CELEBRATION JAR


fireworks“If we are ever to enjoy life, now is the time, not tomorrow or next year…Today should always be our most wonderful day.”  — Thomas Dreier

So, here we are.

It’s 2013.  

It seems many of us (and when I say many, I am referring to my significant research conducted while reading Facebook posts on New Year’s Eve) were very happy to see 2012 go away.  In fact, some were shooing it away as quickly as they could.  I was definitely part of that crowd.  2012 started out rather poorly and, unfortunately, there were far too many moments that would fall into the category of events that I would prefer not to include on my highlight reel of life.  Despite this and even though I was anxious to see the year end, I was determined to close it out on a high note, making way for a very positive and optimistic entry into the new year.  On Monday afternoon I began my decidedly low-key new year’s eve celebration by going to a movie with a friend  – frankly, it seemed somewhat odd to go out to a movie during the day when everyone was prepping for their big NYE spectacular celebrations but it was just right for me.  Afterwards, my younger son, who had been cooped up in the house for days with a cold, asked to go out to spend some of his holiday gift cards.  I obliged, again thinking that this was an odd activity for the day but committed to keeping my expectations of the day low with a hope for great outcomes.  We took a little drive to some stores to find even more video games and toys because the ones he received on Christmas were simply not enough to sustain him through, um, let’s see…December.  All in all, it was simple, easy and pleasant.  The quiet time in the car on the return home from shopping left me some space to contemplate the results of the soon-departing year.

I was waiting to turn on one of the various jug handles that signifies you are driving in New Jersey and I heard an interview on the radio with yet another person expressing their relief that this year was coming to an end.  I know we had a particularly rough last quarter of the year with Hurricane Sandy, the Sandy Hook shooting and a scary fiscal cliff but, even with all that, it suddenly struck me as odd that so many people were overwhelmingly grateful to move into the next year and kiss the current one goodbye.  And, in truth, it was not just year that I noticed this phenomenon. I wondered why we so often end the year this way.  It is great that we are optimistic for what is to come, hopeful for a better result, wishful that the good will outweigh the bad.  But, it feels as if when we get to the end of the year we spend a great deal of our time focusing on our regrets and shortcomings.  Certainly life is really not all that bad.  Perhaps we tend to use the new year as a moment of cleansing to rinse away the muck and make room for all the bright shiny new opportunities.  Of course, we all have misfortune – it is part of the ying and yang of life.  There is no such thing as having a perfect life and even those of us who live with intention and make a great effort to focus on positivity have struggles and moments when life pulls us down.  It is natural.  It is unavoidable.  As I was pondering all this it made me think hard to summon a year that ended with me sad to say goodbye.  I had to do some deep reflection.  I suppose the years when my children were born I was still aglow from their arrivals – especially since they were both born towards the end of the year.  I doubt I ended those years on a low note but, of course, I was also probably too sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with the business of dealing with newborns to indulge in such reflection.

In truth, I think that I (and probably some of my fellow year-chuckers) tend to welcome the excitement of the new year and the promise it holds by justifying and balancing its arrival with the dismissal of the current year where there is no more mystery and the story has been revealed.  We know the outcome.  We can see the crappy moments and the less-than ideal circumstances.  We know what we are tossing away while we can wistfully hope for something better in the new year.

I posted on Facebook on Monday that I was borrowing my friend’s ritual of writing down my top 10 list of bad stuff from the year and burning them in the fire to ensure their permanent departure.  It was my own version of smudging my year.  I loved the symbolism of releasing any negativity into the fire, freeing up space for positivity and possibility.  But, alas, I am not ignorant or naive.  I know that the coming year will bring its own set of struggles and disappointment and I might very well end up on December 31, 2013 lamenting those less fortunate experiences and, once again, be anxious to welcome a fresh start in 2014.  The activity of throwing our disappointment into the fire seemed very cathartic to me but I feared it would be a ritual that would yield only short-term results.  Then, today, once again thanks to Facebook I saw something that possibly solved my conundrum about how to end the year on a positive note rather than toss the baby of regrets and disappointments out with the proverbial bath water.

celebration jar

While this has seemingly gone viral, I thought it worth sharing yet again.  Someone has suggested creating what I refer to as a celebration jar where you jot down on a scrap paper all of the wonderful things that you are grateful for throughout the year and place them in the jar.  On December 31, you can open the jar and read off all of those delicious memories and experiences and acknowledge the positivity in your life.  So, even if you are excited about the promise the new year offers, you do not have to walk away from the current year sighing in relief that the torture is ending.  This enables you to build goodness on top of more goodness, resulting, hopefully, in a sustainable happiness that can translate from year to year. Rather than lamenting and being awash in disappointment, this is a beautiful way to remember those spectacular moments – big and small – that made your year special and impactful.

All of this inspired me to think deeper about the shared comfort so many of the people in my circle felt as we turned the calendar page and put 2012 behind us.  Perhaps it is easier for us to focus on the negative aspects because we are simply wired that way.  As a society, we certainly tend to dwell more comfortably on negativity because focusing on the good stuff feels indulgent and, frankly, sometimes scary.  It is as if we will jinx ourselves if we believe that good is the norm rather than the exception.  And, at the same time, so many of us set intentions for goodness and positivity and still fear it when it comes because it might only be temporary.  There is a fear that if we allow ourselves to embrace the goodness in our lives, we may set ourselves up for disappointment when things go wrong.  It is human nature.  The Celebration Jar allows us to chronicle all the wonderful moments throughout the course of the year and then safely and joyfully reflect on them as we wave goodbye at the end of the year, perhaps with a sense of accomplishment and wholeness knowing that, even though we may have faced struggles and challenges and unpleasantry, we also had some pretty amazing times.  The truth is we always do.  We just need to hang on to them a little bit longer.

Here’s mine.  Hope you create one too and embrace 2013!

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WEIGHTY MATTERS


Yesterday morning I had breakfast with a new friend who specializes in coaching people about their relationship with food.  We met recently and we both knew implicitly that we needed to get to know each other better.  I believe in following the universe on these things because people come into your life for very specific reasons.  With Randy, while she may have had her own reasons for wanting to get to know me better, I know that she arrived in my life at exactly the right time.

As I have chronicled here, I have been on a journey of getting healthier and it has not been the easiest road for me to travel.  It has been a lifelong adventure for me and, for the past year, it seemed to have kicked in to high gear rather unexpectedly.  As i shared in an earlier post, I began my journey on a dare when I agreed to take a kickboxing class back in February 2011.  This triggered something in me and my life began to change in so many ways.  The net result is that I have lost nearly 50 lbs, have become leaner and more muscular and have a new level of self-confidence and discipline that never existed before.

But, here’s the strange thing about losing a lot of weight.  After a while, you forget that you were fat to begin with.  That is not to say that I have shed all my extra weight and am now tall and slender as I dream of being.  Instead, it is about perspective.  Even though I have discarded clothing that were 3-4 sizes larger than the ones I am currently wearing, I do not see myself much differently than I did when I was 50 lbs heavier.  It is quite a self-defeating position to be in because, rather than celebrating my success, I still critique myself with my old lens.  I look in the mirror and have to squint when looking at myself to be certain that I can see the differences.  I know there are changes but I simply do not have the perspective to see it.  I look at my body every single day.

When I began my journey in 2011, I was so deeply out of control with my eating and my physical health that I was in one of those places in life where you just do not know how to get started.  I felt like my body was a big pile of dirty laundry laying haphazardly on the floor and I just could not begin to sort through the colors and whites to begin the laundering process.  Ultimately, I did not put any pressure on myself and was as surprised as anyone that this new pastime actually made the difference for me.  It sort of makes sense to me now because of the outlet it provides for me to both release aggression and be competitive without actually having to compete against anyone other than myself.

Today, as I live in my life, I am struggling.  I am challenged to appreciate and celebrate what I have accomplished and, instead, am lamenting that I have not accomplished more.  I never set a goal for myself but, once the transformation began, I became very ambitious about what I could accomplish.  I work out 7-8 times a week, taking kickboxing and karate classes and now running in the mornings.  I try to eat healthy but, in reality, I struggle with that.  I gave up sugar and carbs for 2 months in order to gain some control over my eating and I fear that I placed too much focus on the food and actually sabotaged myself.  I worry every day that I will not be able to sustain this and the success I have had will be temporary, quickly replaced with the return to the “old” me.

During my breakfast with Randy yesterday, I shared a lot of these feelings and concerns and explained how this part of my journey fits into the larger parts of my life.  I have been transforming myself internally and externally.  I have freed myself from toxicity in many parts of my life and consciously chosen to be intentional about how I work, who I spend time with and where I put my energies (such as investing time in myself vis a vis exercise).  I also explained how my fears and anxieties about not being in control of my body is torturing me at this moment in time.  And, with the ease of someone who really knows what they are talking about it, she attempted to release me from my paralyzing thoughts.  She suggested that I am where I am supposed to be.  She indicated that, perhaps I simply need to level off a bit and get used to myself at this new stage rather than be so aggressively looking for the next goal.  I need to accept myself now – exactly where I am today.  Sounds pretty simple, huh?  It was a pretty profound perspective to me.  And I know she is right.

Last weekend, I was at Target during my normal weekly shopping adventure and I decided to buy some ice cream for dessert for the family.  I had not had ice cream in nearly two months and was really in the mood.  “Why not?,” I thought.  “I have to be able to live a life where I can eat ice cream now and again.”  So I bought two pints to share amongst the family and had no second thoughts about it.  Later that evening, my older son and I were preparing to watch a movie and were scooping out our ice cream to snack on.  I pulled out the two pints and began scooping the ice cream into my bowl.  I was scooping and scooping and my son said, “Look, old mommy’s back!”  That stopped me in my tracks.  No it was not old mommy.  It was new mommy who felt liberated enough to eat as much ice cream as she wanted to without fear that there would be no way to stop.  As much as I feared that I would revert to old behaviors and begin to gain the weight back, I knew in that moment that I actually had a new level of control.  Yes, I still binge on candy every now and again but don’t a lot of people do that?  I occasionally overeat when out to dinner or have a little too much dessert.  Isn’t that common even for people who are not struggling with their weight?  

So, when Randy suggested that it was time for me to simply settle in to where I am at this moment, I realized that I was already beginning to do that.  But I was doing it in a way that was unfamiliar and a wee bit scary.  I have much more control over food and what goes in my body and I maintain a very healthy and active lifestyle – something that was remarkably absent from my life a year ago.

My journey continues and I have so much work to do both internally and externally.  Yet, I am trying very hard to celebrate and appreciate me.  I have so many wonderful people in my life who continually remind me of this and fail to get frustrated with me – even when I share my innermost demons.  They understand the challenges I face – perhaps even more than I do.  And, I am grateful that I have a new friend in my life who can give me an additional perspective to help me turn the corner to the next road of my travels.