Friday, December 30, 2011

Dreams For The New Year

Tomorrow is the last day of 2011. Looking back this year has been a blur. Way back in 1969 I was a senior in high school. About this same time of year my best friend and I went to the Showcase Cinema's to see the movie called "2001 A Space Odyssey". In the hazy daze of the late sixties I thought we would be flying around in spaceships by now. OK, I admit that in the late sixties there were a few times my best friend and I thought we were flying around in spaceships. In 1969 the time we are in now seemed so far into the future. Many conveniences exist now that we didn't have in 1969 but I am not sure our quality of life is better. Most of what my children take for granted didn't exist when my wife and I got married in the early 70’s. We have more stuff that is supposed to make our lives more convenient, yet we all complain that we don't have enough time. There are many people, and they are not all old, who yearn for a simpler and much slower life. Even when I go on vacation I return home needing a vacation from my vacation. In parts of Europe there is actually a movement to slow life down. I thought my life would naturally slow down once my children were raised and were out of my house. It hasn't happened so I have been taking steps to slow it down myself. I say no a lot more than I used to do. I have stopped doing some things. Currently I have no commitments other than working. When I am not at work I am usually at home doing what I want to do. What I want to do is whatever makes me happy or gives me joy. Unless it is something really necessary, if I don't want to do it, I don't do it. In 2012 what I want is more leisure time to do what I want to do and for my life in general to move a little slower. I also want world peace and an end to war and injustice. I want food, a home, good health, and equality for everyone. Perhaps more than anything I want a complete end to the insane and epidemic levels of child abuse in our society.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Teachable Moments

I think every experience in life is a teachable moment. These moments are not only an opportunity for me to teach others but also an opportunity for life to teach me. In the work environment we often use the term “coachable” moment. I don’t really like this term because it implies to me that the events of a particular moment always need to be corrected. Some experiences are what they are, and while some mistakes may need to be corrected, mistakes are not the only soil from which a learning opportunity sprouts. I also believe what a former teacher of mine, Richard Rohr, once said, “The moment is as perfect as it can be”. All of life is a never ending learning experience. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many degrees you hold, life will continue to teach you. Sometimes I think I know everything I need to know but life keeps enlightening me with even more knowledge and wisdom. As I’ve said before, in recent years my granddaughter has been my teacher. Like most children, she is a natural Zen Master. When I am with her I try to see life through her eyes and I try to let my inner child appear as her playmate. Sometimes, when I let go, I can be a seven year old child. When this happens I can see life with a renewed freshness and not through the eyes of a tired, slightly jaded, sixty year old.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Music And Memories

Yesterday, while I was taking my morning walk around the perimeter of the first floor of my building, the song “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band played on my iPod. This has got to be one of the most joyful songs in rock and roll. I have probably seen the Allman Brothers Band more than any other band. I once saw them three times in one week in three different states. I’ve heard them play this song many times. This song was written by Dickey Betts, a longtime member of the ABB and a guitarist. A few years ago I attended a solo concert by Dickey Betts in a very small amphitheater. At one point I was literally sitting at his feet as he played “Jessica” and some of my other favorite songs. I was in rock and roll heaven. It wasn’t on the level of a perfect moment in nature but it, too, was definitely a Zen moment. Music is more than entertainment to me. Music is part of who I am. I thought of this over the Christmas break as I watched a movie called “The Music Never Stopped”. It was about someone born the same year as me. As a young adult he developed a brain tumor that erased his memories. Like me, he was someone deeply moved by the music of his generation. A music therapist used songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and others, to help him remember his past. When certain songs were played he had instant recall from the time in his life when those songs were very important to him. I don’t have a brain tumor but music does the same for me. In addition, music makes me happy if I am sad, and happier if I am already happy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Cardinal In The Snow

Like many people I was moving a little slow today. Too much Christmas activity, I suppose. I was excited, however, because today we were forecasted to have our first measureable snowfall. It was only supposed to be an inch or less but that's enough to cover the ground. Unfortunately, as of this moment, the snow has not materialized. I love snow. A perfect moment for me would be to be at home on a snowy day. I love to sit in my room with a good book, a cup of coffee, and outside my window, falling snow. The day would be made even better if I had some chicken soup or chili simmering in my crock pot. At some point in my day I would venture into my back yard so I could load up my bird feeder, hoping for a cardinal or two to descend. A bright red cardinal against a snow covered landscape is a beautiful thing. Moments such as these are what I consider Zen moments. They are as perfect as life can be. You can’t really plan them. They just happen and one must enjoy them when they occur.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Christmas In December?

There’s a reason that we celebrate Christmas around the time of the Winter Solstice. No one really knows what day that Jesus Christ was born. It could have been in the middle of summer for all we know. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the “light of the world”. Early Christians decided that there was no better time to celebrate the birth of the “light of the world” than during the darkest time of the year. This time was also chosen as the Christian response to pagan celebrations that also occurred at this time of year.

The history of Santa Claus is a lot more complicated and I cannot explain it in a few sentences. Here’s a link for those interested in the fat man in the red suit>

I wish all of you, and your families, a very Merry Christmas. May your lives be filled with blessings and every good thing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting For Christmas

At my house everything that will be done for Christmas has been done. All the presents are bought, wrapped, and separated into piles based on who will get them and where they are supposed to go. Unless my wife is lying to me they are all paid for. On my kitchen table is a small bag full of “reindeer food” that a co-worker gave me for my granddaughter. I will give it to her on Christmas Eve so she can spread it outside her home before Santa arrives. I am so happy that once again this year Christmas Eve is on a weekend. It makes it all so much easier. I don’t like working all day on Christmas Eve and then having to go home and immediately launch into the madness of Christmas Eve. I don’t have as many stops as I used to in the past but I still go to my mother’s where all my brothers and sisters will be along with their spouses and children. All of my nieces and nephews are young adults now and some have their own spouses and children. My mother lives in a small house so it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves in terms of finding a seat or getting to the food. Since my father passed away a few years ago, I am the oldest man in the family now. Only my 82 year old mother is older than me. At some point my wife and I, along with our family, will slip away and head to her sister’s home where her side of the family now gathers for Christmas. When it’s all over I will load up the car with any gifts we’ve received and head home. Then I will get in my bed and, hopefully, fall asleep quickly and have “visions of sugar plums dancing in my head”. What the heck is a sugar plum, anyway?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In A Quiet Cathedral

On Monday, following an afternoon Christmas lunch with some of my co-worker’s, I had some time on my hands before I needed to pick up my wife at her office. Since her office is right around the corner from the local Catholic cathedral, I decided to walk to the cathedral and pay my respects to Archbishop Kelly who passed away in his sleep on December 14th. His body was lying in state there. The cathedral is a beautiful place and all was quiet when I walked inside. As I walked up the stairs I couldn’t help but think about my youngest son. In the year 2013 he will be ordained a priest in this cathedral. As I walked up to the Archbishop’s coffin I saw a face in the crowd that I recognized. It was the Archbishop’s administrative assistant who I’ve known for many years. Archbishop Kelly and I were not really personal friends but I have been around him many times. In the early 2000’s I participated in a Ministry Formation Program in the Archdiocese. At the end of the two year program, I was commissioned as a lay minister by Archbishop Kelly on the same spot where he was now lying in repose. After paying my respects I decided to stay in the cathedral for a while and meditate in the silence. It was a silence that was in stark contrast to the loud and hectic atmosphere of the Cheesecake Factory where I had dined earlier in the afternoon. I think I had a small spiritual awakening while I sat there and a rare moment of clarity. It seemed to me that it was no accident that I just happened to have the time that allowed me to be in the cathedral at that moment. When I left there and walked through the cool evening air to my car, all in life seemed right, if only for a moment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does Anyone Sleep Well Anymore?

In one of his early journals, the monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the experience of lying in his cell at night wide awake due to his insomnia. In those days monks did not have private rooms. They slept in dormitories where each monk had a “cell”. A cell was little more than a small bed with partitions around it. When I was a young man in the monastery one of the jobs I had was being part of the construction crew assigned to replacing these cells with actual private bedrooms. Merton goes on to describe the experience of lying in his cell listening to the snoring of all the monks around him while being able to calculate exactly how much sleep he was losing based on the ringing of the monastery bells. In today’s world individual monks have private rooms and the bells do not ring all night. They do ring at 3:00 AM to awaken the monks for night vigils in the church. Whenever I stay at the monastery I usually get up with the monks. The time after these night vigils is my favorite time in the monastic day. However, I digress. Sometimes I think I, too, suffer from insomnia. I actually hate going to bed because I know it will be a struggle to fall asleep. Sometimes I complicate the problem with evening naps and an overactive mind. When I go home after a day’s work I usually feel brain dead and exhausted. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a tough day or an easy one. The only way to not take a nap is to remain continuously busy with chores of some type. If my mind or body is not engaged it’s off to lala land. Does anyone else have a problem sleeping at night? When I do finally fall asleep it seems I am waking up all night long. What about you?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Emotions

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that it’s the week before Christmas. The bad news is that it’s the week before Christmas. Christmas is a strange holiday. For some it’s “the most wonderful time of the year”. For others, it’s the saddest time of the year. Either way, most people have too much to do, too little time to do it, and the money is probably stretched pretty thin, too. We have office lunches to attend, maybe a party or two, many family obligations, and for many people going to church is part of the equation. On top of all the busyness and stress, there is the expectation to feel joyful. All of Christmas’s demands and expectations are a pretty tall order. I admit that I am someone who often struggles with all of this, especially the forced joyfulness. I have a thousand reasons to feel blessed but sometimes I just want Christmas to be over. The best part of Christmas for me is seeing the excitement on the face of my granddaughter. Most of the rest just seems like work. However you feel about it, be kind to yourself and others this week. If you are joyful, spread the joy. If you are sad, I can assure you that you are not alone. If you are stressed, breathe deeply and chill out. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. As we go through this work week, try to relax and enjoy whatever activities are around you. Be sensitive to the feelings of others. Lower your expectations and be present to the moment for whatever it is.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What is a Contemplative?

I sometimes refer to myself as a contemplative. What is a contemplative? I am not an expert on contemplation but here's my perspective. People who know me well know I am very introverted and introspective. I think you can learn to be contemplative but some personality types seem to be naturally contemplative. I hesitate to call it a skill but as a behavior and a way of being one can practice it even if it does seem to go against your nature. In all the major religions there are contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person or one who goes to church every Sunday. In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe. The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane. It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also be willing to stop and smell them. It's being present to life in all its details. Some call this mindfulness. For those who are spiritually inclined it can also be about awareness of God's presence in life. Perhaps you have read the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew Scriptures. He had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a duel. To make a long story short, Elijah’s God won so the guys that lost ran Elijah out of town. He hid in a cave on a mountain. There was thunder and lightning and earthquakes and all that kind of scary stuff but God was not present in them. Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze. Elijah hid his face for in the gentle breeze God was present. The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present. If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities. I don't think you can truly be a contemplative person if you are running through your life like your hair is on fire.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Have They All Gone?

Do you ever wonder where people have gone and what has happened to them? Think of all the people who have gathered together at different times in history. Where have they gone? What are they doing now? Where are all the people who stood and attentively listened to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963? Where are all the hippies that gathered on Max Yasgur's farm for the first Woodstock in 1969? Where will all the Occupy Wall Street people be in another year? What is it that gathers people together in unity only to allow them to float away from one another over time? On a much smaller level, where are all the people who have passed through our lives over the years? In the twenty six years I have worked for my employer, I have seen hundreds come and go. Where are all the friends that have been a part of our lives only to eventually drift away? Thinking of your life and history, what causes or events have stayed with you and continue to influence who you are? What were the life changing and life sustaining events in your life? Who are the people that have remained part of your life? Who hasn't drifted or floated away from your life? Life changes whether we like it or not but beneath the change are elements of stability that keep us grounded. What has kept you grounded during the changes in your life? Who or what can you rely on? What values do you hold dear?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Creature Of Habit

I am such a creature of habit. If I change my routines my universe is thrown into chaos. Normally my wife and I ride to work together. Since I needed to accompany my son to the oral surgeon yesterday my wife and I drove to work in separate cars. I got into my car which my youngest son has used for the last several months. I immediately noticed that all my favorite satellite radio stations had been changed. OK, Michael, breathe and adapt. The commute to work was smooth until I got off at the 3rd Street exit. Normally I go to the 9th Street exit so I can drop my wife off at her office. After I got off at the 3rd Street exit I quickly realized I was in the wrong lane to turn left. Unfortunately there were traffic cones in the middle of the ramp keeping me from merging to the left. OK, Michael, breathe and adapt. I turned right, then turned left on 4th Street and headed south to Market Street so I could get to my office. About that time I realized that I had completely forgotten to drink my travel mug of freshly brewed Starbuck’s coffee. OK, Michael, breathe and just take the mug into the office with you. About mid-morning I was headed to a staff meeting when I realized that I didn’t have my cell phone. I went back to my desk and it was not there. There was some minor anxiety as I wondered if I had dropped my phone somewhere and lost it. OK, Michael, breathe and think. After a moment I remembered that I had laid my cell phone in the passenger seat of my car. During lunch I walked to my parking garage and sure enough, there was my phone exactly where I had left it. None of these little mishaps were life altering but they did remind me how much I go through life on auto pilot. Such trance like living is a hindrance to mindful and intentional living. Admittedly, much of my routine is a safety net for my aging mind which doesn’t always work as sharply as it once did. Still, I definitely wasn’t “in the moment” on my morning commute. Sometimes I remember leaving home and I remember arriving at work but have no memory of the actual commute. If you are not careful you can live your whole life like that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Education And Wisdom

Education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom. Many of the people I interview for jobs and some of the people who work with me now are better educated than I am. Their education, however, is just a starting point. It is the foundation on which their life experience will build. I am a strong advocate of education. I think it separates people more than anything, including race or gender. I wish now that I had given my education more attention when I was younger. The experience of life hopefully makes us wiser but that is not guaranteed. Not all older people are wise and not all younger people naive. Wisdom chooses its home. In the Rule of St Benedict, a 1500 year old guidebook for monasteries, the old are told to listen to the young for God often speaks through them. Likewise, the young are told to treat their elders with respect. Those of us who are a little older can learn from the young. It happens to me almost every day at work. Those who are younger should realize that their parents and other older people are not clueless. We've been down many roads in our lives and we have experienced many things that might prove helpful for those who have not yet had these experiences. The bottom line is that you should never should stop learning. To be a truly educated person, you must be open to everything that books and life teaches you and you must remember that education is also more than just having a skill. An educated person is a thinking person who can see the connectedness of life and knowledge.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Nap Delayed

Yesterday was a quiet afternoon. My washing machine was going full tilt. The dryer was humming. My wife was baking cookies and the aroma filled my home. I decided I would take a nap until the dryer buzzer woke me up. As soon as I stretched out on my sofa the telephone rang. It was my oldest son who said, “Dad, would you like a visitor”? I can never say no to a visit from my granddaughter. Sometimes when I receive such a call my son and Chloe are already in my driveway. Soon enough everyone was in my house and my Sunday afternoon nap was a memory. Then my wife and both of my sons decided they had errands to run so I was home alone with Chloe. I spent the next two hours watching “The Santa Clause” and being a servant to the Queen of the Universe. I didn’t mind. It’s two weeks till Christmas and Chloe is full of excitement, anticipation, and questions like “Are all the presents under the tree from you and Meemo since Santa doesn’t bring me stuff until Christmas”? It wasn’t until after dinner that I finally finished the nap I started earlier in the day. It was a good nap, at least until that darn dryer buzzer went off.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What Is Real?

Yesterday I was riding up the elevator with a co-worker who told me she was having a rough morning. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she added, “No, this is not a bad day, it’s a good day”. I said, “So your original perception that this is a bad morning was all an illusion”? She laughed and I added, “I don’t really know if you are real or an illusion or if the true reality is that we are both still home sleeping in our beds and this conversation is just part of a dream”. I then asked, “Do you think everything you see is the same thing I see”? What is reality? We all know that our individual perceptions of reality can be very different. It is relatively easy to find two people at work doing the same job. One will love the job and the other will hate it. Why is one person’s perception of reality so different from another’s? Sometimes I wonder if my reality is like the movie “The Matrix”. Is everything around me nothing more than a program that is running through my brain? Am I really strapped in a chair with wires coming out of my brain somewhere in an abandoned warehouse on the Jersey shore? For a while after I saw the movie “The Sixth Sense” I wondered if I was dead because there have been times when I was interacting with what I perceived as my reality and it seemed as if no one was perceiving me as part of their reality. Anyway, these are the kind of thoughts I have as I toss and turn on sleepless nights. I don’t know if anyone reading these thoughts is real or if anything around me is real but in my reality tomorrow is the beginning of the weekend. Real or an illusion, I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Zen And Cow Dung

Once I attended a Zen mindfulness day with some friends. It was an early spring day and we were on a farm. The day consisted of meditation, writing, and Zen walks. When it was time to walk, the Zen Master would ring a bell and we would follow him in single file through the fields. From time to time, he would ring the bell and we would stop walking. During one of these pauses, I became aware of what a beautiful day it was. The sky was deep blue, the sun was shining bright, and there was a chill in the air. I was totally in the moment. In the midst of this moment, I looked down and realized I was standing in a pile of cow dung. The bell rang again and we started walking back to the farm house where we meditated and wrote in our journals. The Zen Master asked if we had any thoughts about our walk. I described my experience of being in the moment and then realizing I was standing in cow dung. He asked me what realization I had in that moment. My response was that “life could be wonderful and beautiful even when you are standing in a pile of cow dung”!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Modern Work

Why do so many working people in our society find so little satisfaction in their daily work? Sometimes when I look at the faces of people leaving my building at the end of the day or strangers driving home during the evening commute, they look absolutely exhausted and dazed. Other times when I am riding up and down the elevators in my office building I listen to people complaining about their jobs. Many people in our society work in the same type of corporate, information driven environment that I work in. Almost everyone I know does "something with a computer". Some days it is easy to feel like the focus of your job is to read and write emails. We live in an information driven, electronic age. Most of us spend a great deal of time gathering and sharing data. I think that is part of the problem. Perhaps satisfaction goes down as sensory overload goes up. The work we do is mostly intangible. Unlike past generations, most of us cannot drive down the road, look at a bridge or building, and say, "I helped build that!” When you work with information, you have no lasting monuments to what you have accomplished. Instead of bridges, buildings, or works of art, we create spreadsheets and databases. It’s impossible to take a picture of these things and hang them on the wall. Our accomplishments and successes are fleeting. The flow of data and information never stops. Today's success of managing data is a moment in time. That success and moment are short lived. I really don't know the answer to the problem of finding satisfaction in doing this type of modern work. I try to remind myself that the information and numbers represent real people but that doesn't always work. The most satisfaction I find in the workplace comes from the people around me. I try to build relationships. If I can have a positive influence on another person, it is satisfying. Relationships involve something that is much more tangible than data and numbers. Looking at numbers and other data reminds me of a famous Zen saying. "The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon". The data and numbers are not what we serve. They are a finger pointing at the moon. In most cases the "moon" is people and they are what it's all about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Just Breathe

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are. It sounds simple but in reality is quite challenging. Zen is also about balance. This is also very challenging. Keeping the different parts of our lives in balance is like spinning five or six plates on the end of long sticks all at the same time. Getting enough rest, doing enough but not too much work, being with others and being with self, being active and being still, enjoying life and being present to the sacred, knowing when to go and when to stop, when to speak and when to be silent, is a daily challenge. If your life feels out of balance, it probably is. Life moves fast. Sometimes you must slow down to keep it all from spinning out of control. You can't be present to the moment if you meeting yourself coming and going. Stop now, close your eyes and simply breathe for a moment. Refresh yourself. Do this throughout your day. Go home at the end of this work day (if you are not already there) and practice slowing down. Pay attention to your own breath and remember it is the source of your life. Be where you are....

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Simple Things

Last night, as the rain poured down outside, I was sitting in a comfortable chair, in my warm house, drinking a cup of decaf coffee, while watching some favorite television shows. I was reminded once again how much the simple things in life make me happy. At this stage of my life I have everything I need and everything I want. When someone asks me what I want for Christmas I struggle to think of anything. Anything I do receive as a gift will just be more of something I already have. I have read that life is divided into two parts. In the first half of life we are raising families, building careers, and accumulating material goods. In the second half of life we are slowing down, letting go, and turning more inward. I am more interested these days in the quality of my life than in the quantity of my life. The simple things, and the simple life, are what’s attractive to me now.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Two Sides Of Criticism

All of us are sometimes criticized. It is often referred to as constructive feedback to give it a more positive spin but it still usually feels like good old criticism. I have been criticized many times in my life and I admit that I didn't always take it very well. It's not because I think I am perfect. It's more because I really strive to do things well and to always do the right thing. When someone tells me I am not meeting an expectation, it hurts. I don't know if there is a painless way to receive and accept constructive feedback. I do believe, however, there are painless and positive ways to give constructive feedback. First of all you must always respect the dignity and feelings of the person on the receiving end. Constructive feedback can be presented in a gentle, even loving, way. Constructive feedback doesn't have to be presented with negative terminology. The reality of a situation can be presented in a non-threatening way balanced with positive examples of how the situation could have been handled or how it might be handled in the future. I don't believe any decent human being comes to work or does anything with the intention of making mistakes or doing poorly. In today's complex and highly technical work environments the use of computers often makes the possibility of errors more likely than not. Some management gurus, like W. Edwards Deming, believe that mistakes in the workplace are usually the blame of a system or a process rather than people. When was the last time a "system" or a "process" was put on a work improvement program? People seem like the only option for criticism so they are usually given the blame. None of us are perfect, we do sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes our mistakes may be carelessness. Sometimes we may need encouragement or some deserved criticism. If we deserve it, we need to be humble and accept that we have made a mistake or need to get our heads on straight. If we are the leader, the parent, or the friend, do it in a caring, non- threatening way so the person walks away with some dignity and resolve to try harder. Encourage them. Don't break their spirit.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wasted Energy

Reflect on this teaching about transformation today: "We are given more than enough energy to transform ourselves every day, but we waste 98 percent of it on tensions, on emotional reactions unrelated to what is actually occurring, and on daydreaming and mental chatter."
From “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”

Isn’t this the truth! I like to believe that I try to be a good person. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. The reality is that most days I feel some kind of tension, my emotions are all over the place, reality is skewed by my illusions, and my mind is full of daydreams and endless chatter. I want to be centered, balanced, and present to the moment but many days I feel totally dysfunctional. I always laugh to myself when people think I have it all together. It is difficult to be an emotionally healthy person. We all have many life experiences, some of which may have been traumatic. Most of us suppress uncomfortable feelings. All of us have hidden wounds that we may not even be aware exist. I’m of the opinion that everyone could use some therapy. I certainly don’t have all the answers. What can really be helpful, that doesn’t include a copay, is learning to let go of the many hurts and slights that all of us experience in our lives. Whenever I feel slighted, hurt, or misunderstood I try to imagine what the other person is going through in their life. I assume that like myself, everyone around me is doing the best they can. As I get older I think I am getting more tolerant, not only of my own weaknesses, but also the weaknesses of others. I forgive myself and others more. I try to be positive and grateful for everything. I appreciate the small joys of life and I try not to allow myself to be overwhelmed with my own struggles.