HAPPIEST NEW YEAR


happy new year

I think most people I know are sharing the same sentiment today – “Where did this year go?” How, possibly, could it be the last day of 2014? It is remarkable how quickly the year slips by once we say goodbye to summer. It is like the first half of the year marches along at regular speed and then, the moment the kids return to school and the temperatures begins to drop, the calendar pages turn at a more rapid clip and the days begin to dwindle down. And then it is December 31.

As with most years, I am not making resolutions.  Instead, I am reflecting and learning and continuing to set intentions for my life. This year is noticeably different for me because I am saying goodbye to the year without regrets, without disdain for the burdens that challenged me along the way and without any signs of dismay. I am pleasantly looking back and optimistically looking forward. It is ironic because this year presented many more dramatic challenges than any year prior and I had to confront some of my most perilous demons. And I did this with grace and wisdom. Calmly and wisely. I recognized that, at this point in my life, nothing will really break me and everything is simply another speed bump that will only injure me if I drive too fast. If I slow down and focus on the bump, ensuring that I am careful and measured, I will move over it and continue on my way without damage.

This was the year that my children evolved into fully formed people.  My older son turned 14, towered over me significantly and gave me a sign that, perhaps, we did something right. Our relationship became more three-dimensional and no longer simply focused on me parenting him but shifted to him beginning to teach me about the world he lives in. It is a magical experience to see your child through this new lens and to be able to exist in this new, mature state. While the teenage years can test your resolve and make you sometimes question your decision to become a parent in the first place, it is also a transitional period where you begin to form this adult relationship with your children. While we are not friends, per se, we have a camaraderie and rapport that is unlike any other in my life. I cherish it and am thankful that we have transitioned to this place. It is one of the best gifts this year has brought and has helped me immeasurably. Knowing that my son understands more of the complexities of life forces me to process my own experiences differently and causes me to behave more thoughtfully. As parents, we always know our children are watching but we also recognize that their innocence often blinds them from the more serious matters that we address. As they get older, our children develop a sophistication that forces us to protect them while respecting their maturity and understanding. And, again, my children help me in ways they will never understand and in ways I never imagined. I don’t burden them with my challenges but they quietly and unknowingly make them so much easier to bear.

My younger son also provided me with a perspective that took me by surprise. At 11, he is so unlike my older boy. He has a sensitivity that is deep and penetrating and he empathizes and finds compassion for even the most hopeless souls. While he, too, is maturing rapidly and evolving into a more sophisticated being, he’s still my baby boy and still reveals to me the innocence and neediness for love and comfort that has been a trademark since infancy. He will still cuddle or tackle me with hugs when I return from trips, embracing me with a grip so tight and powerful that I am certain he can hug away all the pain and suffering I have endured in my life. His squeeze is like a panacea for every discomfort and an aloe for my wounds. He is pure healing and teaches me, continually, how to be a better parent and a more loving and evolved human.

This year also marked the 20th anniversary of my marriage. It hardly seems like two decades have evaporated and it is remarkable to me, given my history, that I could manage to maintain a loving relationship for so long. I am always quick to point out that my marriage (like everyone’s, frankly) is flawed and complicated but I have a new respect for the dynamics that make my marriage work and have employed new tools to ensure that I do my best to navigate this relationship intentionally and meaningfully. A switch went off in my head this year, without warning and without provocation, reminding me that, with its imperfections, my marriage is, without question, the most substantial and important relationship in my life and one that provides me with comfort and security in between all the discomfort and insecurity. When the final assessment comes to bear, it is a source of strength and empowerment and my husband and I, together, create a multiplier much greater than we do as individuals.

I continue to learn so much about myself through all the incredible relationships in my life. I have, over the past many years, become much more selective about who I share my life with and how I include others in my life. I have always felt a sense of obligation to provide my friends and loved ones with more of myself than perhaps I should be willing to offer up. My tendency has been to over-deliver and not reserve a portion of myself for me, resulting in an emptiness inside of myself that those on the outside could never fill because I had given up so many parts of me without tending to or nurturing my own needs. Perhaps it was one too many betrayals or disappointments or maybe I have just reached a level of maturity in my life, understanding what my boundaries need to be, but I have arrived at a very comfortable place where I have lowered the expectations on myself and, by association, on others. I still have incredibly powerful relationships that reverberate in my life, providing wisdom, insight, comfort, pleasure, connection, validation, joy and love.  And, I have a clear sense of my needs from my relationships and what I can offer to them. My friends have taught me how to be a better friend. My very best friend has provided a mirror in which I can see myself so differently than I ever did before and his influence has seeped into every aspect of my life, providing me with a deeper level of understanding of myself and a framework to operate more purposefully and reflectively. With the foundation that was established by my family, I have often feared that I would never be capable of dropping my guard or shedding the thin layer of protection that I have wrapped myself in for so many years to ensure that no one could penetrate or violate my vulnerabilities. Through lots of hard work, thoughtfulness and the good fortune of surrounding myself with an incredible set of people, I have managed to emerge from my past and live a life filed with love. I am able to walk through life without my shield and have learned – sometimes in difficult ways – how to trust and who is deemed trustworthy. I have learned to respect my own instincts and believe in what I know to be true. I feel confident and resolved.

As I get older, I experience what many others before me have which includes a deepening sense of the impermanence of our lives. I recognize that I likely have less time left than I have already spent living this life. I have fewer and fewer opportunities to impact those around me and create the indentation I want to leave on the world. It becomes so much more obvious to me how critical it is to choose wisely and be thoughtful about the life that I continue to create for myself. There is no end to the learning and the need for growth and change, despite how much of my life is behind me. And, my ability to adapt and enlarge my field of vision is directly correlated with my level of happiness and contentment.

So, once again, I will make the transition from one year to the next, resolving not to make resolutions but, instead to make the journey with wisdom and reflection and appreciation for the interconnectivity of all that touch our lives and all of our actions and behaviors. I will continue to be overly grateful, no matter how trite it may seem, because I am confident that gratitude trumps discontent every single time. No clever quotes are necessary to recognize that if I can focus on all that is hopeful and joyful in my life while respecting the challenges and disappointments, I will continue to find gratitude in each and every facet of my being. And I will have the strength and courage to take on any challenge I am presented with. Yes, nothing has the power to break me – only I do.

It will be a happy new year and I wish that to all of those who share this life with me, in any form. There are many who I have never met who provide quiet comfort and compassion and solidarity. There are those who are so ever-present in my life who fill my heart with so much love that I often feel like I don’t have the capacity to contain it. No matter where we intersect, I offer the blessing of good health, happiness and peace in 2015. We all have the opportunity to shine.

I RESOLVE TO NOT RESOLVE


this is your lifeLife isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”  — anonymous

We’re nearly two weeks into the new year and, by now, I am typically looking back, already filled with regret, seeing how I have slacked off on my new year’s resolutions.  Every year, I resolve to not make resolutions. Nevertheless, loping around in the back of my brain, are the resolutions that I have secretly made with myself, hidden away, because I do not want to admit – even to my own self – that I have fallen into the same trap yet again.  This year, I was very deliberate about not only not making any conscious resolutions but also resisting the overwhelming temptation to tuck some away in my subconscious.  After the challenges of last year, it was easy to imagine a whole slew of declarations of change that might help turn the Titanic away from that iceberg that sits ominously in the dark night.  Despite that, this year, after a whole lot of soul-searching, I committed to not resolve and only focus on intention.  Intention allows us to focus on the outcome rather than the activities that get us there.  We commit to accomplish something and with that purpose in mind, the behaviors required to do it become much easier.  In fact, I believe that if we are deliberate about our bigger intentional outcomes, we can have far greater results than if we put arbitrary expectations on ourselves, even if we have envisioned a game plan to complete them.  What is never part of the plan are the inherent road blocks that will always trip you up.

So, this year I am trying something different and, on day 13, I can report it is going far more smoothly than I’d imagined.

For instance, rather than committing to lose the 15 lbs I gained between the hurricane and the holidays (not to mention the other weight that is still lingering), I simply set my intention to do what I need to do to feel healthy and strong and that immediately resulted in my commitment to get back into my kickboxing routine.  Within days, I found myself feeling better and, instead of focusing on every morsel of food I put in my mouth, I am making sure that I get in a workout at least 3 times a week which is good for my body and mind.  I connect with my friends there, I release tension and I continually acknowledge the benefits I am getting – far beyond what the scale might read.  And, along those lines, I have abandoned the scale for the time being.  It’s simply not a partner in my efforts.  It is an evil little creature that calls out to me and mocks me regardless of the readout because, even if I have lost weight, it taunts me about the need to lose more.  I simply never get the recognition I know I deserve.

Rather than resolving to spend more time with family members and friends, I have been extremely deliberate about the choices I make with my time.  Because my job is so consuming and I can work 24 hours a day if I let myself, I am making sure that I use my free time wisely.  I spend time with those people who energize me and align with my intentions.  My family is my number one priority and where I want to be most of the time because being with them enriches me.  However, I also need and desire the company of friends and colleagues so, if I am going to be away from my family, it better be for meaningful encounters.  I’ve seen tremendous benefits from this already.   I have connected with people who I lost touch with or have neglected over time and found our re-engagement to be so nourishing to my spirit.  I have also been very conscious to make sure that I am responding to my needs to be social or my needs to alone and have quiet instead of my typical behavior of trying to be part of everything at all times and neglecting everyone, especially myself.

Instead of resolving to grow my business, make a certain amount of money or zoning in on certain focal areas, I have acknowledged the fear that normally inhabits me right about now, taunting me with the worry that no new clients or no new business will come along.  I have been able to tame that fear by acknowledging that there is risk in how I run my professional life and there will always be uncertainty about my work.  At the same time, my intention is to have a business where I work with people who are aligned with my thinking and behavior and that we focus on projects rooted in our passion with the ability to be meaningful both personally and financially.  In my estimation, that is a strategic plan that will yield positive outcomes and what will help my business flourish.  On the contrary, if I focus my energies on worrying and reprimanding myself for not doing things better or differently, the end result will be me feeling weak and powerless and disappointed in myself rather than feeling fulfilled and optimistic about the future.  I have not billed one day of work this year yet I have no concerns about the future of my business because I am laying a strong foundation for growth and success.  I have created projects and programs that are extremely meaningful and are yielding strong results because my passion and enthusiasm is coming across to partners and clients.

This past week I had lunch with an old friend and, as we were catching up on our lives, we got to talking about his philosophy about branding his years.  He’s done it for the past few years and it has served to set his intention for the year.  I love this notion but have never actually tried to do this for myself.  I suppose, if I were to reflect back, I would say that 2012 was the Year of Vulnerability.  I did not set that intention but it became very obvious to me one evening at the beginning of March as I sat in my car talking to a friend.  I was having some kind of manic epiphany about the role vulnerability plays in my life and how it has taunted me for my lifetime.  (It became apparent quite quickly, by the way, that lots of people close to me already knew that and forgot to include me in the memo.)  Even with this realization, I did not set forth with the intention to be more vulnerable but I opened myself up to learning more about the struggles I faced with it and made a vow to educate myself and, if nothing else, become incredibly knowledgable on the subject.  It is no surprise that with the learning came some level of implementation.

No brand for 2013 has surfaced but it is looking like this might be the Year of Intention.  It’s a real shift for me because, while I am typically a very strategic thinker in business, I do not employ those same skills when it comes to my own personal life.  In business, I think things through, make decisions after weighing pros and cons and don’t often act impulsively.  Emotionally, it’s a whole other story.  My husband proposed to me after knowing me for 4 months and, while I can still say 21 years later that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made, I have to admit that I certainly did not put a lot of strategic thought into it.  I went with my gut.  I don’t want to abandon that part of myself because I do have strong instincts but I also want to be more thoughtful about things and I commit to thinking about how I am living my life and who I am bringing into my life to help to nourish it and enhance it.  To that end, the other day my friend posted a wonderful quote on Facebook that really summed it up for me when it comes to the people in my life:

people in your life quote

One big intention for me in 2013 is making sure that I am not dragging people along behind me.  I want the people in my life to want to be there.  Growing up in the kind of family that I did, there was always an inclination to accept whatever anyone gave me in terms of friendship or love.  I did not have the self-confidence or the acuity to discern between what I wanted and simply what was in front of me.  I was like a homeless person who is being offered food.  A tuna sandwich is sustenance even if it is a steak you are really craving.  How do you turn down the sandwich when you are starving?  I guess, the good news is that my tummy – and my heart – are full now.  Anything I choose to ingest is for pure enjoyment and enrichment.  I no longer need to make myself whole.  I no longer need to fill gigantic empty chasms within myself in order to get through each day.  I can live a life of intention because I am finally at a place where I get to choose.  I get to intend.  I get to be selective.

It’s a very new feeling for me because, in truth, all I have ever known is how to go with the flow.  I have lived a life of desperation where I am always putting filler into the gaps to ensure that the building wont collapse.  My life has been a house of cards and one strong breeze could end me.  Not so much anymore.  2012 might have been the Year of Vulnerability and learning how to embrace the vulnerability has actually made me stronger and more powerful.  I am no longer afraid of it.  It feels good! Learning how to do this also gave me the power to make my own choices and stand on my own feet.  So, in 2013, I do not need to make resolutions.  I do not have to force change in my life because I am living a life that welcomes change as part of the roadmap.  Course correction will always be a necessity because I do not have the gift of telling the future or a magic crystal ball to see what lies ahead.  Instead, I have fortification to know that, no matter what comes along, as I live with intention, I am doing the best that I can and I am preparing myself for whatever lies ahead. I am always surrounded by people who will catch me if I fall rather than plotting ways to knock me over.  It isn’t always easy and I am certainly not perfect but I am open to giving this a shot and seeing where this year takes me.

Go ahead, come along for the ride.  Throw out those resolutions and commit to living your life with intention!

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED


“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
—Hal Borland 

They day has finally arrived – the last day of the year!  How auspicious this day is and how much emphasis we put on the turning of the calendar.  Everywhere you turn, there are Top 10 lists and countless articles on making resolutions and learning how to keep them.  So, as we sit right on the precipice of 2011, staring down at all of the possibility of 2012, I choose not to make resolutions but, instead take this moment to look back, take an inventory and identify strategies for moving forward and doing things differently, if necessary.  I suggest that we actually do this often throughout the year but, as we close out a year, it seems like an ideal time to do a year in review and see what we can learn about ourselves.

For me, 2011 was both transitional and transformational.  I believe that life is a journey on which there are a series of stops and, ultimately, one destination when you have completed your trip.  So, I choose not to look at the legs of my journey with regret but, instead, see them as roads I have traveled.  And, like with any excursion, sometimes we get lost, make wrong turns, need to back up, reroute or sometimes even head back home and start over again.  In 2011, it might have felt like I had to head back home when I thought I was much further along in my travels but, upon reflection, I actually only made some wrong turns and had to course correct.  I feel pretty confident as I look back at my tour for 2011 that I am actually further ahead on the road than when I started and, for that I am grateful.

I marvel at how intensely painful certain situations feel when we are experiencing them in the moment.  Yet, when we look back at them later on, we can hardly remember how difficult it was or how much we suffered and struggled.  We (and when I say “we”, make no mistake that I am actually saying “I” – but I’d like to believe we are all very similar and in this together) get very caught up with the crises that we face and, sometimes they are worthy of our laser focus and sometimes we cannot look away or move beyond because we cannot see how these situations will become a blip on our radar and were probably not worthy of such anguish.  It is challenging to maintain such perspective when we are in that moment but I believe we have the ability to reflect, even when right in the thick of the pain, fear, anxiety, struggle, that will allow us to recognize that “this too shall pass”.  That was an enormous lesson for me this year.  I learned how to have more confidence in myself and, as I have mentioned before, I learned how to be with my pain and discomfort rather than trying to run away from it for fear that it would consume me.  I developed a belief that nearly every challenge can be resolved with a course correction and, in many cases, the next road we take is far more scenic and provides many more opportunities to stop, look around and grow.

I love to share my experiences and perspectives because I am a simple journeywoman who continually picks us bits of wisdom along the way.  My hope is that my experience provides insight or inspiration to others who, in their own travels, confront their own obstacles and hopefully find strategies to endure and work through the struggle.  To me, life has no meaning if not to be able to share and interact with others so we, together, can enjoy the journey in a more meaningful and significant way.  I have spent many years fighting the tide and trying to avoid the roadblocks and challenges that seem to be deliberately put in my way.  What I have learned is that the obstacles are part of the experience.  I hate the expression “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” but I cannot deny the truth in the statement.  Our strength comes from the adversity we face.  Our learning comes from our mistakes.  Without our foibles and wrong turns we would never know what the other roads look like and never imagine that there was a different pathway because they would have never appeared on our map.

I recently said to a friend that I became close with this year that I was surprised we had not appeared on each other’s radar before now.  We have lived in the same town for many years and had many common friends.  However, for some reason, while we might have orbited around each other for a while, we never came into each other’s lives.  I know, for certain, that choices I have made over the past year – seemingly hard choices that I struggled with – allowed me to be in a position to have met this friend and develop a powerful and meaningful relationship that might, otherwise, not have happened.  Was it destined to be?  Perhaps.  Or, perhaps, I had to continue along on my journey and tackle the challenges and decisions to get to this part of my path and develop this relationship.

So, as I sit on the edge, dangling my feet over the giant chasm that exists between 11:59:59 on December 31, 2011 and 12:00:00 on January 1, 2012, I want to acknowledge my fellow journeymen.  I am blessed beyond belief with PEOPLE.  The cast of characters that color my life are what provides my life with richness and dimension.  They are the ones that enable me to take the hard curves, the giant craters and huge bumps in the roads I travel down.  They make me laugh and make me cry and make me grateful that I get to travel down these paths, however narrow and scary they may seem at times.  When I look back and take my personal inventory what I can say for certain, for the first time in my life, is that the people in my life are what I define as my success.  For we will leave this earth with nothing but the impact on others that we leave behind.

To all of my people, near and far, I say thank you for all that you bring into my life.  I try to thank each of you individually but, if I cannot, know that you are all part of my journey and I hope that I am helping to make your travels a bit easier.  To everyone else, I wish you a very joyous new year and look forward to sharing more in 2012!