Saturday, February 28, 2015

What's Up With Your Attitude?

The other morning as I was getting ready for work I looked in the mirror and said, “I am so tired and I look terrible!” One of my daughters overheard me and she quickly admonished me.

“Mom, you can’t think like that, then you will believe it, and your beliefs can affect your attitude and you could have a bad day.”  

That wise advice from my nine-year-old got me thinking. Is there an effective way to control your internal critic and instead shift your thoughts to something more positive and realistic?   How can you silence your inner antagonist even during the most trying times?  Because as my daughter said; your attitude may ultimately affect your actions, which can affect your day.  

The significance of attitude in our day-to-day life is great and can have long term impacts. 

Years ago I was having a particularly hard time at work. It involved a higher-ranking manager and an impossible deadline.  I felt as if I was being “tested” on every level of my professional being.   A co-worker pulled me aside and told me, “All anyone will ever remember is your reaction, no one will remember the circumstances or that you are being treated unfairly. They will only remember YOUR reaction.”   I took her words to heart, held my head high and made it through the storm.  Not long after, a senior manager pulled me aside and praised me for my “positive” attitude.  He said he had been watching me throughout my ordeal, and he truly admired me and was very impressed at how professional and confident I remained the entire time.”   My attitude, had I reacted differently, could have resulted in serious ramifications during that “test.”

Attitude. It controls everything. It can be a bully and force you to be angry and bitter, or it can serve as a guru and help you feel peace and happiness. 

If you look up attitude it is often described as a way of talking and behaving. But attitude has much more significance in our lives. In fact attitude is a way of life. How often do we tell our kids, “Watch your attitude,” or “You need to change your attitude.”  Why do we tell our kids this? Because your attitude can determine your outcome. It is all you have control over.

I read an interesting article years ago that has always stuck with me. It referred to people’s life experiences as “filters”  or “predetermined ideas.”   People’s life experiences work as filters for any new opinions ran through their mindset. You can’t change the way people think or act. So a good “survival technique” is to change your expectations of others. Realize you won’t always like someone else’s approach or behavior, and that is okay.

Attitude is a way of life. Attitude determines outcome. It is the only thing you have control over in your busy chaotic life. Which adds significance to the old cliche “The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.”   

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Ripple Effect

My nephew Parker Fettig was born eighteen years ago (January 15, 1997), at 23 weeks to my beautiful sister-in-law Catherine and my brother Doug. Parker lived for seven days, but his presence in our family and those people he touched while on this earth remains as strong as the days he was with us.  He is our little angel who has given our family a great gift; that is to truly appreciate each day. The old cliche “each day is a gift,” rings loud when you lose someone close to you.  I have always marveled at the strength of Doug and Catherine, even more so after having children of my own. To find their way out of such a loss with such incredible grace has been nothing but awe-inspiring. 

In Parker’s memory, Doug and Catherine went on to start Precious Beginnings: Parents Supporting Parents of Critically Ill Newborns,  a nonprofit group of families who have parented babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), in Portland Oregon.

In an inaugural issue of Precious Beginnings newsletter Catherine wrote about their experience:  “ Our son Parker was born in January 1997 at 23 weeks old. He only lived for seven days in the NICU. It was where he lived his life...where he was born and where he died. When he was born we did not know what to expect. 

“We felt so lonely in this new world of the NICU. We wanted to know our future. We wanted to change the past. We were powerless. So we chose to do the one thing that we had total control love him and to appreciate each moment of his existence. To celebrate his life and marvel in the midst of the unexpected, that here before us was our beautiful son.Through the noise of the machines, from the shock and disbelief that this was happening to us, to the blur of our life having been enveloped by a world we did not choose...somehow, we tried to stay as focused as we could and to remember that this child of ours was a gift.

“We now appreciate those days and those moments. For whatever reason, that was all we were meant to have with Parker in this life. But he blessed us with wonderful gifts: experiencing the power and magnitude of love, and the genuine goodness in others. And learning that life, for however long it is or whatever it may be like, is precious, and we should appreciate each moment.”

This is Parker’s amazing legacy. What we do for others can be everlasting; we plant a seed with every action and word spoken to others. Life is precious, set down your phone (often) and carve out time with those important to you, so you don’t miss out on the precious gift of the present.  Keep your heart and mind open to the seeds planted by those people we have loved and have gone before us. My brother Doug lovingly refers to this as the “Ripple Effect,” as he notes below. 

“When your child dies you are initially lurching moment-by-moment through the phase of intense grief, trying (and failing, and trying again) to accept a new reality. 

“But in those painful early days a beautiful and powerful emotional undercurrent has also begun to manifest itself.  I call it “The Ripple Effect".  

“When a life, regardless of how brief (in our son Parker's case it was seven days), touches other lives it sets in motion a series of potentially unending ripple effects. 

“After 18 years these ripple effects continue for us in many forms; from the life-long friends that Parker has brought into our lives, to the privilege of listening to and helping others going through painful times, to a thoughtful word or gesture of remembrance, or to the powerful reminder that each moment of our lives is a precious gift. 

“If you are open to them, these ripple effects can be felt from all those who impacted your life before they departed.  Be it a grandparent, parent, sibling, child, close friend - there can be a gentle ripple washing ashore at the most unexpected time.  

Be open to it's embrace and let it wash over you.”

Parker's mom and dad, Doug and Catherine Fettig, 
and his brothers Pierce (left) and Calder (right).