Friday, October 11, 2019

When You Take Things For Granted

The world is a busy place. Just look at the traffic, the long lines at the gas station and grocery store, or my daily To Do list. Often we find ourselves tackling our lives and our schedules as if we were on autopilot. Sometimes we don't even think about what we are doing or how we are doing it ... we just do what needs to be done. It's very easy to take things for granted; a computer or car that works when we turn them on, the lights turning on when we flip the switch, or the fridge having food in it when we go to make our lunch.

This week I have been sorely reminded of something I clearly took for granted; having two hands that work. My life is usually pretty busy - sometimes too busy. I've trained my body to get by on little sleep. Sometimes (actually more often than we'd like to admit) we find ourselves not having as much control as we would prefer. 

For about a year I have been attending a weekly Zumba class at my local parks and recreation facility. At first I was leery about joining. I am in my middle 50s and am pretty mobile and active (if working and running errands count). I like to garden, take walks, and do sidewalk chalk drawings with my granddaughters when I can. But would I be up for the challenge of a weekly fitness class? Would I be able to keep up and learn the routines? Not to pat myself on the back, but I think I've done pretty well and been able to hold my own. I look forward to the weekly class, not just for the exercise, but also because it allows me to take one whole hour a week for myself. I actually turn my cell phone off and leave it in my locker.

This week at class, I had a less than graceful moment. My foot stayed in one spot and chose not to follow when the rest of my body went forward with a step in the routine. In a matter of seconds I found myself going down ... HARD ... and landed with an awkward thud on the floor on my arm. But being the trooper that I am, I got up and tried to shake it off (I'll admit I was partially motivated by embarrassment). I managed another 10 minutes and only gave in to the idea of an ice pack at the 'unofficial' water break.

Fast forward to a quick trip to urgent care and a temporary soft cast for an acute intra-articular fracture of the distal radius. Of course as Murphy's Law would have it, it's my right arm and I am right-handed. Next week I will get a new hard cast and I'm not sure yet for how many weeks. Since it's my first cast in 56 years I am hoping I at least get to pick a pretty color.

I can openly say that I never knew how much I needed two hands until I temporarily lost the use of one. Performing my full time job will be slow and frustrating since I work on a computer most of the day. Going grocery shopping and cooking one-handed will be a challenge. Blow drying and styling my hair ... can you say hat? Today I am giving myself permission to wallow in my self-proclaimed pity party. I will get over it. I tackled and beat cancer, so I know that I can conquer this too. I do have perspective - I know there are people dealing with far worse things than my 4-6 week inconvenience. I understand that. Sometimes we need to take the time to show ourselves a little grace.

Was this life's way of giving me a reality check?
Is this God's way of telling me to slow down?

Friday, September 27, 2019

When A Little White Lie Is Not So Little

How many times as a kid did you tell a 'little white lie'? Maybe it was about something as trivial as whether or not you had hopped the fence to get the ball out of your neighbor's back yard or whether or not you had spent as much time on your homework as you claimed you did. You may have thought the topics weren't all that important and you weren't hurting anyone, so why did it matter?

But little white lies aren't always so little. They matter more than you may think. Whether you are a child or a teenager or a young adult or a supervisor at work ... guess what? Lies are still lies. And the more you tell them without thinking about them, the easier it becomes for you to do. 

To me when you tell a little white lie it says you're being lazy and taking the easy way out. Maybe you don't have the answer and don't want to admit it, so you lie about it and convince yourself it's okay. Maybe you don't want to put in the needed time or discipline for something so you lie about it because you don't want to be judged (like if you cheated on your diet). Maybe you come up with excuses for why you don't get some things done. When a professional misses a deadline and makes excuses for why they weren't prepared for the meeting, they're telling a lie. Big or small, they create inconveniences for the other people who were counting on them. They make other people wait needlessly and put them in a position to have to pick up the slack to cover for them. Not very professional, for sure.

I think what some people tend to forget is that little white lies are as transparent as saran wrap. People can usually see right through them. You are basically being rude to the other person and not fooling anyone, except maybe yourself. Never a good thing. Not only are you being rude, but you're being disrespectful which only makes you look bad. Reputations can be tarnished quickly and your integrity will be questioned.

I'm not trying to be the judgmental one here and say who's right and who's wrong or when it's okay to tell a lie and when it's not. I suppose if you have to choose, think about whether your lie will hurt someone's feelings needlessly or whether your little white lie will come at a cost to someone else (especially business related). If someone asks you, 'What do you think of my new haircut?' Think about it; if you don't find it super flattering, don't be blunt and hurtful, maybe soften the blow with a more generic answer of 'Wow, what a change!'. You aren't telling a lie, you're just being considerate.

The next time you find yourself about to tell a needless fib (and we ALL do occasionally), stop and ask yourself 'Why?' Why do you need to? Do you really think you're fooling anyone? Will it be worth it?

Just remember, one small change can move mountains. If you change how you think about yourself and show yourself the respect you deserve, others will surely follow suit.

When was the last time you felt hurt or disappointed because someone lied to you and you knew it as soon as the words left their lips? 

Monday, September 9, 2019

Words Have Power

Words are crucial. I've always said that words, no matter how big or how small, how simple or how extravagant have an enormous amount of power. Words can build a person up just as easily as they can tear someone down. Words can be encouraging and yet words can be destructive. It's great when people take the time to actually think about what they're going to say before they open their mouth.

You've heard the old saying, 'Think twice, speak once'? How true is that? Many times people tend to speak out of reflex; kind of a spur of the moment thing. That's not always good. You could blurt out, 'I love you!' and that would probably be a good thing. But when you speak out of hurt emotions; hatred, grief, or especially jealousy ... well, that's when things can be said that you look back later and maybe wish you hadn't of said them. Words though are like that tube of toothpaste in your bathroom. Once it's out of the tube, you can't shove it back in. Once you choose to say something, good or bad, it's out and you can't get it back. 

You might inadvertently say something mean to someone without intending to. Maybe you're just getting the emotions out. Maybe you think it'll somehow make you feel better. Maybe you're actually trying to have the other person hurt like you're hurting. Sadly, none of these scenarios are beneficial. You won't feel better and being nasty to someone else for no reason won't improve a thing.

The world has been a stressful place lately; people are sick, people are having marital problems, people are experiencing financial burdens, people are looking for jobs, etc. It's normal to look for a reprieve from all the sadness and stress, but not at the expense of other people. It's kind of like the behavior of a bully; you tear someone else down a little in hopes of building yourself up. In the end the bullies only expose themselves for who they really are.

In the midst of all the sadness around us, try to use your words carefully. Take the time to notice people and tell them something nice. Tell them you like their smile. Say 'thank you'. Tell them, 'blue is really your color'. Tell them something positive, something uplifting, or something hopeful. Trust me, we all hear our share of the negative words every day (on the news, on the radio, or in conversation with people). Hearing something positive and just knowing that someone noticed us in a positive way can be really uplifting.

When's the last time you said something nice to a stranger?

When's the last time you said something nice to someone you know?

When's the last time someone said something either 'nice' or 'not so nice' to you? 
How did it make you feel?

Friday, August 23, 2019

Do you spread yourself too thin?

We all have things that we wish we could improve upon; the way we eat, the way we exercise, the way we handle stresses, maybe the way we react in relationships, or the way we do our jobs. At the same time, we all have some things that we do really well. Maybe you're great with your hands; saving you money on household or auto repairs (that's a HUGE thing, I know because my husband is great at making repairs around our house). Perhaps you are great with little kids. I know people who have a green thumb and have glorious gardens that show off their dedication. I know people who are musical, artistic, make others laugh, or are great listeners.

Sometimes being good at something can cause you to spread yourself too thin. Maybe people know how great you are with little kids so they're always asking (or expecting) you to babysit theirs. Maybe you have a hard time saying no, so you always say yes to help them out, but find that you don't have a lot of time left over for the things you want or need to do. 

My son used to have a pick up truck, which often led to people wanting him to tow things, move things, etc. for them. It became more of an expectation, rather than a friend helping out another friend. He had a big heart and always wanted to help everyone else so he would say yes, but when he needed something suddenly they were too busy to reciprocate. 

Sometimes people are great at their jobs; some people even make things look easy. How often does someone at your job ask you to cover for them and do a project because they know you'll get it done faster? Have you ever had someone in your department out sick or on vacation and suddenly others think they'll just drop all of that person's work load on to your desk to do besides your own? That can be really frustrating and overwhelming at the same time. It's great that think you're more than capable, but would also be helpful if everyone worked as a team and divided up the tasks more evenly so that no one person felt that way.

There are a couple of basic questions to ask yourself ...

1) Are you good at something and want to share it with others? There's certainly nothing wrong with that. It's good to find joy in giving our time and talents to others.

2) Do you have a hard time saying no to people? Is it because we want people to like us or appreciate us? Do we sometimes feel that if we say no, maybe they won't?

3) Do you set boundaries for yourself? Do you make sure you leave enough time for yourself?

It's great to have a talent. It's good to want to share that talent to help other people. It's wonderful to have a giving heart and think of the needs of others. But you don't want to spread yourself too thin. If you don't carve out some time for yourself at the same time then you can't give your best to anyone. The biggest thing to remember is to create a healthy balance. If you do that then there will be enough of you to take proper care of yourself and still have enough left over to see to the needs of others.

Where do you find in your life that you spread yourself too thin?

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Finding Just The Right Words

Lately I know a lot of people who are going through 'STUFF'; that's right ... I used capital letters, the stuff is that big and daunting. When you see people (family, friends, co-workers) dealing with the big stuff: divorces, health issues, finances, career choices, responsibilities of all kinds ... it gets overwhelming. Our shoulders were never meant to carry the weight of the world on them (just ask my massage therapist); I know that sounds dramatic, but some days it can feel that way.

When we see people we care about distressed from worry, lack of sleep, and lack of appetite, we in turn worry and empathize with them. We want to fix it or at least make them feel a little better and a little less alone. Sometimes we're too close to people or a situation and we don't know the right words to give them the comfort they need. Or maybe we've said the words before and feel somewhat redundant in saying them again. We don't want what we say to become cliche' or no longer genuine.

Perhaps at times it can be easier to share hope or strength with a stranger. You don't know them but can see and sense that they are overwhelmed or sad. When you don't know them or their situation there are no expectations, no judgment from you or from them. Sometimes a kind gesture or word from a stranger can give you hope and encouragement, because you receive it as just that ... a no strings attached, non-judgmental act of kindness. You feel noticed and not invisible.

We're not always able to fix things the way we'd like for other people. We can't always erase their pain. But there are still things we can do. We can put our phones down when taking a walk. We can take the time to start a conversation with the person we're standing next to in line. We can compliment someone for the color of their blouse or the pattern of their Vera Bradley purse, lol. Just something to remind the other person that you noticed them. Sometimes the casual conversation with the hairdresser or cashier or waiter can feel liberating because it is natural. For that moment we are living 100% in the present. We aren't thinking about the To Do list, the bills that need to get paid, the laundry that is piling up, or whether or not we'll hear back from the job recruiter. Often that spontaneous interaction with a stranger gives us permission for that moment to be present and hit the 'off' switch temporarily for everything else.

Next time you don't think you can find the right words to share with someone, just be in the moment. Look around you; take notice of the weather or the dog that just walked by or the music that was playing in the fast car that drove by with the windows down. Start a conversation based on what is around you and find a way to include the other person; 'What kind of dog is that?' 'Man I wished just once I could drive a car like that ...' 

You being present for someone else (a stranger or someone you know) can give them the reprieve they may need. Think about it and see what difference you can make for someone else. You might be surprised to see that you get something positive out of the moment too.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What Do You Daydream About?

There is a journal type of book called, "300 More Writing Prompts". My son and daughter-in-law gave me a copy of one larger book, then my daughter gave me this second one. The books are full of ideas, questions, and prompts to get a writer's mind going. A question will be presented followed by plenty of room to journal and jot down creative thoughts and answers (or at least that is the goal, lol). It's a nice tool to get my thoughts brewing.

I recently started scanning through the pages and came across this little nugget to ponder over ... 

'When you close your eyes, 
what do you daydream about?' 

I had to stop and think about this one for a while because, truth be told, my mind is usually on overload. I always have enough going on in my brain; responsibilities, calendars, schedules, stresses, and worries. Sadly, I don't often give myself permission to daydream. But this time I did. What did my daydream look like? Well, I felt an amazing sense of peace. I could hear the soft rumble of the waves on a shore or my wind chimes were gently singing in my backyard. A window was open and a gentle clean breeze was coming into the room. I think I was barefoot, lol. My shoulders felt light, my neck wasn't stiff, my head didn't hurt, and things felt slow ... just sort of relaxed. My mind was clear; I wasn't thinking about anything in particular or planning anything. Hmmm, either that was one heck of a daydream or I had died and gone to heaven. The only thing missing was a puppy or a horse. 

Life can be busy enough all by itself; agendas being dished out to us, deadlines getting moved up, adding a page 2 to our To Do lists, bills coming in the mail that need to be paid, people that need our care, lawns that need to be cut ... you name it. We can easily get so busy or even overwhelmed that we feel we don't have any time leftover to actually go places or do things, but we shouldn't be too busy to at least daydream. Going to that fun, quiet, or energetic place in our mind that makes us smile on the inside costs nothing and doesn't even need to be added to the schedule. Daydreams are free, flexible, and can be just the invigoration we need to get ourselves over the next hurdle or around the next bend in the road.

I'm still feeling the relaxing effects my wind chimes and bare feet had on me when I thought about them.

When you close your eyes, what do you daydream about?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

It's Easy To Get Paranoid

There are those days when we can only manage to keep up with what is going on in our own lives. Sometimes there just isn't room for anything else. On days like that, please don't ask me to 'remind' you to do something the following week. I'll be doing good to get to bed that night. Lol, there was a night just last week when my day had been long and my mind was already on overload, that when I got up in the morning I realized I had never managed to put my pajamas on. Lucky for me the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing were apparently REALLY comfortable.

Yes, sometimes there is only enough room in our heads (and our hearts) to focus on what we are presently going through. Our brains can't process much else. On days like these it can be easy to get a little paranoid, probably because we are too tired and too overwhelmed to see past our own two feet. We aren't always able to look at the entire scene around us or even fully hear (or comprehend) the words that are being spoken to us. 

Someone may ask you something and you find yourself thinking, 'Why are they asking me that? It's none of their business.' Other times you may have so much on your mind that you think it's about to overflow. Someone you know walks by and doesn't say anything to you and you think to yourself, 'Why aren't they asking me how I am doing? Don't they care? Or do I really give off the image that I have it all together?' 

The truth of the matter is that we are all human. It's easy and natural for us to be consumed with what WE are going through. But guess what? Other people are going through things too. They, too, are consumed with their own lives. I don't think it's that we don't care enough about each other or what we are going through, but rather we are all just as busy as the next person. We can't let ourselves feel alone or disregarded. We can't expect people to know when we want to talk and when we want to be left alone. We can't expect people to read our minds. We need to be our own advocate. If we need some space then it's okay to ask someone, 'I'm sorry I'm exhausted and am really not up to conversation right now, can we try again another time?' If we can't hold our thoughts in any more and really need to talk to someone, then we need to initiate the conversation. It's okay to call, text, or email a friend and say, 'Do you have some time that we could talk? I'd really love the opportunity to get some things off my chest and maybe bounce some ideas around with you.'

None of us should be expected to handle everything on our own. The burdens can become way to heavy if we insist on shouldering them alone. Don't allow yourself to become paranoid or agitated or feeling lonely. Remember that the world does not revolve solely around us, there are other people out there too. When you need someone reach out or reach up. You never have to be alone.