills I gathered along the way, I may not have been hired. Weird, right? No, it was all part of the grand plan for my life. His plan for me. I am so very grateful for my interesting life and am blessed.
So, I’ve noticed as the summer has turned to fall, I’ve been a bit neglectful of my blog. On that note, I’ve decided to post at least once a week by creating a Mindful Monday series. Every Monday, I will post a quote or piece that has meaning to me and I hope will bring meaning to your life.
I’ve been meditating for months now and I’ve been really trying to live in the moment and not worry too much about what tomorrow may bring. It hasn’t been easy in light of the pandemic and election. I cannot tell a lie, I’ve lost some sleep regarding those two issues.
So, in light of tomorrow’s election, I’ll leave you with this note. Maybe it’s not mindful, but it’s a notion we must be aware of.
Until next week, stay safe and be well.