I have the unique perspective of going from living a life almost exclusively controlled by other people — to living an intentional and happy life of my own. Don’t get me wrong, life is still hectic. My children rule my day and my schedule. I’m no longer worried about keeping the water on, but financial stability is still something I worry about. Occasional there is still blended family drama. And there seems to always be something waiting around the corner. But the difference is me.
A recent visit to North Carolina reminded me how much of my daily life was controlled by decisions and thoughtlessness of other people. The skills I have fine tuned in a year of quiet served me well during my ten day trip. I’m realizing now that these skills will serve me for the rest of my life. I tucked these reminders in my pocket, and pulled them out when my throat started to close, my neck started to get hot, or I felt the smoke coming out of my ears. This is my New Year’s gift to you.
Resist the urge to react. That quote — Act, don’t react — is a great one. But I changed it a little. Instinct rules us, it’s natural to react to stressful situations. But it’s the urgency that screws us. Resisting a reaction, especially in the heat of the moment is almost always a better bet. When the moment is right to deliver a response, you’ll know it. And sometimes no response is better.
Say thank you. Here’s what I notice about people who are mean: No one appreciates them. Even if they don’t hear you say thank you, thinking it and feeling it makes you smile inside. Having someone treat you badly or be unkind? That’s just a learning experience, an opportunity to fine tune your coping skills, a chance to see someone for who they are and make decisions to eliminate them from your life. So say thank you. And move forward.
Breathe. Breathing does two things: it physically calms you and it gives you a moment to evaluate the situation. I realize now that I spent lots and lots of time subconsciously holding my breath. Also — sometimes if you let out a long sigh you get to let the person know that you are pretty much tired of listening to them. : )
Be present. Obviously planning is important. But if you spend all your time worrying about what might happen, or what happened before — you are NOT present. This is the most difficult thing for me to do. But after I take a long and cleansing breath, I think about where I am, what I’m doing, and that this moment will not last forever. My only choices are to enjoy it, learn from it, or tolerate it until it’s over.
Accept. There are things you cannot change. So cliche, but so true. I am a DO-er. I believe in the impossible. I am resilient, and patient, and I believe in hard work. I truly believe that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. But there are things and people and circumstances — that you cannot change. And sometimes the accomplishment is accepting that that is true.
A calm life suits me. I hope it suits you too. Happy New Year!