Saturday, December 31, 2011

Your Year In Review

Happy New Story

This time every year we are bombarded with what someone else has decided are the year’s top stories. Every talking head has their own version of what you should remember from the year before: There’s the woman who was tried for murdering her child and in case you can’t remember, she was found innocent. There was Herman Cain’s 999 Plan and for the life of me I can’t recall what it meant. In the back of my mind I can hear my kid Fatima yelling, “Yeah, but have you ever had a Godfather’s Pizza?” This year Michael Jackson’s doctor was found guilty, Wall Street and a lot of other streets got occupied, there were tropical storms, celebrity deaths and divorces and too many children gone missing.

One story toppled the next and every time a politician was caught going to Argentina or having an online affair with a minor we watched and waited for the story that would top them all (see Penn State Scandal.)

We have become somewhat numb to the fact that all of these stories are attached to real lives and real people, but what I believe to be even more harmful is that these stories affect the way we see our own lives.

When I look back over the top stories of my year, I am of course drawn to my daughter Fatima’s traumatic illness, but when I refocus, I can see her at her high school graduation just three weeks later. When I think about breaking my right hand, I am reminded of the fact that I learned to use my left, and most impressively, I learned to type while I’m thinking. (In the past, I’ve had to write long-hand first and then type.) I can also recall that the same week I broke my hand, my son Jabril played guitar for the first time in front of an audience; there were 6,000 critical care nurses. He was amazing and given that he is painfully shy, this was a major achievement. I have been honored by having a suite of classrooms named after me and I gave a sermon in an Episcopal church (I’m not a preacher nor Episcopalian.) I published my own book and have sold tons of copies and I have lots of folks who love me. I love my work and am fulfilling my purpose and every single day I am told that I make a difference.

On my wellness pilgrimage, I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve reconnected with folks who I need like I need air. The beautiful folks in my life are still there and the posers have all moved on. A few nights ago, I experienced something that will change next year and all the years that follow.

 My old massage therapist moved out of the area, I see him from time to time when I’m in DC , but there was nothing like knowing that he’d work on me every week. I’ve been looking for a replacement, but not having a great deal of luck. I went to see one therapist several times and it turned my life around. Unlike my previous therapist, this one believed in inflicting pain. He felt that for massage to work, it had to hurt. I’ve been a strong proponent of something I learned from my friends in the spa industry; nothing that harms the body will heal the body. You can argue this all you like but I love that I get to believe what I want and you get to do the same.

Anyway, this therapist did his thing working out my pain by inflicting more. The next day I felt sore, but my mobility was much better. By the end of the day however, I was nauseous and in pain. So why is it that when the therapist called to schedule another appointment, I went back for more?

I had to reschedule a few time when things came up (The Universe was trying to help me,) but I finally made the appointment. This time, I decided to tell the therapist that I didn’t want to feel pain. He informed me that I hadn’t complained before. Just as I was about to agree, the new found self wouldn’t allow it. “I didn’t complain then, but I’m telling you now.” I said. But it was as if he didn’t hear me and he went back to his own routine. The old me endured it for an entire hour (can you believe I had booked a 90 minute massage?) But then the new me stepped forth. “Stop,” I said. “That’s enough.” He actually asked what’s wrong and I said,” I can’t do this anymore.”

I knew that I wasn’t just talking about the massage. During that hour, I had been thinking of all of the times I had gone along to get along. I had been thinking over the year of putting up with things that I really didn’t want or need in my life and how I had allowed the media to infiltrate my life with what it thought was important.

Marketers have been telling us what to eat, buy, wear and think. This year, we should all make a list of our own year in review. Look at the truth behind your scandals, look at the beauty behind the pain and look closely at what you will no longer tolerate.

As you do keep this thought in mind; you really are the writer and director in your own life story. You can be an extra in the background or the break-out star.

·         Make a list of your top stories.

·         With each story write down what you have learned.

·         Who were your co-stars? Send them a note to say thanks.

·         What will you give up to have an even better year?

You are the writer and director of your life story.

Happy New Story

Bertice Berry, PhD

Friday, December 30, 2011

Get On Your Mark Get Set...DIET

When I started on the journey, no one noticed, but now no one can ignore
Wellness is not a Race, it's a Pilgrimage

If you are feeling a little more bloated than normal and are ready to take it all off while eating all of your favorite foods and having fun while you do it, you are not alone, nor is it all you. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas… to the weight loss industry.

This is the time of year when all of the weight loss products and gizmos get pushed to the front of the store. Every add seems to be telling you that you’ve eaten too much when just last week we were all told to eat, drink and be merry.

There is more than enough research around to tell us that diets don’t work and that 95% of the folks who go on diets gain back not only the weight they lost, but an additional ten pounds as well. Still, we go back to the “lose-weight-now” plan because it worked before. If something truly works, it should work for good. But this is the true effectiveness of the marketing gurus, because when the products they push fail to work they have already programmed us to believe that we are to blame.

The diet industry is not alone in the Invasion of The Body Snatchers routine and in truth it’s your mind that’s been invaded. We allow others to tell us what to wear, whose lives and gossip to care about and how to spend our precious vacation time. We participate in events and activities we don’t even enjoy because someone said “You are having the time of our life.”

What would happen if you said “No.” What if you took the red pill instead of the blue? What if you are Neo and I’m Morpheus and …okay, you can tell I really like the message of the Matrix.

Slow and steady wins the race; it will not be done in 30 days. (Besides, the after photo takes about 90 days, then they sell you the 30 day program.)

Get well for life. Decide today that you will take this entire year to be well and then the rest of your life to maintain, fine tune and improve your entire self from the inside out.

Life is often likened to a race, and that’s fine, but it’s not a sprint, it’s not even a marathon it’s a pilgrimage. If you’ve ever met anyone who’s been on one, they will tell you how beautiful it was, how they learned so much about life and of all the amazing people they’ve met on the way.

As the young people used to say way back in the day, “Slow your roll,” your life is not a sprint. Don’t let other folks tell you how fast you need to buy their junk just so you can come back and by more again and again.

As I’ve slowed down these last few weeks to take the time each morning to write about total wellness, I have been rewarded with a perspective on life that is amazingly whole. I’ve re-connected with friends and family members in a most meaningful way. I’ve been gifted with stories of others that make me smile and keep me smiling. I’ve met new folks who add color to areas that had dulled and I have been able to match friend to friend.

Your wellness will never be about your body, ask all of the beautiful folks who have really been sick. They will tell you that illness impacts the body, but wellness is the whole self, the spirit, mind and body aligned as one.

Slow your roll because this is a pilgrimage not a race. Take in the view and be changed forever.

·         How many diet programs, exercise clothes and gizmos do you have from years before?

·         When you go into any store, make an observation of the diet products that are near the front door.

·         Observe the number of diet products featured on news programs, commercials and infomercials. Make a note of when they are played.

·         Re-set your own goals so they are more realistic and have long term impact.

·         BE WELL ALL YEAR

Life is not a race, it’s a pilgrimage.

Be Well

Bertice Berry, PhD

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beauty Thieves

Beautiful Fatima and her wonderful brother Jabril

"When you cut someone else’s legs off, you won’t grow.”

I’ve been writing a book called Beauty Thieves. It’s about a coven of people who literally suck the confidence and therefore beauty from their unsuspecting victims. People with low self-esteem are the easy prey but not the most desired as those with low self-esteem have little confidence. However, the confidently bold and bodacious are prime targets of beauty thieves.

We all know those people who can hit us where it hurts. They will ask a childless woman why she hasn’t had any children or will ask an openly gay father where his child’s mother is. The questions always appear innocent. (Are you really going to wear that? Are you supposed to be eating that?) But the questions have a deeper, darker intent; they mean to hurt. Like the beauty thieves in my work in progress, these people seek the most joyous beautiful lights they can find, in the belief that if they can take them down a peg, they, the thief will somehow be younger, more beautiful and more powerful.

 My daughter Fatima has one of the brightest lights I’ve ever seen. I know, she’s my kid and I’m supposed to feel that way, but I’m not alone in this assessment. She is an instant friend to many, brightens up a room and can make you laugh until it hurts. She can instantly zero in on what brings someone joy and then deliver.

In my life I’ve known or briefly met others with this kind of light as well; Tiphanie Rockingham the hairstylist/social worker in St. Lois (I’ve never met a more giving stylist, she picks up her elderly clients and then drives then around on their errands before taking them back home,) Nancy Furst (,) the healer and shaman I met at Red Mountain Spa who uses her beauty as a mirror and reflects her clients’ hidden dreams back to them, and my mother Beatrice Berry who at 87 was still turning hearts and heads. What these women exhibit is that joy for life everyone wants so therefore they are the special targets of beauty thieves.

A few days ago, someone asked me how my daughter was. She’s had an extremely rough year health wise but is recovering beautifully. I told the woman that she only has a half of a day during the week when she is dragging, which is fantastic, because when she first came home from the hospital and intensive care, she could barely lift her head or get up for even one day.

The woman remarked that this was great and then asked if she had been able to lose any weight. My daughter has always ways been on the chunky side. She was hefty at 3 months old when I first took her home and she’s been sturdy ever since. I told the woman, that she had lost some weight, but I was not concerned with how she looked, I was grateful that she was alive.

“Well,” the woman said, “I know you have your little wellness book and I just figured that you may have been able to help your daughter with it. When you lost weight,” she said “You were able to get well.” I smiled to myself and told her that I lost weight as a result of getting well, that it was not the other way around. She continued to say that she was praying for my daughter and that God had led her to ask about her weight.


There are many studies which point to the fact that when we look at others with disdain, we internalize that disdain for ourselves. I believe it was Jesus who said “The haters you will have with you always,” okay maybe he said, the poor, and he was speaking about the poor in spirit. When we are feeling low about ourselves, we often feel a need to attack both aggressively and passively, those who appear to be a bit too happy, too joyous too, too.

Comparing your weight, looks age, or wealth to someone else will not make you better.

My mother used to say that “If you cut someone else’s legs off, you won’t grow.” She said there will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, and richer, but no one can beat you at being you.

Enjoy what you bring to the table of life and share your light with others along the way. But when others attempt to “suck your flavor” find another seat.

                 You are beautiful, you are wonderful, you are powerful, just as you are.                

·         Who is sucking your flavor?

·         Who do you compare yourself to?

·         Who do you put down with little nips and snaps?

·         How can you shine brighter today?

                 You are beautiful, you are wonderful, you are powerful, just as you are.

Bertice Berry, PhD


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Already Know What That Tastes Like

Look Ma, no handrails

I Already Know What That Tastes Like

Three years ago, when I first set out on this journey of wellness, I learned a great deal about why some succeed and others don’t. One of my most mind-bending observations was made when I saw that willpower was not the real issue in the struggle to be well. I had been force-fed this logic for so long that I assumed it was correct.  I came to see rather clearly that people who are fat, sick or physically challenged have more will than everyone else because we have to will ourselves to live in a world that is not tolerant of our differences.

I began to think about the whole will power thing in a very different light. I believe that preparation is much more powerful than will power. When you think of Michael Jordan, something I try to do often, you may recall that he was one of the best basketball players to ever step foot on the court. He wasn’t the tallest, or fittest, nor was he the most talented. Mr. Jordan didn’t mentally will himself to score, he did something much less dramatic; Michael Jordan practiced and practiced and practiced. He arrived earlier than team mates and opponents and he practiced. He practiced something that he was already great at and he practiced some more---are you starting to see a trend? Michael Jordan prepared for every game as if he had never played it before, because in truth, he had not. Every game was a different game.

Every day, I set out to be better than I was the day before, as a parent, writer, sociologist, mother, a friend and at being me. I prepare for the day as if I’ve never done it before, because in fact, I have not.

I have learned to eat small meals throughout the day. I drink lots of water and I exercise in small intervals. I don’t exercise over 30 minutes at a time and I don’t do anything too rigorous. I have found that when I do, I need more fuel and I usually grab whatever is available. So I keep the fuel I need with me and I eat and manage my appetite the same way a nurse manages pain; she monitors it before it’s out of control. Sometimes though, the cultural and social pressures of eating rush in like Larry Bird (you youngsters might have to use a search engine.) As prepared as you might be the stress of life, memories of the past and a HOT NOW sign in a doughnut shop window may block your best drive. It’s moments like this when I remind myself of a most simple truth; I already know what that tastes like.

There have been times when I am tempted by a cherry pie (Hi Nancy) or a slice of birthday cake but most often it’s popcorn. I am a popcorn-aholic. And although I have not gorged myself on popcorn in years, I am still in recovery; once a corn-aholic, always a corn-aholic. You may be wondering why the fuss over popcorn? Well, I don’t want to take up your time with all of the details so I will just say that what we are addicted to, we are often allergic to.

When I told myself that I know what that tastes like, I kept on talking and I told myself that I had had enough popcorn for a lifetime. I knew what popcorn tasted like but I didn’t know what a pair of jeans felt like. I knew what French fries tasted like but I didn’t know what it felt like to run up the steps or to just walk up without holding the handrail.

I kept practicing and telling myself every day as if I’d never done it before and now I know what it feels like to run up my steps in a pair of jeans without the handrail.

When I found this method to work on food, I applied it to other areas of life. I know what a bad relationship tastes like, I know what a one-sided friendship tastes like and I know what it tastes like to be taken for granted. I can walk away from things that are not a part of the journey I am on.

I know what it tastes like to be unbalanced and I prefer balance.

·         What have you had enough of?

·         How can you prepare yourself for this game of life?

·         Make a list of the things you would like to do this year. When you do look at the list and then close your eyes and imagine yourself doing them.

Be prepared, Be You, Be Well.

Bertice Berry, PhD

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finding Your Truth By Shutting Out The Noise

Becoming your best is all in the mind

The mind is an amazing machine, but it can only do as its told

This morning while trying to wake up, I let my mind wander onto the subject of what to write about. I go to sleep with an idea allowing my dreams and subconscious mind to work things out. (I think I may write about sleeping better tomorrow, or maybe I’ll wait until next week when everyone’s holiday cheer runs out.) Okay, you just got a glimpse of my mind meanderings; anyway I went back and forth and all over the place. My thoughts shifted to more pressing matters; should I eat breakfast and write first or should I get a round of yoga in beforehand, oh, I know, sun salutations, I love those. Maybe I should fast today and meditate throughout the morning.

On its own my mind rambles quite a bit, but this morning it could have done The Amazing Race. I wondered why I had been so distracted in the first place and it hit me; I had gone to sleep with the television on. I had been watching a documentary on something science-y and it was fascinating at the time, but then I fell asleep, 5 minutes later. I had been dreaming about craters in my skin, getting an entire quarter collection; something I felt I must have and then signing up for a meal plan and exercise bike. I tossed and turned and realized where the term came from as I literally tossed my own thoughts out allowing them to be turned into someone else’s. When I finally did get myself together, I knew that I my mind had been distracted at its most vulnerable time; while it was passively active.

It took me several minutes to regain control of my own thinking (I really wanted those quarters,) and when I did, I remembered what I needed to know, I had a mammogram scheduled at 8:30. I needed to start my day and my year of wellness with my regularly scheduled exams and appointments. I recalled the massage I had booked two weeks ago and the fact that I wanted to see if I could get in a facial ( women tend to hold a great deal of stress in their facial muscles—so for me a facial not about pampering, it’s about wellness.)

 As I wrestled with these practical matters, I remembered a friend asking me to think positive thoughts about the staff in the long term care facility where his ailing mother receives care. He talked about their love and compassionate care and how they deserved the salary of a corporate executive, complete with the bonus. He told me that his mother had introduced him numerous times and each time the staff members responded as if they’d never seen him before. I took a moment to see the staff members in my mind working through the pain of others and their own stuff and I sent thoughts of joy in their direction. I thought a bit longer and I could remember my mother doing the same job. I thought of the year she’d expected a holiday bonus but got a turkey instead. And then I remember how she turned our lack into a gift for us and the residents of the nursing home. My siblings and I all put on our best clothes and went in to see folks singing songs and listening to their stories. I smiled to myself and knew that this was memory I needed and that no quarter collection could ever replace it.

We are so easily distracted from our own life course. Our mind is an amazing machine but it does as it’s told; like a computer if you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

·         What distracted you this morning? Try to recall the specific details of the hijacking of your mind.

·         Replace those thoughts with the truth that you need for the day.

·         Who can you think about positively?

When we allow the distractions of others in the way, we miss our own path to wellness.

Be present, Be well, Be whole

Bertice Berry, PhD

Monday, December 26, 2011

Let Others Be Who They Are

Take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently

When you are constantly pointing out the flaws of others, you only bring attention to your own.

The second time I woke up this morning (I’ll tell you about the first in a bit,) I had a wonderful revelation. Somewhere in my dreams, I came to see that the real trick to becoming who we are is in allowing others to be just who they are.

This realization has taken me a while to come to. I’ve been doing the practice and have had amazing results, but it was not until this morning that I was able to see why I have had such a fantastic ride through life.

Everything is so much clearer when you look at your life through the lens of self-discovery. We get to see ourselves as others see us, but more importantly, you get to transform into the person you want to be.

In my past, I struggled with judging  others, but because I’m a sociologist, I would tell myself that I was simply making observations, but let’s just call a tree a tree (I don’t really get the spade thing) when we are constantly pointing out the shortcomings of others, we are only scapegoating our shortcomings onto someone else.

In the last twenty years of my life, I’ve been able to truly go with the flow, “That’s who they are and it seems to be working for them,” I say to folks when they bring me the latest “news” about someone they don’t care for. I’m willing to help when needed. If someone is in danger or doing harmful things, we must take appropriate action, but what I’m talking about is the need to “fix” others when what we really should be doing is working on ourselves. I’ve found that I have enough of my own life and stuff to deal with; I really don’t have the time, skills or money to work on someone else.

This morning, I was able to see that the trick of self-work is to do just that; work on your own self. We can share what we learn on our journey, but there is no need to have an expectation for others to be who we are; we must be it for ourselves.

Think of the most evolved person you know and you will get a picture of what I’m talking about. These people are never the center of someone else’s mess and drama. These are the folks who are beautifully balanced and appear to literally flow through life. The lack of judgment of others truly lightens your load, enabling you to do what you need for yourself and the Universe.

When you free your thoughts of why someone else is the way they are, you get to see who you are.

Now to the first time I woke up. This morning, I was completing my long drive back from Christmas day with family. When we first started out, we were stuck in a traffic jam that piled up behind a major accident. I had to put my car in park and sit with the thousands of other holiday travelers who’d been stopped there also. We watched as emergency vehicles tried to get through the gridlocked lanes that had quickly developed into a sea of angry drivers. People had gotten out of their cars and were walking up towards the accident to get a better view. Some motorists were angry enough to yell at other drivers who had moved up too close to them or who hadn’t advanced the two inches when movement was possible. My family and I decided to sing and wait, but as a helicopter landed somewhere in front of us, we realized the severity of the accident and silently prayed for the people involved. An hour later, traffic was moving again and so we were on our way home. But that hour was the time I needed for that last stretch of our trip.

On that last hour of driving, I became extremely tired and found it difficult to keep my eyes open. My mind wandered to an open field (I was probably thinking of the one I would end up in,) Now, that I’m home and rested, I can see that the logical thing would have been to just pull over, but when you are overly tired, you are never logical.

I was struggling with whether or not I should pull over (See no logic here,) when I decided to wake up everyone else in the car. I asked everyone to talk to me so we could do the last 70 miles. Suddenly, everyone was wide awake and telling me all kinds of crazy stories. Nothing made sense, because I didn’t have any sense, but I kept driving. Then, my son and daughter (ages 19 and 20) began to sing Silent Night, but with the voice of other singers and actors. By the time they got to Christopher Walken, I had laughed myself right up my driveway.

I got in, showered and went to sleep and dreamt of people trying to be someone else and everything looked funny to me. I woke up and then told myself to go back to sleep, hence the second sleep and I saw what I needed to see; everyone was being who they are, I was able to be me and all was right with the world.

Life is beautiful! Be who you are, love others as they are, work on yourself and shine your light.

Be Beautiful, Be You, BE Well

Bertice Berry, PhD

Saturday, December 24, 2011

When The Holiday Cheer Brings You Down

Let your light shine

Don't focus on what you didn't get or what you have lost, focus on all the love you have experienced

Christmas time typically brings lots of cheer, but for many, it brings sadness. It’s during this time that we often think about loved ones who aren’t with us, relationships that have ended, and things that we may have lost. For some, this time can be lonely and distressing.

Yesterday, I saw a friend from the airport whose mother passed away earlier this year. I travel a great deal and have made many friends at the wonderful airport here in Savannah. When Norm’s mom passed away, he called to let me know. Norm and other airport friends have spent many holidays at my house with my family and so they are my family too. He’s an only child and a “mama’s boy” (his words, not mine) so spending the holiday without his mother for the first time is amazingly painful. It’s that way for lots of folks this time of year.

I have another dear friend whose closest sister died suddenly a few months back. My friend is now raising her sister's young son and is trying to deal with the loss of her best friend. When I spoke to her a few days ago, she commented on the fact that she hadn’t realized just how much her sister did for the family at holiday time and now this would be her role too. She talked about missing her and how you don’t really feel the full loss of a loved one until long after the funeral is over .

I understand how old hurts open during the holidays. I’ve lost a mother and child, a nephew and sister. The pain never really goes away, but it does become more bearable. I’ve often heard people say things like, “You just need to let that go and get over it,” but the emotional pain felt during holidays for many is real and difficult to just get over. I’m a firm believer that if something is defined as real then it is real in its consequences.

I have a wonderful sister friend who is amazing in so many ways. She has had many serious health challenges and she keeps on bouncing back. A few years ago, she ended up in ICU. The doctors told her daughter to call in the family as she would not make it through the night. We all flew in and gathered around but instead of crying and pleading with God all night, we decided to lift her up. We told stories of her life and sang songs of joy. We sat in the waiting area with other people who had loved ones in critical condition and we invited them to share their stories as well. Whenever a hospital staff member walked by, they'd stop and come in to see what was going on. We told them they could join us but to be ready to be happy ‘cause there wasn’t going to be any sorrow in that waiting room. As we took turns to see my sister/friend, we were told of her condition. Each time there was progress, but the doctors said, don’t be too hopeful. “Well, she made it through the night," they'd say,  "but we don’t know how, but don’t be too hopeful.” Hours later we’d hear, “She is hanging on and seems to be holding her own, but we don’t know how much damage was done to her organs, so even is she lives, she won’t function, so don’t be hopeful.”

We would say thank you and then we’d sing another song and tell another story. My sisters’ daughters are brilliant and beautiful people and they love their mother dearly. They shared stories of how they thought they were getting a doctoral degree because their mom took them to all of her classes when they were just girls. We laughed about how she’d give them assignments and tell them that they were in college too. Her daughters encouraged us and reminded us that their mother had said she was not done, so we were not to cry nor worry and we did as we were told. Then something amazing happened, not only did my sister/friend experience a miraculous recovery, so did everyone else who had been in ICU while we were there. The other people in the waiting room said they didn’t want to leave us. The nurses and doctors were calling my sister, the miracle on the floor. By the third day, she was conscious and telling us what to do.

We have all suffered a great deal of loss, but I have decided to focus on all that I have gained. I have friends who adore me and a family who truly loves me. I have folks all over the world who think of me as I think of them. But my life is never just about me, so I will make sure that I reach out to those friends who feel alone or depressed by the holiday; not in a “come over here and experience my life,” but a thank-you for what you do for me and others.  
If this holiday time becomes difficult for you, lift up your own life. Share of yourslef with others and tell stories of who you are.
My wonderful editor/sister Janet Hill Talbert says that when a person dies, a library closes, but it is our responsibilty to keep it open.
Lift up the lives of those you love and of yourself. Tell your story.
As we remember the story of the birth of Christ, let it renew our own lives and revive our hearts, bringing us back to life.
I'm about to take an 8 hour drive to visit my sister/friend. I'm going to surprise her and her daughters. We will all spend the day laughing and lfting up life.
Merry Christmas
Christ is Born.
Be Well, Be You
Bertice Berry PhD

Getting Just What You Want

Fatima and I in an add we did for a local consignment shop.
One of the largest things in land-fills is old discarded clothing

If you don’t know who you are, you’ll never know what you want

This time of year is wonderful for me. I don’t have to rush to the malls or stand in long lines hoping to get just the right gift for anyone at all. My friends and family know that they can expect presents from me throughout the year. They are always surprised by something I hand them and will all ask, “What’s this for?” I’ll tell them that they can decide, birthday, Christmas, Kwanza, or just because I love you. “Happy I love you.” Everyone is always overjoyed with their unexpected present.

 My children have been “blessed” to have a mother who believes in giving them the best education and a wonderful life. Of course they will all tell you that I have missed the mark, but I’m writing this, so there. The kids have also learned that the after Christmas sales will take their money a lot further and so like me, they shop when everyone else has left the store.

We also spend efforts throughout the year trying to do for those who have less than we do and as a result, I have always gotten exactly what I wanted for Christmas.

My mother raised her 7 children with very little money, so we hardly got anything at all. What we had every Christmas was a house full of family, laughter and lots of wonderful homemade food. There were fresh fruits and all kinds of nuts throughout the house. The smell of a fresh turkey baking filled our home and we were all together.

A few of my siblings have strayed from my mother’s ways, but I have not. My sister Christine and I still have a “family” gathering and we still cook. We give cards and money to some of our older relatives and to the people who have touched our lives with their work and this is good.

Yesterday, I got one of the best presents ever; my daughter Fatima re-gifted to me a joke I played on her years ago.

When she was about 12 years old, she begged for a pony. She asked, begged, cajoled and threw tantrums. I laughed the entire time. I was raising the five children I had inherited and was doing it on my own. They all had learning differences and required private education and tutoring. My mother also lived with me and at that time was having some health challenges. To say that I was carrying a lot is a gross understatement. But dear Fatima thought that she should have a pony. One day we drove past several horses in a field and she began her “I want a pony” fit. I couldn’t take it any more so I told her that that her pony was in that field and it had been there, but she hadn’t come to get it. I kept spinning the story and told her that this field was the field of dreams and whatever you dream appears in it. If you want something though, you have to come and get it otherwise your dream will just be out here in this field waiting for someone else to claim it.

At that moment, Fatima grew up. She stopped crying and said, “I understand.” She said, “If I want something I have to go and get it.”

That was the last time my baby asked for a pony. At first I was happy to not have to hear the constant whining but then I missed my little girl just being a baby.

My mother used to say that everything comes back around; you just have to live long enough and pay attention. So yesterday, I not only got my gift back, I got to laugh that big laugh that comes from the gut and removes all of the old mess. Fatima asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I told her the same thing I have for years, “You know that all I want is world peace and you can give it to me by being peaceful and by creating peace wherever you go.”

Fatima smile and grabbed me by the shoulders. She looked me in the eyes, which is always a beautiful thing. Fatima has huge golden colored eyes which she uses to look right into you. “I got you that world peace you wanted years ago.” She said, “It’s out in the field of dreams right next to my pony.”

I laughed and laughed and she laughed with me. I had forgotten all about the pony and the field of dreams, but she had not. Later in the day, she told me that she would wonder what her pony was doing and how she could get it. I apologized and told her that I was stressed and tired most of her childhood and that I just wanted her to stop harassing me about a dang pony.

She smile and said, “I understand, NOW!”

As I look back over my “poor” mothering skills and the gift of my children, I realize just how miraculously all things really do work together, and that they do in fact come back round.

Every year at Christmas, I really do get everything I want; peace and joy. I don’t want to make this one of those rallying cries against materialism and I’m not going to scream about putting Christ back into Christmas. (Have you ever noticed that those who do are the same folks who have the biggest trees and the most lights?) I will state this; you will always be disappointed if you misplace your expectations.

You can have whatever you want and you can have it all year long. The real trick to life is in knowing what to want in the first place.

·         Make a list of what you want.

·         Next to it write what you truly need.

·         Whose life can you touch with something you have but no longer need?

·         Make someone laugh and enjoy their laughter.

Disappointments are only mis-appointed expectations.

Be Real, Be You, BE LOVE

Bertice Berry, PhD

Friday, December 23, 2011

Getting Rid Of The Baggage

My friend Pat and I in our 20s. We were hiding what we didnt like not realizing how beautiful we truly were

Love it or lose it

Loving myself at 51

Everybody’s goal weight is exactly where they were when they first thought they were fat.

Yesterday, I received a most beautiful message. Now, you should know that when I use the word beautiful for a thing or a person, I mean it in the scientific sense; beauty is symmetry, it is balance. When a person is beautiful, they are balanced and exhibit beauty from the inside and the out. Living a balanced life is what makes a person beautiful. We all know those people who are what I call Extremist; one day they are flying high and the next they are having the “worst” day ever. For these people, there is no balance, it is all or nothing. Balance requires that we give a bit more when we don’t fell like it and pull back when we fly higher than the room.

Anyway, I digress; I was saying that I received a beautiful message, it simply said “Thank you for this blog, I need it. My goal for 2012 is to love myself.” You may be wondering why I think it’s balanced, have no fear, I will tell you. Within this note you find gratitude, a desire and then the answer to that desire. This person is already reading and seeking the information to love her whole self, she is grateful for the information and she has set the goal.

I am a firm believer in the proverb which says that the way out is back through. We often have to look back over our life to see where we made our missteps in order to find our way.

This morning, I watched the beginning of the funeral services for Vaclav Havel, the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic. He was a playwright and poet and then was highly instrumental in helping the country make its radical transition from a communist country to a democratic one. As I sat for the period of silence along with millions all over the world, my mind wandered to the transition of South Africa and the truth and reconciliation hearings ushered in by Nelson Mandela. In those hearings, individuals who committed often heinous crimes against others were given the opportunity to tell the details of their crime to the surviving family members of their victim(s). When they were truthful in their telling, they were forgiven. WOW!

My thoughts then drifted to the people in all of these places where acts of cruelty had occurred between neighbors and sometimes even relatives. How do you go forward, how can you forgive?

It may seem silly and trivial to make the comparison but I’ve been accused of both so here goes; when you fail to love yourself or to see your own natural beauty, you are committing a crime against your own Being and against nature. You are destroying the potential of what you can be. It may be true that others have played a part in how you feel. They may have called you ugly (which by now you should know is the lack of symmetry and balance,) they may have done things to you that cause you to feel less than who you are; in this you had no choice, but you do have a choice in whether or not you hold the harmful baggage that has been handed to you. You must recall that painful story and then you must forgive those who have offended, but most importantly, you must forgive yourself for holding onto the pain.

Recently, an old friend reached out and re-connected with me. We were in our twenties when we met and are now in our fifties. I had just earned my doctoral degree and she was a nurse. We worked on a cruise ship, me as a comedian and entertainer (I was trying to get out of my brainiac mode) and she was the ship’s nurse. We were bright and beautiful but didn’t realize it ourselves. She would complain about stretch marks and I would distress over my thighs and butt (I’m over it, see yesterday’s blog.) Last week, my friend Pat sent a picture of the two of us from almost 30 years ago. We were beyond beautiful. So beautiful in fact, that I didn’t recognize myself in the picture. We both have had health challenges and have survived but more importantly, we see how wonderful we are right now.

I believe that our goal weight is exactly where it was when we first thought we were fat. We could not see our own beauty. We compared ourselves to others instead of seeing our own unique beauty. Now, we wish to be that person we didn’t see then.

As it was said by Nick Nolte in the movie, Peaceful Warrior, we have to “Take out the trash.” The trash is in our mind and it is keeping us from loving ourselves and from being at our best; beautiful and whole.

Imagine the transformation of a poet and playwright to becoming a President, think of the activist lawyer who is imprisoned for 27 but becomes the leader of a new nation.

Vaclav Havel wrote about the Power of The Powerless and taught that “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hate.”

In life, everything is connected. Big things are little and the little can be big. We cannot begin to imagine what we miss when we fail to embrace our own self. What’s gone is gone. But you can imagine what is possible and you can imagine loving yourself.

The beauty of that wonderful message I got yesterday is in the balance. It said, “I know what I want and I thank you for showing me myself.”

·         Today, decide that you are beautiful and act like it. Walk around as if you are already “all that.”

·         Learn something about a country or place that you didn’t know before.

·         Share it with someone.

·         Reconnect with someone from your past and share a picture of you together. (We are more shocked by pictures of our self that we haven’t seen before than we are of the ones we possess.)

·         Compliment a stranger

We can all be better. Forgive yourself, love yourself, be you.

Bertice Berry, PhD