Sometimes you sit down at the keyboard, and the words just flow. Sometimes you sit down, and you feel like you are fighting for every idea. Sometimes, you plan all day to sit down to write your blog post ahead of time, and every time you do sit, something else takes your attention, or you finally sit down to write and it’s all a bunch of crap. That’s what happened to me this week. It’s my first blog post of the year, so I want it to be good. Ok, I want them all to be good, but there’s something about the first one that feels like it sets the tone for the year. We have a tradition in our marriage that my husband and I have dinner together on or around New Year’s Eve every year. The purpose of the dinner is to talk about the year that has passed and to set our intentions and direction for the next year. It includes discussions about finances, our health, our children and our home among other things. Some things require lists, like the items each of us would like to address with our home. This weekend that will include new weather stripping for our storm doors, new blinds in the office and a new showerhead in our main bathroom. Those things are mundane and yet they will each improve our lives in some way. We also talk about more fun things like travel, our son’s upcoming wedding, another son’s plans to co-op out of state and our youngest being a senior in high school in the fall. It gives us perspective and direction to have these dinners, and sometime shortly after that, we have a family meeting and talk about things with our children as well. We find that if the kids know we are saving for a trip, they are often more likely to remind us to save our money, even when we are looking to buy something for them. It’s pretty cool when the family is all heading the same direction and working toward the same goals, intentions or shared wants.
One of the most powerful life lessons I’ve learned is defining what you want. Now, I know people think they know what they want, but they tend to get a bit muddled in the process of figuring it out. The first thing that gets them muddled is focusing on what they don’t want. How many times have you heard a parent tell a child to stop running? When we tell someone to stop doing something, that person has to think of the undesired behavior before they can think of the desired behavior. What do you really want? You want your child to walk, so tell then to do that. Yes, you may still have to tell them dozens of times, but you turn them toward the desired behavior instead of the undesired. The same goes for how you talk to yourself. How many times have you made a list, only to beat yourself up mentally and emotionally because you didn’t complete it? How many times have you called yourself stupid or lazy or referred to yourself as an idiot either silently or out loud? Whose voice is that? Whose words are those? Listen to small children. They never talk about themselves that way. Someone has to teach them that, and if you can learn to belittle yourself, you can also learn to build yourself up. How does it feel to think about complimenting yourself and building yourself up? I first started doing this with an exercise that called for looking at yourself in the mirror and saying “I love you” to your reflection. I had never heard of anything so ridiculous in my life. I wondered what kind of egomaniac does such a thing? I couldn’t do it, but I could look at myself and criticize every little thing that I thought was wrong with me. I could criticize my physical features, who I thought I was and how stupid the exercise seemed. Isn’t it interesting how easily the negativity came and how difficult it was to simply say I loved myself? It seemed so wrong somehow, so I just smiled at myself instead and it helped. Not long after that, I read a quote by Marianne Williamson that said, “Our deepest fear is not that we’re inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we’re powerful beyond all measure.” It made me laugh because I had been told most of my life that I was too much for most people, so I had spent years toning myself down. That quote changed my life, not in that form, but when I read the rest of it, which I’ve included here.
It blew me away that I could actually shine and be proud of it. It empowered me to become who I am today, to blog, to write books and even to love who I am. You see, so many of us have learned to dismiss our talents and gifts instead of celebrating them, especially if we’re creative. We make something or write something and someone compliments us and we point out every way we could have done it better. Better yet, we say it was easier than they think or anyone could do it. Do you know what you do when you respond this way? You insult the person who complimented you. You insult yourself, and if you believe in a higher power, you insult the higher power and the talent bestowed upon you. One of the most difficult things I ever learned was to learn to say thank you when someone told me my work touched them in some way. The irony is that I write to share my perspective about life because what I look for every day is a way to live better, yet when people had their own epiphany, I would deflect their appreciation. How ridiculous is that? Please understand that I am not some egomaniac that thinks I have all the answers, but in the realm of gifts, writing happens to be one of mine. I write every day, and I am so very grateful for this particular gift but learning to accept praise for it was a struggle until I got clear about what I wanted from my writing, especially as it relates to the quote above. Who am I to belittle this gift and play small with it? So, I stopped. I decided that I would write books because I was inspired to do so. I would write blog posts about life and what I’ve learned. I would create Facebook pages that hopefully inspire people to live a little better every day and know that they aren’t alone when they don’t, and it has been revolutionary.
My writing has helped me meet people online and in person from around the country and around the world who have enriched my perspective in many ways. I haven’t seen the financial success that some writers and bloggers have, but I have been rewarded in so many meaningful ways that I am awestruck with the magnitude of it, and this year has even more in store. This year I will be traveling to meet some kindred spirits in the US and hopefully abroad. I will travel and write and spend time with people I have come to care about deeply. This, to me, is an incredible life, but there is more than these tangible blessings. When I was younger, I was a jealous person. Whenever someone got something I wanted, I could not be happy for them. I could only wish for my own success, and I’m sure that I was less than gracious at times. I’m not proud of that because it robbed us both of joy, but when I learned to celebrate my own life and gifts, I learned to appreciate the lives and gifts of others and to find real happiness in their success even if they got something I wanted. To me, the real power of Marianne Williamson’s quote is that allowing ourselves to be everything we are born to be empowers and encourages others to do the same. How amazing is that?
Earlier this week, a swastika was painted on a sign at a rabbinical school in my city. I thought about sharing a picture of it, but I refuse to give it any more power than it already has. As you can imagine, there were many reactions, but the one that disturbs me the most is the one that blamed the act on the current political situation in my country because this isn’t a new thing. Racism exists everywhere and has existed for thousands of years. Fear exists everywhere and has existed for even longer, but here’s what happened in my hometown. People took a stand against what happened. People called the school to ask what they could do to help, not just people who were Jewish, but even schoolchildren who lived near the school who were of other faiths. The outpouring of positive was much bigger than the act of hate, and children helped lead the way. I don’t know about you, but this is the world I want to live in. These are the people I want to know more about. This is the news I want to read and share with the world; a bad thing happened and this is how people responded. We have made the news about all the bad that happens in our communities and around the world. Yes, there are bad things, but there are so many working to overcome those things. What if we highlight them and instead of inducing fear and panic, we begin to nurture empowerment, innovation and inspiration? That’s the news I want to see. It’s the news I seek and know is out there, and it’s the world I want to help nurture.
I hope this year, you allow yourself to shine and look for the light in others. I hope you do what you can to make the world a better place and empower others to do the same. I hope you complain less and create more. I hope you judge less and love more. I hope you fear less and live more, and if you do or know anyone else who does, I want to know about it, so please share. Comment on the blog post. Send me a message on Facebook or post on my Where Karen Goes page. Let’s make this the year that we decide we want better and find ways to make it happen. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.