acceptance · celebration · family · home · letting go

A Perfectly Imperfect Holiday

It is far too easy to fall into the trap. You know the one. Cozy and festive ideas taunt us from magazine articles, advertisements, television shows, store displays, social media, lifestyle blogs, movies, and more. And we believe we must do them – all of them – if we are to experience the perfect holiday.

I have been there. I tried to design the artsiest card, give the coolest present, bake the yummiest cookie, decorate the prettiest tree, serve the tastiest meal, create the warmest memories. Sometimes I succeeded. But many times I failed – not in celebrating the season, but in reaching my unattainable goal of perfection.

My pursuit of the perfect holiday did not leave me euphoric or in a perpetual state of joy. It left me feeling inadequate (I could never reach the ridiculous standards I set), frustrated (my constant efforts to keep up made me anxious and ever-reaching), exhausted (I never stopped moving and neglected to care for myself), and disconnected (my quest clouded my ability to be in the moment).

And when I reflect on those years where I tried so hard, I realize how much I missed. In my hurried and determined haze, I lost precious time with people and the chance to create cherished memories. There was so much more I could have done. More fun. More laughter. More hugs. More love. More conversations. More connection. More time. More everything.

I stopped the frantic search for what could never be found.

I let go of unrealistic expectations so I might hold onto what mattered.

I chose to celebrate perfect holidays in the most imperfect way. Here’s how:

1. STOP COMPARING, START ENJOYING: We are meant to be different and stand out so why do we try so hard to mimic what other people are doing? Why do we believe their ideas are better than our own? This is your holiday to enjoy, not someone else’s. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate – find what works for your family, schedule, finances, and beliefs. Appreciate the world you create rather than one manufactured by another.

2. LOSE GUILT, FIND MEMORIES: Some people like to go all out for the holiday while others prefer something more low-key and simple. You should not be ashamed or embarrassed if you do not celebrate to the extent of another person. Discover what makes your family appreciate the season whether that be filling every second with activities or spending quiet moments at home. The holidays will be more memorable if you do them your way.

3. RELEASE FANTASY, EMBRACE REALITY: Often the greatest moments and memories are created when we do not organize or plan them. There will be crooked ribbons and wrinkled gift wrap on packages, awkward family conversations over dinner, houses that never seem clean enough, and burnt out lights on the tree. Messes are inevitable. Expect them. Welcome them. Making room for the chaos will ease the stress when troubles arise.

We all know perfection is a myth and yet we still try to achieve it. Why? Because we want the magic.

What we fail to realize is the magic is already there. It does not come from having the finest of anything or being the greatest at everything. The magic comes from within – our homes, our hearts, ourselves.

The best we can do is often what others want and all we need.

This season, find your joy. Make memories. Make moments. Make merry.


Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

acceptance · letting go · obstacles · relationships · self

Expect Less, Live More

SOMETIMES WE EXPECT TOO MUCH

from OTHERS – because we want people to treat us as we would treat them or believe they should think and behave a certain way.

from OURSELVES – because we think we are overly capable or are unable to recognize our limits and become self-critical when we falter.

If the realities of life do not match the expectations in our mind, it is natural to feel:

ANGER (as if we have somehow been disrespected by another or believe we have completely failed ourselves)
RESENTMENT (because others are not giving us what we need or we are unable to fill a void)
FRUSTRATION (when people are not doing what we want or we are not reaching our own objectives)
HURT (if someone does not seem to care about us or we do not care about ourselves)
REJECTION (the belief we are not good enough for others or doubt our personal worth)
FEAR (because we planned for one outcome and now have no idea how to cope with another)
HOPELESS (if nothing goes our way, our efforts begin to appear useless)
DEPRESSED (when everything seems to come easier to others, we believe we are inferior or at fault)

Setting goals and following dreams is vital to creating a purposeful life. And quite often, holding onto hope is the only thing to keep us moving forward in the most difficult of times. But there are enough challenges along the way – imagining or manufacturing problems that do not exist makes everything harder than it needs to be.

Life is never predictable – not for anyone. And we cannot control anything – or anyone.

We must allow others to be unique, true to who they are, and living a life independent of external wants or desires. We also need to give ourselves the same courtesy.

The next time you find yourself upset because things did not go as planned…

PAUSE – BREATHE – REFLECT – SEEK TO UNDERSTAND

If someone has disappointed you, remind yourself it is not intentional or a personal affront. We are human. We make mistakes. We are individuals free to live as we choose.

If you have disappointed yourself, remember it is not the end of all things. In fact, it could signal a new beginning. Be patient. Be compassionate. Be willing to let go or start again.

Bad experiences can carry a hidden good. An opportunity to become more aware – of others or yourself. A much-needed break or relief from unnecessary worry or stress. Or perhaps a second chance to right whatever is wrong. A failed expectation may be nothing more than the universe sending a sign: This is Life, happening as it should.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

acceptance · confidence · daily life · letting go · simplicity

The Power Of NO

This week I said NO to 5 things that were not already on my schedule. Why?

1) I had too many other non-negotiable, everyday activities (i.e. have-to-dos, need-to-dos, family, home, work, appointments, errands, etc.).

2) I knew that doing the everyday things + these 5 extra things + whatever unexpectedly popped up would have required me to give more than I had to give.

I realize I cannot do it all. More importantly, I no longer try.

Saying NO is not easy for many people. I have little problem doing it. In fact, my first instinct when I am asked something is to politely turn it down. Perhaps this is a major quirk of being an Introvert and a Minimalist all rolled into one. I am severely protective of my time, particularly the rare, free time.

My knee-jerk reaction might be NO, but sometimes I honestly and truly have to say NO so I can:

1) maintain my sanity
2) focus on what matters

Release the guilt of putting your family, your needs, and yourself first.

When we say yes to everything, we never really give our full attention to anything which can = lost memories and disconnect.

When we say yes though our heart screams no, we give away pieces of ourselves which can = anxiety and frustration.

When we say yes to things we do not want to do, we give away irreplaceable pockets of time which can = anger and regret.

When we say yes because of pressure, we give away our control which can = resentment and powerlessness.

Sometimes we must say YES because it is simply the right thing to do. We have compassion for others. We make promises to keep. We have commitments to those we love. We make goals and carry dreams.

But, the next time your instinct questions whether to do something, stop and ask: Why are you thinking of doing it? What are you sacrificing to do it? What are the ramifications if you say no? What are the benefits if you say no?

Saying NO may seem like you are letting someone down or missing out, but it can also bring opportunity.

A chance to:
-enjoy the things you do rather than rush through them
-complete the things you have to do with purpose, detail, and pride
-free up time to take care of yourself
-have cherished, ‘do nothing,’ memory-making moments with the people who matter

The benefit of letting go of the non-essentials is that we make room. Room to pause, reflect, plan, think, rest, relax, appreciate, love. Rather than chasing whatever might be coming next, recognize what is right in front of you.

These are your moments, live them on your terms. Consider saying NO so you can say YES to something better.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

acceptance · letting go · relationships · self

Learning To Accept Rather Than Expect

I hate when someone hurts my feelings, but I hate it even more when I let them.

Usually, I have a positive attitude toward people. I look for the good. I believe they mean well. I embrace differences and imperfections. And above all, I try not to judge.

But sometimes, I admit that I am overly sensitive.

Recently someone invited a group of friends to a gathering, and I was not included. No big deal, right? Probably a simple oversight. But in my heart, I knew I was intentionally excluded. For reasons I will not go into here, it was obvious this person chose everyone else but me.

At first I thought I was reading into things too much. I tried to ignore it, forget it. But then, I became upset and angry. And the more upset and angry I became, the more frustrated I became that I even cared.

You see, I make an effort to not allow others to influence my emotions and thoughts about myself. Yet, I am human. My interactions with people lead to the creation of deeper connections and bonds. And with those connections and bonds, I form attachments and feelings toward them. I want to like others and be liked in return.

In reality, I was not upset or angry or frustrated … I was hurt. Hurt that someone did not include me. Hurt that I tried to befriend them, and they did not want me in their circle. Hurt that I was not cool enough to be considered friend material.

So why do I even care about this? Because when someone rejects who I am, I begin to believe there is something wrong with me. I wonder why I am not good enough. I question my worth.

The exclusion itself does not bother me … allowing someone else to control my perception of myself does.

And so, I allowed the hurt to happen and then I allowed it to leave.

Others do not validate who I am as a person. Only I can do that. I do not need people in my life who do not value what I have to offer. There are plenty of family and cherished friends who appreciate me. I refuse to surround myself with someone who (intentionally or not) makes me feel like I am less than. I am more than enough.

Everyone does not have to like me. In truth, I do not like everyone I meet. That is why some people are drawn to each other and some are not. I will, however, continue to be kind and friendly toward this person because that is my nature. I will smile and chat and enjoy our time together because I do like them.

But in those moments I will remember: liking myself more is what matters. And I will not surrender that power to anyone.

The takeaway? Too often we expect people to treat us as we would treat them. Expectations in relationships are not necessarily a bad thing. It is good to establish boundaries and set standards. The trouble comes when we invest in a desired result. If an interaction does not meet our idea of what should happen, it is easy to become disillusioned. We turn the failure of a preferred outcome back onto ourselves, as if we are somehow the problem or to blame.

We have no control. There is no surefire way to know how anyone will behave or what will happen. So the best solution may be this: stop trying.

Stop trying to predict what others will say or do.
Stop trying to guess what someone else is thinking.
Stop trying to examine every word spoken or move made.
Stop trying to micro-manage relationships.
Stop trying to do the impossible.

WHEN WE LEARN TO ACCEPT RATHER THAN EXPECT,
WE WILL HAVE FEWER DISAPPOINTMENTS.
~ unknown


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · daily life · gratitude

Stop Wishing Your Life Away

I am still on summer hours but the countdown to school has begun. My little family has two weeks left before our strict schedule officially kicks in. That means there are only fourteen more days to ignore bedtime, sleep in late, linger over meals, and enjoy whatever life brings.

My husband is already setting up weeks upon weeks of work travel for this fall, and my son is back to evening baseball practices. We have finalized appointments, shopped for locker supplies, and entirely revamped a middle school wardrobe. And amidst all of the preparation, I feel sad.

The end of summer always saddens me.

In my mind, it signals a loss of freedom. Our family will again be held hostage by to-do lists, alarm clocks, homework, and busy nights. Rather than spend carefree days together, the three of us will become proverbial ships passing in the night as we hurry through meals and rush out the door for games, practices, and other obligations.

Summer is what dreams are made of, a season where everything seems possible and the fun never ends.

It is easy to become caught in this trap: the one where we wish for a special phase in life to last. Often it seems the good times – the really marvelous moments where our hearts are simultaneously filled with joy and peace – are too fleeting.

Much like a summertime memory, we want to catch the best days, collect them as if they were fireflies to be bottled in a jar. We hope to hold them close so we might experience the magic again and again. We want more – to not only capture the moments but relive them. We wish the happiness could last forever.

But we all know nothing is forever.

Just imagine if those happy moments were never-ending. Would we look forward to them? Would we appreciate them? Would we even notice them? Probably not.

The occasions, vacations, milestones, and other unique times in life give us something to work toward. We eagerly anticipate their arrival. When they do occur, we value them. We celebrate their existence. They provide an escape from the reality of daily demands, an opportunity to recharge, a reminder of why the hard days are worth it.

Maybe the answer is simple: we should stop waiting for something special. Every day – no matter how ordinary – is reason enough to celebrate.

Rather than complain or fuss over our hectic schedules this school year, I intend to embrace the crazy. Yes, it will be more stressful. Relaxing and uneventful? Forget about those. There will be fewer quiet moments and more responsibilities. But they are mine. All mine. The reality is that I have an active son who thrives on competition. I have a hardworking and amazing husband. I love them. I love what I do. I love it all.

I will stop wishing my life away. Because in all honesty, my dreams have already come true.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · renewal · self · simplicity

When You Hit A Wall, Lean Against It

This summer has been a lot tougher than I care to admit. For although we are officially on summer break, much of it hasn’t really felt like summer or a break.

My son loves sports – as in he could practice, play, watch, analyze, and research all day. And because he loves sports, he loves participating in a variety of camps. I register him for some because they are worth the time and cost. They also provide an opportunity to hang with friends, be coached at a different level than during the school year, and simply have fun.

And so it is that my son and I have very different views of summer. He prefers warp speed. I prefer slow and steady. He wants to compete. I want to relax. He likes places to go. I like no schedule. He seeks to be challenged. I seek serenity.

Of course I believe immense value comes from activities and experiences. But I also believe occasional boredom, having absolutely nothing planned, and stepping away from the crazy can be equally rewarding.

Any moment – grand or not – can become a cherished memory.

My struggle? Surviving cancer often makes me believe I should hold onto everything with a grateful heart while at the same time I should let go of whatever is a waste of time and energy and just … live.

I want every moment to matter – both for him and for me – which is why I often do things I do not necessarily want to do. As a parent, my son’s happiness automatically becomes my happiness. In a strange way I have to do things I do not want to do in order to get what I ultimately want … joy in the everyday.

The problem? For the first five weeks of summer we were on a tight schedule. And while I loved seeing my son do the things he enjoys, I tried to do too much. Even worse, when I reached my limit, I (stubbornly) kept going.

I HIT A WALL.

The solution? Pause. Reflect. Remember the magic summer can bring. I will make the most of the next five weeks. Our little family has already enjoyed one vacation – glorious days exploring, relaxing, and simply being together. Up next is another trip filled with family and fun. And in between we will do a little of something and a whole lot of nothing.

I AM LEANING AGAINST THE WALL.

Sometimes we must give in to the demands, feel overwhelmed, and push ourselves to get through busy or difficult days. And other times, we might have to say yes when we really want to say no, especially if it comes to pleasing the people we love. The key is realizing when we have reached maximum capacity. Yes, it takes strength to keep up with it all, but it takes even greater strength to release the guilt, take care of ourselves, and break away.

If you have hit a wall, lean against it.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · confidence · fears · letting go

When Failure Is The Only Option

Our little family is officially on summer break, but my thoughts are still wrapped around something that happened at the end of the school year. My son had a presentation due in the final weeks of the last quarter – an in-depth, visual, interactive, role-play type of assignment.

Now, while I am a hands-on parent and actively involved in my son’s education, I am also a realist.

He is in middle school so I only help when absolutely necessary. He is responsible for class assignments, school projects, homework, studying, deadlines, teacher communications, library returns, etc. I no longer interfere or assist or remind about his academics because he is old enough to be held accountable.

He needs to succeed on his own which also means he needs to fail on his own.

So it was that his presentation was due in two days, and he had neglected to mention it. I scrambled to purchase the most basic of supplies and offered to proofread his final report (I am a writer; I can’t help myself). And as I did, I realized he was probably not going to do very well. The example the teacher provided as a guide was far more elaborate, very detailed, extremely organized, and painstakingly set up to impress.

After rushing between school and baseball to print, cut, arrange, paste, and label, he declared himself to be finished and ready for the big presentation. I studied his project board – it was neat, organized, easy to understand. It was … presentable. But still, I am a writer, a person who loves to create and research. I enjoy the planning and effort it takes to make a project shine – pop – and wow.

I feared his project would not wow.

To be honest, I did not even care about his grade. What truly worried me was that he would feel inferior to other kids who had cooler projects with interesting props and better information. But as I watched my son gaze over his finished product with pride in its creation and satisfaction in its completion, I let it all go.

This was his and his alone – he would decide whether he did just enough or more than enough. And he would ultimately pay the price or be rewarded with his grade.

The next morning my husband went to the presentation (parents were invited) and texted a picture of my son smiling beside his project board. Over dinner that evening my son said a lot of people stopped at his station to listen to him speak and complimented his interpretation of a young boy from ancient China. He compensated for a lack of decorative props and colorful design with extensive knowledge and sheer confidence.

He proved less was more. He succeeded when I feared he might fail.

Too often we believe we know the right way to a happy ending simply because we have already walked the path ourselves, found how to get there. And because of this, we hope to save others from the pain or struggle, make it easier somehow.

The problem? If another person constantly tries to guarantee our success we will never understand the importance purpose, desire, and determination play in the achievement of goals. We will never experience the incredible sense of accomplishment that comes from difficult work or rough days. We will never know our victory is sweeter because we fell down and then picked ourselves up (as many times as it took).

And while sharing personal experience is important, it is not always the best predictor of success. Sometimes we must heed the advice of others who have been there while subsequently ignoring it. We must jump into something with nothing more than the simple faith we will be okay because we have done all we can do.

We need to rely on our ability, believe our best is good enough until we are told it is not. And if we do fail, we need to learn how to avoid failing again. On our own.

Mapping our own path often means we will stay on it longer. Perhaps more importantly, it might reveal that pushing to be better is not always a marker of success. Just because we try harder does not guarantee we will get what we want. Sometimes, perseverance is simply a reminder we are able to do great things, things we may have believed to be out of reach. Yes, we might reach a little too high and tumble to the ground. But that is the beauty of failure. It reminds us why we want something, makes it more desirable, and helps us determine if it is really worth it.

I still plan to nudge my son, encourage him to try a little harder, work a little more, and go above and beyond the moment when he thinks he is finished. But I am also going to let him make his own mistakes and allow him to fail. In truth, I hope he fails a lot because that would mean he stepped outside his comfort zone, took chances, and pushed the limits.

Perhaps then he will see himself as I do – so amazing and talented and smart and funny and loving and a reflection of all that is possible in this world. Only then will I feel I have succeeded.


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