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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

"The Affirming Way of Life"

Dr. Nadine’s Thoughts:

“Stress Awareness” month seems to be on everybody’s mind here on college campuses across the country.  Kids are sliding into the end of the academic year, and those assignments, papers, projects and tests are looming large in the diminishing time left in the semester.  No matter how long it has been since we’ve finished our school studies, I don’t think we ever really forget the pressure we felt as students, feeling terrified that we’d never graduate or become successful, and that all our hard work would be washed down the proverbial drain.

My fantasy was that, once my studies were completed, life would present itself with unlimited opportunities and would bring satisfaction and happiness.  Well, actually, much of the time it has. I’ve had job opportunities that unexpectedly were better than I could have imagined. Over time I’ve developed wonderful relationships with family and with friends who became family.  Some of those people came into my life, then left. They were meant to be in my life for a season, while others will be in my life forever. But more often, my days have been routine and regular, sometimes prescribed, other times predictable. Not particularly bad or good; mostly good-enough.

I had a longer-than-usual conversation with my sister last night on the phone.  She was coming back from a weekend away with a close group of college friends. They’d gotten together to be part of a larger party to celebrate a milestone birthday of one of her peeps.  The guests were instructed to wear a wig as part of the fun, and you can imagine that their choices were remarkable and audacious. My sister was struck by the playfulness, the happiness and the goodwill that was felt by all.  She was energized and charmed by people’s openness and congeniality. I could hear the enthusiasm in the tone of her voice as she described the evening.

Likewise, I had my own opportunity to join a different fête in the afternoon.  A dear friend, Gail Siggelakis, was celebrating her newly published book, “The Affirming Way of Life.”  All of her guests gathered together at a nearby restaurant to eat and toast her accomplishment, and to publicly acknowledge and celebrate her as a published author.  People surrounded her with their congratulations and excitedly requested her autograph for their copies of her book. I didn’t know any of the invitees at the beginning of the book-signing, but as I maneuvered through the crowd, I found that people were friendly, open, interested and conversational. Of course they would be, I thought!  That’s what Gail’s book promotes, that’s who she is, and that’s the kind of person she attracts. So while I was anonymous when I arrived at the event, I certainly felt acknowledged and affirmed by the time I left.

What made the difference?  JOY. Simply put, in both of these situations, we all felt joy:  the connections to one another; celebrating something that was positive; taking pleasure in the situations and in each other; deriving enjoyment, gladness, humor, wonder, and happiness; feeling good about who are.  All of these are components of living a life that is filled with joy.

So I had to ask myself.  Do I have enough joy in my life?  Am I living a life that’s just good-enough?  Are you? Remember: “Good” is the enemy of “Great.”

Google a video of a baby laughing.  Take a walk in the spring daffodils.  Go to YouTube and watch the antics of dogs and cats playing.  Take yourself out to dinner. Enjoy some cool music. Read something uplifting (or trashy!).  Luxuriate in a warm bath. Get a massage for an hour of relaxation. Listen to a comedian. Go to the theater or the cinema.  Or watch a funny movie on TV.

Go ahead.  “Spread the good,” as Gail says.  It’s time to get your joy back.

Dr Zan’s Reflections:

Having just read Dr. Nadine’s call to greater joy, I must admit that I feel both joyful and in a quandary as to how I can add anything to her thorough and inspiring call to action. For anyone who has ever met me, there will be no surprise that despite there being nothing left to say, I will endeavor to do so anyhow. May I also add that Dr. Nadine never walks into a room knowing none of its inhabitants but that she leaves with a new passel of friends. One of her many gifts is that she puts others at ease and invites them into relationship. This is exactly why it is so hard to find an evening to go out to dinner with her!

This past weekend afforded me the opportunity to be in a place that automatically allows any tension or stress to wash away, literally and figuratively. Not surprisingly, I am referencing a quiet little beach community and being in proximity to the ocean. The off-season is actually my favorite time to be at the shore, not that the summertime isn’t a blast!  Yet, it is in the stillness of the surroundings that I most keenly feel the soothing rhythms of the sea. I followed some of Dr. Nadine’s great suggestions while there: walking along the water’s edge, holding hands with a loved one, reading and even finishing a great book, savoring delicious food, and listening to live music.

I was also struck this weekend by the joy that can be embraced in a chance encounter with other human beings. You see, in my favorite little beach town, I have noticed a park and collection of buildings over the years that is owned by the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and serves as a youth camp during the summer. This spot has been a curiosity to me for ages, and on this particular weekend of the off-season, I decided to take a closer look. There were two folks, chatting and tending to the grounds, who saw me from a distance and waved to me with enthusiasm. They clearly had mistaken me for someone else. This happens to me all the time. Mine is just one of those familiar faces, lending to the sense that others know me, whether or not they’ve actually met me.

Here is the part that was surprising and heart-warming. The two greeters remained equally friendly and welcoming when they realized the case of mistaken identity. There was none of the usual awkwardness or desire to quickly move away from the situation. Instead, they were intent on meeting me, showing me around, and introducing me to more warm, open, and friendly folks connected with the camp. As we talked about their space and their mission, it soon became clear that all would be welcome in this place--a physical space that has provided shelter to those experiencing homelessness, an organization that values inclusion for all and civil discourse to address inequality, a community that seeks to connect and to celebrate humanity. What a gift, and what a joyful discovery for me!

When we embrace those moments that offer the opportunity to connect, whether with a dear, long-term loved one or with a new person just waiting to be called friend, we come face to face with our common humanity. Connections help us to feel seen and valued, and meeting these underlying human needs allows us to stress less.

#trueheightsconsulting #theaffirmingwayoflife #stressawarenessmonth

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