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Don't let it get away

No matter how many times I hear the lyrics to a song, I can't seem to remember them. Only the refrain stays with me. When I compiled a pump-up playlist before my last keynote and included an oldie but greatie, U2's Beautiful Day, only these three lines stayed with me long after the talk.

It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
It's a beautiful day (Oooh, ooh)

I kept the ooh, ooh because that's one of my favorite parts of the refrain. I'm sure you'll agree. But my playlists aren't for me. Getting pumped up before speaking isn't something I have trouble with. They're for the audience. To set the tone. To subconsciously prepare them for the next 45 minutes as they're about to learn how to have the best year of their lives. Over and over again.

The talk, aptly entitled Pursue Your Passion and Have Your Best Year Yet, only exists because of my dad's Alzheimer's. Writing about my story in Ten Days With Dad wasn't difficult, but speaking about it is. Thus, I begin every talk with a preface: I will break down and cry at least once. When that happens, I tell them to raise their hands and ask a question about the weather, their favorite sports team, or whatever comes to mind. I assure them that this will work. It hasn't let me down yet.

Ten Days With Dad is technically a memoir, but good memoirs are seldom about the author. No, really. The book is a father-and-son story. It's undoubtedly an emotional account of my dad's Alzheimer's battle. And yes, it's a feel-good story about overcoming our demons, flaws, and limitations.

But ultimately, it's not about me. It's about you, the reader. When finished with the book, I hope you are inspired to begin your transformation journey—to make changes you've been putting off for far too long. Or, in the case of my younger audiences, I hope you begin to pursue your passions right now and don't wait for something terrible to happen before realizing that happiness is a choice.

Yet there's always a part of me that wants to call bullshit—on myself. Sometimes, I even say it: It's okay if you want to call BS; I won't be offended. Because even to me, explaining to a room full of people that I can't even recall the last time I had a terrible day sounds too good to be true. Naiive. Unrealistic. I get it.

Caring for my dad during his Alzheimer's was the greatest burden of my lifetime. Yet, it was also the greatest blessing, as I got to know him (and myself) better than at any point in our lives. Whereas I used to let regrets, grudges, and excuses dictate my happiness (burden), I now prioritize my passions, and I've never been happier (blessing). For my entire adult life, I never felt worthy of my success or accomplishments (burden), but now that I know my purpose and where I want to go, I feel successful every day (blessing). I know Murphy, pictured below, gets me!

The point is this: every day is beautiful if you want it to be. Only you control the narrative of your story. If you're unhappy, ask yourself why or list things and people who make you happy and sad. Then, find ways to eliminate the things (or people) that make you unhappy. I'm oversimplifying it a bit...or am I?

Another iconic song on my pre-talk playlist is Michael Jackson's Man In The Mirror. Because lyrics aren't my thing, I almost forgot how great these lines are:

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could've been any clearer
If they wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

Substitute "make the world a better place" with "make your life a better place" and go for it. Start small, but start.

My dad liked to toss around phrases like "It could always be worse" or "You're only getting screwed if you think you're getting screwed." Admittedly, I used to get annoyed when he mentioned them, especially after I broke my arm twice in one year during high school. Nobody wants to be reminded about how much worse it can be.

In 1995, Travis Roy was a freshman forward on the Boston University men’s hockey team when, eleven seconds into his first shift for the Terriers, he crashed headfirst into the boards, shattering his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. Brenda and Lee Roy share their caregiving story for The Greatest Burden, The Greatest Blessing.

As a former hockey player and parent, I couldn't imagine a worse nightmare, but Travis turned his tragedy into a blessing when he created the Travis Roy Foundation (TRF) in 1996. He helped more than 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics and awarded more than $5 million in grants toward spinal cord research. Travis died on October 15, 2020, almost 25 years after his injury.

Last week, the Roys announced that the TRF is donating 900 copies of The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing to seven organizations: Jack Trotter Foundation, TBird Foundation, Journey Forward, Shephard Rehabilitation Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Franciscan Children's Hospital, and the New England Rehabilitation Hospital.

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the name of love. It was after the book was released and he had a chance to read it that Lee Roy wrote these words to me:

 “The compassion and courage demonstrated time and again by these many caregivers let us all know that our efforts were based on love.  Love was absolutely what got us all through those times of doubt and uncertainty.  The long days and nights with little or no sleep, the trips to the dreaded ER and witnessing the pain that our loved ones were going through.  All these emotions and more were so much a part of our lives and you have brought this out in The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing.  I don't think any of us realized that we were not alone during those tough times.  Others were going through even tougher times, and we didn't know it or couldn't imagine it could be worse.”

My dad was right: it can always be worse. The Roys and 44 other caregivers who share their stories in the book know this.

Each day begins in darkness. Then, gradually, the light has its turn, and in most parts of the world, the light dominates. Make every single day a beautiful one. Don't rely on others to make it so.

The caregiving guy's blog is updated twice a month. If you like the content, I ask you to consider subscribing to my new weekly newsletter, MARK. Set. Go. It's a little more about me, a lot more about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and how to pursue your goals, dreams, passions, and purpose.

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