As another new year begins, I have spent hours pondering what I want my first message to be, as it sets the tone for the year ahead. As I reflected on 2017, and all the wonderful things that have happened to me, I realized that the message is simple: Even in the darkest moments of your life, there is strength within you (that you don’t even know exists) and, if you don’t give up and succumb to the negative feelings, you will realize that there is hope and that better times lie ahead.
For someone who is going through an extremely traumatic period in life, you may not believe what I am preaching because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or because you believe that your life is over.
While the life that you knew may be over, or to be more correct, changed, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me … I know.
This time of year, from Thanksgiving through the New Year celebration, is a season that provides for us the opportunity to stop our busy lives for a moment and give thanks for our many gifts and blessings; it’s a time of birth and renewal. No matter what your religion or belief structure, it’s a time when we can come together and celebrate new beginnings.
Often, however, we get so caught up in the festivities that we forget the true meaning of the season; we are so involved in getting everything done, that we miss the message. We may be more cognizant of this fact during the holiday season, but in reality many of us miss the message every day, all year long. We spend so much time worrying about ourselves, fulfilling expectations, and striving to get ahead, that we forget that we are here to love others unselfishly and to help those less fortunate.
Recently, I was in a round table discussion in which we talked about interpersonal relationships. A repeating theme of the conversation was that people felt like they were replaceable, that there was no value given to them and/or a relationship by a friend, partner, family member, or employer.
Hearing so many people express the same feeling made me start to wonder if we have become a society of disposables. It reminded me of an expression my mother used to say: “Out with the old and in with the new.”
It seems like just about every aspect of our life today is disposable. We throw away televisions, computers, clothing, phones, food, furniture, and so much more.
By contrast, when I was growing up, we fixed everything. There was a neighborhood television repairman. We ate leftovers for dinner. We took our shoes to the local shoemaker for new heels. Baby diapers were cloth and appliances were kept until they could no longer be repaired. We drove the same car until it died on the road. And most marriages lasted “until death do us part.”
This month, July 8 to be exact, marks the eighth anniversary of the premiere of the Change Your Attitude…Change Your Life (CYACYL) radio show.
Back in 2009, I was going through a bit of an identity crisis trying to figure out my next move. I had given so much of myself to my family that I got lost. I had no career, my children were growing up, and my marriage was stagnant. It was during that time, from what I was feeling, that I had the idea to create a medium that would bridge the gap between people who needed information for self empowerment, and those who could provide it.
Eight years ago, my life was pretty ordinary – I was a wife, mother, daughter and sister – just an average woman experiencing what many wives and mothers feel. To this day, I cannot say from where this seed was planted. I had no special training, or no radio or business ownership experience. And yet, I wanted to take it on. Looking back, I must have appeared insane. A few told me I was, but I didn’t care.
Just when my career was starting to gain traction, my life took a tumultuous turn. Within a period of six months, my 23-year marriage ended, my mother died, my sister died, and my oldest son left for college. The life I knew ceased to exist. I was broken hearted, depressed, and exhausted. I didn’t see much of a future for me.
There are certain days of the year to which we attach expectations of how we believe it should be. New Year’s Eve. Valentine’s Day. A birthday. And, when those days don’t go as we planned, and our expectations are shattered, we can be easily devastated.
I have lived much of my life in fear of being alone. I always hated it and did anything humanly possible to keep myself busy; surrounded by friends and family. I’m not sure why, but I was never comfortable in my own company – I despised it – and so I tap danced. It’s only in recent years, by necessity, that I have learned to be content and at peace in my solitude.
But, even as evolved as I like to believe I have become, the prospect of being alone on my birthday rattled me.
My birthday week began with a celebration with lifelong friends and was slated to close with another group party.
But, on the actual day, as fate would have it, I was going to be alone.
I recently presented a keynote address to a group of business professionals. During the speech I talked about the importance of eliminating negative voices – our own and those from external sources. I explained that there are many people, for whatever reason, consciously or unconsciously, who will say things that can have a detrimental impact one’s self-esteem and ability to move forward.
Anyone that puts him/herself “out there” and takes a risk knows what I’m talking about. The well-meaning people who offer “friendly” advice designed to “help” you out. Or, the direct words of condemnation that tell you exactly why you will never succeed at what you are attempting to do.
The aftermath of this presentation was no different than what I have experienced for years. I was greeted by most with words of affirmation and encouragement. But, then there were a few …
Are you a giver? I am. I’ll do anything possible for anyone, any time. I have spent most of my life taking care of others, putting myself second, and sometimes, third, fourth or fifth. After many years, I found myself feeling hurt, rejected, used, and resentful. I created an unhealthy pattern for my life, for which I have paid the price.
While it is important to take care of others, it is equally important to understand your motivation. I thought it was my way of expressing love and affection. What I have come to learn is that, while part of it was from love, another part was my need to be accepted and loved. I was trying to make others care for me, so I gave to them and worked hard to please them.
The problem with my M.O. is that I was coming from a place of insecurity and low self worth. I was trying, in essence, to buy affection.
With the right people, the approach may work out as they are giving as much as you. But, with the wrong people, you will be left feeling alone, depleted, and even more insecure.
Recently, I was in conversation with a group of people. During the discussion, I shared some exciting professional news. After hearing what I said, one woman rolled her eyes and remarked sarcastically, “You are so lucky … everything always happens for you and is so easy!”
I looked at this person, processing what she just said and in the manner in which she stated it.
In my head my voice screamed, “What on God’s good earth are you talking about?! Do you have any idea what my life is like?” I didn’t respond but it got me thinking.
Many people are under some delusion that things “just happen” for others. That there is some mysterious fairy that grants favor for one and heartache for another. That some people are chosen and blessed and others are doomed, a victim of circumstance. Well, I’m here to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth!
This morning, I received a phone call from a business colleague with whom I have forged a friendship. During the call, she informed me about her recent illness and shared the challenges that she endured. After hearing about her suffering and subsequent recovery, I said, “Oh honey, I’m so happy that you’re feeling better.”
After my statement, there was a moment of silence after which she replied, “Please don’t call me honey … it’s very condescending!” With those words there was a noticeable shift in her persona.
I must admit … her response took me by surprise, which was probably evident by my silence. The voice in my head screamed, “What the heck just happened? Why were my well-intended wishes met with scorn?” I had no idea what elicited her response.