Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

A New Year brings such promise! A new beginning! A chance to start over! Resolutions to be made! As a child, when I learned about making resolutions, I would make mine for the New Year and be so excited about doing something which seemed so grown-up. But just like most grown-ups, I didn’t keep them for long and then they were forgotten until the next New Year’s Eve rolled around and the process started over. During my young adult years I continued the process, with of course more serious resolutions, like losing weight, working out more, and promising myself to stop eating chocolate, but just as I had done as a child, I soon forgot my resolutions and was back to my old habits. I eventually decided resolutions were pointless and quit all together. However, around the time of my divorce, I decided that instead of making resolutions, I would set my goals for the year and what a difference this change of mind made for me. Setting goals became something real and concrete, unlike resolutions that were just unkept promises to myself.

After divorce, life can become so chaotic and feel so unsure that making resolutions just seems like another chore to accomplish and the last thing you want to think about, but now is not the time to languish in self pity. If you, like me, have found resolutions a waste of time, then think about setting goals for yourself and begin to decide what you want your life to look like now. I believe one reason we don’t allow ourselves to do this after divorce is there is a part of us that cannot believe it’s over, no matter how bad it was, and that to make plans brings a finality we might not want to acknowledge. However, the marriage is over. Wasting time is not going to change that fact. Are you going to languish or are you going to live?

Take some time over this long weekend to either make resolutions if those work for you, or to set some goals for the coming year. Maybe you want to find a new job, then set your goal on doing so and write out each step required to attain that new job. Or maybe getting the house in order is your goal. Whatever your major goals are for the year, map out the small step by step goals to help yourself achieve the overall pinnacle. Happiness comes from living your life with purpose. Make this year your best ever! Choose the happiness you deserve and go for it! Or maybe I should say GOAL for it! Happy New Year! (Tip: If goal setting is difficult for you, check out Brian Tracy’s Goals! How to Get Everything You Want-Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible. This is one of my highly recommended reads.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"I'll be home for Christmas!"

About twenty years ago, sitting by myself in an almost empty movie theatre, Christmas music played over the speakers. This was long before commercials blasted away preceding a movie. As I waited for the lights to dim and the previews to start, I could hear the conversation of two elderly ladies seated several rows behind me. I wasn't paying much attention until "I'll be home for Christmas" began playing and one of them said, "oh, this takes me back" and the other replied, "yes, yes! Me too!" Their conversation then went on about how they had been waiting for their brothers, and one for her husband during World War II when this song was written and played at Christmas time. My eyes filled with tears listening to their remembrances and to this day this song brings tears to my eyes.

Being "home" for Christmas is so important to each of us in a different way. Growing up in an Air Force family, "home" to my parents meant Missouri. We would often travel "home" for Christmas to spend time with my grandparents, spending part of the holiday with my mom's family and part with my dad's. In 1967 my father was stationed in Los Alamos, NM. It had already snowed twelve inches by the time we left Los Alamos after school that day and we made it only to Tucumcari, NM that night after hours of treacherous roads, the plan having been to go to Oklahoma City, we were disappointed to make it only this far, but we saw so many vehicles off the road, we felt lucky. The most striking sight I saw on that trip was a semi-truck turned over and all it's oranges spilled onto the side of the road in the snow. It was magical to me as a child of eight to see all that orange scattered across the snow. What should have been a two day trip turned into three, but we made it unscathed and my parents were relieved to be home, and my sisters and I were just excited for Christmas and cousins.

When the economy turned bad last year, Steve and I moved our belongings from our occasional apartment in Salem, OR which his company leased for us while there on business, but had to let go, back to our home in Memphis. We left there in four inches of snow and crept just in front of the worst of the storm across Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri and into Memphis. We so looked forward to being home for Christmas and arrived two days before our annual Christmas party, relieved to be safe. How grateful we were then to be able to celebrate with our friends and family and enjoy our time with them.

When our church worship leader did a special tribute for families this past Sunday and sang "I'll be home for Christmas," I started down this memory lane that I've shared with you and started thinking about "home" and all the different connotations it has for me. When you spend your childhood moving every few years, you soon realize home is where the heart is, where family abides, where those you love most in the world live. I do not have a childhood home, but I do not see this as a disadvantage. It has made my life better to know that relationships matter more than any material goods, that a house is just a house until you make it a home, and that regardless of the miles that separate us from those we love, our hearts are bound in love and thankfulness for the times we have spent together. My "home" now is where I abide with my husband in love.

I remember well the first Christmas after divorce when "home" felt so scattered, so undefinable, and well, depressing, but there was solace in knowing that regardless of the loss of this one relationship, I still had the love of my children, my family and friends and this is how I pulled myself through the holidays. I encourage you if this is your first Christmas divorced to cling to the other relationships in your life and look to all the love there and make peace with the love that is lost. "Home" is where love resides and if your heart can be filled with love for others, regardless of your divorce, then you will be home for Christmas.

Merry Christmas!
Choose Happiness!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas again?

When I was a little girl, I remember my mom saying almost every year as Christmas drew near, "I can't believe Christmas is already here again!" And I would roll my eyes and counter that it seemed like at least three years since it had been Christmas and how could she say such a thing! Funny, now I feel the same way. Time flies by so fast! And this has me thinking about what I do with my time.

I am reading The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan, the memoir of a woman, 37 years old, diagnosed with cancer. Time becomes everything when you are faced with possible death. The mother of two very young girls, she finds herself highly aware of the time she spends with them. The "what if this is it?" time that most of us are never made to face.

So my thoughts have really been concentrated on time, especially since I had that 50th birthday! I have been reminding myself to enjoy every day, find the little things to be thankful for each day, accomplish something worthwhile each day, and avoid wasting time. This doesn't mean filling our days with activity, but to make sure, whatever we are doing is meaningful and worthwhile. Reading, thinking, talking to family and friends, spending time together, and making my work time meaningful too.

Divorce can get the best of you though, and if you are not taking the time each day to make your day meaningful and choosing to be happy, days, months, or years can slip by and you will look back and realize "I have wasted so much precious time." Don't let this happen to you.

Take some time to write in your journal how you might make your time more meaningful. Are you spending time in front of the television or spending time with your kids, other family or friends? Are you angry and bitter at the world, or each day choosing happiness and grateful for just being alive!

Seek out those you love and spend some time together over this holiday season! Love your life! Choose happiness!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tis the season!

Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year! At least it can be, but for those just going through a divorce or in the aftermath of divorce, this can be the toughest time of the year. There is no way to sugarcoat the feelings you may be experiencing so you will have to find a way to deal with what may seem a very dark time. If you have children, then it becomes even that much more imperative. Their lives have been turned upside down, so helping them adjust and still find the Christmas spirit is important.

The temptation to not decorate may be great, but if you have always decorated for the holiday, then you must do it for yourself and for the children. One year, not long after my divorce, I was going to be out of town for much of the holiday season, but decided I still had to do something to give my home that Christmas feeling, so I decorated the hall tree with lights and stockings and greenery! It was beautiful and kept my spirits up until I could leave to be with friends and family.

Following a divorce, there may certainly be financial constraints. Turning this into a tirade about the other parent and how divorce has affected the finances is not healthy for anyone, so think of ways to put a positive spin on the situation. Maybe this year everyone has to make something for each other; or maybe you give gifts of service to each other. We all at times can get too caught up in the material world of Christmas, but finding creative ways to deal with the situation can make this the best time and give everyone the most fun they have experienced. In my book I talk about creating new rituals around the holiday. Everything has changed, and pretending that it hasn't won't make the changes go away, so come up with some new rituals to incorporate around the old rituals that may have become difficult to undertake or complete with your new situation.

If this is the first Christmas since the divorce, you will more than likely be splitting time with your children. This can be the toughest aspect, but preparing ahead by making plans on how to spend your time while the children are with their other parent is important. If you have other friends in your situation, make plans together. Maybe dinner in someone's home, or maybe a movie day. If you would rather be alone, that's fine too, as long as you have a plan for how to spend the day. It is too easy to get weepy and feel sorry for yourself if you are home alone with nothing to do but watch television, so clean out the attic, or your closet, maybe the garage, or read, bake for someone, work on a project you have been putting off, but no sad movies! Volunteering at a shelter or giving back to others is always a great way to lift your spirits and those of others.

Choosing happiness during the holidays may be tough, but with some creative planning and positive attitude, you may find this to be one of your happiest Christmas's ever!

Spend time in your journal this week planning and preparing for the holidays. What can you do to keep your spirits up? Which friends and family will help support and lift you up? Write about the feelings you have and then remember all you have to be grateful for this time of year and all year!