Melissa Flickinger: Words I Live By

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My dad is a “no BS” kind of person. He despises dishonesty. He doesn’t believe in quitting or giving up. He won’t give you his opinion unless you ask for it, and if you ask for it, be prepared to hear what he thinks. He won’t compromise his morals and values just to make you feel better, especially if he knows it is wrong. He has standards in his life and words he lives by. I can’t count the number of times he has said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” There were times in my life where I have thought my dad was pretty abrupt, and for lack of a better word, “mean.” Yet, as I have grown older and began developing my own set of values and beliefs, I have realized these are the things he stands for, they are his moral compass. They are words he lives by.

I sat down and wrote down what my ten “words to live by” are, and I realized it was a lot easier than I thought. If I had tried to do this a few years ago, I don’t think I would have been able to do it, or at least do it honestly. However, these past few years have been years of growth and maturity, and along the way I have established my own moral compass and defined what I stand for as a human being, a woman, a wife, a mom, and a child of God.

1. One Day at a Time 

When I started my journey in sobriety, I heard we had to learn to live sober “one day at a time.” We shouldn’t think about not drinking forever, we should just think about not drinking today. Focus on the present. As I have traveled on this road, I have adopted those words for other aspects of my life. I utilize it all the time, especially in difficult situations. The past can’t be changed, the future is unknown, but today is now. All I have to worry about is the twenty-four hours ahead of me. Life happens one day at a time and that is exactly how fast I have to move, just one day. I have found it has simplified the worry in my life, and the need to control the unknown. I need reminders to slow down, breathe, and to just do the next thing that needs to be done right now. I feel like I am fully present in life and focus more on the here and now rather than what was and what will be, which is a waste of perfectly good time.

2. There is Always Something to be Grateful for

Every year in my classroom, I have students who don’t take their education seriously. They don’t try, they don’t want to be there, and they just don’t care. I read “The Diary of Anne Frank” (play version) every year and go over the Holocaust. I really try  to hammer home how life was for Jewish people and even those who didn’t believe in the terror of the Nazis. When they actually grasp a little of what Anne Frank and her family went through, locked in an attic with seven other individuals for two years with hardly any food, living in fear each and every day they would be found, being ripped away from your friends and school, all your freedom taken away, and finally suffering and dying in a concentration camp, I give my speech about how fortunate we are to live in a country like America (despite our current situation, but this is not a political post) and have the freedom to go to school. We study Malala and countries where girls are forbidden to go to school or they are killed or kidnapped and taken as prisoners by terrorists. I try to teach them that no matter how bad they think they have it (even if their home life is horrible, they have suffered loss, they don’t have the latest iphone) there is someone who has it far worse and would trade their life to live the life they are living. They have clothes on their back, shoes on their feet, food to eat, and a roof over their head (most of them have far more than just the basic needs), so they should be thankful and appreciate the life they get to live. I don’t just preach this to my students, I live this. I live with a heart full of gratitude. Even in the worst possible situation, even on the most difficult day, I remind myself that it could always be worse. Gratitude is one of my favorite words, and it living with it in my heart has helped change my perspective in so many ways.

 3. Ephesians 3:20

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us”

I love scripture; they are God’s words to us. Ephesians 3:20 is by far my favorite and something that I can recite in my head when I am feeling doubtful, scared, or not sure what I should do next. It reminds me of God’s power and ability to do more than I could possible think. It reminds me to trust and have faith. This verse alone got me through the most horrific situation of my life. On my blog page, I have a category called “A Non-Fiction Blog Post.” This is the story of my husband’s nearly fatal dirt bike accident and our fifty-five day stay in the hospital. Everyday I read different scripture, but everyday, I also read or recited this verse. I knew this verse before my husband’s accident because God has shown up in my life and done amazing things that I often just look up and say “thank you, I know that was you.”

4. I am ONLY Responsible for My Words and Actions, NOT Yours

I think this speaks for itself. As much as people want to try to blame the things they say or do on other people, they chose how they act and what they say. It doesn’t matter what other people do to you or how they treat you, you are responsible for how you react or respond. I have learned from a few toxic people in my life that I am not responsible for their anger, their bad behavior, their verbal abuse or outbursts. They are. I am responsible for myself and only myself. I have relinquished the need to take ownership of something someone else has done just because they felt what I did or said justified their actions. I am only responsible for myself.

5. Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

This is one of my favorite go to prayers. I first heard it when I started going to AA meetings, and at first, I didn’t really pay attention to its deeper meaning. Over time, this prayer has become part of my daily thoughts and keeps me grounded when I get overwhelmed, feel out of control, or have a serious problem with someone or something. I have learned this prayer is a prayer for a calm mind and a sense of peace. I need to realize there are always going to be things in my life I will not be able to control, and I need to accept that. I can’t control other people, I can’t control situations, and I can’t control life. I am not God. If I have an opportunity to change a certain aspect of a situation or myself, then I pray I am brave enough to do so. I have to learn the difference between the two, what I can’t control and what I can. When I find myself uneasy or up in arms about something, I realize it is because I can’t change it. The only thing I can change is my reaction to it and how I let it affect me. The serenity comes from accepting I am not in charge, God is. I trust God.

6. Wanderlust

I just love this word. I would use it to define myself. I am someone who craves adventure, especially in the outdoors. I love traveling and seeing new places. It is something my soul desires. My husband and I have a dream of buying an RV and taking a road trip throughout the US and Canada. If we could do it now, we would. I think of the saying, “All who wander are not lost.” I just want to wander all over the world and get lost in the beauty of the planet we live. There is so much to see, and I want to see it all.   There is nothing that a little bit of adventure can’t fix. My husband and I live for our next adventure. It replenishes us and allows us to take a step back from the daily routines to just enjoy living.

7. You are Responsible for Your Own Happiness

Happiness. We are all capable of happiness, even if our life is not where we want it to be or had hoped it would be at a given time. We can find joy in the storm if we remember to be grateful. Too many people rely on other people, material things, or outer beauty to make them happy, but true happiness lies within us. Happiness is a choice. I get disappointed in life and people let me down, I get sad and emotional, but overall, I live a happy life because I am full of gratitude for what I do have in my life. I see the bigger picture. I don’t give anyone that much power over me to control my happiness.  I am in charge of it. It is something I do have control over, and living with a happy heart is so much easier (and healthier mentally and emotionally) than living with an angry, resentful heart. People who smile are much more beautiful and fun to be around than those who are constantly scowling, complaining and negative about life.

8. Willing to Admit When You are Wrong, and Humble Enough to Apologize

This is probably one of the hardest things I have had to learn to do. No one likes to admit when they are wrong, and apologizing is so awkward and uncomfortable. No one likes awkwardness or uncomfortable situations. I have learned there is a sense of humility that comes from admitting when you are wrong, taking responsibility, and saying you are sorry. I know when I have done something wrong because it sits on my heart and weighs on my mind. In order for me to feel better, I have to admit I was wrong and apologize. I don’t want to hurt anyone. It is never my intention, but it happens. We are human and conflict is a part of life. However, learning to set aside my pride and the need to always be right has made me a better person on the inside. It has taught me a different kind of strength. A humbling strength that reminds you, you are not better than anyone else and no one is perfect, especially not me. I will make mistakes, but I will admit when I have and apologize for it. (with the intention of never doing it again)  Again, I am responsible for my words and actions no matter how someone else has acted or what they have said.

9. Truth

There is nothing real if there is no truth. There is no trust when the truth has been altered. Truth is the backbone of any relationship. I have to be truthful with others, and I must allow people to be truthful with me no matter how much it hurts. A wise man once told me that “the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Sometimes it is hard to hear the hard truths about yourself or be completely honest with someone, but I would rather someone be completely honest with me than lie to me. Once someone lies to me, I will always doubt what they say and question their authenticity. The last thing I want to be known as is someone who can’t be trusted or a person who lacks integrity.

10. Perspective Changes Everything

I didn’t just name my blog this because I thought it sounded well. If you read the HOME page on my blog, you will see that the word perspective is a word that has helped change my way of thinking, my attitude, and in turn, my life.

From my Blog:

Perspective is defined as “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.” This one word has assisted in changing my attitude towards situations, circumstances, and people. It has completely altered the way I look at life. I have realized that I am truly affected by how I think, which in turn affects how I feel, and then how I feel directly influences how I react or respond. It all starts with my perspective–how I look at life, people, situations, and circumstances. When I can take a moment to examine all the ways to look at a situation or a relationship, I often realize there is a either a lesson or a blessing (and sometimes both) in everything. I have learned there is always something to be grateful for and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I wish everything always worked out the way I wanted it to, but that just isn’t realistic. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience, hard work, tears, and perseverance, but eventually you come out the other side stronger than you ever thought you were. Someone once told me, “Life is made up of hills and valleys. You have to walk through the valleys to appreciate the view from the top.” How true is that? Again, it is all about perspective.

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