Resolutions

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As the New Year approaches, the world begins to think of fresh starts, of new beginnings, of New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ve never been a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. From what I could see, most New Year’s Resolutions are broken within the first week or month. Legendary jokes are made about it. I certainly broke my resolutions – when I made them – pretty quickly.

But this year is different (do I hear laughter?). I think I better understand what resolutions are really about. It’s not necessarily about the success. It’s not really about being the most organized person on the planet. It’s not really about becoming a hard body. And it’s not really reaching an ideal of becoming whatever your idea of perfect is.

Resolutions are about the intentions. At some point, I realized that my youthful metabolism left me, and Cheetos and Coke were no longer a diet I could stick with…unless I wanted to keep putting weight on and buying new clothes. So I resolved to lose weight and get back to where I was when I was 25 years old. A bit of a stretch, given the fact that I was definitely well beyond that age.

It all started out fine…I tried to take a very sensible approach (again, being well beyond 25 years old). I began to exercise (a little) and started really paying attention to what I was eating. More fruits and vegetables and less (sniff) Cheetos. And it began to work. I lost weight and had to buy new clothes, in a smaller size this time. And then the resolution broke. And I leveled off, five pounds short of my goal, which left me angry and frustrated and sad.

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But then I thought more about it…while I didn’t reach the ultimate – and somewhat unattainable – goal, I did lose weight. And more importantly, I felt better…in fact, the best that I had in years…probably since I was 25 years old.

It made me realize that when we think of these resolutions, we often set the bar too high. When I started this blog, I set a goal to post twice a week…forever. Well, clearly that hasn’t worked out. But now my intention is to continue to post as often as I can. And that’s ok. I enjoy writing and so I will continue to do it whenever I can. But I’m to going to hold myself to an unattainable standard that simply adds pressure. There is enough pressure in my life on the things I have to do. I don’t want pressure to ruin the things I want to do.

So for those of you that want to set New Year’s Resolutions, I wish you strength and luck! For me, I am setting intentions to keep my weight, health and energy level as it is now, continue to write as much as I enjoy it and the muse moves me, and to enjoy as much of life as I can. And finish binge watching “Once Upon a Time.” After all, a girl’s got to have a goal.

 

Choices

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Life is all about choices.

Some choices are forced upon us. Say you have a disease that can be treated but the cure may be worse than the disease itself. Technically you have a choice, but in situations like this, the choice is often clear.

Some choices are made for us. If the government decides to pay for a new study – say a study of the health damage caused by peanut butter chip cookies – your tax dollars will pay for that, whether you believe peanut butter chip cookies have an inherent health risk or not. True, you have the option to protest or vote differently in the next election, but at the end of the day, somebody will get paid to outlaw peanut butter chip cookies, and you will have another choice to make: remain a law-abiding citizen or go to the black market for peanut butter chips.

Some choices can be strongly influenced by your friends. If your entire group of friends is going to a party, chances are that you will end up going too. Yes, you can absolutely choose not to go, if you are cool with hanging out alone Saturday night, binge-watching “New Girl” on Netflix.

But it’s the choices that you – and you alone – have to make that can be the most challenging. I’m not referring to “Do I wear my black shirt or blue tank top…” or “Should I paint the kitchen yellow or white?” kinds of choices. I’m talking about the bigger ones. The life-altering changes like, “Do I quit my job?” or “Should I leave my wife?” or “Should I have a child?” or “Should I pick up and move cross-country on a whim?”

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to make these decisions. Some people pray for answers, some people draw up lists of pros and cons, some people flip a coin. I personally am a “researcher.” I try to gather as much information as I possibly can, play out all the possible (and sometimes even the improbable) outcomes in my head, get input from those I trust on the topic, then make a considered decision, making what I think is the best choice, based on what I know at that time.

Sometimes I’m right; other times I’m wrong. And still other times – happily few and far between, thanks to a little luck – I’m REALLY wrong. But in the end, the challenge of choice is the price you pay for freedom. I’m glad that I have as many choices in life as I do, and I will live with the consequences, good and bad.

 

Be “Brave”

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I almost hate to do it, but I’m jumping on the “Brave” bandwagon.

But let me start with full disclosure…I have never seen the movie, and I don’t have the first clue as to the plot line. I hear good things about it, and even my daughter suggests – actually demands – that I see it as soon as possible.

While I’m sure the movie is great, it’s really the theme song that got me. “Brave” by Sara Barielles is really an amazing song. With an underlying military beat behind it, the lyrics are poignant to me right now. The song starts with:

You can be amazing…You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug.

I love this. As a writer (or at least a writer wannabe), I can appreciate using words as more than just a jumble of letters on a page.  s the chorus that really got me thinking.

But I wonder what would happen if you say what you wanna say and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.

Simple advice, but harder to put into practice. Think about all the times we tell Little White Lies. “Yes, I think that shirt looks great on you.” “No, I don’t think you have put on weight.” “Sure, I’d love to join you for dinner.” “No, I don’t think the purple hair is too much.” Even the most honest people will drop LWLs into conversation, unless they truly have no soul and enjoying hurting people’s feelings unnecessarily.

But this line really hit me in a more profound way recently. Being brave with myself. Being honest with myself on what it is I want out of life.

I think too often, we take the easier path, or even the smart path, rather than being brave and taking the road less traveled, the one that is rocky and slippery and frankly, dangerous.

I am dealing with a question right now. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have two choices. Take the safe path, the rational one in every sense of the word. This is the path that a grown up with responsibilities would take, especially an adult with other people depending on them. And adult who has to think not only in the moment but toward the future. But I fear this path could make me unhappy in the end.

The other path is pretty irrational. It is fraught with downside and could possibly prove too hard to survive. Okay, so maybe that is a bit dramatic but it is a choice that has inherent risks that could be insurmountable. Or simply prove too hard for me to overcome.

Unfortunately, I’m no closer to a decision, but I thank Sara Barielles for making me think about it and realize either path will require me to be brave and let the words fall out.

Maybe I need to see the movie. Maybe the plot will reveals the right choice to me. After all, wouldn’t be the first time animation has saved the day!

You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em

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I am not a gambler. But I find I am betting on long shots and playing the cards I’m dealt every single day.

I have nothing against gambling, but I generally don’t see the allure of throwing money away on a roll of the dice. I have friends who love to play Texas Hold’em and really enjoy it. I’ll play for chicken stakes if I need to but I just don’t enjoy it the way they do.

So I assumed that I wasn’t a gambler…or at least a good one. But I find that I gamble a little every day. Will my garden project work the way I want it to? Will that new recipe turn out the way I think it will? Let it ride…

The bigger pots bring scarier risks. Will this new short haircut look good on me? Will this new car last as long as the old one? Blow on the dice for me…

But it is the really big action that can do me in that scare me the most. Is this the right job for me? Should I try to start my own business? Is this the right life for me?

You can’t go through life without taking risks, and sometimes, you have to go all in. And while I’ll never be a whale, I’m taking more calculated risks, where the odds are a little in my favor. We all need to take more risks, whether it’s trusting in yourself, your loved ones, the fates, or even Lady Luck herself.

But pay attention: The signs are there if you know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.

 

Decisions, Decisions

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Decisions aren’t always easy.

As an NFL-level “Monday Morning Quarterback”, I often look back on my decisions and realize I chose poorly. Which then causes regrets.

I can’t lie; I find a number of decisions in my life regrettable. Some are small, like having a bad day simply because I chose to wear a shirt that ended up not comfortable or attractive on me. Some were larger, like deciding to attend one event when I should have chosen another one that turned out to be THE event of the year. Some even bigger, like accepting a job and discovering within literally the first hour that it wasn’t a good fit.

But through the years, I have learned that this process, ending with the regret, is enormously unproductive. Through a long maturing process, I can now see that I make decisions based on the best information that I have available at the time. And I’m comfortable that I make a concerted effort to gather all the data I can and get different perspectives to base my choices on.

Sadly, all too often, additional information comes to light later that would have definitely pushed me in another direction, but I have learned not to beat myself up about it. At that point, I simply focus on making the best of the situation.

In other words, I try to accept the things I cannot change, find the courage to change the things I can, and hope for the wisdom to know the difference.

Now I just need to decide what to have for breakfast…decisions, decisions…