Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Year in Review & Why Resolutioning Isn't Helpful
These aren’t resolutions, and honestly, I don’t think resolutioning is helpful.
Because they set you up for failure.  You are harder on yourself than you are on any other person on earth.  So you set the bar high, higher and higher still.  Then the minute an ankle twists, a dessert is eaten, a harsh word said, time allotted given away—anything at all and the firm standards that you were so sure of, fall apart as ether.  The reason they did aren’t what you think.  The reason they disappeared and your self-esteem ebbed and the rewards seem to be out of reach are because you decided that self-kindness wasn’t a worthy goal this year.  A resolution of thoughtfulness of self wasn’t to be made.  Forgiveness is the only way to self-absolution.  And forgiving ourselves is the one thing we have trouble with.  The ones that can, who can look towards tomorrow as a fresh start not a failed attempt, are happier, healthier and just honestly easier.

So these are some ideas, inventoried anecdotes from my year-in-review that I need to reference when the going gets tough, and I need to be tougher.  Hope they might make sense for you too.  Ready?

“Happiness is a choice, not a right.”  Those
Declaration of Independence
Founding Fathers were on to something.  We have rights to life, to liberty, but not to happiness, rather it is the pursuit of it.  Something in the chase leads me to believe that they meant it is a choice not a right.  Many people have everything and aren’t happy, others have nothing and are.  Maybe perfect happiness isn’t possible, but waking up with the conscious decision to be happy has made a difference when I could see it through.  My mom, who would have been a shade closer to 70 this year had she lived, had only one wish for me, to be happy.  I didn’t get it then, but looking at the trio I have now, I do. 
remote battles are epic by law
Happiness can be elusive and fleeting.  But it’s a righteous and commendable goal.  We have more challenges as far as the sky is long as I write this, but I am going to really try to put a spin on happy this year coming and let the Zen of it carry me off to possibilities. 

“I feel like we’re drifting apart.  I mean to put a stop to that.”  That statement, two sentences, were said to me by my friend Julie this year.  I wanted to repeat them here because I thought it was simple and brilliant and beautifully direct. In the first part she acknowledged a distance that I’d felt too, and in the second let me know that she valued me enough to
Bridesmaids (2011)  
want to do something about it.  I learned from her that the worrying and fretting changes nothing, friends that matter are worth the effort of a direct missive to the heart.  And those that cannot see and acknowledge it as such, are not worthy of any more effort.  It’s too exhausting.  There’s a lot to do that can be got on with rather than hanging on.
Closing a door opens a window in a lot of ways; I learned that this year. 

“It’s time to walk together.”  My husband moves quickly and with sure steps.  I move a lot slower and am usually holding the hand of someone a lot shorter.  His pace is brisk, and he’s a runner.  Mine is tortoise-like and I am positive I have a running allergy.  It will not always be so, the chase will slow
down for John and mine will likely speed up without the lug of “come look at this” missing from me.  What I’m getting at is, in the midst of bustle and worry, and money and children and in-laws and aging and ends, marriages need tending to in order to remind each other why it seemed like such a good idea to settle down in the first place when you took that first walk down a white aisle. 
It begins with being in step.  Not always in sync, but taking the time to stroll together at the same place has helped a great deal for me.  I learned it is as helpful to tell someone to slow down as it is to speed up if we can both get there around the same time.

“I thought you’d give me the benefit of a doubt.”  I said these words to a friend who I had been kind to and supportive of, had done favors for, and had listened to.  It was an uneasy fit for the introvert in me from the start but when you go someplace new and you are not in classes anymore, effort needs to be made.  So when she threw some cutting phrases at me publicly and seemingly out of nowhere, I was stunned and had the simmering heart-achy discomfort of being made
to feel small and awkward, hollow and humiliated.  It took some stumbling and moments of self-doubt, and even though it has been addressed, a conclusion has come, for me, at least.  We cannot be friends.  There is no time when someone who calls herself with the privileged moniker of “friend” should make you feel badly.  It is never okay.  And you don’t deserve it.  Moving on from it should ensure that a spot in your heart opens up for someone who does.  This is not a high school musical; I can exit stage left whenever I need to. 

“Open books aren’t always safely read.”  I’ve mentioned a tendency I had before, because of my
history, of dealing with difficulty in ways that weren’t honest.  My reaction to that has been one of an “open book” policy.  It makes me vulnerable, sure, but as I have told my own children, lies are always found out, the truth just hangs there and is unvarnished.  So when I write, I promised that I would not write here about my life or ideas in any way that was false.  Perhaps nothing is as vulnerable as the stories we tell and the audience we tell them to.  Usually, the latter is controlled.  But not when you enter the world of a blog.  I always think of my audience as small, but I’ve been surprised when I find out how and who (and especially touched when told why people) are reading my words.  Perhaps because of this, I found myself the recipient of a completely unexpected missive about my family and my way of walking in the world from a person I barely knew.  I did not feel it was kind or generous, I thought it was offensive and overstepped and said so.  In my shock and defensive anger I revealed personal details of my life that I absolutely should not have shared with this person.  It was an error.  I did not seek counsel.  I reacted.  In the end, I’ve learned this year that while being an open book is almost always a wondrous thing, certain chapters have to remain firmly closed.  That’s a secret narrative for a very privileged, very trusted few, and for me, at the top of that list is God.    

“Be kind anyway.”  Do you remember those stickers that say, “mean people suck?”  Well of course they
do.  I’m sure it is a suckfest for them as well, seeing as they have to live with it all the day long.  But I’ve found that when in doubt, being kind has helped in numerous ways, to the person I don’t know, and certainly to the person I do.  Kindness matters.  Holding doors, offering a smile or a word of encouragement.  Giving when you can.  It helps change the entire world.  A butterfly effect of generosity.  And that extends in all aspects.  The same thing your mother told you if-you-don’t-have-something-nice-to-say-say-nothing-at-all applies too.  That’s being kind.  Just don’t say.  Sure you may have been to the Grand Canyon or Cayman a thousand and one times, sure you know the best place to eat in the Village, yes, you enjoyed that spectacle first.  But, just…don’t say it.  Like the post, give a nod, smile brilliantly.  Let their experience lie in its sheer awesomeness and be happy for them.  It’s important for both of you. 
And this lesson is as old as time itself, Instead, let your message be 'Yes' for 'Yes' and 'No' for 'No.' Anything more than that comes from the evil one." Matthew 5:37  The evil here being jealousy or envy, temptation or covetousness (yes, that’s a word.  Isn’t it cool?  Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue though.) that may lead you to say something that could’ve been better left unsaid.  A simple “happy for you” beats anything else any day. 

“Smiling should not hurt.” Grinning and bearing it is overrated.  When my mother got sick, she began to read her favorite cat centered mysteries with an increased fervor.  It bothered me a bit, but she was
right when she said that she lived long enough and read enough of the highbrow to know what she liked and what she liked was this.  Understood.  We’re all getting on and up and about.  Do what you want to do and in company worth keeping.  Don’t apologize for it. 
Read what you want and make it count.  Don’t grit your teeth in an imitation of Marlon Brando in The Godfather.  I’ve found myself in less than stellar
social situations this year that I entirely opted into in the erroneous idea that I had to finish the commitment even if it hurt me to do it.  That’s done.  Time is precious, and smiling should come with bubbling joy, lesson tucked Mom. 

“I loved it when you said that you loved it.”  You know that really together friend you have?  The one that has kids she wrangles with ease, a body that you cannot understand and energy to burn?  The house that’s lovely, the marriage without squeaks?  I've learned this year that that person, specifically, needs encouragement.   I don't know what is going on behind the scenes, the exterior may be perfect, but the interior may be still and quiet.  When I’ve been called to, when a person appears to me in my mind, in prayer, in a whisper from God, I’ve answered it.  It doesn’t take much, a call, a text, a
message an email.  Whatever it is, encouragement helps.  And it helps everyone.  I did that for a friend of mine, and she said it made her day.  It didn’t take all that much of mine.  And my friends have done it for me.  Friends, some writers, some not professionally so—well a few have told me consistently that they like what I’m up to, and why.  That helps me immeasurably face up to this keyboard and have another go.  We all need encouragement.  We all need acknowledgement.  It’s free.  It’s love.  It’s good.  We need to do it often because it fills us up even more than the person we’re applauding.   

“Love the ones you’re with.”  Isn’t it strange that we save the best for what’s outside our own home?  Maybe because we expect, intrinsically that the people who know us best should just know us.  Just know what we’re about.  How dare we have to explain it?!  How dare they just not know it.  Deep down in their marrow.  So resentment ensues and the happy shining face is best spent outside.  Who
needs me more—the friends I see occasionally or the folks who I see every day to break bread?  Loving someone means really loving them, all of them, all the time.  Not liking them consistently.  That’s near impossible, but loving them regardless.  And that energy is best consumed and best spent at home.  The reaction of that effort to “love without stopping” (1 Corinthians 16:14) gets easier as it’s put into practice.  The first good word has to go to one of the four boys I live with.
  It just has to be that way.  The same ripple effect applies.  They leave lighter.  I stay a bit more calmly.  Whoever you’ve chosen to love or who have been chosen to be loved by you, are the ones that need the first bright gold rays of your impossibly bright sun.  Whether they consist of family or family and a few select friends, tell them, often and constantly how important they are to your well-being.  It’s the best boomerang you’ve ever had in your whole life.  And makes your home a far, far better place.  

“My word this year is ‘story,’ and I’m determined to write it.”  A billion or so yesterdays ago, I found this really great idea I think through Ali Edwards.  One Little Word.  Something to define you and be defined
by you this upcoming year.  I chose story way back when and then everything kind of crashed and it was a word deferred.  But my word for 2015 is STORY.  The one I write, the one I live, the one that I want to be part of.  It’ll be ongoing, and most likely twisty.  The best tales are after all.  What that means for this corner of the Internet, I’m not so sure, but I am sure that the end product will be worth it.  Because I am.  Story is my word.  What word will define you this year?

In whatever way you look at it, and however you chose to let the New Year in, I hope it is filled with more hope than you think is present, more love than you think is possible, and more joy that can ever be contained or considered practical.  I cannot wait to see what’s in store for you!  Have a wonderful, happy, healthy 2015!

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