Maybe it has to do with weight, maybe paying off bills, or maybe you want to quit smoking, but it has become a tradition to make promises to oneself and others to change and improve somehow as the Gregorian (ex Julian) calendar comes to the end.
This year as customary, millions commit to one thing or another, which impetus usually fades sometime just before Valentine’s Day. Then once more we feel the pains of failure, and promise ourselves something or other during Lent, and if that doesn’t manifest we cross our fingers and promise that by Memorial Day, just in time for bikini season, we will reach our goal.
Now, that I am an official Golden Girl, mother, and grandmother, I look back at who I was at 16, 26, 36, 46, and feel much happier and satisfied with my life than I ever did. Therefore in reevaluating what actually has brought me the greatest joy, and with the experience of seeing others fail, suffer, lament, and regret I have noted the following decisions that seem to be common among successful people, and by success I mean “happiness”, whatever that means to each person, is success.
By forgiveness I do not mean you have to get up after being beaten by your husband and make him a sandwich. For heaven’s sake, forgiveness is not being a doormat. Forgiveness is about understanding everybody is walking their own path, with their own pains, frustrations, and mistakes. If it infringes upon your freedom and happiness, get out of the way! Stay away from danger in any form. Protect yourself first, then learn to let go of the past. Enjoy the happiness you have today. Happiness is food on the table, happiness is a puppy wagging its tail, happiness is a grandson asking to come over to spend the night, happiness is your husband reaching over with his leg under the blanket just to touch your leg.
2.) Service and Charity
When we actively participate in service or help others in one way or another, our souls take a great leap into the divine. It is not necessary to donate $10,000 to the Cancer Foundation, although that is noble and useful if you have it, you can be just as happy with going to a Cancer ward to pass out chocolate bars to the patients and nurses, or maybe writing a letter to your mother, visiting your grandparents, or calling someone to thank them for a time when they were there for you. Volunteering at a homeless shelter is wonderful, but offering to babysit a young couple’s baby or children for 3 hours so they can escape to a romantic dinner is also truly an act of charity. How about washing and vacuuming someone’s car? Or, volunteering to teach a cooking class to a group of boy scouts or girl scouts?
3.) Be a Screen
Nothing has been more challenging for me than this. Yet, it has blessed me with the greatest lessons. I use the “screen” metaphor because in being like a summer screen door, with a strong hard wood door behind us, we can visualize the purpose much easier. When life blows trash and debris our way, we can catch it and stop it from entering our spirit home, but the goodness, the clean breeze, the fresh air, can filter through and cleanse our insides with the lesson left behind. If life blows a job loss, we can retain the job experience, if life blows us a divorce, we can retain the life experience. If life blows us a death of a loved one, how sweeter is the appreciation for our living loved ones. Even in listening to the ill intended words of those that mean us harm, we can look at them as a wild North Wind that is meant to chill and freeze, but it is not meant for us personally, it is a wild North Wind, and will not change its nature, so when it starts to blow in, we can close the door behind us and let it breeze on by. Do not take it personally.
4.) Choose Health
I think the word diet is over used. Diet just means an eating regime. The Mesoamerican diet consists of corn, beans, fruits, vegetables, etc. That doesn’t mean they are on a permanent weight loss plan. So when choosing how to live, I choose to live a healthy lifestyle 90% of the time. Everyone knows it is probably not healthy to have chocolate cake followed by a deep red Cabernet for dinner. Therefore, it is an indulgence I allow myself maybe 3 times a year. The rest of the year, I choose healthy meals, drink plenty of water, get out in the sun to do something fun, walk, swim, bike, or go to the gym 2-3 times a week. I don’t beat myself up if I have a piece of bacon, and I don’t shy away from photographs because I’m not a size 6. I want my kids and grandkids to remember a happy me. I choose healthy habits because I don’t like to feel ill, lethargic, or weak. Healthy living makes me feel strong and positive. Just choose health!
5.) Keep a Piggy Bank
I believe that we need to put away a little something for a rainy day, but I’m not talking money alone. While I love the piggy bank idea, and I am a devout believer in having savings for later years, traveling, or for an unemployment stint, there is more to savings than money. I believe in investing in people. My piggy bank includes warm loving friends with whom I have shared hours of laughter and alongside whom I have cried my eyes out. Friendship and strong family ties are priceless investments. If you want to have a happy life, reach out to your friends and family, be there for them when they want to talk endless hours about their daughter’s cheer leading squad, or about how their son is the number one soccer player in the nation. Listen when they need a shoulder to cry on, and you do the same… cry on their shoulder, because it makes you human! Remember to call your loved ones on their birthday… put away coffers of love, and you will have a deep well of the same to drink from the rest of your life. Feed it with gratitude, and your investment can only grow. Cultivate gratitude for everything, the sun, the refrigerator, the pharmacist, and even toothpaste. It is the interest that will assure you eternal happiness. Keep your piggy bank full!
Happy New Year!