Bless Their Hearts — They Just Don’t Know Any Better!

Have you ever driven behind someone who swerves erratically, changes lanes willy-nilly and appears to be constantly leaning over to the passenger side groping for something? You’re thinking, “Sheesh, what an idiot! Does he/she realize how dangerously he/she is driving? And why the heck don’t they pull over to find whatever it is they’re looking for?!” And you get even more irritated because they are in front of you.

It’s easy to take it personally, as if they have been set right down in front of you just to ruin your day. Chances are, they don’t realize what they’re doing, much less if what they are doing endangers others. They are probably juggling stuff in their minds as we all do, but doing it on the road (where you really want to keep your mind as uncluttered as possible).

How about the kid on a skateboard with his hat on backwards wearing gigantic headphones, perfectly oblivious that he is causing a major backup on a side road? What about the exhausted-looking parents who bring all four screeching kids into the restaurant you came to for a quiet dinner? Or my favorite; the older lady in front of you at the salad bar at Sapphire Sundays, shuffling along and s-l-o-w-l-y picking out each and every lettuce leaf, green pea, carrot shred, sliced black olive, chopped mushroom and so on–carefully and artistically placing every single item on her plate while your stomach snarls audibly.

Well, here’s the deal: the poor things really do not realize what they’re doing is annoying or inconveniencing anyone. They are in their own little world and not thinking of you or me–just themselves  and their immediate thoughts and needs. They, like us, may be worried about a sick child, or are dealing with aging parents, their job, too many bills and not enough cash, and who knows what-all else. We really can’t know what’s going on in someone’s head or what their story is; all we see is what they are doing and how it affects us.

I’m not saying this to excuse bad or dangerous behavior. Also I’m not perfect and I’m pretty sure I’ve ticked off plenty of drivers behind me who have wished that I was ANYWHERE but in front of them. I laugh my head off when the Crankee Yankee (my husband) is driving: when someone creeps up too close behind him, he/she is a jerk. When someone is too slow in front of him, he/she is an idiot. I’ve tried pointing out that other drivers may feel that same way about him, but it doesn’t seem to register…..

The bottom line is, those who make us angry on the road, in line at the grocery store, in a restaurant or wherever are really not out to give us a bad day. They are in their own world, doing what makes sense to them. We may not agree, but understanding that what they do is truly not personal may take the sting out of our knee-jerk reactions. I learned to look at people in a whole new way when I left New England for the first time in my life. At the time, I was married to my first husband, and he got a job in North Carolina and we found a house just over the line to South Carolina.

Living in the Carolinas for a few years changed my views on people, and I discovered a whole new lifestyle that changed my attitude forever. I was born in Maine, and grew up in New Hampshire, and the pace for us Easterners is usually pretty fast. We don’t waste a lot of time with idle pleasantries or chit-chat–basically we want to get out, do our stuff and get back home STAT. So moving down South was an eye-opener to me. These folks just love to talk and talk, and nothing goes fast down there. If you bought a carton of eggs, a head of lettuce and a jug of water it could take up to 20 minutes to ring up and get out.  I’ll admit it took some time, but gradually I stopped being angry that these genial folks were not responding to my Northern impatience. Nothing I said or did made them move any faster. I finally accepted the pace and then grew to enjoy it. They have a saying down there that I love which applies to the people who aggravate us in so many ways: “Bless their hearts; they just don’t know any better.” And then they would laugh. Amazing how that cleared the air!

So, that’s my response these days. Just saying that simple and funny phrase out loud does wonders for my mood. I even have my own voice for that phrase and I use it each time I say it. I conjure up dear old Minnie Pearl (from the Grand Ole Opry–remember? She always had on a hat with the price tag flapping off it, and would look straight at the camera and yell “HOW-DEEE!”) and say in her Southern-fried accent, “bless their hearts, they just don’t know any better!”

Try it out. You’re alone in your car and no one’s listening. Go ahead–you’ll feel better!

A New Way to Remember 9/11

After reading Phyllis Ring’s wonderful post today on BoomerCafe.com, “Remembering 9/11, and the importance of family,” I remember my own experiences on that day 13 years ago. I didn’t lose anyone I knew, I wasn’t in New York City, and I, like the rest of the world, was shocked and horrified at the day’s events. Later on came anger, fear and sadness, but the overriding emotion was the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of us were feeling the same things at the same time.

It has been 13 years today that my generation’s version of Pearl Harbor happened. When we meet with friends, we recall where we were the same way we recollect the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. I have never been able to visit the memorial in New York, and I don’t know any of the family members who faithfully appear each year on this day to remember the lost. This event changed our country absolutely; not only have many security measures been instituted that hadn’t been before, but we all came together from that day on as a more united country. To this day, 13 years later, flags are flown en masse; not just today or the July 4th or Memorial Day, but every day. It’s a reminder of who we are, where we came from, how hard we fought for our freedoms, and the hard fact that freedom is never free.

Today I offer my own way to remember 9/11; me, who lost no one and who wasn’t in the middle of New York City or anywhere near the Pentagon. I started today as I do each day now since I became a Reiki II practitioner; with the Gassho meditation (the heart of the Reiki Ideals):

“Just for today, I will not be angry

Just for today, I will not worry

Just for today, I will be grateful

Just for today, I will do my work honestly

Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.”

These humble words clear my mind, open my heart and awareness, but most of all, it reminds me of what’s important. I think of all the positive things that have happened on any year’s September 11 since 2001: babies born, marriages, animals adopted out of shelters, new businesses begun, children adopted, birthdays, new cures for diseases found, and the list goes on and on.

As with any life-changing event, the date of September 11 will always be important. After 13 years, I hope with all my heart that many, many wonderful things have happened on all the following September 11 dates. Today is a day to remember, and also to hope.

What Really Matters

This week we nearly lost my mother. Long story short, she (82) and my dad (89) were enjoying the last week of their summer vacation in Maine when she was suddenly seized with terrible stomach pain. Nothing helped her feel better, and Dad took her to the hospital. It turned out that she had a bowel obstruction and she was severely dehydrated. After a relatively simple surgery, she is now mending well and is back to her wonderful and amazing self. My dad, the Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love from her friends and our friends. She should be going home soon.

My dad and I have spent every day at the hospital visiting her; this has been the sum and total of our lives since last weekend. I found that I could not keep a coherent thought in my head, I couldn’t work (I work part time on site and remote), I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything but numbly go day by day, existing on those daily visits. I have depended on the Crankee Yankee for just about everything, except that I can still manage to feed the cats. My friends have emailed me daily, and I have literally felt held up and held together by them.

I realize all too well that my parents can die at any time, and even though I am 63 years old, I find I can’t wrap my mind around what life will be without them. I have lived on my own for a long, long time, and my second marriage (to the Crankee Yankee for over 12 years) is a joy and a blessing. But events like this make me realize that, as old as we are, we are still children in our hearts when it comes to the thought of losing our parents.

Sad news for us also this week–one of my oldest and dearest friends lost her younger brother to cancer. This was a vibrant, interesting, intelligent, well-read and well-traveled man. When we were all growing up in our small town, he was part of the fabric of my life; one of my friend’s three brothers. He was the bane of her existence when they were all living under the same roof–teasing her unmercifully and doing the usual aggravating things brothers do to their sisters. But as the years went by, they found that they had similar interests, enjoyed talking about books and movies and become very close. They discovered a new relationship between them that flowered as they got older. This wonderful man was a presence in all our lives, and he will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

When we live through these times that surely come to us all, we can’t help but think of our own existence. We wonder how long we will live? What new experiences will we have? What new interests will we develop? What new friends will we make, and how long will we have our old friends in our lives? It is both terrifying and exhilarating to know that, no matter what, our lives will change. We humans aren’t always big fans of change; it is usually always uncomfortable at first. During that time it’s hard to believe that at some point we will actually become comfortable with that change–but as we all know, change will come whether we like it or not.

This week while watching my mother like a hawk, I realized that some part of me refuses to grow up. At age 63 I still think, ‘who will take care of me? Who will I call when I read a new book and want to talk about it? Who will listen to my stupid jokes?’ But most of all, I think, who will I be without my parents? (Even now, I am still selfishly making this all about me.) Our parents, our siblings and our friends help define who we are. This is partly why it tears us up when they leave our lives–not only do we grieve for them, we also grieve for the hole left in our lives that no one but that precious person can fill. We are always aware on some level that time is passing. These family members and friends we love so dearly will eventually be gone from us, as we will be from them.

I often think of the line from Andrew Marvel’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress:”

“But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near;”

So how do we deal with the upcoming changes? We deal with it by realizing those things that really matter: spending good time with the people we love–listening fully, being fully present while we are together–and trying not to wait impatiently for them to finish talking so that we can talk. It’s the difference between inhaling a cheap hot dog in a crowd at the fair and sitting down to a beautiful meal with linen napkins and a great bottle of wine. The times spent together make memories we can enjoy long after that person leaves our lives.

May we always listen well, feel deeply, laugh long and loud, give of ourselves and gladly take in the pure joy of family and friends.

 

 

Why ME? Why NOT Me?

Oh, the number of times I’ve cast my eyes to the heavens saying, “why ME??” When bad things happened to me, I took it so personally; as if no one else in the world had troubles or worries. (Ha–that was in my 20s, and I only wish my troubles now were as easy as those then!) I grumped and moaned and swore and kicked pillows and stomped around with a black cloud over my head, having a lovely case of Poor Me. What an awful waste of time!

With the luxury of all those years ahead of me, I felt perfectly justified to weep and wail. Did I ever consider that other people had problems, too? Probably not. And I was raised well, too–I was told often that I wasn’t the center of the world and that it would be well for me to remember that I wasn’t the only person in the world. But we never really learn until we get older…

I was talking to a dear friend who had just found out she needed surgery. Bad enough, but she also suffers from some chronic conditions as well, so this is just the poisonous icing on a s***cake. This kind of thing puts everything in proper perspective; how the little things cease to matter in the face of such awful news. The sad fact is that most of us will probably catch the bullet at one time or other. Some of us have been very lucky to have dodged broken bones, a serious car accident, fires, floods, etc. This does not mean that we will never have something bad happen. But conversely, we may also live lives of pleasant enterprise and never face any serious difficulties.

So how do we go on, knowing that bad things may happen? Here’s how: we take the next breath, the next step, the next challenge. We take the usual precautions; don’t leave a candle burning in the house before you leave, don’t leave the doors unlocked, be sure you have a roadside emergency kit for your vehicle, don’t text and drive, and so on. While we can’t live in perpetual fear, we can’t live in blissful ignorance either. We need to strike a balance between fear and preparation, and live our lives the best way we can. The old saying, “prepare for the worst but pray for the best” is a good reminder.

Here’s an effective device I’ve used for years now that you are welcome to try–*positive affirmations. Don’t laugh; they work! What is a positive affirmation? It is a simple phrase uttered out loud at least 15 times. How does it work? Take something that is currently worrying you–for example, say a loved one is in the hospital. You of course want that person to be healthy and well and to be back home soon, correct? You can say something like this: “<insert name here> is completely healthy and well and is home.” Say this phrase with utter conviction at least 15 times out loud. Why out loud? Because positive (and negative) energy has a physical effect. Without getting into what I or you or anyone else believes, positive energy causes positive results. Does it work every time? No, of course not. Positive energy and affirmations don’t mean that automatic healing happens in the case of the loved one in the hospital, but it does cause positive energy rather than negative energy.

Here are a few affirmations I use daily, along with the results:

Positive Affirmation (PA): “Everything today is going to go GREAT!” Positive Result (PR): Things do go well and smoothly.

PA: “All the bills are paid in full.” PR: All bills DO get paid in full, often in ways you could never have foreseen.

PA: “I always get a great parking space.” PR: Nine times out of ten, you DO find a great parking space.

This one worked for me BIG TIME:

PA: “I have the perfect job, in the perfect location and with the perfect salary.” PR: I actually got the perfect job, in the perfect location and with the perfect salary.

Look, this isn’t a magic carpet ride to everything going our way always. Stuff happens. But what can really ease the way is to keep as positive an outlook  as possible, and do try one or two of the positive affirmations. The “perfect parking space” is a great first exercise, so try it out. When you say it aloud, say it with conviction and absolute belief that you will get that perfect parking spot. When you get that space, DO say “Thanks!” Do NOT say “wow, this kind of thing NEVER happens to me!” That will insure that it won’t happen again. Keep your affirmation simple; don’t add too many details. All you need to do is to put that positive intention out there. The universe will handle the details.

So, back to the original question: why me? Well, why NOT me? As we are all part of the human race, we can expect both good and bad times. In order to roll with it all, stay positive, stay alert and focus on all that is good. Two of the greatest gifts we humans are given is free will and a working brain. How we use them is up to us, so let’s make it positive.

*I first learned to use positive affirmations from taking courses from the wonderful Noreen McDonald, who teaches several metaphysical courses in Wolfeboro, NH. Check out her web site at http://www.noreenmcdonald.com.

Gratitude, Hope and Grace, Oh My!

Anyone who has spent the night anxiously looking after a sick child or pet can relate to that ‘Please, God, I’ll do anything if You’ll let him/her get through this!’ mantra we mutter mindlessly as we sweat it out with the child or pet. We think of all the love and joy and happiness that child or pet brings to us and reminds us of how fragile we all are. We feel keenly how much they mean to us and how their loss would diminish us. We look around at our house and our possessions and realize that our greatest treasures are the sweet lives around us.

The Crankee Yankee (my husband) and I used to live in an apartment complex before we were lucky enough to move into our present home. One day there was a fire alarm and the doors in every corridor automatically shut; that alone is panic-making. The Crankee Yankee, who had been outside, ran in and told me to put the cat (at that time, we only had one) into her carrier and to get out NOW. As I bundled my now-cranky cat into the carrier with her favorite toy, I thought briefly of our important papers, my jewelry and clothing, the few antiques I had from my grandparents, etc.–and realized that nothing was as precious as our lives.

All of us in the building; parents, kids and animals, stood in the parking lot, watching the firemen search every floor. Finally we got the all-clear; no fire, no danger. At that moment, all of us stood together in sheer gratitude.

One of my ‘dear ones’ was recently in a dangerous area of the Middle East, and I worried about him constantly. Each day I prayed for his safety, sent him long-distance Reiki, and asked the angels to watch over him. In short, I did everything that was in my tiny sphere of influence to keep him safe. It was hard to stay hopeful and harder still to stop worrying. Agonizing months later, we got word he was finally flying home. In my mind’s eye I saw a battalion of muscular angels guiding the plane through the air. Hope had become reality.

When we were finally able to see and hug him, the Crankee Yankee and I threw him a BBQ of Biblical proportions–we slung the old fatted calf right on the grill for him. While we sat enjoying each others company, I thought of Emily Dickinson’s immortal poem, “Hope is the Thing With Feathers:”

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.”

Now grace is that indefinable something that allows us to be forgiven, lifted up and filled to capacity with love and joy. All of us have experienced it at one time or other in our lives; times when we have been given to without first giving. It’s like being pulled out of a crowd of thousands and given a bag of gold, or being honored publicly for walking an old lady across the street. It is an unearned gift; nothing we can foresee.

Grace can confuse you, too–it comes in many guises. My biggest moment of grace came directly from my parents. Mom and Dad were adamant about my going to college right out of high school. Like many other lazy teens, I really wanted to stay home and hang out and just enjoy not having to go to school. Wisely, my parents disabused me of that idea. They had been firm about me saving my waitressing money each summer for college, and had me apply for a town scholarship. That scholarship was easily enough to pay for each semester’s books. Still, my parents sacrificed a lot to send me to college, and adjured me to make the most of the experience.

Well, I certainly did. Living on my own with my own room and dorm mate was a huge and heady step toward personal freedom. I went to classes and dutifully took notes. I majored in English education, figuring that since I loved to read and write, why not teach others to do the same? But after class I partied as I had never done before. Let’s just say I went a little off the rails. I fell hopelessly in love with a music major a few years older than me, and I spent as much time with him as I could. It became easier for me to skip classes, spend money and party. My idea of presenting my parents with my college degree was beginning to fade.

Long and predictable story short, I was summoned home. I sat with my two unsmiling parents and was read the riot act. If I was going to skip classes, fool around and generally waste the sacrifice my parents had made for me, than I could jolly well pay for my remaining colleges years myself. What could I say? They were absolutely right; I had been self-indulgent, lazy and had not appreciated all I had been given.

So stunned and shaken, I drove back to college. I went right to the local eatery and asked for a waitressing job. I started work right away and worked out a schedule that fit with my classes and homework. I became very familiar with all-nighters and renewed my friendship with my portable typewriter. (Mind you, this was well before computers and the Internet, so research papers really meant serious research.) I saved every cent, and I got my summertime waitressing job back. I still had my books scholarship, and I scraped by.

Finally, graduation day came, and my parents and my grandparents watched me receive my college diploma. I felt a mixture of exhaustion, exultation and the lingering ghost of the previous night’s hangover–but I had DONE it. I had stepped up to the plate and had done what I needed to do and was able to show my parents what I was made of.

It took me years to truly appreciate that particular grace in my life–I know now how hard it was for my parents to stand strong and not give in and help me out. I later found out that, when Mom or Dad would break down and want to help me, they would gently remind each other why they were doing this. They had to let me sink or swim on my own. This was a gift of sublime grace that has literally made me the person I am today, so many years later.

It reminds me of the old song, “Amazing Grace,” that declares in one verse that “I was blind/But now I see.” I hope we can all see clearly everything we have been given for which to be grateful and hopeful, and recognize the grace in our lives.

 

 

 

 

Dos and Don’ts After 60

As I get older, I tend to write myself little Rules of the Road for this stage of my life. I find that, instead of a rapidly dwindling amount of choices, there are many I never thought about. Generally I’d say that you couldn’t write me a check big enough to be 20 again, but of course if I knew then what I know now….but we all know how that one goes. As the wise Penn-Dutch say, “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.” Ain’t THAT the truth?

In my 20s, anything went–I could wear anything and look fabulous, I could wear makeup or not and look wonderful, I could try my hand at riding a unicycle, fall off it and look adorable, I could make great statements about the world at large and be more-or-less listened to (probably just patiently indulged), I could dye my hair purple and be cute, and so on. I could get away with damn near anything. Youth gives you some pretty major leeway that you don’t get later on in life.

WARNING: Way before you even get to spitting distance of 40, don’t make beauty your only ticket to the show called Life.

But things do change when we get older, say 60-ish. There’s a lot to be said for acting your age, but as “60 is the new 40,” there is no need to be an old poop, either. There are a whole lot of options for us now that weren’t before, such as:

  • Travel–even taking a day trip up in the mountains will give you a refreshing change of pace.
  • Devote yourself to a really fun hobby–you pick.
  • Mentor someone.
  • Read at least one great classic.
  • Listen to some really good music each day.
  • Change your attitude and bloom where you’re planted.
  • Never tried surfing  or paddle boarding? Try it now. If you fall, you’re only falling into water.
  • Join a book club.
  • At least once a day, put yourself first.
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or wherever you like. The rewards are tremendous.
  • Start walking, either alone or in a group. Not only is it good and gentle exercise, but you start noticing so much around you. I call them Appreciation Walks.
  • Speaking of the above, invest in some really good walking shoes. They are well worth the cost.
  • Speaking of that above, buy better-made (read that more expensive) shoes. They will feel better, last longer and be comfortable far longer. Better to have one great pair of shoes for $100 than ten pairs of cheap shoes for $10 each.
  • Make a date at least once a month with a few of your best friends. Go out to lunch, go shopping, pack a lunch and sit on the rocks facing the ocean. Before you go your separate ways, make the next date.
  • Get a pet.
  • Keep a journal.
  • This is the age around which we begin to lose our parents. We may end up caring for them ourselves. This is a tough and often heartbreaking job, but it can be a time to make peace, let old issues go, enjoy simple conversations, and so on. When the parent(s) pass on, take the time to grieve and breathe. This is a time when not only your family, but your old friends as well can be your safe harbor.
  • Go through your home and weed out the clutter (Note to self: this one’s for ME). Make a Donate pile, a Yard Sale pile, a Throw-away pile and a Give to Relatives pile. This, along with making your will and getting your important papers in order, is a gift to your children.
  • Move on! Don’t waste your time on a bad relationship, a bad job, a bad book or movie, or a bad situation. You don’t get points for hanging on.
  • Always wanted to dump your late grandmother’s old fur coat? Donate it. Where Grandma is now, she’ll not only understand, but approve.
  • If you’re comfortable with it, become a hugger.
  • Treat yourself to a good massage at least once a month.
  • If you are able, dance and sing as much as possible.
  • Take some classes; Chinese cooking, painting, Tai Chi, gardening, pottery, jewelry-making, etc.

There are, however, things that really should be avoided at this age, such as:

  • Do not under any circumstances try the latest dance craze in public. You will embarrass yourself, your children and grandchildren. People watching will feel uncomfortable pity for you. If you persist and do this anyway, you’d better have a one-way ticket for Costa Rica for the next day. You won’t want to be around for the backlash.
  • Do not wear ridiculously high heels. You’ll fall and break a hip.
  • Do not wear bright red, orange or purple lipstick–you’ll look like a creepy clown.
  • Do not put a mirror on your lap and look down. (Trust me on this one–do it by yourself and you will be horrified by how cruel gravity can be.)
  • Do not natter on and on endlessly about how much better things were when you were growing up, or at least choose your audience well. This is a great topic for old friend get-togethers.
  • Do not put your butt over your head unless you are 1) extremely limber, 2) practice yoga on a daily basis, and 3) do not have low blood pressure.
  • Do not be surprised when you fart each time you bend over. That’s the true sound of the 6os.
  • Do not believe those ads that promise you that their gel/cream/serum/lotion, etc. will make you look instantly younger. They won’t. The only thing they will do is to lighten your wallet.
  • Do NOT use teenage lingo, and quit saying “Awesome!”
  • Stop whining about how pretty you used to be. You’re fabulous the way you are RIGHT NOW.
  • Do not bring up hot flashes, night sweats or prolapsed bladder issues with anyone other than your true friends. Believe me, no one else wants to hear about them.

Most of all, let’s embrace our age, and let go of the my-oh-my-how-my-looks-have-changed attitude. Ever hear this apt little verse by Edward Lear?

“As a beauty I’m not a great star,
There are others more handsome by far,
But my face, I don’t mind it,
Because I’m behind it.
It’s those out in front that I jar.”

So let’s make friends with the mirror and enjoy who we are right now.

Do You Remember Your First “Aha!” Moment?

Do you remember your first “Aha!” moment? Mine came when I was about 10 years old. I went to a Girl Scout camp every summer, a place I loved unconditionally. I had camp friends and camp traditions and camp clothes and a whole camp persona. At home, I was just me with all my faults and insecurities. No one at camp knew my history or the dozens of embarrassing incidents at school and at home. (When you grow up in a small town as I did, everyone knows everything about you. If you peed your pants in second grade, then at your 3oth high school reunion, you would still be called “Pee Pants.”) But at camp I was a leader; fearless, confident, ready for anything.  At camp, I could truly be who I wanted to be.

Camp was a glorious blur of learning new things, making new friends and enjoying the company of old friends, and just plain fun. I slept fully and deeply, ate hugely, ran and swam and biked and sailed and canoed and fished and hiked and built camp fires. I made up ghost stories I told around a flickering camp fire, and for the first time in my life, found I had a talent for storytelling. Encouraged by all those frightened faces, I made the stories scarier and more bizarre. One of the counselors, Jinx, whom I adored, took me aside after a night of ministering to terrified kids suffering from nightmares. She told me that it’s one thing to entertain, and quite another to show off. Gently, she explained that, in my desire to be popular, I had caused her and another counselor to lose their well-deserved sleep to comfort the scared girls. Not only that, but the same girls begged their parents to come take them home. The enormity of what I had done overwhelmed me and I felt truly guilty. (But I never lost that thrill of creating stories out of my head.)

One of the many attractions of being in camp was the gently-enforced rule to create your own nickname. This would be your “official” camp name. Mine was Spider. I hated spiders (still do), and although the nickname made sense to me then, I’ve forgotten why it did.

Our camp was across the lake from a Boy Scout camp, and once a summer, our camp visited their camp. There was horseback riding, crafts, a contest of camping skills such as building a camp fire in record time, making lean-to shelters and canoe races. There was a big dinner, and a dance at night.

My “Aha!” moment came while we were visiting. I was talking with a boy who had beaten my time at camp fire building, and we were comparing notes. I remember thinking that all boys weren’t horrible; this one was actually pretty nice, even if he had beaten me. Suddenly we both felt the ground shake beneath us, and one of my tent mates, a tiny girl from Bath, came galloping by on a horse. In the time it took for me to register that 1) the horse was out of control, 2) my friend was screaming in terror and in trouble, I ran up to the horse, grabbed the bridle and hung from it to slow him down. To my amazement, the horse actually came to a halt, and one of the three counselors who had come running down the hill after the horse was able to rescue my friend.

One of the counselors checked my friend over, determined she was not hurt, only badly scared. The first counselor gentled the horse, and lead him back to the barn. The last counselor took me by the shoulders and asked if I was all right. I nodded; I couldn’t seem to speak right then. He asked how I had known to do the right thing to stop the horse; I stammered that I really didn’t know–I had been just scared that my friend would be hurt. I don’t remember much after that, although a girl I still keep in touch with told me later that “everyone” was talking about how brave I was. All I remember to this day was dumbstruck wonder that I did what I did.

That happened decades ago, and, as Wendy told Peter Pan when he finally came for her; “My dear, I am ever so many years past 20.” I don’t understand why we get these glimmers of greatness any more than I did when I was 10. All I know is that that was my first moment of knowing that I was capable of more than I knew.

Do you remember your first “Aha!” moment? You probably do on some level, and maybe you never gave yourself credit for it. Believe me, these are the unexpected gifts we receive all through our lives. They seem to come out of nowhere, and there is no predicting them. We have all read about mothers who, after a car accident, were able to lift that car off their child. There are so many stories of men and women who put their own safety aside to help or carry another person down the stairs in the World Trade Center buildings during 9/11. There is the policeman who ran toward a car fire on the highway, reached through the window to pull the unconscious driver out before the engine blew. So many people, both First Responders or simply ordinary people, rushed into the street during the Boston Marathon bombings to help the injured and get them out of harm’s way.

Perhaps your “Aha!” moment hasn’t come yet. Trust me, it will. And trust me, you will know what to do.