Gratitude

During a month-long experiment to try to become a more positive person a few years ago, I identified lots of things worth being grateful for. I know that when I focus on the good things in my life I tend to have a better attitude, complain less, and be more generous with others.

This is not to say that giving attention to negative circumstances is wrong. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary so that wrong things can be made right again. Like complaining about a pain can cause a loved one to drag you to Urgent Care to address the problem. Or talking to your roommate or spouse about something you want to be different in your home or in your relationship brings up a desire you otherwise would have internalized and grown bitter about if you’d said nothing. Or writing to your senator about an important issue you feel isn’t getting enough attention (if enough constituents agree with you and do the same), may encourage the senator to prioritize it more. Sometimes giving attention to the negative things is just what is needed to make positive change.

But if we get so caught up in the wrong, the irritating, and the painful, we may miss out on some fantastic opportunities: things to celebrate and admire and draw energy from.

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Transitioning out of 2017

I’m not a big New Year’s Resolution enthusiast, but I love the coming of a new year with all its symbolism of rebirth and starting fresh. It’s a significant milestone or checkpoint—to look back on a whole year and reflect on what was good, what was hard, and what has changed since the beginning of it. It’s also a useful tool for evaluating what to carry over into a new year, what to discard, and what new themes to incorporate. This is much gentler and more flexible than a rigid “resolution” and therefore less likely to fail you in the long run.

A friend of mine asks God for a word for the coming year—to guide her spiritual journey and give her a focal point throughout the year to help her attend to her soul. My tradition is similar—asking God to help me categorize my year in a theme or two (for instance, 2016 was the year of waiting and of the unknown), then asking what God foresees the theme of my upcoming year to be. It gives me a good idea of what to look for and how to interpret events and my reactions to them.

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Talk Therapy

I think that we all could benefit from a little professional “talk therapy” in our lives. Some of us could benefit from more than a little. Here’s why:

We are more capable of loving ourselves and our loved ones when we at least know why we sometimes behave insecurely, erratically, defensively, or arrogantly. It’s even more effective when we take that knowledge and do the hard task of working through our shit.

We love our people. And we hurt them because of hang-ups in our distant and not-too-distant past. It’s usually not irreparable damage—the people we love tend to forgive if asked, sometimes even when they aren’t asked. But I’d rather be the kind of person who engages with my loved ones in healthy, helpful ways. If I can help it.

And sometimes our people are the ones who hurt us. Therapy teaches us how to handle the pain they cause us and how to form healthy boundaries so we stop enabling them to hurt us and others.

I don’t want to settle for the unhealthy patterns in my life. If you don’t either, I urge you to give therapy a try. Find someone you feel comfortable with, who accepts your worldview even if they don’t believe it themselves, and whose priority in your conversations is to help you find the ability to thrive in all areas of your life, including your relationships.

May you love well and be loved well.

Being Phlegmatic

A former supervisor-turned-dear friend once described me as someone who accommodates others day after day until reaching an unspoken limit where I can’t take it anymore. He said that’s when I “dig my heels in” and refuse to budge, catching everybody off guard because they had no idea I was accommodating that whole time since I seemed to be participating so willingly. I learned much later that this was classic Phlegmatic behavior.

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Confessions of a Grammar Nazi

Rarely does the wrong usage of the words “there”, “their”, and “they’re” pass my eye unnoticed. I learned the proper spellings of these homophones (among others) in middle school, and I prided myself on being able to use them correctly. I was genuinely confused that others couldn’t get them straight, and I found camaraderie with other Grammar Nazis who shared my passion for the proper spelling of such commonly used and confused words.

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Periodic Life Review

Every once in a while I reflect on where my life has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Retrospect can offer so much of what we need in life—joy, encouragement, lessons, rebukes. When Facebook throws memories at me from 1, 3, 5, or 8 years ago, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh or smile fondly, sometimes I get a little nostalgic and sad. It’s good for us to remember those things and to reflect on what has changed, what stayed the same, whether we’re happy about it, and whether we can do anything if we’re not.

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Personal Reflection of 2016

2016 began for me as the Year of “Maybe” and “Not Sure.” One of my family members didn’t know whether he’d get deployed overseas. Because of his uncertainty, another family member’s wedding plans were up in the air. I knew I’d soon be transitioning out of a job I’d held for 9 years, but didn’t yet have an exit date (or even an exit month), nor any idea what would replace it. My husband and I were debating whether we’d move out of the country to where his family is, or if we’d try for success in the US first.

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Gleaning

I get a lot of advise. Some of it is passive, like what I read in self-help and other non-fiction books with valuable life lessons. Other advise is more active, like people telling me specifically that I should try something they’re doing that they love.

A lot of it is good advise. But I’ve realized that the more advise I consume, the more overwhelmed I get. I’m on information overload. I cannot possibly follow every word of advise given to me by every author, every Ted-talk speaker, every pastor, every friend, and every family member. I don’t have enough brainpower, emotional capacity, or hours in a day.

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