Posts tagged ‘resolutions’

December 29, 2019

Can’t You Do Better?

“That scarf doesn’t match your sweater. Can’t you do better?” That was how our conversation began. My mother’s first cousin Colene never held back an opinion. And yet she never made you feel bad. How did she manage that?
better
This is the question I’m pondering a month after her death as we approach the new year. The day before she died, a nurse said, “I loved Colene. She was so much fun – even when she was saying she was going to kick us in the teeth!”

I can hear her saying it now. She was fun. She was feisty. She was independent. She was confident enough to take driver’s ed at the local high school when she was 70 years old. And she was successful. She got her driver’s license and drove until she was in her 90s.

My cousin Johnny has a similar gift. He served in a state legislature in the Northwest for 30 years, retiring in 2017. He is disconcertingly direct and unafraid to let you know where he stands. Unlike most politicians, with Johnny there is no spin, no hedging, and no equivocating. Rather than being reviled for this, he is admired, trusted, and respected.

Colene and Johnny were not related, but they knew and liked each other. Dinner with the two of them was an annual event not to be missed. Conversation was lively, sometimes uncomfortable, but always uplifting…always uplifting.

When I ask myself, “Can’t you do better?”, that’s what I’m asking. Is the result of my interactions uplifting? It sounds like an impossible bar, but I have two shining examples that it is not.

Both of those examples felt free to state their truth, share opinions, and be direct. And that’s what they wanted in return. They didn’t have a need for anyone else to conform to their way of thinking. In fact, they welcomed differing viewpoints. That’s what made the conversations interesting.

And perhaps it’s as simple as that. Having the courage to listen, state my truth, share my opinion, and be direct without the need to control the response may be all it takes to leave people feeling better. It certainly builds trust. It has other benefits as well.

Building Trust
I trust you more if I know you’ll level with me. When you don’t, I sense it and become wary. I don’t like feeling that way. If it happens often, I will no longer rely on you. I will feel I must guard myself.

In order to be at our best, do our best work, and thrive, it is important to have people in our lives who will level with us. I remember the poet Miller Williams saying he trusted his wife to tell him when to stop writing because a poem was finished. He relied on her for this. He believed it made his poems better. I can’t argue with that. They feel right to me.

Creating Safety
There’s another benefit to voicing how you really feel without expectation of anyone else. Doing this creates an environment of safety for others to do the same. I always felt free to tell Colene the truth, even when it was not what she wanted to hear.

Once she could not walk, she sometimes asked me if she could go home. I didn’t tell her she might someday or leave her hanging with a we’ll see. I kindly and gently told her no. If she asked why, I would remind her that she could not walk and her house was not set up for lifts and wheelchairs.

She knew all of this was true. She felt it even when she could no longer absorb the words. There was never an argument, hysterics, or whining. She asked a simple question. I gave her a simple answer and the conversation shifted to something else.

Showing Respect
Stating your truth without equivocation shows respect for yourself and also for the listener. Feeling respected builds our sense of worthiness.

Maintaining Bonds
Colene made some pretty strong stands. Many years ago, she objected to one of her relatives’ choice in spouses. On the day of his wedding, she got in the car with her father, mother, and sister to go to the ceremony. A couple of minutes later, she said, “I’m not going to this wedding. I think it’s wrong.” Her father stopped the car, let her out, and she walked home.

In many families, this boycott would have created lingering hard feelings. That was not the case. Colene and the groom remained close until he died at age 91.

Her opinions were well-thought and her sentiments so sincere, you knew she wasn’t condemning you when she disagreed. She was just following her heart and her conscience. This is another characteristic she shared with Johnny and there’s something disarming about it that maintains bonds rather than threatening them.

Living Fully
If I am always holding back, I cannot live fully. It may be tempting to believe that I can garner favor or earn love by syncing my responses with those whose love or admiration I desire. If you have tried that approach, you know as well as I do that it never works that way. Ultimately, those who appreciate me will appreciate me and those who don’t, won’t.

Holding back my truth may sometimes help me avoid embarrassment, shame, humiliation, and feeling alone in a particular moment, but over time it diminishes my spirit and damages my soul. That’s a huge price to pay for momentary comfort. And it may mean that I will miss out on supportive friendships I wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to cultivate.

As I process my grief over losing Colene, I often repeat the question — can’t I do better? Of course I can. And I intend to. That still doesn’t mean she’d approve of my scarf choice.

https://www.marcandangel.com/2010/04/12/3-communication-tips-for-building-stronger-relationships/

https://my.fearlessliving.org/its-all-about-r-i-s-k-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/leave-the-past-behind/

December 31, 2018

Leave the Past Behind

It’s the last day of the year and time to leave the past behind! Aren’t most New Year’s resolutions about change? Doesn’t change mean leaving something behind? So, maybe keeping those resolutions is as simple as focusing on the past rather than the future.
past
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but paradox reigns king in the world of personal growth. Not to mention, looking toward the future seems to work for less than 10% of us so there can’t be much harm in trying something different. But how does focusing on the past help us leave it behind?

It helps us define what we’re leaving.

Let’s say my resolution is to brush my teeth the full two minutes that are recommended each and every time I brush. If I pay attention to how long that two minutes seems, I’m likely to cut it short. If I think of the gritty teeth, bleeding gums, and pain in the dentist’s office I’m leaving behind, it’s easier to stick out the full amount of time.

Many of us resolve to save money in the coming year. When you see that next cute pair of shoes you don’t need but want to buy, looking back and thinking of that sinking feeling you had last time you looked at your retirement account balance can help you remember why this resolution is important. Leaving behind that sinking feeling may just be more important than another pair of shoes adorable though they may be.

Looking back allows us to honor and appreciate those things that served us well at a previous stage of life.

If you enjoyed your job and colleagues while getting a degree, you may be hesitant to follow your resolution to look for a new job once you graduate. Your coworkers have been partners in preparing you for this next step. Allowing yourself to express appreciation for their contributions can help you realize that you are honoring their efforts by pursuing your dreams.

Perhaps you have gradually recognized that you and your fiancé are no longer a good fit, but you still love him. If you keep looking forward, it will be tempting to only see the regret you have that the relationship didn’t turn out as you had hoped. This places your attention on pain and regret rather than on gratitude and joy. Once you find a way to honor what the relationship has given you, it will be much less difficult to let it go. And you can choose to hold onto good memories.

Looking back lets us reassess.

Sometimes we have wanted something for so long, we fail to recognize that having it now would no longer improve our lives. If we got that national sales job, it would mean weeks away from our newborn son. If we purchased that huge house now that the kids are gone, we’d just have more rooms to clean. If we open a bed and breakfast, we’ll have lots of cleaning and cooking every day at a time when we’d rather play with our grandchildren. We may still be tempted to pursue all of those goals unless we look back to see how our situation and feelings have changed.

Looking back gives us an opportunity to review our attachments.

Attachment to the feeling we had when we ate our grandmother’s cookies may interfere with our resolution to limit cookie consumption. Attachment to the comfort we felt when our mother fed us mac & cheese when Dad had to work late can send us searching for unlimited pasta during lonely or disappointing times. Once we know what we’re looking for is a certain feeling, we can explore different options for generating that feeling. Perhaps the smell of cookies baking is enough. Perhaps painting, drawing, or writing provides a comforting shift.

Looking back with courage can let us see what we already know is true.

If you have resolved to treat yourself better in the New Year, you must first recognize those ways in which you are not kind to yourself. Perhaps you don’t ask for help when you need it. Perhaps you don’t make enough time for rest. Perhaps you never give yourself credit for your accomplishments. When you look back, you may spot patterns of behavior that are so deeply ingrained they feel normal.

Healing the wounds life has delivered is a valuable resolution for any new year. For those of us who grew up in chaos and dysfunction, looking back with a realistic eye can require great courage. It can be much easier to press frenetically forward in avoidance of lingering feelings than to stop, engage, and begin to process what you know on a visceral level. But going back to re-engage with your body, emotions, and spirit is the only pathway to lasting change. You cannot white knuckle a better life for yourself. Your subconscious (the part of you that knows what you refuse to see) will keep you stuck.

Focusing on the past gives us a chance to forgive ourselves, say goodbye, and allow ourselves to be different.

Hopefully you are not currently defining yourself by something that happened in your past you believe is unforgivable, the way someone else views you, or what’s being said on social media. If you are, all things can change! You can learn to forgive yourself, say goodbye to the old, and allow yourself to shift toward becoming your best self. It is never too late!
2019
Whether we make New Year’s resolutions or not, most of us think about how to improve our lives. We seek fun, excitement, security, contentment, and joy to balance the weight of our responsibilities. Taking a moment to focus on the past can be the key to leaving it behind for good. That’s a moment I’m willing to take so I’ll be ready to move joyously into the New Year.

I wish you peace, calm, inspiration, and playfulness in 2019!

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2016/12/26/7-secrets-of-people-who-keep-their-new-years-resolutions/#735e7ea27098

https://www.shutterfly.com/ideas/happy-new-year-messages/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/answer-the-big-questions/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/stop-struggling-start-thriving/