3 Simple Secrets to a Happy New Year

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

Embrace the simple things in life. The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it.

If you are tired of making meaningless New Year’s Resolutions, or worse, making the same old ones every year and never living up to them…try something new this year.

Give yourself the gift of a new perspective.

I did 3 years ago and I am happier, more thankful, and less restless than I have ever been in my entire life.

Here are the 3 simple things that changed my life:

1. Acceptance
Accept that you are who you are, and your life is what it is. Also, accept your friends and family for who they are (hint – you can’t change them anyway).

You are who you are. If you are not happy with that, dig a little deeper to figure out why. There is usually a good reason. Comparing yourself to others is one of the number one reasons people are not happy with who they are. So, you are not the cover girl of a magazine. Do you sit there and compare your friends or family to things like that? Do you pick them apart like you do yourself? Just stop!

Stop comparing yourself to other people – what they look like, what they wear, how they live, what they have, and even what they think of you (or more accurately – what YOU think they think of you – because you are probably wrong anyway). Accept you for you and move on. You are actually pretty freaking great, if only you would stop looking everywhere else for yourself.

Your life is what it is. Get over the fact that your life may be harder than someone else’s, or that you feel you were dealt a losing hand in life. If you can read this, you are not blind, you have technology, and chances are – honestly you are doing pretty ok. So stop comparing your life to that of reality TV shows…because that is NOT reality.

If you are truly unhappy with your lot in life, the great news is that you actually can make some intentional choices to influence and change some of the circumstances if you are truly that unhappy. One of the easiest and biggest changes you can make is accepting your lot in life and learning to be ok with it. Instead of hounding yourself for bad choices, or mistakes or focusing on how your life is not what you thought it would be…just accept it. Then figure out ways to embrace it.

For example. I found myself at a place in life where I had TWO failed marriages! Not just one…TWO! And it got even messier because I had one child with each husband! People…this is a devastating place to be and looks bad on paper…sounds bad when trying to explain it. It is just pretty ugly. How could I ever just accept this and crazier…EMBRACE IT?!?

I had to accept it. Plain and simple. I had to get over the judgment from myself and others. I had to just quietly say…ok. This is what it is. It is not what I had pictured for my life and for my girls, but life happens. It was not easy. It took years and intention to come to a peaceful acceptance, but I can honestly say now that if anyone has an issue with my past or my situation…it is THEIR issue – not MINE! That is incredibly freeing!

Lastly – accept others for who they are. You cannot change other people. I can’t change you by you reading this. You have to make a conscious decision to want to change. So it is with others. You have to accept people at face value for who they are and be very honest about it. Don’t get in relationships thinking you are going to change someone. Don’t think you can change how your relatives live or think. You have to just accept them.

Just because you accept them doesn’t mean you have to like everything they do or who they are or how they treat you or others. It just means – wake up and accept the reality. Don’t feel bad for putting up healthy barriers if needed if their behaviors are unhealthy or a negative influence on you. Once you accept they are who they are – it allows you disengage a little bit and realize their actions are not your responsibility.

They may still drive you nuts – and that in itself just is what it is. You know they drive you crazy, you know their antics…just accept it. This too is very freeing. It makes you kind of just sit back and enjoy the ride a little more instead of erroneously thinking or believing that you can change anyone else.

2 Forgiveness
Forgive yourself and forgive others.

By the way – I put forgiveness after acceptance for a reason. You can’t even get to forgiveness until you honestly master acceptance.

Forgiving myself: I thought that forgiving others would be easier than forgiving myself, but I found out that we are inherently very selfish and ego driven. Even the most humble of us. We have our wounds and we lick them when we are hurt. So what I found, is that I actually had to forgive myself before honestly being able to forgive others.

It’s kind of like that whole airplane analogy. You know – “In case of pressure loss inside of the cabin, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before trying to help others”.

So that’s what I had to do. But strangely enough, I couldn’t forgive myself straight out.

I had to imagine myself as one of my own daughters. Yea…I know, sounds weird, stay with me here. I pictured my own daughters and how much I loved them and how I would never want them to beat themselves up over stuff. I want them to love themselves, thrive, and not be held down by the prison of forgiveness and resentment. So with that mental image, I had to realize I too was a child and that I too deserved forgiveness.

With that simple mental exercise I was not only able to forgive myself, but actually become an advocate for myself over time. Just as I want my own girls to be brave and strong and be able to stand up for themselves…I too had to do that, model that, be that. For me AND them.

Forgiving others: After I took some time to really forgive myself (because this takes work and intentional practice) I started choosing certain people that I would forgive.

And it’s not like I had to sit down with them and have some awkward conversation. In fact – I never even told them. I just forgave them! Because the real truth is that forgiveness is not for the other people…it’s for you! I had some big things to forgive. In my life I have been verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abused. It was a long, ugly list and it took some time. But once I was able to apply actual forgiveness, I felt an incredible burden lift from my shoulders. All the resentment, anger, and bitterness I had been carrying around for YEARS started giving way.

Forgiving someone does not condone what they have done. Let’s be very clear. Forgiveness just releases YOU from the prison of being controlled and handicapped by what they did. It’s your get out of jail free card! And you should keep it handy because this also takes practice. But I promise you will get the hang of it and will start to feel like water rippling down the back of a duck the more you do it.

3. Surrender
Surrender control and expectations.

And yes, I put this last for a reason. You can’t get to this point without mastering the other two.

I was what you could call a control freak. And the crazy thing is that I didn’t even know it! I was the passive aggressive type. I pretended to be humble, meek, a martyr really, and as if I didn’t have any mind of my own, choices of my own or control over anything. But the whole time, I had some hidden agenda of how I thought everything was SUPPOSED to be, and how everyone was supposed to act. It was pure hell.

I had to first accept I was doing this, then forgive myself for acting like that, and then STOP doing it.

Since I have been able to surrender control of everything that happens I have been incredibly peaceful. I guess it was a lot of weight on my shoulders running the world and all.

Life is crazy and unpredictable. People are imperfect. Crazy stuff happens and people are usually the cause of it. But how freeing it is to realize – none of it is really in your control! I was able to sit back and let life happen – and actually enjoy the phenomenal uncertainty of it! Control is a total illusion and I now laugh at people who think they have it.

This is not to say you are an aimless boat on an ocean…you can still have direction and purpose. In fact, you will probably have more after you let go of all the responsibilities of orchestrating every little move and predicting the outcome.

Simplicity:
I could have called this the 4 simple secrets, but Simplicity is the just the BONUS or outcome and result of applying these 3 principles so you can rejoice and embrace the simple things in life.  It’s like the little gift or reward that just happens after you do all the hard work above!!  The mundane and ordinary become extraordinary if you just look for it. Allow yourself to slow down. Now that you are not in a race against time or anyone else, or blinded by anger or depression, you can slow down a little, relax and see the beauty all around!

Life can be a beautiful ride, but it may take some perspective to find it. I can’t guarantee you will be a changed person if you can accomplish all these things because of course – that is up to YOU! However, I can only attest to the fact that these three things were life changers for me.

I am more thankful on a daily basis than ever. And I am still the same twice divorced girl that suffered all kinds of abuse and made some really dumb choices in my life so far, and will probably do more stupid stuff along the way. My life didn’t change as much as I changed how I saw and live my life.

I’m rooting for you in 2014! Take baby steps. This is like working out. You have to start small, and take it day by day. You will slip up and that’s ok. The more you practice these skills, the easier they will become.

Cheers to a new thankful, peaceful, happy you!

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Trees of December

december tree I drive by this tree everyday on my way to work. Covered in snow it is even more glorious. My whole family knows…that is my favorite little tree.

tree I drew this during a time of quiet reflection. If you click on the picture you can see the words Love, Hope and Faith hidden among the branches. All these things are there for the taking, but you have to be looking for them…intentionaly chasing after them.

The other day my youngest daughter (age 6) pipes up and says, “You know…a lot of people think bare trees in the winter are ugly, but I don’t. I think they are really pretty and interesting…especially with snow on them”.

Wow. She gets it already. I am not sure if I have influenced her by my frequent comments, drawing and photos of trees in the winter time. I am kinda fascinated with them.

Maybe because they are so paradoxical. So simple, yet so complicated. Simple silhouettes against a sky or sometimes a tangled mass of chaos.

Even more ironic is that I wrote a song years ago – and I am pretty sure she has never even heard the song, but in this case…the branches don’t fall far from the tree. The song pretty much sums up exactly how I feel about the whole subject.

Trees of December – ca. 2005

Autumn’s come and gone, all the trees are bare.
They reach their strong arms to the sky
But does anyone really care? Is anyone even there?
But they hold their ground…without a sound.
Just the wind blowing through their arms
And they wave so gracefully. They hold their mystery, for the time…

When the spring arrives and they show the glory of the work they’ve done
In the secrecy of the winter.
Just below the surface, the whole time they’ve been busy getting ready
For the splendor they’ll adorn.

Does anybody ever look at the trees in December?
Does anyone see the beauty they behold?
They hold their complicated branches reaching ever towards the gray dark sky.
Even in the dead of the winter.

So are you and I. More than meets the eye.
Underneath the surface we hold secret mysteries…love and injuries.
And we go down deep. More than what is seen.
Yet we fail to recognize our roots are intertwined. We act as if we’re blind…When we…

We judge other trees by their branches…and we cut the things we fear…
May cause trouble down the road.
We step back to see the damage we caused but it’s much too late
and cannot be undone.

Has anybody ever seen the trees in December?
Does anyone see the wisdom they reveal?
In all of their bare majesty we see their branches so clearly
But still, there’s so much below the surface.

Has anybody ever felt like a tree in December?
Screaming out with arms stretched open, wide?
Feeling so misunderstood, looking like some dead, gray wood
Yet still, so alive beneath the surface?