Hello all! This is my first blog I have ever written and was excited for the opportunity when Tonya asked me to write it. Tonya and I are cousins, and unfortunately, I only see her about one or two times a year since I live in Kentucky, and she lives in Oklahoma. This past year I have had the pleasure of being able to grow closer to my family, including Tonya, as I have been able to “come out of my shell”. For the first 17 years of my life talking to people scared me--even family. Thankfully, I am out of my shell and have the courage to write a blog post open for the judging of anyone who stumbles upon it.
Consideration. Tonya texted me one morning with a list of words to choose from when she asked me to write this week’s blog, but she preferred if I could do consideration. Personally, I thought helpfulness or friendliness would have been much easier to write about in the later weeks as the words came, but I decided to go through with this week’s word. I was hesitant at first, because the word is not one I commonly use, hear, or think about. My thinking was, “how can I write a post about something I am unfamiliar with?” So, before writing this post, I took several days to think about what the word consideration meant to me, and also consulted my friend Google. Google told me that it meant several things, but the two definitions that seemed to fit the word best were “thoughtful or sympathetic regard” and “continuous and careful thought,” I don’t know what I expected to see, but that was not it. In an attempt to define the word myself, I really struggled.
I found that the reason I struggled with coming up with a decent definition for the word was because although I do think about others needs and try to lend a helping hand when I can, I am a selfish person. I do not think I am rude, or mean, or a bad person overall, but I am, quite frankly, selfish. When I make decisions, I make them based on what would be best for me or how things would affect me. When I’m running late for work and the person in front of me is being very slow, I think “I am running late, how can they do this to me?” when I have no idea what their current situation is whatsoever. I think we all do this. We may buy two of something “just in case”, or we’ll cut in line because we think our reason for being in a hurry is far more important than anyone else’s. This sense of selfishness has been seen throughout this pandemic we are currently facing as well. Grocery store shelves were empty for days or weeks at a time because people kept thinking “what if we run out of this or that” when there are people out there who are struggling to even get one meal a day. All too often it is “Me, myself, and I” and we lack the consideration of others. That does not mean we are bad people. But I think we can be better people.
Now, I know this week’s word is “consideration” and not “selfishness,” but I feel that it is important to address the barriers that stop us from being able to have consideration. So, this week, make your motto “consideration.” Think “how will this affect others,” or “do I really need this, or could someone else get more use out of it?” Because in the grand scheme of things, there will always be more of whatever material thing you’re wanting, but there will not always be another opportunity to make someone smile or help someone out when they really need it. Try to think of others just as often as you think about yourself. Of course, our own needs are important. However, our needs and wants do not invalidate another’s.
When I think about what consideration means to me, I now think of more than just a few words for a definition. I do not think a few words can even define what consideration means. For me consideration is when you think of how your words and actions will affect other people. It means thinking of others when you really want to think about yourself. It means deeply thinking and pondering about something before making a rash decision. The word “consideration” doesn’t mean just one thing, but the bottom line is just what google told me--“thoughtful or sympathetic regard” and “continuous and careful thought.” What does consideration mean to you?
This week's blog writer is Makayla Reynolds. She is 18 and just graduated from Rowan County Senior High School in Morehead, KY, but spent the last two years of high school taking only college classes. In the fall she will be a college junior and is majoring in psychology and Spanish. Her dream in life is to be able to help people achieve happiness, fulfillment, and contentment with life and as a therapist she feels that she could do that. Family and friendship means everything to her and she is very thankful for all the support she has around her.
In this time of just pure uncertainty, anger, and all unknown, it hurts. It sucks. Through all the anger and the sadness and being truly upset through this unimaginable process that is so out of our hands, we have to take a step back and realize none of this is our fault. We have to forgive ourselves in this time. We can’t be angry at ourselves, at the world, or angry at “what could’ve been.” Wasting that much time and energy leaves us with this negative feeling that isn’t a healthy way to cope.
Instead, we can assess this situation and read the articles and research and do all we can to be the best citizen we can be to protect others, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. In the end, it matters how we’ve handled the situation. If you’re anything like me, you haven’t handled the situation at hand very well but guess what, that’s okay.
It’s okay to feel all the feelings and really raw, tough emotions that you may be experiencing for the first time. It’s okay to not love where you’re at and feel those feelings too. We have to acknowledge that and move forward and how we can be better from here. It’s a challenge every day to stay positive and happy when all the things we have looked forward to having been canceled, postponed, or just won’t ever come around again. But don’t be angry at yourself. Forgive yourself for the state you're in, recognize it, and move forward from there in whatever capacity that looks like.
Not all of us have to experience something traumatic to feel sad and angry, and no one should tell you how to act or be because you are working on yourself and grieving and coping as you should. Forgive them for trying to fix you and your attitude when it’s okay that it won’t be fixed today. Most importantly, forgive yourself before your head hits the pillow tonight and try again tomorrow.
We should try to forgive the fact that 2020 was not anything close to the expectations we had for it to be so great and exciting, full of hope and adventure, and instead kept us locked away. We should try to forgive that the goals we had set for ourselves were crushed and no longer applicable or manageable. I know for me a lot of the goals I had set for myself this year are no longer applicable because life, as we know it, has come to a complete halt.
I have to forgive myself and all of my extra poundage I have gained from stress alone and also find ways to release that stress so when life becomes “normal” again, I can get back to the goal I set for myself. I have to forgive the people around me too. They are not used to having me home for so long after being away at college for three years now. I also have to forgive myself for the occasional sass that comes out of my mouth and be grateful I even have a place to stay in the midst of this craziness. I also have to forgive myself when I am not extremely happy to have to spend copious amounts with my family, see it, feel it, and move on. In forgiving myself for those feelings I also recognize that this quarantine has thankfully made up for so much time we’ve lost over the years.
We may also remember that while I am forgiving my situation, feelings, and behaviors, it does not mean that I am apologizing for it. I do not apologize for feeling angry at the fact I can’t see my friends every day. I do not apologize for the hurt this pandemic has laid upon my heart at the things canceled, missed, postponed and special moments put on hold. I do not apologize for having to readjust my way of living every day to fit back into the home after being away.
Forgiveness is not an apology. Do not feel like you have to feel sorry for every negative emotion that has coursed through your veins during this process and every other hardship that comes after this is over. Do not feel or be sorry that you haven’t been able to carpe diem every single day. Do not feel or be sorry for how you manage your stress. It may feel really hard to want to cherish each moment of this pandemic experience like everyone is constantly telling you to do - but it’s okay if you don’t cherish every day.
Forgive yourself for having days you’d rather forget and don’t let the people and self-proclaimed motivational speakers on Facebook and Instagram tell you that you have to love those days too if you truly don’t want to. Forgive yourself as God has forgiven you for each and every little thing you’ve ever done. He loves so unconditionally, and we should do the same with ourselves. For every flaw you feel you have, forgive yourself.
For those who may not know me, my name is Erin Presley. Born and raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma I am Sooner born, Sooner bred, and will be starting my senior year at OU in the fall. I am an enneagram 9, and if you know anything about the enneagram and know me, it makes total sense. I love people, my dogs, tea, and serving others. I hope you find peace and relate to some of the words I've written for this week. Thank you for reading!
Call me super late to the party, but the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced me to and given me a newfound respect for the beautiful RuPaul. I jumped down a rabbit hole and binged his series, RuPaul's Drag Race. Just ask my family -- I couldn't be pulled away from it. These Queens are stunning and so talented; of that I was not surprised. What I was surprised by, however, was the transformation that occurred to the ladies that were lucky enough to survive Lip syncing for their Life. Through each season, RuPaul guided these drag queens to become aware of what they have to offer to the world. And to themselves. In turn, they began helping each other. And not one, not ONE, I tell you, Queen had anything bad to say when they were eliminated. Because they were shown kindness.
Kindness. What a simple, yet profound word. Second only to love, kindness is something most of us were lucky enough to learn from our parents as children. By being taught to treat others as I wanted to be treated, I think I realized I liked to be treated nicely. It felt good! So, especially as a child, I focused on happiness and kindness.
Fast forward to adulthood, or even as early as age 14, when parents everywhere will agree that everything seems to be unjust, I've found kindness maybe isn't my number one directive. As a matter of fact, my awareness, I'm sure like many of yours, transitioned to what is JUST. What is fair? And somewhere in the mix, being kind didn't always happen. You all know it's true. And has, especially in the past several years, become more apparent. Our nation has become angry and mean, y'all. Kindness has been dismissed; however, as life as we know it came to a skidding stop, it almost seems that kindness is peaking its pretty little head out of the trenches and starting to make a comeback.
I've seen it in my neighborhood, with sweet Anna putting her croquet set out, after spraying it down with Lysol, so my girls could have some good, old fashioned fun in the sun. I read about it in Worcester, UK in March, 2020 after 5,800 people stood outside, in the rain to see if one could possibly be matched as a stem cell donor to a 5-year-old Oscar. You've seen it as nurses from all over the country flock to NYC and care for patients in our Nation's epicenter of COVID-19. You've seen parades of teachers, family, and friends pour out to form birthday, baby shower, or just plain "we miss you" parades. And after viewing these, and countless other exercises in kindness, you've no doubt found a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, or a little more warmth in your heart.
You see, it's not terribly hard, this thing called kindness. As Amit Sood reminds us in his book, Immerse: A 52 week Course in Resilient Living, "...kindness needs practice. Just as a tree doesn't straighten his roots the night of the storm, you can't develop kindness overnight; you'll have to practice it in the littlest experiences - to the moth visiting your home, to the telemarketer who trespasses into your peace, and the airline agent who botches your flight booking. With practice, you'll become instinctively kind; kindness will become effortlessness and will require no active thought." So, remember to wave to your neighbor, smile at a stranger, put up the shopping cart at the grocery store (while wearing your mask to protect your fellow shoppers), really listen to the friend who needs a willing ear, and see how it makes a difference in your own life. You need to be kind to yourself as well, because as my new friend RuPaul reminds us every week, "if you can't love yourself (or be kind to yourself), how in the heck are you gonna love somebody else?" Yes, Queen. Can I get an amen?
This week's blog writer Nicki Hopkins Sherman is a lifelong resident of Shawnee. Upon completing short stents in Ft. Worth and Norman, Nicki returned to Shawnee to raise her children. A Shawnee High School graduate, Nicki attended TCU, OBU, and OU to obtain her Bachelors of Music and Master's of Music degrees in Piano Performance. Once she realized her daddy was once again right and decided she couldn't make a living playing in piano bars, Nicki decided to become a nurse. After obtaining her BSN and working primarily as a Labor/Delivery and Hospice RN, Nicki returned to higher education, receiving her MSN from Vanderbilt University. She is raising her four daughters, Emma, Harper, Abby, and Maggie with her husband, Chris. Nicki has worked at SSM Health as a Primary Care Nurse Practitioner for the past 10 years. While not working, Nicki enjoys traveling with her family, skiing, reading, playing epic Nerts games, and volunteering on and off stage at Shawnee Little Theatre.
Is it time to bend? We did with a blog on Thursday instead of Wednesday! Sometimes things happen and we need a little flexibility.
I agreed to write the blog for the word “flexibility.” In doing this, I didn’t realize that for me, it was probably one of the least intriguing words we had picked for Living52. Not that I don’t like the word, I just didn’t really know what else to add since on the surface it seemed pretty self-explanatory. The word, flexibility, seemed to have one pretty basic meaning but after digging deeper the word became a little more interesting to me. The definition we posted on Sunday for flexibility was “the quality of bending without breaking.” Researching more, I found other phrases to describe flexibility which included: the ability to adapt; willingness to change; the extent a person can cope with change of circumstance, and an activity including stretching, yoga, or tai chi focusing on range of motion.
Hmmm… all true but I wanted a more personal thought on the word, so I asked some close friends, “What do you think of when you hear the word flexibility?” Some responses were: the opposite of control; something I’m not because I can barely touch my toes; the ability to forgive; no boundaries; and ability to be open-minded.
Hmmm… many of these rang true and gave me much more to think about. I love the discussion that these words bring about every week and I love hearing what other people think.
For me, when I hear the word flexibility I imagine a tree with its branches flowing in the wind. While the branches flow, the tree still stands firmly in the ground. Like the tree, if we are firmly grounded and rooted, we can still be flexible in certain situations as they arise such as our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic. We can control our responses - not always our circumstances. Maybe the important lesson in being flexible is that being strong and steady doesn’t mean being hard and unwavering (causing you to crack and break), but bending slightly to help those in need (which may include you too).
My dreams for you this week are to stay grounded like the tree, but also “go with the flow” when needed. The Serenity Prayer comes to mind:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; and
Wisdom to know the difference.
May you know when flexibility is the right movement for you.
This week's blog writer is Julie Brittain, co-founder of LIVING52. Read more of Julie's story at www.living52words.com/stories.