Heartbreak Hangover

Yesterday, my day started with hope.  I agree with the SiriusXM sports announcers who say it is the greatest day in all of sports – Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament.  It’s Christmas morning and the best birthday you’ve ever had.  You wake with that anticipation.  Swelling music should follow you around.  You’ve set your bracket.  You start the trash talk.  You watch all the videos March Madness has to offer.  You relive dunk shots and swats, and those perfect 3-pointers.  You recall the stats and heights of players who are preparing for battle.  You learn about campuses that never existed in your brain before.  You are full of the madness.  I was full.

My bracket probably looked a lot different than yours.  At the center of 64 was my alma mater – PURDUE – written in capital letters and highlighted.  #boilerup scrolled on top.  #hammerdown written beneath.  A loyalty bracket, they called it.  Mine looks the same every time, in the years when I’m lucky enough to see that name in the group.  Fellow alumni may have chosen North Carolina or Kansas again.  I can’t do that.  Call it delusional.  Call it stupid. I don’t care.  I call it faith.  I call it hope.  I see the world through gold and black colored glasses.

I am an all-weather fan.  It comes from sitting in Ross-Ade Stadium during the Fred Akers years.  It comes from the hope that, if you could just beat iu, that it would make the whole season okay.  My first football game, freshmen year, was Purdue vs. Miami of Ohio.  I sat there with a couple hundred of my closest friends, sweating in black, wool All-American Marching Band uniforms, when the skies opened up.  I think it rained four inches during that game.  Lightning hit the field.  That should have been a sign.  But week after week, for four years, I sat, marched, and played through those games – sweating, freezing, hoping.

I always hope.

Yesterday too.  I felt it.  I didn’t even consider that they wouldn’t win that game.

I was elated at the half.  I loved watching the dog fight.  I yelled their names and threw my fists in the air.  I hopped up and down and clapped with joy.  And then …  and then …  Double OT was what I got for loving the dog fight.

And then …

You feel pain differently when you go from hope to heartbreak.  Those damn colored glasses.

And then …

Negative internet commenters are the drudge of the earth.  You hide behind your anonymous Twitter profile and slam a 22-year old who misses a shot?  You call for firing the coach?  You use words like “hack”, “choke”, and “pathetic” to describe a team that could have just as easily given you a metaphorical blow job with one more basket and a stronger 3PT%.  You sit on your couch and you run the world.  But you are not there.  You are not them.  You are not.

They are.

They were there on that court with talent and pride, knowledge and muscle memory, with training and coaching, and yes, with hope.  You can’t tell me RayD didn’t feel the same hope I did.  And the joy I felt when AJ dunked was the same as Isaac’s joy.  The pride, the loyalty … they were shared feelings across many miles yesterday.  The frustration, the disbelief, the heartbreak … they were shared.  They are shared.

We’ve been there before, and I have to hope we won’t be there again.  I must.  After years of heartbreaking situations, I remain ever grateful, ever true.

Thank you BoilerBall.  It was a hell of a season.  I’m sorry it didn’t go our way.  Your way.  But I believe in you as players and coaches, as a team, as good men.

I remain proud.  I remain hopeful.  I believe.  Hail Purdue.  Boiler Up.  BTFU.

 

Twelve Months. Twelve Days. Twelve Moments.

To wrap up my year, I decided to choose one picture from each month of my phone’s 2015 camera roll.  When I actually sat down to do it, it wasn’t so easy.  Do you choose your favorite picture, or a picture of your favorite day, or a shot of something you still laugh about now, months later?   And it’s different choosing a picture now versus what I may have chosen months ago.  Our memories change.  Our emotions change.

These twelve pictures were clicks on my phone.  So fast.  They were simple and memorable and perfect in their own way.  That’s what moments are.  They add up to the hours of our days, and the days of our months and years.  Sartre compared moments to little diamonds.  Aren’t they though?  Some small, some big, some you’ll never have … some brilliant, some rough, all perfect in their own way.

It’s good to look back as we set intentions for the new year.  There are important people and important things that happen in our lives every single day.  It is about those big goals we set in front of us, and it’s about the little things too.  The lovely perfect and not-so-perfect things.  It is about the things we looked forward to, and those we never intended on, never planned on, never knew would come.  It is about the every day, and how we live each moment.

Enjoy.

“She smiled and said with an ecstatic air: “It shines like a little diamond”,
“What does?”
“This moment. It is round, it hangs in empty space like a little diamond; I am eternal.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason

 

“If the whole world I once could see
On free soil stand, with the people free
Then to the moment might I say,
Linger awhile. . .so fair thou art.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part

Thank you. You’re welcome.

One of the lessons I had to learn during my personal happiness project was how to really say thank you and you’re welcome.   Oh, and mean it.  Sincerity was, perhaps, the more difficult lesson, I’ll have you know.  That’s embarrassing to admit, but I know I’m not the only one.

Someone pays you a compliment or gives you a gift, and sometimes we pass it off like it’s nothing.  “You shouldn’t have.” or “where did you find this?” are not the same as “thank you”.  “It was nothing.” or a shrug of the shoulders are not the same as “you’re welcome”.

It is at this point in the post when I could write that I was never taught how to do this, but in fact, I was.  I still believe in the power of a thank you note though most of the world doesn’t make the time.  That’s thanks to the 86-year old woman who still writes to me every week.  Recently, she even wrote to thank us for a gift that we didn’t send her.  (I’m sure that ruffled some feathers.)  You can be taught how to say thank you and how to write a thank you note, but I believe the sincerity is a hard lesson we learn on our own. And we must.

Friends, I understand that we have all been given a gift or two that we didn’t really care for.  I get it.  I’ve received them.  I’ve given them. I know.  Our satisfaction with the gift doesn’t change the effort with which it was given.  It doesn’t change the sentiment, so I believe it should not lessen the sincerity of our thank you.  Suck it up, and say it/write it/text it/message it.  If you choose to re-gift after the fact, be sincere it that too.  No judgments here.

I want to mention that I learned these lessons about thank you and you’re welcome in a country that doesn’t really say those things.  As I have been told, in the Chinese culture, friends are supposed to help each other, without question and without thanks.  It’s a beautiful idea.  My friend, Grace, helped me order something online last month and when I expressed my appreciation, she said, “no thank you.  Don’t say that.”  Without question and without thanks.  This can be difficult when gift giving because there is no comfort in the recipient’s satisfaction level.  When you give someone a gift and there is no response, you might wonder if they liked it, hated it, re-gifted it, never received it, didn’t give a shit about it, put it in a closet, etc.  That’s not just China though.  I get a 50% thank you rate on gifts among family and friends usually.  BUT that doesn’t change the sentiment.  It doesn’t change my intention.  Actually, it’s not a true measure of the satisfaction level either.  I visited someone last fall who had a gift from us displayed proudly on their desk, but they had never acknowledged receipt.

It took me a long time to learn that, while thank you is polite and important, it’s not necessary for me to hear it.  In the past, I would be frustrated and resentful if I didn’t get a thank you.  “I’m not giving them a gift anymore if they don’t know how to say thank you,” says someone I know.  When a family member doesn’t acknowledge you, that says something about them, not you.  I’ll continue to give their children holiday gifts whether they say thank you or not.  I will be happy to give whether I hear thank you or not.

This lesson is not about other people or other cultures, nor are the other lessons I learned and continue to struggle with.  My lessons are about me and the person I am.  I cannot blame others if I lack politeness or sincerity.  Stop making excuses.  I’m forty-four years old and I need to own my shit.  Talk about a hard lesson.

For the love of gifts, click on the pictures below.

Cups
Cups
Turkey
Turkey
xiexie
xiexie

For those who enjoy the brilliance of TED, take a look at what Laura Trice has to say on this subject.  http://www.ted.com/talks/laura_trice_suggests_we_all_say_thank_you?language=en

Every Day, and again tomorrow

Three years ago, I was in a bad place.  I was scared about a situation going on in our lives and I couldn’t see the end.  I was stuck in the mud and mire of not knowing.  Well, Yoda was right.

“Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

I was scared and angry, and my life suffered.  I think back to things I said, things I didn’t say …  I have moved on and yet, as I sit here thinking back to those spring days a few years ago, I can still feel a weight.  It’s a reminder of where I don’t want to be.

When you’re going through a hard time, you still talk, laugh, eat, eat again, live.  But there is always that weight.

What was my reason for the fear?  It won’t matter to you.  What matters to you is YOUR reason.  What matters to you is your fear and anger, your mud and mire.  Regardless of things you say, things you don’t say, what you do and the way people react to you and your situation, YOU MATTER.  That’s the first step out.

Sometimes what leads us to the first step is a light, and we find the light in so many different ways.  I remember my first glimpse of it.  I remember it exactly.  I remember the feeling of knowing again.  There would be an end.  And that was the beginning.

I held that light and it helped, but it took me months to figure out what to do with it, how to build it into something else.  Coming off a loss and a few hard lessons, it was nine months later when I launched into a personal happiness project.  There are many versions of it thanks to Gretchen Rubin – 30 days, 100 days, meditation, laugh therapy.  I decided that mine would be every day, no matter what.  I would think happy thoughts, create something, share it with the world, take it into my soul and believe it.  The next day, I would do it again.  It wasn’t full proof, but it worked for me.

Yes, I have slipped.  I am sorry for those times.  Happiness is a work in progress.  It’s a learning experience too.  My key was finding the light every day, and finding the light again when I slipped.

I want to share some of this journey with a few who might read this blog.  Share some thoughts and perhaps a rant or two, lessons learned.  There will be sunny, happy thoughts, a curse word or ten (you are warned), thankfulness, beauty, simplicity.  This is my project, a part of the simple adventure.  I truly hope you have found or will find yours too.

Part of my project were these photo creations that I shared on a Facebook page called The Simple Adventure.  They are still there, though I have stepped away from the page for a while to make changes to this blog.

The next part of my project is to change this blog a bit.  We’ll still share travel and stories, as well as life lessons from one who has found happiness in the world.  Read if you will.  Enjoy.

It Is My Pleasure

Since the fall of 2010, I have volunteered in a Chinese school in Shenyang.  Of course, I have written about it in the past.  It started as one day a week, and now, sometimes, it is five.  I chose it and I love it.  I am so thankful that I was given this opportunity, that I took it, and that we made the absolute best of it.

Feeling that we may leave China in 2015, this school year has been a bit difficult for me.  I have shared and learned so much over the years.  How will I ever express how much they mean to me?

This experience is how I truly learned to say, “You’re welcome” and “My pleasure”, and really mean it.  It helped save me at times when I didn’t like who I was, when I didn’t like some I spent time with and had to make more positive choices in my life.  It is a place I remember how wonderful my real friends are because these amazing people are among them.  Where someone can tell me I’m beautiful and I believe them.  Where a simple thing means love.  It is why pieces of my heart will always be in China.

I hope you all have a place like this, or that you’ll find one in the new year.

Enjoy some snapshots from my phone and ipod.  For more, check out the link.  http://youtu.be/ZeEqu02M0I0

 

Believe

To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.    ― Mahatma Gandhi

Last month and the month before, when everything was covered in blue and white or red and green and sparkles, some of you may have celebrated one holiday or another.  Maybe you celebrated American Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Human Rights Day… That one is December 10 in case you want to mark your calendar.  Some of you said “Merry Christmas”.  Some of you may have been upset that others said “Happy Holidays”.

Last month, someone I know who celebrates Christmas asked me a question.  They had recently learned that I am one who says “Happy Holidays”.  And the question was, “This time of year, what does someone like YOU believe?”  Keep in mind, this was not a question of sincere interest.  It was phrased with a derogatory tone.  I think they actually looked down their nose at me.  The stressed words in the question were “someone like you”.  She meant, someone who says “Happy Holidays”.  She meant, a heathen.

Last month and the month before, I loved, I laughed, I cried, I gave gifts, I was thankful, I celebrated, I hugged, I wished, I traveled, I fought, I stayed positive, I believed.  I believed in love, in human beings, in laughter, in friendship, giving and being thankful, celebrations, hugging and kissing, wishing and hoping, traveling and taking a journey.  I believed in me, and in you, and in those who say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays” or any other greeting, regardless of whether they look down their noses at others or not.

I believe that, if more of us celebrated Human Rights Day, that we all could believe in anything we want to.

Last month, when I was asked what someone like ME believes in, I refrained from the profanity on the tip of my tongue.  I simply looked in the direction of my amazing Chinese students and said, “Well, to begin with, I believe in them.  Even if you don’t.”

 

Tis the Season

Happy Holidays.   Merry Christmas.   Joyeux Noël.   圣诞快乐.   Any way you say it, we wish you the very best this month and always.

T and I are wrapping up another year in Shenyang.  T continues his work for Michelin on a new plant in northeast China.  This is a plant to supply the Chinese market – so many cars and trucks equals a lot of tires.  He likes his work and his colleagues, and is looking forward to seeing the rest of the plan become a reality over the next year or so.  I stay busy in my fourth year volunteering at the Shenyang Yuanjian School.  I dearly love those little kiddos and the teachers in our Chinese school.  I watch them grow and change and do amazing things every day.

Another winter has set in and the year has been good to us.  There were trips and travels, and many normal days in and around Shenyang.  There were trips to the market, the golf course, the vet.  There were dinners and friends, laughs and cries, work and volunteering, movies and tv, music and more music, oatmeal on Sunday mornings, searches for good cups of coffee, and discovering the recipe for the best ever chocolate cake.   Normal days living the simple adventure.

Be well, friends and family and blog readers.  Do good things because it’s the right thing to do.  Help people.  Tell the truth.  Give back.  Make good choices.  Respect others.  Love, and may you be loved.