How is Stress Affecting the Story of Your Life?

Have you been feeling the negative effects of stress from head to toe? Has it grown to become more than just that adorable little monkey on your back? Are you remotely curious to the point that you’ll listen to some counsel? “Sometimes you don’t feel the weight of something you’ve been carrying until you feel the weight of its release.”–Unknown

Do you need a serious “wake-up” call before you take steps to reduce your unwanted burden? If you were to receive shocking news today that immediately and drastically changed the landscape of your life, what action would you take? How would you choose to spend your time if for the first time you were forced to contemplate the meaning of time and how many days you have remaining?“Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.” —Thomas S. Monson  So, pause you must. Consider the day at hand. Yes, even today. Is it not loaded with countless opportunities? Would you not agree that it is chock-full of chances to do something wonderful and meaningful? Oh, I know that some bemoan that their days are already jammed with work, family, and other activities. These mistakenly believe there is no room available in their lives. They may as well carry a sign that reads “No Vacancy”. Deep down many desire something or someone who may help their lives to shine with a bright, new complexion. They may have even lost that loving feeling! There are those who despite the ever-present buzz of activity crave an injection which will fill their lives with greater purpose. “Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.”–Chad Hymes  Some things must wait. Some must be set aside for a season in life. Some must be discarded completely. “A year from now you may wish you had started today.”–Karen Lamb

So, you may be wishing for a new lease on life. Perhaps, you simply do not know where to turn. Lacking sufficient knowledge, or direction, or the ability to discern the truth of things as they really are could present a stumbling block. But, don’t wait until you blow some blood vessels in your brain or your back breaks from your insanely demanding workload. “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It means understanding that something is what it is and there’s got to be a way through it.”–Michael J. Fox  You’ve been stuck in neutral for far too long. A shift of perspective is called for if you are to extricate yourself from  the dangerous, cavernous rut. “Just because something isn’t happening for you right now doesn’t mean that it will never happen.”–Unknown  Do not assume that you are both helpless and hopeless. On the other hand, I suppose it might be sensible to remember that “just because you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”–George Carlin

Your objective moving forward is to make each day special. “I have found that rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.”–Thomas S. Monson

In the world today, it is certainly  easy for the mundane to creep up on unsuspecting individuals. Lives become hijacked. You might be speeding down the runway every day or held up at the gate in a never-ending delay, but either way you are no longer in control of your journey. I have some practical suggestions. If applied, they may serve as a one-way ticket out of your predicament:

  1. Shrink your calendar. A “busy” body does not always produce a healthy body.
  2. Make changes that will be noticed. They are more likely to be lasting in nature.
  3. Live for yourself and your family. When someone says “You’ve changed.” It simply means you’ve stopped living your life their way.
  4. Become a peacemaker. Do not indulge in trivial battles over that which is entirely and eternally insignificant.
  5. Do not create drama. There’s only room for a few actors on your stage.
  6. Don’t hold grudges. They slowly poison you and your loved ones with their toxins.
  7. Don’t judge others. Every traveler in mortality carries baggage unseen by others.
  8. Learn to appreciate what you already have. Live on less and with less and you’ll live more fully.
  9. Live so as to always be ready, willing, and worthy of heavenly help.
  10. Do not fear. Only believe. Fear will add fuel to your stress. Faith will help you let it go.

“If you think of your life as a story, then you can think of any grief or stress you might be experiencing as just a few pages–and anyone can get through a few pages. You are the author of your own story, the illustrator of your own destiny. You choose the words and the lines that fill its pages.”–James A. Owen

Look Beyond the Chocolate

Wonka Bar

One of my all-time favorite movies teaches one of the greatest lessons to be learned in this life. Released on the 30th of June 1971, this American musical, fantasy film is a timeless classic. Actually, in great abundance we discover many tasty, teachable moments, but one is particularly golden. If I mention that the movie was based on a story by Roald Dahl and starred Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum, I’m certain that you can guess its name. Ah, of course, it’s in your personal collection as well: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”!

As you know this story is choc-full of commentary regarding the follies of the “natural man”.  The cleverly delivered messages are as applicable to us today as when it was originally made. The colorful cast of characters convey the preponderance of slothfulness, greed, the desire for instant gratification, a sense of entitlement, pure selfishness, rudeness in discourse, and outright disobedience. Surely, these are nothing new to the human experience. Wonka’s magical candy-land is the ideal battlefield to test anyone’s ability to wage the ongoing war against temptation. Each of us needs to discover the path to fight off our own demons. I bet you’re thinking about the Oompa Loompas! For sure, their distinctive look, creative songs, and hilariously choreographed moves are memorable! But none of the warning, instruction, or correction gleaned from their fun-filled, lovable lyrics is central to my theme on this particular day.

I am asking you to fast-forward to the end of this delicious joy-ride. Let’s bypass the luscious lollipops, mouthwatering mounds of marshmallows, the raging river of real chocolate, the eggdicator, and anything remotely scrumdiddlyumptious. I don’t want you to focus on the weaknesses of Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Mike Teevee, Violet Beauregarde, or even Grandpa Joe. Don’t think for a minute that you are completely immune from the obvious flaws in each of their characters. To do so would be pure imagination! Despite the extreme popularity of the movie, I believe that it is quite possible that many overlook a truly powerful message contained in one of the closing scenes. In fact, I would go so far as to repeat my opening statement. It is the preeminent lesson to be taken away from this production, and it has real life applications. It is the simple fact that you must look beyond the chocolate! It is the grand truth that your worth is infinitely more than just the chocolate.

Let me reset the stage for you so that you can more fully understand. Grandpa Joe and Charlie enter Mr. Wonka’s office. Wonka is sitting at his desk dutifully engaged in nothing in particular. You remember, “there’s so much time and so little to do!” Wonka was waiting and hoping for his vision to unfold. Wonka is not thinking about chocolate. His plan, after all, has really little to do with chocolate alone. But that doesn’t stop Grandpa Joe’s mind from being  firmly fixated upon that concept as tightly as the wrapping around a Wonka Bar. Completely engaged as such, he wishes to know when his grandson is going to receive his life-changing reward–the chocolate. He mistakenly believes the notion that a prize is due without truthfulness, without effort, without transformation, or without a change of heart. Charlie Bucket’s grandpa expresses his outrage at Wonka’s apparent heartlessness and sense of fairness. He calls Wonka an inhuman monster. Grandpa Joe vows to enact revenge upon Mr. Wonka for destroying a boy’s dreams. He cannot fathom why Charlie will not be the recipient of a lifetime supply of Willy Wonka’s chocolate creations. It is pretty straightforward, though, as the Candy Man lividly points out just prior to Grandpa Joe’s outburst: “Under section 37 B of the contract signed by him, (Charlie), it states quite clearly that all offers shall become null and void if , and you can read it for yourself in this photostatic copy, I, the undersigned, shall forefit all rights, privileges, and licenses herein contained, etc., etc., ….it’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal. You stole Fizzy Lifting Drinks. You bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized. So, you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir! ”

 But wait, in a moment that I hope we all reenact at some point in our lives, Charlie does not succumb to his Grandpa Joe’s misplaced anger! Charlie comes to a realization that he has let Mr. Wonka down. The look on his face is of pure sorrow and remorse. He is prepared to accept the consequences of his actions. He makes restitution by returning the Ever-Lasting Gobstopper. “So shines a good deed in a weary world, “ is softly spoken by the magnanimous Candy Man. Then, Mr. Wonka reveals his true intentions. “Charlie, my boy, you did it! Forgive me for putting you through this. I had to test you, Charlie, and you passed the test.” “The Master said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”–Matthew 25:21  He declares Charlie as the winner. Yet, there’s something more to it, isn’t there? Charlie, unaware of what awaits him, is still simply focused on the chocolate. He asks, “The chocolate”? Wonka, now beaming with joy beyond measure, appears to roll his eyes. “Yes, the chocolate,” he responds. “The grand and glorious jackpot! But, that is only the beginning!”

Perhaps, we, like Charlie, may not recognize our full potential. That is why we cannot see beyond the chocolate. An old proverb declares: “Be Humble, for you are made of earth. Be Noble, for you are made of stars.” Why do we settle for less than we deserve? Why can’t we see our true potential? Why are we afraid of change? It is crucial to know that “the task ahead of you is never as great as the power behind you.”--Brad Wilcox  Simply put, you will have help! To move beyond our “chocolate stage” though, we must become as sincerely repentant as Charlie. Any trial or adversity which prevents us from making progress must be met head on. To move forward, we must first accept responsibility for our current state. If you’ve gained back all the weight you had lost, please believe that all is not lost! However, you must lose the “I want it now” attitude of Veruca Salt. Reaching your worthy goal in the past took time. Recall, that you felt that it was worth the effort. More importantly, remember that you believed you were worthy of obtaining something important. For a while, you saw beyond the chocolate! You knew that your endeavor was surely more than just about the weight. Even now, what awaits you at the journey’s end is far greater than you can imagine.  You can still choose to do what is right and never, ever give up. Adherence to the commandments of exercise and healthy eating is your pathway to success. Charlie Bucket had no idea that he was to be Willy Wonka’s heir. My hope is that we recognize that our destiny is to be heirs as well. “And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” Thus said the Master Chocolatier! “The Lord doesn’t put us through this test just to give us a grade; He does it because the process will change us.”–Henry B. Eyring  That knowledge, my friends, is the great lesson. Now, you may have a bite of chocolate!

photo credit: Crafting with Cat Hair Felt Wonka bar iPod cozy via photopin (license)