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Friday, April 18, 2014

Glass Half-Empty or Glass Half-Full?

by Carol Fragale Brill

At a reunion last year, the guy who was my best guy friend in high school told me that he always thinks of me as one of the most upbeat and optimistic people he knows. I was flattered . . . and also pretty sure he was remembering someone other than me. 

Fast-forward to last week. Over breakfast at a local restaurant, our server asked Jim how often I remind him of my mother. Jim said, Hardly ever. Carol is always really positive." 

Now its true that in my twenties, I proudly displayed one of those posters about using lifes lemons to make lemonade, and more than once over the years I have been accused of being the gullible one searching for the pony in a room full of do-do.  

But . . . upbeat, optimistic, positive . . .Me? 

When my old friend, whom Ive seen maybe ten times in 40 years, called me an optimist, it was easy to chalk it up to a memory glitch. When the guy who has lived with me for almost 35 years and knows me better than anyone says Im positive, I have to assume he isnt confusing me with someone else. 

Upbeat, optimistic, positive? Me? 

I asked Jim what specifically I do that looks positive and he said, You believe anything is possiblethat you can achieve everything you set your sights on. 

Oh, that! 

I never think of that as optimism, I think of it as being over-achieving, perfectionist, persistent me. 

Dont get me wrong. I love that on the outside, others might see me as a cockeyed optimist. Its just so not what it feels like being me on the inside. Maybe outwardly it looks like I believe in limitless possibilities, but inside . . . inside, I imagine every pothole and pitfallagonize about every possible thing that could go wrong. Time and time again, my insides say the glass is half-empty. It takes a lot of work to convince myself it might actually be half-full. Yet even when times get really tough, I rarely give up hope.  

They say that courage is fear that has said its prayers. Do you think that might be the definition of optimism, too?   

Do I sound like a glass half-empty or a glass half-full person? And, what half of the glass are you?



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Lenten Sacrifice

As Lent draws to a close and the promise of Easter and, I hope, spring at last arrives, I remembered a little piece I had begun last year, as Lent began:  

I confess:  I am not aging gracefully.  And a recent photo of me, taken at my mother’s 80th birthday celebration, left me feeling old, fat, irrelevant.
            It is also Lent, a time for prayer and self-denial in preparation for Easter.  So, since I am an early riser, l often try to make morning Mass.
            I am a rather recalcitrant Catholic, but I love the Mass.  And I love the St. Therese chapel at St. Helena Church in Blue Bell.  The walls are mostly white.  There are two huge stained glass windows behind the tiny altar, and many of the panes are pastel blues and greens and lilacs.  The ceiling above the altar is painted blue and dazzled with silver stars.  Even on a gray day, the little chapel is bright and airy.  That particular day, the chapel was radiant.
            So, maybe that is why, before the priest was even out on the altar, my spirits lifted considerably.  A little voice from somewhere reminded me:  “You can change how you feel about yourself, you know.”
            I can’t say I dropped twenty pounds or twenty years off my life that morning.  However, I sort of felt like I had.  And when the priest read the gospel, it was the same gospel read at my Aunt Renee’s funeral.  I felt as if she were encouraging me, too.
            So, I left my oldness, fatness and irrelevance in the St. Therese chapel.  I gave them up for Lent.
            Funny thing… As I was leaving Mass, a woman caught up with me and asked, “Did you leave your backpack under the pew?”
            No, someone else must have left his or her baggage, there, too.
Since then, I have certainly felt much lighter.

As I read, what humbled me was how much lighter – physically, emotionally, spiritually – I have become since then. This Lent, I really didn’t “give up” anything.  Rather, I have embraced a positive outlook and resolved to trust in whatever has brought me back to Cape May.  

Happy Easter and Happy Passover and Happy Spring to all!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Emerging from a Long Winter's Sleep

Julie Owsik Ackerman

Recently, I had a migraine that lasted for about a month. Yes, this sucks. If you ever find yourself with a headache for several days, call a neurologist and a masseuse pronto. Give up caffeine if you can. I heard this suggestion 15 years ago, and only managed it five days ago, so I understand if you can’t. Reluctantly, I will report, five days without caffeine, and five days without a headache. Bye-bye coffee. I will miss you, but we had a good run. I’m also trying cranial sacral manipulation with an osteopath, which is awesome. And, of course, self-care: more rest, more down time, slowing down, cutting things out of the schedule, healthy eating, etc.

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Do I have to get up?

Now that I’m feeling more like myself, I feel how I imagine it may feel to wake from a coma. The house is a disaster. We had no diapers, no clean clothes, no toilet paper, no food: you get the idea. My challenge this week is to ease back in to normal life, without overdoing it. I did spend some time tidying up last night and this morning – ‘tis the season after all. Of course I stocked up on essentials, but I will try to keep up my regimen of rest and self-care, reminding myself that after being sick for a full month, I will not immediately be able to resume all normal activities. I may need to tie a string around my finger as a reminder. Taking it easy does not come naturally to me, and after a month of illness, and this long brutal winter, I am more than ready for spring!

How can I gently celebrate spring’s arrival? I’d love suggestions!