Ms. Jones

I remember one of the many times I’ve been told I was “fake” because I’m as happy as I am, even when circumstances say I should be otherwise.

“No one is that happy all the time,” she said.

I replied that that’s true, and I certainly have my moments- I’m human just like the rest of us. But what I’ve learned along my brief journey so far is that we ultimately have a choice. Happiness is a choice.

“That’s not true, you can’t just choose to be happy. Bad things happen and you can’t just pretend they don’t exist. You can’t be that naive,” she insisted.

I told her that it’s true, things happen all the time that are less than desirable, and as humans we often react in a less than desirable way. But I’ve learned that I can choose to remain in that place, or I can choose to move forward into happiness.
I choose happiness every time.
And ironically, I find that the more often I choose happiness, the more easily and naturally it comes to me and becomes my reaction. It’s not nativity or pretending negativity doesn’t exist, but it’s choosing how you’re going to allow those negative circumstances affect you… are you going to dwell on them or are you going to look for an opportunity of growth within them and focus on your gratitude for that instead?

Funny enough, the person I was having this particular conversation with continued on with her negative and critical feedback and I eventually had to excuse myself to let out a few tears in the restroom… she was pretty determined to break me and worked really hard at it. Many times when people are in a negative or painful place in their own lives, they don’t want to hear of or see others as being positive. Think about it in regards to when you wake up in the morning and are just so tired and so grumpy, you only see stressful things ahead in your day, and maybe you even have a headache… the last thing you want to be around is a morning person who’s actually looking forward to the day ahead, right? In this case, I knew this person had experienced a lot of struggle in her life and it had become all she’d known or expected, and because I choose not to dwell on struggles, she was unaware that I had any of my own and assumed based on my attitude toward life that I’d been spoiled with ease, as many often do assume of me. She resented me for it and I had a human reaction to her approach toward me, as many understandably would.

But rather than remaining in that place and allowing the negative circumstances I was experiencing to sink deep down into me and marinate, causing more sadness/anger/frustration, I let the tears flow in honest emotion, and then I spent a few moments reflecting on the situation and ultimately coming back from it truly happy and even a bit stronger than before- because I chose to. I saw that this person was hurting me because she was hurt herself, and often times hurt people hurt people. I chose to continue to treat her with respect and love, despite my initial reaction to want to retaliate and at the very least make her feel badly for being so hurtful, and she eventually did end up being nicer to me and I think even appreciating my approach to life a little more.

If I allowed my circumstances to determine my happiness, I would be in a very difficult and dark place, and as a result my attitude and outlook on life would only attract more negative circumstances… the cycle would be viscous. Life wouldn’t be an enjoyable experience for me to love, it would be a painful experience I’d be eager to simply “get through”. Choosing happiness has had the opposite effect and brings a consistent flow of beautiful things my way. The blessings are endless, and the gratitude is overwhelming! This beautiful young woman, Ms. Jones, understands that, and it’s inspiring. I wanted to share her story, as told by a miss Amber Brown…

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window. “I love it,” she stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy. “Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room …. just wait.” “That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged, it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do. Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away, just for this time in my life.” She went on to explain, “Old age is like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories Thank you for your part in filling my Memory bank. I am still depositing.” And with a smile, she said: “Remember the five simple rules to be happy: 1. Free your heart from hatred. 2. Free your mind from worries. 3. Live simply. 4. Give more. 5. Expect less

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Beautiful Ring

So I just started a new book. Found it in a cafe/bookstore that was practically giving amazing reading pieces away. SOLID find. I obviously bought about a billion books and couldn’t have walked out with a bigger grin on my face. Anyways, this book is called “Just As I Am- The Life of David Ring” and just as with most of the books I picked up that day, I’d never heard of this one and wasn’t completely sure what it was about when I bought it. I had no idea who David Ring was, but because it seemed clear to me that it was a book about loving who you are just the way that you are, and so I was intrigued and wanted to find out.

When I first opened the book, I saw the words, “David Ring  Eph. 3:20,21” written right there on the otherwise blank very first page. At first I thought a child had scribbled in the book. It didn’t bother me, as I knew I was purchasing an old book, but I did take notice of it. But after a moment I realized that although the handwriting was scribbly, it actually had more mature form and the words written were not words I would imagine a child would write. It looked more shaky as though an older man or woman had written it, possibly while sitting in a moving car. It boggled my mind, because when I considered it in that way, I thought about the man in the picture on the cover of the book, who I assumed was David Ring. I mean, why else would anyone else be on the cover of a book about the life of David Ring, right? But the man on the cover was not an old man at all; he was a younger man who I assumed was about 40 years old. So then I was even more confused because I couldn’t think of a reason that an elderly man or woman would write the author’s name followed by a bible passage. It just didn’t make sense… and then it hit me. I realized this must truly be the signature of the author, who I still assumed was the person in the photo on the cover of the book, and the handwriting must be a part of his story. I immediately imagined his story to be one that included a something of a physical ailment, such as cerebral palsy, and this was his official author’s autograph I was looking at. I thought of the story I was about to read being one of victory over a major physical struggle which he could have seen as a hindrance, but instead chose to see as an opportunity to love himself just as he is and share his story as an inspiration for others to do the same… and those are my favorite kinds of stories! I still didn’t know who he was, but what I did know before even reading a word of his story is that he must be an incredibly strong, inspiring, and beautiful person, and I was already excited to absorb the words he had to share.

And that autograph? It already felt celebrity.

I haven’t even made it through the first chapter yet and I simply had to write about it. I had to share the way this man’s story has already touched my heart because people like him are important. Their existence is much more significant than meets the eye, and it blows me away each and every time I learn a new story of another beautiful soul.

Basically, I was correct in my assumptions. David Ring is a man who has cerebral palsy, and it creates a lot of physical difficulties in his life including the basics like walking, writing, and speech, among many other aspects of course. But what spoke to me right away in the words I was reading was the clearly confident and even humorous disposition he has in regards to the ways in which he’s aware that his differences are perceived by others. For example, he joked about the way people might be studying him and said that he was studying them too, and that he’s thinking it’s going to be difficult to learn to like them (he says this in a light-hearted way, of course). He also jokes about the ways he knows his speech is difficult to understand and asked people to not let it bother them, as it doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to him… and then assures them it’s not contagious, so they can’t catch it.

It was just refreshing to see that this man understands that his cerebral palsy does not define him; it is simply a part of the life he lives, and he welcomes it with confidence. I’m sure he has not always held that position and I have no doubt that he has his difficult days, as he’s human just like the rest of us, but for him to have come to a place of such strength and excitement in life undoubtedly took courage, dedication, faith, and love for himself and for others. Without knowing much of his story yet at all, I know that this man has experienced an immense amount of struggle in his life, but he did not remain in a victim “woe is me” place. He picked himself back up when he fell, he recognized the strength he could gain if he allowed himself to, and he continued moving forward carrying the good from those struggles and leaving behind the bad. That much is obvious thus far, and it’s beautiful. I’m a fan already.

I think the most significant part of the words I’ve read up to this point is a sentence in which David calls himself “a trophy of God’s grace”. That floors me. Not because I don’t agree or don’t understand how he could see himself in such a positive light- I absolutely agree and am so happy to know that he sees himself in the wonderful, beautiful light that he should see himself in. But what takes me aback from that is knowing that others don’t see that… many would have a very difficult time seeing themselves as anything of that positive caliber if they were to be in his shoes, and many even look down upon him and people like him as if they are less than valuable because of their differences. Yet not only is he able to see himself with such beauty, but he’s actually grateful to God for his life. He’s thankful when so many others would be focusing on what they wish they had or didn’t have. He believes God has blessed him and given him grace when so many others would believe God had forsaken them. This man has strength, resilience, and a love for life that many of the most seemingly “perfect” people in the world only dream about and continuously strive for in the wrong ways that only consistently leave them empty-handed… I’d say he’s pretty on point… he is very blessed.

Something else this story brings to mind for me is that while he undoubtedly has experienced physical pain, I’m also quite certain that much of his pain and struggle in life has come from the fact that he’s “different” and, therefore, encountered many difficulties with others that made living within his differences much harder and more painful than it ever should have been. The fact that anyone ever thinks they should have to feel embarrassed or ashamed if they are different in any seemingly significant way, such as with a limp, or a different size/shape of a body or body part, different ways of speaking or learning, different clothing or ways of living, etc., just blows me away. These differences are precisely what make each and every one of us beautiful! This man, David Ring, wouldn’t be the incredible, inspiring, funny, strong, motivating, insightful, wise, resilient, impactful “trophy of God’s grace” if he didn’t have cerebral palsy. I’m sure he would still be a great person without it, and I’m not saying that cerebral palsy is something that people should strive to acquire, as clearly it does incorporate many other struggles with it that have nothing to do with the social impact it has on life. But I am saying that the very difference in this man that many people might feel should be a source of insecurity and even shame is the very trait of him that has contributed majorly to him being the incredible person he is and reaching the people he reaches with his story and example.

Our differences only matter in whatever way we allow them to. They are only something to be ashamed of if we allow ourselves to think they should be.

So what if anyone else has something different to say about it? I’m sure David has had plenty of people along his journey who have believed that he was less worthy or valuable in some way and expressed those thoughts to him. And I’m sure that at times he allowed those opinions to get to him and make him feel badly. But what I’m also sure about is that he did not remain in that negative space and allow those thoughts to seep into his innermost core and become a part of his belief system or hinder his progress in moving forward to becoming the great man he was meant to be. Instead, he realized that those people’s opinions don’t ultimately matter as long as he knows how wonderful and amazing he is and he believes in that. And by taking on that strength within himself, David not only helped himself back up from potentially debilitating mindsets and experiences, but he showed others that it can be done and, as a result, empowered them to do the same for themselves.

It’s a really beautiful thing… by choosing to love ourselves, not only are we making our own experience in life more pleasant and enjoyable, but we’re empowering others to do the same for themselves, and we’re setting an example for them to see the beauty in the differences all around us, rather than to condemn and judge it with negativity.  Loving ourselves and loving others is the most powerful purpose we can have in this life! It manifests in different ways for each of us according to our different talents, passions, etc., but ultimately, if loving ourselves and others is what makes the foundation of what we’re doing, it will have a powerful effect on our life and the life of others around us. David Ring is a prime example of that and he knows it, which is why he loves his life so much, despite all of the immense struggles, and calls himself “a trophy of God’s grace”… because he truly is! We all are. We just have to believe it. ❤