Month: May 2016

Taming the Tiger

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Anger has always been an issue for me.  My personality type gets overwhelmed very easily and when that would happen I simply lashed out like an angry tiger.  I may not even have been really mad but frustrated about a situation.  Luckily it usually took a while for the tiger inside me to work up enough steam to blow, but when it did it was not a pretty sight.  My angry outbursts are among my biggest of regrets in life.

Now that I have time to reflect I look back on those days when the tiger controlled me.  Like so many people, I was over-stressed, always broke, behind on bills, not satisfied with work, felt sick all the time and my to-do list was ever growing.  I felt like I was never staying afloat, let alone getting ahead.  I looked around and saw friends who seemed to have it all together while I felt as if I was unraveling a little more every day.

Sadness and depression enveloped me and I could not see an out to the way I was feeling.  That made the tiger even madder.  It was a vicious cycle that seemed to never end.  When I knew the house was going to be lost to the bank and a new life had to start, I was felt crushed.  I tried to be excited about the uncertainty of it all.  Inside I turned into a scared child.  I pretended to be okay but the fear was overwhelming.  The tiger was ready to strike at any time.  I prayed for an end, even if it meant the end of me.  Extreme, I know, but I was completely hopeless all the while showing a smile on the outside.

Fast forward about six months.  Things have settled down for the time being.  I found a job that makes me happy and makes me want to be there even on my days off.  I found a nice, quiet place to live and the tiger inside of me is at rest.  I still get overwhelmed.  When you work with the public, things are going to happen and people are going to push, but for the most part I have enjoyed everyone I have met so far on this journey.

I realize now that the stuff I thought I took comfort in actually feed the fuel for the tiger.  The things overwhelmed me as did the bills to pay for those things.  In my dark and alone times, I thought of how to live without all the stuff but my ideals were unrealistic.  When I realized that I became upset all over again.  Now after living a very simple life for a while, I am rejoicing in the lack of things.  Lack used to mean something negative to me, now it is a goal to reach.  I now find comfort in little things like a soft blanket or a really good cup of coffee.  I no longer need the fancy coffee maker to make the coffee, I will leave that to someone else.  As long as I can find a way to wash, I have my three t-shirts and two pairs of pants are just right.  Everything I own fits in one suitcase. Lightness has overcome the darkness and I actually feel as if I can breathe again.

The process felt like I was in labor for about six months.  There were times when the pain manifested it self physically.  My eyes ached from crying, my muscles hurt and my voice was hoarse from yelling at God.  Now I wake up without an alarm clock, not fretting the day, but rejoicing that God did not listen to me and end me all those months back.  The smile then was forced and fake, the smile today is real and genuine for the first I can remember.  The tears I cry now are happy tears.

Not everything is perfect, I still experience sadness and am lonely at times, but what happens when the good days start to outnumber the bad days.  Life becomes a totally different animal.  No longer am I tied to an angry tiger and that feels good.

I used to think I could not live without this or that, but when you start to live without this or that you have more room for happiness and love.  All my experiences in life, good and bad, have gotten me to here.  I cannot express what it feels like to actually have a second chance.  I could never feel gratitude before because I was so miserable, now I am thankful for everything.

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Here is to saying goodbye to the angry tiger and hello to the…..cute and fuzzy bunny (?) inside of me.  Wishing you happiness and love in your life too!

 

 

 

Chillin’ at the NOC

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, my current job on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is spectacular.  The people are great, the train is very cool, the waters of the river clear as can be and the scenery is absolutely stunning.

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The railroad takes a westbound excursion to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (AKA the NOC) where passengers get to experience the sights of Fontana Lake and the Nantahala River among other things.  As the train melodically moves down the track at its leisurely pace,  one can see rafters and other outdoor people enjoying the natural beauty that is Western North Carolina.

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The NOC has over one million visitors a year.  Activities they can choose from include: whitewater rafting, paddling school, an outdoor leadership institute, fishing, hiking, biking, climbing, great food and zip lining.  The center also hosts festivals and other events during the year.

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Personally, I am not the outdoorsy type, but I have found myself considering a whitewater rafting trip and/or a zip line adventure.  Oddly enough, the last time I through caution to the wind was a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  On that vacation, I parasailed and did a few other things that the “old Lois” would never have done.  It only makes sense that I create a few more adventures during my time in North Carolina.

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North Carolina was never a place I would have intentionally chosen to visit, let alone stay for a time.  Yet, I have fallen in love with its natural beauty and elegance.  The people are friendly and welcoming.  It is a lovely place and I am glad I get to chill here for a while.  I am thankful for all the adventures I have had so far and look forward to more.

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The Most Important Part of my Uniform

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As part of my job on the railroad, I am required to wear a very specific uniform.  Failure to comply with this mandate means that I would be sent home without the ability to work that day. There is no wiggle room regarding this issue.

In the morning, I make sure my white button-down shirt is pressed, that my pants are black, that my tie is straight and that my vest is neat and clean.  All the employees in the same position are required to wear the exact uniform.  It adds to continuity and looks very good.

There is one other very important component to my uniform…it’s a smile.  I have learned that a smile can warm the coldest person, it can soothe a scared child and it can set the tone for the day, not only for me but my customers and co-workers.  A genuine smile is the most important piece to my uniform.

I am learning to smile more and to really mean it.  I get dressed in the morning and start smiling; I start work smiling, I serve my customers smiling and I end the day smiling.  The power of that single gesture changes everything.

Being positive has never been a gift I have possessed.  Low expectations meant less disappointment and that is how I ran my life.  I was overjoyed when my expectations were exceeded, but I learned to not expect it.  In the process, I missed a lot of joy.  Shrouding yourself with protective walls keeps the hurt from coming in, but also keeps the unexpected happiness from coming in.  I am in the process of breaking down my walls.

The smile I give to myself and to others helps open my heart to new experiences and allows me to meet new people.  Smiles attract smiles…and laughter and joy.  Those are things I want in my life but have always been afraid of.  Seems if I was happy, I worried when it would end and how that ending would come.  Happiness was fleeting because I had learned to worry about everything, real and imagined.  I missed a lot in my life because I gave up on having faith and started to trust the worrying.

Not every person will accept the smile as a gift, I totally understand that.  I was that person.  I cannot change them, I can only change myself.

As of today, a smile and positive attitude are now part of my daily dressing routine.  I want to be open to those new experiences and learn from them.  It is amazing how such a small thing can have such a large impact.

Here’s hoping you have a smile-filled day full of joy and laughter.

People Who Need People…

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The revelations just keep coming…

So, I have been saying all along, in this blog, that it is the people I am meeting who are making this adventure really relevant.  I knew it but today the reality finally set in.

I was riding the rails today (at my job on the railroad) and my car was full of the most amazing people.  They listened to my story and told me theirs.  I heard stories of missions work and traveling the world.  I realized that this is not an isolated day, the people I have met since I started working on the railroad have been awesome.  Everyone’s story is different, yet they are all based in being human and helping others.  I aspire to be that inspiring.

After work, when I had time to contemplate my newfound knowledge, I realized it has always been this way.  When I look back on my 25 years of working in an office, I barely remember the work.  I remember the people.  I remember all the things we as humans shared and all of our unique differences.  Filing papers and answering emails may have provided the means for a paycheck, but laughing or crying with someone created a lasting bond that cannot be destroyed.  Memories were created.

I always considered myself to be a loner.  I have always enjoyed my own company and never felt that I needed others to complete me.  I could not have been more wrong.  I see it clearly now.  Some of us may not need as much human contact as others, but it is still a necessary part of life.  Making connections with people, hearing their stories, feeling their joys and pain, sharing a laugh, working together for a common goal…these are the things that give a real meaning to life.  It’s what makes you get out of bed in the morning.

Like most things in my life, I have taken many people for granted.  That should be considered one of the bigger sins in life (maybe No. 11?).  No one should be taken for granted.  We have so much to learn from each other.  The more people I meet, the more inspired I become.  The more I talk with old friends, the more I realize how they shaped me into this person today (a mess still am I, but on the road to being better).  I can no longer discount the impact I feel when I talk with an old friend or when I meet someone new.  I want to be a better person, I want to get out there and be alive.

That is what this adventure is about; me not being afraid of everything anymore and taking the time I have left and actually doing something instead of just thinking about doing something.  I could never have gotten to this point without the people in my life.  It makes no difference if I have known you all my life or for just a few hours.  The impressions have been made and they are filling me with awe and a desire to learn more, do more and be more.

The song is right, people who need people are the luckiest people.  I get it now.  I cannot believe it took me so long to realize it, but I do and I think this may be a turning point in my 360 degree change.  I could not have done any of this without all of you, your support and your love has made this possible for me.  Thank you does not begin to cover it.  I am so very and completely blessed because of the people I know and the ones I have yet to meet.

My Life as a Television Show

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Maybe I watch too much television, or more likely, I watch the same shows over and over again.  It has made me sometimes see my life as if it were a television show.  Did you ever have one of those moments when you are riding in the car, you are feeling good, the weather is absolutely stunning, the sun is shining bright and a great song comes on the radio (Sultans of Swing, perhaps)?  It feels like for just a very slight moment you are in one of those perfect television scenes that make you forget about life and it just plain feels great!

I have not had one of those moments in a while and I miss it.  I miss the free feeling you get and the temporary state of perfection you feel.  Unfortunately, you cannot force those moments they just happen and need to be savored.

I am learning that life is that way.  You cannot force it, and goodness knows I have tried!  The perfect moments come when you are not expecting them.  They come with an unexpected smile, a kind word, or sometimes when you are somewhere you did not want to be.  I have found that many times when I look forward to something, it falls short of my expectations, but when I would rather skip it, the event turns out to be most worthy.

Life is a funny thing that way.  It can be so glorious and it can be hell on earth, sometimes all in the same day.  The perfection is not always obtainable, but it can show up no matter how fleeting.  I am learning that one must grab those moments and keep them in your heart.

Here is to hoping that those magic moments do not become strangers, that they visit often.  Here is to enjoying them in the here and now and not worrying about how long it will last.  Here is to a happy ending now and then.  We all deserve that and I hope you have as many as life wants to hand out.