How many times have I heard from people that 2016 sucked? Blogs like “Why 2016 Sucked” don’t help that perception. I agree that for some, it did. That is the same for every year. For some, a year is awful. For others, a year is fantastic. For most of us, it’s a mix of both and in between. But I hear lamenting about 2016 from people who married their true love this year, from those who got their dream job, and from those who did not suffer any personal major losses. Even worse is that I most often hear the “2016 sucked” statement, not so much in reference to our world’s ongoing climate change, the various terrorist acts or wars, or the tumultuous (to put it mildly) political decisions that happened this year, but instead after each announcement about the death of a celebrity.
I agree, there were a lot of icon losses this year—Carrie Fisher, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen, and Alan Thicke, to name a few. But does that really make you want to toss this whole year in the garbage bin?
I think that we can mourn the loss of these famous people who we’ve come to feel we know personally (though most of us didn’t know them). But, I also am tired of hearing what an awful year 2016 was because of their deaths. I get that they are icons. But of course it wasn’t 2016 that was to blame. For many of them it was drug and/or alcohol abuse that shortened their lives. They lived big lives. They did great things and made some bad choices that ultimately shortened their lives. Some of them suffered from mental illness and self-medicated. They at least had access to any form of wellness care they could imagine to manage their conditions. So many don’t have that option.
Can you feel sad that they won’t be able to entertain us with new material? Yes. But did your 2016 really suck? If it did, I’m sorry, and I hope that this new year brings you better times, better health, more joy.
Is it true that 2016 sucked?
I also hope that this list of good things—all of which happened in 2016—helps everyone see that 2016 wasn’t all bad.
Each one of these links really deserves its own line because of the significance of positive shifts in attitude and action, but here it is in short anyway (but, really, do check out the links!). Coal use is declining (1,2,3), renewable energy increased (1,2,3,4,5,6,7—and so many more!), and global carbon emissions didn’t increase this year, for the third year in a row.
I’m a silver-lining-seeker, an other-side-of-the-coin-thinker, an uplifting-quotes-subscriber. But these last few days have been tough. I know I probably shouldn’t post something political, but it’s both political and non-political, as what is happening now is affecting how many are feeling. I’ve read postings on Facebook by friends who state that something good will come of this, though there are a surge of postings by people who’ve experienced hatred, verbal abuse, physical assault, and other crimes at the hands of people in support of Trump (I recognize this is not the majority). And this is just a few days in. I find that hard to stomach. I find it hard to tell myself to breathe deep and let go. I find myself riled up!
So much so that I jumped out of bed to write this.
The fact is that I do still believe in our better selves (no, not bitter selves). That includes everyone. I think that people are acting out of hatred in response to their own fears and insecurities. But it doesn’t make it any easier if you are the victim (or potential victim) of any of that hatred. And I find it hard to reconcile, as I personally can’t imagine taking those steps of aggression toward people of a different race, gender, sexual identity or preference, or religion. But I am not in the shoes of those people. I was not taught the same things. I’ve been fortunate.
I will not, nevertheless, allow that hatred to rear its ugly head in my presence. My Japanese-Canadian grandparents know/knew racism. They were moved from their homes in Port Moody, BC to internment camps in ghost towns. They had their property taken from them by our government. Some of their neighbours and friends tried to help. Some did nothing. Some stood aside, allowing it to happen. Some cheered as it happened. My grandparents and their families did as they were told. They said, “Shikata ga nai.” That literally means, “There is no way.” In other words, there’s nothing we can do, so let it be done. They quietly accepted.
After the war, they were not allowed to return to their homes. Their property had been sold, so they had next to nothing. They were told to either return to Japan (some had never been there, having been born in Canada!) or move east of the Rockies. It’s my mother’s generation (the Sansei—3rd generation) who spoke up in the 1980s, asking for apologies and financial concessions. They also fought and won an end to the “War Measures Act” that allowed the government to suspend civil liberties and personal freedoms.
I often use the mantra, “shikata ga nai, shikata ga nai, shikata ga nai,” when I’m faced with something that seems out of my control. It can be a good mantra to help relieve stress and tension.
But, today I realized something. In this case, that’s the wrong thing for me to say. We all have something we can do. I had a conversation with a patient who is a financial planner. We got talking about how many people in the U.S. are angry and feel their poverty is outside of their control and caused by others. There may be some merit to that. But it’s also possible that they didn’t understand how to best take care of their limited finances. It’s not taught in schools. In fact, many otherwise well-educated people don’t understand much about managing their finances, investing wisely, or saving effectively. He tries to change that by reaching out to those he knows to help them understand the basics. Maybe those of you with that knowledge could shout a bit louder that you can help.
What if you’re a history teacher? Rather than just have your students memorize dates and events (that was my history class in high school), you could discuss key historical events and their impact, both good and bad. Help us learn from our past mistakes. Remind us where we’ve erred before so we can correct our actions now and in the future.
Each of us can rest a bit easier knowing that if we have something we do well, we could do that with a little more oomph. Something that provides more good in this world. And that can be with anything that we do.
When I purchased something at a store today, the salesperson asked me, “Would you like to donate a dollar to…Donald Trump?” He smiled mischievously and I laughed. This morning as I headed into the Skytrain station, the guy handing out free newspapers was shouting, “Have a wonderful day!” and “Happy Thursday!” He didn’t need to do that, but he clearly wanted to uplift those around him. When my cell phone’s screen went dark and wouldn’t display anymore, I had to take it in to get it fixed. At the phone kiosk, the young guy behind the counter was extremely friendly and helpful. At first, I didn’t want him to be. I was mad that I had to spend my time getting this item fixed when I bought it less than a year ago. But, he didn’t let my grumpy mood alter his attitude. Soon enough, my mood was softened.
Since I’m in healthcare, my offering is going to be health-related. I try to teach people how to take care of their health. When you are sick, tired, in pain, or just not feeling well, you aren’t your best self. You may be more likely to snap at people. You might have less energy to do your best job. You could find yourself unwilling to push yourself to go that extra step to provide more good in this world.
So, I pledge to keep trying my very best to make each of you healthier so you can spread more of your own positivity.
Now I think I’ll use the mantra, “Hoho wa arimasu”—“There is a way.” Or perhaps “noli illegitimi carborundum” (look up this phrase online).
A few posts ago I wrote about some lessons I have learned from my 96 year old grandmother. Today I learned a lesson from a 70 year old patient. She called it “connecting the dots”.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with life’s challenges? She had. Lots of life challenges. But she told me that one of the benefits of aging is the ability to look back at those challenges and see how a series of tragedies led to decisions and actions that make her the strong woman she is today. Actually, by her own description, she has always been “feisty”, but she didn’t always understand or accept the positive aspects of these negative events–until last year.
Many of us often hear about the “downsides” of aging–how many times have you heard or said that “getting old sucks”? I love that this patient appreciates where she is now and is grateful for the upsides of aging, looking forward to learning and growing from life’s experiences. Fantastic!
What have you learned from your day today? What big challenges in your life can you connect to a positive outcome, even if it came years afterward? Can you connect the dots and feel gratitude for that?
Have you ever watched any of the TED Talks? Search out TED Talks online (or on Netflix) and you’ll find a wide assortment of videos of talks on a wide range of topics by amazing speakers. They run from 10-25 minutes long and I think are worth a regular visit to see what you can learn about, be inspired for, and change your perception.
I’m going to run a series of reviews and recommendations for TED Talks and will start with one from John Wooden. Because you might like to learn why you he’s a good person to listen to, here’s a clip from his bio:
Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others.
John wrote his definition of happiness in 1934: “Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”
This was based on lessons he learned from his dad, which included:
Never try to be better than someone else
Always learn from others
Try to be the best you can—this is something you can control
If you get to engrossed in the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you do have control
I think it’s amazing that as a “successful” coach–with record wins still unmatched in basketball–winning was not actually his focus. His focus was on getting individuals to do their best.
This is so different from a commonly held definition of success as an accumulation of material possessions or attainment of position of power and prestige.
I also love that he reminds us that:
Reputation is what you are perceived to be. Character is what you really are. Character is more important and may not be the same as reputation, though you would hope that they are both positive.
Never be late
Be neat and clean
Not one word of profanity
Never criticize a teammate
Top of his pyramid for success:
Faith and patience: Believe that things will work out as they should, providing we do as we should.
And, finally, he shared a poem by umpire George Moriarty as follows (I’ve highlighted my favourite lines):
Sometimes I think the fates must grin as we denounce them and insist,
The only reason we can’t win is the fates themselves have missed.
Yet, there lives on the ancient claim – we win or lose within ourselves,
The shining trophies on our shelves can never win tomorrow’s game.
So you and I know deeper down there is a chance to win the crown,
But when we fail to give our best, we simply haven’t met the test
Of giving all and saving none until the game is really won.
Of showing what is meant by grit, of fighting on when others quit,
Of playing through not letting up, it’s bearing down that wins the cup.
Of taking it and taking more until we gain the winning score,
Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead, of hoping when our dreams are dead,
Of praying when our hopes have fled.
Yet, losing, not afraid to fall,
If bravely we have given all, for who can ask more of a man than giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.
And so the fates are seldom wrong, no matter how they twist and wind,
It’s you and I who make our fates, we open up or close the gates,
On the Road Ahead or the Road Behind.
To watch the whole talk:
John Wooden: the difference between winning and succeeding