Sunday, September 20, 2020

Why do we have to choose?

We all have choices we have to make on a daily basis. Often we don't give some of them a second thought; they've become so automatic to us. We choose to be responsible and wear a seatbelt when we're driving, because it is the law and has been proven to save lives. This year has been all about wearing a mask to lessen the spread of Covid (that's a whole other issue). Some may choose not to drink or smoke; others will. Just because something doesn't feel right for you doesn't mean that you get to judge when someone else chooses differently, unless their choices directly affect you. Sometimes we make choices for the good of ourselves and for others. Sometimes though it may feel like we make a lot of our choices solely for the sake of those around us. It may be out of a sense of responsibility, because our heart tells us that doing something specific is the right thing to do. Maybe we'll be setting a good example by something we do. It isn't always about us, but rather how others will perceive us. Sometimes we may be made to feel guilty if we make a certain choice, perhaps even allowing ourselves to be manipulated by other people.

Some choices are smaller (or at least a little easier); what will I fix for dinner (although that one is proving to be a bit more difficult lately), will I take a walk today, will I need to wear a jacket tomorrow, or will I reach out to someone that has been on my mind?

Other choices wear a little heavier on our minds (and our hearts). Those choices and decisions that keep your mind on alert and keep you from sleeping at night. The kinds of choices that we know that no matter which route we choose someone will be affected. It can be tough sometimes ... you think about a big decision and you weigh the pros and cons. You make your list and you analyze it to the point that you feel like you're right back where you started with no clear answers coming to mind. You may feel like if you choose one path you'll feel better, but then you let you talk yourself out of it. You may worry more about how your choices will affect those around you, rather than what's best for you. Does it have to be an 'either/or' situation? Why should you put the weight on yourself to choose what is best for everyone else? Why do we always have to choose? When is it okay to put yourself first?

Oh how I wish I had the answers and always knew the right path to take. I'm sure if we're being totally honest we all doubt some of our choices and decisions. None of us have a crystal ball or a guarantee that comes with the little paper fortune in our fortune cookie. I can clean out and switch my purses and surely find a little scrap of paper tucked carefully away with the epiphany of life's perfect answers typed in black and white. Our answers to life's biggest hurdles aren't always as clear; although it would make things a lot easier if they were, lol.

What choices are you battling with lately?

Find those support people you need who won't stand in judgment, but who will let you vent and pour out your heart when you need it. Keeping the stress and strain all to yourself will undoubtedly become too heavy at some point. But don't expect others to give you the answers you're seeking; ultimately those will need to come from you. Hang in there. No one ever told us life would be easy, but you're stronger than you know and you will get through this and whatever hurdles you're currently sizing up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

When 'Feeling Tired' Doesn't Even Begin To Describe What You're Feeling

I haven't blogged in a few weeks; I just didn't know what else could be said. I try to share insights that are generally encouraging and uplifting (it makes me feel like I'm more a part of a solution than the problem), but life seems to feel more and more like Groundhog's Day every day. The routine has become the same (and often mundane). The warnings to wear a mask, use hand sanitizer, and socially distance six feet are the same. In Michigan we're still in the same phase of the Stay Safe plan. It's still pretty much impossible to find Lysol or Clorox wipes on the store shelves. The political ads are ramping up in full force. The name calling and lines drawn in the proverbial sand are becoming very apparent. And people are still overwhelmed, confused and tired.

Five months ago people were worried about staying home and staying safe and not catching Covid-19. Now people are still worried, but their worries are evolving. Now people are worried about the flu season overlapping with Covid still out there. People are worried about their jobs and either continuing to work from home or having to go back to their offices. Parents are worried about their children starting the new school year virtually as much as others are worried about sending their kids back to school. They are worried about the potential child care they might need. Teachers are worried about trying to be all things to all people. Basically a lot of people have a whole new set of worries.

Do you mail in your absentee ballot and hope it gets turned in and counted in November or do you brave it and plan to vote in person for the election? Do you eat inside a restaurant or continue with carry outs (it's okay to admit that some nights you just don't feel like cooking)? Do you feel angry when you wear your mask to go in a Home Depot or drugstore and walk past people who appear to be completely healthy and don't wear one? Do you feel cheated? There are enough unanswered questions these days to make anyone's head swim. We're used to controlling what we can, making our To Do lists, and planning for our own futures. But truth be told, some days you just get tired of it all; the hoops you're jumping through, the doubt you feel with your decisions, and the guilt you put on yourself if you try to take a momentary break from it all.

What is the answer? Gosh, how I wish I knew. I am trying so hard to hold on to any sense of balance.

What has been your biggest concern or worry lately?
How have you been able to make time for yourself?

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Whose voice do you listen to?

Sometimes when we're making a decision or a choice about something we like to seek input from other people. We may want to ask for advice or a recommendation. It might help us to decide what we want to do. Then there are times when people offer you their two cents worth without you even asking for it. Social media has been great for that these past few months. Don't bother reading comments on an Internet article, because people love to troll there. They like to hide behind their computer screens and play judge and jury to people they've never even met before. I expect to see the negative judgmental comments, so I am really not surprised anymore when I do. Sorry to say, but I find that incredibly sad and disappointing. 

There are so many things in our world today that we have little to no control over, but the one thing we can control and choose to make positive is our attitude and character. We can choose to be supportive and giving. We can choose to be a good listener. People don't always want you to give them the answer, sometimes they just want someone to listen. They want to know that their voice matters and can be heard. In a chaotic time like today where practically anything goes, why would you want to be part of the problem when you have the ability to be better?

I saw a photo online the other day on a Facebook page of a group of people gathered together and smiling. Some people responded back with, 'You look like you're having a great time' and 'You must be sisters, you all look so much alike.' Then there was the one (there's always at least one) who responded with a mask judgment, 'Where are your masks? Don't you care about anyone other than yourself?' What they didn't bother to ask or know was that they were a family (from the same household) who took their masks off at the table to take a picture. But when people look for a way to post negativity they usually don't take the time to know the whole story. Why bother? They clearly have their own agenda. They usually just want to stir the pot or add fuel to a non-existent fire.

When you need to make a choice whose voice do you listen to for advice? Hopefully not the ones that are unsolicited and mean-spirited. Listen to the voices of the people you trust or have something positive to contribute. In the end the only voice you really need to listen to is your own. Your voice matters and has a lot to share, especially when it's coming from a good place and worthy of others feeling blessed by it.

You've got this!

Have you ever felt attacked with someone's unsolicited words?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What do you miss most this summer?

So far 2020 has been unlike any other year I remember in my lifetime. Covid-19 has turned the world upside down causing physical upheaval, emotional stresses, and economic uncertainties. As I was sitting at my desk last week I realized we are now in our 18th week of 'officially' dealing with this pandemic. People where I live have either stayed home, worked from home, been laid off of their job, temporarily home-schooled their kids, worn face masks to go out, stocked up on Lysol spray or Clorox disinfectant wipes, cleaned their groceries before putting them away, gone back to work (but in a different way), taken up after dinner walks or bike riding, viewed their weekly church services through live streams on Sundays, or learned to master Zoom or Facebook video chats. When all of this became real for me was in mid-March. Eighteen weeks ago none of us thought we would still be dealing with all of this now. Scary and uncertain times, for sure.

We've sped right through spring and are now half way through our summer. I heard one person say they were ready to put out the pumpkins, hand out some Halloween candy, start putting the Christmas lights up, and fix a full turkey dinner this weekend ... just so we could speed through the rest of 2020 and be done with it. I think many of us are ready to start fresh.

It's mid-July and truth be told some people are frustrated that they've had to cancel vacation plans that they had been thinking about since last year. Getaways, day trips, family reunions, and seeing extended family members are often put off until the summer when the kids are out of school and the weather is good for traveling. I asked my readers on my Facebook page what they missed most this summer. Their answers ranged from 'going to people's houses and hanging out', 'missing things that were not at their house', 'cancelled trips', 'festivals', to 'feeling uncertain about decisions to venture anywhere ... constantly second guessing what to do and how to do it'

Yes, this pandemic has taken its toll on many of us in different ways; some physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially. People need human interaction. People crave fresh air and the warmth of the sun on their skin. People yearn for conversation. Sure, some people do fine being cooped up and being away from other people, but not everyone. I've lived in my house for 20+ years and have seen more people walking dogs past my house in the last 4 months than in the first 20 years combined. 

We, as a society, have found that we need to be flexible with how we do things right now, but more importantly we've found that we need to be creative with our time. I've had friends that have cancelled their trips to Europe that had been planned for the last year. I've seen people buy bicycles and backyard pools or new BBQs. We are strong and don't give up easily. If I need to wear a mask right now when I leave my house, so be it ... at least I am getting out and going somewhere or doing something. I will admit, I have better days and I have worse days. It's been 5 months since I have physically seen or hugged my granddaughters. That's been the hardest thing for me.

Our lives have many seasons; besides just the four that are reflected on our fridge calendars. We will deal with loss, with sickness, with a broken heart, a financial stress, gain unwanted weight, and a job search. BUT we'll also deal with seasons of strength, of hope, of dreams, and of longing. We'll get through this summer, just like we did our spring. Our summer may look different than those in the past, but perhaps next summer we'll look back at all the family time we had, the exercise we got, the number of closets we organized, and in my case the number of adult paint by number canvases I either bought or completed, lol.

Hang in there and make the most of it!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

I Can Still See The Light

Sometimes (as of late) the days and weeks have become dark with stresses, fears, and concerns. People always tell you to 'hang in there'; that you'll find the light at the end of the tunnel. But often people have a difficult time finding the light or at least staying focused on it.

The last few months have had a lot darkness and uncertainties in them. Having our Stay Home Stay Safe orders start to loosen up came at a good time. People needed some light. People needed to be reminded of their happiness and joy. We can only take so much doom and gloom, before we start to feel like we're being pulled in.

On Mondays I participate in a Zoom meeting called 'Motivation Monday'. I've come to rely on this group to listen to people I know and people I am getting to know; to hear their input and help lift each other up by sharing their insights, their goals and their hopes. But this past Monday was the first session that I missed. I had a day off and decided to drive to see my daughter and her girlfriend about an hour away. It was a gloriously beautiful day with sunshine and blue skies and temperatures hovering around 75 degrees. Perfect weather for a little gardening. I showed up with my outside shoes, a change of clothes, and my bucket of gardening tools ... prepared for a little sweat. We came up with a
plan and dug in, literally. We dug out an overgrown ugly shrub and replaced it with a thriving Hydrangea bush. We planted Lavender and Sage, as well as some colorful annual flowers. I planted a sunny yellow Zinnia in a bright blue pot for the front porch. I pulled some weeds and got things watered. Then proceeded to the back yard. I dug up an overgrown perennial, thinned out a few others, and planted a beautiful lavender colored Delphinium. Added some multi colored annuals and rearranged a few plants. The finishing touch? I hung a wind chime from the tree in the corner.

After months of feeling cooped up, it felt good to do something physical. It felt good to see instant results. It felt good to make someone else feel happy and excited about the work. It felt good to see the beauty around me. It's okay to acknowledge the pain or stress or anxiety in our lives .... but it's also good to take the time to soak in our own happiness and joy.

I felt like my stars had aligned ... I had the day off of work (my first vacation day for 2020), the weather was nice, an opportunity presented itself, my efforts were well received, I got to do something that makes me happy and helps me relax, I could see the efforts of my work, and I DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR A MASK. All in all it was a glorious day.

The ironic part? The next morning I listened to the YouTube version of the Zoom meeting I had chosen to miss. It was about happiness and joy. It was about the value and importance of taking the time for yourself to do something you enjoy. It was about the value of the endorphins your body creates. It was about making yourself happy and cheering someone else up.

Guess I was more on track that I realized. Sometimes the track feels endless and often it's hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, but for me I feel I CAN STILL SEE THE LIGHT. And that gives me hope to hang on to.

What makes you happy?

Do you remember to take some time for yourself?

Thursday, June 4, 2020

What should I say?

It's been an unusual last 12 weeks. We've been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. We've dealt with 'Stay Home Stay Safe' orders and proper social distancing. We're dealing with major tensions in our culture. It's been a lot to deal with and think about for a lot of people. There are different opinions to just about EVERYTHING these days. Don't believe me? Check out social media (if you have the stomach for it). I've read comments full of accusations and hatred from strangers directed to other strangers, but I've also read sad comments from people directed to people they know.

Right now I've been focusing on the last 12 weeks, but MANY have been dealing with insurmountable stresses and tensions for a lot longer; declining health, financial burdens, relationship issues, racism, and so much more.

Life has become overwhelming for so many. Many of us want to help. Many of us want to understand both sides of an issue. Many of us have good intentions and want to do something positive to help. Many of us want to say the 'right' thing. So what should we do?  What should we say? I think before we speak or do anything, we need to first learn to listen.

We should never judge what we don't understand, that only makes us part of the problem rather than part of a solution. If we don't understand something, then we need to ask questions, BUT we also need to be prepared to listen. Whether we will fully agree with someone else or not isn't the point. The point is that we need to base our own views on facts, not predetermined stereotypes and ignorance.

Do I pretend to have the answers to life's big questions? Absolutely not. Sure, I have my own opinions on different things, but I generally (for the most part) keep them to myself and my inner circle rather than trying to win people over to my side just to make my side louder or bigger.

The next time you're facing something big and unpleasant (which could be on any given day), take a step back. Ask questions and try to view life or the situation from another perspective. It doesn't mean I expect you to change your opinion; you may or you may not. What I hope for is that we can all come to a consensus that we need to listen more before we react. Once we throw words out there, we can't get them back. We can all learn from our mistakes, myself included. None of us are perfect. We can ALL do better.

Have you had moments when you've reacted too fast and said something you later wanted to take back?

Were you able to remedy the situation and move forward in a more positive way?

Monday, May 11, 2020

What's Behind The Mask?

We are in our 9th week of our Covid-19 'Stay Home Stay Safe' order here in Michigan. I never thought I would be actually be typing those words. We've stayed home, we've only gone out for 'essential' things, some have worked from home, some have only gone to work and then gone straight back home, some have been homeschooling their kids, some are graduating high school and college, some are feeling anxious, and some are tired of answering the never ending 'What's for dinner?' question.

As we continue forward we are all experiencing this time of worry and restrictions in different ways; with no one person's journey being any less important than anyone else's. Many are experiencing new levels of anxiety and loneliness. Some are handling things better than others and appear calm on the outside, but we don't really know what's underneath.

It's like when we wear our masks when we are out in public. They all appear different on the surface; there are the blue medical masks, there are the colorful home-sewn versions, the bandana scarves, and the 'turtle-up' versions where people forgot their mask at home so they hunch their shoulders and pull their shirt collar up over their nose and mouth.

The next time you have to be out and see someone wearing a mask, don't just look at the mask ... look beyond what you first see and look at the person's eyes and maybe even the worry lines on their forehead. Those will tell you a lot more. Behind the masks you may find varying levels of worry, fear, anxiousness, and confusion. You might also find love, empathy, the want to help, or a friendly smile. (Full disclaimer ... I am NOT suggesting you actually pull off anyone's mask! Sad that I have to mention that.)  Be prepared and aware enough to see what is right in front of you, but also what may be behind the mask.

How have you been handling the stay-at-home orders?

Are you only sharing with people what you want them to see? Perhaps telling them what they want to hear when they ask how you are doing?

Have you been hiding your emotions?