Resilience

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Lately I’ve been feeling very resilient, like I’m bouncing back from everything that has ever gone wrong in my life … finally!  I spent many years of feeling like I was in a downward spiral, dealing with a variety of situations and some people dragging me down.  A few years ago, I started feeling like I was making my way back up, slowly but surely.

It all began when I took advantage of a particular volunteer opportunity, which enabled me to feel like I was making an important difference and also surround myself with more people who were giving me positive feedback and positive interactions. Feeling like my contributions were valued and appreciated made a big difference, since I wasn’t getting that at home.  My confidence grew, and my attitude about a lot of things started to change as a result.  I began focusing on any positives for which I could be grateful, finding happiness from within, and doing things for me that made me feel happy and emotionally full.  There were plenty of days that was pretty challenging, but I was always able to find something positive that I could reflect on at the end of the day.  Little by little, I began to feel like things were turning around for me.

Now, things seem to have kicked into high gear and are changing rapidly for the better, partly due to circumstances that have changed and partly due to my improved outlook.  Everything seems to be falling into place.  It took a whole lot of patience and perseverance, but it was worth it to feel like I do now.  I am definitely a stronger person than I was a few years ago and feel like I could bounce back from anything at this point because I am much more willing and able to adjust to changes that are out of my control, make changes myself, and take risks.  My confidence level has something to do with that, too.  I know I need to make life happen the way I want it to, rather than wait for it to happen.

If “a diamond is just a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well”, then no wonder I feel like I am sparkling sometimes lately.  I certainly have had my fair share of stress!  I haven’t always dealt with it very well, but I am working on that.

I certainly hope anyone reading this either has felt or will feel the same sense of resilience I am feeling right now.  It feels great, especially after having had to wait for so long to experience it.  It started with something small and eventually snowballed. So if you haven’t, find something, anything, that will make you feel a little better about yourself or your environment, even if it involves a little effort to make it happen, and see where it takes you.   And have faith that someday you will look back and be grateful that you fell, so to speak, because you will feel stronger than ever when you get back up.

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Taking Risks

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This is so true, but it’s something we sometimes need to remind ourselves and each other.  Nothing in life is ever perfect, so if we are always waiting for the exact right time to do or say something, it may never come.  And if we are always waiting until we are certain of a particular outcome or how someone else is thinking or feeling, we may lose out as well.  There are countless other things like job opportunities and fun adventures that could pass us right by while we are waiting until a better time.  Life is a whole lot shorter than we think it is though, so the time is now.

I am speaking to myself as much as anyone reading this.  It is difficult sometimes to think beyond what we need to accomplish in a day, get out of our comfort zone, and have the confidence to try something new or maybe something we haven’t done in a long time or take a chance on something or someone. But if we don’t, we may regret not doing so down the road.  Sometimes it’s fear of change, fear of failure, or fear of the unknown that gets in our way.  Other times it may be lack of confidence or experience or any number of other things.  Whatever it is, we need to find the inspiration or motivation to get past those negative thoughts and push ourselves in the direction we would like to see ourselves.  We can’t just let life happen.  We need to make it happen.

It could be just a matter of a change in perspective that will help.  Instead of focusing on what we can’t or won’t be able to do, reminding ourselves of what we are capable of doing and surrounding ourselves with people who will back us up on those thoughts can be helpful.  Sometimes we just need to dig deep and muster up the courage to either take a few baby steps or a giant leap forward and not look back.

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Letting Go

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Often one of the most difficult things to do is letting go … letting go of fears, negative thoughts, pain from being hurt, the need to be in control, , the need to be right, expectations that things will be the way we want them to be, guilty feelings, the notion that others will change their ways because we want them to, negative feelings such as anger and disappointment, and plenty of other things.  Sometimes it’s difficult to let go of tangible objects too because they are sentimental and remind us of someone or something.  So in that case, letting go is difficult because we are trying to hold on to our past or our memories.

While letting go is not easy to do, sometimes it is harder not to.  But if we don’t, then all the things we are holding onto prevent us from moving forward or living in the moment because they weigh us down.  They can cause stress and frustration and prevent us from focusing on the positives, what’s really important in life, and what we need to do to make changes so that we can move on to bigger and better things.

Fear of change can be pretty powerful, but sometimes we just need a little push or to get to the point where we are willing to let go of whatever is holding us back.  For me, there seems to be a connection with getting rid of stuff I no longer need or that is cluttering up my house (or my brain) and wanting to make changes for the better.  It is both cleansing and motivating.  Sometimes the decluttering motivates me to make other changes, even if it’s just in my attitude about things, and sometimes my desire to make changes motivates me to purge.

There are plenty of things I would not ever want to let go of though, and those would be my dreams and hopes for what’s to come for myself and my kids; the important people in my life whom I cherish; the willingness to learn and grow to be a better person, to have an open mind and give people the benefit of the doubt, and to be kind and empathetic to others; and my desire to make a positive difference somehow. Maintaining a positive outlook is definitely easier once I consciously let go of all the negative thoughts and feelings.  It’s something I struggle with at times, but I am working on it.

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Making A Difference

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This is the time of year when most people are a little more conscious of what they can do to have a positive impact on the world around them. We think of ways we can be more giving, whether it’s through volunteering our time or donating money to a good cause. Some people make a conscious effort to think more about the things for which they can be grateful. Then there are those who might consider performing a random act of kindness.  It’s a typical time to do things like thank others who serve us such as people in the military by sending Christmas cards or care packages.

Beyond that, some people focus more on the smaller things that can have a positive impact like finding a way to put a smile on a stranger’s face, using words of affirmation with the people we love, surprising someone with a phone call, or anything along those lines. These are all things that can and should be done year round, of course, but for many people these things are not second nature and require conscious effort, which may be difficult to maintain. They can become second nature though if they are done often enough.

Just as important is to be conscious of how you might be NEGATIVELY impacting those around you and try NOT to do those things. One does not cancel out the other, so (hypothetically speaking) volunteering at a soup kitchen does not make up for speaking to others very condescendingly on a regular basis. All the little things add up, so whether we are making them positive or negative experiences can make a big difference. A day that involves having to park far away from a store because the only close parking spot had two shopping carts with garbage in them left there, people driving unsafely around me, multiple people being rude or impatient, and finding out someone lied to me is a lot different from one that involves a friend texting just to say they’re thinking about me, a stranger complimenting me on my coat, someone offering to return my cart to the store for me, and my kids thanking me more than usual for things I do for them or randomly giving me hugs or telling me they love me. At the end of the day I could be in a completely different mood.

So please take Jane Goodall’s advice and decide what kind of difference you want to make, and hopefully chose to make it a positive difference in any big or small way you can. A multitude of small things can have just as big of an impact as one big thing.

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Reaching Maturity vs. Being Mature

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There are numerous ways you can define maturity, but I really like this one.  That’s because it perfectly fits why the topic of maturity seems to keep finding its way into conversations about my family lately. I wish I could say it’s because I’m impressed with how mature everyone is or is becoming, but that is only partially true.

My two teenagers do continue to impress me with how they are thinking more along the lines adults would typically think, especially when it comes to how to handle certain situations.  Their behavior can still be somewhat immature at times, but their thought processes are changing.  They think about the big picture more and how their decisions affect others.  And they think less about their own needs now, at least some of the time.  They understand that they can’t have everything they want or need immediately, and they are conscious of their needs inconveniencing others. Continue reading