Traffic is horrific. I have been sitting here in my car for over half an hour now, inching my way home. I hate my job. The kids drive me crazy. The price of food is outrageous. My bills are getting higher. My pay isn’t increasing. Does this sound like your typical day? If you grew up with a morning devotional prayer, you would warble out your devotion and then search out that much needed cup of coffee. Remember the old movies and tv shows where there were little kids saying, “…and bless mommy and daddy” etc. Whatever happened to our gratefulness and thankfulness?
First, let me explain that I am not a practising Catholic. I GREW up in a staunch Catholic family upbringing, but as I got older I started looking at the world around me and doubting many things that are part of the Catholic faith. I learned more about science and what is believable and what isn’t believable.
As a result of my faith and school knowledge clashing against one another, I decided that I would just agree to believe in God and Jesus, but not actually attend any services or say any prayers. I would thank them every once in awhile, but otherwise I felt I controlled my own destiny.
Then one day, or evening rather, my life changed forever…
I had quit a very stressful job. Before starting a new job, I decided to visit my father in Croatia. I needed some time to decompress and he was happy for me to come visit him. It took some time for us to get used to each other’s routines. He was an early riser and I was craving sleep ins (having previously been waking at 4 am to go to work). I was a smoker (at that time). He hated it. I didn’t want to go anywhere and he was instructed by mother to take me places to see the tourist hot spots. In the end, I was becoming more my normal happy yappy self again.
After two weeks, we were sitting down eating dinner and he asked me, “Why are you here?” I thought that was a strange question. “I quit my job and needed a vacation,” I replied. “I thought I would see the house that you built,” I continued. Again he asked, “Ok, but why are you really here?” I didn’t know what he was alluding to. Finally I said, “I have noticed that sometimes I feel like I need to do something, but don’t know why. Eventually the reason is shown to me.” It sounded so hokey and nutty, but he nodded his head and then went back to eating his dinner.
During my last week there, my dad ran excitedly into the house and said, “I found bees!” He grabbed the phone and called a neighbour. A few minutes later, and with many thanks, my father hung up the phone and had a huge grin on his face. “Get ready!” he exclaimed. “We are going to get some bees!”
I was HORRIFIED! Shaking my head vehemently I said: “NO WAY!” He proceeded with his litany: it was safe and bees in a swarm don’t sting and it will be fine and finally…you can just hold the flashlight. So, this was how my life was going to end, I thought.
We drove the car through the village and parked at the bottom of a steep cliff. My dad, carrying a mover’s blanket, and I, carrying the flashlight, started our ascent up the cliff, using the angled rock steps to get to the top. I could see the swarm hanging off the tree. My dad left me to go back and get something from the car. I waited.
The sky was so clear. The stars were so bright, I felt I could almost touch them. Then something made me say, “Please Jesus, I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but could you please just let me live. I would really appreciate it. Thank you.” I took a deep breath and by then my dad had reappeared. He motioned for me to get closer to the hive. “Hold the flashlight,” he whispered. Then he threw the blanket over the swarm and yelled, “RUN!” Boy did I run!
I ran in the opposite direction of the tree and then I heard my dad yell, “NOT THAT WAY!” My legs kept moving and suddenly my right foot hit a rock and I fell chin first on the ground. My glasses flew off. My knees were scraped. My teeth ached from being knocked in the chin. My palms smarted from the scratches of the forward sliding motion. My dad came running over to see if I was ok. The look in his eyes…was it remorse, hurt, fear, relief? So many emotions all in one look. I felt like an idiot for tripping. I ached physically, but mentally I just felt bad for him. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Thank God you fell. If you hadn’t tripped you would be dead.” My look back at him was clearly wide-eyed with an are-you-kidding-me-look. Yes, had I not tripped on that rock, in another two feet I would have fallen over the edge of the cliff and down to my death.
I haven’t told many people this story. It was a life changing moment for me. It made me realize that I don’t need to say a plethora of Our Fathers or Hail Mary. I have my buddy Jesus and I know I have angels who watch over me. How do I know? I have done some pretty stupid things and lived.
So, I guess I’m still here to live and learn. To share and to try and help other people find all the good that is in their lives. Our society focuses so much on negativity that we have been trained to be sarcastic and demeaning. We learn to talk about everything that is bad and regurgitate it to others.
It is time to take our happy lives back and look for all the good! I propose a simple two-step process. Yup, only two steps.
1. When you are feeling overwhelmed and you think you can’t cope. Take a deep breath in through your nose (about 6 seconds), then exhale through your mouth (about 6 seconds). Do this 3 times and suddenly things don’t seem so overwhelming. I didn’t believe it until I tried it. It works.
2. Don’t be the one who forgot to say thank you. Every morning and every evening, find a couple of things that were actually really good and made you feel happy: Thanks for getting me safely home. Thanks for my family. Thanks for my pets. Thanks for my home. Thanks for my food. Thanks for being there, even if I can’t see you.
3. If you feel like you have time for a 3rd step. Appreciate it all.