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!

The Immaculate Deception

Immaculate :-adjective
1. free from spot or stain; spotlessly clean: immaculate linen.
2. free from moral blemish or impurity; pure; undefiled.
3. free from fault or flaw; free from errors:

Deception:–noun
1. the act of deceiving; the state of being deceived.
2. something that deceives or is intended to deceive; fraud; artifice.

White Lies. Immaculate Deception. Polar opposites.

So the stories we tell with the purest and most noble of intentions – aren’t they really just lies? Santa, the tooth fairy, Easter bunny…all things of fiction. Many of us lead our children to believe these lies for years. We even get all nostalgic and melancholy when our kids wise up (guilty as charged).

I struggled with the whole Santa thing. I almost didn’t participate in the grand facade. But then I remembered one magical Christmas. I loved believing in Santa as a kid. In my very dysfunctional situation, Santa was one of the highlights of my whole childhood, sadly enough.

So, somewhere along the line I decided it was better to let them believe – if even for awhile than not at all. But it wasn’t an easy decision.

Some people get so hung up in this whole “truth” aspect that they take away any kind of fun and whimsy out of life altogether. Sure…being honest about Santa upfront is being “truthful and respectful”, but are we really doing any favors by robbing our kids of some amazing fairy tale like memories?

We grow up and forget all about imagination, or entertaining ideas of the impossible, of fantasy.

What about Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell? I mean…where do you draw the line? How can you entertain “some” fiction, but not all?

I have heard two major questions come up around this topic:
1. Does this kind of story telling and make believe actually promote the idea of faith (in God) and trust (in people like parents) or does it destroy and damage it?
2. Does this kind of deception increase or promote the tendency for children to think it is ok to lie?

Or neither.

My ex husband was dead set against the idea of Santa. His parents didn’t lie to him about Santa and he wasn’t going to mess up his kids by lying to them either. At first I supported his position because, after all, I was undecided about the whole topic. I was torn between being honest or entertaining the idea of fantasy for my own children.

So at first I respected his decision to be completely honest and upfront with the girls about santa because I thought it was for the right reasons. But something didn’t add up. He was a star wars fanatic. Like to the point where he collected thousands of dollars worth of stuff.

Collections in and of themselves are not bad, but at some point it gets a little strange, honestly. Especially when this same person is so adamant about NOT entertaining the idea of fantasy in the area of Santa and such.

I eventually made the hard decision that Santa and Christmas trees were welcome. Despite our pagan rituals that threaten to send us all to hell, my girls are well aware of Jesus and all the details for each holiday. Welcoming gifts from make believe entities so far has not trumped their belief in God.

As for honesty and truth? My ex husband who was so adamant about honesty and truth had an affair on me for two years of our marriage including while I was pregnant, having our baby and nursing. Somethings just don’t add up folks.

This same man who was so narrow minded and controlling about entertaining the idea of a “jolly old soul” for the sake of being “honest, respectful and just” lived the most destructive path of lies possible!

As for his “faith” in a God that he wanted to ensure had front and center of every holiday? I don’t even know what to say about that one and it really isn’t my place to worry about it anymore, but he hasn’t stepped foot in a church for years (not that you have to be in church to believe in God), and the girls and I go regularly.

I am not trying to point out how unholy he is or how great I am. Church attendance does not equate to goodness. That is not even the point – I am simply saying that there appears to be no direct negative correlation between faith in God and believing in Santa, Easter bunnies, etc. or vice versa.

All I can really say is that it appears that people who are so extremely narrow minded and opinionated are actually just insecure in their own faith and who they are. The people that I know that are so threatened and offended by my Christmas tree are the same people whose faith is stuck in a very legalistic, limited perception of how awesome and loving God really is. They are so hung up on rules, judgement and laws that they don’t seem to have any concept or connection to “love”.

Christmas trees and Easter eggs are not the root of all evil. These kinds of white lies and entertaining the idea of fantasy are not going to send you directly to hell.

Destroying peoples lives, wrecking foundations of the family home, living a double life and lying to everyone you know for years about it…now THERE is some grounds for an uncomfortable situation of accountability in the judgement seat down the road. But even then, if you believe in a loving God…there is always grace and forgiveness.

If there is grace and forgiveness for something as big as infidelity and destruction of lives…don’t you think there might be some room for grace in this area of Santa too?

But again – this is just my perspective folks…and thankfully I am not the judge, nor do I care to be. I’m just blogging out my own observations here. I’m just saying…

So my conclusion is this: Faith, truth and honesty have nothing to do with whether or not you were duped into believing in Santa and Easter bunnies.

Apparently these qualities are something you are either born with or acquire along the way. We all have our choices in life to make. We can only be held responsible and accountable for our own personal decisions and thoughts, so whatever you decide for you children as far as Santa and his posse, do it with your heart, not for fear of judgement from others.

Because no matter which side of the fence you land on – you will have some explaining to do when your kids are ready to ask those questions. Whether you are defending why you chose to make believe in Santa or if you are defending why chose to not to. As long as you can stand by your choice with no regrets, you know you made the right choice.

Removing your own internal organs

When you go through a divorce with children the cliche phrase “It feels like my heart is being ripped out”, becomes more than just a dramatic statement. It is about the only way to accurately describe the manifestation of the pain you emotionally feel…but for me – I physically felt it. My heart physically hurt…my whole body hurt.

I even starved myself for awhile and I found out somewhere along the way that it wasn’t just because I was not hungry – but it dawned on me that I actually “liked” the pain of being hungry all the time because it kind of masked the pain in my heart!

In my case it was all so shocking. I had just had our daughter when I found out about the affair my husband had been having for a year and maybe more. Though we had not had the most stellar of marriages, I honestly did not see that coming. He was traveling excessively, I was a pregnant stay at home mom – and these situations can cause some stress on any marriage. We were finally having a baby together for heaven’s sake! For some odd reason I thought we were on the same team!

So when I found out about it and the way I found out about it (phone records and hotel receipts) I was in shock. I even fought to somehow overcome it and keep the marriage together, but he didn’t want that. He had already moved on.

It was completely bizarre to me. After all the professions of his love to me – I was the golden girl that got away. His childhood dream girl that he finally got to be with. The one he had been waiting, hoping and dreaming of his whole life. No…I really didn’t think he would so easily jump on board another train at such a critical time. Blah Blah Blah…

The shock and pain of a marriage dying and crumbling was bad enough…but there were children involved.

So to say my heart felt like it was being ripped out is kind of an understatement. More accurately – it felt like I was being asked to remove my own major internal organs. Reading over all the legal documentation and trying to work out visitation schedules – this is specifically where it felt like I was reading instructions from some foreign piece of paper and trying to slit open my body and figure out which organ is the right one to take out.

First of all – I never wanted the divorce and secondly – now I am being asked – “So which major holidays would you like to willingly give up your child for?” WHAT?!?! And the questions are asked with such coldness and ease – as if this were just the most normal question in the world. While my spouse is across the table acting like this IS the most normal thing in the world. OMG! My heart is racing, I feel like passing out…where is the door, some help…something!”

It felt like I was in some science fiction movie where nothing was making sense. I am being asked to decide or do something that I really shouldn’t be asked to EVER do! And everyone is just staring with normal expressions on their face handing me the pen, asking me to sign so nonchanlantly. I want to scream “I am being asked to sign something that says I willingly agree to NOT be with my lovies on certain days!! What kind of mom does that make me?!?!?! What kind of person does that make me?”

Can you just imagine someone handing you a knife and spinning a wheel with different internal organs to see which one it lands on and then ask you to go ahead and cut yourself open and hand that one over.

Maybe I am being ridiculous, but you moms and dads of the world out there try waking up to an empty house on Easter morning and see if I am really ridiculous. It is just not normal. It feels completely foreign. I am lost. Despite the joy that I am supposed to feel on this day, I feel like I am missing all the best parts of me.

And if any of you want to throw at me – “Just focus on what Easter is really about – Jesus”…Well I would ask you to think before you talk, because the irony of your statement reaches hypocrisy at an alarming rate. Because this holiday is so important to me and because I do love God and Jesus and all that – it makes it even a bit harder because that is also part of what I want to share with my girls who are not waking up in their beds this morning with their sweet little faces and voices and snuggles.

And yes – then there is the “pagan” rituals – like Easter egg hunts and little girls in beautiful spring dresses and bonnets. And though I took my little one to an egg hunt yesterday – I am still hearing the sounds of laughter and joy from other kids right outside my window – the neighbor kids that my girls should be right there mixed in with. It is kind of sad when a childrens laughter is actually a source of sadness.

Despite how much I have worked on buliding “me” back up and working towards restoration…this is the part that will probably never be OK. Not being with my children during important holidays that mean so much to me will probably never be “comfortable”.

I think I have talked a big talk and made it sound like it does get better in time. Maybe it does…I guess even people who have had internal organs actually removed can survive sometimes depending on the criticalness of the organ itself. But that person is never really the same. They are always missing that part of themselves.

I guess if anyone out there that is still married – if you have ever considered divorce as a simple option – or even a not so simple option – I would just encourage you to think about it. Are you ready to do a self inflicted surgery on yourself?

Happy Easter.

My Big Fat Dysfunctional (not greek) Thanksgiving

I had always dreamed of a huge family gathering at Thanksgiving. And I was sure that at my age I would be the host and everyone would be flocking to my house that would be so warm and inviting and all Martha Stewarty.

I came from two families that had awesome family gatherings. My mom’s Italian family and dad’s Germanic family – both had big family gatherings with lots of extended cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. I loved those kinds of events. I somehow just assumed that I would be carrying on that tradition and my house would be that “place” to be.

So, it is a bit shocking and potentially depressing when at this Thanksgiving the only family I will be celebrating with this year is my oldest daughter. Where did that close knit family go? Where have all those extended family members gone to on both sides of the family? Well…people die, and people move, and families just slowly disintegrate when you let them.

You start realizing just how amazing some people were…and how much difference one person can actually make. When I look back I see that there were really only a few key people that would “make” those family gatherings happen. When those people died…family gatherings just kind of fell to the wayside and all these extended family members have completely fallen out of touch. I have no idea where most of them even are anymore.

The harder part for me though in some ways is the fact that I won’t be seeing either of my parents or brother, and my youngest daughter will be with her dad and his family. Mom moved to NC and is recovering from a mental breakdown and a horrendous case of pneumonia. Dad and stepmom are already in SC for the winter with my sweet dog Zeke. And my brother, who is one of my favorite people in the world texted me to see what I was doing for TG, but failed to follow through and actually extend in invitation. So it is just me and my big girl this year. I would have considered traveling, but now that I am a working girl, that isn’t really even an option.

OK. Now…can I be frank here. Yes…I have a very dysfunctional family. Do we all feel better now? I know – we have some level of dysfunction – I am no different. So…I am just getting that out there. Yes…the fact that I will actually not see any of my family during either Thanksgiving or Christmas is a bit odd. But a lot more people are getting in this situation as families are spreading out across the country and globe and getting together is just not as easy as it used to be when everyone lived in the same zip code or at least state. The part that makes it all harder to deal with is that I am single. Really. That is what it comes down here, folks…single parents on holidays with no family around…is kind of a hard pill to swallow.

Last year was one of the hardest holiday seasons because I was still reeling from the separation and pending divorce. So this year, I am redefining what holidays really are and mean. I am actually so thankful and happy to be right where I am. I don’t have to work, worry, fret and stress out about having any hard to please personalities over for a huge ordeal that I put hours and days of effort into that will be over in a matter of moments. I just get to show up, with my rice crispies pumpkin patch and laugh and enjoy some of my favorite people in the world.

I will miss my funny, sweet 2 year old, but will have plenty of the remainder of the weekend for her to completely wear me out. She is just so funny at this stage of life. How I love the age of two and how I want to just eat her whole sometimes. It is such a fleeting stage where you long to kiss nearly every inch of them. How do two year olds ALWAYS smell so good?

Looking through new eyes, I am no longer looking at all that I don’t have. Ok…in honesty – I am trying very hard to not look at what I don’t have. I do still ache and wish for someone special to be with during these times. But here is what I DO have: I get to wake up on Thanksgiving Day with both of my girls. We are all healthy. We get to spend a slow morning getting ready and hanging out and hopefully get some snuggling in. Then my little one is off to visit with her dad and family while my big girl and I get to go visit some great friends…play, hang out and eat probably more food than we should. Because I won’t have my 2 year old, I will have the opportunity to actually talk, and be engaged rather than only partially listening and mostly distracted.

We will get to share the fun little rice crispies pumpkins that we made the night before. These have become our own little tradition. I started making them a few years ago and they have become a favorite thing each year now. And the next morning my big girl and I will partake in the craziest shopping day of the entire year. We are going small – we will only hit the local Kohls. I will be armed with my discount cards, and a 2 hour time limit. Then we will come home with hopefully a much needed pair of shoes for her and a few other little things here and there. Then we get to be reunited with ‘Little Bit’ and the world will be right again.

If we are lucky we will find another set of friends to visit – or just spend the day being together…snuggling up with a good movie and some popcorn, playing outside if it is nice…and just playing life by ear. But it is all our choice! We don’t have to compromise or feign excitement over someone else’s idea of fun on these days. We won’t disappoint or let anyone down. We just get to be. That is a pretty great gift right there!

Though I would still love to have that bustling house some day…it is just not meant to be this year. Next year my oldest will be old enough to actually help out at a soup kitchen and has an interest in it, so maybe we will plan on spending some portion of the day doing something like that next year. But this year…we are going to spend one more year healing…loving…redefining what our new traditions will be, and being truly thankful for all that we DO have. Because I realize that even if it is so very different than I had hoped or expected, I am still very, very blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to you – wherever you are, whomever you are with (or not) and whatever you are doing.