Growing up with three brothers, being the youngest, I had my fair share of ‘rough and tumble’. Lots of bumps, scrapes and bruises came with the territory. Having three older brothers was awesome and what made it even more exciting was growing up in a family of athletes. My parents were outstanding athletes and my father was a successful football coach.
A great amount of energy, activity and assertiveness existed in our household. As a young man I would invariably end up in scenarios in which I was hitting someone (typically one of my brothers) or being hit by someone (yep, one of my brothers). I was the instigator of much of it and would oftentimes hit my brother with more than just my fist. I didn’t need a reason, I would just hit him. (Sorry Mom and Dad!)
I recall the day when that changed. It was another one of those days on which I felt the urge to hit my brother. But, this time when I hit him my Dad happened to walk in to witness the attack. Oops! My brother certainly was no idiot and relished the opportunity to see me squirm. Instead of hitting me back it was time for a payback. He countered my attack by saying, “Hey Dad! Did you see that? Tom hit me!”
Permission to Kick My Butt
Oh crud! I thought to myself. Cringing, I awaited my punishment either in the form of being grounded or the threat from the crack of a belt. (To clear the air, I was not hit with the belt. But, the sound of the belt cracking and the thought of being hit with it was enough to send a message). What actually happened was just as bad, maybe worse.
My Dad gave my brother permission to kick my butt! He did not exactly say it in those words, but he did say, “Then hit him back. If you hit him back, he won’t do it again.”
Oh boy! I am dead. I thought to myself expecting punishment, but not in the form of a beating from my brother. Luckily for me, my brother took the high road and walked away. Although, it did leave me wondering when he would seek his revenge.
That moment when my Dad told my brother to hit me back stuck with me. Now that I am raising a family of my own it didn’t occur to me that those words would be resurrected. A year ago “Hit him back!” returned when my third grade daughter met her first tormentor. In the evenings before bed she and I would talk about her day. During one of our talks she summoned up the courage to tell me about this kid who was annoying her on the bus ride home each day. He would grab her shirt and pull her hood over her head, grab her art projects and rip them, call her names, grab her back pack and throw it on the floor of the bus. This boy never stopped.
Almost every day my daughter had to put up with this little trouble maker. We talked about what my daughter could do to avoid any conflict. I suggested that she could sit somewhere else on the bus. She tried that and it did not work. I suggested that she just tell him to ‘Cut it out.’ But, that was also ineffective. He still persisted.
As she shared the experience her words fell upon my ears and I tried my best to fight back feelings of anger. But, when your child is telling you that she is being picked on it is easy to react with anger and retaliation. I became so frustrated that I eventually blurted out those words, “Just hit him back! If he will not leave you alone, then hit him back. Once you do that, he won’t bother you again.”
My emotions got the best of me! I could not believe this was my advice for my eight year old daughter. Ugh!
My Daughter – The Better Person
I am proud to say that my daughter was the better person. She didn’t want to hit anybody, so she took the high road by not heeding my advice. Our dialogue continued and I searched for a way to fix the issue, until one night she made a very simple comment to solve everything. My daughter looked at me and in a matter-of-fact tone said, “Dad, why don’t you just tell the bus driver?”
Wow! My eight year old daughter had the solution to the problem which had nothing to do with my misguided advice of attack. Problem solved! The next day, we informed the bus driver about the trouble this kid was causing. After that it ceased and my daughter no longer had problems with him.
I am so proud of her for not heeding my advice; she never hit that kid. I am proud of my brother (and very thankful) for not heeding the advice to hit me back when we were kids; he never hit me back. What my daughter and my brother did (not do) took a lot of strength and courage. Oftentimes it is easier to attack and much more difficult to walk away. To have the self-confidence, and pride in oneself, to just walk away is no easy feat.
My daughter taught me a valuable lesson. I am now aware of the power of forgiveness and the strength it takes not to retaliate. The best choice is to forgive. Instead of hitting back, we choose to Hit ‘em with a hug!
True Strength Lies in Forgiveness
Don’t hold onto a false belief that hugging is for the weak and that hitting is for the strong and resilient. It may seem much easier to respond with violence which might solve the problem momentarily, but it breeds more hatred and violence. On the contrary, for one to relinquish the need to attack, choosing to lead with forgiveness and love is the boldest and strongest thing someone can do.
The next time you feel the urge to hit someone back pause for a moment and Hit `em with a HUG instead! And know this, true strength lies in peace and forgiveness.
I am thankful for my daughters who are my greatest teachers.
I send you love and forgiveness!
“Tell me I can do it.” I said to my friend as we were about to embark onto the next routine in our workout of the day.
The words You’re tired, You can’t do it, You are going to get hurt flashed through my mind, then I turned towards my friend, smiled and said “Tell me I can do it.” (Yeah, kind of a weird thing to say.)
Although I already told myself that I could do it, despite my body sending messages otherwise, I thought it would be interesting to ask him to “Tell me I can do it.”
He looked back at me with a smirk, that this was unnecessary, kindly obliged and proceeded to say “Yes, you can do it.”
Because, the only thing between my success and failure was my mind. I could have easily quit and said I had enough, but I pushed through my fatigue and pain to complete the final routine in the workout of the day.
When my wife was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin lymphoma I don’t think she needed anyone to tell her she could do it, that she could overcome this life altering diagnosis. She already told herself that she could do it and was determined to find a way to triumph.
During that six-month period there were hundreds, if not thousands, of times her body sent her messages that she couldn’t do it. Through all of the pain, fatigue and lack of sleep she was determined to succeed.
In a way, “Tell me I can do it” was what she had to utter to herself over and over again. Just that little, constant, reminder to herself that she could push through all of this and succeed was what it took.
Another day of treatments, I can do it. Another rep in my workout, I can do it. Another page in my book, I can do it. Another mile in the marathon, I can do it! Our minds are so powerful allowing us, our bodies, to accomplish things never fathomed before. My wife triumphed because she told herself, “I can do it!”
The next time you take on something new, a project at work, a new workout the gym, a new assignment at school or even faced with a challenge you did not ask for, how will you succeed? Can you truly tell yourself that you can do it?
Listen to your inner voice, because you may hear a lot of ‘noise’ that you need to push aside. When you know you are truly ready, look at a friend, co-worker, spouse coach or doctor and say “Tell me I can do it.”
Remember, no matter the day or the time of year, if you look up towards the heavens to see clouds, know that the sun is still shining. All it takes is a knowing that the sun is there, just hidden for a moment. It takes an inner belief and determination that you can push through and see beyond the clouds, because the sun will be waiting and shining brightly…always.
Tell me I can do it.
Love and Happiness!
When the memoir, Mommy, Why Do You Have Two Birthdays?, was first published I was thrilled to share it with friends, family and colleagues. I couldn’t get the book in people’s hands fast enough. When the book was finally in the hands of many of our friends and family, I waited. I anxiously awaited feedback or a comment, anything that confirmed it was a success. As I (impatiently) waited, I realized a few things:
#1 People are busy and need to find the time to read a book.
#2 Because people are busy, it can take a while for them to read a book.
#3 I needed to be patient and let it naturally unfold.
Once the feedback started to trickle in, I knew it was a success! It was what I hoped for:
- “I couldn’t put it down.”
- “I cried throughout the entire book.”
- “I don’t want to finish it, because I am afraid.” (My comment back, “Finish it be brave! You know the ending. It is a happy ending!” My friend finished it.)
- My husband “and I have lived through the same experience!!!! It is as though you are reading my thoughts!! Thank you again!!!!!!”
- “Thank you for sharing your deepest feelings and vulnerabilities.”
- “I’d like to buy copies for my friends and clients.”
- “Holy Crap I knew Pam was a fighter and the BEST woman for you, but I can’t believe the journey she endured.”
Comment #4 above was from a friend, who was kind enough to share a private chapter from her life about her husband’s triumph over a similar diagnosis. When I spoke about this with her daughter, she made a comment that was very empowering and profound; “When he was diagnosed and underwent the treatments, he always said ‘This is not my disease.’”
He never owned it. He had a knowing that it wasn’t his and he did not intend on keeping it. My wife and this man have a deep inner knowing, a strength, that most people probably do not realize resides deep within each of us.
Upon hearing his comment about the dis-ease not being his, I immediately thought of the Buddhist saying; “If someone offers you a gift and you refuse to accept it, to whom does it belong?”
His body had cancer, but he did not accept it as his. My wife, Pam, did not accept it as her dis-ease, either. They both triumphed!
The next time a negative comment, bad decision, poor diagnosis or awful feeling is “offered to you” remember it is not yours, if “you refuse to accept it.”
My gift to you is love, light and happiness!
This week I am writing to Thank you! for your love and support. It is a somewhat overwhelming task to write a book, and even more so when writing about something so personal as my wife’s experience.
In my previous post, Not my Dis-ease, I captured a few of the responses from friends and family regarding the memoir. The feedback has been amazing! But, some may consider feedback from friends and family a little lopsided. Well, regardless, back in May my writing was put to the test in the form of feedback from an outside source; KIRKUS Reviews. It was May 25th when I received an email from my publisher confirming the review had been completed and posted to their website…for the world to see! Ahhh!
Moments later (many moments later) I clicked on the link, click! My web browser burst open on the screen, Ka-pow! Like a firework lighting up the sky on Independence Day the review flashed on the page. I closed my eyes while thoughts fired through my mind, What does it say? What if it is bad? What if it is awesome? I have no idea what it is going to say. I don’t want to read it. It’s going to be awful. Nah, it will be great. I wrote it from a place of love and honesty, so it will be good. All right Tom, just go ahead and read it. Be brave!
No longer able to avert the words cascading across my screen, I peered through the slits in my eyelids and slowly opened my eyes to begin reading. This was over seventy-five days ago when I read this and I didn’t like it much.
Today, on the seventy-sixth day, I read the review once again and am now ready to share it with you. I now realize my initial reading was clouded by my own judgement and fear. This lead me to believe it was a poor review. I was so fearful of failure and criticism that I did not see the positive comments and success scattered throughout.
Once my fear dissipated, I re-read the review. This new vantage point allowed me to see it in a different light, enabling me to accept it for what it was. I moved past my fear and forward on to the next step as an author and inspirational communicator.
Sometimes fear has a strange effect upon our view of the world making it seem scary, possibly even threatening. These misperceptions often lead to reactions (retaliation) that we may later regret. I held onto this for seventy-six days and finally decided to see it for what it truly was.
In my previous article, I reflected upon the Buddhists saying/teaching, “If someone offers you a gift and you refuse to accept it, to whom does it belong?” I saw this gift in the wrong light, clouded by my fear and did not want to accept it. In reading it once again, from the viewpoint of love and acceptance, I see this gift as something very powerful and positive.
My wife was presented with several ‘reviews’ of her diagnosis back in 2003. Her fear could have led to decisions she may have later regretted, but she kept her focus. By remaining steadfast, and belief in herself resolute, any fears that entered did not linger. Because she was brave enough to see things clearly, she triumphed and now has two birthdays to celebrate every year!
There was a celebration! It was on a Monday over twenty-nine thousand days ago. Twenty-nine thousand two hundred and twenty to be precise. Twenty-nine thousand sunrises to enjoy! Imagine that, twenty-nine thousand sunrises. Wow! Twenty-nine thousand days to wake-up and say, “I am proud of you.” This week we celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday! Eighty sure pales in comparison to twenty-nine thousand two hundred and twenty.
Jim Rohn captured this so powerfully when he said, “I’ve got twenty more years. No…you’ve got twenty more times. If you go fishing once a year, you’ve only got twenty more times to go fishing. Not twenty years, that fakes you out…twenty times. Would I mumble and stumble. Would I give you less than my best?” (Jim Rohn link)
I am blessed to have a mother there to guide me for the past forty-eight years, dedicating half of her life to her children. As I write this, the Japanese proverb ’Fall seven times, stand up eight’ comes to mind. Here’s something to ponder, could the words ‘With the love of mother and father’ be added?
Our mother and father taught us love, acceptance and finding the best in ourselves and others. I am finally noticing and enjoying each sunrise. Every waking moment I am learning to say “I am proud of you.”
What are you doing with your days?