Lead Me Not Into False Expectations

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” -Semisonic

It’s another New Year, another time for new beginnings, resolutions (if you’re into that sort of thing) and a blank page in a yet unwritten book. I am wary of making resolutions due to the fact they are usually slightly unrealistic. If I were to make a resolution that I wouldn’t go all Hulk-like in traffic, but I had done nothing to change my frame of mind or manage my emotions, then I’m fairly certain my effort would be met with failure, or at the very least an inability to magically transform my commute from December 31, 2016 to January 1, 2017. When you think about it, it’s really just a change from one calendar to another; from a Sunday to a Monday. If my resolution is to not drink but I have a full cupboard of alcohol that I see every time I reach for a glass, it will be more difficult to not grab that bottle and have “just one” drink. If I haven’t dug deep to find out the “why” behind the drinking then my resolution is dependent upon my mood; if my mood goes dark and dangerous and I haven’t developed any healthy coping skills, then guess what? Chug-a-lug. Another great reason for my resolutions to fail is that I make them based on what I think I should do, not what I really want to do. Making a resolution to lose weight, so that the hot guy I have a huge crush on will notice (and hopefully fall in love with) me. Making a resolution to start attending mass on a regular basis because my parents (God rest their souls) would be pleased, as they look down upon me from Heaven. Or even better, so that I can get in God’s good grace and therefore avoid the fiery alternative. These are all great resolutions, as great as resolutions can be, but they are doomed to be unsuccessful if I haven’t invested in them long before January 1st.

I prefer to set intentions rather than resolutions. They are much more forgiving, loosely defined and honestly, give me an out if things don’t go according to plan.

in·ten·tion
inˈten(t)SH(ə)n/
noun
1.
a thing intended; an aim or plan.
“she was full of good intentions”
2.
MEDICINE
the healing process of a wound.

– Google Search

I love the second definition because the majority of my intentions do involve the healing and recovering from wounds, be it physical or emotional. My intention is to forgive those who have wounded me, but that may take not days, but years. My intention is to forgive myself for the wounds I have inflicted on others. My intention is to accept my faults and failures and love myself unconditionally, which will be my intention for every New Year until my Last Year.

I feel the danger in resolutions is that they lead us into false expectations; by changing my physical appearance, I will find love. By doing things for others, I will be accepted and loved. It’s not the resolution so much as it is the expected outcome. Realistically losing weight will not guarantee that the hot guy falls in love with me, especially if he’s gay, married or simply not interested. Not drinking alcohol is a great resolution, but there is much more involved than just not raising a glass to my lips. Forgiving others is a great idea, but that means letting go of old hurts and grudges. If they have been your constant companion for years and help you to feel righteous in your belief that they are in the wrong, then it will take much more effort than simply thinking you forgive them. One must take personally responsibility for their role in what happened and own up to it. My dad used to say, “It’s not the making of a mistake that should embarrass a person, so much as their failure to benefit from it.”

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Learning from mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones over and over is more helpful (in my experience) than making a resolution that is unrealistic.

So, Happy New Year to one and all! May this year bring you comfort when you’re distressed, company when you’re lonely, a hand to hold when you’re frightened and a safe harbor during Life’s many storms; the courage to face your fears, the strength to slay your dragons and the faith to believe that there is more to Life than just crossing days off the calendar and making unrealistic expectations. Peace and love to you all!

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Seriously? 2014? Already??

Hello again, whomever is still out there reading. I’ve been away quite a long time and I must apologize for that. I have had a few changes, some good, some not so good, but I wanted to share them with you and speak on a topic that is timely; namely Thanksgiving and giving thanks.

I moved to a cute little apartment over a garage at a private residence which is 100 times closer than any of my previous dwellings and has the added bonus of having the most incredibly caring and thoughful landlady. She is wonderful and makes the most delicious cake and other yummy items, such as pomegranate jelly….mmmm….so good.

At any rate, that is one of the good. The not-so-good is that my beloved Neko got very sick and I had to have him put to sleep. The good in that is that he didn’t suffer unnecessarily, he had the best 3 years any cat rescued from “Death Row” could have and was loved more than words can say. He saw me through some really depressing, difficult times and gave me the unconditional love that only animals and small children give so effortlessly. I will miss him, but comfort myself with the thought that he is in good company on the Other Side.

So, update completed and on to the “meat” of this post. Thanksgiving and giving thanks. I would like to believe that I give thanks on a daily basis, but I would also like to believe that I will someday win the lottery; in order to win, I would have to play and in order to give thanks daily I would have to take some time from my “Bitch and Moan” fund and use it instead to focus on the positive. Sounds simple and easy to do but trust me, it’s neither. It is very difficult to see past the negative, which I liken to a basketball player trying to block your shot; hands in your face, rocking back and forth, distracting, frustrating and in your face. It hides the good stuff, filling your vision and your mind with Nothing Nice. However, with effort and the right motivation, you can push aside that negativity and reach (stretch – keep reaching, you’re almost there!) for the positive. Sometimes I have to get really creative, but it does work, when I make it a priority. So, this Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for my family, my friends, my professors, fellow classmates, co-workers and people that smile back at me when I smile at them in the store or on the street. Basic human kindness is an accessory that never goes out of style and never gets old. Share it, give it away, pass it along; it will always come back to you.

This time of year it’s very easy to get caught up in the mass hysteria that is The Season aka Christmas, Thanksgiving & every other holiday that you are pressured to acknowledge soley by your purchasing power. As if a wrapped present of any kind could help someone who is lonely, struggling to find meaning or starved for simple affection and kindness. Our gifts to each other should be gifts of the Self: our time, our (undivided) attention, a phone call, an e-mail or even an old-fashioned Christmas card in the mailbox, sent snail-mail, like back in the day. Just those things that you can’t get from a store (ok, the Christmas card you could get from a store, but it wouldn’t be signed or mailed) These are the most valuable and most valued gifts of all.

I will do my best this year and into the New Year to remember how far I’ve traveled, who has helped me on my journey and how I can send that kindness and compassion back into the world, every day. I don’t know where 2013 has gone, but it sure did move fast. I hope I will value my hours, days and months in 2014 and know at this time next year that I kept my promise to myself and focused on the positive, even when it was difficult to find or I simply believed there was none to be found.

For all of you who take the time to read my blog and haven’t given up on me, I send you great glowing beams of love and thanks. May your Thanksgiving be filled with family, friends and food; may your Christmas shine the light of kindness on others and may the New Year bring you all your heart desires.

Love and peace to you all!

Michelle

 

Update – I’m Back and I’ve Missed You

Sorry I’ve been away for so long; I got sidetracked, but now I’m back with you!

So, we’ve made it through Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve & Christmas day and now, back at work, I feel as though I’ve been blessed many times over. I spent the weekend in San Francisco with my dear friend through her generous (early) birthday gift to me. We dined at Morton’s Steakhouse, rode a Christmas-decorated trolley, singing Christmas carols and waving to everyone as we passed. We watched quite a few Twilight movies, so I could get up to speed on the whole saga, then watched the latest movie upon our return to town. It was the most fun I’ve had in ages and there’s nothing like having a room full of strangers sing “Happy Birthday to you” to make one feel truly special. We met some wonderful people and the entire time was just full of laughter, friendship and holiday festivity. This being only my second Sober Christmas, I was somewhat concerned about being around alcohol but it wasn’t an issue at all. I had my own little buzz going, fueled by carols, bright lights and the crisp, cool air that is specific only to San Francisco. It was wonderful to get dressed up, put on some makeup and go out with a group of people that ended up being a group of friends by the end of the weekend. A heartfelt thanks to Fawn for making my year!

Thanksgiving is always a treat; not only do we have an unlimited amount of food to eat, we also have time to sit down, catch up on current events with everyone and just relax. Time to reflect on the changes from our last Thanksgiving and look forward to Christmas, then onto the New Year. This Thanksgiving was a first, as Mom didn’t come to the celebration. My sister and I went to her home (assisted living/memory care) to have our own Thanksgiving dinner with her the week before. She thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, complete with pumpkin pie and posed for pictures with us. Her condition progresses and I know some day she may not recognize me or might mistake me for someone from long ago; but for now, I know that she is being taken care of, watched over and is happy in her own little world.

Christmas has always been a difficult holiday for me, although I can’t really say why. I think it started in my youth, when I would come back from the Christmas holiday and all my classmates would be going on and on about all the wonderful gifts they opened. I knew I shouldn’t be jealous of them; that I should be happy that their family could afford to buy them everything they wanted. But deep down, I was angry, jealous and feeling sorry for myself because we didn’t have the “perfect” Christmas morning. It’s taken me years and years to realize that those kids didn’t have the one thing that they wanted the most; their parents’ time and attention. I had so many reasons to be thankful, so many gifts that I had already gotten but I thought they didn’t count. Now, I realize that we didn’t have a lot of presents not only because of financial issues, but because my father was dismayed at how Christ had been removed from Christmas and replaced with greedy-gimmeness.  The whole spirit of Christmas was lost; it was all about the biggest, the brightest, the newest, the shiniest toys, games, bikes and whatever else was on the shelves at Toys R Us. Goodwill towards man? Gone. Unconditional love? Gone. Praise to God? Gone. Now, before you all get upset with me, I know there are people out there who celebrate Christmas all year round, give to the poor, do service for their church and in general, live their lives in a very God-like fashion. I am speaking to the majority of society and my feelings/attitudes about the holiday season. Holiday. Holy Day.

Now we are looking forward to the New Year and all that that contains. New Years Resolutions, New Year’s Eve parties, dropping the ball in Times Square, closing out the old calendar and opening up the new calendar, it’s squares empty and ready to be filled. What will they be filled with, though? My hope is that I will be able to fill my time with more constructive, rewarding, self-less deeds and actions. If I happen to lose some weight along the way or finally manage to lose a bad habit, that’ll be nice, but it’s not my goal. I resolve to be a better person, keep Christmas in my heart all year long and open my eyes to the gifts that are given to me all throughout the year. A smile to someone who looks unhappy and I am given a smile in return; paying for someone else’s coffee/parking meter/newspaper; finding a need and meeting that need. After all, we are in this together, right?

I will leave you with this thought; if you were told that you had only one day left to live, what would you do? What would be thrown out of your mind as unimportant and what would replace that? It’s all about priorities and the New Year is the perfect time to check our priorities, learn from last year and move forward. Let’s make 2013 the year that we all laugh a little more, gather together as a community, pick up the phone and make that call you’ve been putting off. Lastly, hug your loved ones for no reason at all.

I’ll leave you with an Irish toast.

Slàinte!

 

Count your blessings instead of your crosses;

Count your gains instead of your losses.

Count your joys instead of your woes;

Count your friends instead of your foes.

Count your smiles instead of your tears;

Count your courage instead of your fears.

Count your full years instead of your lean;

Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.

Count your health instead of your wealth;

Love your neighbor as much as yourself.