A Story that Touched My Heart Today
Written September 11, 2011

Today I met with my best friend, and she shared a special story that touched my heart. And if you haven’t heard it yet, I hope it will do the same for you.

Eva said, “You need to hear this story. It will take a while because I have to translate it from Albanian. “OK….” I responded and waited for what was coming next. She fired up her laptop and slowly begin translating the following story.

The Vase of Life.
When the most important things in your life make you anxious, when you feel stressed, when 24 hours a day doesn’t seem like enough, think about this story…

Without saying a word to his students, a philosophy professor set a large empty vase in front of his class. Slowly, he started filling the vase up with golf balls. He asked his students whether the vase was full. All students agreed it was full.

Next, the professor brought out a box of small glass pebbles and poured them into the vase. The pebbles filled the empty spaces between the golf balls. The professor asked his students if the vase was full. And the answer was an indisputable yes.

Out came another box. This time it was filled with sand. The professor threw the sand into the vase, and the sand filled the empty spaces. He asked his students again, “Is the vase full now?” And they answered, “Yes.”

At this moment, the professor poured a cup of coffee into the vase… the students burst out laughing. When the laughter stopped, the professor said, “I want you to understand this vase represents life.

The golf balls are the most important things like family, kids, health, friends, love and the things we like. Even if we lose everything else, and what is left are just those things, our lives will still be full.

The pebbles represent our accomplishments and the things we are interested in like our job, our house, and car.

The sand represents all the other small things that make our lives enjoyable.

If we fill the vase with the sand first, there will be no space left for the golf balls and small glass pebbles.

The same thing happens in our lives. When we spend our time and energy on the small things, there is no space for what is important.

Be careful with the essential things in your life – play with your kids, find time to go to the doctor, go out to a dinner with your loved one, practice your favorite sport. There will always be time and space in ‘the vase’ to clean up your house, to cut the grass, and tend to the small things.

Take care of the golf balls.

Decide now what your priorities are.”

“So what does the coffee mean?” asked one of the students.

The professor smiled and said, “I’m so happy you asked. It’s just to remind all of you that it doesn’t matter how busy you are with your life, you still have the time to have coffee with your friends.”

And tonight, I did just that. Spent time with my loved ones. We didn’t have coffee, but a wonderful dinner and a great time translating this story to share it with all the people we love and care about.

Now, I am curious when and where this story originated, and into how many languages it has been translated. I can testify with certainty that an Albanian version exists. Thanks Eva 🙂

And even more so now I am examining what my life has been filled with…

I have written three parts of “I Believe,” and what I have realized is that each part reflects where I was at that certain point in my life.

From the first “I Believe,” I would like to share with you one of my favorite passeges:
I believe in dreaming big.
Because anything less will not make us become who we are destined to be.

My favorite beliefs from the second More of “I Believe”:
I believe dreaming big is not enough.
And taking action is the way to achieve my dreams.

I believe crying doesn’t solve things, but it helps me get through them.
And it is not as a sign of weakness.

The third More of “I Believe” includes some of my most favorite passeges:
I believe in limiting beliefs.
And that we all have them whether we realize it or not. 

I believe all people come into our lives for a reason.
Knowing what that reason is makes us grow.

….And now the continuation of More of “I Believe”:

I believe in smiling every day for no reason.
And that these every-day smiles will make a difference in the long run.

I believe the past does not define me.
And that the future is for me to write.

I believe in letting some parts of the past go
to make space for new dreams and goals.

I believe that simple things can lead to a great fulfillment.

I believe if I work hard every day and keep a happy attitude,
I will make a difference in the world.

I believe in love that can grow in surprising ways
if I just give it a chance.

I believe love is the most powerful force in the world,
able to conquer any obstacle.

I believe I am still here for a reason,
and it is my responsibility to figure out what that reason is.

I have decided to put past where it belongs. In the past. Discovering that at times there is no need to hang on to old hopes because new dreams can be created, and that there is no need to answer all questions, such as what would have been if I just did things differently.

I clearly remember how I always used to look into the future. Nearly to a fault, forgetting to live in the present, always seeking something new and chasing another dream. Since then I’ve learned to enjoy the present moment and all the small things in life. What I didn’t know is that the next stage was to look into the past. And this wasn’t a conscious decision on my part, as it was with learning to live in the moment. This pondering about the past just happened. Why has no one warned me about this new trap? And it truly is a trap, in many ways holding me back from moving forward and dreaming new, big dreams.

Learning from past experiences is valuable. Living in hope and delusion that I can make things better or revive what was in the past is a silly waste of time, preventing new visions of the future. Letting the past go, makes space for new dreams and hopes.

The past belongs in the past.

To truly move on, I’m looking now for a new balance. Finding the fine line between learning from the past, but not living in it or for it. Enjoying the present, but keeping a keen eye on the future. And planning the future, but considering my past learnings, and not forgetting to live happily in the present moment.

I am staring at an empty page, thinking where my next writing will take me. I have no plan. When I wrote before, “it was just there”. No effort. I don’t know why I haven’t written anything for a long time. Perhaps all the other times I just used writing as an outlet for my feelings, and then I didn’t need it for a while.

I do miss writing.

So here I am. The page is not a clean slate anymore. I am a writer. Not entirely sure I own up to this statement or fully believe in it. My best friend said that I should write a book after she read one of my writings, “New Chapters”. Right at that moment I realized my hesitation. Am I? Am I a writer?

It was recently that I had this clear thought for the first time: I am a writer. Until then I just wrote. Was that the time when I stopped writing? Was it really the lack of need to write or fear of not living up to the writer title?

I used to tell myself that I am writing what is in my heart, not to impress anyone. But I know that wasn’t entirely true. I want to make a difference, have an impact, as I am sure we all do in our own ways.

So this may be a new chapter in my writing experience. And I may be just beginning it right here.

Dedicated to my Mom and all Moms who are no longer with us.

It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one. The feeling of sadness and emptiness is not something that can be put into words. Realizing that no new memories can be created, and all we are left with are the moments we had experienced in the past.

Losing a loved one changes us for life. Thinking if we just had a little more time, we could do and say more things. Have I done enough? Have I said all that I wanted to say? If I only had more time…

But there is never enough time to do and say all the things we want to say to the one we love. Even if we had extra months or years, it is not enough when someone we love is leaving us.

People say we need to celebrate life of the person who is leaving, and all the good things she has brought into our and other people’s lives. And the difference she has made in the world. That is easier said than done. It hurts so bad to know she is not going to be around anymore. That I can’t see her, talk to her, tell her about my day and new accomplishments. Not fair!

Mom, you were not supposed to leave yet! There were still so many things I wanted to do and share them with you, and see you happy that I finally did all you wanted me to do.

I know, I know. You just want me to be happy and you will look over me from the heavens. And I can always talk with you, tell you what I’m doing, share my dreams, ask you for advice…

So this not a goodbye. I will talk to you soon.

Mom thank you for being the best Mom. I love you.

Where am I now? What have I learned?

I have great people in my life, and I am very thankful for them being here. Greatful for every moment we have shared and will share together, no matter how long.

Some people just come and go. Some come back. And some I know will stay forever. I have learned what great friends are and how to be one. It is so worth living another day, and having the time with the loved ones to share each other’s happiness and sorrows.

Either in memory or in life, everyone has changed me in some way, whether they and I realized it at the time.

And now I’m sill looking forward to each precious moment with everyone who will share my life with me, creating more memories and hopes for the future.

I decided to smile. Not just smile when I hear something funny or feel good. Just simply smile. For no reason. And I discovered that it is not easy to do all the time.

As different thoughts come into my mind and the day’s happenings unfold, I forget to smile and have to consciously decide to do so. I remind myself of a quote by Anne Lamott that “Joy is the best makeup.” With time it has become easier and the feeling of happiness returns more often.

Smile. When I catch myself and decide to smile, this second becomes instantly a happy moment. With each repetition, seconds turn into hours. And each day becomes a happier day.

Amazing how it works. Worries and fears disappear, and a happy feeling takes over. The power of a smile. It won’t fix difficult moments life brings our way, but by creating a positive attitude, it will make dealing with them easier.

So smile right now. For no reason. And let it put you in a happy frame of mind. Pass on your smile around. These are the makings of a happy day. One smile at the time.

I smile listening to my thoughts, realizing I am happy. I have stopped searching and awaiting the perfect moment to start living. I just am.

I decided that being and doing the best I can every day is enough to be happy. Yes, I can be better and do more, but that doesn’t stop me anymore from enjoying who I am now. And this all started with listening to my thoughts. Thoughts of dissatisfaction and disappointment that I have not accomplished more. That I don’t have my own perfect family. That I don’t have more money. That I don’t have my own successful company.  These thoughts diminished many happy moments I experienced and anything that I did accomplish. How sad.

All through my life experiences, introspective thinking, getting in touch with my feelings, meditating, listening to motivational programs, and setting goals, I missed finding the way to fulfillment. It has been a long journey to arrive at the happy place. Between struggles to achieve my goals and fears of not being able to reach them, I have found peace.

I have learned to be aware of the vast internal life. Each thought is a sound inside, creating happy or sad feelings. These are the sounds of life. I choose the happy sounds.