Love changes us

Happy October, beautiful someone!

A long time ago, I was taking a fitness class in New York City. It was early morning, a Saturday in the middle of winter. I was going through a seriously bad patch — my husband had decided he was done with marriage. This was a shock, and I hurt everywhere. I remember thinking, “Now I know I have a soul because I can feel it tearing in half.”

I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings, so I’m sure I looked pretty bad. Anyway, after class the instructor walked over to me, put an arm around my shoulder and squeezed tight. Then she turned to me. “I don’t know what you’re going through, but you’re going to be okay,” she said. After all the yelling at home, I think my knees must have given way a little at the gentleness in her voice.

“I want to give you something,” she said.

She reached into her pocket and took out $100 bill which she pressed into my hand.

“This is for you—and only for you,” she said. “Do something nice for yourself with it.”

Before I could say anything, she gave me a hug and walked away.

I watched her, my mouth hanging open, the money in my hand.

I still remember

Everything at home moved fast after that, and I never ended up going back to that studio. Still, divorce, meeting the love of my life, remarriage and two babies later, I remember that day so vividly. It was a moment when I experienced pure love — someone understanding that I was in pain and, like an angel, being inexplicably generous to me, expecting absolutely nothing in return.

I like to think that experience did more than just make an impression on me. It changed the way I thought about love and generosity. It was so powerful that it made me want to do more than just receive love. It made me want to pass love on by looking for chances to be generous in small and big ways.

Let love change us

And reading this story, maybe you do too, beautiful someone? Maybe together we can follow my angel instructor’s example by giving financially when we can, but also by letting a car in on the highway. Smiling at that annoying guy at CVS. Letting the harried mom with two small kids go ahead of us in line at the store. Telling the waiter who brought the wrong drink that it’s “totally no big deal.” Dropping a few extra groceries off at the food pantry. Raking an elderly neighbor’s leaves.

And remembering that love, in itself, doesn’t change things.

Love changes us, and we change things.

“The infinite capacity of hope”

Hi Beautiful Someone,

Sorry for the long post, but I really wanted to share this excerpt from my new book, Yes Changes Everything! Please enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Yes Changes Everything!

What do you know about Helen Keller? Probably that she was blind and deaf and lived a long and influential life. Me too. But it was only after coming across one of my favorite Helen Keller quotes on optimism that I started to look closer at her life and realize how truly remarkable she was.

Helen Keller was born a healthy baby in 1880 on a farm near Tuscumbia, Alabama. At six months, she began to talk and at 12 months to walk. Before age 2, however, an illness — later they would speculate scarlet fever or meningitis — had taken Helen’s ability to see and hear. She would live in darkness and silence for the rest of her life.

“She knows! She knows!”

Helen grew up in a loving home, but her family didn’t know how best to take care of her, so they let her run free and be wild.

As she grew, her inability to see or hear must have become very frustrating. And the wild and unusual behavior that was cute and acceptable in a baby and a toddler was totally unmanageable in an older child. By age six, she was prone to screaming, tantrums, and rages. People began to say that institutionalizing her was the only solution. But Helen’s parents were determined to do all they could and find options for her.

Eventually, they found the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston. It was there, through Alexander Graham Bell (yes, that one, inventor of the telephone), that they were put in touch with the woman who became one of the most dedicated teachers of all time: Annie Sullivan.

Annie worked tirelessly with Helen to enable her to make connections between objects she could feel and letters of the alphabet that Annie would draw into the palm of her hand.

The Miracle Worker

If you’ve seen the movie The Miracle Worker, you’ll remember the scene at the water pump where Annie holds a seven-year-old Helen’s hand under the spray, yelling, “It has a name!” and spells W-A-T-E-R into the little girl’s hand. This is the moment when, slowly and with great difficulty, Helen says, “wa-wa.”

Everything happens then in the space of a few minutes as Helen runs from the pump to the ground to the trees to the porch steps and demands to have them spelled into her hand. “Mrs. Keller! Mrs. Keller!” Annie screams, “She knows! She knows!” By the end of that day, in the fashion of hand-spelling, Helen had learned more than 30 words.

The infinite capacity of hope

From that moment, Helen Keller’s world opened. She attended the Horace Mann School for the Deaf in Boston, then the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City. She worked for decades to learn how to read Braille as well as how to communicate through touch-lip reading, typing, and finger-spelling. She was a formidable opponent as a chess player. She attended Radcliffe College where she proved to be a brilliant and extremely hard-working student, graduating with honors in 1904 and becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor’s degree.

Helen Keller became an author, completing her first book, The Story of My Life, in 1905. Others would follow, including The World I Live In, Out of the Dark, The Song of the Stone Wall, The Open Door, and Optimism. Helen had a heart for activism, voicing her views on social and political issues such as women’s suffrage, pacifism, labor rights, and anti-militarism.

She worked tirelessly on behalf of people living with disabilities, traveling around the world and even testifying before Congress about the needs of the blind. In 1920, she helped found the powerful and influential American Civil Liberties Union. She received honorary doctoral degrees from five renowned universities around the world, and in 1963 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The secret of the stars

I love the story of Helen Keller’s life and her amazing breakthroughs and contributions. Even more amazing: late in her life, she lamented in an interview that one of her only regrets was that she had not been able to learn to speak properly — her speech was halting and incoherent because she had heard so little of the spoken word before her illness. If she had learned to speak clearly, she said, she could have helped more people. “How much more good could I have done if I had acquired normal speech?” she said through her teacher. “But out of this sorrowful experience, I understand more fully all human strivings, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope.” What a poignant example of transforming incredible hardship into lasting good!

All this is a backdrop for one of my all-time favorite quotes about optimism that sparked such an interest in the story of Helen Keller from none other than Helen herself:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”

Trust your intuition

Why don’t we trust our intuition?

Sometimes, a choice may seem right, all the intellectual facts support going ahead with it…

  • He/she says all the right things.
  • The job in Chicago has great benefits, good opportunity for advancement, and the company is willing to pay for relocation.
  • The apartment we want to buy is close to work, spacious, and available for the right price.

Still, for some reason, we hesitate.

There’s the temptation to say, “What is wrong with me — this is so perfect!” But beautiful someone, when we hesitate, there’s a reason. Something is going on intuitively that we need to trust and pay attention to.

The stomach never lies

You know how we tell our kids that if they ever feel uncomfortable in a situation — afraid, queasy, weirded out in any way — they must trust that feeling and walk away, or say no, or call us, or all three? Lately with my own kids I’ve started to shorthand it: “Listen to your gut — it never lies.” And it’s true that our brains sometimes rationalize, “reason” things out, or make excuses, but our stomachs can’t. Which is why when our guts are talking to us, they are telling the truth.

Our intuition is a form of genius, something Albert Einstein once called “a sacred gift.” I’ve seriously got to put trusting my gut high on the list of lessons I wish I’d gotten much earlier in my life. Specifically, to know that when my stomach is twisting, or just giving me that feeling of yech, it’s talking to me, and this purity of communication, its simplicity, its wordlessness, its inability to make excuses, is often so much smarter than I am in my head.

Head and heart

We have both head and heart (intellect and intuition) because we’re supposed to use both in our decision making.

Our intuition, our Spidey senses, our gut feelings, our deepest memories imprinted on the hippocampus during times of great stress — none of these communicates to us rationally through cognition, through conscious thoughts and words. And yet each is incredibly valuable for making choices that lead to an awesome life — a healthy, whole, and sane one.

Sometimes, we need to just let the stomach win.

Who are your sandpaper people?

We’ve all got our own sandpaper people. These are the family members, neighbors, and coworkers who test our patience, demand more from us than we’re willing to give, or just generally make us crazy.

Be grateful for them, beautiful someone! Honestly, their abrasive behavior is smoothing out our own rough edges and sharpening our dull ones.

  • If you’re super-restless and impatient, having to deal with people who run at a slower pace smooths out that impulsive edge on you.
  • If you’re a laid back, wait-and-see type person surrounded by an army of Type As at work, your own (overly?) relaxed approach to work is being energized as you keep pace with these people.
  • If you’re kind of emotional, being around people who are always calm may make you crazy, but it will also stop the freight train of feelings and impulses that can drag you all over the place.
  • If you’re a loner, friends who force you to go out are opening up your network, your mind, maybe even your world.
  • People who disagree with us make us think.
  • People whose values or beliefs differ from ours teach us tolerance, respect…or spiritual detachment as we learn to “live and let live.”

Our sandpaper people are making us try new things, think in new says, get exposed to new ideas and people, witness our own strength, and see ourselves with new potential.

Smarter and stronger

This is all preparation for your dream come true. In fact, sandpaper people are pretty much needed for progress. Every time an edge on us gets sanded down, every time a dull spot in our lives—something in need of polishing up—gets “buffed” by a sandpaper person, we’re getting wiser and more patient. We’re broadening our perspective and our horizons. We’re seeing things in new ways and thinking about them with a different perspective.

And I know it’s hard to believe it when it’s happening to us, but those sandpaper people—even the incredibly annoying ones—are lifting us to new heights, making us better at listening, building our patience, and strengthening our resolve to reach our dream come true…all in ways no other type of experience could. Every time they knock us off course or distract us or generally irritate us, we have to do the work to get back on track.

Again, even though we may not like it when it’s happening, this is all making us smarter and stronger. We don’t grow in the good times. Our growth spurts come through tough times, through adversity.

And sandpaper people = adversity.

Big time.

Fresh ideas

I asked some friends what they learned from the sandpaper people in their lives. Listen to a few:

  • “My last boss was such a bad manager, but I had to learn to work for her without going out of my mind. So I did. Today, I could totally work for anyone. Thanks to her, I have tons more patience and self-control. And it takes a lot to get me upset at work. No one could ever be as bad a manager as she was, and I survived. I can handle anything now.”
  • “I treat my friends really well because I’ve lived through some seriously bad situations with friends. I learned the hard way just how important love and loyalty really are.”
  • “I finally figured out what my grandmother meant when she said, ‘Smooth mountains give you nothing to grip onto as you climb.’ Definitely true, I don’t grow when everyone in my life is making things easy for me.”

Instead of seeing sandpaper people as just plain annoying, try to look at them as a growth spurt in the making, a chance to learn something really important and see new potential in yourself. Remember this especially when they make you want to scream. That’s a huge leap forward straight in the direction of your dream come true.