In my last few posts I've mentioned some major changes and transitions I've been planning for the past few months. Things are still in the works but there was one major change that I was very optimistic about that did not work out. This was a change that all the other changes were dependent on and, after all I had done, it didn't work out. As to be expected I was disappointed but, to my surprise, the disappointment lasted a whole 10 minutes and then it was gone. 10 minutes and that was it. No drawn-out emotional pity party, no blows to my self-esteem, not a tear shed nor a negative thought; just a desire to move on to what is next on my Journey to Legacy. This experience helped me see how far I've come, how much I've matured, and how my mindset has changed. I really am walking a walk of faith and living this positive thinking way of life!
As I shared with others who had been waiting for updates on my situation I was met with lots of condolences that things didn't go as planned. Some were surprised when I said I was really not upset about it and was still optimistic about new opportunities; others just provided encouragement for what was to come. Regardless of the reaction I told everyone the same thing, that I was content in knowing that this closed door was just an opening for a greater opportunity. Go figure, who knew I could be so philosophical?! I guess if you follow this blog you had some idea but still, I really surprised myself that I was genuinely happy after experiencing a disappointment. It's what we call "the peace that surpasses all understanding", you can't explain it, it doesn't make sense, you just feel it.
So as I continue to see how things play out in my next steps I hold on to the joy and optimism that are dictating my emotions. How we experience the world is ultimately our own choice; if you love it, great, if you hate it, change.
Have you heard the saying "When it rains it pours"? I think we've all heard that saying at some time or another when it seemed like a lot of bad things were happening all at once. Like everything that could go wrong did go wrong and you were left to just deal with life's blows as they came. You could say the last few months have been that way for me. To be really honest, the last few years. But today I was reminded of the power of positive thinking and having a renewed outlook on life.
I'm a goal-setter by nature and like any other year I had some specific goals I had set at the start of 2016. One of my goals for the first quarter of the year was to use my tax refund to pay off my car; that would free up enough cash each month to have me free from all debt except mortgage and student loans by summer. That goal was delayed last month after I learned that someone had tried using my social security number to file their tax return and that it could take up to 180 days (six months) for the IRS to resolve the issue and release my funds. Somehow I was more overwhelmed by all the calls I had to make reporting identify theft than I was upset about the situation. Ultimately I was more concerned about getting things secured than not getting my money right away. Fast-forward a few weeks to this past Saturday when I received a check in the mail with my state refund. I was surprised and happy to know that my federal refund was on the way, I could still meet my first quarter goal! Today I received a letter from the IRS saying that all of my federal refund was applied to my federal student loans, I would not be getting any money. Immediately instead of sulking or being upset my mind went to optimistic thoughts about how my goal would be reached. I blocked any negative thought that tried to enter my mind and willed myself into getting excited to see the amazing way God would honor my desire to be debt-free. After all, my primary goal for the year is to reduce debt, isn't having my refund applied to student loans still on the road to financial freedom? I'm proud of myself today, I'm actually walking what I talk on this blog!
You may think this is all bogus and there's no way to "think" your life better but I challenge you to give it a try and see how much your life changes. It starts and ends with you, why not take action?
I was in a relationship that I once thought was “it” but realized was going nowhere. Within a few months we went from meeting to wanting to get married to me no longer feeling wanted or appreciated for anything more than being a warm body on a cold night. Thoughts of ending things ran through my mind every day and those closest to me knew it was only a matter of time before I had reached my limit. I was trying to be optimistic but I could see the end was near.
The day was a special day. It was my birthday. Not a milestone birthday but still the day to recognize and celebrate the fact that I entered the world. Due to how I felt in the relationship I had decided weeks before that this day would be a test. I had decided that if I was not recognized and appreciated on my birthday that THAT day would be the end of it.
Things didn’t look promising because the day before my birthday we’d had a big argument about the state of our relationship and it hadn’t ended well. After the argument we made plans to celebrate my birthday the next day but, really, I was more inclined to call it quits than to spend MY day dealing with drama. In the moment I just kept that thought to myself.
I woke up on my birthday determined to have a good day. I decided that I would not let anyone or anything cause me displeasure on my special day. I CHOSE to be happy, by any means necessary. Happiness filled my day from the early morning breakfast celebration with my co-workers at the office to my family having gifts and cards ready after work; my little cousin even did a little dance for me as the card she gave me played a song. It was a good day. When he arrived to pick me up for dinner I was so filled with the happiness that I chose to have that day that I had completely forgotten about our issues and the argument that had occurred just 24 hours before. We went to dinner, had a wonderful time, and even continued to talk about our future together. That was the last good time we had and within a few weeks things had ended.
I share this story to illustrate the power of the mind and that happiness is a choice. Right in the middle of unhappiness, discontent, and feelings of dissatisfaction I somehow found a way to genuinely enjoy myself in a situation that was causing me strife. I chose happiness and, as a result, a hopeless situation gave me joy, even if only for a short time.
DO YOU CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY?
Today I had one of the most trying days of my life. My life hasn’t been my ideal for the past few years but I am determined to make this year the best one yet and I have started each day of 2016 with that mindset. Life has taught me that when you set your mind to something, like FOR REAL set your mind to something, it is quickly challenged. Today was that challenge. All it took was an email to challenge everything I had determined would be for me this year but on this day I was ready.
The email sent my mind on a whirlwind and my thoughts immediately went south. A quick call to resolve the issue put a band aid on the problem for a few days but my mind was set on days after. During a 30-minute period I experienced more emotions than you can believe. I was upset then angry, helpless then relieved then pensive then angry again. I felt like I wanted to throw something, I wouldn’t but that was how I felt. I was so mad that tears ran down my face as I recognized that there was really nothing I could have done to prevent what had happened. I can probably count on my fingers how many times in my life I’ve had such intense emotions that I literally wanted to scream.
With clenched fists and a tear-stained face I looked around my office and my eyes locked onto a slip of paper taped to my computer monitor. On it I had written “Be Grateful” in colorful letters and drawn a heart with a smiley face; I had made this picture while bored over a year ago. I read it a few times and the anger started to subside but I still wasn’t settled. Then I looked a few inches over from the paper and saw a placard that says “Be Awesome Today”; my cousin gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. Then I raised my head and straight in front of me were the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go Confidently in the Direction of your Dreams”. And about three feet to the left was a corkboard with nine yellow stars tacked to it and on each star is one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22; I had hung both the Thoreau quote and the stars on my first day of work, May 1, 2014. Then I looked to the far right and on my wall was the words “Wish it. Dream it. Do it.”, also hung my first day. Then I looked behind my right should and there sat pictures of my family and a metal dry erase board with Hebrews 10:35-36 written on it and magnets attached to it holding up pictures of my friends, a flyer from my church anniversary with my Pastor and 1st Lady on it, and a magnet picturing the four Black students from NC A&T who started the sit-ins at the Woolworth in Greensboro, North Carolina. Finally I looked back to my monitor and on a yellow sticky note was “Amos 9:13”, a scripture we have been quoting at the end of each service at my church since 2012.
By this point I had gotten myself together and I had realized the importance of surrounding myself with positivity. Everywhere I looked there was something to help keep me motivated, to uplift my spirit, and to keep me focused on my building my future one moment at a time. For months I had unknowingly been preparing my surroundings for this day; a day that made me feel like my world was falling apart; a day that could have wrecked my mind and destroyed everything I had built and am determined to accomplish this year. And at the end of it, all I could be was praise God for everything that had happened and everything that is to come. Today my office reminded me that greater is near and I have renewed expectations for the future.
Now, ask yourself this question: What surrounds you?
People often overlook the power of influence. We don’t realize just how far our actions go and how deep the impact on others. One night, about 10 years ago, I realized the power of my influence, here is the story…
During the Thanksgiving holiday my high school class met for our five-year reunion (yes, I know, a five-year reunion is little weird but it’s tradition at our school). As I was standing around, one of my classmates (a Caucasian male) walked up from behind me and put his arm around my neck. “Romaine”, he said, “ I wouldn’t say this to you if I weren’t drunk”. Needless to say my interest was immediately piqued. He proceeded to tell me that his father was a racist and that he was raised to believe very negative things about African Americans (he mentioned a few but I think I blocked them out as I can’t remember them today). He then thanked me for being myself and told me that knowing and watching me in high school allowed him to see that his father’s opinion of African Americans was wrong. He told me that he was a police officer assigned to a predominantly Black district and that being able to interact with me in high school has helped him do his job better. He said it helped because he doesn’t see the Black people he deals with as his father had taught him but as people, people like me.
I was at a loss for words but managed to squeeze out a question, “Which district?” It turned out he was assigned to the district where I grew up and where my mother still lives to this day. He gave me his phone number, told me to call him directly if my mother ever had any problems and promised he would do everything he could to help. A few weeks later he kept that promise as a conflict between my mother and her neighbor required police assistance. He came immediately to handle the situation and patrolled my mother’s street for weeks to ensure there was no further problems.
Let me say that I did nothing special to influence this guy. We were in the same homeroom all four years of school and shared a few classes, that was it. I had no idea he was being taught such things at home and that, internally, he was struggling with those ideas.
I think about this night every time I see something about conflict between the police and the Black community. Then I get emotionally overwhelmed as I consider the possibility that, by just being a positive person, I may have saved a life because there is one less cop profiling citizens because of their race. One less cop using his authority to fulfill distorted ideas about a group of people. One less bigot wearing a blue uniform.
The Power of Influence...Think Legacy.