Last weekend I traveled with my family to our hometown of Syracuse, NY.  We navigated that five to seven hour drive several times over the past year.  Those quick trips were in response to the heartbreaking deaths of four men in our family, in unrelated situations.  Four deaths meant four funerals.  Lots of driving.  Many hearts torn.

Mercifully, when we piled into the car last Friday, we were not traveling for another funeral!  We were attending a memorial scholarship fundraiser.  The fundraiser proceeds are shared with a qualified and deserving high school graduate, in honor our deceased cousin, Corey Alan Hill (1980 – 2013.)

Corey was shot in the chest and killed ten years ago while performing an act of selfless kindness as he so often did.  Our experience has been that celebration, combined with community service and the love of family/friends can help ease the aches and pains of Corey’s absence.  Nothing can bring him back, so we are happy to come together for something festive and uplifting, as odd as that may seem for a memorial benefit.  Corey’s favorite music is played and there are lots of raffles and line dances going on.  We always look forward to the event.  Our son Zach has the best time of anyone there and loves to do the Wobble with his family!  LINK:  Corey A. Hill Memorial Scholarship

Back to this trip up North:  One of our favorite ways to enjoy being home is to indulge in some of the local fare that we miss while we are way.  There are many old time favorite spots:

  • There is a candle store there called Witty Wicks which we love. They recycle the glass when we bring back the empties!
  • JRECK Subs is always a favorite, although all but one location had to close and the one that remains is not recommended following our most recent experience.
  • Pizza Pizza Pizza: Pavone’s and Peppino’s Pizza are still old favorites!
  • The best chicken wings in Syracuse are found at Change of Pace an old haunt which was walking distance from the house I grew up in.
  • Lastly and most importantly, the best chocolate chip cookies in Syracuse are found at Zebb’s Bar & Grill but I don’t recommend clicking the link if you’re hungry!

Or maybe they ONCE WERE the best.  At least our family could all agree on that one thing for the last several decades.  But on Sunday July 16th that all changed, including the actual cookie recipe.

Are you shocked?  Maybe not.  In fact if you’d never had a chocolate chip cookie from Zebb’s before, you would probably have eaten one from the “Baker’s Dozen” box I purchased, and confirmed our family’s long standing assertion that they are indeed, the best.

But I just couldn’t.  I’ve eaten the exact same cookie so many times, it was just too different to really enjoy.  I chewed curiously through the first cookie thinking:  “Something’s off…What is it?”  So to be sure, I HAD to eat a second.  Sadly, the second cookie was also my last.

A “Baker’s Dozen” for you Extra-Terrestrial non-cookie eaters, is 13 cookies for the price of 12.  Who can pass that up?  They were so good I once brought multiple individual boxes of these “baker’s dozens of chocolate chip cookies” back to Maryland as appreciation gifts for Zach’s team of caregivers.  The boxes got greasy during the drive so the recipients of said cookies looked at me funny when they got a greasy box in their hand.  But as soon as they bit into one cookie they forgot I was even in the room!

When it comes to CHANGE is your ability to respond limited to a few morsels of change sprinkled here and there?  When the ingredients of a situation are different than what you thought they would be, do you grumble?  Do you look for someone to complain to like a manager, a server or even your companion?  (Please don’t succumb to the last one which creates two annoyed people instead of one.)  Do you eat all 13 cookies and then give them the power to make you angry about them later?  Do you swear never again to go to Zebb’s and miss out on the other amazing food there?

Or, are you a “Change Superhero” who chooses to charge full force into mountains of change all at once?  Do you see change as a door opening, not one closing?  Can you rebound from just about any situation given enough love, time, resources and Grace?  If so, then you are a Change Superhero!

So the first question to ask yourself is:  “Which profile best describes me and the way I am living?

If your profile fits that of a Change Superhero, congratulations and keep going!  Life will flow more easily for you.  Your health will be better than that of a non-Change Superhero.  You will sleep better. You will feel better.  You will be happier, more exuberant, and be better able to respond to life than your counterparts who are training with morsels instead of mountains.  The depth of your personal experience will keep life interesting and adventuresome.

If your profile sounds more like the vulnerability recoiling (also known as a pit in our stomachs) that often accompanies changing dynamics and circumstances, then ask yourself a follow up question:  “How are my compulsive reactions working for me, and are they producing the harmonious results I desire?”  If the answer is anything along the lines of “Well, I can probably do better…change makes me crazy” then I am so glad you are reading or listening!  Because I have great news!

Every moment of our lives is 100% in flux.  We may feel otherwise.  We may think some things are solid, static or unbreakable even.  But when we peel back the layers, our lives are comprised of relationships with others.  And since we are all human, we are constantly changing.  But whether or not you realize that atoms are splitting and matter is in motion every second of every day, it is happening.

The Planet is spinning.  The tides rise and fall.  We are in constant relationship with the Solar System which powers the entire Universe.  Without the Sun, our lives would end in a matter of weeks.  And this is awesome news!  Because we have as many chances to increase our ability to open to what is here instead of habitually reacting to it, as there are seconds in our lives.

There is nothing wrong with learning to assimilate everything that is coming at us, a few morsels of change at a time.  Sometimes it’s what we can do, especially when loss and grief are involved.  I am not suggesting we become machines.  Quite the opposite.

I am suggesting that there is an inverse correlation between STRESS (unhappiness, lack of zest, apathy) with our ability to adapt and respond in a way we are proud of.  As we remain enclosed in the walls we have built for protection, and now imprison us, we find ourselves less satisfied and less fulfilled than ever.  Fear comes with change.  That too is part of being human.  But what we do in response to that fear can drastically impact the way we experience of this incredible gift of life.

I further suggest that this inverse relationship can teach us a lot about how we respond to fear, and therefore change.  If we find ourselves feeling attacked, singled out, or offended, that is a reverse indicator of sorts that we are compulsively reacting to the moments of our life, instead of simply responding to them.  Sometimes the best reaction is stillness.  When things are in flux, waiting for the dust to settle may seem like the hardest choice, but that doesn’t mean its not the best one.

In summary, whether your run from change or sprint right into with your hair on fire, there are endless opportunities to try a different way of doing things.  As we expand and break down those walls we built, or at least carve out a window for ourselves, we increase our tolerance for change.  And when you start getting excited about the scent of change, instead of numbing or hiding from it, that too is an indicator; it says you’re moving in the direction of harmony.

Next time you get triggered or are about to react to something or someone in your environment without thinking, try to find the little space that waits patiently at the end of each exhaled breath.  Think before you speak.  Process before you act.  This practice is another exceptional way to learn how to let silence be a better asset to your navigation of the world, than compulsive reaction may seem to be.

One last question:  Are we baking cookies in this masterpiece life of ours, or are we scaling mountains?

(Hint:  BOTH if we are lucky!)

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