How to change other people

How to change other people

I used to think that someone else could make me happy.  If they just changed, I’d be happy.  If someone loved me, I’d be happy.  If I had great friends, I’d be happy. If my family, boss or coworkers gave me credit for what I did for them, I’d be happy.   When these people didn’t measure up, I was unhappy.

I made a fatal mistake – depending on other people to make me happy – thinking if they changed, I’d be happy.  I put my happiness in the hands of others. All along though, my happiness was under my control.  I could decide to be happy even if I was single, friendless or unappreciated.

Happiness is my perspective on my life, not based on the feedback of others.  I have to change if I want to be happy.  I need to love myself to be happy.  I need to be comfortable being alone to be happy.  I need to be confident in my own actions to be happy.

I really believe that you can’t be in a successful, fulfilling relationship if you don’t love yourself.  I don’t think you can have good friends until you know how to be a good friend.  I don’t think you can do a good job at anything if you constantly need someone telling you how great you are – the motivation, the feeling of accomplishment must come from within.

And when things are not going well, I know I am the one who needs to make some changes.  Only I can change my life.  You can’t change other people.  Don’t even waste your time.  You can try to influence other people but only they can change.  So don’t look to others to make you happy.  Look in the mirror.

 

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Tradition

Tradition

This weekend we got our tree and did our Christmas decorating. For many years I collected Santa Clauses – all sizes, shapes and colors.  I would usually buy a new Santa every Christmas.  I kept them out all year on shelves in the family room.  My kids thought it was kind of creepy.

On Sunday, I took most of my Santa’s to Goodwill.  It was time.  Part of simplifying.  I kept a few – the first Santa I got – a musical one.  A wooden folk art Santa which keeps me focused on my dream of living in the country some day.  A tall folk art style Santa that was a gift from a friend I’ve known for more than twenty years. A Santa in swim trunks which was a gift from a former boss who has since passed away.  My all-white ceramic Santa which matches the white on my baker’s rack bar.  And one small ceramic Santa that reminds me of a friend who does squirrel rescue.  Now as I walk past each Santa, I remember the special people behind each special Santa.

It was both liberating and bittersweet.  Getting a new Santa each year was a tradition. But you don’t need to keep a tradition alive if it no longer serves you or when it becomes an obligation rather than a joyful experience.  Holding on to the past just because “we always did it this way” or you are afraid of “upsetting the apple cart” won’t serve your overall happiness.

So this Christmas, I will be strengthening the traditions that bring me joy and releasing the one’s that bog me down.

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A Search for Simplicity

A Search for Simplicity

I live a pretty simple life.  I don’t go out much – dinner once a month or so.  I come home from work and cook dinner, do a little crafting, watch a little TV and am in bed by 10pm – even on weekends.   On weekends, we do home renovations or yard work.  My entertainment budget is my gym membership.  When weather permits, we may get on the bike and I’ll take my camera along to get a few shots.

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I don’t party hard, shop till you drop or take elaborate vacations.

But I don’t live simply.  I still have way too much “stuff”.  It fills drawers, shelves, closets and is piled on flat surfaces.  Every room is cluttered.  I have multiples of lots of things and my bathroom is full of products I don’t use anymore – like molding paste from the short hair days.  Pens that don’t write, books that I won’t read and shoes I don’t wear.

2015 will be the year to simplify – to pear down.  It begins now by using up what I have.  I don’t have a game plan yet but I’ll be doing some reading and researching on simplicity.

Part of the problem is getting over the two biggest hurdles – I paid good money for that and I might need that again.  I still don’t have a way to get over those hurdles.  I think both the shredder and the folks at the Goodwill drop off center will know me well.

If any of you have any strategies, I’m all ears!  And if you’ve traveled the path to simplicity, I’d love to hear your story.

My Black Friday

My Black Friday

On Friday, November 21, I signed some papers which put an end to the nightmare that birthed The One Little Thing Project.  That Friday was my Black Friday.  Now that it is over, almost, I can share the story.

In 2011 after a two year separation, my husband of nearly thirty years and I finalized our divorce.  Due to the economy, the house was left in both names.  Selling or refinancing was out of the question, due to it being “upside down”.  I figured in the future, he would want to sell and I would sign whatever was necessary and whatever he made on it was his.

About 15 months after the divorce, he was diagnosed with cancer.  I didn’t find out about any of this until the doctors told him there was nothing else they could do.  In January of 2014, the battle was lost.

After his death, I waited to hear from the executor to determine what to do with the house.  I never got a call.  Rather, I got a past due notice from the city for real estate taxes.  Conflicting and confusing information followed.  It was horrifying to learn that I was over 225,000 in debt and I shared ownership of the property with my two estranged daughters.

I was WAY over my head and sought the help of a real estate agent and real estate attorney to go over the options.  I had to pay back bills, judgments, keep up the property and had to wait while others decided my future. I eventually negotiated a short sale with the lender, but each day for more than six months the huge black cloud over my head got larger and darker.

I lived each day in fear.  Fear that I’d check my bank account and find it frozen.  Fear that the mail would bring another surprise.  Fear that my credit, which I had worked so hard to build, would be ruined.  Fear that my paycheck would be zero because of a lien or garnishment.  Fear the my future would be cat food and a cardboard box.

Living in fear is not a pleasant experience.  Eating and sleeping were a problem.  Keeping my mind on work was a problem.  Making ANY decision was a problem.

But what I learned through this adversity will last a lifetime:

  • What was done was done – if only’s didn’t change a thing.
  • Live on day at a time – tackle one problem at a time – try not to get caught up in what if’s.
  • Ask for help and accept support – lean on others and respect their expertise.
  • Work on Plan A but having a Plan B or C gave me comfort.
  • Don’t forget the good things in your life – hang on to them and let them encourage you.
  • Let go – the Serenity Prayer helped me tremendously on my darkest days.
  • Ignoring things will not make them go away – take what action you can – actually doing something can give you a feeling of control.
  • Take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally – eat right or even better, exercise and practice relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation – all these things will help you deal with stress.
  • Don’t stop living – as tempting as it might be to hide or do nothing, keep living as normally as possible. Yes you may have to change some things or scale back but don’t stop living as normal a life as possible.  It is still okay to have a little fun.

While I’m sure there will be more fallout, I’m confident that I can get through it with what I’ve learned. And most of all, despite it all, I’ve learned how to be truly happier!

serenity prayer

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all are enjoying a pleasant Thanksgiving with the emphasis on Thanks and giving!  I will be enjoying a quiet holiday – a rare 4 day weekend for me before work gets even crazier!

In lieu of a post today, I am sharing my Thanksgiving meal menu.

Thansgiving

Rethink the Holiday Season

Rethink the Holiday Season

This week is Thanksgiving. It marks the beginning of the holiday season.

This Thanksgiving, I have much to be thankful for. Plus I’ve learned over the past months how to be more aware of the little blessings – the people, the moments, the simple pleasures that are part of real life – a good life – my life.

This year, we will have a quiet simple Thanksgiving – just the two of us. Yes we could join others for the turkey and trimmings but one of my focuses this year is to avoid “drama”. And sad to say, often the holidays involve “drama”. Family frictions fly. People drink to much, compare to much, stress too much and expect too much.

This time of year if full of “shoulds”. We should go to Moms. We should buy a gift for so and so. We should go to all those holiday parties. We should put up lights. We should have turkey. We should get that “deal” on Black Friday.

Maybe you shouldn’t! Maybe you can go to Mom’s for dessert but skip the meal. Maybe it is time to stop buying “obligation” gifts. Maybe you should cut back on the holiday decorations. Maybe you ought to skip a party or two. Maybe you should eat lasagna! Maybe you should stay home on Black Friday because the cost of the stress might outweigh the savings.

Maybe this is the year to focus on the meaning of the holidays and building experiences that bring peace and joy to your life.

Thank you for reading this blog and I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Gossip, Gossip

Gossip, Gossip

On the way home from the grocery store Sunday, I noticed something on the sign outside the middle school near my house. I pass this school dozens of times each week and since I no longer have school-age children, I usually ignore it. This time this caught my eye.

PracticePositive Gossip

Stand in the grocery store line and you’ll see a row of magazines that cover “celebrity gossip”. The “mean girl” epidemic is one based on gossip. One of the most popular TV shows among teen/young adult girls is Gossip Girl.  People like Perez Hilton, who make a living off celebrity gossip, are celebrities themselves. Spreading gossip about others is a common way for people to feel better about themselves.

What happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? A recent study even says that gossip may be good for us. Really? I don’t buy it.

Lets look at the definition of gossip – “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” Here are a few synonyms:  hearsay, slander, defamation.
Frankly, I don’t think we can eliminate gossip altogether but if we are going to share some buzz, news or chatter (also synonyms for gossip) why not make it positive?  Keep the sour grapes, speculation and back-biting out of it.  Susie got a promotion.  Share it and how you think she deserved it and worked hard for it.  A friend tells you Janie broke up with her boyfriend, say “Wow that is hard. That’s happened to me too.  I’m going to call her and take her to lunch.”  Just refuse to wallow in the mud with your friend and spread a little kindness.
Dishing dirt on other people may make you feel like the “better” person, but it won’t make you a better person.  Practice Positive Gossip