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.

Insurmountable Obstacles

Let me be honest for a moment, I made a goal this week, just like every other week since I started this journey in July. But by Tuesday it was clear the goal wasn’t going to happen. By Wednesday I had given up the dream of even writing about the goal, and this morning I gave up entirely and realized if I did manage to write about the goal then it would be like lying because I didn’t do it, I didn’t even start it, and I actually can’t even remember what it was. Ever have weeks like that?

The road to happiness or finding a more Zen like state is certainly one that is bound to be riddled with obstacles. Some of those obstacles we provide ourselves and others just happen. Those we provide ourselves fall under the intentional living I’ve been talking about all this time. They are part of our failure at choosing our own path and choosing how we define ourselves and how we interact with the world. If you fail to make those choices the path will always be filled with obstacles that are arbitrarily placed there as a result of your lack of choice. Trust me, not choosing your path is the same as saying I chose a path someone else wants me to have. This isn’t a wise move because no one knows you like you, and others will either make false assumptions about your journey or they will selfishly want your journey to coincide with theirs. No matter what the world has in store for  you, you will always be far better off making your own choices, living intentionally, and following your passion regardless of what the world thinks of this or you.

Then there are the obstacles that just happen. Things we really have little control over and more or less come out of the blue; a traffic accident, a health issue, a money crisis. It is hard to plan for or choose the unexpected. It is hard to “know” what will just happen so you can prepare and make alternate plans. These obstacles can lead you down a path you don’t want to follow and one that strays ridiculously far form the path you were intentionally trying to stay on. It is sort of like hiking through the forest on a path you choose, only to stumble on a giant tree across your path. In order to get around this tree you have to veer off to the side and sometimes that can mean a detour far beyond what you originally thought or could plan for, and before  you know it you are lost and can’t even see the tree you were trying to get around much less the path you wanted to be on.

I have one of those such obstacles in my life, and thus far I have been unsuccessful at figuring out how to avoid it, and I have been unsuccessful at finding or choosing the path that results in it not reoccurring. These kinds of obstacles are the most trying and the most annoying because it can feel like no matter what your efforts are, no matter how well-intentioned you are, it will be for nothing and you will feel defeated once again (I swear the feeling of defeat can sometimes be worse than the stupid obstacle itself). I think there are all kinds of examples of this, and if you have been following my journey, and making it your own all these months, you have no doubt found yourself faced with an obstacle you just couldn’t get around. Something bound and determined to make sure your choices in life had little value and your intentional identity could just  suck it- for lack of a nicer way to say it.

This week my obstacle told me loud and clear in a very definitive manner that I could just SUCK IT. Whatever my plans were, my goals, my dreams for the week, whatever intentional mindful, now moments I was certain would happen, could all just go take a flying leap off the nearest cliff- and I don’t mean in the fun adrenaline rush kind of way. This obstacle has me thinking about my belief that intentionally choosing a life and path, as well as an identity, that I can find the better life I am looking for. This obstacle makes me wonder if there is a limit to self-help, a limit to positive thinking, a limit to making changes and taking action. Maybe there are just some obstacles that you can never get over, around, or through?

I haven’t made up my mind about all of this yet. I imagine, knowing me, it will be a work in progress because I hate the idea of not being in control. I dislike the thought that I can’t just make something right with hard work and determination. I’m not asking for a magic wand, or a super drug. I have no problem working hard to achieve results, but that’s just it, I have been working hard to overcome my obstacle. I haven’t been sitting around whining about it or begging for the little pill; most people who know me probably have never heard me even talk about it. I have been actively searching for answers, I have dramatically changed my life and my habits. I have adopted new methods of living and eating and moving, and still the damn thing won’t go away. It is exhausting trying to out run this obstacle, it is exhausting hiding this from the people I love, it is even more exhausting to tell them and be unable to explain it sufficiently for them to truly understand it, it is exhausting to feel like I have run out of options. There are no more changes or choices for me to make. There are no more brushes with genius to be had, I have exhausted all the possibilities and tools in my personal tool box and I have come up empty.

No doubt I am a better person for this journey. No doubt I am healthier and my family will be healthier as a result of my intentional choices derived from this obstacle. No doubt I am living a richer more purposeful life because of the thing I can’t move past. I won’t say it has been a blessing, it hasn’t and I’d happily remove it if I could, but it has influenced my journey in a way that I would not have gone otherwise. A way that likely led me to my husband, my children and everything else that is good in my life. Maybe I would have gotten here anyway, maybe not. But I can go back in time and see, with pristine clarity, how my obstacle led to my choices that put me on the path I was on when I met Jay. I may not have known it at the time, and it all clings together loosely with a general appearance of being unrelated, but in the end I can easily tie it all back to the same damn thing, the same damn problem I have had for 16 years. But this week was different.

This is the first week that I finally realized the impact this obstacle has on my every day life and how much it has changed me and how little credit I gave it as I tried to be brave and fight it, hide it, or ignore it. Sounds ridiculous, 16 years and I am just now putting the pieces together? Well, denial is a powerful and dangerous tool we all carry in our toolbox. Sometimes it can be useful, but more often than not it just brings destruction. I used my denial to create a barrier around the obstacle hoping to quarantine it; hoping that somehow, someway I could stop it from influencing my life or my behavior. It was a foolish thing to do, and that is what I realized this week. Denying the obstacle was stupid, failing to recognize that my efforts hadn’t changed it, was ridiculous. Trying to be brave and sort this out on my own is no longer working. Refusing to share it and being afraid of judgment is not working.

Do you have those kinds of obstacles? Things you keep hidden and keep attacking alone? Things that keep coming back laughing at you? Things that you fear, not just because of the obstacle itself, but because of what it might mean or what others might think? How can we find true peace and contentment if we can’t kill the obstacles that influence us the most? I would love to hear what your obstacles are. I would love to hear your fight and what you have tried and succeeded or what failed miserably. Because I feel like I just recently opened my eyes and I can’t see enough fast enough. What are your seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Are they really? Have you exhausted all your options and possible choices? Please share. No really, please.

What I am reading: 3 different books because I can’t really stay focused this week. I highly doubt any of them are worth mentioning.

What I am listening to: On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

Inspirations from the ether: Dobermans never say die Must read/watch, and apparently, if you are a weeper, have a tissue handy. Someone has already called me a bitch for not warning her :) People can be terrible and cruel, and they can also be amazingly kind and generous.  

Now moment of the week: A 4 hour nap on Wednesday… don’t knock if you need it.

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!