As I plan for the New Year, I look for ways to motivate me to greater heights. In previous years I set goals and created mission statements. Now that I am older, trying to survive in this tough economic climate, the stakes are much higher. I have to work harder to seek ways to reach goals and accomplish missions. More time and a long life is not a guarantee for anyone so we must make changes now!
Reaching goals and accomplishing missions is easier said and written on paper than executed in real life. The New Year always brings with it a lot of hope and enthusiasm for change. But as the days wear on, we are faced with obstacles that challenge us, often hindering us from reaching our goals. You can look up 12 months later and find you have not moved much beyond your original circumstances. That is why we need to always look for things to motivate and inspire us to action.
In the midst of an exercise session, with my brain stimulated by a barrage of thoughts, my eyes glanced at a funeral program celebrating the life of my auntie Carolyn. The beautiful and colorful picture on the cover made me think of the life she led and the words I spoke at her funeral.
When I was a child my father relayed stories to us about how his younger sister had been stricken with Scarlet fever. I was too young to know or understand the condition. My father, a tough and intimidating figure, in a rare occurrence would reveal emotion and concern when recalling his younger sibling, fearing that the fever would take Carolyn’s life as a child. Even after she survived into adulthood, he had a soft spot for her because of her condition. Memories of her suffering lingered with him for most of his life.
There were many that didn’t expect auntie Carolyn to live a long life. But she made it all the way to 2007, celebrating more than 70 years of life, eight children and loads of grand and great grand. She outlived her older brother, my father, by 20 years, the same brother who feared she wouldn’t make it out of childhood. She became known among her church members for having a beautiful voice. Her story is one of survival much like many in the human race who persist in the face of overwhelming odds.
What I find most inspiring about her is the way in which she survived. You see, my aunt became known as the diva of the family, the one with style and flare, out dressing everyone, everywhere she went. As she approached the end of her life, she became ill and was confined to a nursing home in her last days. This didn’t seem to change her spirit one bit.
We had a family reunion where I heard auntie Carolyn would make an appearance. I was stunned to know she could attend considering all I heard about the decline of her health. I was excited with the prospect of seeing her again after so many years. I imagined she would be hooked up to IV poles and struggling to speak. I anticipated she would look at me with glossed over eyes and not remember who I was.
To my surprise, she rolled into the reunion in a bright red stylish outfit that lit up the house! She had a matching hat and matching shoes. Other than a little oxygen, there were no machines hooked up to her and she had a smile as wide as the lake behind us. When I ran over to her, I gave her a big hug. She smiled. I asked her my name. She laughed at me, repeating it as if I was crazy. I was quickly pushed out of the way by a line of relatives and friends who couldn’t wait to hug and kiss her.
At her funeral, I recounted how auntie surprised and inspired us all at that affair. While we were expecting someone sickly and downtrodden, auntie showed up dressed to the nines despite the wheelchair that slowed her a bit. Being with her family was a jolt of fresh life for her. She chose to show up and show out in style. She did it her way and threw to the winds without care who might think it should be otherwise… all this attitude from the confines of a wheelchair. She didn’t see her life in limits. She chose instead to rise above her illness and her surroundings to continue to be the vibrant person she had always been, a diva to the very end.
When I think of auntie Carolyn, I am motivated to do the same. I want to chart my own course. Fight to be better and do it on my terms adding my own style and flare. Her way of handling her illness helps me understand I can change for the better yet still keep the core values that makes me the person I am today.
So as we enter 2012, I challenge you to find your auntie Carolyn, that small thing that can motivate you to greater heights. It could be a child, classmate, friend or co-worker. It can even be found in the spirit of an animal. We don’t always know where it will come from. But we know it can come. Inspiration is often derived from the smallest of things and motivation can be found anywhere. The biggest challenge is to look for it. Find yours in 2012!