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Farewell 2015

10 Dec

To listen along click here: http://tobtr.com/s/8141659

I have struggled mightily with this blog post, which may be my last of 2015. I have a big pile on the plate for the rest of the year, and although most business coaches would say that I need to keep writing and blogging, I know where my priorities lie. I understand that some people have to work. I understand that not everyone shares my privilege of being able to stay home and create a peaceful place for their family. I understand that even having a home is a dream for some, but I’ve learned something else. It’s time for me to own my life and be unapologetically thankful for the blessing that it is. Recently, I had a disagreement with someone I care for deeply. In the past, I would have blogged about it and shared the journey but in deference to that person’s feelings, I’ve shied away from sharing. Today, I’ve decided to be brave and risk offending even more people because of what I’m about to say. I hope I don’t offend anyone. I always write from the heart and my heart is always looking to give and receive love, but sometimes I say or write things that don’t sit well with others. There was a time, when I was young and brash, that I would have spoken out in self-righteous indignation with a chip on my shoulder and more than a few hateful and cutting remarks. There was a time I would have dropped several sarcastic comments that never attacked anyone directly but were designed to let the other person know how incredibly right I was and how incredibly wrong they were. At this time in my life, I choose to keep loving. I choose to keep loving everyone, including myself, although each of those presents challenges.

You see, my ego wants to be right so badly. My ego wants to have all the answers and show everyone just how much I know. My spirit understands that we are all created so differently, and although I always try to help, sometimes my help is unwanted or perceived as something other than help. My ego believes that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong and let’s be honest, none of us ever wants to be wrong. Reading the book Positive Personality Profiles changed how I thought about being right and living right. Because we all grow up in a family, we’ve all been conditioned to “know” what is right and what is wrong, and unless we learn to question that, we never learn to be understanding of someone who is different. I’ve shared before that I struggled with understanding a particular family member before I read the book because I love people and would stop doing whatever I was doing if someone stopped by. I am by nature a people person. My family member is by nature a task oriented person, so when I would stop by because I was in the neighborhood, she would continue with her tasks, practically ignoring me. I found it quite offensive at the time and asked my husband why she didn’t like me. As I read Positive Personality Profiles, I began to understand how important her task completion was for her. As I was standing there thinking how rude she was for not being attentive to her guest, she was continuing on with her tasks thinking how rude I was for not understanding that she had things to do, and when I shared that revelation with her, she looked at me and said, “Exactly!” Since then, I’ve learned that keeping my distance is a gift to that person, not a slight, so when I drive by her house and she is working in the yard, I honk my horn, wave and move on knowing that leaving her alone is the best gift I can give her. As a very social people person, that does not come naturally, but I’m so glad I figured it out.

Another book that has helped me on my journey is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is a set of simple tenets to live by that make so much sense but can be so difficult to live by. The four agreements are to be impeccable with your word, not to take anything personally, not to make assumptions and always do your best. See what I mean? So simple to say, but wow the struggles we sometimes have incorporating them into our lives. Being impeccable with my word and doing my best are the easiest for me. I remember a conversation with a group of women where the question was posed whether we would tell a polite lie or the impolite truth, and I was the only person there who said they would tell the impolite truth, and I have on several occasions because with my ADHD brain, I cannot keep up with lies and half-truths. Age has taught me how to speak my truth more tactfully, or at least I like to think it has, and the other thing that being truthful has taught me is how to be positive. That may seem odd, but here’s the thing. I am generally a happy person, and I want others to be happy too, so I am always looking for the good. During the aforementioned conversation about truth, I asked people if their mother looked ridiculous in a particular outfit and asked their opinion, would they lie? Every one of them said yes because they didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. I, on the other hand, felt like I could look at my mother and say, if you like it you should wear it but I think you have other outfits that make you look much better. Who is to say which is right or wrong, but it is an interesting question to pose to people.

I must admit I struggle with taking things personally and making assumptions, although I’m getting better, and the better I get at those two agreements, the better I feel about life. It helps me to realize that when I take things personally and make assumptions, I can only look through my own lens. Through my own lens, I look at a homeless person and think, get a job. Through my own lens, I look at a mentally ill person and think, take your meds. Through my own lens, I look at someone who struggles financially and think, stop spending stupidly. Through my own lens, when I have a good life, I cannot clearly see the struggles of other human beings unless I’ve struggled in the same way. When I don’t take things personally and stop making assumptions, I can be understanding of the homeless or poor person who was raised without the resources I was to learn how to take care of themselves or who was, perhaps, doing well and one bad decision (even one that might have been beyond their control) changed everything. I can see that the mentally ill person feels so awful on the wrong medication that they stop taking it just to feel something rather than walk around in a haze. I can feel the terror of refugees that fled their homeland with nothing and are being sent to a country that may be receiving them with hatred and mistrust. I can see the rest of the world looking at our fear and with different laws, perhaps executing yet another genocide. It allows me to be a person who says that I would rather die living in Faith than merely exist living in fear. Faith extends love. Fear extends anger and mistrust, and I believe in the power of love and Faith to heal our world much more than I believe in anger. Yes, I know people want me dead solely because of where I was born or the color of my skin or the religion I was born into, but retaliation has gotten us where we are. Perhaps it’s time to try something different. Do I have all the answers? No. Do I still have respect for those in uniform who are dedicated to keeping us safe? Yes. There are no easy answers but I think the best answers will come from both sides meeting in the middle to create something the world has never seen before.

Yesterday a meme came across my Facebook feed that struck a deep chord with me, and I must confess that I giggle at the fact that I just typed that sentence. Ten years ago I didn’t even know what Facebook was and mimetics was a field of academic study; how far we’ve come. Anyway, the meme showed a sandwich board that looked similar to a USA voting sheet with a box you can check next to the words Republican and Democrat and a third option that was checked that said rational human being. I hardly ever share anything political because we don’t even have enough time to discuss my political leanings, but suffice it to say I’m fed up enough with the rhetoric and polarization of both side to have found that meme to be the best political post I have seen.

So, as the sun begins to set on the year 2015, here’s my view of it all. It started beautifully for me because I spent it with my family watching one of our favorite teams do something no other college team has done before, win a national championship through the new playoff system. We had many other ups and downs, including my husband being gone for more than half of the year for business. We’ve all grown and changed and evolved in beautiful ways and some more difficult ways. It hasn’t been perfect, nor should it be because what would we have to talk about if it was perfect? But it has been pretty darned good. For me, I’ll count my blessings, continue to send and gladly receive any love sent to me and I will wish you all a wonderful end to this year and an even better start to the next. I’ll see you in 2016 and until then, thanks for being you and have many great days.

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January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown

8 Jan

January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown.

January 8th 2014 The 88 Day Countdown

8 Jan
Kitchen Table Before

Kitchen Table Before

Kitchen Table After

Kitchen Table After

To listen along, click here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/betterlivingdaily/2015/01/08/the-88-day-countdown

Yesterday I began a countdown on the Better Living Daily Facebook page. I’ve done this before in other groups, and something about a countdown just energizes me. I don’t know if knowing there is a time limit or definite end helps me to focus, or if it’s the way a countdown feels like a game that appeals to me, but I’ve done it before, and it definitely helps. This particular countdown is to Easter Sunday, a holiday that I host for 40-60 people. To give you the quick math, my husband is the baby of nine children, all of whom still live in town. From there we have 29 grandchildren, and ours are the youngest three, and the grandchildren range in age from 14 to 47. Then we have the great grandchildren, who now outnumber the grandchildren. By the way, only one grandchild, who is single with no children, lives out of town. Everyone else is here, so if you add it up, we’ve got 9+29+43 plus my mom and anyone else who might tag along, which gives us over 80 but we know a few won’t show, so we count on sixty and enjoy the ride.

The biggest challenge is finding places for everyone to spread out. We have a nice home, and if the weather is nice, we have a long driveway and two porches for people to hang out. If it’s chilly or rainy, we have a few more challenges, so it helps my attitude and sense of peace if the basement is clear in case we have people, mainly children, needing to land there. It also helps to have my office clear because that is where all of the treasures for the Easter Egg hunts are stored. I have a lovely journal that I made to keep track of how much food and drink to buy, when to start collecting ice and even all of the little things I do like putting a disposable table cloth over the drink table so we can just throw it away. Remember, there are over 40 great grandchildren, and we learned years ago to put the drink table outside and just not worry about the spills. We have the day pretty much down, but there is definitely some prep work I would like to do before the big day, and since this is the time of year people seem to stay indoors more, it’s a great time to make some household magic.

Some of that magic will come from purchases, like new pantry doors and maybe a new sofa, if I save well. Some of that magic will come from elbow grease, like repairing and repainting my kitchen chairs and getting rid of the clutter. If you walked in my house, you really don’t see much clutter. Most of it is tucked away. It’s not the kind of clutter you haul out in a dumpster. It’s the kind that you decide just how much sentimental value it has and just how much you want more space. I’m leaning more and more toward space. Yesterday I started where I always do with my kitchen table. There is something almost magical about that space. When it is clear, I feel like I can conquer the world. When it’s filled with clutter, it feels almost hard to breathe. Maybe that’s because, when my kitchen table is covered, it means I’ve been procrastinating. Almost every piece of paper or item has a “to-do” item associated with it that I’ve been putting off either because I want to talk to someone in my family about it; I think it will require more time than I have, or I just don’t want to deal with it. Most of the time, it’s probably the last one. Today it took a couple of hours because there were bills to pay, papers to file and items to find a home for. I even read a magazine so I could recycle it instead of adding it to my already overwhelming list of unread periodicals. The only things left now are the napkins that belong there, the label maker I want to learn how to use and my sunshine in a box, a lamp my husband bought me to help me keep my mood up this winter. So far, the mood is staying lifted, and I’ll keep you informed as the winter wears on. The table looks great. If you would like to see it, the before and after pictures are on the Better Living Daily Facebook page and hopefully will be attached to the blog post I’ll be posting after the show. It was the logical place to start and I feel great about it.

The other great thing about a countdown is the accountability it inspires. When you commit to something like a countdown, especially if you dare to post your “before” picture, you feel an obligation to follow through. You know people are looking for the “after” picture, and not that you should do the work to please others, but you can use that pressure to help you move forward in a positive way. My greatest joy is to see and read about others’ successes when they spend just 15 minutes making a difference in their lives, and they can see and feel their own success. String that along for a few days and to some, it feels like a miracle. I know because I felt that way. On my own, I would never make consistent progress for more than a day or two, but when I was working in tandem with others, I would make twice the progress in half the time, and there is so much empowerment in making progress, whatever the task might be. One of the people I worked with online wrote the better part of her novel 45 minutes at a time. I have read about people clearing out pantries, bathrooms and basements. I have worked in my yard or vegetable garden, and because I hate weeding, it is such joy to not only make the progress but also to have a time that I can actually quit, whether I am finished or not. Countdowns help me to parcel out the work over time so that I prevent burnout. I learn to be ok with progress and let go of perfectionism, and letting go of perfectionism is a beautiful thing.

I believe that perfectionism is what keeps most of us from living a much better life. We think we are too old, too young or too fat. We are not educated enough, pretty enough or smart enough. I know some of those thoughts hold me back. One of my goals is to speak to groups of women to encourage them to think differently and know their value. Another is to publish another book, and I realized that a publishing package I bought at a discount in October is set to expire at the end of this month. I have the material for my next book, but I haven’t begun writing yet. I guess it’s time to start that too. If I’m on a roll, I write about 1.000 words per hour, sometimes more. To have a decent book to publish, that would mean writing 1,000 words per day, each day of this month to have a 20,000 word book. Last month with Do Better December, I probably averaged 1,000 words per day each weekday and then took the weekends off, while I was preparing for Christmas. Writing a blog is so much different than writing a book, but I detest wasting money, especially the amount of money I spent on this publishing package, so it’s time to get to it. I have to tell you that it scares the bejesus out of me to put that out there, but I also know that announcing it publicly will again help me to push forward. There will be obstacles and challenges, but the possible rewards are so much greater, I’m willing to give it a go.

So what does giving it a go mean? For me, it means less TV. I hate to admit it, but TV is my biggest mind numbing escape from reality. When I don’t want to deal with life, I turn it on and watch reruns of shows I love and the time just slips away. Before I know it, it is dinner time or bed time, and I’ve wasted more hours than I care to count. I’m not saying that anyone needs to do what I do, but I will be much more conscious of turning the TV on because when it goes on, productivity generally stops. Now and then I can make it work with something that doesn’t take a great deal of mental focus. Those times, I play a game we call commercial roulette in our house. Every time a commercial break comes on, I, or we if my family is pitching in, get up off the couch and do something for two minutes or until the show comes back on. Last night, I cleaned up the kitchen during the breaks in a one hour show. I put food away, loaded and started the dishwasher, wiped down the stove, counters and kitchen table, and hand washed a couple of items. The kitchen looked great and all I missed were a bunch of commercials.

There are some other screens that will require less time as well. I have a few games loaded on my phone, and I spend a fair amount of time on social media. Some of it is beneficial, but some of it is to hide from doing the things I know would improve my life, like de-cluttering. I have asked myself so many times why I procrastinate about that and in addition to the perfectionism, I’ve discovered something else. As we begin to de-clutter, we unearth other issues; not just physical ones like home repairs that need attention, but emotional ones that we’ve ignored or covered over or allowed to be buried under mounds of stuff. I watch shows like Hoarders and My 600 Pound Life, and it becomes so apparent to me; those with the most pain cover it up with whatever works for them. Some people bury themselves under things. Some people build a shield of flesh and fat. Some people are wrapped in an angry and bold façade, and some lose themselves in hobbies or volunteering or taking care of others.

One of the most amazing things a mentor said to me was that it is easier to fix the world than to focus on fixing and healing ourselves, but that fixing and healing ourselves is the greater spiritual path. I’ve been on that spiritual path for a long time. Yes, I am, by nature, a fixer. If you present a problem, I will be looking for a solution even if you say you don’t want one. A friend shared a quote by Teddy Roosevelt the other day that said that presenting a problem without presenting a solution was called whining. I would agree with that, unless you are presenting the problem because you need input to find your solution, in which case I would say, “Bring it on” and let me help you find a solution that gives you joy.

So, as we move into this new year of 2015, I hope you’ll join us on the countdown to Easter. I hope you’ll find a reason big enough to make this your best year so far. If you uncover some pain along the way, I hope you find a healthy way to release it and be at peace, but most of all I hope you continue on the journey to being the best you possible so that you can share your gifts with the world. I am blessed to share your journey in whatever ways we intersect. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day, week, month and year.

Jumping into 2015

5 Jan

Jumping into 2015.

Jumping into 2015

5 Jan

Even though it’s January 5th, it feels like the first day of the New Year for me. Two of my kiddos are back to school and my husband is back to work after a two week break. Last night I was lamenting the end of sleeping in and just enjoying our days together, including a rather last minute trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, which I’ll get to in a moment. Today, as I sit here writing, I no longer lament. Instead, I embrace the peace that routines can bring and like most, I look to the New Year with hope and positive anticipation.

In the past, I’ve been the one to dive in head first and try to do it all. I decide I’ll lose weight, start a business, de-clutter my house and get my finances in order by January 31st. I will write every day to create the next great American novel written and make millions. I have a great imagination and just know I can do it all. Then, when I miss a day of exercise, a day or two of writing, maybe three of de-cluttering, I am done for. I’ve failed, so I give up. I deem myself a failure yet again for not being able to “do it all”. It’s demoralizing and depressing and explains why I’ve always hated February so much. By then, I’m sick of winter. I’m sick of the commercials telling me all I have to do to lose weight is use their product. I’m sick of failure, and I’m sick of me.

In more recent years, I’ve learned a different way of being. I’ve stopped beating myself up so much because I’ve stopped expecting perfection. Would I like to lose weight? Yes, but I want to be healthy more than I want to lose weight. I eat a healthier diet than most people I know, including organic fruits and veggies and consciously raised and processed meats. I drink plenty of water daily and tea as well, including green and chamomile. I have an occasional chocolate or serving of potato chips, but I avoid grains because they upset my stomach and I keep the carbs on the lower side. When I combine that with exercise, whether walking or swimming or yoga, I generally drop some weight. I know some think that should be a priority for me because I am overweight, but I found out something else too. When I am completely focused on something that brings me joy, my weight begins to drop. This holiday season, I had a wonderful time writing the Do Better December posts. I enjoyed spending time with my family and friends, and I lived every day to the fullest. I slept well. I ate whatever I chose to eat, including cookies and snacks I hardly ever eat otherwise. Other than a day or two, I didn’t exercise and at the end of it all, even with a trip to New Orleans with eating jambalaya and beignets; I did not gain any weight. That felt like a miracle to me but I was fully engaged with the holiday season so maybe that miracle wasn’t such a miracle after all. Maybe it was a reminder that there are many ways to reach your goals and the path you think you have to choose may not be the right path at all.

So much of life seems to revolve around doing what you think others want from you. If you have a significant other, children, a boss or even volunteer commitments, there are expectations. You can become a slave to those or you can live life on your own terms. I’m not talking about chucking it all, although you can choose that if it’s what you need to truly live your best life. I’m talking about combining your responsibilities with your joy to live a life of meaning for you. Honestly, if I never had to do another household chore in my life, I wouldn’t miss it. If I could pay someone to clean and do laundry for me, I would do it in a heartbeat, but my financial situation prohibits that at present, so I do my load of laundry every day and other household tasks that require my attention. I balance that with writing because even though I like having a clean house, I need to even out the effort it takes to do my daily tasks with activities that give me energy rather than take it away. Someday writing may pay the bills, but until then, or until they make self-cleaning toilets and clothes, I have housework to do.

The biggest thing I have learned is to stop comparing myself to others or rather to catch myself when I do. Since I started blogging and created a page on Facebook, other friends of mine have done the same thing. I read their entries sometimes and think, “What the heck is wrong with me? Why can’t I do life as well as they do?” Then I have to remind myself that many of the blogs and pages I follow are by women who either have no children or whose children are grown. They are not feeding hungry teenagers, hauling them around, making a marriage work and juggling finances. They may have other struggles, but they are not my struggles and on those pages, they may not share their struggles so it’s not a fair assessment to compare my apples with their oranges. I know there are women out there who have children who make time for the gym. To them, I bow my head in reverence. I’m not there yet and may never be. Maybe there are women who can look great, have immaculate houses and still have deep and meaningful relationships with their family members while bringing in six figures per year. If they’re not drawn or written as a character in a book, I would like to meet them or maybe I wouldn’t. I’m not sure they would have time to be my friend, and besides, I’m looking for my own bliss anyway.

I’ve learned that people find their bliss from many different directions, and that is a huge revelation for a couple of reasons. First, if people are task oriented, they seem to find their bliss in doing. They need a to-do list and can get lost in it for hours. They care about getting things accomplished. If they are more people oriented, that same to-do list can feel like a rope around the neck that chokes the life right out of you. Then there are the people like me who are half task and half people oriented. I love the direction of the list but get lonely. That’s why I love when my family pitches in to help me knock off my to-do list. I also use the internet to connect with people who encourage each other. I belong to a couple of groups that help people stay motivated, and it is why I started the Better Living Daily Facebook page; to help others live their best life every day as I try to do the same. It’s become my mantra in life to live a little better each day so that I can lie down at night knowing I did my best to follow my Divine path and create a life I love to live. I began the quest many years ago, and I get better at it every year. This year I hope for more of the same. I hope to improve my life spiritually, emotionally, financially and physically. I hope to help others do the same, and I hope that everyone reading this post will join in and live their best life as well. Accepting yourself as you are is a great gift. Loving yourself while you grow is a greater gift. Moving through life knowing you are doing your Divine work is the best gift of all. I hope you all give this gift to yourself. If you miss the mark for a day, week or even month or two, you can always jump back in. In my world, and you’re welcome to be a part of it, failure is a part of success. Climbing a mountain is never a straight path. Embrace the imperfection and get on with living. Peace and growth to you in 2015. Thanks for being you and have a great day, week, month and year.

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