Friday, December 30, 2016

The Year Is Winding Down

Tomorrow is the LAST day of the year. 2016 will soon be nothing more than another chapter in our life book. Surely, there were high and low points; no one's life stays on a constant horizontal balance 100% of the time. As New Year's Eve draws nearer it would be customary for people to talk about resolutions and goals; some undoubtedly will revolve around diets, relationships, jobs, and finances (they always do). Maybe what is better to think about is how did you do with your resolutions and goals from one year ago? Did you pick a goal that was repetitive? Have you been setting yourself up to fail? 

A year ago I got the news that my cholesterol was higher than I would have liked. My weight wasn't exactly where I wanted it to be. My overall attitude needed some adjustments. I sincerely needed to find better ways of dealing with anxiety and stress. So, here I am one year later and it is time for a progress report. My cholesterol has gone down and is still improving. I made some lifestyle changes and without any dieting I am down 22#. My attitude, like anyone else's, remains a constant work in progress. But on some days, I am proud to report, I feel like I am doing a little better.

I don't like picking resolutions on demand at the end of year with a party horn in my hand, they feel too forced for me. Goals can be a good thing, as long as they are reasonably attainable. For me, I would rather reflect on where I am today, think about what is working and what is not, and think about whether or not I can do anything at all to improve it.

If you check synonyms for the word 'resolution' include determination, perseverance, strength, and fortitude. I sincerely like the sounds of these words. They all suggest positive images and success. Rather than saying you want to lose 20#, tell yourself that when the end of the year comes you want to be a healthier you (whatever that looks like). Rather than saying 'I want a new job', pray for a sense of commitment, respect, and accomplishment in whatever you are doing. Rather than saying you want to be in a certain place in a relationship, work toward being in a healthier and stronger mindset - the rest will come when it is the right time.

I had a lot of highs and some lows in 2016. I stepped out of my comfort zone, tackled ballroom dancing and raised a lot of money for a great cause. I played with my granddaughter whenever I could. I added some flowers to my garden. I bought my first-ever pair of straight leg skinny jeans (and wasn't embarrassed to wear them outside of my house). On the downside, our family lost someone special, I have learned more about elder care and being a power of attorney than I ever wanted to know, and I still have moments when I deal with anxiety and insecurities (but who doesn't?).

So, what has been great for you in 2016? 
What's been not so good? 
Where do you see yourself one year from today?
How do plan to get there?

Monday, December 26, 2016

It Takes Time For A Change To Transition Into A New Norm

Right now we are in full swing of the holidays. We've shopped, we've wrapped, we've stood in lines, we've baked and cooked, and we've socialized. We've made it through Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and now it is the morning after. We're relaxing, we've attempted to tidy up our houses to regain a little bit of order. We will undoubtedly eat leftovers for the next few days until the time comes when someone cries out, 'I need a hamburger; no more ham, PLEASE.'

During the holidays, including up through New Years, we try to catch up with friends and neighbors, and have family gatherings. For some, the holidays have looked a little different this year. I know it has in our house. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner, if I do say so myself, but it was still different. In years past we played host to a larger extended family or close friends, but this year it was just 3 of us. We prepared the same dishes, decorated the house, went to a candlelight worship service, and watched Christmas movies on the couch. We missed having our whole immediate family here with us, but we understand that life changes; kids get married, start families of their own, and start new traditions (that perhaps do not mesh with ours). A family member passed this year and wasn't part of our holiday routine, and another family member is now in a nursing care facility which created yet another change.

The 3 of us slept in on Christmas morning and went through the rest of our day at a slower, more meandering sort of speed. Now it is Monday and we are all feeling a little lost. We have a couple of days off and want to make the most of them, but also aren't sure what to do. I do not have the desire, nor the energy yet today, to go shopping. I may do a little bit of Internet research for the best way to spend a gift card and perhaps venture out on Wednesday, lol.

The thing is, there is A LOT of hype that gets us up to the holiday (holiday music on the radio for one), but nothing that tells us what to do the 'morning after'. This morning my husband told me he saw one of our neighbors already taking their outdoor lights down. What? Seriously? I'm not ready to go that far. We have an entire year in between the holidays; meaning that a lot of change can take place during those 12 months. Relationships can change, for good or bad. Families can become bigger; we may have added spouses or new babies. As our small corner of the world changes, so do our traditions and the way we do things to make life special. Changes can happen literally overnight, just ask someone who has lost someone unexpectedly. In order for changes to become the new normal, though, we will need time. Thankfully, there is no time limit for a change to transition into a new norm. It won't happen over night. We'll have old memories to consider and new memories to create.

So, first off, how was your Christmas? What made it special? What was new about it? What, if anything, changed for you?

What are you doing today on this 'day after'? What does the rest of your week look like? Anyone that knows me well knows that I am a planner, a scheduler extraordinaire. I worked at a frenzied pace the entire week before Christmas and now I have a little time off. I could be curling up with a book, watching a movie, or sitting in my retreat room facing my laptop (oh wait, that's exactly what I'm doing right now). The point is I still feel a bit lost. When you're always used to your calendar being full you suddenly aren't sure what to do with an open slot; sorry if that sounds as pathetic as it presently looks on my laptop screen.

What is my big point today? Only that if you've experienced a big change this year (or even a small one) that has you feeling a little out of sorts and a little lost, that's okay. Take as much time as you need to face those changes head on, to try to understand them better, to appreciate and digest them, and to learn to accept them for what they are (or aren't). Given the right amount of time, your changes will transition into your new norm. Your holiday, this year or next, can be whatever you want it to be.

Friday, December 9, 2016

When It's Okay To Let Go Of A Friendship

Generally at this time of year I find myself blogging about the holiday season; the twinkling lights, the decorations, the hustle and bustle, and the real reason for the season. I try to keep my topics positive and uplifting; there's enough sadness and chaos in the world as it is. 

I recently asked my readers online for some topic ideas. I wanted to get a feel for what people were dealing with, besides the obvious holiday things. I inquired about traditions and things they looked forward to this time of year. My sister replied that each year she tackles a 1,000 piece puzzle. She starts it at Thanksgiving and tries to finish it by New Year's. It's a goal she finds relaxing.

By December 1st I try to have my Christmas cards written and in the mail. People joke that I am usually ahead of the pack; but, truth be told, no matter what day I send mine out on I will always get one from a previous co-worker first. Darlene beats me every year! That's become our tradition.

For me, writing out my Christmas cards can be both good and bad. The good part is I enjoy it; at least the part that involves reconnecting with family and friends with pretty and festive cards. The bad part comes when I look at my last year's list. I review it and add in the change of addresses, changes in names because someone has gotten married or worse someone has died, and then there is the issue that presents itself ... friendships that have changed.

Friendships can be tricky, because they can often be seasonable. The thing about friendships is while we hope that they will be honest and true and last forever, they can also be outgrown. For friendships to work in a healthy way, there needs be some give and take. They need to be 2-sided and there needs to be growth. I've experienced friendships that were great for literally years. We were there for each other, we supported each other, we cried together, and we talked ... a lot. Then one day out of the blue something ugly and unsuspecting happened with one. It hit me like a 2x4 between the eyes. My first response was, 'What did I do wrong?' All communication came to an abrupt halt only to leave behind unanswered questions and 'what ifs'. Years later this friend approached me out of the blue and asked to meet. We did and we talked. Turns out they had had personal issues they were dealing with that they had never been able to share. They apologized and proceeded to fill in all the blanks. We don't talk much now, but at least we have clarity and they know that I am here for them IF and when they are ready.

I had another friend, who was a very dear friend for more than 20 years. One day, their life changed, and apparently they no longer had room in it for me. Unfortunately, there hasn't been the clarity of an explanation; I believe they just outgrew our friendship. Perhaps we just didn't have things in common anymore. Perhaps it was a work in progress and I missed the signs. Clarity gives us closure. Without it we tend to speculate and place blame, sometimes in the wrong spots. A true friendship takes work, genuine effort, communication, and honesty. When even one piece is missing the friendship can take a serious hit.

I may be a little older and a bit wiser now as I sit here and reflect, but I'm not too old to not still wonder what happened? or what might have been? I am aware enough that I can see many people struggling with friendships; from the young ones all the way up to aging parents.

Yes, friendships can be great, but they can also be stressful and hurtful. They can be the cause of some serious reflection. Do we want to put in the work to fix the broken friendship? Do we want it so bad that we're willing to let ourselves be manipulated? The truth of the matter is, in my humble opinion, that people change. Sometimes they grow, they mature, their wants and needs change, and often times they're just looking for convenience or something new. Sometimes the novelty of the friendship wears off. If it never truly meant much to them to begin with then they won't feel the need for remorse or any pain. But while they may not feel it, the other half of the friendship may. You may be the one who is left asking the questions of what changed or who? When did you no longer become important enough in their life to matter? When did your feelings no longer count? At what point did they think it was okay to treat people with such little respect?

It's been said that time reveals all truths and time heals all wounds, but that doesn't make broken friendships any less hurtful or disappointing; especially during the holidays.

People change ... every where ... every day, you and I included. Sometimes friendships will be lost. It may be difficult, but it also may be necessary. In the long run it is probably better for us to see people for who they really are.

So, as you send out your Christmas cards this year or birthday cards or anniversary cards, know that it's always okay to try one more time. Sometimes we're lucky enough to know what is going on in people's lives, but more often than not we don't and can only speculate. Go with the spirit of the Christmas season; try again, be forgiving if you can, show grace when you can, but know that you deserve two-sided friendships. You are a strong individual. You get back what you give. If you put effort and honesty in, you can hope to have it returned, but if it isn't then it's okay to accept it for what it was and allow yourself to move forward toward something better and deserving.

That is my Christmas wish for you.