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

daily life · letting go · simplicity

What We Really Need

I am smack dab in the middle of a family vacation and while I enjoy the quiet moments and downtime with my family, there is a voice in the back of my head screaming I NEED TO 

… set up two orthodontic appointments, make a list for back to school shopping, clean out my inbox, have the oil changed and car washed, write 3 blog posts, finalize a book outline, get back on a full-time writing schedule, arrange a doctor visit, organize my work files, I NEED TO … I NEED TO … I NEED TO!

sigh

Family. Friends. Work. School. Home. Health. Hobbies. These days our plates are so full – overflowing with tasks and responsibilities – it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and even distracted.

Personally, I do not mind having things to do and a sense of purpose. But when they infringe on my family time, my fun time, my chance-to-relax time, my VACATION where I am supposed to get-away-from-it-all time … I become seriously annoyed.

These days with my husband, son, and extended family are fleeting. They are irreplaceable moments which might become memories. I refuse to allow everyday demands to taint them. I NEED TO …

… focus on my son’s smile when he tells a silly joke, squeeze my husband’s hand a little tighter when we walk side by side, cheer louder as we watch our favorite major league baseball team, linger longer over a delicious dinner and relaxing glass of wine, savor the memory of our recent family reunions.

WE ALL NEED TO …

seek to experience and explore new things
break away from daily demands whenever possible
put down our phones and other technology
give the people we love our full attention
make time to treat ourselves – often

Life NEEDS to be lived on our terms rather than directed by duty. Believe me, the to-dos will still be there – if and whenever we get back to them. The moments, however, will not.


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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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acceptance · daily life · discovery · learning · letting go

Learning To Live A Messy Life

Some days I am amazing. I get all things crossed off my to do list. I am on time for appointments, sports, and errands. I keep my inbox clean. Housework and laundry are caught up. I exercise. I eat healthy. I prepare meals from scratch. I write, edit, or blog. I listen intently as my husband speaks. I have ample time to relax and snuggle with my son. I connect with family and friends.

And then there are days like today when I simply cannot keep up.

You know the day. The one when you have a ton of things to accomplish but each one a) brings unexpected extra tasks along with it, b) hits a roadblock mid-project and does not get completed, or c) is a pipe-dream because life is happening instead.

All of the above happen to me more and more and when they do, I cannot help but wonder what I am doing wrong. I am a minimalist. I am organized. I have an excellent work ethic.

Why can’t I do it all?

Everyone around me seems to have it together. They look great. (I went to the post office this morning in the same pants I slept in last night). They have kids who are up-to-date with tech, clothes, sports equipment. (My son is in his second season of baseball cleats, and I refuse to buy any new clothes until he wears more than the same four outfits to school). They have tons of friends and do cool things. (I work from home and fear I am becoming more introverted by the day). They post, interact, and connect on social media. (Other than work, I have not posted for weeks nor have I read other posts. Notifications=94, Being Social=0).

My list could go on but the hard truth is: I have given up on keeping up.

Ever since my battle with cancer (in remission almost 5 years!), my body and mind have changed. I can go for days with no problem but then suddenly I am overcome by debilitating fatigue, unable to do anything. And my mind? There are times when it simply shuts down, as if the weight of everything is too much so it collapses in defense.

Before cancer, I would have ignored these signs. Pushed through until I was on the edge of oblivion, believing I had to do everything and do it perfectly. I would become physically ill by the stress. I would not sleep well. My temper and patience would be short. I would sacrifice me in order to please others. I wanted to be productive. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to impress.

I wanted to be strong.  I wanted to WOW.

After cancer, I understood how none of that mattered. What matters now is not getting it all done or doing all things. I matter now. If I cannot do it, I either seek help or move on. And when I cannot avoid being over-scheduled, I simply do my best.

My best is all I can ever do. I have learned to live a messy life.

The upside? My time is spent on things of value and importance. My energy is given to the people who deserve and appreciate it. I…

  • avoid over-thinking
  • follow my instinct
  • release guilt and regret
  • no longer have a fear of missing out
  • make better choices
  • enjoy a deeper purpose

I am strong. And I do WOW (even if I only impress myself). I simply do it on my own terms and at my own pace.

I still feel like I am constantly apologizing or explaining myself to those who have not yet learned to release the pressure. Thankfully most of my friends and family understand and encourage it. They have granted me the incredible gift of letting me be me.

My ultimate hope is you might also shed the burden of whatever weighs you down. Realize that you do not have to keep on keeping up. And when you do, you will learn to love the messiness of life.


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acceptance · health · letting go · simplicity

Master The Art Of Letting Go

I have been letting go of a lot lately. In truth, I have been doing it for years. It is not always an easy or smooth process. Too often, I find myself caught up in a cloud of worry. What if I make a bad decision? What if I hurt someone’s feelings? What if I follow the wrong path? What if? What if? What if?

What if we simply let go of…

THINGS: Where is all of your stuff? one friend asked when he visited our home. I am a lover of beautiful, useful, and sentimental things. I am also a minimalist. Letting go of clutter is not as difficult as one might think. With some practice and guidelines, I consistently maintain a large, lovely home and active family without much excess. This is a wide-reaching topic, so stay tuned for a future post.

OBLIGATIONS: I say no whenever necessary. If it does not fit into our family view, I refuse. Sometimes, I must say yes when I want to say no because well, that is just the way of life. But when I do, it is on my terms. Consider the options. Do not agree out of guilt. Say no to certain things so you can say yes to something better.

TO DOS: I am a list maker – daily, work, seasonal, etc. I am also a wish-list maker. I create grand, sweeping, dreamy lists of everything I would like to do. The secret? When I am done, I go line by line and slash and burn. I cross things off without doing them because I understand my reality. In the end, I am left with the priorities, the things that matter, and a lot less pressure.

DREAMS: Sometimes I have to pause and re-evaluate what it is I really want. Daily demands, previous choices, time constraints, finances, and more can have a major influence on what I hope and envision. Taking stock of where I am in the present moment helps determine where I get to be. Dreams can be changed. Dreams can be postponed. Just never, ever stop dreaming.

EXPECTATIONS: I have made the mistake of expecting too much – from myself, my family, my friends. And when I did, I was inevitably disappointed. It is nearly impossible to match the conversations and interactions I create in my mind so I have stopped doing it. Try to take things as they come and be in the moment because when you just do life, it often amazes and exceeds any expectations you could have set.

PERFECTION: I try to do the right thing, make good decisions, and be the best version of me. But I still have moments when I push myself too far, believing I can control A if I just do B and when I do, things will be perfect. Of course, perfection is a myth and once I remind myself of that, I go back to being perfectly imperfect. 

REGRET: There is not much I regret and the things I have regretted, I made an effort to correct. If you struggle with the after-effects of a bad decision, release the guilt and shame. Direct all energy into fixing whatever is wrong. And if you cannot correct the mess you made, lighten the emotional load by giving yourself the gift of forgiveness.

INDECISION: Making a decision can be difficult, especially if the consequences seem high. Once I make a decision, however, I rarely go back. I have the ability to embrace it, move forward, and give everything I have. One tip? Sit with the idea for a bit before actually committing. If your head and heart are good with the prospect of a new direction or change, follow your instinct and go with it.

PEOPLE: This one is difficult. Even when we know someone is harmful or no good, we tend to hold on. It is human nature to believe we can somehow alter a relationship if we simply try harder, do better, explain our side, convince them, or love more. But the hard truth is: some people are not meant to be together, whether in marriage, family, or friendship. If someone is perpetually negative, demeaning, unsupportive, emotionally unavailable, spiteful, mean, or abusive, it is time to leave. Letting go of toxic people is not an act of cruelty, it is an act of self-care.

TIME: With every passing second, I let go of something precious – time. Cancer scared me enough to realize just how important each moment can be. Yes, I still waste too much time doing stupid things. It is impossible to fill every minute of every day with grand experiences. However, I am hyper-aware of how irreplaceable most of my life is and protect my time every chance I get.

There are countless areas where we can learn to let go – fears, self-doubt, judgment, hate, anger, the list goes on. We are all a constant work in progress. Try one area at a time, then tackle another. With practice, it will not only become easier but welcome. You might even enjoy letting go once you feel the weight lift from your shoulders and the ability to focus on what truly matters. And if you ever feel stuck or unsure … listen to your heart. It knows when to let go.


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daily life · letting go · relationships · self

Avoid The Pitfalls Of Comparison

At one time we were subjected to the minute details of people’s lives via blurry snapshots, scratchy home movies, handwritten letters, one-on-one conversations, or the ultimate memento of my youth: the brag book. Do you remember the brag book? It was a small notebook / album where a person could highlight accomplishments. Children would scribble and draw in theirs. Parents and grandparents would showcase photos.

Regardless of the method used, sharing info was simplified, sporadic, and personal.

We all still want to feel special and acknowledged – that has not changed. But now, social media allows us to make every intimate detail public and widespread. It puts each individual in the spotlight or at least it gives them that impression. Over the years, studies have been conducted on the allure and impact of social media. It serves not only as a connection with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, it has become an extension of who we are…and who we wish to be.

The reasons behind a status update vary as much as the personalities of the people posting content. But much like brag books of the past, the ultimate purpose is the same: we want to share a part of our life with others. We seek validation. We desire inclusion. And with the advent of technology, we are no longer happy with an ooh or ah from the onlooker. We crave notifications. The adoration is closely monitored and success is tabulated by the number of likes, comments, and shares.

There are countless types of posts. Some seek to:

  • brag or be humble
  • self-deprecate or show pride
  • educate or learn
  • share sadness or joy
  • grieve or celebrate
  • rebel or conform
  • criticize or praise
  • alienate or connect
  • be vain or selfless
  • spread hate or love
  • be oblivious or aware
  • complain or be grateful

Whatever the emotion or intent, online communities provide a vital opportunity for self-expression. And when those photos and links and status updates appear in a newsfeed, we devour the content. We click an emoticon and type a response. And then, too often, we compare. Are we keeping up? Are we on the same level? Are we ahead? Are we good enough? Are we interesting? Are we worthy? Are we popular? Do we matter?

Something to remember is this: we see almost every good thing and only some of the bad. Life is edited online. More people share good news than bad. And when they do, we capture a glimpse but not the entire picture. Perhaps even worse, comparison leads to dependence. We become needful of others – their actions, their thoughts, their ideals – to define our success or failure. When we link our worth to another person, we lose control, freedom, and a core part of ourselves.

Social media should be social. It should be interactive and for the most part, enjoyable. If you find yourself stressed and struggling with constant comparison, it may be time to re-evaluate your online activity.

1) DETOX: Train yourself to step back. Log off and stay off if that is what it takes. A break – ranging from days to weeks to months – can renew your appreciation and adjust your perception.

2) ACCEPT: Take whatever is posted in its most basic form. Photos of a luxurious vacation or beautiful family portraits are simply one seemingly perfect part of an otherwise imperfect life.

3) SIMPLIFY: Do not be afraid to monitor or block the posts of people and sites that spread negativity. Online relationships should foster a positive feeling and connect rather than divide.

4) UNDERSTAND: Some days you will shine bright. Other days it will be someone else’s turn. No one is perpetually on top of the world. We all fall and with help from others, rise again. Enjoy your moment in the sun. And when the time comes to be in the shadows, allow another to bask in the warm glow.

5) PRIORITIZE: Popularity and personal success are not based upon shares, likes, or comments. Your contributions to this world are not measured online. More importantly, they do not always need to be shared in an open format in order to be recognized by those who truly matter.

The smile on your child’s face. A loving partner. The joy in your work. A comfortable home. Good health. Family fun. Friendships. Faith. Independence. Facing challenges and overcoming adversity. Bravery. Confidence. Appreciation. Gratitude. Whether we do it in public or private, these are the true markers of living well.

LIFE is not a competition. Everybody wins.


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~Inspired ME, Joyful BE

acceptance · happiness · health · letting go

When Life Hands You Lemons

 

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February is an important month. On February 24th, 2012 at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer. I won’t go into all the details of how I came to that point, but I will stress the importance of monthly self exams, following instinct, and being your own advocate during medical appointments.

I admit the first month after my diagnosis was the toughest on me mentally. As in I-never-want-to-go-through-that-ever-ever-again tough. Once further scans confirmed the cancer had not spread beyond my breast and lymph nodes, however, something switched inside me. My oncologist and I had a plan (rounds of intensive chemo, further testing, and of course major surgeries). I am good with a plan. Once I had that, I was ready.

Ready to fight. Ready to move forward. Ready to smile. Ready to laugh.

When facing a major challenge, whether it be health, relationship, financial, or personal loss, the power of laughter can change everything. No, it cannot erase the struggle itself, but it does possess some amazing healing magic.

The outlook. The plan of attack. The outcome. With a good sense of humor, coping becomes easier.

Dealing with the treatment, pain, and fear was not easy. It never is. But aside from the hurt I remember this: the ridiculousness of everything around me. The time and energy I wasted on stuff that did not matter became glaringly obvious. Television sitcoms were funnier when I was sick. Social media jokes made me laugh out loud – literally. Friends and family were vital during this time because they tried so hard to help, even when they felt helpless. Funny greeting cards arrived in the mail. Silly quotes and memes appeared in my newsfeed. Most days after chemo were unbearable to wade through but on the one week per month when I felt well enough to get dressed and out of the house, my friends would take me to a stupid movie. I had no hair, incisions that refused to heal, poison running through every ounce of my body, but we laughed. Together.

I was honest about my journey (probably too honest for some) but it was important for me to pull back the layers so those close to me could better understand. The fear. The pain. The fight. The ridiculousness of our worries. The reason I made jokes. I wanted them to know.

This was serious, heady, life-or-death stuff, and they showed their love and support by following my lead. They made jokes. Stupid, stupid, oh so stupid jokes.

I knew I was facing this nightmare the correct way when I bid farewell to my oncologist. My family was moving out of state, and I was sad to leave my doctor. He and I were an odd pair. Him a young Nigerian who often did not get my sarcasm-laced comments. Me an almost-middle-age woman who faces life with an at-times unfair pragmatism. He was intelligent, confident, focused, and totally immersed in the medical side of my case. I was curious, scared, foggy, and unwilling to settle for status quo on information or treatment.

When we said goodbye, he looked me in the eye and admitted his worries about me in the beginning. My depressed outlook and sadness were pervasive, leaving him to become concerned about treating me and my ability to fight. But once I got past that, he became amazed. Amazed at my determination, my strength, my desire to do whatever necessary and never complain. He liked how I made jokes about the things most people fear. He appreciated the way I not only listened but heard him. I would be remembered as one of his favorite patients, he told me.

I was honored and emotional. Of course, I cried a bit. Thanks to cancer, everything makes me cry. And when I went to hug him and whisper a simple thank you, he seemed shocked. Believing I crossed a line, I immediately apologized. He brushed it off with a shy smile. No one has ever done that before, he told me. Countless had given heartfelt thanks but no one had hugged him? You should do it more often. Patient’s orders, I joked.

And with that, our final moment and memory together was filled with laughter.

Cancer itself is not funny, and it does not always end happily. My year of fighting and the battle scars sketched in my mind and on my body are permanent reminders of its brutality. I do not know if it will ever return. It might. It might not. The fear follows me – every moment, every day – but I do not allow it to linger. The only thing I can be sure of is the magic of positivity. The healing power of simple joy.

Even if the situation is not the one we want, it does no good to become lost and absorbed in negative thought or anger. Yes, these are normal reactions to dealing with a challenge but please do not stay there. Life is finite. We only have this moment.

When the opportunity comes to choose joy, take it.

Today, I am in full remission. July 2017 marks 5 years cancer-free for this girl. Every anniversary has been met with celebration but this one is big. Very big. But that is months away. I do not have time to dwell on something that has not happened yet. I have some laughing and loving and living to do – today.

Emptiness at sunset on the salton sea


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