A fresh start to a new year

Staring at a blank page before typing the first word for my column this week reminded me of what I love about New Years: a clean slate and a fresh start.

Okay, so the slate of life can’t be completely clean when we begin a new year, I know that. But it can be tidied up so the fresh start is stronger.

That’s where the beauty of resolution lists come in.  They help un-clutter our minds from all the things we want to do and organize them accordingly. Yet this is where ugliness can also occur when we fail with our lists, even those with only one thing on it.

I just filmed a parody about New Years resolutions where I dole out silly advice on how to keep them, but ironically, I take this time of year very seriously. My addiction to setting goals and trying to improve has me doing what most people want to do: get rid of my bad addictions and habits that are holding me back. But what’s going to happen if I don’t?

Our propensity as a society is to grumble about the pressures of New Years resolutions and surrender to the belief that we usually fail so why bother with them at all. Of course the alternative to that is to remember that it’s not perfection that delivers our dreams, it’s persistence.

So you’ve started smoking again or you’ve gone off your diet already – so what? Falling off the wagon is just part of life. Get up, dust yourself off and jump back on again.

Can you tell I’m writing this article more for me than for you? I should paint “Get back on the wagon” with a few exclamation marks on my wall to remind myself just how important that is.

Last spring I had the word “perseverance” tattooed on my forearm. I look at it often and it reminds me to keep going and stay the course. It also reminds me to pick a nicer font with a thinner needle and double check the spelling the next time I decide to mark my body with permanent ink.

2011 was a tough year for a lot of people I know, myself included. That old saying that we learn more from our failures than our successes has me believing I’m far wiser than I once was. But I’m ready to learn less and succeed more in the year 2012 and I wish that for all of you as well.

The other thing I was sadly reminded of this past year is how precious life is and how short it can be  – another reason not to beat ourselves up for failing to be perfect.

A quote I have displayed in my office says this: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Add in there: “and have fun while you do” and it’s the perfect quote.

Happy New Year and good luck with whatever goals you set and remember that our fresh starts can start at any moment we choose. As long as we’re living, there are no limits to how many times we can re-set our fresh start button.

To watch my parody on resolutions please visit LoriWelbourne.com to watch the video.

GET BACK UP ON YOUR SURFBOARD

When I was my children’s age a movie came out that had me, and millions of others, terrified of going in the water for fear of being attacked by a shark. It was called Jaws.

Now there’s another film hitting the big screen that could have had the same effect, but instead the opposite is happening. It’s inspiring people to go for their dreams no matter what and it’s called Soul Surfer.

The story of Bethany Hamilton, the surfing competitor whose arm was bitten off by a giant tiger shark, has been motivating people all over the world since it happened eight years ago. 13 years old at the time of the attack, Bethany lost 60% of her blood, and it was considered a miracle that she even survived. But it was what she did afterwards that truly astonished everyone: she got back up on her surfboard.

It’s stories like this, of fearless determination, that remind us what we’re capable of when we believe in ourselves and reject the limitations imposed on us. Most people would have expected Bethany to give up surfing after losing an arm, but she loved it too much. She not only surfed again, she competed.

“Sometimes we don’t know why bad things happen to us,” she once said in an interview. “I didn’t know at first either.” She knows now, and sharing her story of courage and faith has become her life’s work.

I asked my 10 year old son and seven year old daughter what they thought of the movie when we came out and they both said the surfer was brave.

But my daughter couldn’t understand why Bethany’s arm wouldn’t grow back. “Well, that’s just stupid,” she said, when I told her the human body doesn’t work that way.

My son understood more than I thought he would. “She never gave up,” he said. “And now she has a great life because of that.”

“Yeah, she does,” Daisy agreed. “Good thing she didn’t let the shark steal her happiness.”

When I was younger I used to hear the words “When you fall off that horse, get right back on.” I didn’t have a horse and never fell off one, so that saying was lost on me for the longest time. But once I got it, the message stuck. I can see my kids using Bethany Hamilton’s story of getting back on her surfboard for the rest of their lives whenever they need the inspiration to persevere.

Role models are important – at any age. And stories like hers illuminate the human spirit and put into perspective what’s truly important in life. When asked if she would avoid the shark attack if she could go back in time, she responded with a no. “I’m still surfing, loving life and being able to reach people a lot more than I probably would have with two arms,” she said.

Thank goodness she didn’t let that shark steal her happiness… or her opportunity to help others.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at loriwelbourne.com

Perseverance, not perfection

A reader once told me that it’s easy for someone like me to be positive because I’m married with children and obviously live a perfect little life.  This person didn’t know me and had no idea what my challenges are, but I realized that I’ve made those same kinds of assumptions about people as well. My friend is a good example of that.

When I first met Lucy she had a warm, friendly personality and I liked her right away. She was young, but she seemed to have her life together.

She was ambitious about her career in a refreshingly transparent way and made no apologies for her dreams and goals. She was also beautiful.

Since childhood I assumed that beautiful girls had no problems, so I assumed she lived a charmed life. I was wrong.

As we became friends I learned more. Wearing a tight tube stocking for the varicose veins she had removed from her leg, Lucy told me that she had become estranged from her father, was being bullied at work and had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend.

The negative energy in her life attracted more of the same, and every time she tried to pick herself up, she got knocked down again. The day a glass of piping hot tea burst apart when she was holding it at the coffee shop, scalding her stomach and legs, had her thinking “what’s next?”

But it wasn’t just that. She was also coping with a personal tragedy she had been trying to keep private. Her 15 pound weight loss, coupled with her mounting emotional turmoil, weakened her and she felt like she was living inside a pressure cooker. One day the lid blew off and she scared her mother and sister with talk of wanting to end her own life.

They immediately admitted her into the hospital. That was on April 17,

2010. The same day my dear friend Sharon died from brain cancer.

I remember crying on the phone with Lucy and telling her how much

Sharon had wanted to live but didn’t have a choice, and she cried with me.  Lucy understood how precious life was, but during the depths of her darkest moments she couldn’t see the light. Luckily, she reached out for help and decided to take control.

After her discharge from the hospital, and only a few days into her medical leave, she was called into work where she was fired. That might have pushed some people even further over the edge, but Lucy decided to look at it as a blessing.

This week, only four months after her emotional breakdown, she not only participated in a full Ironman competition, but she actually crossed the finish line.

Not training nearly enough, drinking far too much wine, and publicly filming her imperfect progress for the whole world to see created another level of pressure that she didn’t need to be dealing with at this delicate point in her life. But, maybe for her, it’s exactly what she needed.

Unknowing spectators watching her cross the finish line with a big smile on her face might assume what I once did – that she must live a pretty charmed life. But she, and those close to her, know the truth. Everyone has challenges.

Competing in the Ironman proved to Lucy that she has found her power. And her power, clearly, has nothing to do with perfection. Her power has everything to do with perseverance.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. You can contact her at loriwelbourne.com


Creating a future one dream at a time

It’s not often I can remember what I was doing exactly one year earlier, but this week was an exception. It was my one year anniversary of writing this column.

On April 12, 2009, I remember how excited I was to see the first installment of “On a Brighter Note” in the Kelowna Capital News. It was the weekend and I was too impatient to wait for the paperboy, so I went to the store to pick one up.

Titled “You’re too skinny. Eat a sandwich,” it was accompanied by a brilliant illustration created by my first cartoonist. Seeing my words alongside his drawing gave me goosebumps.

I had big dreams for the column, and many people looked at me like I was crazy if I spoke them aloud.

“You want to write about your life?” asked one of my superiors. “Aren’t you going to run out of ideas?”

“I guess I will when I die,” was my cheerful response, hoping neither one would happen for many years to come.

From the beginning I had plans to get published in a lot of newspapers. “I want to be syndicated,” I told one of my colleagues. He just about choked on his coffee as he tried to suppress a snort.

“Why is that funny?” I asked.

“That’s kind of like saying you want to go to Hollywood and become a movie star,” he responded. “It ain’t gonna happen.”

“It could,” I said, trying to think of an extreme example. “Even Marilyn Monroe started out as girl with a dream.”

Shrugging, he rolled his eyes and nodded half heartedly. I felt happy with that response.

But for all the naysayers, I’ve had tons of supporters too. People, like me, who wanted to read something light and positive about everyday stuff they could relate to. Fortunately some of those people ended up being editors and publishers of other newspapers and my readership increased dramatically in the last six months.

Luckily one of the people who liked what I was doing was the amazing Jim Hunt, an accomplished cartoonist from Boston who was way out of my league. He agreed to take my column on when my original illustrator, Keith Funk, could no longer continue late last year. I’ve been pinching myself ever since.

I look back at this year and I’m amazed at how quickly it’s gone. Some of the goals I’ve set for myself have been met and some haven’t.

This week I celebrated my achievements, but I also refocused on all the things I still hope to accomplish. I’ve already warned my husband I’ll be working hard again for the next 12 months. Always in my corner, he nodded and said, “Just do what you need to do, babe.”

When I was recently asked if I felt vulnerable exposing so much of myself through my columns and setting myself up for criticism,

I was reminded of something well-known author Leo Buscaglia once wrote: “The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and becomes nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow. But he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.”

Personally, I want to do all those things, and I’m guessing you do as well. To put ourselves out there and really do what makes us happy at the risk of failure and disappointment is both brave and beautiful.

Having a voice and sharing my stories are an incredible privilege that I am extremely grateful to have. I hope to share myself – flaws and all – for as long as people are interested.

And, as always, I would love to hear anything you’d like to share with me in return, for that’s where I learn the most.

To read other columns by Lori visit her at loriwelbourne.com

To view her comedy skits visit loriandlisa.com