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When Life Disappoints
Five Ways to Beat Hardships in the New Year
I believe New Year resolutions were born out of a sense of quiet despair. When time is marked explosively as it is each year all over the world on January 1st, there is an inherent expectation to make and meet new goals. Everyone is programmed to take a hard look at their lives because time is of the essence and cannot be ignored. I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do go through a profound January reflection process. After hitting the holiday highs, reality comes back with a vengeance.
I am someone who is big on taking stock on the universal cues in my life. I know that things happen for a reason, and as of late, a few things have motivated me to be creative with their meanings. I never had a close relationship with my deceased father, but he does live on in me. I found an old picture of my father reading a Christmas book to my brother and me when we were toddlers. I searched for that same book on the internet and found it! As a collector’s item, it wasn’t cheap. When I opened the box, it was the wrong book. Also, a hearing on Indian land passed down from my father’s ancestors is scheduled at the end of January and it is dredging up many feelings and people from my past. As a child, I had no control over the complications of two blended families; so, why should not finding a positive symbol of my past, like the book, be any different? I thought I had put it all neatly behind, but there are obviously remnants of a difficult past still hanging around in my heart.
Our unique journey in life is not about the obstacles, it is about how we maneuver around those obstacles that define who we are. Here are five ways I clear my hurdles in this race called life.
Rely on family members you trust in a crisis. I am blessed to have my biggest cheerleader, my mother, by my side. She can turn any angst into a blessing by reminding me that hard knocks are really life lessons thrown in our path to make us stronger. For many of us, good friends also serve to give us unconditional love and support. The important thing to remember here is that you have the choice to take the next step away from the problem and move in a positive direction with positive people at your side.
Use your strengths to carry you through hard times. Whenever I face a personal crisis, I go right to my computer. Writing turns my worries into stories that I eventually enjoy creating. When I read back what I have written, I realize that the presenting problem is not as big as I initially built it up in my head. Artists paint; athletes move; dancers dance. Create your reality.
Don’t allow the blues to take over. Except for clinical depression and mental illnesses that require professional help, face your negative thoughts head-on. Wallow in what is making you feel bad and have a conversation with it. Write down this conversation and allow it to take on a new direction. Once you have it on paper, you have proof that you have processed your worries. Lastly, do something active to reset your brain. I put on a good movie and peddle away on my gym bike or I walk my dogs. Choose anything that gets you up and moving, and away from bad thoughts.
Volunteer in a local homeless shelter, hospital or pet sanctuary. I was a Candy Striper in high school. For three hours a week, I fed patients in the local hospital who couldn’t feed themselves. You bet I never worried about my life during those three hours. I worked with sick and dying children almost twenty years ago. That work led me to become a foster parent. When I taught high school, I started a homeless project that paired at-risk teens with homeless adults. Each week, I took a van of students to visit the homeless. The homeless adults taught the students what not to do in life. Deep connections were formed. When you help others, you forget about yourself.
Join groups that celebrate your passions. My writing and Spanish groups have given me new friends and new hope. It is so empowering to be around people who share your interests. I am not only a better writer and Spanish speaker, but the endorphins, those ‘feel good’ chemicals in the brain, take over and crush the blues. Use your internet search engines for finding local groups; you will be amazed at the resources.
In conclusion, you don’t need to make resolutions (you know you won’t keep) to feel better about yourself. Fighting the blues of heightened expectations is about taking steps to surround yourself with the people and projects that make you happy. Choose the things that make you uniquely you. Choose you.