confidence · fears · goals · happiness · obstacles

All The Things You Did Not Do: Risk, Reward, And Regret

My son is officially on summer vacation. Over the next few months my heart, energy, and time will be even more focused on family. But this doesn’t mean my mind stops. It never stops. And lately, I have been thinking a lot about regret.

Regret is a funny thing.

For some, there is the fear of missing out on the REWARD. The prospect of learning, improving, or gaining something we have always wanted can be a great motivator. It can push us to open ourselves to new ideas and worlds and experiences as we fear we may never have another chance. If there is something beautiful at the end, we believe the struggle will be worth it.

For others, the RISK can prove too much. The sacrifice required along with a fear of failure can overwhelm to the point of inaction. The perceived cost – relationships, time, energy, money, pride – may prevent us from moving toward something we desire. And sadly, some view life as an ‘either/or’ situation, one where there is limited choice and opportunities are lost forever.

We are only one person, given just one life. Sometimes we have to jump in and have faith everything will come together. Other times, it may require more insight and extensive planning.

Weigh the risk versus the reward. Maybe the reward is worth the risk, maybe it is not. But isn’t it better to be sure before you say no altogether? Perhaps there is a balance to be found. Or there might be a period of chaotic imbalance to get through. Sacrifice is a part of goal seeking. Map it out – the pros and cons, available resources, potential timelines. You might realize it is better to be sorry and try rather than be safe and disappointed. We all have responsibilities – to ourselves and others – but we also deserve to fulfill needs, feel purpose, and find personal happiness.

Live without regret.

FOR ALL YOU DID NOT DO If you wish you would have done things differently, do something today to change the situation. It is never too late to alter the course. Make amends with someone. Rewrite your dream. Start completely over. Sure, you might not get to the exact place you wished for years ago but maybe, just maybe, you will end up somewhere far better.

FOR ALL YOU ARE DOING – If you feel guilt because others make you believe your path is wrong, release the pressure. Pursue the life you envision (as long as it does not hurt someone else) and do so without apology or explanation. We are all unique with different choices and goals. Seek those who put joy over judgment and support your efforts without condition.

FOR ALL YOU HOPE TO DO – Find a way.

Regret nothing.


Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

acceptance · change · daily life · obstacles

Life: It’s Just A Phase

Life is hard right now. There is little time to pause, relax, do nothing, or worry about nothing.

This is not the first time I have been overwhelmed, and it will not be the last. I have had many moments in life where everything seemed SO HARD – the sudden death of my father, two rounds of college, new jobs, that first year of motherhood, and a battle against breast cancer come to mind.

Whenever I think I can’t go on, I reflect on the old adage: THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

If a difficult stage in life proves more demanding than my abilities, I remind myself IT IS JUST A PHASE. Whatever is bothering me will not be a bother for long. More importantly, I know I can get through it because I have done so before.

There will always be hardships to overcome – personal loss, bad job, unsatisfying relationship, hectic schedule, major life change. But while these may push our limits and challenge us, we should never allow them to overtake our life or define who we are.

And though many phases begin and end naturally on their own, some grab hold. We may fail to move onto a new and perhaps improved stage of life for various reasons. Perhaps we:

  • form an emotional attachment
  • are in a comfort zone
  • link self-worth to a phase
  • feel guilt for moving on
  • fear the unknown
  • are overwhelmed
  • believe we have no control
  • lack a support system
  • think part of us deserves the struggle

We do not have to stay in one place. All things are temporary unless we refuse to let go and release them. The difficulties in life will eventually leave on their own and it they don’t, there are options. We have the power to A) remove ourselves from the situation B) change the situation or C) accept the situation.

If you are in the midst of a phase like I am, here are some tips to get through it:

  1. LEARN FROM IT – Adversity is a wonderful teacher. Expand on that knowledge to better yourself and future experiences.
  2. DECREASE THE STRUGGLES – Seek ways to prevent undue stress. Simplify, delegate, say no, declutter, etc.
  3. ENJOY THE NOW – Appreciate the value of the moment with this Grounding Technique.
  4. MAKE TIME TO BE – Carve out pockets of time to do something where little effort is required but much joy is gained.
  5. REALIZE THIS IS LIFE – Our days will never be perfect or go our way. Once one challenge is gone, another will soon replace it.
  6. EMBRACE THE CRAZY – Rather than focus on the stress, immerse yourself in the moments and make memories.
  7. EXPRESS YOURSELF – Cry or vent if that is what you need to do. Releasing negativity will improve your health and outlook.
  8. BE PATIENT – Know the discontent will not last and will eventually be replaced with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
  9. FIND GRATITUDE – See the good in the source of frustration. You are likely blessed with family, friends, a home, or career.
  10. PUT YOURSELF FIRST – Get plenty of rest, exercise, and downtime to offset the pressure. And do it without guilt.
  11. SEEK AND ACCEPT HELP – Delegate to share the load and if others offer to help, take it.
  12. GAIN ENERGY – Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Build your inner circle so tight that you never feel alone.
  13. TEND YOUR INNER SPIRIT – Whether through religion, meditation, art, etc., find something to feed your soul.
  14. TEMPORARILY ESCAPE – Step away for an hour, a day, a weekend. Recharge and come back with a new perspective and open heart.

Still overwhelmed? Start with these two questions:
1. What part of your current situation is the most frustrating? Seek to better it.
2. What, above all, is the foremost priority? Focus on it.

There will never be a time when life is easy but there will be moments – glorious, joyful, memorable moments – when life reveals its true beauty and purpose. Look for those. And when you feel caught up and lost in the crazy, remember: nothing is forever unless you allow it to be so.

This Too Shall Pass.


Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

acceptance · fears · learning · obstacles · self

Choose To Deal Rather Than Dwell

Ten days before my official diagnosis, I already knew I had cancer. Family and close friends remained positive, reminding me the mammogram, ultrasound, and lumpectomy were simply procedure. But something inside – my instinct – told me I was about to face the biggest challenge of my life. So while everyone else pretended all would be fine, I mentally worked it through, toughening myself for what I already knew.

I will admit the first month was the most difficult. It was a time of great sadness and hopelessness. The battle ahead seemed too overwhelming, and there were countless moments of deep despair. Unsure of what was to come, I questioned my ability to persevere. But even more, I feared an unknown end.

There was a turning point, however. A defining moment when the clouds passed and everything became clear. And as I look back, I realize it was when I acknowledged the possibilities. I could not only get through this, I could SURVIVE. There was opportunity for a LIFE AFTER. Yes, it would be forever changed, but it could still be beautiful. And yet I worried … how would I get there?

The answer was within me. I held the power. Cancer was strong, but I could be stronger. And that strength would come in many forms – education, goals, perseverance, diligence, relationships, motivation, and above all, attitude.

I decided to deal rather than dwell.

When we are hurting or fearful of the future, it is easy to become lost in the pain and frozen. Rather than face a hardship head-on, we allow ourselves to remain stuck in one emotion and place. And to be honest, sometimes we must do that before anything else. But it is important to accept reality at the appropriate time so we might regain or live a better life.

We cannot rush or force the process, however. Trust yourself. Pay attention. When the time is right, you will know to stop dwelling. Even the smallest step forward, the tiniest change, the slightest attempt to overcome is dealing.

What helped me through the darkest of times? THE FIVE Ps.

1) PLAN: Determine where you want to be and create a manageable path to get there. This does not need to be detailed or final. Establish baby steps. Be flexible. But have some idea of how to move yourself forward.

For me, this was two-fold. I educated myself about my stage of cancer to lessen the unknown. I also had my oncologist provide an estimated timeline of what treatments, surgeries, tests, etc. I would undergo so I could better visualize what was ahead.

2) PURSUE: Tackle the tasks in your plan. Even simple efforts should seem like a major victory. Celebrate the small things, but remember there are bigger hurdles to overcome if you hope to come out on the other side. Acknowledge them. Act on them. Take satisfaction in every achievement.

I took life day by day (sometimes minute by minute). But even on my hardest days, I focused on the opportunity to do something to advance my situation. I viewed everything – big and small – as necessary to moving me forward and welcomed them.

3) PERFORM: Even if you are not in a good place, act like you are. I do not mean pretend or ignore your feelings. But doing routine everyday tasks like it is a normal day can help you forget the difficulties ahead – even if just for a moment. [NOTE: Depression is very prevalent so please watch for the signs and seek immediate professional help if needed.]

In the first weeks after diagnosis, I fell into a depression which my doctor monitored closely. And once I came through that, I found solace in basic chores around the house, running errands, and maintaining a sense of normalcy for my young son.

4) PAUSE: Managing a major life crisis can be stressful, but it should never be allowed to erase all the joy. Whether it is something you love on your own or being with others, make time to do something that makes your heart happy – every single day.

Chemo and surgeries left me fatigued, sick, and unable to focus. My family and friends found creative ways to engage me socially online and via coffee dates and movie nights. The simple act of getting out of the house always lifted my mood.

5) PURPOSE: When something bad happens, it is common to question why. But there are lessons hidden in the toughest of times – about ourselves and life. Accept your journey will be difficult but also seek to appreciate that you have been granted a gift. To learn, to grow, to perhaps change or begin again. View it as a reminder of what is important or a chance to discover what truly matters.

Whenever I felt lost, I remembered what I was fighting for – this beautiful life and my amazing family. I learned to love everything.

[Bonus] PRAY: A spiritual connection can help to allay pain, worry, or fear. Whatever your belief, a faith-based approach can provide an incredible sense of peace for those who struggle.

It is inevitable – there will be difficult days. But when we are thrust unwillingly into the deepest of depths, we still hold the power. We have a choice. We can either dwell in the dark or we can make our way into the light.

Choose the light.


Photo by Lawrence Walters on Unsplash

family · home · parenting · relationships · technology

How Less Tech Gave My Family More

Parents: we have a problem. Technology is changing our kids.

Of course we know this. Extensive research is conducted. Long-range studies are published. But recently, I witnessed the impact on my own family firsthand. Please realize this is not some comprehensive or organized experiment. It is simply real life – my life – and to be honest, the outcome would vary based on individual situations. But I will say this:

My son has changed. For the better. And it is all because we took his phone away.

Our kid is a good kid. He is smart, kind, hardworking, shy, witty, and an incredible blessing. But at the beginning of February, something occurred in our family that led to a revamp of rules for our son. Access to technology is a privilege not a right in our household which means he has to earn the ability to have and use. And while the trigger for this decision is not important, the results are.

WHAT WE DID:

  1. NO PHONE. Not at school. Not at home. Not anywhere. No calls, texts, internet, music, gaming. Nothing. He does not have access.
  2. NO COMPUTER. He must use a chromebook for school, but he is limited to homework and assigned internet searches.
  3. NO EMAIL. Personal email has been blocked, and school email must be related to assignments.

WHAT WE NOTICED:

  • more conversation
  • more interaction
  • more connection
  • more focus
  • more patience
  • more consideration
  • more creativity
  • more inspiration
  • more laughter
  • more joy
  • more peace
  • more love

Our son has always been amazing, but now he is like a different kid. There is less arguing and mood swings. He plays outside more. Free time is spent reading and writing. If he wants to talk to someone, he must do it in person. If he wants to learn about something, he needs to ask. We have never allowed social media apps but perhaps just the pressure of texting, emailing, and being in the know was too much.

Like many teens, he was addicted. But I also think he was fearful. Of not being cool. Of not keeping up. Of missing out.

These rules might seem harsh but they were necessary for our end goal: a reset. And though there was reluctance by our son, they were agreed upon as a family. It has now been one month, and we are planning to reinstate phone privileges slowly and with time limits. [Note: It would be unfair to abruptly change the rules for a child without thought, discussion, or a valid reason. But if the opportunity arises to make a meaningful change as a way to guide or teach a lesson, take it.]

We are not perfect parents. We are ever-learning. But this experience has taught us to disconnect so we can reconnect.

With the horrors of recent current events, it might feel harder than ever to parent, especially teenagers. But when the outside world begins to overwhelm our children that is a sign for us to take charge of what is happening on their inside. We must not be afraid to follow instincts, make tough decisions, and say no when everyone else seems to be saying yes.

Our kids can do without and survive, but we must take the initiative. More importantly, we need to lead by example – that means logging off more and going screen free as well. There is much to be found online but in the end, the best of life is lived offline.

We have the power to power off.


Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

family · happiness · love · relationships · self

Many Reasons To Love

What does love mean to you? Sure, there is a standard definition, but love is not as easily explained when it comes to each one of us.

There is no specific way to love. It is unique to the individual and ours alone to share. What’s more, there are many types of love and infinite ways to express it. It might be private or at times very public. It can seem magical but then leave us heartbroken. And while we may seek a one-true-perfect kind of love, the reality is this: love is quite messy.

It is not meant to be easy – nothing worth having ever is. But too often we become caught up in the “idea” of love – as if we should be doing it differently or better. We complicate matters rather than simplify. Love can be easier if we stop over-analyzing and comparing. Allow it to be what it is meant to be: a feeling of elation and affection. Real and pure.

LOVE IS AT ITS BEST WHEN IT COMES NATURALLY.

Listen to your heart. It is telling you there are many reasons to LOVE …

WHO you are – rather than hide your differences, embrace them
WHO you are with – spend your moments with those who matter
WHAT you do – follow your heart and your dreams
WHEN you can – see the good, be kind, show patience, find the joy
WHERE you are – enjoy the places life takes you and moments it gives you
WHY you love – cherish those around you without conditions
HOW you love – give to others without judgment
HOW you are loved – appreciate those who believe in you and see your value

Love really does make the world go around. It humbles. It connects. It hurts. It heals. It carries purpose, compassion, and a desire for others to find their happiness. And the best part of love is that we cannot help but share it with others.

Look to love. Choose love. Love everything.


Photo by Mara Ket on Unsplash

acceptance · letting go · relationships

When You Are Not Wanted


One of the hardest things I had to do was let go of someone I did not want to release.

I was not ready to have this person leave my life, but they no longer wanted me in theirs. I am not talking about a loss such as divorce or death.

Sometimes people just shut us out.

There might be an obvious reason for the disconnect: argument, betrayal, disrespect, etc. But there might also be a time when someone stops acknowledging us due to no reason at all. At least not one known to us.

The fact there is no defined cause for the break or clear moment to reflect on makes the estrangement that much harder to understand.

Our first instinct is to question our role. What did we say? What did we do? Did we let them down? Hurt them somehow? Where did we fail? What grievous error did we make? What unknown line did we cross?

Why would this person simply let us go without warning?

It is natural to believe we are to blame. Though this might indeed be the case, more often people do things and make decisions that have absolutely nothing to do with us. Maybe they are making big changes or following a new path. Perhaps they are caught in the trappings of daily life.

We may not be the intended target but simply collateral damage.

Once we determine we have not done anything wrong, we can experience a varying range of emotions. We might feel relief if the relationship was toxic or damaging. But if it was someone we care deeply about (a dear friend) or love (a family member), the hurt can run deep and wide.

As with any loss, overcoming the pain can take time. And for some, moving on becomes impossible. The constant wonder of what happened can stall any progress or enlightenment. And in the worst instances, it leaves the person feeling so rejected, they find it difficult to trust or become close to another.

If someone you value no longer cares to connect, there are different ways to approach it:

  1. Be friendly but uncommitted. Politely participate in interactions (no matter how big or small) whenever paths cross. There is no malice or resentment in this approach but little attempt is made to pursue a deeper relationship.
  2. Choose to take the high road. This option is particularly helpful in family or social situations where avoidance is not possible. Interactions with some people are inevitable, and it is unfair to subject others to any falling out. Be present and thoughtful.
  3. Seek to find an answer. This is best handled in a careful manner and environment where no one feels ambushed or attacked. The primary goal? Discover what caused the break. Perhaps it can be mended or maybe it is beyond repair, but at least it is known.
  4. Simply move on. Some people come into our lives for a specific purpose but are not meant to stay forever. Appreciate the time shared together. Look for the lesson. Learn from it. And use the knowledge to create better days and more meaningful connections.

Relationships should not be uncomfortable or forced. And while someone might make us feel unwanted, it may be the universe sending a gentle reminder: focus on those who fulfill our lives and bring us joy.

We may never truly understand the reason someone shuts us out, but perhaps we are not meant to. Sometimes life is simply about letting go of one thing so we can grab onto something else.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

Photo by George Bonev @ Unsplash

change · goals · obstacles · renewal · second chances

What Has Been, What Might Be

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The start of another year usually carries thoughts of change and self-improvement.

How can we do better? Be better?

I used to think like that. In the wake of the holiday glow, I would create a detailed list of resolutions, areas in my life I believe needed help. And every January 1st it was the same: eat healthier, exercise harder, spend less, save more, finish overdue house projects, make time for myself, write daily, reach more readers, be a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, writer, friend, etc.

DO more. BE more.

I would do well – for a time, that is. But then, my magnificent plans would become lost in the demands of the everyday.

It was too much. Finally, I decided resolutions do not work for me. Goals, however, do. Setting concrete to dos keeps me motivated. And guess what? Since changing my approach, I have accomplished every goal set.

You can, too.

Rather than look at the new year as a need to do everything better, view it as an opportunity for reflection and renewal, a chance to hit the reset button. Stop making unattainable, lofty plans or rambling lists of what is wrong with you. Choose to focus on what is working in your life, find what is right and go from there.

Step One: REFLECT ON WHAT HAS BEEN

What brought joy last year? Where did you excel? Where did you succeed? What accomplishments made you proud?

What areas caused problems? What did not work? Where did you falter? What do you wish you would have done?

Once you realize the regrets, you know what to focus on in the new year (that is, if they are still meaningful). In addition to maintaining your health, family, and purpose, you understand where the priorities will be.

Step Two: PLAN FOR WHAT MIGHT BE

Your past regrets become your goals for the new year.

Define them. Use numbers and timeframes. [Rather than “write more,” I say “publish one book by a certain date.”] Establish clear goals.

Setting minimal projects and spacing out deadlines can maintain focus and momentum. If you accomplish more, great! But keeping it simple allows room for unexpected, unplanned things life throws our way. Finish lines and endgames also prevent self sabotage.

THE RESULT: You have a plan, and it is always there – easy to remember, easy to add into life. And it remains there, even on the busiest, craziest, most chaotic of days. It is with you, waiting for its time.

What inspires you? What brings you joy? What do you want to be proud of when the next new year comes?

This is an ideal chance to begin again. We have one year and when it ends, we can either say we wish we did or we did.


Spread a positive message: COMMENT above, SHARE this post, and LIKE on Facebook.
~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Shireah Ragnar on Unsplash