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Finding Joy in Times of Adversity http://jackryser.com Tue, 16 Aug 2016 16:42:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 What I Learned from a Homeless Man and My Dog http://jackryser.com/?p=376&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-i-learned-from-a-homeless-man-and-my-dog http://jackryser.com/?p=376#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:56:47 +0000 http://jackryser.com/?p=376 Continue reading ]]> Share

“I don’t get enough love”
– Jeremy (homeless man)

Last winter Salt Lake City had a huge snow storm. It was cold, wet and tough to get around. As I was traversing the “fender benders” and trying to get back home I noticed a man, a homeless man, slowly walking by my car. I rolled down my window and asked him if he was okay.  “Can you give me a ride?” He asked. “Now I had done it,” I thought to myself. “I should have never rolled down my window. What if he has a weapon?” More thoughts flooded my mind. “What if he wants money? I can’t afford to give him any.” Hesitantly I said, “Sure, get in.”

As the disheveled man got in, a horrible odor engulfed my car and it was clear this man had not seen a shower in a very long time. Again more thoughts came to my mind, “I may need to shower or at least wash my clothes when I get home.” Or worse, “will this odor stay in my car?” I’m embarrassed to say, but no thoughts of love or kindness were in my heart at that time, only feelings of inconvenience and a lack of compassion.

My dog Louie was with me. He is a five pound yorkie and when in the car must be on my lap. The homeless man introduced himself as Jeremy and reached out to pet Louie. Louie immediately greeted Jeremy just as he would anyone he meets, with tons of dog kisses. You could see this struggling, homeless man melt as my dog gave him love. For the next several minutes he pet Louie and enjoyed the love that my dog gave him, love that unfortunately I was unable to give. Louie didn’t see the filthy clothes. Louie didn’t notice the stench of body odor and alcohol. Louie just gave love. As we arrived at our destination, the downtown homeless shelter, Jeremy commented on how loving Louie was and then, almost in a whisper, he said, “I don’t get enough love.” Jeremy got out of the car into the blustering snow storm, and was gone.

“I don’t get enough love.” It breaks my heart now as I ponder this statement.

That day I learned some very important lessons from my dog Louie. In moments given to us to give love to another person, we often give judgment and criticism instead. Just as I did with Jeremy. How we treat someone shouldn’t be determined by how a person dresses or smells. There is a natural tendency to let our social norms and preconceived notions, dictate our actions. Be aware of that tendency and stifle it when it comes by doing what Louie would do, give unconditional love.

What is unconditional love? Obviously it is giving love to all people regardless of the actions of that person. More importantly, it is an understanding that all people, regardless of life situations, are God’s greatest creation and have that divine heritage. It is an understanding that our notion of what is good and bad is simply our own preconceptions. Who is to say that one of Jeremy’s God-given missions in life isn’t to teach people like me to be more kind and loving? If that is the case, what a noble mission Jeremy’s life is engaged in.

I think Louie also taught me that the opposite of love is fear. Fear of the unknown is the root of hate, judgment, and lack of compassion. I was quick to judge Jeremy because he wasn’t like me, he was the unknown. My fear of him caused me to think of all of the reasons I didn’t want to associate with him. Thoughts of danger or that he may take my money, were based on fear rather than truth. Jeremy had done nothing to merit my fear of him. I wonder how many other things in our life are dictated by our fear rather than love?

There are two things in this world in which there is an unlimited supply: love and hate. For some reason, love is dealt out as if it is some prized, rare resource only to be given to a select few; while hate is often poured out at will. My commitment to you is that I will love at every possible opportunity, knowing that it is something that never runs out, and something that every person deserves. My commitment to you is that when I see someone different than me, I won’t measure them based on my preconceptions of what they should be, but accept them for what they are: a creation of divinity. My commitment to you is that I will do everything I can in hopes that no one feels like “they don’t get enough love.”

My commitment to you is that I will love…like Louie.


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How I Got Here http://jackryser.com/?p=1&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hello-world http://jackryser.com/?p=1#comments Sat, 23 Jul 2016 18:00:21 +0000 http://jackryser.com/?p=1 Continue reading ]]> Share

This web site as well as my book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity, is a look into my journey to find happiness. I grew up in a home with huge amounts of drug and alcohol abuse present, cared for my dear wife who suffered with lupus for many years, had a home burn down, was widowed at thirty-four years old, was a single parent with three daughters under eight, remarried four years later, had a baby pass away at birth, survived a devastating divorce, had a once successful company go out of business, suffered bankruptcy, and struggled with intense depression. Life simply had become too hard and I either needed to do something to find joy or I would be unable to continue.

I have written the steps that I personally have taken that has given me a joy that I didn’t know could exist. This happiness is with me despite the events that are going on in my life. I hope you can find the same peace through the things that I have learned. I welcome your thoughts and experiences as you take this journey with me.

It was November 26, 1996, two days before Thanksgiving. I came home early from work to see if I could help Kameo. We had spoken on the phone a couple hours earlier and she mentioned that she was feeling a little better, though it would quickly become apparent that was just her wishful thinking. I came home and saw all the symptoms I had seen many times before: very high fever, joint pain, and weakness. This was a serious lupus flare. I knew the plan of action. It was one we had taken many times before during our ten-year marriage. We would go to the hospital, get fluids into her, break her fever, spend a few days recovering, and then come home. She would really hate spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, I thought.

I asked Kameo’s Mother to take her to the hospital while I dropped our girls off at my parent’s home. As I helped her into her Mother’s car, she whispered into my ear, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.” Little did I know those would be the last words spoken to me by my wife, and Thanksgiving would never be the same.

The doctor asked to sit with me privately for a moment. “We have tried but it is now

Kameo and the girls the year she died

Kameo and the girls the year she died

time to make a decision. We can continue to keep her alive but it is only a matter of time before she passes.” How could this be happening, I asked myself? Her health had been the best it had been in years. She is only thirty-five, we have three young daughters! There were all kinds of reasons why she shouldn’t die.

None of those reasons mattered.

I hugged her, whispered through my tears the love I felt for her…and said good-bye. The breathing tube was removed and she slowly slipped away.

The confusion of this moment will forever haunt me. What do I do now? I mean, right now! Do I stay with the body of my loving wife, or do I hurry home to see my children. You never think of such things. It was 11:20 at night, I had spent many late nights at the hospital, helping my wife recover from Lupus flares. This night was different. She wasn’t coming home. How do I tell the children? They won’t understand, they are only eight, six and two years old. Mom is their world. What about a funeral, am I supposed to plan that? I don’t have a burial plot, a tombstone…Now what? So many questions, most of which were simply my way of not feeling the unbearable pain of losing my sweet wife.

I only remember walking down a long hall of the hospital. It had off-white, cream-colored walls with little regard to décor or style. It was unmemorable and sterile. As I drove home, I wondered how to tell the girls that Mom wasn’t coming home. Eight-year old Allie will understand death. She had been born in a whirlwind of sick days and hospital stays. She knew Mom’s body never quite worked right. We had spoken of heaven and the love of a Heavenly Father her entire life, but we never had done this. We had never talked about her Mother not coming home. Jackie at six years old would struggle to make sense of all of this. While she had sang songs of heaven and God in church classes, the ambiguity of it all would certainly not help her find comfort. Jamie at two years old would only know that the person she relied on for nearly everything in her world would not be there anymore. She didn’t know why, she just would know she was gone

I drove into my parent’s driveway. They had always quickly stepped in to take the girls when we rushed to the hospital. I knew there was peace in their home at that moment because they were unaware of Kameo’s death. Peace that would be shattered very soon. I walked into their home and was greeted with the concerned faces of my parents. “She is gone,” I blurted out harshly. Tears and stunned silenced enveloped the room.

It was only a few minutes until eight year old Allie stumbled into to the room, wiping the sleep from her eyes, having just awakened. “Hi Daddy,” she said. “Hi, Angel,” I said, my heart filled with pain. “Come here.” She climbed up on my lap and wrapped her soft, delicate arms around me. We hugged for a moment. “Angel, Mommy was really sick and her body just couldn’t get better.” Following that moment were the tears and sorrow of a newly widowed husband and motherless child.

As a single father I poured myself into my children’s lives. They were all that mattered to me. As the youngest child in a family of four boys, I really didn’t know much about girls. It was time to learn. I quit my job at a local radio station selling advertising so that I could be home with the girls. My wife had been able to be a stay-at-home mother and I wanted to be there for them during the difficult days that laid ahead. I decided to start a small media buying firm and work from the spare bedroom in my house.

Did you know there is a book out there called Braids and Bows? It became my new best friend. Every morning I would slowly and methodically pull out The Book, as it became known, and step-by-step do the girl’s hair according to the directions and pictures outlined. I was a French curling genius by the time Allie, my oldest, started to take over the hair duties.

Allie was starting to mature. It was time for her first bra. I could handle this. It is not like I hadn’t seen a bra before.  So off I went to the local Target on my quest to find the perfect ten year olds’ bra. I slowly meandered into the girls’ underwear department. On a free-standing wall they had display after display of adolescent under garments. As I stood there peering at the bras in clearly a state of confusion, I became very aware of my male-ness. There were three mothers, approximately the same age as I was, shopping for their little budding flowers. Their gazes went from the wall of underwear to glimpses of me. More and more they were staring at me than looking at the wall of underwear. Their piercing looks started to make me feel like I was some predatory pervert, on a sick prowl. I had wandered into a forbidden area in a department store that male adults simply aren’t allowed. I had a choice at that moment. I could ask a question. “Excuse me Miss, what should I be looking for in a first bra?” Or perhaps I could say something intelligent, “My goodness, this one looks like it will be very comfortable and supportive.”

There was a third option. Grab the entire rack of bras, throw them in the cart, and get the hell out of there. I opted for that option. Essentially, I spent two hundred bucks on my daughter’s first bra.

I loved my experiences as a Father. Even the awkward difficult tasks helped me develop a closeness to my girls that perhaps under different circumstances I would not have enjoyed. However, an unfortunate thing happened during those next years. Being both a great father and mother never allowed me to focus on myself. I never found time for feeling the sadness of the events. I never found time to feel the passion for my own life. The trap for me was that there seemed to be an unspoken heroism in completely sacrificing one’s self for their children. Everywhere I went I had children in tow. It seemed that someone would praise me for my efforts wherever I turned. It felt like a noble effort. Single mothers do it all the time and often don’t get the recognition that I did. That simply deepened my commitment to the role as a parent, and fostered an increased neglect of myself and personal ambitions. Simply, nothing else mattered. Now, as I write this some fifteen years later, I realize that it wasn’t necessary to forget myself. The sweet relationship I have with my daughters, now all adults, would have been nurtured because of my love for them. Not because I forgot my own pain, passions, and ambitions.

I also am aware that I am not alone in these mistakes, many people make this error. Regardless of the road we have traveled in our life, divorce, death, addiction, etc. we often suppress ourselves. We suppress pain, we are unwilling to accept risk, and fear can dominate our existence. All the while, each day passes and we are no closer to living a fulfilling life today, than we were yesterday. Day after day it continues until we realize we are on a road to no where.

When I was only four years old my family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, went on a vacation to Mesa Verde National Park. We found a short trail that took us to a picnic area surrounded by the beautiful trees of the forest. It was a perfect place. It was isolated and no other people were around. After enjoying each others company for an hour it was time to clean up, walk down to the car, and get to the next adventure. My cousin Bruce was several years older than I was. As everyone was packing he decided to run to the restroom adjacent to the picnic area. I followed him as young boys do with older boys. I quietly sat outside the restroom waiting for him to come back out. I waited…and waited. Everyone had started down the trail, and there I sat alone. Somehow Bruce had left the restroom without me seeing him and I had been forgotten.

I started down the trail to find my family and it quickly ended. I had taken the wrong path. I retraced my steps back to the picnic area and still there was no one there, and now I couldn’t find the trail I needed to follow to find my family. At the age of four one is not well-trained in the appropriate response to being lost. Rather than just sit there and wait until someone finally realized I was gone. I panicked and started running into the forest, trying to find the trail. I ran and I ran for what eventually became hours. I was lost in a National Park and now was nowhere near where I originally was lost.

So now it became story of the day. A little boy was lost in the forest and the search was on, complete with forest rangers, volunteers, and distraught family members. One thing to note is how my family must have felt. Just three years earlier my cousin was on a camping trip with his boy scout troop in Zion’s National Park in southern Utah and was killed in a flash flood. They never found his body. Now I was lost in a national park.

To this day I can still see the trees in my mind and feel my heart race with fear as if it happened just yesterday. After running for what seemed like hours I stumbled on to a pavement road. At least I had the good sense to start walking on that road rather than continue in the trees. I was crying and had been crying for some time, when I heard a car coming. I remember specifically thinking, “should I keep crying and hopefully the car will stop? But I’m a big boy, and big boys don’t cry.” It was 1966 and apparently boys of that era got the message that they aren’t supposed to cry at a very young age. I got over that in a hurry and I decided to cry and cry hard! The car stopped.

I was rescued.

There are times in our life when we feel lost and forgotten. It happens to us all. The key will depend on how we respond to the forest of life. We can feel sorry for ourselves and stay in the trees, or we can take steps to help ourselves and get rescued.

It took me fifteen years to recognize I was in the trees and what it took to be rescued; what it takes to live a life filled with passion and fulfillment. This journey has led me to you.


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Is Happiness a Choice? http://jackryser.com/?p=345&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-happiness-a-choice http://jackryser.com/?p=345#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 02:12:00 +0000 http://jackryser.com/?p=345 Continue reading ]]> Share

We have all heard that happiness is a choice. In fact, it is almost assumed to be the truth. As you may know, I understand the principles of positive psychology well, am a self-help author, and life coach, and have some strong opinions on the topic of happiness. In fact, my book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity focuses on the topic. I want to challenge the conventional wisdom that happiness is a choice and would love to know your thoughts on the issue. Is being happy simply a choice?

It has always frustrated me that self-development speakers or teachers say happiness is a choice. How does a person make that choice? You see, a choice implies a concrete answer and an outcome to that choice. If I choose to wear my red shirt, I put my red shirt on. If I choose to drive faster, I push the accelerator down and I go faster. Choice has a cause and effect. So what happens when you choose happiness? Are you suddenly happy? There have been times in my life that I tried to choose to be happy and it worked in the short term. Simply, I was choosing to ignore the things that made me unhappy. That worked briefly but soon the sheer weight of life’s challenges became too burdensome, and unhappiness returned. This has led me to ask, “Can you simply make the choice to be happy and…voila…you are happy?” If so, you are a better person than I.  I believe happiness is not a choice; it is a series of choices that inevitably result in happiness. Here are some of the choices I believe led to my nearly continuous state of happiness:

1.  Reduce negative thoughts as much as possible.  

Negativity is the lifeblood of ongoing unhappiness. Efforts to be positive through the use of positive affirmations, meditation, counseling, and spiritual practices can greatly help in controlling the flow of negativity. Separating yourself from those who foster negativity is also important. Beware though, some preach that this alone can bring you happiness. I believe that it is just the beginning of the choices that must be made for long-term happiness.

2. Find opportunities to serve others.

When you are focusing on others you will always feel better. A great practice is to commit to daily service of someone in need.

3. Participate in something you are passionate about everyday. 

This isn’t easy. We all have things we are passionate about but so many obligations seem to get in the way of our participation in those activities. Just thinking about participating in something you are passionate about will make you feel happier. If just thinking about taking part in a passion makes you feel better, imagine what happens if you actually participate.

4. Control the impact of fear in your life. It will stop you from doing great things. 

Fear is the enemy of joy. It forces you to ignore the promptings of your spirit to achieve greater things in your life. It is in those greater achievements where we can find added joy. Beware of the excuses you use when considering doing something bigger in your life: It is too hard, too expensive, takes too long, too risky, or you are too busy. All of these excuses erroneously justify the existence of fear. Fight them.

5. Commit to peace in your life.  

Conflict with others is almost always founded in ego. Recognize that you control your response to all things. Strive for eliminating your need to be right (even though you feel you may be) and someone else is wrong, and commit to peace rather that conflict, it is a sure foundation to finding happiness. Remember, true winners need not win.

6. Eliminate guilt from your life.  

We all have numerous things that we regret. This is normal. Unfortunately, guilt can follow us indefinitely and erroneously make us believe we are unworthy to be happy. It is one thing to recognize our own errors and make the necessary changes in our life to not repeat such mistakes. The problem occurs when we start with self-loathing comments in our minds that belittle ourselves and convince us that we are unworthy of abundance and the precious things in our life. This breaks my heart.  You are not your past. Always remember you are God’s greatest creation, just as you are, warts and all!

7.  Forgive those who have harmed you.

Not the easiest thing to do. I learned a very good lesson a few years back. A person I had trusted implicitly did significant harm to me. What’s worse was that this person felt no sorrow for having harmed me. That made me angry and every time I thought about it I became even more angry. Then a wise friend pointed out to me that my unwillingness to forgive was not hurting anyone but myself. The person who betrayed me had not given it a second thought and was living a happy life. My desire for that person to recognize the harm she did and apologize to me was unrealistic and encumbering me with pain and anger, emotions that cannot coexist with happiness. Forgive that boss, friend, ex-spouse and move on. It will change your world.

These are my brief thoughts in a nutshell on bringing happiness into your life. Certainly there are many other things that can contribute to your happiness, hence why I wrote a book on the subject. The bottom line is that you can’t just simply choose to be happy and poof you are happy; you need to make decisions that impact your life for good and ultimately bring you joy. For those in the depths of depression you may need help from others. Get that help. For others, at a minimum you will want to be proactive in adding things to your life that bring you joy.  For some interesting insight on the principle of happiness, I recommend you visit the website www.authentichappiness.com, read the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, or read my own book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity.

I would love to know your thoughts. Is happiness a choice? Please share your comments.

Are You Happy

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Jack’s Now Accepting Life Coaching Clients http://jackryser.com/?p=321&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jacks-now-accepting-life-coaching-clients http://jackryser.com/?p=321#respond Sat, 02 Feb 2013 20:47:05 +0000 http://jackryser.com/?p=321 Share

Are you struggling with  divorce, death of a loved one, or other life changing event?

Are you missing direction in your life?

Life coaching can help you! Contact Jack for more information at 801-898-4074 or Jack@JackRyser.com.

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