Saturday, July 26, 2014

Our choices determine our destiny

Choices….Sometimes I love them; other times I don’t. When I was growing up, I didn’t have a choice about a lot of things. Children of the 60’s didn’t really have the choices like kids do today. As long as it wasn’t raining, we played outside, and we better be home when the street lights came on. Period.  If we didn’t eat our vegetables or, in my brother’s case, meatloaf, we sat at the table long after everyone else had left. If we wanted to go to an event after school like a ball game or skating party, we teamed up with our classmates and set up a car-pool, or we didn’t go. Simple as that.  Even what I wore was dictated by a strict dress code at the Catholic school requiring me to wear uniforms.

 I grew up surrounded by people that cared about me, not just family, but teachers, neighbors, and my friend’s parents as well (back then, ANY adult had the authority to correct a kid); all of whom helped me learn that my choices came with consequences or rewards.  Sometimes the consequences were worth making the wrong choice and I endured them because it seemed “worth it” to……get my mouth washed out with soap for calling my brother a bad name, or getting my hair pulled for being a brat….or being sent to my room (loved that….enjoyed being alone even back then) for being disrespectful or sassing back. Other times, I learned quickly, that getting in trouble at school (only a few times) meant that not only did I have a conversation with the principal, Sr. Helen, but I also had a “CHAT” with my mother when I got home! I also learned that ‘faking sick” in order to stay home from school wasn’t what it was cracked up to be because it meant that I couldn’t go ANYWHERE that day, even after school hours, because if “I was too sick to go to school, I certainly was too sick to go to the basketball game or play with my friends.” Later in life, I learned that making poor food choices would lead to a life of obesity.

Likewise, I learned that good choices came with rewards. If I did my homework and paid attention in class, I earned good grades and if I got a good report card, my mother was proud and pleased. If I did my chores early and without a fuss, mom would take me shopping or perhaps out to lunch.  I didn’t always like the consequences for a poor choice, but I’m glad that I learned that my choices came with outcomes and played a role in my destiny. This new life that I’m enjoying is a reward for the choice I made to change my eating habits and way of thinking about food….and other things.

  It was much harder to learn that there are many things in life that happens over which I have NO choice; things like people dying, job loss, weather, disease, or the way OTHER people behave or treat me. I couldn’t do anything to keep my parents, friends, or grandparents alive; I didn’t do anything wrong to lose either of my jobs…it was just a restructuring thing; I didn’t do anything to bring on Rheumatoid Arthritis….and yet….I had a choice in the matter, not whether or not those events were going to happen, but rather, how I was going to respond to those things.  It took me a very long time to “see” it, but admittedly, I didn’t respond very well. I made some poor choices as a result of those “things over which I had no control”; namely, I turned to food to comfort me and fill the emptiness, withdrew from those around me, and tried to handle everything on my own.   And the consequences?  Well, you know the story: I ended up weighing over 400 pounds, unable to walk, miserable and in constant physical and emotional pain. I could not choose whether my loved one dies or to endure the pain of RA any more than you can choose to have cancer, or endure a hurricane, fire, or flood. Those things happen….but I could have done things differently.  Those examples are pretty big ones from the past, but over and over each day, I encounter little situations over which I get to choose how I react:  The lady at the checkout who was rude to me; the co-worker that seems to always “stir the pot” at the office; The family member that pushes my buttons on a regular basis. Am I going to let the attitude or actions of others ruin my day? Am I going to get agitated and eat something I will later regret?  Am I going to respond in a negative way and say something that I can’t take back?  I make the wrong choices frequently and I end up feeling bad about it. Other times, I just walk away. I’d like to do more ‘walking away’; how about you?

I guess what I’m trying to say in this ‘long-winded post” is that WE have a big role to play in our journey and we have to continually remind ourselves that “OUR CHOICES” can help determine our future, but first we have to determine what we CAN control….and what we CAN change….and then we have to make the CHOICES to do so.  I’m going to work on that today and in the future.  I’m going to try to ask myself:

“Can I control what is happening (like the thunder I hear in the background on my day off L” or not. If I can’t control it, how can I react to it in a way that will improve my life?

“What are the consequence of my actions…..and are the consequences worth it?” (Might be…. if I choose to go garage saling (which I will likely do in an hour or so but will need to give up some other time later to get some chores done) or maybe not, if I choose to eat something off plan and end up feeling icky or gain weight.)

“Does MY actions affect another person….hurt them; cause them to feel bad; or make a positive difference in their life”

And finally, “WILL it really matter… week, next year…when I die…..if my house is spotless (won’t ever happen); my garden is weed-less (some weeds have flowers, you know? LOL); or if I wear the red dress or the blue one to church tomorrow?” 

Choose instead to be happy….positive….loving….healthy….and grateful….and enjoy the blessings around you. Make the choices to improve your physical health and well-being…to fill our body with good nutritious food, drink water, and be as active as you are able to be. Choose to improve your emotional health by forgiving others, expressing love and kindness, accepting yourself and your faults and failings. And choose to improve your spiritual life by being GRATEFUL and asking God to help you recognize the ways in which He is present to you.  Choose today to make the BEST decisions to change your life!