I hope you had a good week last week. I had a good one with interesting meetings, some rewarding work, some nice conversations with my kids, a friend I love whom I got to see which warmed my heart. And a manuscript I was waiting to edit was delayed in the mail, so I actually got a few days off, and even got to read someone else’s books for a change!!!
Among the books I particularly love are those by Joel Osteen, whom I am lucky enough to know and consider a friend, with his wonderful family, whom I’ve also met (mother, brother, sister, wife, kids, they’re a terrific bunch!!). Joel is a truly extraordinary person, warm, humble, incredibly bright, modest, kind, compassionate, he’s a minister and delivers his powerful positive message in a palatable, accessible way, even for people who don’t consider themselves religious. He’s written about a dozen books (#1 bestsellers on the NY Times list), and his books ALWAYS open my thought to new ideas, and leave me feeling stronger, better, more hopeful, happier and more positive about life. He has a tremendous gift. And the one thing I think our books have in common is that we try to share hope with our readers. I think hope is one of the most important things in life, as important as love, and sometimes even more so. We cannot live without hope. Many times, Joel’s books have given me hope when I thought things were looking pretty dark. And there is always some major thought or theme in his books that wakes me up to see things around me in a new light. They are like a burst of sunshine and fresh air for me.
On the back of one of his recent books, that I read last week, is an excerpt from the book: “Nothing will change until you make up your mind that you are not going to accept mediocrity. Why don’t you take the limitations off yourself? You have so much potential. Break out of that box and try something new…You are not limited by your education, by how you were raised, or your current situation. You are destined to rise higher.” He not only gives his readers hope, he shares his faith-driven energy with them. It works for me. What resonated for me in that excerpt was not being limited by our history and circumstances. Inside the book, he talks about “Getting rid of the excuses” and “remove the shame.” Wow!!! Those two thoughts really stopped me and made me think.
We all have ‘excuses’ for why we aren’t doing something or moving ahead, why we’re not pushing ourselves harder than we are: an accident, health, an injury, a terrible divorce, the loss of someone we love, a bad break up, losing a job, or as Joel said, a limited education, an abusive childhood, or maybe a bad relationship we allow to continue and don’t feel strong enough to get out of. At different times, we put up with some terrible situations and extreme emotional pain—-sometimes leaving the bad situation and being alone seems worse (which most of the time is not the case. Alone is better than abuse!!! Sometimes we get used to some really awful situations, and settle for them rather than risking the unknown). (I was in a therapy group once where a woman shared the incredible abuse her boyfriend was inflicting on her, cheating on her, beating her, taking her money, being nasty to her. It was a list an arm long, and someone asked why she didn’t leave him, and she said “But how do I know who I’d meet if I leave him, I might meet a really bad guy”. A REALLY bad guy? Are you kidding, Frankenstein, Dracula, or Adolf Hitler would have been better than the guy she had. It took a long time, but she did eventually leave him, and was a LOT happier.) Fear of the unknown paralyzes a lot of us, and keeps us in a bad spot. We also feel unworthy at times of anything, which is where Joel’s message is so strong: Remove the Shame. We all feel ashamed of things we’ve done, and where we’ve fallen short, which sometimes leads us to believe that we deserve to be punished and treated badly. If you take away the shame, and give it up (and figure you’ve already paid enough penance for it), it opens up a whole new vista of positive opportunities, and even happiness. Getting rid of the shame, and letting it go opens the door to a wealth of possibilities we ALL deserve. (Nobody is perfect!!!)
What resonated for me in his recent book was ‘Getting rid of the excuses’. Some of the excuses are buried deep, where others don’t see or hear them, but we use them for ourselves, the passes we give ourselves for why we can’t reach a better life (or attitude). When I read that line in his book, it woke me up, with a real jolt. I think the greatest (usually unspoken) excuse in my own life is that my mother left when I was 6, and I grew up alone with my father. (Which has its convenient sides—-I know more about cars than I do about makeup, which I wear very little of). I missed out on all those mother-daughter moments that most people have. It is also a brutally powerful message when your own mother leaves you. What does that say about you if your own mother rejects you? I know others it has happened to, men and women now, and it is a big deal to overcome. A HUGE deal. If you let it, it can set you up to be rejected, abandoned, or treated badly forever by others. It has been my excuse for being overprotective of my own children, too dependent on the men in my life, the message being “my mother left me, so please don’t you”. That’s a hell of a burden for another person to live with, and to put on them—it’s not their fault my mother left—nor mine. That’s the point. I wasn’t responsible for her leaving, so I shouldn’t have to carry the weight of that forever. And it SHOULDN’T be my excuse for being a burden on someone else, nor should I expect others to abandon me because she did. And if they do, it’s a brand new account, and NOT a replay of the past. But in seriously introspective moments, I realize that privately I have used that as an ‘excuse’ for not trusting people, hanging on too tightly, or accepting bad behaviours from them that I shouldn’t (so they don’t leave too). Today is a whole new day. A new life. EVERY day.
The other excuse I could use, but don’t usually, or as much, is that I lost a son (to suicide). Losing anyone you love is agonizing, and losing a child is a special kind of excruciating pain——–but it’s still not an excuse to stop living yourself, to pay less attention to your other children, or be depressed for the rest of your life. It was a terrible blow, there is no question, but I have fought hard not to let it be an ‘excuse’ in my life for sitting in a corner and feeling sorry for myself. I still have tough times with it at times, but I have tried not to let it define me or my life. (“oh the poor thing, she lost a son”. Yes, I did, and it’s a terrible loss, but I don’t want to be a poor thing or have it be my ‘excuse’ for staying frozen in that place. My son Nick would have hated that, he expected more of me than that, and so do I). I think I was lucky that a woman I’ve never liked came up to me at his funeral, looked me in the eye and said “You will NEVER recover from this.” Holy Sh**#@@”, what an awful thing to say to someone, like a life sentence. When she said the words to me, even in my fog of grief, I thought “Oh NO!!!” I’m not going to let that happen, and I fought hard not to let that happen (We started two foundations in his name to help the mentally ill, I worked on the streets with the homeless actively for 11 years with one of our foundations, I wrote more books than ever, was closer than ever to my kids, and 5 years later I started an art gallery which gave me endless joy for almost 6 years. I did everything I could not to let his loss crush me and destroy me. I did NOT want that to be an excuse for no longer living a full life.
A bad divorce can be an excuse for no longer living a full life, or a limited education—-there are so many people now who have done outstanding things, and even made fortunes with poor educations, or have had bad lives before that. (In another therapy group I was in, dealing with grief and loss, a woman talked sobbing about how her husband had left her, and she had stopped her life completely. Gently, I asked how long it had been since he left, assuming it had been weeks or maybe months. She answered “26 years”…..that’s a long time to grieve a bad marriage and not move on.
I am not dismissing or minimizing the terrible things that can and have happened to all of us. But it seems as though we have two choices, to let it beat us, or not let it beat us. And we sometimes do use excuses to give ourselves a pass to not lead a full life after something hard happens. Reading Joel’s book made me want to throw those excuses away. Yes, my mother left me at 6. But I don’t want to let that rule my life or affect me today. And I was ashamed then and later that my own mother had left me. That shame is someone else’s and doesn’t belong to me. Ashamed too that I got divorced, which I saw as a failure on my part that I couldn’t convince two husbands to stay. But I’ve had a very good life in spite of that. I don’t want to use those excuses. I don’t want excuses to limit my life.
I don’t like age as an excuse either. I want to cheer every time I hear about old people who are working fully, or doing something remarkable, and there are many, many, many older people leading full, productive lives. I heard about a woman yesterday who just got married at 99, she married a 73 year old man, and I thought Good For Her!!! (And Bravo to him, for seeing her value as a human being and her beauty). And I know of two 107 year old women, in Italy and Japan, who are in remarkably good shape. These days, it happens.
I always find Joel Osteen’s books life changing. Those two simple phrases, among some very very valid points throughout the book, about “Get rid of the excuses” and “Remove the shame” really spoke to me, and maybe to you as well reading it here.
In any case, I don’t want any excuses Not to lead a full and happy life, and I’m all for getting rid of anything that stops us, or blocks us, or brings us down!!!
Have a great week, and I hope WONDERFUL things happen to you!!! You deserve it!! We all do!!!