May 2006 Newsletter
This May 2006 edition of my newsletter is dedicated to
dear friend, Jean, and her special son, Ryan,
With all my Love.
focusing on the theme of common sense for a while now. It’s
incorporated into the title of my book. It infuses the
talks I give. Common Sense for Uncommon Success has
become my motto. It’s on my business cards. So I’m often
asked why it has become so important for me.
common sense as practical wisdom derived from every day
experiences. My messages and my teaching revolve around
those every day experiences we all have and the lessons they
teach. Sometimes those experiences are pleasant ones.
Sometimes they are excruciatingly painful. Yet there are
important lessons in them all. My mission under this
self-imposed common sense theme is to increase
awareness—mine and yours—to that constant stream of lessons,
so that all those experiences, especially the difficult
ones, will have had a purpose…that something good can come
even out of the bad.
since I accepted this challenge, I’ve been given more than
my share of experiences from which to learn. Just when I
think things might calm down, the bizarre happens. April
and May 2006 have been such a time. And even though I know
now that I am only an instrument in the delivery of this
continually unfolding message of life, I’m still awed by the
process. It’s like watching a sunset over the Pacific.
I’ve seen it before. I know what it looks like. Yet each
time the beauty of it takes my breath away. That’s what I
want you to feel…that sensation of your breath catching in
your chest and your heart skipping a beat…even when viewing
something you’ve seen and experienced perhaps countless
times before. That’s what these newsletters are all about.
To see it anew as for the first time.
shouldn’t be surprised that this May edition is not at all
what I’d expected it to be. May is the
month we celebrate Mother’s Day. I’d planned to share with
you the dramatic experience of my mother’s illness a little
over a decade ago. Two brain aneurysms…two tiny little
bubbles in an otherwise strong blood vessel…left us to
helplessly watch as our strong, beautiful mother faded into
a shadow of her former self. It was that very life
experience that started me on this path of looking for the
deeper meaning and purpose in every situation. My personal
story about my mom’s illness is one about the pains of loss
coupled with the eternity of love.
But I know
now that there is something much deeper to learn.
posting my last edition on April 1, I’ve experienced a
completely unexpected and seemingly unending stream of
changes, delays, tragedies, encounters, and discussions,
which I now know were surely meant to influence this new
something much deeper that must be written in this
newsletter. Deeper than what we feel, what is important is
how we respond. And so I write this month's edition about
Celebrating New Endings
undergoing three years of personal and professional change
of major proportions, I thought my life had finally settled
down. I was happy, seemingly doing well in every aspect,
and progressing toward living the life I’d imagined. Other
than the few transitions underway, which were just “task
complete checkmarks” on the project plan of my life, I
wasn’t expecting any changes. Nevertheless, I was not
immune to sudden, unexpected change. Proving that no matter
how hard we try we cannot arrange for the life we think we
want, I was faced with a personal situation spiraling in a
direction for which I had not planned. My first reaction
was very predictable. I rebelled. I fought against it. I
refused to accept it, and kept hanging on, even though there
really were no threads left to which I could cling.
Although an irrational reaction, it was so very human.
But being a
self-proclaimed change management expert, I forced myself
through what a friend referred to as speed grief.
“Leave it to you,” he said, “to get depressed on Friday, go
through speed grief over the weekend, and be over it before
I can even offer you a shoulder to cry on come Monday!” He
made it sound as though it had been easy. Perhaps I had
made it sound so as well. It wasn’t. But I choose to
subscribe to what Albert Einstein said: “There are only two
ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a
miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I choose the latter. Hidden in everything, even the deepest
pain, is a miracle waiting to be discovered.
that’s why this last month has been filled with one
encounter after another with others who were struggling with
a not-so-welcome change in their lives. Elizabeth, whose
son recently married. Kevin, who’s wrestling with a career
and life choice. Cherry, who’s dealing with a troubled
relationship. And Jean, my dear friend, who’s struggling
with the tragic loss of the love of her life, the father of
her special son, the people she thought were friends, and
the vision she had for the rest of her life. These last
forty-five days have been crammed with nothing but
tragic or near-tragic endings in the lives of almost everyone I’ve
me wondering, have these forty-five days been all that out
of the ordinary? As unexpected and tragic as many of these
events have been for those suffering through them, are we
left only with the prospect of a life filled with many more
hurts and disappointments? It does seem that things coming
to an end is a constant of life, even of nature. We
typically think of this Springtime of year as one of new
beginnings…blooming, growth, re-birth. The peonies
profusely draped over my walk, the trees and bushes
exploding with new growth, the countless baby squirrels
jumping from branch to branch overhead, all display the
beauty of new beginnings.
to forget, while enjoying this astounding display of life,
that in order for it to occur it had to be preceded by a
great ending. Before Spring’s beginning, there must be
Winter’s end. In fact, other seasons come and go year after
year. Yet we do not mourn their passing nearly as intensely
as we seem to mourn the passing of the seasons of our
lives. Why is that? Is it because we expect the end of the
seasons of nature? Is it because we already know that soon
the beginning of the next season will emerge? I think so.
If you’re like me, you may not like it when we pass into the
grayness of Winter, but I accept that change with the
anticipation of the future…the Springtime that I love.
teaches us what we need to know about the nature of change
in our lives. The nature of change is that it’s always with
us, just as the perpetual change of the seasons, and it
requires that we go through endings before we can experience
beginnings. We must go through the darkness of Winter
before we can have the beauty of Spring. In that context,
both Spring in all it’s showy beauty, as well as Winter in
it’s stark contrast to the beauty of Spring, are something
to be celebrated.
To be human is to experience endings. To
be happy is to celebrate them.
that may sound callous to some. How can I look at someone
who’s lost a loved one and tell them to celebrate that
ending? But if I’m to truly believe, like Einstein, that
everything is a miracle, then I must do so.
Wilcox in her poem Worthwhile wrote:
“Tis easy enough
to be pleasant
when life flows along like a song.
is the one who will smile
goes dead wrong.”
She affirms what I have reluctantly come
to know about life. As much as it hurts, we must persevere
to celebrate the endings brought on by inevitable change.
lot of talk these days about fulfilling ones life purpose
and mission. Admirably, that seems to be the aim of many,
myself included. But we’re fooling ourselves if we think
that even that attitude toward life can protect us from
change. Living the life I was born to live doesn’t mean
I’ll ever get to a place where nothing will change...
nothing will end. Change
is the very nature of that journey toward a life with
purpose. Even the ones among us who seem to have it
together the best have learned that in order to get more, we
have to let go of what we have.
When I was
a young manager, fresh out of college, I ran across a quote
called “The First Rule of Wing Walking.” I printed it out
and hung it on my office wall, and it hung there for years
unchallenged. Here’s what it said: “Never let go of what
you have hold of until you have hold of something else.”
For the life of me I don’t know why I thought that was so
profound. In hindsight it probably hinted to a deep,
unresolved need in me. But now, with a little advanced
wisdom, I know this for sure. The First Rule of Wing
Walking is DEAD WRONG! We will never reach for anything
else, until we let go of whatever it is to which we’re
currently clinging. I learned that lesson myself in a most
three years ago to the day, I was deep in the depression of
a personal crisis. The illusion of the life I’d tried to
arrange for myself was crumbling, and I was fighting for
dear life. Oh, I didn’t know I was fighting. I thought I’d
accepted it. Made the tough decisions. Endured the
unavoidable change. Yet, on an unconscious level, the
battle to hold on to the past—even with all it’s pain and
disappointment—continued to rage inside of me.
into counseling just to prove to everyone that I didn’t need
it. After all, I was an expert at this stuff. This was a
piece of cake for me, or so I thought. I politely attended
my sessions, discussed my feelings openly, and willingly
participated in the planned activities. I was feeling great
when I went off on a four-week sabbatical armed with my
counselor’s assignment: to journal about all the great
moments of loss I’d experienced in my life.
assignment seemed a little silly to me. But I’m one of
those over-achievers who can’t sleep unless I’ve gone above
and beyond on any expectation placed upon me, so I
diligently worked on it daily. As I moved deeper into the
exercise, digging up all that ancient past, I began to get a
little concerned. How could this be good for me? I
wondered. I felt as though I were wallowing in
self-pity…celebrating the old pain. That was not at all
what I’d been taught.
cry! You’re not hurt! Get up! Dust yourself off and go
again!” Those were the lessons of my childhood. Aren’t
those the lessons we’re all taught? And, in truth, aren’t
those the lessons we must be taught, if we’re to become
self-sufficient and capable of dealing with life? But we
still feel the hurt, don’t we? So as I explored all
those old hurts, I hoped my counselor knew what she was
doing. I tried to hold out hope that I would gain something
from this painful exercise.
thoughts and feelings came faster than I could put them on
paper. The writer in me wanted to find the perfect
sentences, the most excellent paragraphs. I would wordsmith
one paragraph to death and then throw the pad down in
frustration. Beginning again, I would soon find the
memories too painful, and I would have to walk away crying.
Had I survived all those painful endings? I wondered, as I
reached for the pad again and tried to pick up where I had
It was a
good day to spend inside writing anyway. A tropical
depression down south was now pushing north and delivering
quite a squall in the small South Carolina beach town where
I was vacationing. Tornados were being reported all
around. The rain blew in fits and starts, while the
relentless wind roared up the beach and cut between the
beachfront buildings like a wind tunnel. I had watched the
flagpole outside my condo in front of the building next door
bend and strain against the wind’s force all morning. I
expected to see it snap like a twig at any moment.
deck of my condo faced northeast and was somewhat protected
from the blowing sand and rain that stormed in from the
southwest. So, after moving restlessly from the sofa to the
loveseat and back again, I decided to write outside on the
deck. Settling into a comfortable chair and positioning
another to prop my feet in, I placed the yellow page
containing my list of hurts, which by now had become my ever
present companion, in the seat of the chair beside me. I
began to write again, straining to remember, struggling to
find the right words, writing then scratching out phrases
and sentences, correcting punctuation, all the while praying
that this exercise had a purpose. Occasionally, I’d glance
over at the yellow page beside me, check to remind myself
what was on it, what moments did I believe had defined me,
what pain was I trying to describe with this particular
out of the corner of my eye, I saw the yellow page
flutter…and then it was gone!
could realize what was happening - before I could make a
move in that direction - the swirling wind picked it up and
snatched it away. I jumped to my feet, the pad falling to
the floor, and in panic I watched it sail away. It didn’t
just flutter to the ground four stories below. It flew, as
if it had sprouted wings. It sailed higher and then higher
no!” was all I could utter as I helplessly watched it sail
over the street, and the passing cars on
then over the rooftops of the condos across the street. I
felt my heart stop beating when I lost sight of it breezing
toward the intercoastal canal. I had but one instinctual
reaction. “I have to save it! It’s my life! If I lose
that piece of paper, I may never be able to recall all of it
again! I have to find it!”
Still in my
pajamas, I raced into the bedroom, threw on the first
clothes I could find, jumped into my flip-flops, and took
off out the door. Bounding down the stairs, almost knocking
over a young girl ahead of me, I was conscious of only one
singular mission. I had to salvage whatever was left of my
life on that piece of paper.
The rain was pelting down now
harder than it had all day, as the sky grew blacker and
blacker by the second. It was as if the whole earth had
risen up against me. I threw off
my flip-flops now soaked with rain and slowing me down.
When I reached the street, I saw cars approaching from both
directions, headlights beaming and wipers fighting to slap
away the blinding rain. I didn’t even slow down. “Hit me
if you must,” I thought, as I ran across the street between
them, their horns blaring. “It doesn’t matter, if I can’t
get my life back!”
the yard between the two condo buildings and the parking
garage underneath, praying under my breath, “Please God,
please God, I have to find it.”
driving rain, I ran to the seawall along the canal. There
it was! I could see it, about ten feet away, wet and
crumpled, caught in the reeds growing in the brackish
marsh. I could see the ink beginning to run as the rain
washed over it in sheets. I had to get it.
I searched for something I could use to retrieve it. There
was nothing in sight. With the rain coming harder and
harder, I couldn’t wait long. I had to act. Racing along
the seawall, I found the only spot low enough for me to jump
into the canal. It was even farther away from the paper…now
twenty feet away. It would be a five foot jump down, and I
couldn’t decide how solid the bottom of the marsh would be.
Would I be jumping into water? Was it sandy? Weeds and brambles obscured the marsh floor, and I imagined
all manner of things resided in those thick weeds.
to,” I heard myself say as I jumped from the wall into the
I sank to
above my ankles, and from this perspective I could see up
close all the creatures scurrying away to safety. “Don’t
think about it,” I told myself, “Just get it!”
I began to
stomp through the brambles of the marsh, only slightly aware
of how unpleasant it was. I could see the thorns, feel the
scratches on my legs and the punctures in my feet. But, I
could almost reach the paper now…just a few more feet.
it! Running back through the briars to the wall, I clawed
and heaved myself back up over it, still clutching the soggy
paper in my hand.
My clothes and hair were soaked through,
and the rain on my glasses clouded my vision as if in a
dream. I ran into the parking garage under the nearest
building. Safe from the rain, but not the gusting wind, I
tried to uncrumple the page, to see what was left there of
my life. The wet paper, already trying to return to the
yellow pulp from whence it came, began to dissolve in my
hands. I handled it lovingly and tenderly as if it were my
most prized possession. But, the wind continued to rip at
it, causing the corners to tear away between my fingers and
whipping it like a wet leaf on a tree.
crumple in my hand again, I stuffed it up under my wet shirt
and hung on tight as I ran to seek shelter from the storm
and to salvage whatever I could. As I ran through the rain
back across the street, I could really feel the wounds now.
The cuts on my legs and the thorns in my feet stung and
burned in the blowing rain, and I could see the knot forming
on my left shin where I’d banged it climbing back up the
seawall. I bounced back up the stairs to my third floor
condo, still like a woman possessed, to spread the fragile
yellow paper on the table and see what was left of my life’s
there alone, my wet clothes stuck to my body, wiping the
moisture from my glasses, the water from my wet hair still
dripping down my face, my left shin throbbing, my legs and
feet burning as blood oozed from the fresh wounds, staring
at the limp piece of paper. And in that ridiculous moment,
I heard the only words that could move me forward.
It was as
audible as the roar of the storm outside, but it was
delivered with the gentleness of a whisper, “Let it go,
Rhonda. Let it go. It’s all over now. It can’t hurt you
anymore. All you have to do is let it go. Just like the
wind and rain washed this paper away, let all the bad
memories and pain be washed away. Stop running. Stop
trying to fix everything. Just let it go.”
down my spine and the hair on my body stood on end.
quickly as the chill had overtaken me, I felt an intense
warmth. I looked up and out the window over the dining room
table and for the first time that day, I saw the sunshine.
The storm had passed out to sea. The western skies were
clearing. The black clouds had parted. The bright sun
beamed through the window on my tear-stained face.
find that story difficult to believe. Even I am shocked at
the lengths to which I went in my unconscious attempt to
hold on to the past…to hold on even to the painful moments
of the past. But the story is absolutely true, and what it
taught me is this. I had to celebrate that ending. I had to experience the pain fully, and
then I had to let it go. I share that story now as a
prayer…a prayer that you will do the same.
saying we can ever enjoy those painful endings, and I’m
certainly not saying we have to dishonor the past or those
who were part of it. W. M. Marston said, “The past is not
to be scorned or neglected. To forget the past or to reject
its contributions merely because they are not new is just as
stupid as substituting past for present and accepting the
timeworn modes of your behavior as sacred. You must use
selective intelligence if you want to use the past without
surrendering to its limitations. There are many things, a
majority perhaps of all your strivings and experiments in
life, which it is best to turn your back upon and leave
behind as you march forward taking today’s steps without the
burden of stumbling.”
difficult to let go of the past, even when it’s painful,
because we feel the responsibility to protect, honor, and
defend our past and those who were party to it. This is
natural and, to some degree, even honorable. But we must
realize and accept this truth…release from pain, healing,
and rebirth can only come after letting go. The beautiful
new beginning of Spring can only come after the ending of
Winter. We must follow the advice of the Roman poet Ovid
who said, “Put aside the work that’s done, and seek some new
work to do.”
We all know
it isn’t an easy feat to accomplish. If life were easy,
though, it would be so boring. Compare it to golf. I’m
resurrecting my previously deceased game and have realized
that the allure of golf is nothing more than the challenge
it presents. Some people say you’re only competing against
yourself. Others say you’re competing against the course.
I seem to be battling, not only those obstacles but many
more of my own creation. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to
play were it not for those challenges. The sand traps (yes,
I said traps, not bunkers…for me they are definitely
traps!), the water hazards, dog legs, roughs, trees, those
are what make golf challenging. They are what make it fun.
Without those challenges, even the ones that bring me pain
when I play, golf would be boring. So would life. Of
that I am absolutely certain.
is different for everyone, but this aspect is common.
The ending of something we thought would never end is
normal. It’s life.
bright new beginnings on life's journey will be prefaced by
endings... sometimes painful endings.
Therefore, if we are to celebrate life, we must persevere to
celebrate those endings.
all, this is what I can promise you. The very fact that you
can feel hurt so deeply and fear so intensely during those
painful moments is proof that hope and desire for life are
still alive and burning deep inside you. Gerald May in
The Awakened Heart wrote, “There is a desire within each
of us, in the deep center of ourselves that we call our
heart. We were born with it, it is never completely
satisfied, and it never dies. We are often unaware of it,
but it is always awake…Our true identify, our reason for
being, is to be found in this desire.”
to that desire for life. Grieve
those painful endings, but make it speed grief. Pass
through the inferno of disappointed hope, but don’t
linger there so long that you let hope
be consumed by the flames.
Golda Meir was quoted as saying,
“Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole heart,
don’t know how to laugh either.” So weep with your whole
heart. Then celebrate the uncertainty of a certain ending
and an uncertain beginning by doing the one thing you fear
most. Be alone. Let your son’s new wife replace you in his
daily life. Let go of the job you hate…the unfulfilling
career. Stop trying to arrange life and let life come
to you through the deepest desires in your heart. Whatever it is
that scares you to death right now…there’s an important
lesson to be learned from it. Ralph Waldo
Emerson wrote, “Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear
Remember faith and hope are not dead. That
pain you feel inside is their continued flame inside of you.
They are your vehicle through the fears you now face.
Marston said the human activities necessary for happiness may
be divided into three major efforts:
those three words on my living room wall: Live, Laugh, Love, so that I may be
reminded each new day. I don’t seem to have any trouble
with the laughing and the loving. They appear to come
naturally for me. It’s the living that’s tricky. It would
be so much easier if I had all the facts and all the
answers, like a recipe for a delicious, fool-proof chocolate
cake. But it doesn’t work that way. All I do have is
confuse faith with belief. They will talk about what they
believe to be true and call it faith. But faith is not just
believing in something. It is acting on that belief. Faith
is the step we take in the direction the evidence points
even without factual proof that it is the sure path to
Teresa said, “To keep a lamp burning, we have to put oil in
it.” For me, the oil represents hope. There is the hope of
a flame, because there is oil in the lamp. But for that
flame to come alive, there must be the strike of a match.
That is faith. Faith is the action of igniting the oil
to create the flame.
Faith is what we do when we’re living. We must
and live on faith…faith which rests upon the hope and
belief and desire deep within our hearts, just waiting to be
So we must
move forward on faith, and acting on
our faith requires letting go…letting go of the hurt…letting
go of the known…letting go of fear…letting go of the past.
If we could master this letting go, we could master the
celebration of endings, which are the very nature of life.
When we make an earnest attempt to celebrate our endings, we
begin to define our happiness with our own hearts.
And so this
is the life lesson presented in my own experiences and
confirmed in the situations encountered during these past
two months. Living involves change. Change brings
endings. Endings require letting go…so we can soon enjoy
the exciting, new beginnings just around the bend.
When I look
at those three words on my wall…Live…Laugh…Love, I don’t
think of never-ending bliss. To the contrary, I’m reminded of
the perpetual process of change, endings,
celebrating, letting go, and beginnings.
ever ended and nothing ever changed—if somehow everything
could stay the same—maybe that would mean we’d never have to
experience the pain of things taking a turn for the
worse…but it also means we would miss the experience of
things getting even better.
winter the trees, bushes and flowers in my yard die—that
growing season ended. But each new Spring they return even
bigger, fuller, more lush and robust than ever. It truly is
the cycle of all living things. Celebrate the endings and
don’t let them steal your anticipation and enthusiasm for
the beginnings they bring with them.
Ullman who said, “…Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up
enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…You are as young as your faith,
as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as
old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your
challenging. Celebrating endings isn’t easy. Nothing worth
doing ever is. But you can do it. You can survive the
dark valleys in the journey, even without a map.
As he faced
danger, storms, hunger, mutiny, and fatigue in the uncharted
Atlantic, Columbus wrote in the log of the Pinta:
“This day we sailed on!”
choice this very day. Choose to sail on.
What we ponder and what we think sets the course of our
Any day we wish; we can discipline ourselves to change it
Any day we wish,
We can open the book that will open our mind to new
Any day we wish, we can start a new activity.
Any day we wish, we can start the process of life change.
We can do it immediately…or next week…or next month…or next
We can also do nothing.
We can pretend rather than perform.
And if the idea of having to change ourselves makes us
…we can remain as we are.
We can choose
…rest over labor
…entertainment over education
…delusion over truth
…and doubt over confidence.
The choices are ours to make.
But while we curse the effect, we continue to nourish the
As Shakespeare uniquely observed,
“The fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves.”
We created our circumstances by our past choices.
We have both the
to make better choices beginning today.
Any day we wish.
Well, why not?
Why not you?
Why not now?
~ Jim Rohn ~