Being Resolute in 2018: Begin Within

Being Resolute in 2018: Begin Within

If we make happiness our primary goal instead of our secondary goal, then we easily accomplish everything else we desire. ~Deepak Chopra

Across the country and throughout the world, people are asking themselves the same question: What will my resolutions be for 2018?

The “Greatest Hits” of resolutions include weight loss, saying goodbye to cigarettes and liquor, and establishing a fitness regimen.

No doubt, these are all admirable goals to live a better life. But one hardly needs a new year to begin — or resume — being so resolute; in fact, I would argue that many of us are overweight, smoky, and out of shape because we set ourselves up for failure in some other previous new year. Resolutions have a way of making us feel horrible about ourselves before January is even over. Once we fail at keeping our resolutions, we find solace in remembering that another new year will soon be upon us — in 11 months.

I found another set of New Year’s “Greatest Hits” on my friend’s Facebook page. Chris shared the top ten “Words of Wisdom” by the late Wayne Dyer, and it paired nicely with my daily readings of Deepak Chopra.

The resolution we really need to be making is simple, requires no exercise equipment, and prepares us to accomplish any secondary goal we might have to live a more healthy, fulfilling life. It’s so simple, in fact, that we do everything we can to make it harder on ourselves, when we don’t need to.

Are you ready? Here it is:

Embrace happiness and joy in this moment, within you.

And we don’t even have to wait until January 1. It’s accessible, and doable, right now. All you need to do is shift your priorities, see the beauty within you first, and then go after any other goal or resolution you wish to pursue.

You might be asking: What’s the difference, then, if I go for my goals first? Won’t that lead me to the same goal of happiness anyway?

It seems logical that it should work that way, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it almost never does. Here’s why. When we seek things — materialistic or otherwise — to bring us happiness, we allow our well being to become dependent on achieving those things. And, as we are hardly creatures of contentment, we then seek out the next thing that will make us happy.

Thoreau, over 150 years ago, nailed it when he penned those timeless words:

“The mass of men lead their lives in quiet desperation.”

We can’t keep chasing resolutions, thinking they are going to be making us happier. They simply won’t. But, if we begin with happiness, and then pursue our resolutions, that wellness within will keep us motivated throughout the year — and beyond — to make those better choices in our lives.

So here are Dyer’s words of wisdom below, coupled with ten of my own photos from previous years. At the end of this post is a lovely 39-minute sunrise that I have been playing while writing in the early hours. Enjoy.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2018 for each of us. May you discover the beauty and joy that awaits within.

Love, Rus

10. If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

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9. How people treat you is their Karma; how you react is yours.

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8. When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.

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7. You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.

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6. Conflict cannot survive without your participation.

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5. Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.

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4. Abundance is not something we acquire; it is something we tune into.

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3. Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.

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2. You’ll see it when you believe it.

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1. Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.

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Pedestrian Safety: An Urgent Matter in Maryland

Pedestrian Safety: An Urgent Matter in Maryland

Exclusive for Baltimore County Breaking News
By Rus VanWestervelt (@rusvw13, rus@bcobreakingnews.com)

I’ve been working with Baltimore County Breaking News for more than two years now, and we’ve covered a lot of tragic events during that time. It’s been heartbreaking to be the dispatcher sharing the news with our followers, or the writer providing the follow-up story that offers the tragic loss of human life. I’ve seen it from both sides; it was just as heartbreaking when other news agencies shared the details of my own brother’s death in a motorcycle accident in Carroll County.

The injury, or loss, of any life is tough, but when it’s senselessly brought on by the mindless ignorance of drivers or pedestrians, and the breaking of common-sense laws, it infuriates all of us even more.

One of the most abused laws in Maryland involves pedestrian traffic.

The stats are clear that we have an urgent need to address this issue more aggressively. In 2012, Maryland was rated as the seventh most dangerous state in the United States for pedestrians (Florida was the worst, with Delaware, Arizona, South Carolina, Hawaii, and North Carolina named 2-6, respectively).

And, according to recent statistics provided by multiple sources (including the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, the Maryland State Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), Maryland has seen, on average, about 100 pedestrian deaths each year in the last two decades (about 20% of all road-related deaths annually). Shockingly, the number of children ages 5-9 killed as pedestrians comprised 14% of all pedestrian crashes in 1998.

Annually, up to 70% of these deaths are related to pedestrian error; however, many injuries and deaths occur with pedestrians lawfully in crosswalks at intersections or in mid-block (when a crosswalk is placed in the middle of a street).

Drivers Must Follow Maryland Laws

Maryland law is clear when it comes to yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians (as summarized by the Montgomery County Government).

  • A driver of a vehicle must come to a complete stop when a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk.
  • It is unlawful for a driver to pass a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian in either a marked or unmarked crosswalk. This includes in shopping centers, especially in front of busy stores where there is high foot traffic.
  • Vehicles facing a green signal, including any vehicle turning right or left, must yield right-of-way to any pedestrian lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk.
  • Vehicles facing a red signal or red arrow signal must stop at the intersection at the clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk.
  • The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, shall warn any pedestrian by sounding a horn, and shall exercise proper precaution on observing any confused or incapacitated pedestrians.
  • The driver of a vehicle shall drive at an appropriate reduced speed when any special danger exists as to pedestrians.

Pedestrians Share The Responsibility For Safety

Pedestrians need to be smart about how they walk alongside, or cross, roads.

  • A pedestrian facing a steady red traffic signal may not enter the roadway.
  • A pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a solid “don’t walk” or “upraised hand” signal.
  • If a pedestrian crosses a roadway at any point other than in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, the pedestrian shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle.
  • In an intersection where a traffic control signal is in operation, a pedestrian may cross only in a marked crosswalk.
  • A pedestrian may not cross an intersection diagonally unless authorized by a traffic control device.
  • Where a sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may not walk along or on an adjacent roadway.  Where no sidewalk is provided, a pedestrian may walk only on the left shoulder or on the left side of the roadway facing traffic.

Baltimore County Police Encourage Education In Pedestrian Safety

In addition to these laws, The Baltimore County Police Department provides these simple reminders for parents to speak with their children about pedestrian safety.

  • Always cross at traffic lights, marked crosswalks or intersections.
  • Obey traffic signals at all times. Don’t attempt to cross if the signal tells you to stop.
  • Stay alert when crossing. Even when the signal says WALK, you should check that the path is clear.
  • Always check in all directions for approaching vehicles before crossing the street. If there is a vehicle approaching, wait until it passes before trying to cross.
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb.
  • Walk on the sidewalk whenever possible. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing at night.
  • Avoid distraction when crossing. Turn off headphones and put away your cell phone before crossing.

The Baltimore County Breaking News Team would love nothing more than to report that Maryland has become the safest place in the United States for pedestrians. Let us each do our part — as drivers and as walkers — in ensuring that everyone reaches their destinations safely.

Taking A Walk In The Woods

I’m sharing this on the trail here in Gunpowder Falls State Park, where I’ve decided to take a little walk in the woods to reconnect with the Earth. This is my first mobile post here at The Baltimore Writer, an experiment to bring you my experiences more immediately, perhaps a little raw and incomplete. 

It’s authentic, though, and that’s what I’m going for. An authentic presentation of my life as I am living it.

It’s cold out here, just above 30 degrees. I’m in the middle of an abandoned archery range. It’s like visiting a ghost-town zoo, where the remnants of the animals’ souls remain, a reminder of their once-abundant presence.


I feel like we came here, pushed our way through, cleared out the wildlife, and then left-moved on to the next space to conquer.

And all in a state park.

I know it’s not this way. I’m sure that this archery range has brought delight to a lot of people, young and old. But I know this isn’t the case in other natural parts of the county (and elsewhere).

I’d rather walk in the wild and take my chances than step on these state-park scrubbed paths, these sanitized stones void of the very life forms that it once provided for, these thriving creatures small and large, now nothing more than bullseye props for us to play the role of the man-in-the-wild.

Oh, irony, how you are too close, too often, these days.

Share More, Think Less

TBW writing spaceI spend a lot of time in my head, thinking and thinking and thinking about what to write about. Even though I keep a little Piccadilly notebook with me at all times, capturing little snippets of life that I find interesting, I don’t do enough with them.

In those moments, I am happy that I jotted them down. Good to make that thought concrete, I think to myself. And it is good. I believe there’s a lot of life that passes us by that is fascinating, especially the small things that we see between the bigger events.

Sitting at a table with a group of high school friends, listening to one tell a fascinating story of saving her small business, I glance across the crab cakes and buttered vegetables to see another friend pick up her napkin, dab the corner of her eye, and try to push a smile to support the success of her friend. Try to fit in. Try to not let the world see that she is elsewhere, caught in her own memory. I meant to mention something to her after the dinner, but by then she was — or seemed — totally fine. She moved on, and so did I.

Later, I remember and I jot these observations down in my little notebook, then go about my busy life. Months later I page through the old notes, and there it is:

Kelly’s tear when Tracy was sharing her business story. What memory composed that tear?

My notebook is filled with notes like this one, and many of them are left unexplored. While that little journal is capturing the immediate observations, I just don’t do enough to follow through with the deeper stories, whether they might be real or eventually fictional, as “Gretchie’s Gift” turned out to be.

There’s a reason for that. Simply put, I need to think less and share more.

I’ve always enjoyed coming here to the Baltimore Writer and sharing my ideas and observations with you, but I just haven’t done it enough this year.

In fact, when I take a quick glance at the stats, I’m pretty ashamed of what I see. The last five years have been ridiculously light, posting 40 or fewer pieces each year, with just 11 posted thus far in 2016:

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Now, these stats don’t mean that I haven’t been writing. When it comes to constructed fiction for the purpose of publishing with a larger audience (beyond this blog) in the 11 years since I started blogging regularly, I’ve written nearly 500,000 words. And my larger daybooks are filled with hundreds of thousands of more raw words that have never been shared with others.

But what I am sharing with all of you here at the Baltimore Writer… That needs to improve — not because I don’t think that I am writing enough. It’s because I don’t think I am sharing and publishing enough. What good are the thoughts if they never reach the hearts and the minds of my readers, both today and tomorrow?

That’s why I created the Baltimore Writer. I wanted to reach all of you more with my daily thoughts, even the mundane ones, about what life is like through these eyes. It would be easy for me to make this a goal for 2017, but I don’t want to wait until the new year begins to do that.

So, it is my intent to resume publishing posts here as daily as possible about writing, about living here in Baltimore, about being a dad, about being spiritual, about being a human being just trying to manage a complicated life that needs to be simplified.

I expect the entries will be a little less polished, but you will hear a genuine voice, uncensored, about life as observed through these eyes. What my readers wish to do with it… well, that is up to you. My hope is that it will leave you thinking a little about what you are observing (and maybe eventually writing and sharing). But even that’s pushing it. In truth, I am just throwing these thoughts into the Universe; may they be used as necessary, now and tomorrow.

I appreciate that so many of my friends do this via social media platforms. Those posts, stories, and pictures capture what I believe is becoming a more genuine reflection of their lives. I’m seeing less of the cherry-picked moments of joy and perfection and more of the authentic experiences, both good and challenging.

That’s all I want to do here: give you the good and the challenging, and more often.

I look forward to sharing them with you in the days, months, and — God willing — years to come.

—-
You can read more on my professional site, The LifeStory Lighthouse, where you can also download my latest collection of Christmas stories, essays, and reflections (featuring “Gretchie’s Gifts).

My Friend Is Depressed: What Can I Do?

My Friend Is Depressed: What Can I Do?

9T4X567TEOne of the most common questions we are asked at Lines of Love is, “My friend is depressed and I don’t know what to do. How can I help?”

The answer is pretty simple, but we can get overwhelmed with presumed responsibility of taking care of everything, and immediately. We look for the instant fix that is going to make everything better; in most cases, there is no instant fix, and our efforts are not going to take care of everything.

We need to shift our thinking away from being the sole answer to our friends’ needs and focus more on how we can contribute to helping them along the path toward wellness.

Here are ten things you can do to be that friend, to be that line of love to someone in need.

1. Acknowledge. One of the easiest things you can do is acknowledge to your friend that he or she has seemed distant or nor his or her “usual” self. Isolation or “alone time” is not what a friend usually needs in such times. Take the time to reach out, recognize that you have noticed a change in mood or behavior, and let the person know you care.

2. Listen. Allow your friend to talk, and without interruption. Keep your focus on them, not your phone, and look into their eyes when they talk. Show that you are listening without judgment. Demonstrate that you are not trying to solve their problems. Just listen. For many, this is the only way they know how to “get it out” and to manage what is happening to them. When they are sharing, be fully present as a listener; you don’t need to be anything else (nor do they want you to be).

3. Understand. When you do respond, share that you understand what they are feeling and what they have expressed. Don’t try to solve, and don’t try to dig deeper with questions that might sound judgmental or even condescending. If you have a story to share that will help your friend understand your empathy, share it — but again, without trying to solve anything or sounding like your situation was worse (“You think YOU got it bad…listen to THIS.”). It’s not a competition; it’s just an acknowledgment that you understand, and they are not alone.

4. Stay Close. We have never been more connected, locally and globally — and yet, there are times when we have never felt more isolated. Provide your contact information, if your friend does not already have it, and check in with them on a routine basis. Sometimes, random texts and messages of positivity or just checking in can make a world of difference. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let them know that you are there, thinking of them.

5. Have Patience. Just because you have acknowledged, listened, understood, and stayed close, it doesn’t mean that your friend will now have a happy life of wellness, 24/7. Remember: You are not a solution; you are a contributor and supporter toward a healthy lifestyle. There will be ups and downs, and your friend will need you to be there regardless of how good or bad things might seem. Abandon the idea that it is a quick fix; friends are there for the long journey.

6. Encourage Wellness. Taking a friend out for a night of fun at the local club is not necessarily what he or she needs. Alcohol and drug use does not solve the problem; it intensifies it. Any temporary “relief” that might come from alcohol or drug use ultimately produces the same — often more severe — negative effect on that person. Instead of manipulating the mind and body with alcohol and drugs, find healthy alternatives that will provide long-lasting effects that promote wellness and independence.

7. Know (and share) Your Numbers. There are local, state, and national crisis centers and hotlines that are meant for both those who are struggling and those who have a friend who is in need. The National Crisis Hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For a longer list of crisis numbers and centers, check out this earlier post on how to get immediate help. Share these numbers with your friend. Let them know that there is always somebody available, ready to listen.

8. Suggest Professional Assistance. In addition to providing local and national crisis hotlines, remind your friend of the professional resources that are currently available, including counselors, counseling and intervention centers, wellness classes and sessions, and school or work assistance centers or services. Many of these are free, covered by insurance, or require only a small or nominal fee. Make sure your friend knows that such assistance is not a replacement for you being there; it is just another collaborative partner on this journey toward wellness.

9. Empower With Positivity And Wellness Tools. Walking outdoors is one of the best activities you can do with a friend who is struggling with depression. Listening to appropriate music or reading materials that promote positive or uplifting lifestyles is another way to surround yourself with stimuli that encourage control, positivity, and overall wellness. Identify the triggers for depression or mental illness, and help you your friend remove them from his or her lifestyle. Crushing lyrics about being alone, books with depressed individuals as the central characters, and even videos or games that foster negativity can all contribute to an unhealthy way of living. Recognize the negative or stress triggers, and replace them with positive, motivating stimuli.

frienship_bands10. Be A Line Of Love. Educate yourself about depression, mental illness, and anxiety so that you can have a better understanding of what others might be going through, and so you can help others remove the stigma attached to mental illness. Be aware of programs and events in your area that might be beneficial to others (AFSP walks is one good example). Check through our own ways at Lines of Love to let others know that they are not alone (our Bracelet Makers program continues to be one of our most popular ways people can get involved).

Being a friend to someone in need is not hard; the benefits they reap from your kindness and understanding, however, might be life-changing. Don’t hesitate to be a Line of Love. Share these ten tips to help with others, and encourage them to be Lines of Love for the people in their own lives.

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