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An Aardvark & a Platypus

By Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino  

What if, as a child, A wasn't for Apple, but instead A was for attitude?  Would it be as catchy?

What if, as an adult, A wasn't for Apple, but instead A was for attitude?  Would your brain retrain?

The alphabet is one of the first things we learn in school. We have all sorts of songs ingrained in our heads to learn it, ways of remembering it and more. Think of the time you invest in a child teaching them to write the alphabet, memorize it and learn. Apply that concept to positive thinking and retrain your brain to think positively. It's as important as learning the alphabet.

I encounter a number of people who are stuck for a variety of reasons.  They are stuck in "I can't mode.  When I hear, "I can't because" my brain translates that immediately into "You can and here's how".  

In 2005, I sat with my dad, Jim Hamilton, at Sister Kenny Rehab Center in Minneapolis.  He was there recovering from a stroke and subsequent Coumadin induced brain hemorrhage.  It was very unclear during those moments if all of his faculties, such as eyesight, speech, hearing would return.  The speech pathologist came into his room and said, "Jim, time for speech therapy.  Let's wheel you down to that area."  Now, my dad is around 6'4" and 280+ pounds and in rough shape.  I think the last thing on his mind was speech therapy, but cooperation is key in the hospital, so nurses helped him out of bed, into the wheel chair and down the hall he went.  

Now, my dad is very smart.  When he was in his coma from his stroke or unable to speak at other moments, my mom and dad had a code of blinking twice if he could hear mom or squeezing hands for pain.  Mom and I were about to learn a new code.

So the nurse wheels him into the speech pathologist room and is talking to him in this gentle, baby talk voice.  My dad, we could tell, found it annoying.  She said something along the lines of, "Now Jim, to gauge your speech capabilities, I am going to say a letter of the Alphabet and I'm going to have you say the first word that comes to mind.  What do you think of when I say the letter A?"
Now, she was expecting words like "at, a, and" from a stroke patient who has had this bad of a stroke.
My dad said, "Aardvark." and then rolled his eyes.   That was our new code.  The "do you think I am this debilitated that I've lost my mind too?" code.

He played along though.

She next said, "B" for which he responded, "Benevolence."

Next came the letter "C".  His response: Courage.

Then D. Determination.

M was Movies, his favorite thing, but you could see his will power and positive thinking come through.  I do believe F might have been choice profanity though.  We blamed in on the drugs though. P was Platypus.  

My dad was saying, "I can and I will."  It was a moment for all of us.  It was a moment of hope, courage and also laughter, which is so key in these dreadful situations.  He had not only had a stroke and three brain surgeries and was so ill, but through it all he maintained his wit and humor and it was his way of telling us he was going to be ok.

We aren't born with our first words being, "I can't".  It isn't until we have a few life experiences that we learn what we are capable of or what other people think we are capable of.

Sometimes our successes get lost in life and we feel start to feel like we can't or it's too late to be that writer I always wanted to be, or that painter or that trip taker and we become stuck and often giving up.

That is where PERCOLATE steps in and becomes your favorite word.

When someone tells me, "I can't" I go to the walls of Sister Kenny Rehab Center in Minneapolis and often want to take the "I can't" person along for a field trip to show just what people can do with a lot less.   When my dad had his stroke in 2004, we spent months in this facility wondering if dad would ever speak again, walk again or even see again.  During those darkest moments, my mom and I would go for hospital walks.  The art work displayed all around the hospital was beautiful and we would admire it.  Then upon closer examination, we became inspire by what the people who couldn't and had nothing left were doing to make the best of it.  The blind were painting from memory.  The Thalidomide babies were painting with their feet or stubs.  The paralyzed painted with their mouth. People painted even with eyelashes and elbows.  Not just average art work, but works of art.  The Best of the Best.  We came to life because of it.  We thought it isn't what you've lost, but what you have left.  Just describing them to my dad, gave a will and how wonderful and thoughtful of Sister Kenny to make the entertainment match the moment.  

You can.

I'm talking to my mom on the phone right now as I write this and her added wisdom is this, "A lot of people my age spend their time wondering when their number is up.  How they'll die, when they'll die and what their dying outfit will be.  A friend mine the other day called me up and asked me if I would speak at her funeral. On the other hand, my 83 year old friend is so excited about my daughter's wedding that she keeps sending me pictures on her cell phone of dresses she is selecting and has also gone on a diet."

Mom adds, "You can spend all of your time in dying mode, or you can live. It's your choice."

Life isn’t predictable, for the most part or at all really. Life isn't fair. So while you are living, LIVE. If you are reading this, smile. You are alive.  It might not be so easy to just roll out of bed with a smile, gratitude and a love for the day ahead! You might have to learn.

What if each night before you feel asleep, you spent a moment reviewing the day and giving thanks for all the great moments and for the crappy ones too?

The trick is to still do these things when life gets tough or throws you a curve or twist or fireball. Can you maintain a positive sense of yourself, be positive to those around you and the world as a whole under trying circumstances? It is difficult, but with thought you can focus on positive and not swim in a pool of negativity, stress or anxiety.

It's all in the Positive Words You Sing and the Life You Percolate.

What is your Alphabet of Life?  

Elizabeth is the CEO and Founder of The Best Ever You Network and author of PERCOLATE (due out Fall 2012)

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