June 13, 2008 · Updated 10:16 AM
"I have always had heroes. As it is with children, my earliest ones were my parents, who were the giants in my small universe. My older siblings were only slightly less powerful in my eyes and I looked up to them.School enlarged my world and my heroes came to include my teachers. Later, I found my heroes in the children's section of the small one-room library in my hometown. My imagination was stirred when I read the biographies of historical figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Mead and Madame Curie.In retrospect, I see that my heroes followed an inner voice that was louder than the popular tune of their generation. They marched to a different beat, though they often were the only ones to hear it. They refused to let circumstances define them nor did they let the inevitable failures of life become a final defeat.We need this kind of inspiration in this first month of the new year for many of us are beginning self-help programs. Finding the gumption to try another weight loss plan is hard. Trying yet another stop-smoking campaign takes courage.I say go for it! All journeying toward our dreams is one of three steps forward and two back. We would never gain even one step if we didn't take the three. With our eye on the results we want, those single steps become footholds. Backing up two steps, at the very least, teaches us something about ourselves as well as what does and doesn't work.Now, I find my heroes, the ones who keep going on and growing on, in my everyday world. They are my friends, colleagues and clients. Here are a few of the people I admire:* I respect local citizens who didn't give up on incorporating our city though it took several tries over a period of years. Likewise, our beautiful hospital is here because our local folks persevered * People like me who had to quit smoking three times before quitting for good.* A couple who does the difficult job of rebuilding a relationship after a major breakdown. They call a marriage counselor instead of a divorce attorney.* A former client, who is a recovering alcoholic, injured his back. Through the use of prescription drugs to control his pain, spiraled down into alcohol again after many years of sobriety. He went back into inpatient treatment and began the road to sanity one more time. Today he lives with pain rather than taking the risk of activating his addiction again.* Recently a client, whose wife died last year, had an anxiety attack on the way home from his first dinner date since he's been a widower. Last week, he told me he was ready to try again but this time starting slower with a date for coffee.* A local writer, beginning in her 60s, wrote every morning for 13 years before she ever sold a book. She became a published writer in her 70s and has three on the market.* My friend who has battled breast cancer twice. She has a strong marriage and raised two great sons. She is a writer, a public speaker and has a thriving psychotherapy practice.* A wonderful Episcopal priest in his 80s shared with me that after a long illness with lymphoma, he lost his confidence as a public speaker. After being a pastor and preacher for more than 50 years he became anxious about speaking before groups. His response to his anxiety was to face it head-on by joining Toastmasters, where he is an enthusiastic participant.* A neighbor who began her life over in her mid-50s. When her marriage broke up after more than 30 years, she sold her home in a rural area, left her friends and family and moved here. She started from the ground up in a new career and has made a fulfilling life for herself.To live life with a purpose is to take the higher road. It is to stretch and grow and live more consciously. Just to be on this path makes up winners. Maggie Ellis is a certified mental health counselor and a marriage and family therapist. She can be reached by calling 941-9779, by writing her at 31620 23rd Ave. S., Suite 318, Federal Way, 98003, or by e-mail at CELTME@aol.com. "