Tim Cusack's Blog
Tag Archives: appreciate

DEATH, THE GREAT MOTIVATOR

 

Life is Short

“Some people die at age 25 & aren’t buried until 75.”  Benjamin Franklin

Are you shocked? You shouldn’t be…..for two reasons: 1.) I write about ideas like this; 2.) You ARE going to die.

Why don’t we use death more as a motivator? It’s the ultimate energizer. It’s the one thing that is for sure. You can’t rely on any other aspect of life that is a 100% guarantee beside death.

Don’t deny it. Use it to your advantage. If you believe in God, you’re good, and you ask for your sins to be forgiven, then you have heaven waiting after you die. But, once again – NO GUARANTEES you’ll get in!! Let’s say you do get the green light, and God is standing next to you watching a replay of your life. Do you think you’ll see a few missed opportunities? Could you have had more laughs, enjoyed family and friends more, played with your kids, your dog or cat, a little more? Could you have gotten a little crazier at times (not in sinful ways), just wilder. Could you have helped more people, especially those you didn’t know? God loves that!

Let’s say you don’t believe in God, and there’s no afterlife – nothing. You believe life is a one-shot deal. One and done. Painful, like March Madness. You atheists should really be living it up. I don’t mean in a nasty, mean way like robbing a bank, stealing a car, or running people over, because your one and done will be spent in prison. I mean going ballistic with adventure!

Buddhists, you get to come back.

All of us can use death as a motivator to be more spontaneous, more fabulous, more out there. To remind each other of how precious life is, we can change our parting words such as: “See you later,” or “Take care,” or “Nice seeing you.” Why don’t we enhance and motivate by reminding each other that life is short. Our parting words could be, “Remember you could be dead soon,” or “Death is forever,” or maybe “I hope you have a peaceful death.” “Thanks, good seeing you too, and thanks for the reminder.”

In the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie says, “Our Culture doesn’t encourage us to think about such things (death) until you’re about to die. We’re wrapped up in egotistical things: career, money, cars, trillions of little high-jacks. When do you take time to stand back and really look at your life? Ask – Is this all? Is this all I want? Is something missing? Who knows, maybe you will begin to live your life – the one you want. Maybe you’ll become happier, healthier, more…what?” Motivated.

P.S. No fish were injured or mistreated in this post.

DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT!

Shush...Don't Tell!

Shush…Don’t Tell!

Zip it! As hard as it may be at times, DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT!!! Actions speak louder than words — funny how that’s true. And, actions typically haven’t any sound.

In 2015 take a course on line from an Ivy League college. After you’re done, incorporate that knowledge into your personal and professional life. When someone comments on your newly acquired insights, you may share, “I took a class at Yale!”

Write a few poems, an essay or a song. Send the writings to a variety of publications, blogs, magazines or church bulletins. Give the song to a band and see if they can make it come alive. When someone comments on that cool song on the radio, you can reply, “Yeah, I wrote that.”

Start getting into shape. It takes about three weeks of consistently working out before you start to see changes in your body. If you stay with it, come spring, strip down on the beach in front of family and friends and shock them all. “Oh yeah, baby. I’m ripped! You like?”

Start saving right now for that new bike, car, gazebo, hot air balloon ride, trip to the Middle East to help refugees. Pick something wild, fun, maybe daring. But for God’s sake and yours, DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!

“Well done is better than well said. Talk is cheap.” Ben Franklin

Renée Zellweger and Dysmorphia

old young face side by side

Last week if someone had said to you, “Go into a room of a hundred people and find Renée Zellweger.”  Could you do it?  I’m not sure I could.  The first thought I had when I saw Renée’s new look was, “That’s not her….is it?”  Then I thought, “Will she act differently?  Talk differently?  Be less pouty?”  The biggest question is why?  A personal crisis, something to do?  Or is it about holding on to youth and beauty?

These thoughts were caused by dysmorphia, a deformity or abnormality in the shape or size of a specific part of the body.  In this case her face.

What freaks me out (just a little) is knowing that her old face is still behind the new one.  Full disclosure:  I’ve fantasized about how I would change my face – nose job, eye lift and a little lip enlargement, costing roughly $30,000 worth.  I could easily change my face by driving a new car worth that much!  It would be much less painful and a lot faster, and folks could recognize ‘Tim’ driving that new car.

According to Nancy Etcoff, an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard and author of “Survival of the Prettiest,” our faces are tightly packed with important biological information.  She reports that “we are face virtuosos.  We can discern one face from thousands, even millions of other faces.”

Our relationship with others is held in the individual’s face.  Our faces communicate our tribe, our emotions, our moods, our essences.  If my wife changed her face as much as Zellweger did, I would feel like I was having an affair at first.  Eventually I would want back the person I married.  A little fixing here and there is cool – as long as I can recognize the face in a room of strangers.

“If age is denied, soul becomes lost in an inappropriate clinging to youth.” Thomas Moore

SIMPLY CARING

boys in prision

Call it a random act of kindness or helping others or making a difference – it’s all CARING.

In December 2012 at a Tim Horton’s drive-through, a customer paid the tab for the car behind in line. That act of caring started a chain reaction that lasted three hours; 226 cars paid for the car behind them. Each customer was so moved by being cared for that they, in turn, cared for someone else.

A mother who lost her 8 year-old daughter to a rare cancer in 2009, created Milan’s Miracle Fund, a nonprofit that supports research on pediatric cancer. This mother didn’t have to create a foundation. Her daughter is gone. She cares about children she doesn’t know who have cancer, as well as their families and all the people affected by their cancer.

Research shows that being witness to an act of caring is a powerful stimulant for our own health and well-being. Recently I watched an elderly woman sit for hours next to her dying friend, holding her hand, feeding her and caring for her. It’s a comforting thought to have someone willing to care for you at the end of life. We will all be there at some point.

Caring may save your life….really?

Is this ‘caring’ stuff that powerful? I interviewed young men, ages 17 to 21, who were serving two years to life in prison for having killed, robbed, led gangs, and sold drugs. During these interviews I asked, “Why did you do this?” The most common answer was “I didn’t care.” I then asked, “When did you stop caring?” The answer, “When I was no longer cared for.” (At $70.7 billion annual cost of incarceration in the U.S. – not caring adds up.)

Yes, caring could save your life. So, the next time you lend a hand, help someone out, or give your time and money, why are you doing it? Because you CARE.

THE MYSTERY OF SYNCHRONICITY

Synchronicity

Crane Holds Moon

I suppose synchronicity has been around as long as people have, but it wasn’t until the 1950’s when Carl Jung, the famous psychologist, shed light on this curious phenomenon. And of course the 80’s band, The Police, tuned into it’s vibe naming their famous album after the word.

A common definition of synchronicity is: The simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related, but have no discernible causal connection.

A common example of this could be when we’re thinking about a person and within seconds they call us. More uncommon would be this story a friend recently related to me. While visiting New York City, he was sitting in a coffee shop and calls a friend to arrange a meeting. At the very moment of his call to her, she says to him, “I’m right outside looking at you through the window.” Out of hundreds of coffee shops and a population of eight million people, they are in the same place at the very same moment. Synchronicity?

Carl Jung said, “The more aware we are of our surroundings, the more likely it (synchronicity) will occur. It also tends to happen more around times of birth, death, falling in or out of love, turning points, personal crises, or just being more open.

So, what’s the point? Maybe a moment of synchronicity is just that, a moment that seems amazing, wild or weird. Maybe it’s the quantum theory of the universe trying to connect with you. Or, bigger yet, it’s God putting a sign out for you to read; one that you’ve been asking for.  The next time you experience one of these occurrences, stop and wonder to yourself what this flash of synchronicity could mean for you.

Whatever way you want to interpret them, at least enjoy the mystery of the moments of synchronicity that come your way.

Two Folders

Two Folders with Two Perspectives on Life

Two Folders with Two Perspectives on Life

An observation of living life with two folders:

One folder is filled with information we’ve accumulated to navigate our intellectual and skill-based needs. This folder is filled with facts, theories and data that satisfies our need to be knowledgeable. We have multiple degrees, licenses and certifications to authenticate our ability to perform certain tasks and especially to prove to others that we’re smart. We know lots of information, and we have a bulging folder to prove it!

The other folder contains our meaning in life – all things that we hold dear and close to our hearts and souls. This folder is absent of any institutional, signed documents. It holds our emotional attachments to those we love and to those who are no longer with us. It’s filled with momentary glimpses of tears of joy and sadness. The only documentation of this emotional truth comes from within. There is no formal, external certification. It can’t be purchased, or studied, or graded.

I’ve discovered while working with hospice and those with serious unexpected health issues that the meaning folder is the only one that really matters. Some people can’t find this folder. Perhaps it didn’t seem important. Or, if they do possess it, it’s very meager.

Yet, others possess a folder overflowing with meaningful moments that have been collected, cherished and remembered…forever and ever. Amen.

May your folder of information and intellectual pursuits be filled and organized to meet your needs.

AND,

May your folder of meaning be readily available and easily found when you find yourself in need of your purpose, your greatness and the difference you make in the lives of others.

Do Great Things…..Today

Be Great Today

Do Great Things…. Today

My high school band teacher, Mr. Bennett was the only teacher that saw beyond my dysfunctional exterior. In my junior year, Mr. Bennett told my mother that I would do ‘great things someday.’ A few ‘great things’ happened during this exchange:

  • First, he spoke out loud an expectation of me;
  • Second, my mother related to me that another person had that positive expectation of me;
  • Third, I believed in the possibility of this expectation becoming true.

 
GREAT: adjective, of an extent, amount or intensity considerably above the normal or average

 
I think there’s a gene in all humans that encourages us to go beyond normal or average. We all want to Be Great and do Great Things.

 
We can… everyday: in our communication with others, in our words of encouragement, and in our personal stories of over-coming difficulty. A smile or nod that lets someone know you see them. Telling your child or partner something special about them. Picking up that piece of scrap instead of walking past. Calling or writing someone you’ve been thinking about.
Look for the endless possibilities of being beyond average.

Do a ‘great thing’ today.

The Ripple Effect of Spontaneous Generosity

PAYING IT FORWARD

We’ve all been witness to someone being nice to a complete stranger, such as opening a door, picking up a dropped item, overhearing a complement such as nice hair, lovely outfit….  And for a moment we feel good inside. However, science is showing it’s much more than warm and fuzzy. In a New York Times article on March 16, 2014 Milena Tsvetkova and Michael Macy, from Cornell University concluded “that observing an act of kindness is likely to play an important role in setting a cascade of generosity in motion.”

In December of 2012 in Winnipeg at a Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop drive-through, a customer paid for her order and picked up the tab for the stranger in the car behind her. Then that customer paid the bill for the following customer, and so on for the next 226 customers!

Spontaneous generosity is not new, however the world of social psychology and the study of positive psychology has brought this type of science to the forefront. It illuminates, reminding us that we’re all capable of starting a positive ripple of good old-fashioned kindness.

GRACE TRUMPS DIRT

plant out of dirt

I know how it feels when someone says something rude, offensive or derogatory. For a few seconds you’re stunned. In those moments of being shocked by belligerent words lays an opportunity to take a breath and recall a definition of grace – “Treating people better than they deserve to be treated.”

The most common emotional reactions to verbal attacks are: anger, hate, disgust, bitterness, etc. However, with a little grace, you don’t need to go there.

We had just moved in to our new home. I was digging in the front lawn when our next door neighbor came by, looked down at my project and said, “Look at that damn dirt.” I said, “Excuse me?” She responded, “Look at that damn dirt; that dirt is no good!” In a state of awe I said, “You don’t like my dirt?” “Well, it’s no damn good,” she replied.

In my head, my inner voice was fighting over the response I would choose to answer this attack on my new expensive purchase of dirt. It was in that moment of internal conflict that it occurred to me if this woman doesn’t like my dirt, how many other things does she dislike or hate. And, if someone has lots of hate, then they probably hold lots of pain. So, I chose ‘grace.’ I said, “Well, it’s the only dirt I have. I’m stuck with it.”

As time passed, we slowly became friends with our neighbor. She was living alone. She lost her first husband and love of her life in World War II, was divorced from her second husband, and had a son in Florida. The strongest tragedy was the emotional trauma of her daughter no longer being a part of her life due to a long-ago unresolved disagreement (What would their relationship be today had grace been involved?).

Now, 17 years later, we still talk with her (she lives in Florida near her son). This winter, as she turned 93, she called and told us that we had helped her at a very difficult time in her life. It all began with ‘my damn dirt’ and ended with grace.

A personal attack is typically connected to some type of anger, pain or sorrow. A healthy response to these emotions may be some kind of grace.

You don’t know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.” Poet, Miller Williams

The Risk of Investing Emotionally

investingwithbaby

What are the close relationships in your life worth? If I offered you a hundred thousand dollars not to spend time with someone you love, would you take it? What about ten million dollars? If you answered, “yes,” good luck with your money. If “no,” well, you’ve demonstrated how important relationships are, didn’t you? To me relationships are worth so much more than any amount of money.

If I gave you ten million dollars, you would probably give a little away, spend a little and invest the rest (At least that’s what I would do!). It’s the same with how we ‘spend’ our emotion with loved ones. I love introducing close friends to other people (giving away). I ask for help from those close to me (spending). I send spontaneous emails/voice-mails/texts and give gifts…that is I try to tell those I care about what they mean to me (investing).

In this new year I suggest taking some risks with the people closest to you and growing the value of those relationships. Just like investing money, some risks work out and some don’t.

My daughter Isabel, age 17, is a high school senior looking forward to college. For the past two years, she’s spent more and more time in her bedroom, online, texting, doing homework or reading. That’s all good and normal, but it means that I see less of her. The reality is that I want to see more of her, knowing she’s moving out in a matter of months. It was hard to take the risk and speak these feelings out loud. What if my words pushed her away? I took the risk anyway, voiced my concern of the heart, and told her I miss seeing her around the house. I pointed out that she could do most of her activities in the common space with the rest of us. Since then, she has, bringing more joy to me than any amount of money ever could.

There is always risk with investing financially or emotionally. Sometimes the risk doesn’t pay off. This past year it seems I lost a friend of thirty years because I was being honest with a disappointment in our communication. The risk is always there when it come to high value items and relationships. But as the old saying goes: “It’s better to try and fail than to fail to even try.”