Life Is Precious

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“This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good.”    ― Author Unknown

Life is precious.

Our journey in life is finite, which is why it’s so important to appreciate each day, to savor what we have and whom we surround ourselves with.  A sunny day, a fresh rainfall, the sound of trees swaying in a summer breeze… these are the things we sometimes take for granted.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

I have a handful of friends and family members who wake up each morning, prepared to fight the battle of their lives, just so they can live another day… be with the people they love, do the things they most enjoy.  Their enemy? Cancer.  These people have become warriors and their  spirits shine through their resolve.  They are acutely aware of  how truly precious life is.

Recently, a colleague was diagnosed with Stage II Parkinson’s Disease.  This diagnosis has rocked his world…  and not in a good way.  Suddenly, the time he thought he had ― to do the things he needed and wanted to do ― has been ripped away from him.  A man who is always in control now finds himself out of control.  He is scrambling to reprioritize and to figure out how to prolong the inevitable.  And he makes sure to tell his children, each day, how much he loves them.

Yesterday, we (my husband and I) received shocking news that a former colleague had died this past December ― of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  He was a good, vibrant, intelligent man.  His wife and two children, family and loads of friends mourn his loss.

Yes, life is precious.

Don’t waste one singular moment.

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”     ― Jack London, American Author

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 7 of 7: “Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?”

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

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My mother used to say:

“Why the hell should I care what anybody thinks of me?!”

My mother danced to the tune of a different drummer. Although a Roman Catholic, she did not appreciate having religious dogma “jammed down her throat” (her exact words).  She questioned. She rebelled. She made adjustments. To her, religion was deeply personal and spiritual. She did not join groups and attend Church gatherings, just to socialize and keep up appearances.

She prayed. Privately. She believed. Deeply.

She was a woman of Faith – but in her own, singular way.  She was actually more religious than some of the people I knew who went to Church daily.

Ever since I can remember, she would instruct me not to care about what people thought about me.  She spoke to me about the importance of embracing who I was, to try to change the things about myself that I needed to change – but not for anyone else. She taught me to accept what I cannot change – to embrace my flaws, as well as my virtues.  She taught me to be me.

She rarely wore make-up and, as for jewelry – just her wedding band.  On special occasions, she’d wear a strand of pearls. She didn’t have pierced ears, nor did she ever pluck her eyebrows (she didn’t have to, they were perfectly formed). She preferred the smell of Bromley’s English Fern soap to any kind of perfume.  My mother used to tell me a story about her mother (my grandmother, who died well before I was born) and how she didn’t need to wear jewelry in order to feel or be rich. Apparently, a woman once asked my grandmother why she never wore jewelry, implying (in a derogatory manner) that she must therefore be very poor.  My grandmother replied “My children are my jewels. They enrich my life.”  My mother was the youngest of six children and all six adored their mother (my grandmother).

My mother was not one to self-edit.  She spoke exactly what was on her mind, not mincing any words. This often made for some awkward moments and uncomfortable silences when in the company of friends and relatives. Whilst we (my siblings and I) would wince (like all young people, we were very easily embarrassed by things that our elders would say or do), my mother would shrug the moment off. She always, always stood by what she said and did.

It’s no wonder, then, that I – despite having to wear eyeglasses since the age of two, endure years of eye patches, endure school taunts about being “four-eyed”, or having skin as white as a ghost, and on and on – am a very, very confident woman.

I do not conduct myself or my life… for other people.

I do not seek approval, I need to approve of myself.

I dress the way I choose to.  I do not second-guess myself.

I do not care what others say or think about me.  Everyone is subjective and each person’s perspective is based on their own life experiences.  So, what is important to me is how I think about myself.  I always ask myself “Am I being the best I can be? Am I doing the best that I can do? Am I learning as much as I can? ”  The answer is not always a resounding “Yes!” but the journey is not over, yet.  Fingers crossed.

Most importantly, I stand by what I do and what I say.

My closest friends and family know that when they ask me for advice, I will not sugar coat it.  I tell it like it is (unfortunately, telling it “like it is” is not always what they want to hear).

I am my mother’s daughter.

“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

What is unique about the book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression?

Originally, I intended to write a collection of short stories, based on the real life accounts of middle-class men and women who had been (and who continue to be) adversely affected by this prolonged economic downturn.

After learning about all their tribulations and triumphs, I decided that their stories would have more impact if portrayed in short vignettes or scenes.  These snapshots in words capture the essence (and the rawness) of their experiences.  As a reader, you get a feel for what it’s like to ― as Atticus Finch (in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird) says ― “climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  In doing so, the reader may identify with/relate to or gain insight from their experiences, as they navigate through the spectrum of emotions ― shock, sorrow, despair, relief, joy, pride, and so on.  

The vignettes present the reader with a canvas of scenes ranging from sweet-to-bittersweet-to-bitter, from the manic uncertainty of not knowing what to do, to the tenacious pursuit of a “Plan B” … and, of course, emphasizing the point that humor, hope and faith often help to smooth out the kinks and put things in perspective.

Once the vignettes were written, I realized that it was necessary for me to clearly explain my thesis that this overextended economic downturn is a depression, and not a recession. In doing so, I categorized the vignettes by year – from 2006 to the first quarter of 2013. I then wrote an introduction to each of the years, thereby setting the historical, socio-economic and political scene (with economic and political commentary) ― to give the reader context.

I believe that the book is unique because it uses vignettes (rather than short stories) and these vignettes are reinforced by the commentary which presents the context, issues, and possible solutions.

In the second-to-last paragraph of my Conclusions, I write:

“It is not my intention to point fingers at any political leader or party. Nor am I interested in engaging in an ideological battle of red versus blue (or vice versa).  I am, however, raising an eyebrow at the seemingly dismissive attitude that our politicians and economists have towards the ongoing severity of this economic “trough” and, by association, the degenerative effects on the countries largest demographic – the middle class. The bottom line is:  if there are middle-class Americans who continue to experience economic hardship, then the problem still exists. If they are not in the process of recovering, then we are not “in a recovery.”

Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is not an economic treatise or a doctoral dissertation.  It is a very evocative, down-to-earth, mince-no-words commentary/editorial which simply seeks to highlight the human condition as relates to the economic crisis that, like a very bad cough, has proven difficult to shake off.

I welcome your feedback, with thanks.

― Heather Joan Marinos

(Visit:  http://heatherjoanmarinos.com )

Written Content Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos. All Rights Reserved.

heatherfromthegrove: A Wrap-up of My 7 New Year Revelations

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As I said before (on this very same day, last year):  

“For those of you who have been following, reading and enjoying each of my seven New Year revelations …. Thank You.

I would like to point out that they are not New Year Resolutions. I don’t make New Year Resolutions anymore. They are my own personal revelations. Epiphanies. Discoveries. In the past decade, I’ve faced some daunting challenges and heart-wrenching events. I’d like to think that I’ve handled them with dignity, compassion, grace, and humor. Always humor. It helps take the edge off.

So, the lessons that these “life tests” have taught me are my “revelations.” As I move forward with my life, I will use them as my guide. Wisdom has to be earned. For me, it’s a work in progress. I hope that they have inspired and even amused you. I hope that they have made you think long and hard.”

Here’s a synopsis (the numbers have a hyperlink back to each revelation post):

Revelation No. 1: LOVE — WITHOUT RESERVATIONS, CONDITIONS OR EXPECTATIONS

Revelation No. 2: KINDNESS IS CONTAGIOUS

Revelation No. 3: RESIST THE MAÑANA SYNDROME

Revelation No. 4: PRACTICE A LITTLE PATIENCE

Revelation No. 5: NEVER, NEVER ASSUME!

Revelation No. 6: UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN “EMBRACE” AND “TOLERATE”

Revelation No. 7: TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

And the journey continues.  I believe that 2013 will be a renaissance of sorts. I know that I’m looking forward to tying up some loose ends in my life,  having my book launched at the end of February,  and taking time out to read, sharing precious moments with the creatures (two-legged and four-legged!) I love most, and … of course … dancing in the rain!

I wish you all a blessed, healthy and happy  2013 and may your own personal journey bring you deep fulfillment and wisdom. Remember, we are all — each of us — a work in progress!

 

Image via eclectic-eccentric.com.

New Year’s Revelation No. 7 of 7: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~ Mark Twain

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time.  I have it posted up on the wall of my study. 

180355160047677058_tbY43tyo_cWe only have one life.  We never know how much time we have left, so we’ve really got to make the most of it.  Make the time to be with the people you love. Splash around in the rain!  Throw a few snowballs. Step out of your comfort zone and try out something new.  Eat something different and more exotic. Take a walk on the wild side …  and savour every damn minute of it!

Life flies by so fast.  We’ve got to grab on tight to its wings, so that we can enjoy every adventure along the way.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics and video of a song that encapsulates what I really mean.  It’s a song by Lee Ann Womack, called “I Hope You Dance.”  Now, I’m not an avid country music fan, but I absolutely love this song.

All of her words reflect exactly what I wish for you, dearest readers. 

Thanks for stopping by.

Lyrics (partial) for I Hope You Dance (by Lee Ann Womack)

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance!
I hope you dance!

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance

I hope you dance!
I hope you dance!

Images via congchurchexeter.org (binoculars) and thefifowife.com.au (dancer).