In my previous Community blog post, “Stories That Inspire,” I shared an important part of a person’s story lies in the choices they make. I believe these choices can lead to great things. I realize that circumstances in life come our way that we did not ask for. But, how we respond to these moments is important.
Choices lead to consequences. Cause and effect. Some call it Karma. I refer to it as the law of the harvest: “sowing and reaping.” How you think affects the choices you make. These choices affect how we live. This seems simple enough. So, can we learn how to make better choices? I am going to get a little technical here, but hang with me.
There is a science behind how the brain works. Mel Robbins, news commentator, television host, author, and motivational speaker, wrote an amazing article here: https://melrobbins.com/blog/5-second-rule-hack-science-explained/
In it, she explains how our brain believes whatever you allow yourself to think. Metacognition is a way of tricking your brain in order to achieve your greater goals. The prefrontal cortex is really important– it’s the part of the brain that’s involved in things like decision making, planning and working towards goals. Studies in the field have been researched by Amy Arnsten, a researcher at Yale, and by researchers at UC Boulder.
So as you choose to think a certain way, the brain doesn’t know the difference between truth and a false reality, unless you choose whether or not to believe it. This rewires the circuits and then a change in pattern and behavior can follow. Your inner monologue is everything. Again, my belief is, when you make certain choices to think or behave in a certain way, you tell your brain how to think about the situation. It is in your control whether or not you can move in a forward direction, just by thinking in a specific way.
So with all of the science in mind, let me introduce you to a good friend of mine. Patty Sullivan has been a living, breathing, walking reality of my “theory of choice”. She lives in our community and I’ve known her for about 10 years now. I tease her that she is the mayor of Midland Beach. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. She’s a shining light in a dark world, always with a smile on her face and an encouraging word.
I had a chance to sit with her and ask her some questions about her life. Here are some highlights.
- What was the defining moment in making change in your life?
Patty: I attended the parish, St. Margaret Mary’s for years with my daughters. I was working for the visiting nurse association and I used to watch my co-worker sit at her desk and read her Bible. I would think, “I want that, to go to God on my lunch break.” On my walks in the neighborhood, I would walk by Oasis Church and think about how much I loved the building and grounds. I went to the church’s “Life Center” (Food Pantry) when I had to go out on disability for Lupus. It got my foot in the door here.
- What was your life like prior to coming to the Life Center?
Patty: I was “Girl Gone Wild!” I was drinking, using drugs and always in the bar and in a toxic relationship with a man that put me in a downward spiral.
- What led you to make change?
Patty: I realized that I needed to make a change. I attended a recovery program called, “Celebrate Recovery” where I was able to receive counseling and training. I learned about the spiritual side of how to overcome addiction. I made a choice to keep growing in my faith.
- What were the choices you made that led you where you are today?
Patty: We went through Hurricane Sandy five years ago. We almost lost our lives in the flood. My mom, an amputee, my daughter and I spent the cold, dark night on the roof of our home before we were rescued. It was a tough time rebuilding my house. It was a while before we were back in. I made sure to read my Bible devotional every morning at 6:00 a.m. before making my way over to the house to oversee the rebuild. It was a tough time but everyday I chose to see what He was going to do in each situation. I didn’t focus on how I was feeling.
- Where are you now in your journey?
Patty: One daughter is out on her own and my other daughter and mom are still with me. Mom was a miracle after she had to have her leg amputated due to poor circulation. Pastor Tim came to pray at the hospital for her because she was hemorrhaging and when he finished praying she came to and said, “Amen.” My brother saw it and we knew it was a miracle.
Because she chose, Patty has come to realize the choices she has made are a significant part of her journey. The fruit of Patty’s choices are lives impacted by her friendship. My life is better for knowing her. We never realize just how much our choices can influence others. It’s the power of choice. We sow and we reap and it is rewarding when others reap as well.