Timing Is Everything

If only I had a quarter for every time this thought has popped into my head over the years, especially recently. Sometimes it’s because of good timing, and sometimes not.

There are occasionally those days where things start going wrong, and they just keep piling up.  I have a near miss car accident, something around the house stops working right or breaks, my sink backs up, the kids are argumentative or throw at me some last minute plans that I have to accommodate, and so on.  I find myself asking why it all has to happen in one day.  I’m already frustrated from the first couple of events, so I don’t always react too well to the rest.  Each thing on separate days would be a little easier to swallow.  But then I find myself thinking at the end of the day that I’m glad it all happened in one day so that I can put it all behind me and move on, hopefully having a completely different kind of day the next day.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to have that happen.

Then there are the times where I am thankful for good timing.  Something good happens when I least expect it, and I find myself thinking, “Wow, just what I needed! Perfect timing!”  I might come upon some information at the right time to put it to good use, or I’ll have a conversation with one friend that coincidentally helps me with a particular situation.  Maybe a friend or relative will check in with me to see how I am doing, and it will be on a day when everything is going wrong.  The best example is meeting new people and feeling like they came into my life right at the right time. Sometimes I don’t always realize right away how good the timing is, but I get it eventually. The relationship I am in now is a perfect example of that.

Unfortunately, there were several years where it was pretty doom and gloom for me with more significant things going wrong all at the same time.  My kids were a major challenge, my marriage was falling apart, I was having various health issues, and so on. Those things were more long term and harder to put behind me and hope for a better tomorrow, especially dealing with all them at the same time.  Some of the time I could stay positive, but often it all got to me.  What helped was focusing on the things I could be grateful for, especially those little things that happened every so often that seemed to be good timing, like a friend checking in on me or my mom offering to help with something or just listen without offering any advice.  I think that’s why I tend to check in on my friends and family members pretty regularly because I know what a difference that has made in my life.

Life definitely has its ups and downs, and timing is sometimes not good at all for certain things.  Just when we think things can’t get any worse, it does.  We need those times to appreciate the better times, so it’s often a matter of perspective how we choose to look at situations and react to them.  We can’t always see that though while in the midst of the storm, whether it is a hurricane or passing shower.  But hopefully after it has passed, we can find the rainbow and appreciate the sunshine.  There’s never a bad time for those!

The Reason For Tragedy And Heartbreak

No one likes to experience either one of these or watch our friends and loves ones have to experience them either.  Whether it’s a tragic accident, an unforeseen break-up, a suicide attempt, some form of hardship, the death of loved one or favorite celebrity, or any number of other situations, these experiences can be painful, devastating, and gut-wrenching.  We sometimes ask ourselves all kinds of questions including why it had to happen or what we (or whoever else) did to deserve whatever happened.  Some people really struggle with the answers to these and other questions.

To me, these things are there as reminders for us of so many things…

  • that life is precious and fragile and can be taken away at an instant
  • that nothing and no one should be taken for granted
  • that we are stronger and more resilient than we think we are
  • that we can face our fears and overcome them
  • that change is sometimes a good thing
  • that the people and relationships in our lives are more important than things
  • that we need to continually remind our loved ones how much they are loved
  • that others may seem fine on the outside but are struggling on the inside
  • that we need to be kind and understanding to one another and really listen
  • that we shouldn’t sweat the little things
  • that sometimes our words and actions are more hurtful than we realize
  • that we should accept and celebrate our differences
  • that together we are stronger, and so on.

Most of all, I think they are reminders that we need to continually take a step back and be grateful for what we have, even if it’s not much.  There is always something positive we can find to be thankful for, and there are always so many people going through situations that are far worse than our own. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Of course, this is all easier to think about when we are not the person going through the particular tragedy or heartbreak or while we are not in the midst of it ourselves. We may never get over the pain or disappointment of the given circumstances, but hopefully at some point we can at least get to a place where we have a more positive perspective of why these things happen and what they were trying to teach or remind us.  I don’t think enough people stop and consciously think about and appreciate all the positives in their life. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t need so many reminders.

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Appreciating The Ordinary

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Lately, I have been making a special effort to notice and appreciate things that I normally wouldn’t … things that are everyday occurrences that we come to take for granted.  I have also been making an effort to look carefully at things I see so frequently that I often overlook, like all the photographs all over my house.

Last week, I was raking and noticed a tree root partially above ground that had three new green leaves growing from it.  It seemed a little out of place surrounded by a sea of yellow leaves that had already fallen to the ground.  I saw it as being symbolic of so many things … life is constantly evolving and is full of surprises, there is always hope for a new beginning, and so on. The week before that, I sat and watched a beautiful blue jay that was sitting on top of my hedges for a bit calling to other birds.  I found myself wondering what the bird was trying to convey. Sometimes I have discretely observed my kids doing their homework or something else that they do on a regular basis.  In the process, I noticed some things I hadn’t before, like how my one son runs his hands through his hair frequently while doing his homework and that he smiles when he understands what he is doing.  These are just a few of many examples I could share.

It’s too easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of life and lose track of what’s really important. Being more mindful of my surroundings has made me feel more appreciative of the little things that I often overlook.  It has also helped me not to be so lost in thought sometimes, which I tend to do.  My thoughts sometimes wander to thinking about the things in my life that I wish could be different than they are now. So not letting my mind wander helps me to be more in the “here and now” and think about all the positive things for which I am grateful.  I recently learned about how being grateful positively affects how well our brains function, which is always a plus!  I will continue to try to be more mindful of my surroundings and be thankful for even the most ordinary things, as it seems to be having a positive impact on me.  I hope you will do the same.

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Optimism

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It can be very challenging at times to be optimistic and positive, but it really can make a difference. Certainly, life throws us plenty of curve balls that get us feeling sad, angry, hurt, disrespected, disappointed, frustrated, and what have you, and it’s OK to feel all of those things.  What’s not good is to dwell on those negative feelings for too long, which is often easier said than done.

Not only is it not good for us physically to hold on to all that negativity, but it’s all too easy to let it affect other relationships and other aspects of our life.  Negativity at work can spill over into our home life and vice versa.  Anger towards our spouse can be deflected onto our kids.  Our view of ourselves and our success or productivity can be affected, too.  It’s very easy to fall into a rut of negativity, being critical of others, looking for things to go wrong, etc.  It does take conscious effort to be positive and optimistic when everything seems to be falling apart, but it can be done, and it definitely helps.  The power of positive thinking can be very strong.

Stopping to think about things for which you can be grateful is a good start, even if it is something small.  Coincidentally, I just bought a new wall hanging that has one of my favorite quotes on it … “There is always always always something to be thankful for.” For a while when I was in a pretty bad rut, before going to bed every night was writing down in a notebook at least one thing I was grateful for and one positive thing that happened that day.  It definitely helped.  Channeling any positive energy this might bring about can also help, especially if you can put it towards either doing something that makes you feel good (singing in the car always works for me) or doing something that would make someone else feel good (a random act of kindness, for example), which will in turn help you feel better.  Even smiling and laughing more can trick your brain in to feeling better.  Your brain will react the same way, even if you are fake laughing or just smiling for no reason whatsoever.  So don’t be afraid to give that a try. Finding ways to distress and let go of all the negative energy will certainly help as well.

Some people are naturally more optimistic than others, and I often wonder if they have a more positive outlook on life because things seem to be going well for them most of the time, or are things good for them BECAUSE they are so positive and optimistic.  Perhaps they become a magnet for attracting positive things and other positive people.  It can’t be just luck or coincidence.  I’m sure part of it is not waiting around for other people to make positive things happen and make them happy. They (we) try to be proactive not only with positive thinking but also in our actions, whether things are going well or not, maybe not all the time but as often as we can. It IS challenging at times, but it’s worth the effort.

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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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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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Having Hope

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It is really difficult to have a positive outlook on life when the negatives seem to outweigh the positives.  That’s where hope comes into play.  Sometimes the smallest amount of hope that something will improve, someone will see the light, something will happen the way I want it to, or someone will change their attitude can pull me through the most challenging of times, even when the chances of those things happening is pretty slim.

It’s so easy to slip into a downward spiral of negativity.  The more negative your thoughts and expectations are, the more negativity you are likely to experience. I have definitely found this to be true in the past where I would be thinking, “What more could go wrong?” while dwelling on all the negative things and people in my life. Invariably, something else would go wrong.  It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way, even though many of the things that happened were completely out of my control.  They probably just seemed worse because I was waiting for them to happen and then would overlook any positives because I was so busy dwelling on the negatives. Continue reading