Are We There Yet?

I must confess, I’m ready for this year to be over – are we there yet? Let’s close this chapter down and get on with a new one. I’m ready! Some years bring ease and comfort and others throw the book at you. You can make the best choices in the world and still be bowled over by loss, illness, natural disaster, betrayal, or unexpected financial stress.
Today, a post about food will just send me running back to the bathroom. I’ve had 2 stomach viruses in as many weeks. I don’t have any tips to share. I can barely get myself upstairs to take a shower. Once I start following a train of thought, it’s quickly interrupted by my rumbling tummy. I’m typing this wondering if there’s any point in sharing at all? Nonetheless, share I shall.

In the past month, I’ve had two colds and made a trip across the country in addition to the two bouts of stomach flu. I haven’t worked out since I left on a trip December 13. I haven’t cooked since I returned. I had to cancel a trip to see my elderly cousin because of today’s illness. In between, I did a real estate closing and kept my grandson when his parents had an emergency. I’ve reviewed video and built graphics for our cooking show. I am tapped out, exhausted, and generally worthless.

The point is, we all have times like that. Hopefully, they don’t come often or stay long, but no one is immune. When I was growing up, my great aunts would band together to take over duties for an ailing relative. It didn’t require great discussion, they just divvied up the chores and went into action like a well-oiled machine. In my circle of friends, no one currently has access to that kind of family support. Many of us tough it out with very little help.

It can be hard to find reliable friends, partners, vendors, volunteers, and employees. Without those, life can feel like a constant fight to get something done. Many systems are broken or unconcerned about the individuals that depend on those systems. During good times, this can simply feel like a waste of time and energy. During difficult times, it can be the straw that leads to extreme frustration. Sometimes this frustration is expressed as violence – at home or in the community.

When you feel alone and overwhelmed, an ignored request can feel like a slap in the face. Unfortunately, ignoring has become standard operating procedure. Veterans’ physical concerns were ignored in order to enhance performance statistics. Overzealous police departments have ignored concerns of minority communities. Women’s harassment in the workplace has been ignored when the harasser is a powerful man. Clients ignore email and phone calls. Friends ignore invitations instead of responding that they can’t join you.

This year, I was even ghosted by an organization for which I wrote. I made all my deadlines. My posts were getting 10s of thousands of hits per week on Facebook. My editor never gave me any notes. He didn’t ask for rewrites. Suddenly, everything just stopped with no word whatsoever. This passes for professionalism? Not in my book.

There is a certain amount of power that can be wielded through uncertainty, chaos, manipulation, and stonewalling, but it is not the sort of power that inspires loyalty, respect, trust, admiration, or gratitude. In the coming year, I’ll be faced with many choices. I can choose to be a trustworthy and reliable friend. I can choose to respond even when my response is not what a client wants to hear. I can choose to be considerate and listen. I can choose to model patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.

Admittedly, making these choices may not always be appreciated or even noticed. But that’s the thing about leading – you lead your children, colleagues, and community by your actions whether that leadership is acknowledged or not. Deciding what sort of leader you want to be determines the mark you leave on the world.

So, it’s time to leave this year behind and embark on the next one. Can I make 2018 better than any year that has come before? While I can’t determine what will happen to me or around me, I can prioritize what I make time for. I can surround myself with things that inspire me. I can determine the sort of parent, grandparent, employer, colleague, and friend I want to be, then make choices that support those values.

These final few days of 2017 when I’m lying on the couch trying to recover are perfect for reflection, truth telling, and planning. Without the stomach flu, I would have allotted less time for that so I am choosing to be grateful for the interruption. I’ll be just as grateful when I feel like eating steak again!

As you wind down your year and prepare for the next, I’m wishing you flavorful food, fragrant flowers, thoughtful friends, and strong, reliable partners!