The Best Things In Life: Moving Toward Purpose

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“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.

Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.

At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”

Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.

The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith.  I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”

I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.

The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.

My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.

I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.

The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.

Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Xo,

J

Las Vegas: Let This End With Us

gold heart on white

Let me tell you about my city.

In the long shadow of the strip, beneath the glitz and glam, is another community we don’t tell you about. It would ruin the allure the ad men work so hard to create, and let’s be honest, tourism is our lifeblood. The city I’ve called home for the past fifteen years is tight knit, philanthropic and we have enormous heart. We are all a few degrees of one another, referring to ourselves more often as a town as opposed to a city. As a close friend said today, “Las Vegas is big and worldly, and small and tight. It’s what makes us magical.”

We don’t advertise it when we convince you that the things that happen in Vegas stay here, but you got a glimpse of it late Sunday night when a man chose to use our hospitality against us, picking off friends and loved ones from his perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay. An FBI profiler was interviewed on the national news as he referred to the venue on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Tropicana as “a killing field.”

What happened in Las Vegas did not stay here. It moved the world, and sadly, close to 600 families who are either mourning or holding vigil for their loved ones as I write.

While my family is safe, I have too many friends who have lost someone. After seeing how the national news coverage of Irma varied from my family’s local news coverage in Florida, I tuned in to watch our local news stations. They did an amazing job. Yes, there was panic and rage, but there was humanity that you didn’t see. There were heroes and volunteers. There was incredible leadership. I am proud of our community leaders for their class, professionalism and poise as the day unfolded. I have heard many times that our police force and casino security teams have trained and prepared for a terrorist attack. They were at their best as was our entire city.

You saw our secret weapon: our people.

My Facebook feed looked much different than yours did on Monday. We used it to find each other, find loved ones, connect families, get to volunteers stations, raise money and inform. Thousands turned up at United Blood Services and volunteers arrived to feed them while they waited up to 8 hours. Allegiant Airlines stepped up to cover flights, casinos and hotels covered rooms. Our city raised over $2.5 million through GoFundMe.com in one day. Matches up to $1 million were offered by Zappos and the UFC announced their own contribution of $1 million.

We met hate with love.

While tragedy and humanity were intersecting in our town, national correspondents and commentators turned our city into sound bytes and stirred up frothy political debates. I picked a fight on Twitter with a guy in Chicago. He argued the #vegasstrong trending hashtag was as “vapid” as sending prayers and thoughts. It was personal and I had to step away from the keys. At that moment we’d take your prayers, your cash, your blood. But, I knew what he meant. The world was ready to talk Second Amendment, but we weren’t. We just wanted to make sure everyone we loved was alive and the ones who were clinging to life had the best chance of survival.

As we work to stabilize, my thoughts are shifting from response, grief and healing to those of action. Just a week ago I was in Sun Valley, Idaho at Alturas Institute’s “Conversations With Exceptional Women.” I thought many times today of the one piece of advice actress and activist, Patricia Velasquez, shared with the audience as she talked about global humanitarian efforts and the complacency we have to avoid, “Don’t get used to it.” 

This cannot be our new normal. We cannot get used to mass shootings and gun violence.

I never thought I’d see the words Massacre next to Las Vegas in a headline. I am unable to travel to Arizona, having forgotten my Allegra D, and get more at another pharmacy. It doesn’t matter how bad my eyes are watering or how scratchy my voice is, there is no sympathy. There is a system that tracks my allergy med purchases across the country, yet one man was able to amass an arsenal of military-grade automatic weapons and thousands of bullets designed to explode inside human beings that allowed him to murder or seriously injure almost 600 people. 

Let this end with us.

Use your voice. Use your votes. I don’t care what side you are on or if you have guns at home, today should never have happened. This is not a partisan issue. This is a human issue. 

I ask, for every single person who has been touched by this tragedy, please contact your representatives. Utilize this link to find out who they are based on your address and let them know we aren’t interested in testing the love, light and emergency preparedness training of another city.

Let them know you are not interested in further loss.

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

A revolution begins with the people.

Please do your part.