Jean Anne Costa
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Carpe Diem

Affirmation:  This is the day the Lord has made, let me rejoice and be glad in it.
My friend and fellow church member died this week.  She had been fighting a recurrent cancer for about a year now.  She chose to stop treatment.  It was no longer helping her.  I’d been by to visit her several times,  over the last couple of months.  I enjoyed sitting with her and discussing different ideas and sharing stories.  I saw her on Thursday of last week.  She was in so much pain.  She was in so much pain and she was so worried about being “rude” to me.  I was lucky.  Before I left her, I leaned over and whispered, “I love you.”  She responded, “I love you too.”  Those were the last words she said to me.  I am holding them tenderly in my heart now as I write and all through this week as we, myself and all those who loved her, go through the rituals of saying our final goodbyes.
We had been in the same church group for about 4 years.  We meet twice a month.  We also found ourselves at the same mass many times and we would sit together.  Other than those occasions, we weren’t really close until she became ill again.  One thing, I knew, she was a very faith-filled woman.  She was always working for the poor, the homeless, those less fortunate than she was.  Interestingly, to me, I found myself wondering if she needed an organ transplant and realized, I would be more than willing to donate.  I never had to make that decision and I learned, I wasn’t the only one who was considering the donation.
I saw her again when I stopped into visit at the rest home where they had brought her to.  They had given her 1 to 2 weeks more to live.  I arrived to a group praying the Rosary.  How comforting it was.  She was unconscious.  After a short while, her best friend and main caregiver, wanted to leave to run some errands.  He asked me and another member of our group to stay with her.  We both had plans but we let them go and remained.  Our patient looked pretty good.  Her color was good and she was breathing easily.  Within 20 minutes, her color changed, her breathing changed and within another 20 minutes, she died.,  We were standing with her, my fellow parishioner and I, when she took her last breath.  I can still see her face.  She was at peace.
Something happened in that time, something profound and transforming.  I don’t know yet, what the effect of this experience will be but I know, it has changed me in a miraculous way.  I feel blessed.  I feel honored.  I feel grateful. 
I believe, from previous experiences and from my education, that many people choose when to die; they chose when to let go and I believe our friend chose to die in our presence.  I also believe that she took a piece of our spirit, our soul with her to heaven.  I am closer to her now than I ever was before.  I became her sister, her sister in Christ, in life and in death.  I have been given a gift, a gift that will be with me for the rest of my life.  And, with this gift, comes the responsibility to embrace life fully, especially each and every day, especially today!

Religion

Affirmation:  1. I live a Christ centered life of Love, Joy, Peace, Gratitude and Compassion.
2.  Because of my faith in Jesus Christ, I let go of fear and anxiety and fully trust in His loving care for me.

I am a cradle Catholic.  I think you would also call me a “cafeteria Catholic.”  I have taken what works for me in my religion and let go of what does not.  I always credited my mother for this trait.  She is a convert and even when I was a little girl, she led me to believe everything I was being told, wasn’t necessarily the only truth.  This has served me well.  It’s a skill I have used not only with my faith, but in many areas of my life experiences. 
I mean, when you look at the Catholic church, there are so many zits.  At one time, I headed out to find another religion that would be more in line with my belief systems, like being an Episcopalian, or maybe a Unitarian but, I always found myself back at Mass.  I discovered I love the ritual.  I love going anywhere in the world and going to Mass and feeling at home.  I love the sacraments.  I love the Eucharist.  Yes, there is so much I do not love but none of that seems to matter lately.  It seems more important to me to focus on my relationship with God, in my case, my relationship with Jesus Christ. 
I live in the South, the Bible belt of our country and I must say, I had to decide quite soon after I got here, what I believed.  I decided I believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior. 
I know for many, this kind of declaration comes easily.  They have been blessed with some sort of epiphany.  Not I.  My faith has grown very, very slowly.  I need to say the words in my affirmations to keep me in my conviction.  I have more questions than I will ever have answers but one of the women in my Small Christian Community once told me she didn’t have any questions; she only had one answer, “Jesus.”  Wow! 
I am aware of our different beliefs.  Sometimes, I think one of my problems is I fully accept most people’s definition of God.  But, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter what other people believe.  What seems most important is what I have decided to believe, what works for me.  And, I have decided to hunker-down and focus on Jesus Christ and simply let God do whatever work in me that He/She feels needs to be done.  I believe with every fiber of my being that by focusing on Christ throughout my day, I will live a life without fear and anxiety, my life will be filled with miracles, and that without struggle, it will be transformed in ways beyond my imagination.  I really do believe it, I really do.

Reality Part II

Affirmation:  1. I embrace the blessings and grace that come to me through all of my experiences. 
2. I accept the blessings and wonders of my life with grace and fortitude. 
When I wrote about the affirmation, “The best is yet to come” and asked for feedback, the above affirmations are what I received.  Once again, I feel I am being led to be grateful for everything that takes place in my life.  What a lesson!  What a challenge! 
Today is 1/11/11.  I tell you this because I am fascinated by numbers in general and in this case, it seems so powerful.  Then, when I went back to read the original blog about Reality, I noticed it was posted on 1/1/11.  So, it seems very appropriate to expand on the topic on this numerically memorable day.  Am I the only one that is struck by this?  My husband told me that when we get to 2013 the date will never repeat for another century.   You will never have 13/13/13 etc.  I had never thought about that before.
But, I divert.  Probably because I am “iced in.”  The weather is horrid and tomorrow morning isn’t looking very  hopeful but if I am to embrace the blessings and grace that come to me through ALL of my experiences, I should be able to make peace with a day or two like this.  I mean, I live in a warm part of the country and this will only last a short while, compared to other areas but, again, should that matter?  If I’m embracing ALL of my experiences, it would be nice if I valued my days regardless of what else is going on.  It seems so easy for me to slip into the suffering side of my day, my life.  Me, someone who lives a life of abundant blessings.  Perhaps, what is needed is a reality check, just like this one.  If I were to list the things I am grateful for today, the list would be very long:  my health, the health of my husband and children and grandchildren, my mother’s well-being, a warm pretty place to live, enough food to eat, friends to nurture and to nurture me, entertainment at my fingertips.  And, with that list, I will even add an icy day or two.  A couple of days to slow down, take a nap, read, think, write.  I even made extra time to pray and to meditate. 
Yes, a reality check has turned my thinking around.  I do embrace the blessings and grace that come to me through ALL of my experiences.

True Dreams

Affirmation:  I live a life filled with love:  love of Christ, love of myself, family, friends, community and country. 
The question  in Sarah Susanka’s end of the year review in The Not So Big Life is, “If I could sum up all my desires and longings into one simple statement, spoken from the highest aspect of myself, what would it be?” And so, for 2011, this affirmation is my intention.  What generally happens after I set such an intention is that my affirmations develop to support the intention.  I’m not passively waiting for love to surround me or as my friend said, “You’re not simply sitting on the throne waiting for your adoring subjects to love you.”  I mean questions arise.  How will this happen?  True, it might just “happen” because I have created the intention.  My experience is that simply putting it into writing and sending it out into the universe, has a power beyond my comprehension.  And, actually that’s what Sarah recommends.  She tells you to put it away and take it out in a year and see what has happened.  I set an intention like this for last year too.  But, it sat at the top of my affirmation sheet.  I read it every day and as time passed, I tweaked it.  I examined what it meant for me to love and be loved.  What did I have to change or improve upon?  I must admit some days I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the love that fills my life.  My greatest challenge is accepting it.  But, that too is something I am affirming. 
I am lovable, I am worthy, I do well.

Reality

Affirmation: The best is yet to come.
Actually, I think this affirmation needs tweaking and I welcome any feedback on it. 
I went to a seminar at my church a few years ago.  It was about aging with purpose.  I was surrounded by many in their seventies and several octogenarians.  When the lecture was over, one of the older women turned to me and asked me what I had taken from the speech.  I appreciated the question and I returned it.  I knew this lady.  I knew she lived alone, her only child lives in Europe with her grandchildren.  I knew she had experienced loss and health issues.  She answered, head high, I learned, “The best is yet to come.” 
Oh yes, I want to affirm that.  As the new year begins, I must confess, I can get caught up in the fear of the future, the fear of the unknown.  How different I feel when I face the year expecting “the best.” 
But, what is that?  Do I really want to live a live filled with no challenges?  Maybe. 
I think the life skill comes from being grateful for all of our experiences, the ones that we choose and the ones that choose us.  My conversation with my chiropractor and her assistant yesterday revolved around how we create our own reality.  I know this can be a dangerous thought, because we can blame ourselves for everything that happens to us and we might find ourselves blaming the victim which is not good.  I haven’t fully cleared this up in my thought process, so any insight would be welcomed but I do believe that to a large extent, we create our own reality, we manifest our destiny. 
I remember a cartoon many years ago showing a young girl filling in her calendar for the coming year.  Her mother was curious how she could do that and what she was putting in it.  She said she was putting down all the wonderful things that would be taking place.  That’s what I want to be doing.  I want to believe that this coming year will be filled with wonder and why wouldn’t it be?  All my years, even those that were the most challenging, have been filled with blessings and wonder.  It is true for as long as I can remember.  And, with that thought, I head into 2011 on this day 1-1-11 expecting only the best.  May your new year be filled with wonder and blessings in all things.

Year End Review

Affirmation:  I examine the past with an eye on my best future.
I must admit I have a terrible memory when it comes to events of the past.  I never remembered much about my childhood.  Then my children grew into adulthood and I couldn’t remember a great deal of their childhood.  It’s just not the way my  mind works.  Oh, attach a significant emotional reaction to something and I can remember instantly.  Like, holding my oldest daughter’s hand as we walked together to her pre-school.  Or, when my youngest crawled into bed with me early in the morning to hug for a while before she went off to school.  My son always has a project.  He always has had a project and I can clearly remember every one of them because of the excitement he generated as he took them on. 
For me, it seems very important to review the past.  It’s probably why I keep a journal and a little pocket calendar where I write the day’s past events.  It reminds me of looking in the rear view mirror of the car before changing lanes, or simply to be aware of what’s going on around me. 
I have a monthly and a yearly practice of asking myself 10 questions that I feel will improve the quality of my life going forward.  I gathered these several years ago from a newspaper article by Sharon Randal from Henderson, Nevada.
1. What was the hardest thing I had to do this year?
2. What was the most fun?
3. What were the milestones?
4. What was my biggest accomplishment?
5. What’s something I wanted to do but didn’t?
6. What was my biggest surprise?
7. What was the best thing I did for another?
8. What was something I worried about that I don’t worry about now?
9. What made me proud?
10. Describe a moment I want to remember.
I feel the only reason to review the past, is to find a way to live better in the future.  Look it over, learn the lesson and then let it go.  The last part may be the hardest lesson of all.

New Years Intention

It’s almost the new year.  Instead of a resolution, I set an intention.  It’s more effective and less intimidating.  I find it helpful when being introspective to have a list of words to which I can refer.  Since we’re working on positive affirmations I thought I’d share the list I have used for several yoga retreats I’ve facilitated.  It’s expanded with each sharing.  Please feel free to add your own.

Accomplished, Faithful, Hopeful, Humble, Empowering, Grateful, Connected, Integrated, Joyful, Direct, Discerning, Loving, Capable, Sense of Humor, Enlightened, Compassionate, Influential, Dedicated, Delightful, Dependable, Diligent, Devoted, Learner, Energized, Imaginative, Improver, Attentive, Daring, Facilitator, Family Oriented, Accepting, Free, Fun, Inventive, Laughs Easily, Aware, Sensitive, Tender, Honest, Articulate, Artistic, Courageous, Inquisitive, Instructor, Passionate, Sexy, Sensual, Present, Grace Filled, Careful, Beautiful, Healthy, Observing, Patient, Unique, Preserving, Vulnerable, Radiant, Refined, Adventurer, Satisfied, Educated, Calm, Content, Peaceful, Open-Minded, Transformative, Serene, Truthful, Perfect, Spontaneous, Thoughtful, Creative, Experienced, Leader, Teacher, Guide, Encouraging, Seeker, Trustworthy, Happy, Abundant, Planner, Visionary, Gentle, Soft, Triumphant, Understanding, Uplifting, Supportive, Prosperous, Contributor, Discoverer, Nurturing, Graceful, Glowing, Hearty, Hardy, Hottie, Playful, Fulfilled, Forgiving, Non-Judgemental, Non-Grasping, Chocolate-Filled, Dreamer, Questioning, Optimistic.

I know some are adjectives and some are nouns.  It shouldn’t matter, use them anyway that works for you. 

So, take a few quiet minutes and re-read the words.  You are looking for words that stir an emotion in you.  Don’t over analyze it.  Circle the ones that jump out at you.  Pick three or four from your list and write them down.  You can do this as many times as you like.  Let the sentence be a statement of how you want to perceive your life.  Write it in the present tense.  See how it sounds, see if it truly resonates with you.  Sometimes it’s the sentences we have trouble saying to ourselves that’s the most effective but for this exercise, just see if you can find a few words that make you feel positive about your life.
For example:  I am an accomplished, faithfilled, optimistic dreamer or I live a life filled with compassion, gratitude and peace.

Please share your new intention if you create one that you suits you.

Smiling

Affirmation:  I smile early, laugh daily and dance often.
It’s the day after Christmas.  I am very blessed because most of my family lives close by and we get to spend the holiday together.  I am also exhausted and feeling a little let down.  Not only that, but we now have 6 inches of snow outside and so, for those of us who live in the South, the world has stopped.  My husband was due to take his mother home today.  She has been here for a week.  I had plans to go to Mass and to run a few errands and to relish my time alone.  Perhaps, this affirmation should be the one about being flexible?  But, what I’m looking for here is a way to pick up my spirits.  I know I can suffer from holiday let-down and today it feels very present.   I read many years ago, that you can fool your body into feeling better by smiling. So, there are mornings I sit and journal with a smile on my face.  If I happen to look up and see myself in a mirror, that silly grin on my face improves my spirits,  Also, there’s a phenomena out there called “Laughing Yoga.”  Look it up on the Internet if you haven’t seen it before.  So, on mornings like this, or days like this, I am smiling.  It hasn’t kicked in yet but I’m sure it will, perhaps after I have a strong cup of tea and find my favorite book and take some quiet time to count my blessings, again.

Beginning the Journey

How’s your self-talk going?  You know, all those things you say to yourself throughout your day.  Sometimes, you’re having the conversation when you’re alone.  Sometimes, you’re having the conversation when you’re with others and you’re not feeling comfortable, maybe you’re even feeling very uncomfortable.  What are the phrases you’ve adopted over the years?  “Boy, am I stupid.” or “I never get it right!” or “Wow, was that lame, or what?”  This blog is about changing the things you tell yourself.  You can do it.  Anyone can do it.  Why would you want to start saying positive things to yourself?  Will it make any difference?  Join me as we go on this journey.  We’ll take it one step at a time.  For today, just notice when your self-talk weakens you, makes you feel powerless, or useless.  Pay attention!  Notice.

Strengthening Faith

Affirmation:  I know by meditating on Jesus, throughout my day, I am union with the Divine; Miracles are created and without struggle my life will be transformed in ways beyond my imagination.
Advent, Christmas.  It’s the time of year when we celebrate one of the most widely recognized holidays in the world.  For some, it’s simply a secular holiday:  time off from work, time to be with family and friends, a time with some sort of rituals that hopefully bring comfort and peace.  But, for me, it’s about the birth of my savior.  I must admit I am always full of doubt.  I am a skeptic.  I need and seek out experiences that affirm my faith as I see it and that encourage it to deepen, to strengthen.  I decided to dedicate Advent as a time to do just that.  I have made a conscious decision to invite Jesus, the Blessed Mother, my Angels and guides to join me, to stay with me, throughout my entire day.  I believe, actually, that they never leave me, it is I in my busyness, my attention to worldly activities, who leaves them.  But, for this season, and hopefully going forward, I have made a conscious effort to pray unceasingly.  What does that look like?  Well, it includes morning and evening prayers.  It includes a book I read before I journal called, In Conversation with God, and it includes taking a deep breath throughout the day and simply saying “Jesus.”  It’s a perfect word to go with a deep inhale and a long exhale and I feel like it brings me back to that place I so desire to be; in the presence of God.