What Happened In 2008
In 2008, my 59-year-old mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer that eventually metastasized to her liver which ultimately took her life in November of 2008. After my mom’s death, I spiraled into a deep depression. There wasn’t a day that went by, during that time, that I didn’t think of taking my own life.
So what prevented me? Several things, but what stands out the most is……wait for it……a simple postage stamp.
You see, I was employed as a Letter Carrier for the USPS at the time of my mom’s death and every day I would see postage stamps. One day while seriously contemplating suicide, the thought of a postage stamp popped into my head and that was the one that saved my life.
What Comes To Mind When You Think of a Postage Stamp?
What came to my mind that day was a quote by Henry Wheeler Shaw. He said, “Consider the postage stamp. It secures success through its ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” It never deviates. It sticks to its goal until it is realized. It never ever gives up.
With that thought in my mind, I determined that I was never ever going to give up. I thereafter challenged myself to live just like a postage stamp. That has been nearly a decade ago.
My mother was an amazing songwriter, she never had an opportunity to publish her work, but her love of words, instilled in me a love for them too. That’s why, after I emerged from my depressive state, I vowed to write about my experience so that I could help others. I published my book, How a Postage Stamp Saved My Life last year on Amazon. (Thanks Mr. Bezos for this amazing platform!)
But I even went a step further. I know that many people need daily motivation, that’s why I created an online course that walks you through the framework in my book. It takes 21 days to form a habit, so my course is designed to take only 21 days to implement.
I needed to master my mind. The reason I was so sad was that I kept dwelling on the past. Through research by reading books like, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr. Daniel Amen, I learned that we have four brain systems that are most intimately involved in our behavior. In his book he talks about:
1. Deep Limbic System — At the center of the of the brain, this is the bonding and mood control center. When this part of the brain is not shooting on all cylinders, people struggle with moodiness and negativity.
2. Basal Ganglia — These structures control the body’s idling speed. When this part of the brain works too hard, anxiety, panic, fearfulness, and conflict avoidance are often the result. When it is underactive, people often struggle with concentration and fine motor control problems.
3. Prefrontal Cortex — At the front tip of the brain, this is your supervisor, the part of the brain that helps you stay focused, make plans, control impulses and make good or bad decisions. When this part of the brain is underactive, people have problems supervising themselves and also have significant problems with attention span, focus, organization and follow-through.
4. Cingulate System — This is the part of the brain he calls, the gear shifter. It allows you to shift attention from thought to thought and between behaviors. When this part of the brain is overactive, people have problems getting stuck in certain loops and thoughts of behavior.
Does any of this resonate with you?
Ding, ding, ding…it did for me.
I truly came to see that number four was the culprit for me. I was stuck in negative thought loops. Like going round and round in a merry-go-round, I kept having the same negative thoughts day in and day out. My cingulate system was working abnormally. I was thinking the same thoughts over and over again. My brain was obsessed with the negativity and I couldn’t let it go.
How I Met Oprah Winfrey
I met Oprah at a special event she was speaking at.
Oprah Winfrey said the following: “Trying to come up with words that express what we, the community feel for you, has been a challenge. Words such as brave, valiant, daring, undaunted and fearless are words, but there just aren’t enough words, or emotions that actually describe the heart, soul and fortitude required to sign up to be a first responder.”
We all left feeling the exact same way.
It was a beautiful ceremony and I just want to say thank you to all first responders for the courage that you display each and every day.
I want to thank the United States Postal Service for giving me the courage by means of a postage stamp to never ever give up.