My house this morning is the exact opposite as it was yesterday at this time. Today everyone is still asleep. Yesterday there was light and excitement, this morning it is dark and quiet. Yesterday there was anticipation, happiness and joy. This morning there is calm, contentment and peacefulness. The craziness of the holiday season is over and we have all survived.
As we sat in our Christmas Eve service, the pastor delivered his sermon entitled “Fear Not”. There are multiple references in the Christmas story where someone, usually an angel, begins by saying “Fear not”. I’ve heard the story many times and have never really given much thought to those two words, we usually focus on what is said after those words as the core of the story. What struck me was two things. First the reassurance to fear not, do not be afraid, that without those words the listeners could have focused on the fear to the point where they didn’t even listen to anything else that was said. The second thing that struck me was what would have happened if fear had overtaken them? It wouldn’t have been a very good story if the recipients of the messages were paralyzed by fear and stayed right where they were.
Fear is a common thing, we’re all afraid of something, but is it holding us back? Is there a message that you are missing because you’re stuck thinking about how scary it might be? Is there something that you avoid doing because it makes your heart beat a little faster? What is that one thing you really want to do but………. Success Coach Kelly Atwood recently said “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” This has become a personal mantra for me. Whenever I start to feel that little twinge of nervousness, I imagine Kelly standing beside me saying “do it anyway!” In order to grow and keep moving forward, we need to face our fears or at least face the things that make us feel uncomfortable and push through them.
This next week is typically one where we reflect on the past year and get ready for the year to come. Whether you formally set resolutions or not, think about what you want to accomplish in 2016. It could be big or small, just try to be specific. Write it down or type it out, somewhere that you can refer to it. Even better, tell someone else and keep them posted on your progress. Whatever you do, fear not and do it anyway!
Sometimes there is a bit of a letdown after the holidays are over - two years ago I referred to it as the Holiday Hangover. If you are feeling the “holiday hangover” or feeling a bit stuck when it comes to your fears holding you back, you are not alone! Let’s talk through it and set up a plan that will work for you.
Capturing a moment in a picture has become so easy and accessible. It takes seconds to grab your phone, snap a few pictures and capture a moment forever. Add in a few more seconds and your picture can be shared with hundreds of your closest friends and family. Film cameras seem like something from the ancient past. You’d selectively take your pictures, not wanting to have too many of the same shot because you “only” had 12 pictures on the roll. You had no idea if everyone was smiling or not or if your finger was over the lens. You took the shot and hoped for the best. I remember going with my mom to drop off the rolls film at the tiny little photo hut in the middle of a random parking lot on Robertson. We’d return a couple days later, eagerly anticipating the photos that were waiting for us in the envelope. If you wanted to share the pictures with your friends and family, you looked at the negatives, selected the number and then went back to the photo hut to have copies made. When describing this to my kids, they can’t even imagine what it would be like not to be able to instantly view your pictures.
Technology is amazing. When we took picture with film cameras we used them to capture only special events, holidays and vacations. Now, we use pictures to capture any moment, meal or image that moves us. Earlier this week as I was driving home I saw the most amazing sunset. The sun was setting behind a mountain, which gave the mountain a purple hue. The yellow and orange made it look as it the top of the mountain was on fire, and for some strange reason reminded me of a scene from Finding Nemo. The colors across the sky were amazing and my first thought was, I have to take a picture. I knew I should pull over to get the perfect shot, but then worried that it would delay me in picking up the kids. Thankfully the next light turned red and I was able to quickly snap a picture (above). When I looked at the picture later though I realized that it didn’t even do justice to the sunset itself. Sure you could get an idea of the spectrum of colors, but the real thing was so much more beautiful. Maybe it’s only me because I’m not a professional photographer, but rarely do my pictures capture the full beauty of the moment. It got me thinking our first instinct now is to grab our phone and start snapping pictures, but what are we missing in the process? Are we taking the time to really look at the sunset, appreciate the colors and admire the beauty for what it is? Over the next week, there will be many opportunities to take pictures and document the holidays in great detail. Fortunately you can take pictures to your heart’s content and don’t have to wonder if the film is going to turn out or not but keep in mind, the picture will rarely capture the full beauty of the moment.
Are you so busy running from place to place, documenting each important detail, that you never take the time to enjoy it? I know how hard it can be and am here to help. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let's set up a time to talk.
This is my favorite time of the year. Starting with Thanksgiving all the way through to New Year’s there is a special feeling in the air. There is excitement and anticipation. There is a feeling of kind heartedness, generosity and gratitude. And then about this time every year, less than two weeks before Christmas, there is a feeling of stress that starts to creep in. The days are ticking down and the to-do list is getting longer. The burden of the “perfect” outdoor lights, indoor tree, Christmas card, wrapped gifts, table scape and gourmet meal start to weigh down on you. A few years ago as I hurriedly rushed around the mall, weaving in and out of people, impatiently waiting my turn in line, it hit me – this is supposed to be fun. What happened to the joy of the holidays?
Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to lead two journal workshops on this exact topic. I knew I was not alone in my feelings of getting so “wrapped up” (pun intended) in the day to day tasks of holiday preparation that it stopped being fun. Ever since my moment in the mall, I’ve made a conscious effort to remember joy throughout the holiday season and I wanted to share some ideas that have worked for me over the last couple years. One of our exercises was to write down what we think of when we think of the holidays. In one column we listed all the emotions that we associate with the holidays and in the other column all the physical things, like the tree, gifts, etc. After writing down everything we could think of, we looked at how the emotions aligned, or did not align, with the things that were on the list. We discussed traditions that we were maintaining that we really didn’t even enjoy. We discussed things that were on the list just because everyone else is doing them. We then prioritized the emotions and the things, which ones meant the most to us and which ones should we try to eliminate. Emotions like stress and family drama were definitely on the elimination list, but how to eliminate led to a great conversation. We talked about the work that Shawn Achor has done studying happiness. His research has shown that happiness and negativity are contagious. We have far more influence on those around us than we might realize. Our mirror neurons instinctively reflect happiness, someone smiling at you, or negativity, someone impatiently waiting for a plane, around you. (You can watch the talk here.) We concluded that family drama may be inevitable, but that we all have a choice on how we are going to approach it and what we are going to do.
At the end of the workshop, I left the group with a challenge and now I’m challenging you too. Whenever you see the word “joy” use pause for a minute and check in with yourself. If you are feeling stressed, take a deep breath and reset. Let joy bring a smile to your face and a reminder for the reason for the season. You may have seen pictures of “joy” popping up on my Facebook page or others tagging me in pictures they’ve posted of joy. Yesterday a co-worker came back from lunch with a "joy" decoration for her desk (picture above). As I was driving home from work listening to a local pop station, the name of the song I had heard dozens of times, had the word joy in it and I never realized it. Joy is all around you, all you have to do is look for it.
Has the stress of the season sucked all the joy out of your holidays? I know how hard it can be and am here to help. Email me at email@example.com and let's set up a time to talk.
On Wednesday morning, I read an article in the November issue of O Magazine about flexibility. The author had never been a flexible person and went to see a physical trainer whose specialty was stretching to achieve greater flexibility. He explained to her (I’m paraphrasing) that most people’s muscles are imbalanced, as a result groups of muscles over compensate for other muscle groups. When this happens you overuse certain muscles, which leads to tightness and imbalance. The trainer put her through a series of stretches and exercises to help release the tightened muscles and her flexibility instantly improved. My thoughts in reading the article were #1 releasing those tensed up muscles must feel so amazing and #2 I wish it were only as easy as a few deep stretches.
Later that afternoon, I was invited to a work dinner with a client. I was given about an hour’s notice and my boss encouraged me to go. Jokingly I said to her “When in 11 years have I ever been able to do anything with only an hour’s notice?” The answer is….never. I am fortunate that she completely understands, being a working mom herself, as did the client (who ended up cancelling at the last minute anyway). Little did they know how full my night already was with softball practice, homework, dinner (somewhere in there) and a last minute run to Target for supplies for the science project.
The very next night, I stopped by a going away happy hour for one of my team members. I knew it would be a quick stop, but it was important to me to stop by and wish her well. I was envious of everyone’s frosty drinks but knew that I had to be getting home. I picked up the kids, everyone had a great day and homework was done – hooray! As I waited for the dinner to cook, I caught up on Facebook. A friend was tagged in a picture of a list of the 5th & 6th grade Spelling Bee participants (of which her daughter was representing one of the 5th grade classrooms). I looked at the rest of the list to see if there was anyone else’s name I recognized……..when all of a sudden I saw my daughter’s name next to her class. How exciting! I rushed into the other room to ask her about it and her face lit up with a big smile. Yes, she had forgotten to tell me but it was true, she was in the Spelling Bee! We celebrated, this was so exciting. A couple minutes later I asked the telltale question -when is it? It’s tomorrow. At 8:45am. My heart sank. What? (My first reaction is always panic, like that feeling when your alarm doesn’t go off and you wake up late.) I have meetings in the morning and it’s really late for me to try to change them now. She started to cry and I wanted to cry. Thoughts of frustration, anger, sadness and hopelessness ran through my head. How could she have forgotten? What am I supposed to do? I can’t possibly miss this, can I? I took a deep breath, apologized and told her I would do everything I could to make it. In my head I knew it all came down to a choice.
My life is not flexible. My life works like the body works, each muscle playing it’s part and compensating for the ones that can’t do it on their own. It’s not easy and though I may write this blog every week, I still struggle to find my own balance. The key for me is that it is all about choices. In every situation you have a choice. Every day you get to decide what is important to you for that day. What is important to you in the morning may shift and change in the afternoon. Those shifts and changes are ok as long as you are the one making the choice, rather than letting another person or situation make the choice for you. The thing about choices is that there are consequences. The consequences are inevitable. Whenever you have to choose one thing over another you risk disappointing someone or making them angry with you or putting yourself at a disadvantage. When you weigh the options and make a choice own it, the good and the bad and be unapologetic. Don’t commiserate over what could have been or replay it over and over in your head. Don’t judge yourself for the choice that you make. Make the choice that is right for you.
The choice I made was to email my coworker, explain my situation and ask if there was a way she could cover me in the meeting we had at 9am. I knew that if she said no, then I would go to the meeting and miss that part of the spelling bee. I knew that if she said yes, it could mean losing credibility with the client or more work for me, but this was my choice, I had to own it either way. Fortunately for me, she emailed me back about an hour later confirming she’d be at the meeting. In the end it all worked out.
The moral of my story today - you can’t do it all. It’s physically impossible. Instead you have to make choices. Before you make those choices you have to dig really deep within yourself and decide what is important to you, you and only you. Only when you are clear on your own intentions, your own flexibility, will you be able to make the choices that are best for you.
One more thought – working on your “flexibility” is hard! As you can see, even after working on it for a couple years I still have moments of struggle. But the good news is that along the way I’ve found tools that really help and I’d love to share them with you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat more about how you can find your flexibility.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.