Life Without Courage

My favorite painter apparently also said wise things. This pithy quote about courage calls into question the value of life without courage. Surely this sentiment has been echoed by countless people – famous and nameless. The truth is timeless – as old as humankind.

Here’s how Vincent put it:

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” -Vincent van Gogh

the starry night

Letting fear rule us can be hazardous, even lethal. Perhaps you’re feeling trapped or stagnant as you think about a challenge you’re facing. Consider the brave things you’ve done in the past and give yourself credit for trying anything without a guarantee of success. Then take a breath and take that step – fight that fight – attempt that task, no matter how daunting. It is the very stuff of being human. It is the very stuff of being alive!

We deserve to be free and we will never be, until we get off of fear’s leash.

In very recent news, it seems that art experts have verified beyond a reasonable doubt that an unsigned painting acquired by Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum in 1957 is a “new Van Gogh!”

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When experts examined the painting, they can see a human figure painted underneath the poppies. Maybe if there’s something fearful that’s holding you back, you should take a page from Vincent’s playbook and paint over it!

Spring Forward

This weekend we’re supposed to change our clocks by an hour. “Spring forward and Fall back” is a mnemonic device that some helpful elementary school teacher probably taught you. So the title of today’s post is your public service announcement. (You’re welcome.)

I like both of those words; Spring and Forward!

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Spring is a time of year when signs of hope are easier to find than at other times of the year. Spring is also a verb – a form of movement. A Minister and blogger friend of mine taught his congregants and readers that it is impossible to spring or jump without first recoiling. That overlooked truth might be an encouragement to those of us who may be on a journey toward change. Sometimes on that journey there are episodes of relapse or back-sliding. Slip happens! (Isn’t there a bumper sticker that says that?) Perhaps the next time we encounter one of those moments of ‘downward progress’ we can try to use it as a chance to recoil before we spring forward.  

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Forward is a direction, generally seen as positive. Forward is also sometimes used to describe conduct that may be too bold, intrusive, or rude. I don’t advocate being rude and it is rarely my intention to offend anyone. However, I sometimes speak up in situations where others are silent. I recognize that bold ideas are often the ones that bear fruit. And when it comes to talking to strangers, I’m a fan of forward. 

I hope that if you’ve recently relapsed or back-slid, you might think of it as an opportunity to spring. I hope if your faced with a choice of playing ti safe or doing something forward (bold) that you will stretch forward.

Meanwhile… don’t forget to change your clocks this weekend!

 

Great Things

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” 

                                                                            -Vincent van Gogh

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The world and everything in it – every accomplishment – consists of tiny, tiny bits. Everything we can hold or touch is made of uncountable molecules – each made of atoms.

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Even the “invisible” things that we smell are the result of unthinkably small particles – bits- pieces – of something, reaching a receptor or sensor in our nasal passages.

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And certainly all of the marvels of human achievement – the pyramids, China’s great wall, the most brilliant of Beethoven’s symphonies are ‘built’ from tiny parts. Whether stones or notes, small parts combine to form everything.

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Those tiny parts work, in concert, with one another to create great things, beautiful things, marvelous things.

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If you are on a journey of change – a journey of self discovery or recovery – consider the tiniest of steps to be absolutely valid, absolutely vital, absolutely worth the effort, and absolutely worth squawking about! Celebrate those tiny steps and keep your eye on where you’re headed. You are worth the effort and and you’ll get there – one bit, one piece, one habit, one step at a time.

You deserve to be free.
#DFTYA!

 

But Keep Heart

I love this lesser known painting by Vincent van Gogh and I thought it might go well with a quote that is also attributed to him.

“The beginning is perhaps more difficult than anything else, but keep heart, it will turn out all right.”   -Vincent van Gogh

It seems like an appropriate reminder to someone working at an apple orchard or any hard worker at the beginning of a task or journey. And Vincent accurately observed that ‘just getting started’ or ‘taking that first step’ can often be the toughest part of any task.

Recognizing that, he offers us an encouragement in the final phrase of the quotation; “…but keep heart, it will turn out all right.” That reminds me of part of a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to his beloved protegee, Timothy. When Paul saw the young preacher Timothy, struggling near the beginning of his ministry, Paul sent a letter to encourage him. In chapter 6 of Paul’s “Letter to the Galatians, he encouraged Timothy and the other Galatians to “not lose heart.”

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap if we don’t lose heart.”   Galatians 6:9

Doing good can be hard – especially getting started. Do it anyway and don’t lose heart! It’s going to work out (at least according to Vincent and Paul.)
more hearts
As for hearts, I actually carry a “spare” in my pocket every day. Some days I carry a couple, in case I meet someone who needs one. Whenever I hear my car keys clank against one of these red glass hearts in my pocket, I can’t help by smile. They remind me that we will reap or that things will turn out all right.

You Cannot What?!

If you have ever been taunted by expressions of doubt (either cast by others or whispered from within your own head) I hope that these quotes will help. And of course, looking at artwork by my favorite artist, is likely to bring on a generally pleasant feeling, too.

I suppose that if it is others who cause you doubt your abilities, you should simply pay them no mind. And while that’s easier said than done, the truth is that what other people think of you is really none of your business!

But when it is self-doubt, it may be helpful to explore what purpose that doubt serves. Could it be that by holding sufficient self-doubt that we are trying protect ourselves from failure? That may sound like a logical and even good goal – protect self from failure. But if that same doubt prevents you from even trying, can it be good?

Maybe the best response to doubt is a phrase taught to me by a lovely lady who I met at a church many years ago. Her advice is brilliantly simple.  “Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.”

Let’s agree to be careful that we aren’t letting our doubts keep us from growth or progress that we deserve and are capable of. When you hear a doubt – kick it out!

Here’s how my favorite artist put it…

If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.  – Vincent van Gogh

Here’s how my favorite American wise guy put it…

“Do the thing you fear the most, and the death of fear is certain,”  – Mark Twain

Have a beaYOUtiful day, my brave friend!

Soothe or Stimulate, Music Might be the Answer

When I’m in the car – especially for a long time – at some point I’ll start thinking about junk food. My thoughts about food are not usually related to being bodily hungry, but tend to related to feelings. Negative feelings (anxiety, anger, etc.) can certainly provoke me to want to do something to soothe them. (We’ve all heard the phrase ‘comfort food,’ right?) But the most frequent food-mood for me is boredom. Maybe driving by the ‘golden arches’ puts the idea in my head, but I think that even without visual cues, my mind wanders in the direction of food often. The reason I’m sharing my personal experience is because I suspect it is similar to other people’s experience, either with eating, or smoking, or some other behavior.

Over the weekend I started using a music service and installed an app on my smartphone. (There are plenty of them and I’m not advertising for any of them.) When I get into the car, my smartphone connects to my car’s audio system and music becomes an automotive automatic! A couple settings on my phone and this new, healthy habit is now much more likely to happen.

When I choose to listen to albums that I own, I can listen to them in the order they appear on the album or in random order. Choosing random order or shuffle seems to be more effective, probably because some part of my brain starts feeling curious about what’s coming next. The busier my brain is listening to music, trying to recall lyrics, or trying to remember the video that goes with the song, the less likely my brain is to start feeling like self-soothing or self-stimulating. (Eating and smoking can do both, right?) Come to think of it, random or shuffle might be better for self-stimulation (beating boredom) and album order’s predictability may be more soothing.

I find myself marveling over and over again about how music has the power to shift my mood. I hope that you’ll take a look at how more music might be beneficial to you. And if you can find ways to habituate the use of music (sync car’s Bluetooth to your phone, keeping your earbuds in the same place as your car keys or water bottle or some other ‘always-have’ item) you’re on your way. As always, thank you for taking good care of you.

#MusicIsMedicine
#MoodMusic

Creed

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QuittersWin Core Beliefs and Group Guidelines

Everyone in the community has something to learn from everyone on the community and everyone in the community has something to teach to everyone in the community.

 

No one in the community is as strong, wise, brave, or capable as everyone in the community.

 

Out of respect for all speakers and all listeners we limit talking to one member at a time.

 

Because we understand that our human condition can lead us to hold untruths and cause our perceptions to be skewed, we make every effort to keep our minds open and honestly consider other explanations for things we think we “know.”

 

Out of this diversity of understanding, we hope to discern ultimate truth for the good of all, without need to hold unhelpful or unhealthy beliefs out of some motive of ego.

 

As each of us attains our noble goals, all of us grow stronger, wiser, and more capable.

 

In spite of our individual imperfections, diverse experiences, and individual failures, as a community we hold confidently to the certainty that freedom from addiction is possible and is, in fact, close at hand!

In That Space

I’ve rarely heard a quote more true or more powerful than Viktor Frankl’s observation (admonition) regarding stimulus and response.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and freedom.” 

In that space lies our salvation, our freedom, our power, our hope. There may be magic in that space! There’s a lot in that space! The trick, of course, is in expanding that space – expanding the moment and carefully contemplating our response. Grandma used to say “count to ten” before responding. If counting to ten is too much of a stretch, let’s try for a least a breath. Inserting a single deep breath in that space can definitely make the difference between speaking hurtful words, helpful words, healing words, or no words at all.

Every stimulus may invite a response, but some are best allowed to pass without a response. Choosing not to respond is sometimes the best response. Again, try for at least a breath in that space. Explore that space with curiosity and you will expand that space.

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#BreatheAndBelieve

 

You Season

Flu season arrives every year, evidenced by people wearing paper masks over their mouths and noses. The signs go up and people get flu shots. Nearly every year, there’s an a surge in flu cases right after Thanksgiving, attributed to the fact that people travel from different places and see different faces! It is well a documented and accepted fact that close contact with others helps spread the flu. But what else can close contact spread?

Well, along with countless diseases and medical conditions, close contact with others can also influence our outlook and attitude. So, for those of us who understand this, why not try to choose who we allow to “infect” us? And if you are a person who already has a “sunny disposition,” why not spread that sunshine with intention?

Most people agree that Vitamin C can be beneficial, but let’s not forget “Vitamin See” may also be #GoodMedicine. Let’s choose who we (Vitamin) see carefully and maybe we’ll see healthier moods and attitudes.

#beaYOUtiful

 

“Have a good day!”

There’s a phrase that we may actually hear every day – maybe several times. It’s one of those phrases that can feel pretty empty or void of real meaning. It often seems like a hollow heartless bit of language, despite its apparent benevolence. So today, let’s try to really mean those words if we say them and really make those words happen in our world. We have the choice, despite whatever struggles exist, to focus on the good, on seeing it, doing it, finding it, encouraging it, and ultimately being it!



And I think to make sure you know that I mean business, I’m gonna play THIS card!… 

Yup! The good ole “DDD” Double Dog Dare! (So you really don’t have a choice, do you?) And remember that no matter what struggles you are facing, that your focus upon the smallest positive thing, can drastically change a day’s complexion and direction!

Thanks for taking good care of you!
#DoubleDogDare

 

Congratulations!

Today I am incredibly proud of a brave friend, Nancy, who quit smoking tobacco 1000 days ago! That’s an impressive milestone, especially since tobacco is considered a more clinically complex addiction than any other! Nancy has defeated her “5-Headed Dragon!” Remembering her brave fight and celebrating her victory reminds me that one person’s achievement can send ripples into the pond of this universe and help others to change their lives, too!

Nancy’s winning doesn’t preclude others winning at all! In fact I believe that it increases the likelihood that others will win. Winning a game of tic-tac-toe means that someone has lost. Baseball, Bingo, Basketball, and nearly every other “game” require others to lose in order for a victor to be crowned. This “game” is a different game indeed. In pursuits such as this, there are no losers (except those who choose not to play.)

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May others on a challenging journey toward positive change, be encouraged by Nancy’s achievement. Let’s cultivate a healthy sort of yearning (not to be confused with jealousy or envy) for our own success!

Whatever positive change you are trying to make in your life, please play the game. And play the game with others, so we can all win!

Congratulations, Nancy!

#1000Days!

#PlayToWin

#QuittersWin

 

So Thankful!

While I’m grateful for a few days to relax a bit, as I think about thanking, I remain deeply grateful that my work gives me opportunities to serve brave and hopeful people. I hope that you and yours enjoy Thanksgiving in a way that brings you joy.

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#GiveThanks

#Change4Good

Pick a Pic!

Here are a few quotes that caught my eye (ear?) this week. Maybe one or more of them make sense to you, too. If so, print it out and post it somewhere you will see it often. (I always suggest the refrigerator door, because I have never misplaced my refrigerator.)

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One is a photo, one is an abstract, and one is a graphic, so they are different visually. But I guess if I look at all three quotes, there is a theme: Do it!

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Thanks for taking time to read and think about these things. And thank you most of all for taking good care of you!

#go4it!

#PickAPic

Get Support, Be Support

The Great American SmokeOut began 43 years ago in hopes of raising awareness of tobacco’s negative health consequences and the numerous ways a person might choose to break up that complicated relationship. Each year since then, the third Thursday in November has been designated as the day when smokers are challenged to declare a “mini-quit” and try to abstain from smoking for just one day.

If you’re a smoker, love a smoker, work with a smoker, or live with a smoker, let’s celebrate the Great American SmokeOut by getting the support of others and being support for others who are trying to break away from tobacco’s hellish grip.

Compared to illicit drugs or excessive alcohol use, tobacco tends to be more…

  • Accessible – It’s legal and available in LOTS of forms in LOTS of stores.
  • Acceptable – Tobacco’s stigma (while considerable) isn’t as great as the stigma of staggering down Main Street or being found in a gutter with a needle in one’s arm.
  • Affordable – As expensive as tobacco is, if we consider the cost of “a day’s worth,” tobacco is often cheaper.
  • Addictable – Because nicotine can be delivered very quickly to the brain, each puff may make a tiny ‘impression’ on the smoker’s brain. A smoker may puff hundreds of times in a single day and make hundreds of tiny impressions! Furthermore, those impressions get associated with the coffee cup, steering wheel, telephone, familiar face, or familiar place in ways that make those triggers really ‘stick’ in a smoker’s brain. Subsequently those behaviors, faces, and places become cues, telling  the smoker to want a cigarette.
  • Absolutely more LETHAL! -Tobacco kills more Americans each year than homicide, suicide, drugs (legal and illegal), alcohol, motor vehicle accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined!

 

This is tough stuff and getting support and being support can make ALL the difference! People trying to quit – even for just the day – are brave folks. Compassionate support is a real game-changer. So let’s get support and be support! We deserve to be free friends, and together we can be!

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Check out this link to see how to compassionately support a quitter!

#SmokersNeedSupport

#GreatAmericanSmokeOut

#GASO

 

Color Your World

This photograph by my friend Joshua Lord has mystified me since I first saw it. As I share it today, I think perhaps it’s calling us to color our world with our own unique light. We ought to see ourselves regularly as agents of change in this world, with light to share.

To be clear, I think the photograph is stunning, especially in black and white. I don’t need to change Joshua’s photograph one bit. But I deeply believe that we need to change our world and furthermore I believe – I know in my bones – that we can. 

What color, light, love, compassion do you have to share today? Please go and be what this world needs today. Share your brilliance and watch what happens all around you! And perhaps with our focus upon the needs of others and our unique light, we will find ourselves somehow less aware of our worries or fears. Make it so, agents of change, make the world more beaYOUtiful!

Joshua Lord fall color

#AgentsOfChange

#beaYOUtiful

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