“Be careful about the words that you let come out of your mouth. The tongue is a very powerful weapon. You can use it for good or you can use it for harm. You have to make a choice in your heart and your mind about how you want to use it. The way you speak about yourself, even in your mind, is important. Make sure it’s always good. If you almost stumble or fall, it’s even more important to keep positive words about yourself in your mind. You get back what you put out.”
A very sweet and kind, old, and almost terminally ill woman spoke these words to me a few nights ago. It was an enlightening moment and very encouraging to hear the very same ideas I’ve been working to ingrain and practice in my life, and in my mind, spoken back to me from a person I admire and trust; who was unaware of my own personal efforts to practice these creeds. It reinforces and reassures me that I am on the right path.
A new adventure
As I sat in the Greenville, SC airport, I waited patiently to embark on a new adventure. Finally, after 66 days I would be reuniting with the other half of my heart. He was drawing closer and closer to the final destination of his cross country cycling trip. Experiencing the route so far only vicariously through his photos and phone calls, I was eager to join him on the final few days (by rental car). His journey attests to the compassion, generosity, and hospitality of humanity; A random person at the farmer’s market offering him a place to rest for the day and night. Others willingly disclose the location of their spare key and let him stay while they’re away saving lives from a helicopter or out of town. So many others buying his meals, paying for his lodging, and proving that helping others is in the very fabric of our beings.
After two flights and two hours by car, I call his name as he walks past while I was ducked into the backseat getting a sweater to protect me from the chilly Oregon air. He turns and a wave of uncontrollable emotion overtakes me. An unmeasurable grin spreads across both our faces. The moment stands still as we embrace, and that moment by itself was worth the stress of traveling, sore shoulders, and the past two months apart. On this evening he expresses to me the immense love he feels for our country and all the people in his life. He “just wants everyone to know how much he loves them.” It’s so genuine and so inspiring. It instills me with hope; for life and humanity. That is a Small Act I believe everyone should aspire to practice.
Over the previous two months and our ever increasing distance, I did as he recommended the last time I saw him, I took it one day at a time, and practiced a Small Act so very challenging to me by my very nature and upbringing: trust. It doesn’t come easily to me after the years of trampled childhood expectations and heart wrenching let-downs my mother’s irresponsibility and inaction triggered. Once it’s gone it doesn’t very easily come back. Despite my outward appearance of success the last several years, a deep seated worry dominated my thoughts and actions often preventing me from truly experiencing and appreciating life to the fullest extent.
Change of view
Now I have a continually improving perspective. As so neatly summed up by my very kind airport ride driver: We can choose whether we want to take on the role of victim and treat others as if they “owe” us or whether we want to own our destiny and grow from these experiences, however painful they may be. For too long I used these past violations as an excuse for my behavior; to not trust, to manipulate, to internally reject the love, appreciation, and praise given to me. I have and will continue, probably for the rest of my life, to work on my recovery from the traumatic experiences I had no control over, and even the ones I did have control over, but chose not to act or the consequences of my choices.
The beauty of life is that we have the option to choose to do this work; to recover, to get better, to forgive, to say we’re sorry, to learn, to love ourselves and others, to be grateful. So long as I trust that the work is worth the effort, and I keep doing it, and keep trusting that life will give me the signs and messages I need to make tough decisions or make changes when they’re good for me, my life will continue to improve. Trusting will become easier.
Trust in yourself
Emma is right. The words we speak about ourselves are most powerful, but when they're good, we’ve got to trust them too or they have no real meaning. Trusting outwardly begins within. I have no business trying to trust others if I can’t be confident in the trust I have for myself. She also told me, some people are in your life for a reason, others for a season. If they’re there for a season, just let it be a season, and then let them go.
Having the courage to let someone I love embark on the adventure (so far) of his life and trusting that all will be well in the end has been incredibly empowering for me. That single decision was a catalyst for so much new growth, love, encouragement, and positive change in my life. It led to new exciting opportunities and relationships. It inspired me and made my love and respect for him even deeper. As incredibly challenging as it is, it’s a Small Act to let go of past injustices and debilitating experiences; to cultivate new growth from the ashes of painful fires long past put out. From this growth I can build a new foundation of constructive relationships, love, and respect for myself and others.