Holiday Survival Guide For The Intentional

*Note- If you are living an accidental life, allowing the world to whisk you along wherever it fancies unaided, then you probably want to go back to the beginning of my blog. If you are not comfortable making choices that benefit you, and are in line with your beliefs and goals, you may want to avoid the rest of this post. Because the only way I know to survive the holidays is by being true to yourself. And the only way I know to do that is to live an intentional life.

Living intentionally can be hard on the best day, it can be difficult on the worst day, and it can feel darn right impossible on a holiday. I have found that being true to myself often means being at odds with others. Those others, be they family or friends, can make personal change or being honest the hardest thing you will ever have to do because often it means losing them in your life or making them upset and uncomfortable with your decisions.

I don’t think I know a single person who gets excited to spend time with family during the holidays. Everyone seems to have some complaint or another about one person or another that they wish wasn’t going to be there or who brings them strife. I get it, trust me I get it. But that being said, it made me start to wonder why? Why do we all have so many problems or become stressed out during the holidays just because it means more time with our families? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t we be excited or relish the time to relax with family instead of seeing it as an obligation or something we will have to “get through”?

The only core reason I can come up with is people’s inability to accept that we are all  individuals full of successes and failures, people who are continually striving to be better and find more peace. I don’t care what your problem is, “My mother doesn’t think I cook well” “my father was never around” “my friend didn’t return my calls/texts/emails” at the core of it all is your insecurity and their inability to accept you (which guess what? is fueled by their insecurities).

Voila! I just solved the biggest problem people have with friends, family, and the holidays. You’re welcome.

So there it is in a nutshell my friends. You hate the holidays and visiting family because you are insecure and not confident in your intentional identity. And everyone else you know, who you dread seeing during the holidays, is insecure in themselves and terrified that anyone living an intentional identity is clearly trying to be better and if the other person is better than they by default they are not, so they should knock down the intentional liver with cruel/sarcastic, biting comments and digs until everyone is reduced to tears, shouting, or silent gross misunderstandings happen that take until New Years to sort out.

If you are one of the lucky few who enjoys the holiday season, never feels stress and thinks all your friends and family are the cat’s pajamas then congratulations, you have arrived at nirvana, or probably the closest you are going to get this time of year. If you are not one of those people, then this time of year can drive you to emotional eating/drinking, reverting to old habits you have been trying to shake, most definitely not living intentionally, and scurrying around trying to make everyone else happy while you fall apart. hint hint… if we all spent a little time making ourselves happy, then we would be happy. But I digress…

Please, stop. Just stop. For one holiday season try something brand new and see how it feels. It can’t be worse than previous years. You cannot change the way other people act. You cannot change their choices or their words. But you can change yourself and how you react. You can help maneuver others into feeling better so they act better.

The first step is to acknowledge how awesome you are. You aren’t perfect, but you are pretty great and if you have been following me on this path of trying to live intentionally then you have also accomplished a lot and hopefully changed some in the last 6 months. With any luck you feel better, look better, and have more inner peace that allows you to think before you speak or lose your temper. You’ve come a long way, and there is no shame in that. At all. Anyone who tries to make you feel differently, you can politely ignore.

Here are the rest of your survival tips in an easy to use list format:

  1. review your awesomeness
  2. limit your to do list so you don’t feel stressed. Seriously, it does NOT all need to get done.
  3. delegate responsibilities to others and be relaxed and flexible if they don’t get done, and some of them won’t
  4. do not make any decisions based on what other people expect of you (who hasn’t picked out a specific outfit because you know it is what others expect you to wear? but you hate it)
  5. do make decisions that make you happy and are true to your intentional life (If you always feel terrible after going to celebrate with a relative then politely decline and say your sticking close to home this year)
  6. when your relative gets angry, say you are sorry once and then move on (you probably are sorry, you do wish they were nicer and you could spend the holidays together). If they can’t move on it isn’t your problem, it is theirs. Remember that one of your expectations in life is to be treated fairly and respectfully by people who claim to love you. If they don’t offer that, then you owe them nothing.
  7. stop feeling like you need to live up to another’s expectation of you. You are your only judge and trust me you are already too hard on yourself, you don’t need anyone else telling you your job isn’t good enough, your husband drinks too much, or a second piece of pie will go straight to your thighs.
  8. offer peace and love to everyone you care about, even those who have trouble returning it in kind. This is about your choices in life and how you choose to live, live with love and kindness. Eventually, it will be returned to you.
  9. take care of yourself so you are in top shape to cope with unexpected barbs and daggers. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, do not overindulged in alcohol or food, take your vitamins, and above all keep a smile on your face.
  10. Fill your holidays with the things that will bring joy to you and those around you. Do not allow negativity to seep in, it has a tendency to grow and fester like a bad flesh-eating bacteria. If your decorations go array just laugh it off, I bet its funny if you look at it just so. If your relative is cruel, remember your awesomeness, people are cruel and withholding for only one reason, they are insecure. Do not let them draw you in. If you gain 5 pounds, just remember a little insulation is okay sometimes.

I used to love the holidays as a kid, probably because I was too young to see what the adults had to go through to pull it all off. As an adult I tried to capture the magic and eventually gave up because of the stress and negative feelings that always seemed to result in my trying. But ever since I started living intentionally, making decisions that benefit my family and myself, cutting the fat of my life, recognizing who my real family and friends are, the holidays have been something I breeze thru with nary a scratch. I suspect this year will be the best season for me in many years. I am surrounded by those who love me. I’ve learned how to cope with negativity. I’m working on my patience. I have finally found a balance for taking care of myself. Plus, I have two little people who are already wrapped up in the excitement and wonder the season provides. Two little people who will not be disappointed by my sub par turkey, my unbrushed hair, my 10-year-old sweater, my muffin top, my empty bank account, my blue carpet, or my fake tree.

I am lucky. I am fortunate. But I am also strong and brave. I made this happen. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a fluke. I wanted it. I worked for it. Now its time to have my pie and eat it too!

What I am reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth. Super quick read, I can’t put it down. I love dystopia!

What I am listening to: Best Day of my Life by American Authors

Now moment of the week: Snuggling with my four-legged children. No wonder people who share their lives with dogs are healthier.

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Inspirations from the ether: 14 habits of highly miserable people thank you Jessica for bringing this to my attention. Everyone should just double check it real quick to make sure they aren’t doing these.

How to be Happy in 19 Fairly Painless Steps

 

I may not have found the holy grail of happiness just yet, but I have managed to eek out a little bliss every now and then in these stressful shark filled waters I call my life. So I have decided to take a look back at the things I have done or tried in my journey thus far. It seemed like a good time to sum up the specific steps I’ve taken so I can take stock, move forward, readdress those things that didn’t take the first time, or reassess why things didn’t work at all.

  1. Identify what is great about you. You might be surprised at how awesome you already are. Make a list to see the awesomeness on paper.
  2. Really make those traits of your life a priority or use them more often to shine. If you take what you do well or the traits about you that rock and you do them more often, of course you are going to find more reasons to smile.
  3. Make a conscious choice about who you are. A choice not driven from history or others labels, but one that is truly you, or the you you would like to become. Make the choice of happiness when you do this. Stop blaming others for your position in life and take charge. Blaming others gives them the power, taking charges puts you in the driver’s seat. I prefer power every day of the week.
  4. Formulate your personal identifiers. These are the attributes you want to live by or be known for. This is your chance to chose who you are going to be. This list doesn’t have to be true at this moment, it is a work in progress. Include your current attributes as well as those you are working towards. Many people find happiness in reaching toward goals. Easier to reach for them if you know what you are reaching for.
  5. Review the people in your life and decide if they help or hinder your progress in either happiness or your intentional identifier goals. They may be friends or family and you may love them dearly, but if they don’t get your new life then they may hold you back from truly succeeding. I’m not saying let them go, I’m saying put them in perspective.
  6. Clean up your financial mess, or at least put it all out on the table and in the open so you can start looking at it. Knowledge is half the battle, the truth really can set you free. This is the path to fixing it.
  7. Take action to implement or move toward an intentional identifier. It isn’t enough to make a list, you have to take action. You have to remind yourself everyday of who you want to be and you have to do something to work toward that goal as often as you can.
  8. Let go of all the negative things that draw you down or hold you back. Whether it is people, things, habitual thoughts, or ruminations on your past, let it all go and start new.
  9. Stop patterns of behavior that do not work for you or bring you closer to your goals and happiness. Stop doing everything that negates who you want to be or what you want to have in life. Just stop it.
  10. Adjust your beliefs to allow your goals to be reached. If a belief is preventing you from reaching a positive lace or a remarkable goal it is time to rethink why you are chosing to believe something tat is clearly holding you back.
  11. Live on the edge and do things that scare you; you might be surprised at what you find or discover about yourself. Often living in the safety zone prevents growth and opportunity to make your life the way you really want it to be. You must be bold to move forward and out of your comfort zone and onto the edge. Those who make history or are fabulously happy are out there on the edge, trust me.
  12. Learn to live in and experience the Now- I I know it sounds new agey. Let go of the past and stop worrying about your future. If you live in the now the past is nothing but a memory and the future will only be brighter if you really truly just live in this moment.
  13. Be better to your partner. Give them what you want and they are likely to reciprocate. If not then have them read this. Remember they have value and possibly are right.
  14. Write your best about me. Avoid titles and roles you play in life and instead focus on the true things about you, See mine for inspiration.
  15. Choose to be healthy. Make one small healthy change every week and be surprised at how it catches on and how good you feel.
  16. Be productive. Do things that create peace or simplicity in your life. Do things that need to be done and can shrink your to do list. Do things that instill a great sense of accomplishment. Do the trivial things that get in the way of your greatness.
  17. Get creative! Do something new and creative everyday. This is to get your brain working and firing neurons it usually doesn’t use. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand, paint a mural, bake cookies, make an obstacle course… just do something new and interesting that is totally for fun or nonsensical. There is a lt of brain up there just going to waste.
  18. Exercise, but use your limited time wisely. Moving everyday can make a huge mood shift. If you don’t have time for a big workout just squeeze in something, anything. It will make your mind feel  happy and your body relaxed. This morning I did 20 min of yoga with a two year old on my back. It wasn’t proper, it wasn’t “correct” but I did feel better and he sure laughed a lot. :)
  19. Stop taking on responsibility for others feelings. You cannot control what they choose to feel or what they choose to believe. If you have not been hurtful or intentionally cruel then their emotions are not your responsibility. You will waste a considerable amount of time in life trying to solve the problems of other people. Usually those people have made the decision to be miserable and their beliefs have less to do with you than their own choices to feel unhappy. It will hurt, it will be hard, but you have to realize at some point in your life, you are only responsible for your own reactions and feelings. Not those of others.
  20. Fake it. Fake everything you want to do or be until you reach your goals. You can get where you are going, it just takes a little bit of creativity and embellishment sometimes.

I have now been on this quest to find a better way of life since July of this year. And the really cool, if surprising bit, is that I really do feel better. I really am seeing a difference in my mood, my outlook, and my life. Just imagine if you had been following the journey and doing it to. What might your life look like now? What changes would you have made? How far could you have come?

For those keeping score, or are simply curious. I have accomplished the following by taking the steps above:

  • I’ve lost 5 pounds without dieting
  • I now fit in my pre pregnancy pants, I’m talking the ones before our first child
  • I’ve cleaned up our finances and we can now pay all our bills with a little left over to fix an ailing truck and toddler
  • I can find things in my organized house
  • I’ve sold or given away much of my clutter
  • I’m nicer to my children and we have a lot more silly times together
  • I’m sleeping better
  • My to do list is remarkably shorter
  • I am reading like a fiend
  • I am halfway through a new fiction book I hope will be the winner winner to getting published and being a true writer
  • I have eaten gluten free with only two breaks ( this was for my son’s Celiac Disease, but I won’t lie and say I don’t think I am healthier or that it didn’t improve my mood)
  • I feel more at peace
  • I feel like I have found part of me I thought was forever gone
  • I can cope with the unknown with less anxiety
  • I no longer have ruminating thoughts about things I can’t control

What I am Reading: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hall a man buys a ghost off the internet… enough said, if that doesn’t make you curious, nothing will.

What I am listening to: Life is Beautiful by Keb Mo.  Thank you Carri, for giving me his voice.

What I am watching: Before you poo poo me… I am a HUGE Star Wars fan (see first edition original movie poster in my house or my son being practically named after Darth Vader), but I am also a huge believer in raising amazing little men. I hope when asked who they liked best they will choose wisely. Food for thought. Honestly though, at 8 years old I chose Chewbacca.

Inspirations from the ether: I clearly didn’t utilize my baby’s sleep time well enough. Must see photos. Seriously,  no really, click it!

Now moment of the week: A potty trained two year old who did it all by himself one day and  hasn’t looked back. Bonus moment, finding out from his special doctor that he only has 6 more months of leg braces! 1 regular doctor visit down! Three more to go!

 

Getting Un-Stuck from Useless Patterns of Mass Destruction

There are two things I absolutely adore about my husband- okay there are more than two, but for the sake of this post, there are two- the first is he is incredibly patient and laid back. I mean seriously laid back (notice the chaos of the picture above and the man just sat there smiling through 30 minutes of this failed attempt at a family photo with dogs). Which is a good thing because while I can be like that, I’m not always, so it’s nice to know there will be a level head around when mine is on fire. The second thing I love about him is his ability to change and break patterns in his life with seeming ease- bastard- I mean love of my life. I used to think people didn’t change, or rather couldn’t really change their core behaviors and patterns of life, my husband has more than proven me wrong. But even though I have this amazing role model living in my home, I have struggled with the ability myself. I can’t seem to let go of patterns that aren’t working for me in favor of more productive or at least better patterns- even when I know they aren’t working!

Patterns is an interesting word and I suppose it can broadly cover all the areas of letting go I plan to address. It could relate to bad habits, or patterns of shopping, or conversational patterns with family and friends. So if this post seems vague on how to let go of patterns then I apologize, but I think it has to be somewhat broad because it can apply to so many things. What I am primarily talking about are all your life patterns that help you navigate and interact with the word around you. Many of the patterns you do everyday can actually inhibit or outright prevent your happiness even when they seem to be productive on the surface. In addition, many patterns can be hard to let go of because they are comfortable and “known” even if they aren’t healthy or are even self-destructive. Consider the pattern of women who always choose abusive men for relationships. Obviously not good, obviously shouldn’t do it, but it is comfortable and what they know. So no matter how terrible, it is the option they often choose. What you’ve always done is easier to continue doing because there is less fear in the known than the unknown.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I work from home, and by that I mean I do actual work from home that a company pays me to do, not that I “work” because I am a mom. So essentially, I have two stay at home jobs, I am a mother to two boys ages 3 and almost 2, and I work as a technical writer for a government contractor. When I wake up in the morning I am lucky because I do not have to set an alarm, fix my hair, or put on uncomfortable clothes to then hit the highway and a long commute to the office. I wake up naturally, for the most part, and I stay in my pjs or sweat pants all day too. :) I’m not ashamed of this fact. But because I work from home there are other pressures I have to contend with that wreak havoc on my brain on a daily basis. When I wake up I am a flurry of activity and multi-tasking. I pride myself on being able to “do it all” and then more even I didn’t know needed doing. If I don’t have a load of laundry in the washer and the dryer, the trash taken out, two kids up and clothed, 5 dogs fed, email answered, and work related issues addressed by 9 am then something is wrong and I am convinced that this will translate into a terrible day where nothing is going to go right. This is my pattern, get everything done in a hurry so I can… do more stuff in a hurry. Seriously, by the time my husband strolls in from work at 6 pm, this house is spotless, clothes are clean, folded, and put away, the gluten free made from scratch dinner is ready to eat and on the table, my work is usually complete with deadlines met, the children are alive and more or less unscathed, the bills are paid, and I am still in my pajamas.

Now, some of you might be applauding me for my super woman capabilities, others might be skeptical that I am lying, but there are a few of you who already see where this is going… that pattern of behavior is not good, it isn’t working for me half as well as I think it is and empty laundry bins are not as important as engaging with my children and truly enjoying my day. If you go back up and read the list of things I got done, you will see that not one of the items was truly for me, not one of the items directly benefited my children beyond alive and unscathed, and at the end of it all I never feel accomplished or content or peaceful or even happy. I usually feel harried, resentful, angry, annoyed, and frustrated. Yet the very next morning I will do the exact same pattern of behaviors because there is something broken inside my head that equates the number of chores completed with my self-worth. I’d like to let go of this pattern. I’d like to un-stick myself from this ridiculous self-imposed rat race that has my children frightened of me and my husband binge feeding me ice cream in a failed attempt at soothing the savage beast that has become his wife.

Off Topic- the ice cream diet does not work- even if you skip dinner in preparation. It will only leave you with the sugar drop twitchy eye, and a muffin top.

So how do you let go of patterns in your life when most of them derive from real world needs or assimilations? I mean clearly my laundry needs to be done at some point, though clearly it doesn’t need to be done daily, or before 9 am or arguably even by me. Letting go of patterns and getting un-stuck is something best attacked in small bites. It takes time to find new patterns and to discover what actually works best and creates peace in your life.  Remember the goal isn’t to just find a different pattern, the goal is be happier and find a place of contentment. The goal is find patterns that increase your enjoyment of life, so you don’t want to hastily adopt new drastic changes because those might be just as useless as the ones you are trying to stop. If I just stopped doing everything I do at home then I can tell you with absolute certainty my house would fall apart, I’m not joking. But if I adjust things a little at a time and find new patterns to address the underlying issues then I can change the pattern and replace it with a healthier more useful model.

If the hubs can do it, so can you! Though remember he is remarkable, just ask him and he will be happy to tell you all the reasons why. :)

For me the morning pattern sets the tone for the whole day, and the tone wasn’t working. So I made a deal with myself that I would change just one thing each week to see how it felt and whether or not the house actually fell through a sink hole because I didn’t wash bottles right away. The first week I started getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual so I had time to check in with work and address issues there before my kids were even up. This allowed me to not only feel less hurried but I was able to get a few small tasks done and feel instantly accomplished (I will likely always crave a sense of accomplishment). Once this is taken care of I can get my boys up, change diapers, make yummy carrot muffins (I tell them are cupcakes) and read them a book. That’s right, the second week I started sitting my flannel clad butt on the couch and read to them. It turned out to be a really nice way to start the day. They munch on their food making adorable eating noises only people under the age of 4 should make, and I get to connect with them first thing in the morning so they KNOW they are important and rank high on my to do list (instead of somewhere beneath laundry and trash). Once the book is done, I will often read a second one(living la vida loca over here) or I will get their help in rounding up laundry. Now they feel important and I still get my clothes clean. Since we do this every morning it means 1 load a day and no piles of clothes or daunting days of load after load. They help with the trash and even feeding the dogs (which I could argue isn’t helpful, but I won’t).

By the time my mother arrives to watch them so I can get in my real work of the day (that which I get a paycheck for) I feel relaxed and connected to my kids. I don’t feel frazzled or anxious and they don’t feel ignored and unimportant. Its 9 am and maybe I can’t say I got everything done, but I can say I didn’t have to yell at anyone. Hm… better, right?

By changing the pattern of the morning, and how I approached the tasks I wanted to accomplish, I was able to change my whole day and still get the majority of stuff done in a timely manner. One of my Intentional Identifiers was to be a better mother, more connected, less easily frayed. I changed the way I feel about my kids and they changed their interaction with me. There is a lot more thank you mommy and way less spitting than before- for those of you without kids, 3 year olds spit a lot, I mean like a lot a lot. I didn’t just do it all at once, and I didn’t even really make a plan. I just changed a little bit at a time and I kept making minor adjustments until the new pattern worked better. I have let go of my old morning routine and I think it is safe to say no one around here misses it.

Bottom line is change is hard, even change that creates something better or grander or more spectacular. Anytime you let go of something you are really saying “this no longer works for me” and that is a scary thing to admit. You risk your sanity, your happiness, and sometimes your relationships with others when you make the leap of faith involved in letting go. I think letting go of patterns can be easy because you can do it just a little bit at a time, see how it feels, marinate in it if  you need to before adopting it as a new pattern. If you do it slowly enough, you probably won’t even notice the growing pains involved in changing your core life patterns. The balance is taking your time and massaging the details around to fit but not going so slowly that you really aren’t making progress and you slip back into the old pattern. Or worse you make abrupt changes and you can’t stick with them because your hardwiring never had a chance to catch up.

There is a lot of peace and contentment to be found with letting go of useless patterns. Things you probably don’t even think about or take for granted that it is just “the way things are” can have a profound effect on your mood, your happiness, and your life. If you are stuck in a pattern that isn’t working for you, maybe never did work for you, I encourage you to adjust the pattern until a new one fits. After all, my husband can’t be wrong! (or so he tells me)