New Years’ Resolutions – don’t make them!

It’s that time of year. We’ve over indulged in rich food and spirits, and under indulged in exercise and self-discipline. Our skinny jeans from September/October have made way for the one-size-fits-all stretchy leggings that shamefully give us unlimited room to expand….and we have.

So! We’re making a new years’ resolution to go on a diet, join a gym, and start a healthy way of living; in other words, do a complete 180! But are we being realistic, i.e., can we sustain this new lifestyle?

Those who do not pledge to change their health status make other resolutions. They’re going to create, and stick to, a new budget, or they’re going to commit to reading one book a week, or make a point of staying in touch with friends they’ve long neglected. Maybe they’ll take a course or  make a concentrated effort to stop biting their nails, or promise to call their mother every Sunday, and actually do it. Or not.

The reality of new years’ resolutions is that we seldom follow through. Our busy lives resume and old habits return because it’s easy, easier than effecting change. It’s not that we’re lazy, we’re just not ready. And it’s not that we don’t really want the proposed changes to our lives, rather it’s more a matter of having to impose them at a time when we’re not ready for them. Nobody likes to be told what to do, not even by our conscience.

The diet can start any day of the year. You can read a book anytime, if you want to. If your friends want to hear from you, they’ll take your call/email/text whenever it comes – even in June. And mom will always gratefully answer your call. So why do we put this pressure on ourselves? Is it a form of self-inflicted punishment for having over indulged throughout the holidays, and now we have to pay for our sins? Or maybe we just feel compelled to set new years’ resolutions because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Magazine ads and radio and tv commercials will all be focused on helping you start the new year off right by joining a gym, buying a new car or changing your career – in short implying that we all need improvement.

And maybe we do, but we need it on our terms because if we set unrealistic expectations and timelines on ourselves, we are guaranteed to fail and then we just spend the next 364 days spinning our wheels.

My best advice for new years’ resolutions is, don’t make one. Look deep within yourself. Make a pro/con list if you’re so inclined. List everything about yourself you love, then everything you’d like to ‘improve’ about yourself. Reread the pro list frequently so you don’t wallow in the list of your shortcomings because we are all our own worst critics (and you’re probably not in need of as much repair as you think).

Reflect on the things you accomplished throughout the year and look upon those you didn’t without urgency. They are next on your lifelong to-do list and will be addressed in order of need. You may find that over time that particular ‘need’ becomes less of a priority because if there’s one good thing about aging, it’s that we learn to see what’s really important, and in what order.

So ignore the ads that tell you you have to change. Take pride in everything you did right. Focus on the positives of your lifestyle. Integrate change gradually, and only when it feels right. Be proud of what you did accomplish this past year and embrace that feeling to give you the confidence to face that to-do list without pressure, and set no hard and fast timelines. Everything will come together when the time is right, and not before, and when it does, you’ll feel a stronger sense of accomplishment for having done it your way.

If you truly feel compelled to make a new years’ resolution let it be that you will be kinder to yourself  because you probably don’t need the new car, can’t realistically commit to the gym, or have no interest in higher education or reading. And that’s ok……but you should still call your mother.

I wish you a very happy, healthy, and stress-free New Year!

New Years Resolutions

The passing of Christmas

It’s Christmas morning and it’s eerily quiet all over the world. There’s no traffic, no hustle and bustle of commuters scrambling to get to work. For this one day of the year most are at home with loved ones, or preparing to receive them.

Within a few short hours all those presents you so painstakingly wrapped will be scattered around the room amidst mountains of paper, bows and ribbon. Parents prepare breakfast and children play with their new toys while Christmas carols play on the radio. For this one day each year we all forget our worries and relax with loved ones – all is well.

Within a few short hours the aroma of turkey will fill the air as we await our guests and if you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to, and equally dreading, the rich meal that awaits because we will inevitably overindulge, as we do every holiday. How can we not?

As I glance around the house, I recall the weeks of labour leading up to this day. The search for the perfect tree, the holiday baking, hanging the outdoor lights, securing the garland and stockings on the mantle, not to mention the hours and hours of shopping, sorting, and wrapping. The weekends in December are booked with holiday gatherings, exhaustive but jovial, because we all get caught up in the holiday spirit, and in a matter of 24 hours it’s all over. If we feel at all short changed by the speed with which this goes by, we don’t show it because the warmth of the holiday stays with us right through to the new year.

We grudgingly take down our tree, declaring it the best we’ve ever had, and next year we’ll say exactly the same thing. The turkey carcass is boiling in a big pot on the stove and we look forward to the simplicity of our next meal. The holiday chocolates and cookies are all but gone, and that’s ok, cause we’ve had enough. The gifts have been sorted, all the packaging disposed of, and our busy life returns, much to our dismay. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep this warm holiday feeling all year? Yes, it would, but we can’t, because like all good things, the holiday spirit too, must pass, and life in all its’ drudgery resumes. We will spend the next few months shoveling snow and dreaming of spring.

Let’s take a different view of the passing of Christmas this year. Maybe we leave the tree up a few days longer; spend a couple of evenings enjoying the twinkling lights – revel in the memories we forged over the past few days. Picture the happy faces of friends and loved ones we connected with – if you really try you can probably even hear their laughter. Forget the work and focus on the memories, and take comfort in the knowledge that you’ll have the chance to do it all again, after all, Christmas is only 364 days away……….. Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays

A Traditional Christmas?

The Christmas holiday starts earlier and ends later each year and while it is a much beloved celebration to many, we have to acknowledge that for some it is a difficult, lonely, and stressful time. Those who do not have family or loved ones to celebrate with have to plaster a smile on their face and pretend that all is right in the world. They are besieged with holiday salutations, holly jolly music, and shiny holiday decorations and advertisements; all reminders of what they do not have and I suspect it takes a very strong sole and generous heart to keep a stiff upper lip.

Long ago, before Christmas became the commercial event that it is, people celebrated the occasion more humbly. The gathering of family and friends was the celebration – gifts were not a part of the equation, not yet. Children played with the simplest of toys…..each other, elders would partake in libations toasting to the good of all mankind and peace in the world. Now we exhaust ourselves searching for the perfect gifts, spending far more than we should, and while we still indulge in copious amounts of ‘spirit’ it is no longer in tribute to any deity, rather it is to celebrate that we survived the season.

Modern day Christmas sees Santa arriving on a supersonic jet with any number of expensive digital toys for worthy little boys and girls. Mothers are expecting diamonds from Peoples Jewelers, and Dad’s sure to get that new workbench and table saw.

Traditional carols have been replaced with modern versions of Christmas music, some good, some total garbage. (I heard a Beach Boys song today, Little Saint Nick, that included the phrase ‘Christmas comes this time each year’ repeatedly throughout the song…yeah, there’s a genius lyric)

I was stunned to discover that rap too has found a place in the holiday music list, and while I respect that taste is a personal thing, I believe there is a time and place for everything, and rap holiday music is as welcome as a polka played by bagpipes. (It’s hard to envision Charles Dickens Carolers ‘getting down’ with Silent Night.)

Christmas movies have broadened the whole holiday story, but thankfully, remained true to the Christmas message, for the most part. Someone loses sight of the true meaning of Christmas, has an ‘encounter’ of some sort, then finds their ‘holiday spirit’, just in time for Santa’s arrival. (all variations of ‘Scrooge’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’) Are we tired yet?

Let’s take it back to simpler times. Listen to Bing Crosby croon White Christmas, or Burl Ives sing Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. Sit down with the kids and watch A Christmas Carol or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Bake some cookies, together. Reach out to someone you know who may be alone on the holidays – one more seat at the table costs nothing but means so much to another. Forgo the expensive gifts; set a limit for all to stick to – you may be surprised at how welcome and relieved they will be.

More importantly, remember why we are celebrating the holiday at all. Take pleasure in the company of friends and loved ones (even if you don’t like them very much) because the underlying message of this holiday is gratitude, love thy neighbor, and peace to all. If you are fortunate enough to be born into a loving family environment, lucky you. Share the wealth because everyone deserves love, and kindness, and happiness…especially at Christmas. Peace.

Joy to the world

Why don’t we listen…

….to the children? I heard a song on the radio this week, by this very title, and several hours later I became consciously aware of the lyrics replaying in my mind. The message was pure and simple, not unlike a child, and it got me to thinking.

Why can’t  we see the world through the eyes of our children? We are all born with a clean slate; innocence, love, kindness – these are every bit as accessible as to us as corruption, hate and indifference, so why can’t they prevail? Or rather, why don’t they?

Children are oblivious to race, colour, ethnicity, nor do they care. Another child is someone new to play with; a friend, first, because they do not know judgement. Not yet. They learn judgement, and hate, and greed, over a lifetime, from a society that too often breeds it. We are all sponges, absorbing our life experiences and processing the knowledge the way we are taught and depending on the environment in which we are raised, that teaching can often be negative, or even violent.

If a child sees another cry or hurt, they offer unabashed support. If they are victims of hurt their innocent cries can bring even the most hardened criminal to their knees. In short, they are an open book of emotions, pure and simple love. A child will never intentionally hurt another because they are born with the instinct to love their fellow man. It is life experiences that fashion their adult mindset and society plays a key role in this development.

Society today is overwrought, stressed, frustrated; just plain exhausted, and we need to reconnect to our inner child to reclaim our innocence. Sounds easier than it is because truth told, this kind of introspection requires a strong discipline, one many of us have long buried under the toils of living in an ego-driven and material world. The news is filled with acts of violence. Politics is riddled with corruption, and world leaders battle for power, not because it’s good for their people, more because it feeds their ego. Weapons of mass destruction dangle dangerously at the fingertips of those whose minds have seriously shifted priorities, and television is flooded with images of refugees and worldwide destitution. (Maybe I’m naïve, but I will never, EVER, understand the wisdom of war)  Is this the world our creator intended? No, we did this. (shame on us)

We need to restore balance because balance in our lives will restore a purpose in society, and a purpose in society will in turn restore unity, and unity will ultimately bring peace. We need to step away from the aspects of our life that are self-serving or power driven – they simply drain our energy and serve no purpose to mankind. We need to re-evaluate our personal priorities and focus on the things that bring us satisfaction and joy, pure joy…the kind you see on the innocent face of a child.

I would urge you to listen to the song “Why don’t we listen to the children” by Isla Grant, but more importantly, listen to the children because we have much to learn from them,,,,,,,,,,, and so much more to gain. Peace.

children playing.jpg


Coincidence, Chance, and Destiny

Coincidences – there aren’t any.  Ask Sigmund Freud. He maintained that the sub conscious mind precipitated the events we labeled as accidents or coincidence, ie, we wanted this to happen and thereby unconsciously made it so. Makes sense. I’d rather believe that than the notion that we wander aimlessly through life waiting for events to happen.

There are some who would say we are the makers of our own destiny, and I believe that to be true, to a point. Positive energy breeds positive outcomes…..but the outcomes may not necessarily be what you expected. Negative energy fosters a negative environment which in turn cannot help but result in negative outcomes. (here’s where the power of positive thinking really does come in to play)

We all have a purpose in this world; a path to walk, and there are certain things we are meant to accomplish. When and if, we stray from our path, destiny intervenes to get us back on track, by whatever means necessary.

That ‘random’ meeting in a grocery store that puts you in front of someone who prompts change in your life; a friend from the past who re-enters when you need them, a job opportunity – these are not ‘random’ at all. These are perfect examples of destiny (or your subconscious mind?)  redirecting us so that we fulfill our intended purpose in this life. Sometimes the coincidence  can even be interpreted as divine intervention because there’s no ‘logical’ way to explain it.

Many years ago, when I was a young mother I had an experience that got me thinking about destiny and chance meetings. I walked my 3 young children to school one morning and planned a long walk for myself through some local nature trails. I worked noon till 8pm those days so I had just enough time to get in my walk, shower, and get to work, and I was excited for the time alone outdoors. As I approached the entrance to the forest trails I noticed a young woman wandering aimlessly, looking quite lost. Typically I don’t engage strangers in conversation but something about this woman called out to me and I felt compelled to ask if she needed help.

Her speech was slow, almost dreamy, and she had an accent I couldn’t identify but she seemed harmless enough. She mentioned she was looking for a specific address where she was to commence employment as a maid. I recognized the street name right away and casually knew  the family that resided at the address, but as I started to give her directions I realized she wasn’t at all familiar with the area and likely wouldn’t find it. I thought longingly about my nature walk knowing if I walked her to where she needed to be I’d be too far from the entrance to the trail and wouldn’t have the time to get my much anticipated walk in. I felt compelled to help her find her way. I don’t know why – maybe it was the good samaritan in me but I grudgingly took her by the arm and started walking her in the opposite direction, away from the trails.

When I reached the corner of the street, I pointed out the house she was looking for as it was now within view. Satisfied I’d done my good deed for the day, I wished her well and turned to head home, still begrudging my lost walk. A few moments later I turned back to look in her direction only to see her walking quite confidently in the direction of where we first met, well away from the house she claimed she was heading to. Puzzled that someone would engage the aid of a stranger for no good reason, I glanced up again but she was gone, and I mean gone. There was no building into which she could’ve entered, nor was there any path or walkway she could’ve taken that wasn’t within view of me. I scanned the intersection but she was nowhere in sight. I thought the whole event odd but realizing I needed to hustle home to get ready for work, I put it out of my thoughts.

The next day I heard on the radio that a woman was viciously attacked the day before, on the very path I had planned to walk that morning. I knew by the description the victim was not the woman I met and I knew in my heart she was, in fact, my savior. Had I not met her and felt compelled to walk her to her destination, I would’ve been on that trail when the attack occurred.

Was it coincidence that I met this woman or was it divine intervention? Could it be the two are actually one and the same? I can’t answer that but I firmly believe that every encounter we experience is intended and serves a purpose. My meeting with this mysterious woman was not chance or coincidence. It was meant to keep me off those trails, that morning – it was destiny.

Since then I’ve made it a point to pay attention to the chance meetings or coincidences in my life and I’m very comforted to note the consistency of the outcomes. Everything happens for a reason and we need to consciously review the situation to find that reason. Follow your gut instinct. Take a closer look at your intuition and you may find there’s a correlation between those ‘messages’ and how your situation unfolds. Above all else, take comfort in the knowledge that we are not alone. Whether it’s coincidence, divine intervention or mere chance, we are guided by something/someone. We just need to pay attention to the signs and trust that they are intended to help us.

Further to my encounter with the mystery woman, a few days later when I was picking up my children from school, I met the woman who lived in the house she had been heading to for employment. I asked her how things were working out with her new cleaning lady and she looked at me, surprised and said, “I don’t have a cleaning lady, never did.”