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Sometimes I read Facebook posts and think, “Been there, done that.” Come on, admit it. So have you. Often this thought occurs when reading about the trials of being a mother/parent/employee. But today I’m thinking of three young women who’ve done things I’ve never done and likely never will.

One of 30-somethings was walking around Habitat with me last week, looking at treasures and talking about life, families, love, and work. We commiserated just a little about no one “here” knowing much about our families and the vast network we are part of elsewhere. It works both ways, of course. No one “back there” knows much about our lives here.

I realize the above is true for every person who’s left his or her place of birth to go out into the wide world. It’s also true for people like me who’ve had the opportunity to live, love, work, and play in other areas and then return home sweet home. In Myrtle Beach, friends at work and church saw me as Jayne the friend, wife, mother, and teacher but rarely as Jayne the daughter and sister. When family members came to visit, they were perceived as “visitors.” In Camden, many acquaintances see me as I am now, without the people and roles that I formerly held.

Back to my young friend’s visit to Habitat. I learned from our chat that her first child was born by C-section, a fairly common practice within the past twenty years or so. But here’s something that’s not so common. Within two weeks after her baby’s birth, she was driving a tractor, stopping now and then to nurse the baby. I was amazed to hear this. This feat, so casually mentioned and evidently easily performed, stopped me in my tracks.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve had babies but never driven a tractor, much less a newborn who needed nursing.

Another young woman of whom I’m thinking drove from South Carolina to California with her five children for an Easter visit with family and friends. She’d said goodbye to them a few months ago when she and her husband and children moved to the Palmetto State and was hankering to see their faces.

Again, I was amazed. If the weather looks threatening or messy (like Monday), there’s no way I’m going to drive to Columbia, much less across the country. The young mother mentioned above drove 6,000 miles across nine states—with five children, one of them a toddler. Just thinking about bathroom breaks with kids makes me kinda crazy.

Have not been there, have not done that. I’ve driven alone with young children but no further than 150 miles.

Without going into specifics, today I spent about three minutes with a beautiful young woman who’s been stuck in Camden for four days. And yes, stuck is the appropriate word for her plight. Between destinations, she’s waiting on money to be wired for a bus ticket out of Dodge, She had a black eye, black and blue and painful to look at. No wonder she was so antsy and apprehensive. I’d be looking over my shoulder, too.

I leaned forward and told her things would work out. She murmured something likeIt’s got to.” I could have piled on some platitudes, but I refrained. Later, I saw her pacing back and forth, back and forth. She’s in the middle, her old life behind and the new one ahead and vague.

Have not been there, have not done that. In the middle, yes. Abused and afraid, no.

I’m not saying I’m a wimp or a softie–although I could be both and more. I’m just saying that my admiration for the young generation shot up during the past several days. All three of these people impressed me with their courage, confidence, and choices. And they reminded me of my grandchildren who’ve already been taught, “I can do hard things.” Now if I could follow their example….

What about you? Have you witnessed examples of people doing hard things? Have you done some hard things?

Earlier this week, I read The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, a book I’d heard about on a podcast and that fit perfectly into a course I often teach, Human Growth and Development. By an interesting and circuitous path, Bronnie Ware, the author, left her successful banking career and became a “carer” of the dying. A genuinely compassionate person, Ms. Ware grew to care for all of her patients, and as they felt her affection and concern, they opened up to her and shared their life stories, complete with regrets.

As she listened to her patients, the author began to perceive the repeated recurrence of the same five regrets. This realization affected Ms. Ware so much that she decided to write a book of her findings. Not only does she tell of the patients themselves, their personalities and former lives, but she also applies their teachings to her own life. Being with them gave her courage to be true to herself.

The dying helped her live more fully.

While the five regrets might sound like psychobabble to some people, there’s actually quite a bit of overlap between Ware’s findings and those of developmental psychologists. In the order they’re listed in the book, the regrets are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Interestingly, earlier this week when I mentioned the first regret on Facebook, a friend commented that he wished he hadn’t worked so hard and that he’d stayed in touch with his friends. Reading his comment prompted me to contact a dear friend, and she and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch and long overdue lunch. It was awesome. No regrets.

From teaching Human Growth and Development, I learned that the #1 regret of older people facing the end of life was not doing the things they really wanted to do. Even if they  failed in achieving the goal, they felt that was better than cowering on the sidelines waiting and watching for the right time or circumstance.

As it turned out, however, many did just that (cower on the sidelines, procrastinate, or make excuses) rather than face possible rejection, disappointment, loss, heartache, or humiliation. I’m not saying those who said YES and then lost money or suffered ridicule were happy about that. I am saying, however, that they died with no regrets. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all—and all that.

Just about everyone I’ve talked with today has said 2015 was an okay year or that it was a terrible year or that they wanted to make some changes. Some people on Facebook said it was the best year ever. What about you? Are there things you want to change? Are there things you want to do that you’ve been procrastinating? If not now, then when?

What will you do during the next twelve months that will better assure that 2016 is a year of no regrets? As for yours truly, I’m working on a plan.

Like many of you, I’ve been thinking about my mother more the last few days She’s in my heart and on my mind every day of my life, but lately I’m even more aware of her influence—the things she taught me and my siblings, the way she lived her life, her beautiful singing voice, the love she showed to all within her sphere, the adoration and downright awe she felt towards her grandchildren, her ability to turn a house into a home, her love of the twittering little birds, and the list goes on and on and on.

Not to say she tolerated any misbehavior or slackness on our part. “You better straighten up and fly right, “ was something I often heard directed towards me—and my brother, Mike, too. Ann and David were either less mischievous than we were or they were masters at appearing that way. It never occurred to me that Mama’s expression was weird; I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Here’s another phrase my mother tossed my way whenever I didn’t want to do something she thought would be good for me, something that involved getting out of my comfort zone. “Don’t be so backwards,” she’d say. While I didn’t mind the flying right phrase, I detested the backwards one, maybe because I knew she was right.

I’ve been thinking of that “nudge” from my mother today while preparing for a lesson that I’m teaching tomorrow. It’s on the scriptures and just how powerful they are in helping us live better lives. When I say “better,” I mean dozens of things like getting through grief, showing love, not being offended, having courage, being kind, turning the other cheek, and realizing the power of choice in overall happiness or miserly.

This morning, I reread something I wrote about Queen Esther in Eve’s Sisters a few years ago.. Esther showed such courage in her young life, and her boldness saved the Jewish people. I like to think of her posture, chin up and back straight, as she said, “If I perish, I perish.”

We might not have the power to save our people on such a grand scale, but we all have people we can help. We can all fast and pray and get more in tune with the Spirit. We can all fight the good fight and be assured that no matter how scary things appear, life can “turn on a dime.” In less than a week, Esther went from being a pampered recluse who hadn’t been summoned by her husband in thirty days to becoming Queen Esther with a capital Q.

I hope that somehow my mother knows I took heed to the things she taught by word and deed. For the most part, I stand straight and fly right. And I’m a lot bolder now, more willing to shed the backwardness and step out of my comfort zone. I love listening to little birds too. And I’m in awe of my children and grandchildren.

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One of the many things I’ve learned about writing is that you (a writer) have to pay attention. You have to become increasingly mindful of the events going on about you, including sights, sounds, gestures, expressions, breezes, hummingbirds, and just about any and everything else you might have ignored before. You have to zero in on conversations and mood changes and sound inflections. AND you need to have a pen and paper nearby to write these things down before they’re forever gone from memory.

Until a year or so ago I would have smiled at a couple of phrases uttered by my grandchildren and perhaps written about them in my gratitude journal. But now, these words and the accompanying experiences have taken on new meaning, and it’s not because I’m one of those doting grandmothers who thinks that everything the little darlings say is worth noting for posterity. It’s because little ones have so much to teach us if we’d only pay attention.

 Last Friday we rode caravan style to the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head for the sole purpose of climbing atop the Harbour Town lighthouse. We wanted to do a little something different to celebrate my daughter’s birthday, and climbing the 114 steps to the top of the red and white striped lighthouse appealed to all of us. We’d never climbed a lighthouse together before, and this one overlooking the yacht basin seemed to beckon us to “come on up.”

By the time we finally arrived at Sea Pines, it was already a sweltering afternoon. Everyone, even the usually adaptable children, was sweaty, sticky, and a little out of sorts. Once we saw the lighthouse and realized how miserably hot it would be and that someone would probably have to carry the 2-year-old all the way to the top, his mother decided to stay behind with him.

Undaunted, the rest of us went into the museum/lighthouse and plunked our money down. As an aside, the cost is now $3.75 per person, something tourists need to know. One website advertised $3 person, and another announced a fee of $1. When I mentioned this to the nice lady selling tickets, she said that although their prices had changed this year, the website(s) had not been updated. Good to know.

My daughter Elizabeth and I began the ascent to the top of the lighthouse with four young children, and all was well for the first flight of steps. Emma, the 6-year-old, got scared and begged her aunt Elizabeth to carry her. Despite the insufferable heat, Elizabeth complied…at least for a while. Then 4-year-old Colton’s courage began to flag, and he wanted to be carried too. Upon reaching the next landing, we stepped to the side and explained that we could either continue climbing the museum/lighthouse to the top with everyone walking OR we could go down and miss the view from the top. After a moment’s hesitation, it was onward and upward.

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Slowly and haltingly, we began our ascent, moving aside a few times to let faster, braver people go by us. Little Colton reached for my hand, and I was surprised to feel that he was shaking. “Hold on tight,” I said encouragingly.

Elizabeth turned to look at us, and Colton announced, “I’m teaching Grandmama how to be brave.”

“I see that,” she said.

We continued to the top and felt pretty proud of ourselves for making the trip without further hesitation. There’s a neat little gift shop at the top of the lighthouse, but instead of stopping to browse, we walked right outside to the observation deck for a few photo ops. We circled the deck, snapping pictures and mingling with the other tourists who were also enjoying the view. I took pictures of a family, and the father in the group took a few pictures of us.

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I’ll go back again, and next time I’ll pause long enough to study the photographs and other artifacts placed along the entire ascent of the lighthouse. I’ll also remember a courageous little boy, who despite his fear, bravely held my hand and went forward, never looking back. The lessons:  (1) Hold hands and as Joyce Meyer advises  (2) “Do it scared.”

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This morning as I read some end-of-semester journals, I noticed that many students had opted to post entries on the psychology blog and then copy and paste their posts into their journals. That’s fine by me, especially since their responses piqued my curiosity enough to go back and revisit the blog. One that particularly caught my attention is about taking chances and going for it, a theme we often discuss in positive psychology.  With only one additional sentence, here’s the copied and pasted post.  Can you see any applications in your own life? I can.

Truth surfaces in the most unlikely places. One minute you’re scurrying into Wal-Mart to pick up some bread and shampoo, and the next minute you’re pondering the words on a person’s tee-shirt.  The message is one that’s been explored on this site fairly often, and yet it’s worth mentioning again. Why??? Because it’s a fact  that some people need reminding of it again and again.

Here goes: “You can’t steal second base with a foot on first.” Clever, very clever. And so true! On the baseball field and in life, you can’t move towards making your dreams become reality if you can’t let go of the safety of your current life situation(s).

Do any of these scenarios ring true?

*You want to travel but are too afraid to board a plane.
*You want to be a professional dancer, but you just can’t leave Podunk, USA to receive the training you need.
*You want to meet someone “special,” someone who makes your heart sing, someone you could spend your life with. You can’t find this special person if you’re sitting in front of your television night after night
*You want to pursue a degree in Golf Course Management, but the only school in the state that offers that degree is two hours away. How can you leave your family and friends?
*You want to attend school full-time, but you’re afraid to take the financial plunge that could make it happen. How can you live on less? It’s better to stay on first base. Or is it?

What’s holding you on first base?  Just do it!  Some of Abraham Maslow’s advice to anyone on the ascent to self-actualization is to say YES to life, to possibilities, to opportunities, to challenges.  As John Greenleaf Whittier said, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”

What’s keeping you from stealing second base? Why is your foot still on first when you could be literally running towards a better life?

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I love Queen Esther. Since she’s become one of my role models, I have no problem being brave and doing what it takes to appear before the king (or anything symbolic of a king). Although I might be daunted by critical readers, difficult people, or possible rejection, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! I just put on my equivalent of a queenly robe and whisper, “If I perish, I perish.”

There are at least half a dozen lessons I learned from Esther, and with limited success, I attempt to put them all into practice. Yesterday after my talk in church about Esther and some other women of the Bible, I learned that many of the little girls (princesses) in our ward (church) have Esther as their role model. One of them, little Tia, even drew me a picture of her that I now have on my refrigerator. I gleaned two things from that drawing: these little girls are on the right track and children listen to talks in church. About the former, if they already know about courage and loyalty and timing, what will they be able to achieve as they mature into their queenly lives?

But back to the major subject, the woman in the Bible that I have a problem emulating. It’s Hannah. Remember her? She’s the woman who wanted a child so badly that as she fervently prayed for one, Eli saw her and mistakenly thought she was drunk. Hannah assured him that she was completely sober and told him that she was praying for God to send her a male child. If that happened, she would willingly turn the child over to God.

Eli told her to go in peace and promised Hannah that her petition would be answered. Soon thereafter, Samuel was born, and when he was still a young child, Hannah brought him to Eli and left him there. According to 1 Samuel 2:19, Hannah saw her son once a year after leaving him in the temple with Eli. Can you even imagine that? It’s not as though he was an adult. He was just a little boy.

I don’t think that I’m quite as trusting, giving, or selfless as Hannah was. When my children were little, I hovered over them like a mother hen, and even now I’m aware of their goings-on, interests, friends, and activities. I think God entrusted my children to me and that He intends for me to take that trust seriously. At the same time, I’m wondering if this story of Hannah and Samuel has a latent meaning for me, for us.

Fortunately for me, my three children are all young adults with their heads on straight. They’re responsible, kind, hard working, smart, and healthy. I threw in the healthy adjective because that’s something I don’t have to worry about—at least not today. They have their “moments,” the times when they’re down, discouraged, anxious, or stressed (they are human, after all), but they know how to figure things out. They know how to ponder and pray and then press on.

Yet still, I wonder and worry. At times I recall my friend’s earnest question, “Jayne, have you turned your children over to God??”

“Yes, June, I have. And yet…”

Well, you can see what I’m getting at. I need to develop some of Hannah’s faith. What about you?

Today I got an email from Dr. Susan Jeffers. Actually, it was a newsletter that I receive every month, but this one was quite different from the others. It was an obituary. Dr. Jeffers died of cancer in October, and someone who loved her sent the monthly newsletter. Among other works, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway influenced millions of people, including yours truly, and this evening, I’m copying and pasting something from this book that I wrote in a psychcentral blog about a year ago. Here goes:

From reading past posts, I’ve realized that self-help and personal development are among the most popular topics. For that reason, I’m re-reading 50 Self-Help Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden and choosing a few that I think you might find both interesting and helpful.

One of the classics reviewed by Butler-Bowdon is entitled Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. The author, Dr. Susan Jeffers, says that people see fear in the wrong way, and that it’s actually a green light to keep going. Trepidation is undeniably real, but we just need to push forward, to feel the fear and do it anyway. Sure, security and routine are safe, but can’t they be a little risky if they prevent you from living a full life?

Dr. Jeffers says we need energizing every day, and that just like breakfast energizes and fuels our body, reading inspirational quotes and books fuels our psyches. Take control of your mental inputs, Jeffers advises. Say things like, “I am a confident person in every situation.” Never be fearful of mistakes. Lighten up and be happy that you had the experience…that you tried. Wouldn’t be awful to come to the end of your life and still be thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda?  From teaching Human Growth and Development, I’ve learned that the #1 regret of elderly people is that they DIDN’T give things a try, that they let their fears hold them back. By that time, it’s too late to make that call, start that business, write that article, or fly around the world

Jeffers offers a perfect example of how she worked through humans’ #1 fear, rejection.  These are her words lifted right from her website:  “It took many, many rejections before my first book, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY, was finally accepted by a publisher. The worst rejection letter I ever got was that “Lady Di could be bicycling nude down the street giving this book away and nobody would read it.” Can you imagine being told that? I bet that publisher has regretted that snide comment hundreds of times. What if Jeffers had listened? What if she had given up? What if she had felt the fear and stopped?

Are you going to be one of those people who allow fear to stop you from taking chances, or are you going to be courageous? Why not start small?  Think of one thing, just one thing, you can be brave about today and DO IT! Oh, and share it on this blog. Who knows? Your courage might inspire someone else.

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