Are You Drowning or Swimming?

No, this isn’t about water safety. Most of us know the do’s and don’ts about being around the water. How to stay out of the deep end if you can’t swim; when to wear a life jacket; that you shouldn’t go in the ocean when there are rip tides, etc.

But sometimes we can be drowning in our lives without even being near a body of water. And even the best swimmers can forget how to swim when that begins to happen.

Life tosses a lot of things at us. Health issues, relationship issues, problems at work or difficulty finding or keeping a job. Financial issues, loneliness, legal problems….

And before you know it, you feel like you’re drowning. There’s too much swirling around you, knocking against you, pushing you under the waves of life until you don’t think you can breathe any more.

You try to tread water while you cry out for help, waiting for someone to come along and save you from all of this; to give you a hand you can take and instantly pull you out of the maelstrom swirling around you, as all of your problems drop to the bottom of the ocean you’re in. And suddenly everything is perfect again.

That would be nice, and in a perfect world, or the ending of a children’s movie, that would happen. And everyone would be living happily ever after.

But in life there are no magic potions, no knights in shining armor, and no super heroes to suddenly appear and whisk you away from all the problems of your life and make them disappear.

Because it’s up to you. Someone else cannot solve all of your problems. Others can certainly give advice, but you have to be sure the advice is from a trusted source, someone who’s giving you good advice rather than telling you what you want to hear.

Someone who comes alongside of you and helps you swim, rather than pulling you out from drowning. Because when you’re constantly being rescued, you never learn how to swim on your own.

Yes, that’s certainly easier. But life isn’t easy. And you don’t grow into the person you need to become if you’re always looking to be rescued from the things that come against you in life.

Health problems don’t disappear overnight; you usually need a doctor’s care.

Financial problems don’t disappear overnight either; not unless you win the lottery or inherit money from someone. And what are the chances of that?

Unfortunately relationships don’t always work out, and when that happens, jumping immediately into another one isn’t the answer, and doesn’t make everything perfect again. Finding someone to be your “significant other” because you’re lonesome doesn’t mean all your problems will go away either. In fact, sometimes that causes even more problems.

Treading water doesn’t work for long. It exhausts you and gets you nowhere. Treading water is only doing nothing, because you just don’t have the energy to do anything else.

You have to start swimming. And if that’s not something you’re good at, you need to learn, and learn quickly. You may not be very good at it at first, but the more you do it, the better you become.

Swimming is something that has to be learned, and some of us have an easier time than others. But it’s necessary in order to be able to function in our daily lives…both personally and professionally.

The best way to learn to swim? Well, in most cases there’s no time for swimming lessons; you just have to jump in and do it. Take one issue at a time and swim into it. It may take some extra time, because you’ll most likely be fighting against the current, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll end up pushing that problem aside as you solve it, and taking on the next one.

If you let all of the problems come at you at one time they’ll overwhelm you, and you’ll never be able to solve any of them. You’ll drown in the mixture as you try to solve everything at once.

Remember, a successful swimmer requires skill, but also requires determination as well as concentration. Concentrate on one thing at a time, and you’ll end up swimming like a champion.

A successful swimmer also needs a coach, so you might want to look for someone who can act as your coach, a trusted friend who can advise you on what you should do. But coaches require you to listen to them, and take their coaching seriously. You have to be ready to do this, and do what they say.

You’re the only one who can decide when you’re ready to start swimming instead of drowning in a sea of problems that threaten to overwhelm your entire life.
You can do this. Truly you can. You can swim out of everything that’s overwhelming you.

Just give yourself the chance.

Dive in! The water’s great, and before you know it, you’ll be out of that sea of problems and into the clearest and most beautiful water you’ve ever seen!

Counting Chickens Backwards

Another wonderful (not) night of not sleeping well. This time, waking up at 2:30 in the morning. Tossing and turning, growling at the alarm clock displaying the time in its glowing red numbers, almost mocking me that I’m awake when I shouldn’t be!

This not sleeping business is getting old. Not meaning I’m old, because I’m not. It’s just that this insomnia stuff needs to be old news!

It’s especially irritating when your husband asks you why you can’t sleep. Actually, if I knew the answer, don’t you think I’d fix it!!??? Don’t ask me dumb questions! Please!

But it is getting ridiculous. And a lot of my friends are experiencing the same thing. Maybe we’re just thinking too much…so much that we wake up in the middle of the night, our brains going 100 miles an hour while the rest of us says “please stop!”

Go back to sleep already!

Easier said than done. Unfortunately.

The other night when my husband and I were talking about how I was the one with the insomnia problem while he always slept thru the night, at least til 4:00, he decided to give me some ideas on getting back to sleep. Just what I needed…but I listened. Sort of.

It’s amazing how so many people have so many ideas about sleeping and going back to sleep in the middle of the night. If they were the ones having the problem, and they gave me ideas that worked, maybe I’d listen. However…do any of these suggestions seem to work for you?

Counting sheep, right. How ridiculous is that. Imagine a never ending line of fluffy white wooly creatures walking slowly along, baa-ing continually to the point where you want to yell at them to shut up so you can have peace and quiet. Yeah, that sure works!

Or recounting a past moment during the week or month where you were so relaxed you couldn’t help but fall asleep. Like being at the beach, lying on the sand with the warm sun shining on you. A wonderful feeling, until you hear the sea gulls squawking over you and suddenly one of them decides to drop love beads on your chest! Yep, wide awake again!

Or imaging yourself floating on a soft white cloud, high above the earth, just you and a few songbirds flying beside you. Just drifting around, peaceful and serene, until suddenly a huge black cloud appears over the top of you, and lets loose with a huge clap of thunder and a shot of lightning! So much for sleep!

My favorite had to be when my husband suggested I just lay there and “count chickens backwards.” Do shat?? Can you actually imagine a row of chickens, some white, some red, and a few black speckled ones mixed in, walking backwards in a crooked line to some rock song you don’t even like, or maybe doing their own version of the “Chicken Dance.” And suddenly you’re singing that song in your head, and it won’t go away, and you’re past ready to take one of those dancing chickens and perch it on top of someone’s head…and hope it lays an egg!

And then you’re really wide awake!

So what’s the trick to sleeping through the night? Without sleeping pills?

Unfortunately I have no idea. Some nights are like that. Some aren’t.

Cuddling up to a sleeping kitty or puppy is a great idea, but if you’re not careful you’ll wake them up, and they won’t thank you. If it’s your dog, they’ll make you take them outside, and I guarantee that won’t be fun! And you certainly won’t go back to sleep then. If it’s a cat they’ll demand to be fed, and in a very loud and annoying way!

Get up and work, or read, or watch tv? Well that’s an idea, but unfortunately you’ll end up falling back to sleep about half an hour before it’s time to get up. And be wasted for the rest of the day.

Get on Facebook and see who else is awake? That’s an idea. But all you do is share your misery. Misery may love company, but not at 3:00 in the morning!

Unfortunately I don’t have a solution. Just a problem I need to solve. And I don’t have any magic answers.

How about you? Are you in the same boat? If you are, let’s hear your solutions. We could all benefit from them, I imagine.

Even those chickens walking backwards in front of you, just waiting to be counted! They probably don’t sleep well either.

Let me know what works for you!

Night night…..

A Promise Kept

Almost two years ago I had to make a tough decision, like many of you have had to do as well. And it wasn’t easy. It was a decision we’ve had to make several times before, and each time it’s awful.

For those of you who are pet lovers, you’ll understand what I’m talking about very quickly. Because our fur babies are part of our family, from the first moment we bring them home. They jump into our hearts and make their nest, and we quickly wonder what we ever did without them.

And all too soon, we end up saying a tearful good bye. Because their lifespans are much shorter than people’s, and even though we know that from the beginning, we still pour our hearts and our love into each one of our special pets.

And they do the same for us.

Over the years I’ve had both dogs and cats. I’ve loved each and every one of them, and cried buckets of tears when it was time to say goodbye.

It was really bad when just two weeks after our daughter’s wedding, we had to say goodbye to Angel dog, my mother’s Pekingese that we had cared for since my mom’s death ten years before. I felt like I was losing the last part of my mother I still had left.

As I was crying and sobbing, my dear husband told me he could just picture little Angel running on her now arthritis-free legs, right up to the door of my mom’s heavenly mansion and barking to be let in, and happily joining my mom’s other dogs she’d had over the years that had been waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge. I can only imagine what a wonderful furry reunion that must have been!

But I was still heartbroken….

Then a year later I had to say a very teary goodbye to my very favorite cat, Princess, a beautiful black tortoiseshell Persian with curly whiskers and the most wonderful purr I’d ever heard. I put off the decision as long as I could, but sadly I finally had no choice but to let her go to the Rainbow Bridge.

Again, I was heartbroken, but before she left, Princess gave me a promise that she’d send me a new kitty that looked just like her. And she told me all about the Rainbow Bridge where pets go when they pass on to their next life, waiting for us to join them, or going to meet their owners who have already left them for their heavenly home.

And I held on to her promise.

I didn’t realize how it would turn out, though. And certainly it wasn’t like I’d thought.

You see, Princess had promised to send me a kitty just like her. I tried and tried, with no success, to find the one she’d promised me. She was nowhere to be found.

But what I didn’t know, was that all along Princess Kitty had had something better in mind, and she just didn’t want to spoil the surprise she had for me. And she knew I wouldn’t mind if she changed things around a bit.

About a year ago I was involved in an auto accident. It was a bad one, and it threw me into a depression I hadn’t expected. It affected me in ways I never expected. And I needed something to bring me out of my funk. But nothing seemed to be able to help.

And then, out of the blue, a friend of mine posted on her Facebook page that she needed a new home for her Yorkie, because she just couldn’t keep him any more. He needed a home where he could run outside and play, where he would have people who’d love him as much as she did, but could give him the attention he deserved.

Now I’ve always had a thing for Yorkies; I’ve always wanted one. For about 40 years, but who’s counting? What an opportunity! Of course I immediately contacted her!

Obviously Princess Kitty had planned a surprise for me I’d never expected. As much as I love our kitties, I also love Yorkies, and this was my chance!

And two days later, Benji joined our family. I don’t know who was happier, my husband or me. Because Benji’s an awesome dog, perfect for us, sweet and loving and loyal. Plus he’s willing to put up with my dressing him in doggie t shirts and bandanas, and taking his picture with Santa and the Easter Bunny!

I knew Princess had sent him to us. She knew how much I’d always wanted a Yorkie, and she took care of it. And maybe she just didn’t want us to have another kitty who looked like her. Because she really was one of a kind.

As much as we adore our Benji we felt guilty leaving him all by himself while we went to work. He needed a friend. So a few months ago the search began for a sister for Benji.

And it wasn’t easy. It had to be the right doggie, younger, but not too young. A little girl dog who needed a new home, and a big brother to show her around, to protect her. Someone to play with, and to go squirrel hunting with. A doggie who needed to be rescued.

That wasn’t easy either.

But suddenly after three months of searching, we had the opportunity to get Benji a sister. Someone had turned in a 4 month old little girl Yorkie-Shih tzu mix to a local animal shelter. She’d been spayed, and would be up for adoption the next day. As soon as we saw her picture I knew she was perfect! And that Benji would be really happy with her.

We just had to make it happen. Come on Princess Kitty, help us out here! You promised!

The shelter opened the next day at noon. My husband Ben was there by 11:45 and there were already 14 people ahead of him in line. Most of them wanting this particular dog. But one by one people started dropping out of line. Some didn’t want to wait until noon to go in, and some didn’t want to pay the $100 adoption fee!

And then there were only two people ahead of him. Both wanting the dog WE wanted…

When the shelter opened everyone went in and had an opportunity to look at the dog they wanted from a distance, and then fill out an application for adoption.

Afterwards everyone went in one on one to play with the dog for a few minutes. The first people came out a few minutes later and said they’d decided on a bigger dog.

So then there were two.

While Ben and the other lady were waiting for their turns they had been talking, and he’d told her he wanted to get the dog for his wife’s birthday gift, and how our other dog needed a playmate!

When the lady went in to play with the doggie, it seemed like she was in there forever. All this time I was waiting to hear from Ben, and…nothing. I just knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was a nervous wreck…and I’d not even seen this little one in person!

Then all of a sudden he texted me and said, “she’s ours!” Princess Kitty came through! The lady had come out after seeing the doggie and playing with her, walked up to Ben, and said, “I’ve decided to bless you and let you have her for your wife’s birthday present.”

An hour and a half later I finally met little Chloe in person. She was sitting in the front seat of Ben’s car, wagging her tail at us, and smiling like only a newly rescued puppy can smile! She knew she finally had her fur-ever home!

And now Benji has a little sister, who’s already following him everywhere, sleeping beside him, and yes, irritating him on occasion. Because that’s what little sisters do.

Princess Kitty kept her promise to me, and although she didn’t send me another kitty that looked like her, she sent us two wonderful furry friends that have already taken over our house, filling it with more love, assorted dog toys mixed among our granddaughter’s toys, and a jar of dog treats sitting on the counter beside the (human) cookie jar.

Princess Kitty kept her promise in her own way. After all, cats do their own thing, and make their own rules. They keep their promises, but sometimes in their own way. And I have to say. I’m thrilled at the way she kept her promise.

Benji and Chloe are the perfect pair of dogs for us. We couldn’t be happier at the way Princess worked things out!

And one day when we see Princess again, we’ll be able to thank her in person!

Note: If you’re looking for a fur-ever friend, whether it’s a dog or cat, please consider your local animal shelter, SPCA, or rescue organization. They have many animals looking for a loving, fur-ever home. You won’t be disappointed.

Artwork by Stella Violano…Fine Art America

Want to read the other stories in this series?
Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge
The Bridge is Calling

Every Morning Starts with a Sunrise

Why is that such a big deal, you may ask?

Because it’s a daily reminder that every day is a brand new day. A new start. A new opportunity to begin something you’ve always wanted to do; to take a chance. To step out of your comfort zone and grasp what’s ahead of you with total expectations of the best that’s yet to come.

Because each new day brings that same feeling of expectation. That feeling of newness. This new day ahead of you is like no other before it, and the one after it will be totally different as well.

This new day begins quite similar to a lot of other new days, but like snowflakes, no two sunrises are ever quite the same, just as no two days are ever the same.

Sure, the sun rises in the same place in the sky every morning. And even if you watch it from the exact same spot every time, it’s never going to be quite the same. The cloud formations will be a bit different, painting the colors around the sun and throughout the sky with streaks and splotches that will not be repeated again in any sunrise. The Master Artist who paints each sunrise paints each one slightly different every morning, just as an artist who paints on canvas can never paint exactly the same picture a second time.

It just reminds us that every sunrise brings a new day. A new hope. A new adventure.

A new beginning.

Some mornings it’s extremely difficult to see the sunrise. It may be totally obscured from our sight by thick clouds bringing rain or snow, and the prospect of gloomy, dreary weather. But the sunrise is still there, just as it is every morning; we just can’t see it, because the darkness keeps it away.

And we can’t truly appreciate the beauty of the light until we’ve been in the darkness. Just like the sunrise…if we could see it every morning no matter what, we’d eventually get complacent, and stop seeing and appreciating the wonder that comes with each bright, beautiful new beginning. We might not always appreciate the sunrise and what it means as much as we should if it were always clearly visible to us.

Similarly, how can we know real joy unless we’ve known sorrow? We’d have nothing to compare it to.

Did you watch this morning’s sunrise? Did its sheer beauty, its colorful display of bright light, speak to your heart? Did it make you feel loved? Did it remind you that no matter how the day before was, this is a new day…a new beginning. A new chance to do something better than yesterday.

It’s a new opportunity to start the rest of your life all over again, to change past mistakes, begin new relationships, and start to become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

That’s all in that sunrise you watched. And if you didn’t see it, just know it was there, and even if you missed it, the same opportunity awaits you. You can see another sunrise tomorrow morning.

But right now, it’s a new day. The sun has risen and brought you this new day. This new opportunity.

What are you going to do with it?

Overcoming the Black Hole of Depression

If you haven’t ever experienced depression, it’s very difficult to understand the depth it can cause someone to sink into. It’s difficult to understand how hard it is to pull yourself out of it.

Depression is a thief that comes to steal your joy. Depression knocks on your door when you’re having a tough time, and says “I’ve come to talk to you about all of this.” And instead of encouraging you, which you sometimes don’t want to hear anyway, it agrees with you. Yes, things are bad for you. They’re even going to get worse.

And you start to believe it.

Depression is real. It hurts. It captures you, grabs you with its strong arms and squeezes. It holds you close and begins to suck all the air from your body, until you feel like you can no longer breathe.

Depression wraps you in its paralyzing grip and keeps you from moving. It keeps you tied to the chair you’ve put yourself in, unable to move. Unable and even unwilling to talk to anyone, because Depression has told you you’re not worthy. That no one wants you. That you are incapable of doing anything productive or worthwhile. That the rest of your life is going to be like this, so you might as well give up and resign yourself to those facts (according to Depression); you’re no one, you’re worthless, and even worse, you don’t deserve anything any better than where you are and what you have right now.

Depression puts you in a hole and begins to throw the dirt in on top of you. And because you believe Depression’s lies, you lie down in that hole and just stop trying. You no longer have the will to try to climb out, because you’re totally convinced that Depression is telling you the truth.

And at that point, you start welcoming the dirt that is being shoveled over you. Because it will make the pain go away. And it’s easier to accept being in that hole than it is to grab onto the sides and begin pulling yourself out. Because it’s not going to get any better.

Depression is a liar. Depression is a thief. Depression exists to steal the happiness that you deserve. Because Depression is only happy when it makes others unhappy. And it’s really good at what it does.

But Depression only wins when you allow it to.

That black hole can go away; you can climb out, shake the dirt off, and show the world, and Depression, that you are a winner. You are worthwhile. You are loved, and you are capable of doing the things you want to do!

So how do you do that? It’s easy, but yet it’s not. You have to make yourself climb out of that black hole. You have to tell yourself on a daily, and sometimes hourly, basis that this black hole of depression is NOT your lot in life; that it is NOT where you’re supposed to be.

You have to set a plan for your life. What do you really want to do? Is it a job? What kind of job? You don’t know? What do you like to do? What do you LOVE to do? And how can you put that love of whatever it is into a career?

Is it a lifestyle change? That’s scary as well, because you’re getting ready to turn your entire world upside down, and you don’t really know what’s going to happen once you do. But you know it’s going to be OK. You just don’t know how or when.

It’s certainly not something you can force into happening, and it’s not something you can do overnight. It took a while to get into that pit of depression, and you’re not going to get out of it overnight.

But by setting goals for yourself, making plans, and sticking to those plans, you can crawl out of that pit of depression. No, it won’t be easy, because nothing worthwhile ever is easy. Start by setting out that goal that you want to accomplish. And write it down. It may be a job, or a change in your lifestyle. It may be a change in relationships.

Write that goal down, where you can see it on a daily basis, and then plan how you’re going to accomplish that goal; what steps you need to take to make it happen; and how long you think it will take. Then make it a point each day to do something to achieve your goal, and write those steps and accomplishments down. How else are you going to be sure you know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there? And how will you know how much closer you are each day to achieving that goal?

It may go slowly at first, but you’ll be surprised when eventually you see changes in your life. Small ones, yes. But changes for the better.

You’ll have setbacks on those goals. Because that’s a part of life. But the other part of life is what you do to turn those setbacks around. Instead of saying to yourself, “well that didn’t work, so why try anymore because I’ll never do it?” you tell yourself, “well they didn’t appreciate what a great person I am, so I’ll just try something else!” Yes, that might not work either, but how will you know until you try?

Because one of those tries is going to work, and when it does, you’ll realize that was what you were waiting for all along.

Good things are worth waiting for, and worth all of the steps it takes to make them happen. We just don’t realize it at the time. We want instant gratification, and that just doesn’t happen in real life.

And one day when it all starts to come together you will suddenly realize Depression has gone away, and been replaced with a joy and peace you never thought you would have again. And it’s a great feeling.

So what are you waiting for? Tell Depression you are done, once and for all. The black hole isn’t where you’re supposed to be.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I survived. You will, too.

So what are you waiting for? Take out your pen and paper and begin writing out your plan. And then make that plan happen.

And let me know how it works out.