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Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Before I begin, I’d like to say I’ve been asked to become a regular contributor to the online magazine MoveLifeStyle.com. My article about the prevalence of perfection in today’s cyber world is currently published and I’ll have a political piece right before the election. Please feel free to check it out. Move is a fabulous site well worth the bookmark. xo leigh

Sean and I recently received a letter from some dear friends of ours. It was a lovely card that said “Every Single Day, Do Something That Makes Your Heart Sing”. Inside there was a heartfelt note saying they were thinking of us and how very much we meant to them. They had also included a check for a substantial amount of money. They wrote “In thinking of you, God has put it in our hearts to send you something”. These extraordinary people went on to say it was a “GIFT” to use as we saw fit “medical bills, something fun, whatever”. Their one condition was that we never bring it up. They had included it because they felt the “point of us all being here is to take care of one another and help when we can.”

Sean and I were completely floored. We’ve never spoken directly with them about our struggles. Truly only a few family members and an inner circle of close friends are aware of our burdens. Some of our problems might be garnered from this blog but, as a couple, we make a concerted effort to try to outwardly portray the success and solidity we hope to achieve, even when it feels like everything is falling apart. The fact that these incredibly lovely people could sense our distress and felt the need to reach out and help us – in such a meaningful and generous way – was overwhelming.

We are struggling. It’s an uncomfortable time. We’ve never been in such a strong position as far as changing our circumstances – Sean’s producing, my writing – but we’ve also never been in such a tenuous position as far as financial strain. The stress is terrible. I know I should try and relax but I can’t. It can be overwhelming. I feel I have to keep moving. To try harder every day. To just keep all the balls in the air. I know I can’t work any harder, but until my book’s published or I start getting paid to write, I’m not contributing in any tangible way to our situation. I’m simply a super-over-extended-volunteer and the same goes for Sean. He’s back at the bar, which he hates but it puts money into our account, but he spends almost every waking hour working at a job that has yet to garner any financial reward. He’s gifted and driven and devoted to bettering our lives, but everything he does – every audition he works on, every pitch he designs, every layout he creates – he does without a paycheck. I know it’ll be worth it. More than his acting career, which is forever in someone else’s hands, I know producing will work out because how hard you work and how good you are is rewarded in a career where you retain the power. You can be the best actor in the world but never make it. That’s the nature of the beast. However, if you’re the one coming up with the ideas, eventually people will catch on, and then they’ll pay you for it. As far as I’m concerned, the question isn’t whether it’ll all work out, but when, and can we hold on till it does?

ilsebourn.blogspot.com

Back to the card.

Our first reaction was stunned silence. Are people actually that selfless? They’re not zillionaires. They have their own worries, issues and dependents. Why would they do that for us? Our next thought was that we couldn’t possibly accept their generosity. Sean put it well when he said his “pride hurt”. It was as if their kindness made us feel worse about ourselves. Essentially shining a spotlight on our indignity. We discussed returning the check, saying thank you but no, but wondered if that wasn’t going against the spirit in which it was given. Ultimately, after much soul searching, we decided the honorable thing to do was to accept it. To use it as it was intended, alleviate some of our worries, and when circumstances allowed A: Take our friends out to a fantastic dinner and B: Pay it forward.

The giving of an unsolicited (and much needed) gift has changed us. We will never forget this kindness and we eagerly await the day we can bestow it on another. We hope to do it as our friends have, not for recognition or gratitude, but just to know that we could help and to remind us that despite what human nature often shows, we’re all in this together and if we look out for one another, the world can truly be a better place.

Sean and I feel incredibly blessed. Yes, there’s some shame associated with our current situation, but we work every day to rectify it. For every person that does something horrible like attempt to steal our car (which happened last week and left us with a mangled door and no steering wheel) there’s someone who does something exceptionally kind (like our friend who recently gave Sean theatre tickets because he knew we were dying to see a show but couldn’t afford to go). For every low day we’re left to wonder why it has to be so hard, there’s a brilliant night spent among friends that reminds us what’s really important. I know my parents wouldn’t let me die if I couldn’t afford my drugs or allow us to fall to a place where I had to pull Loch out of school, but I’m also not in the position to fall back on them anymore. They’re no longer able to be my safety net and it’s an incredibly scary awakening. Sean and I struggle every day to realize our dreams while still affording our reality. It’s arduous and humbling but we keep telling ourselves we’ll survive. We’ll survive and it’ll be worth it.

zazzle.com

Receiving a check from our friends was a shock, a tremendous blessing of overwhelming kindness, but a shock. Needing or asking for money has always been slightly humiliating and come with a fair amount of strings, but here we were receiving something unsolicited and without stipulation. To return it, simply because it was too kind seemed the wrong thing to do, especially since we can see it as the start of something bigger than ourselves. A chain reaction of compassion that we look forward to continuing.

I don’t often speak about God but I believe he brings people into our lives for a reason and inspires us to do things when we can. He can give us strength and hope and, in this case, he inspired our friends to offer us relief that one day we’ll be able to offer another.

stonebriar.rog

All this reminds me of a story I recently heard about an employee at an Oregon Target. The employee was ringing up a family and when she ran the customer’s credit card it was denied. The man tried another card but it was also rejected. He apologetically moved to the side with his wife and baby to call his bank. The next customer, who had witnessed the transaction, quietly asked to add the man’s bill to her tab. When the employee informed her it was $160, the woman said to do it anyway. She said she knew what it was like to need help. When the man returned to tell the employee he couldn’t pay for the groceries, the employee was pleased to tell him the debt had already been paid. When the family understood what had happened the wife began to cry. They were overwhelmed someone could be so kind. The husband said, “I didn’t have the money to pay my bill but I do have a $20 in my wallet. I’d like to leave it for the next person.” When the next person found their bill had been paid by a stranger they left money to help pay for the next bill, and the kindness continued. The Target employee was so moved by what  she witnessed she posted the entire story on Facebook and it went viral. She said the woman would never know the impact she’d made on so many people, and although not everyone is able to pay someone else’s $160 bill, doing what you can can when you can, can impact someone for the rest of their life.

That’s how Sean and I feel. Not only by the shocking generosity of our friends’ gift, but by the compassion so many people have offered us over time. It’s our hope, that we have in the past, and will continue in the future, to fill that role in other’s lives. We hope to take this lesson in generosity and bestow it on others. We will never forget what it’s like to need help, and how very much it means when it’s given.

Love and thanks to ALL our guardian angels. You humble us. We are better for knowing you.

xo Leigh

joinyourhandz.blogspot.com

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Anger

There are days that I feel angry. Incredibly angry. Days where I’m not positive or happy or hopeful, but more like cheated, picked on and pissed off. Days when it’s not fair and I can’t convince myself that everything is a blessing. There are days when the world is sucky and mean and I worry I don’t have the strength to handle it any more.

I recognize there are so many people who have it worse than me. People who struggle harder burdened with more. People who have to deal with grief or pain and it’s a effort just to function.  Most of the time I’m able to keep that in perspective, but anyone who’s ever dealt with a life changing event/situation will tell you that there are certain days where perspective feels impossible and all you can think about is yourself. I recently had one of those days and as I sat in my doctor’s office beside a woman on oxygen, her tank puffing away as she struggled to take a deep breath, all I could think was “please God, don’t let that be me”.

What I look like on the surface.

The thing about dealing with something like a chronic illness is you have to adjust and learn to live within your new perimeters and still function with some sense of peace. This doesn’t mean you’re less scared or sad, it just means you accept that life goes on and you must too. If you’re able to do that you have the chance of living a relatively “normal” life. You’re able to put the anxiety aside just enough to exist on the same plane as your friends and family. My problems arise when one extra thing goes wrong. It’s like I’ve tamped down my feelings of fear and anger just enough to operate, but if one more thing is added to my bucket it spills over and I find I’m unable to regulate my emotions. All my feelings come pouring out at once, the most prominent one being anger. My recent trip to the doctor was one of those times. As I sat beside that nice woman trying to get her breath, I was in a state of extreme agitation. That morning I’d awoken to a, not insubstantial, indent on the side of my head. As I looked at myself in the mirror it looked as if someone had taken their thumb to the area just above my left temple, pushed it in, and my head hadn’t recovered. It looked as if my skull was caving in and I just lost it. I hold it together every day. I deal with my possible death, our abysmal finances (owed in no short measure to my possible death) and our often ludicrously bad luck. I deal with the up and downs of Sean’s business and the ridiculous strain of Loch’s approaching entrance to kindergarten in the twelfth worst district in the country. I spend every day attempting to push my fears aside so I can play my role of full time mom (and aspiring writer) properly, but seeing that divot in my skull – a possible side effect of a vitamin D/Calcium deficiency  due to one of my drugs – was the preverbal straw. I called my doctor and he had me come in immediately. I knew my horror was based more in vanity than mortality, but what I felt was “Give me a f*^#ing break!! On top of everything I’m going to be deformed?! Are you f*^#ing kidding me?!

What I feel like on the inside is more like William Harrington’s painting Sea Venture in the Storm.

I put a lot of weight into holding on to my old life, who I was before I was sick. It grounds me so I don’t feel as if I’m about to float away. The thought that I might end up with a collapsed skull as an outward reminder of my inward deficiencies, just pissed me off. No matter how calm I may appear, I am intensely angry this is happening and occasionally my control tips from restrain to panic.  As I sat through my bone density test and my skull x-rays I started thinking about all the other people in the world who are living with anger and how tiring it can be. Someone we know recently lost her son to Cancer. It happened relatively suddenly after years of fighting. Though I have no doubt she’s devastated and heartbroken, my guess is she is also angry. How could you not be? Life isn’t fair. Who gets sick versus who doesn’t seems arbitrary. Good people die and s*^#ty people live. Bad things happen to lovely people while some hideous people live perfectly charmed existences.

Our ship coming in courtesy of mother-mel.blogspot.com

Sean and I work incredibly hard to try and better our lives. We got pushed seriously off track but we’re back fighting every day to make our dreams a reality. So far we’re still waiting for that ship to come in. A while back I broke down and said, “When is it going to be our turn? What are we doing wrong?” If we don’t make it, it won’t be from lack of effort or skill. It won’t be because we were lazy. It’ll just be. I’m just so tired of waiting. So tired of compromising our life and our plans. I realize what’s important. I see it every morning in my bed with my boys for our morning cuddle, but it doesn’t make me any less frustrated. Why does it have to be SO hard?

As it turns out, my skull is not caving in. A number of people saw it, so I can safely say I’m not going insane, but my skull and bones seem to be holding up under the strain of my meds and the wildness of my mind and these days my forehead looks way less like I was just delivered with forceps. So, I’m back to maintaining and as the cliche goes, some days are better than others.

I look forward to the day when all the effort pays off. When I can truly breath a sigh of relief. When my general stasis can return to calm and I can meet my challenges with the energy to rise above the fear. I’m not an angry person. I’m a person who’s circumstances have made her angry. I await the day where I can just let it go. In the meantime, I’ll keep watching the horizon and working to stay afloat.

xo Leigh

profitablesignals.com

Baggage

Dear Loch,

When I talk about baggage I’m not talking about the Tumi 4 wheel luggage I wish I could afford, but about the metaphysical baggage we lug around that become part of our personality. I’m talking about issues, perceived wrongs and past experiences that weigh us down. I’m talking about things that happened in your past that go on to dictate your future, and I’m talking about it because it’s not a good thing.

Man I love this bag. Why it’s $1200, I’m not quite sure.

Metaphysical baggage needs to be checked. It needs to be put down and left, but unlike real baggage, it should never be collected again. Root through it, take what you can use (like wisdom and knowledge) and walk away.

Bad things happen, they do and it’s terrible, but it’s important that you’re able to move on. You can’t live a happy, fully functioning life while carrying the scars of your past traumas. Eventually they start dictating both your personality and decisions. Old wounds should not dictate new relationships. One person is not another, and just because something happened once doesn’t mean it will happen again. In fact, the more you fixate on history repeating itself, the more you move towards creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

Your Dad and I have a friend that was burned once by someone he trusted. It screwed him up to believe in someone whole heartedly and be betrayed. The problem is, he is unable to let it go, and that inability or unwillingness has made him a skittish person, quick to think the worst of people. In many ways he’s lost the ability to trust and for that everybody suffers. The actions of one person dictate how he sees all others. He’s so weighed down by his past that he’s become defensive at the slightest perceived slight. A past friend’s actions have made him guarded and overly sensitive to new friend’s behaviors and it’s a tough road to climb.

emotional baggage at positivetosuccess.com

Imagine your girlfriend cheated on you  and you carry that fear into your next relationship. You become hyper vigilant and accusatory, convinced the same thing is going to happen again. The new girl has done nothing to deserve your lack of trust. It’s not her fault you were betrayed and it’s not her problem to deal with. Eventually you’ll drive that girl away with your fear and nerves. What you needed to do was learn from the first incident – ie. I could have spent less time at work, I could have paid more attention to her, I shouldn’t have dated a tramp, whatever the lesson is – chalked it up to life, and moved on. If you carry the baggage with you, you are not only unable to learn from it, because you have no distance  to gain perspective, but you are unable to move on from it. You create a pattern in which all future relationships have to live up to or prove themselves against and it’s unfair and unreasonable to expect people to do that. People do not deserve to pay for the mistakes of others, and it’s on you to make sure they don’t.

If you’re hurt baby, I’m sorry. I know it can be devastating, but you must allow yourself to heal so you can get on with your life. Don’t expect to be burnt again. Take your lesson, store it, and leave the pain behind. Try to enter all new situations with an open heart. Trust people until they prove untrustworthy. Innocent until proven guilty isn’t just for the courts. It’s not naive to expect the best in people, it’s hopeful, and often people will rise to the occasion to justify your trust. If you expect the best from people you might find yourself disappointed but you won’t find yourself jaded. Disappointment you can move on from, jaded is a state of being, and not a particularly great one. Jaded people may be burned less, but they enjoy less. Jaded people, the one’s who refuse to “have the wool pulled over their eyes”, who protect themselves from hurt at all costs, are never able to fully relax, to truly enjoy. By not seeing the best in others they are unable to be the best versions of themselves. You have to put yourself out there in order to reap the greatest rewards.

Don’t be this gal from connectedbygrace.wordpress.com

I’ve been burned a number of times in my life but I’m very happy. No matter what’s happened to me, I’ve always believed things were going to work out. I believe that with my health, with my career and I believed that with my love life. For all the horror stories and ridiculousness that came before your father, I never lost hope. I never stopped believing I was going to find the right person, I never changed my mind or decided to settle (despite my mother’s suggestions). I fully committed to every new love whole heartedly, and though I was disappointed every time, I never gave up. My faith and hope was rewarded when I met your Dad. He loved me utterly and completely and, no matter what preceded him, I felt I deserved it and could trust him. It would have been easy for me to become apathetic when it came to love, to let the disappointments of my past build walls around me, but I never did and I’m convinced it was that openness that allowed the right person walk right up.

manafoods.blogspot.com

I’m a trusting person. I was fired by a man who more or less derailed my acting career and I went back to work for him again. Did I like him? No. Did I trust him? No. But I believed that I needed to take the chance because it was good for my career. What I did do, however, was take the lessons learned from our previous dealings and use them to protect myself. Iron clad contracts and defined creative control so there would be no confusion as to where the power lay. Unfortunately for me it didn’t work out again, but it wasn’t from lack of preparation or foresight. At the end of the day he’s just not someone who can trust other’s ideas might surpass his. It was his baggage that made it impossible to move forward not mine. I still got burnt (I spent almost a year creating a series of children’s books I had no rights to unless they were published, and I wouldn’t publish them unless they were something I was 100% behind) but I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t unable to take a leap of faith. He, on the other hand was. His closed mindedness, and past baggage of not being in control, have made it impossible for him to collaborate or bend and he suffers for it. Walking away from that project, I was both frustrated and liberated. I’d taken a risk and it hadn’t paid off, but I’d also learned that no matter how good the deal, some people you just can’t work with no matter how hard you try.

My advice, no matter how painful sometimes, is to throw yourself into things every time. Don’t be a whiny suck living in the past. Leave the past where it belongs and move forward. You aren’t protecting yourself by carrying the hurt, and it’s not anyone else’s job to help shoulder your burden. Learn from your mistakes then wash your hands of it. There are always other opportunities, always other loves, always other jobs. Do the best you can and expect others will do the same. Will you be disappointed? Sure. Sometimes. But you’ll also give yourself the chance to be happy and that’s worth the risk.

I love you.

Just let it go.

xo Mommy

Strive to be like this guy at claricemota.com