Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, They Are Alive

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Not all those who wander are lost. It’s a line from the poem All that is gold does not glitter, written by J.R.R. Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings. I’ve never actually seen any of those movies, I know, GASP, but I came across the quote somewhere in social media land today, and I thought, aha! Isn’t that the beauty of the digital age we live in? You can catch small, but meaningful gems at every random click of your mouse. I’m corny, and I know it. Also, I love it. Anyway, here it is:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

That line is so true. Not all those who wander are lost. Some of us have a “nasty” little habit of constant daydreaming, planning, searching, looking – for a little spark, for a new adventure, for a fresh accomplishment, and that some of us is definitely, unequivocally, me. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m lost.

All my life, I’ve heard things like:

“You’ll just make yourself unhappy by expecting so much out of life.”

“You have food, water and shelter. What else do you need?” (I’m so serious. I was totally told this at 17.)

“You’re restless. That’s bad for you. Just sit.”

“Oh, stop being crazy. Stop trying to be a hero.”

Despite the nags, I’ve always pushed for more, questioned things, searched for progress, and I strive to move forward in some small way every chance I get. If you’re anything like me, and people also tell you to stop daydreaming, or just settle for what you have, stop being ungrateful, or that you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment, I invite you to take a stand with me, and yell, not all those who wander are lost! 

Try new things. If they don’t work or you fail at a new venture, try something else. Keep moving forward and searching. Make a little tweak here. Make a little tweak there. Never settle. Don’t listen to fear or failure. They are your teachers, your friends, and your road to glory. They are not your enemies. Don’t let anyone make you impossible-minded. Always stay possible-minded and forge ahead. Figure out a way to get where you want to go. Don’t let the passing of time without successes deter you. Triumph rarely happens in a day.

And when you achieve one goal, set the next. Always strive for improvement. Always find new things to excite you and fulfill you. It’s not frivolous or ungrateful, and it doesn’t even mean that you’re entirely unhappy with your current situation. But there is so much to experience in life, why stop at the now?

The day you stop daydreaming, planning, hoping and wishing, I suggest you check your pulse. All those who wander are not lost, baby. They are ALIVE.

Happy, motivated Tuesday ya’ll.

Love,

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

From STRESS to STRENGTH in 24 Hours

Whoa! This week just came out of nowhere and slapped me in the face with STRESS. Per my usual style, I think there is a great lesson to learn in my current (although already much better) plight, so I will share it with you! Let me explain how I went from STRESS to STRENGTH in 24 hours. Here it goes.

Bye, bye Ms. Jetta

My sweet, reliable 2006 Jetta Volkswagen has been living on the struggle bus for a few months now. I really don’t know anything about cars other than how to turn one on and drive it, but I’ve had the feeling for some time that something was terribly wrong. You see, the ol’ Jetta got into this nasty little habit of jerking or stalling while driving. Sometimes it was soft and sometimes the jerking was so bad, my body would actually bounce a little off the seat as an involuntary shriek would spill out of my mouth like a baby rejecting split pea soup.

I knew this would not be a cheap repair or a simple process, so I just kept prayin’ on that ol’ steering wheel, and counseling the car to stay with me for just a while longer. Last week, though, the jerking was becoming noticeably worse and worse, so it was time to bite that awful car repair bullet. I had to take it to two different places, and deal with the whole rides there and back situation for several days to get to and from work while the car was being checked. The last place finally told me the sad, sad news. My baby’s transmission had all kinds of problems I couldn’t even begin to understand, and it was best to take it on home to the Volkswagen dealership, and check whether I had any kind of extended warranty on the transmission.

So, fine. I take my car home, and ignore my troubles for one more night through arcade games and some major dancing. Hey, it was Friday night. I can’t be consumed with STRESS on a Friday night! So, the next night I decide to face my impending financial doom, and start looking in my car file for any shred of hope I could find. And there she was. So pretty, so crisp. It was an extended warranty for the transmission valve body (whatever the heck that means!).

I make my appointment to take the car in to the downtown Volkswagen dealer Tuesday morning, and I’m feeling pretty breezy at this point. I drop it off at 7am, and they assure me that if it’s the transmission valve body, they would repair it at no charge. BUT, around 4pm, while I worked from home, I got the call. There was a whole heck of a lot more wrong with the car than this transmission valve body business I thought would save my poor me, and it would cost way more to fix it than the car was worth. Plus, I still owed over $5k on it. It was now time to consider purchasing a new car somehow, with no down payment ready and totally unprepared for such a purchase.

So I take my STRESSED out little toosh down there, and there they were just waiting to take full advantage of my desperation. Somehow I was convinced I was getting a great deal on trading in my car, and leasing a brand new one for a lot more money despite my awesome credit score. They even made me believe I had actually negotiated down the price significantly when I threatened to leave and go somewhere else.

They also insisted this lease on a brand new Jetta was their best deal, even better than any used car they had available. It was not until I got home, and began to really analyze the situation that I realized I probably should have taken my car, and shopped around for a better deal. There, I began to freak out. My car payment would now be higher and so would my insurance premium because of the leasing situation, and the car wouldn’t even be mine. Plus, I hated the feeling that I had just been majorly played because I wasn’t really thinking straight, and to top it all off, my school loan payments start this month! More STRESS.

I go back this morning and attempt to express my disdain and realization that I probably got majorly ripped off, but they have very convincing answers to all of my accusations, plus said I didn’t have an option to back out. I basically left feeling incredibly defeated. Plus, it all happened so fast. I didn’t even really have time to get used to the idea of getting rid of my former companion, the car who had been with me through so much. I was STRESSED, confused and mourning. Situations like this bring back a lot of my poverty and single hustler noise. They remind me that no matter how far I’ve come or how hard I’ve worked, it will still take a long time to fully remedy the effects of that poverty, and that I have nowhere to turn for a little financial assistance in times like these.

Moving from STRESS to STRENGTH

I took the day off of work and basically spent it freaking out, nauseated and majorly STRESSED. But in-between all of that I also made some calls, moved some bills around, reviewed my budget, found some solutions, searched for freelance work,  and slowly started to travel back to STRENGTH. It is now about 24 hours since I originally came home from the dealer with this shiny, new financial burden, and I finally feel like everything is going to be OK. I even found myself looking in the mirror, and saying, “You see? Everything is going to be OK. You’ve always made it without anyone’s help, and you’re going to make it now.” And most importantly, I now have a safe way to get to and from work. My poor ol’ Jetta was nothing but a ticking time bomb.

So what’s my lesson to you? Life is stressful. You can’t always plan for big changes, expenditures or losses, but you can always turn things around, choose your attitude, and find some different options. Take your time to grieve, scream, cry, freak out, and STRESS – whatever you need to do – just let yourself feel it out. And then, once you’ve allowed yourself that time, make a nice cup of chamomile tea, get your thinking cap on, and focus. Don’t let the STRESS break you down for too long. Instead let it remind you of all of the wonderful things you’re capable of, and every STRESS you’ve overcome before. Start focusing on solutions, and forget regret. Also focus on everything you have, and how much worse it could probably be. Most importantly, remember,we can never go backwards, but we can always move FORWARD.

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Even the Hopeless Have Hope

Hope

This weekend was a true lesson in hope for me, and I want to share it with you. After all, anything that can strike a little hope in your heart seems especially fitting this week after the nauseating events that took place at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon.  So here it goes.

On Saturday, I spent a few hours (ended up feeling more like five minutes) volunteering with a church program called Youth Lounge. Please note that whether you believe in church or religion is not the point here at all, so regardless of your beliefs, I urge you to read on. Anyhoo, I had been searching for a volunteer opportunity for a while now, and this really seemed like the perfect fit. I felt that my positive energy and optimistic attitude could help uplift these young people and inspire a little hope in them. I never thought they would do the same and more for me.

Youth Lounge essentially provides a safe space for homeless and at-risk youth in Chicago’s Lakeview community. A majority of these teenagers and young adults identify as LGBTQ, 90 percent of them are people of color and a little over half of them are homeless. Youth Lounge is put on by Broadway United Methodist Church volunteers twice a month on the second and fourth Saturdays, and provides a home cooked meal, activities and a loving environment for these struggling youth.

This particular Saturday was my first time volunteering with the group, and as a hyper emotional person, I was afraid. I was afraid to unintentionally make it about me. I was afraid to make these kids feel as though I felt sorry for them or looked down on them in any way. And as they started walking in the door, many of them with luggage and bags in tote, the tears began to well up in my eyes. I took deep breathes, and kept telling myself, you have to smile, this is not about you, they need your HAPPY.

Little by little, I completely forgot about my tears, and began to be inspired by them. Here they were, so young, many with no place to live, no safe environment to trust, and yet they were so luminous. Many of them knew each other and ran to one another in warm embraces. Many also made jokes and were happy to see the volunteers they already knew. Suddenly, they were not victims in my eyes. They were just kids and despite their situations, they seemed joyful and full of life. They seemed to be oozing with HOPE.

The afternoon began with several musical performances after which the kids all sat down to brightly decorated tables for a warm, home cooked meal prepared by some of the volunteers. They all gathered with their friends, chatted and laughed as the volunteers came by to take their orders and serve them. Some kids seemed very comfortable being served and others seemed almost shocked at the niceness and attention being offered to them. One particular youth could hardly look me in the eyes as I asked him what he wanted to drink and thanked me quietly almost five times.

Dinner time went by so quickly. I forgot about all of my feelings, and suddenly I just felt so focused on giving them what they needed. Soon it was time for the beauty parlor activity. Before the youth had arrived, I had helped set up a little nail spa in the back of the room. Their names were all put in a hat, and several were chosen to receive a manicure. Although my shift was over, I decided to stay a little longer and help do nails. I love getting my nails done, and did it on my own for many years when I couldn’t afford to get them done. I still get a great sense of progress and relaxation when I go have them done, and I couldn’t wait to offer the youth a little pampering and sense of being special.

I had two gentlemen “clients,” and they were so excited to be pampered. They both chose to have their nails polished in addition to the manicure, and I was happy to help them express themselves. One of them told me all about his foster mom as I did his nails, and the other told me about his struggle with drug abuse and having to fight just to be himself in public. He had been to rehab and told me all about how he’s doing much better now.  I was so glad to hear it. They both laughed and joked with me, opened up to me, and taught me more about hope and resilience than I had ever expected them to.  They had fighter spirits, and despite everything they had been through, they seemed to appreciate life and find ways to smile.

I learned so much from these kids in just a few hours. I learned that you can have nearly nothing and still have a huge smile on your face. I learned that there is always something to look forward to in life if you choose to see it that way. I was also reminded that even though I have my own childhood and adolescent noise, I am so, so lucky. I always had a roof over my head and food to eat, and my parents, despite their many imperfections, never abandoned or disowned me. I was reminded that there is hope all around me, all around us, even from unexpected sources. And most importantly, I was reminded that if those who we would expect to be hopeless can find a way to have hope in their lives and in their hearts, those of us who have been more fortunate can certainly find a way to be more hopeful and optimistic each day.

My thoughts, prayers, hope and heart go out to these beautiful young people, to all those affected by the events in Boston, and to all of you out there searching for a better day. I urge you, as I always do, to pay attention. Hope is all around us, and ready to help us make it through just about anything. At least that’s my hope. 

Sonia, Word Share Junkie

Positive Patty Always Wins

OK, maybe not ALWAYS, but let me tell you, Positive Patty seems to win a lot more often than Sour Sonia ever did. I don’t know if it’s cosmic karma or what, but ever since I jumped on the positivity wagon, things in my life just generally seem to go the way I want them to more often.

It’s simple things like beating another applicant for a great apartment, finding a sweet parking spot late at night, getting a break on a bill, selling myself well enough to get a pretty raise right when I needed it most, or just having a delivery come right when I need it.

Back in my Negative Nelly days, I feel like every little thing just seemed to go wrong. The negative thoughts seemed to snowball, and have real tangible effects on life events. Now positive thoughts seem to be having the same effect. Woah. This is much, much better!

It might sound a little kooky, but it seems like that whole, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it,” deal is pretty real. By no means am I suggesting nothing ever goes wrong in Sonia’s world, because it does. But even when that happens, I find that thinking positively helps me turn around that negative situation much faster, and turn it into something much better than what I originally hoped would happen.

And, if you don’t believe me, a stress management article on MayoClinic.com states that positive thinking and optimism actually provide a variety of health benefits like:

  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Speaking of positivity, hope also seems to be a helpful little tool in this life deal. The topic reminds me of a University of Manchester study I once wrote about in relation to hope and success entitled, Can hope get you further than smarts, grades and personality? The blog talks about a three-year study that investigated hope, intelligence, personality and grades in relation to achievement. The study actually found that hope often wins over the other factors when predicting success.  Isn’t that something?

It looks like we really have a lot more control over our lives than we think. So perk up, clear those negative thoughts, and watch how positivity, hope, and all-around good vibes suddenly start to make things just a little easier. It’s sure working for me, and I’d love to see it change someone else’s life too!

Sonia, Word Share Junkie