Saturday, December 27, 2014

Everyday Resolutions

2014 has been an eye opening, life altering year for me. Depending on your perspective, the events that have occurred could be seen as a devastating loss or a long overdue liberation. Marriage, in the best of circumstances, is a challenge. There is a daily responsibility to find a way to honor your partner while remaining true to yourself. When there is real love, we can find a way to overcome the greatest of obstacles. When one partner gives up, all the love in the universe won't save you. I had a partner who gave up. Whatever his reasons, there was no convincing him that he could possibly be wrong. And frankly, it had become too exhausting to keep trying to convince him. But this whole experience has taught me that if you have to work THAT hard, at convincing the person who has promised to love you forever, that you are worthy of love, he has already CHOSEN to believe otherwise...for whatever reason...or WHOMEVER.

I have no intention of using this space to whine about all the things I have lost, or how I have been hurt and betrayed. Instead, I plan to share with you all, the many amazing truths I have discovered in the midst of pain, anger and uncertainty. I have been truly blessed with a (mostly) supportive family, a few real life friends, and an amazing circle of "Facebook Friends", (with whom I am emotionally closer, and who understand and accept me better than anyone I have ever known), and on the days I struggle to hold it together, there is always someone to remind me of my true value. Their support has held me up in the moments when my own strength starts to fail me. But those moments of weakness have become few and far between. The older I get, the more at peace I feel with the person I have become. Every hardship, every failure, every betrayal, every pain...they have all led me to the person I have become...this survivor. 

A long time ago, I gave up on New Year's Resolutions. Not only are they usually unrealistic, but they tend to lead us to believe that if we fail, we have to wait until the next time the ball drops to make changes and improvements to our lives. I prefer to believe that we can make changes every minute, of every day. But I can't help but feel reflective as we wrap up another year...especially a year that has brought such monumental changes to my life. So here are some of the most valuable lessons I will take forward, into a brand new life, all of my own choosing:

1) If someone has said or done something to hurt me, it is my responsibility to let them know. It is my responsibility TO MYSELF, to stand up and say, "It's not OK to make me feel bad". I can't expect anyone to read my mind, any more than I can read theirs. (Even if I'm really good at it.)

2) I have the power to choose who is worthy of my time. As a mom, my kids are my top priority. They are my reason for breathing. They are the focus of most of my actions during the course of a day. I don't have the luxury of lots of free time, so if I have managed to devote any amount of time to someone who does not appreciate it, or who takes me for granted, I have the power to choose to NOT waste my time. It's just too precious. 

3) I DO NOT have the right to expect others to behave the way that I would. However "right" I may think I am, my "right" may not be EVERYONE'S "right". If I want people to respect my choices, I have to first respect theirs. 

4) I will be accountable for my own actions. I will not offer half-hearted apologies that start out "I'm sorry I hurt you, BUT..." There is no BUT. No matter what you have ever done to offend me, I can always choose to stand up for myself, and NOT behave in a way that is spiteful or vengeful. If I expect to raise responsible, courteous and kind children, I have to be the example. No excuses. 

5) I will NOT make excuses for my kids. I will help them to understand their own responsibility to, and consequences for their actions. Making excuses, ("Oh, he's just being nasty because he's tired and cranky..."), leads them to believe they can do whatever they want, or hurt whomever they want, as long as they have a good enough excuse. Whatever has happened to them, whatever has been said to them, I will make sure my kids know it is OK to stand up for themselves, but IT IS NEVER OK to treat people badly. NEVER. 

6) When I wake up in the morning, (after usually having very little sleep), and I feel the sadness of loss and failure creeping up my throat, I have the power to CHOOSE to feel happy. It's really that simple. It may not always FEEL that simple, but it is. I can sit and cry over whatever has NOT worked out the way I had hoped, or I can force a smile, (which has scientifically been proven to fool the brain into believing we are happy...), and steer the course of my day in the direction that keeps me feeling happy. My choice.

7) I will give careful thought to my words and my actions, and I will be confident in being myself. I WILL NOT change who I am, or "curb my enthusiasm" to comply with another person's expectations. 

8) I will NOT have unrealistic expectations. Expectations, in general, are the greatest killer of relationships. All relationships. Friends, siblings, romantic...they can all be derailed by expecting others to behave in a way that does not naturally occur to them. I will also NOT comply with the unrealistic expectations of others. I can be thoughtful, and kind, and make some compromises, but I WILL NOT be less than who I am to please others, any more than I expect others to be less than themselves. 

9) I will remember to say please and thank you. Especially when speaking to my kids. Telling my kids to use good manners is NOT as effective as SHOWING them the use of good manners. 

10) I will offer compliments to random strangers. I always felt it was thoughtful to tell people they do a good job when they do, and we all know how good it can make someone feel when we tell them they look nice, or we appreciate their choice in fashion. But until I began to compliment folks on a regular basis, I never realized how good it would make ME feel!!! So yes...for totally selfish reasons, I will compliment the people I encounter during the course of my day.  

11) I will not allow the pain of past failures to drown out my hope for what the future may hold. There is always hope. Always. 

12) When all else fails, and the day seems to be lost, I will dance. I'm just going to dance my way through it all. Crappy events and crappy people will not suck the music out of my soul...if I let them. Dancing always reminds me that even in the hardest times, we can always do SOMETHING to change how we feel in a given moment. I'm going to choose to dance. 

There are lots of reasons I should feel sad. There are lots of reasons I should feel angry. But those are NOT my only choices. Happy and dancing. That's how I will spend the rest of my life. Because I get to choose. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

And the acronym of the day is...

Being the mom of a severely autistic teenager, I have encountered lots of acronyms.  ASD, OCD, ADHD...there seems to be an abbreviated sequence of initials for every type of "disorder" on the planet. The "need for speed" texting etiquette also calls for universally accepted abbreviations...OMG, LOL, ROTFL, IDK, seems everywhere I look, there is some kind of shortened, commonly understood catch phrase.  So, when I volunteered to help edit my nephew's English report, I was intrigued enough to do a little research on the subject matter he chose: The Impact of Social Media on Society.  My nephew, (and most awesome Godchild on the planet), wrote about a new psychological phenomenon which is quickly becoming a  contributing factor in many cases of depression, especially among teens and those in their early twenties.  This new disorder is known as FOMO.  Fear Of Missing Out. 

Most of us are rapidly becoming those "always have your phone in your hand" kinds of people.  It starts as a means to keep us entertained, and quickly but very naturally, becomes an extension of who we are.  I was a late Facebook participant.  I swore, if I hadn't kept in touch with you over the last 25 years, I had no need to be in touch now.  (I was more wrong than I could have imagined, but that is a post for another day.)  Having rectified that situation and having modified my thinking on the matter DRASTICALLY, I realize just how important these social connections have become.  I started out connecting with people I already knew.  I added friends I had lost track of, and some who were actively searching for me.  I then started following some pages related to autism, because as any autism momma will tell you, no matter how much time you spend being with or talking to folks outside the "autism circle", NOBODY ELSE "GETS IT" quite like another autism momma.  I then started to follow some "mommy" pages, and added some pages that I followed just for laughs, (because GOD KNOWS we all need a few laughs!!).  I found myself checking my newsfeed more and more, because I enjoyed connecting with the "outside world", and I didn't want to miss anything.  FOMO.  It wasn't a debilitating need.  I could spend the day cleaning, running errands, carting my kids to wherever they had to be.  I have not had a need for medication to control my need to keep up with every post in my universe.  Yet.  But my FOMO disorder has led me to another acronym, that I hope will spread from here, and maybe bring a little comfort to others, who, like myself, are finding the majority of their social interaction taking place on a screen: JOFA...the Joy Of Feeling Accepted.

Through some of the pages I follow, I have become friends with a select few women with whom I have simply clicked. You know, the kind of bond that is unmistakeable and so completely natural, you wonder how it is possible you ever survived without this connection before.  There are quite a few of these new (and in my heart, always will be) friends.  They are from drastically different corners of the universe, live different lives, have such amazingly different stories, but the bond we all seem to share is the need to accept and support each other.  There is no judgement.  There is no ego.  There is nothing fake.  There are pure hearts, full of open acceptance of all the successes, the failures, the flaws, and everything in between.  We have never met, and maybe we never will, (although, when I win lotto, the private jet will pick them all up for the commune type vacation, complete with special needs nannies, we all so richly deserve), but they are my friends as deeply as if we had grown up together since preschool.  They have taken away my FOMO, and replaced it with my JOFA.

Let's face it...we all need to feel validated.  We all want to know that somewhere, someone agrees with our thinking, approves of our choices, and can somehow relate to whatever it is we may be experiencing at a given time.  We all need to know that we are not alone.  We all need to know that, no matter how many hateful cretins we may have to encounter, (or be married to), SOMEBODY thinks whatever we did, or thought or was okay, and maybe they even did or thought or felt it, too.  When I am sad, I need to know it was okay to feel sad, and someone will be there to watch Steel Magnolias with me and eat ice cream...even if only in cyberspace.  I need to know, when my son does something monumental, like finally asking for a tissue instead of wiping his nose on his pillow, I have my PEEPS to shake some pom poms with me.  So while social media may be keeping me from cleaning out the office, (AKA, "that room where we throw everything when people are coming over"), my cyberfriends are providing me with something that is so much more mentally and emotionally valuable than a perfectly organized extra room...they give me acceptance...a feeling of belonging that empowers me in a way I never imagined possible. 

So, while the Facebook "powers that be", in their esteemed wisdom, (or lack thereof), are purposefully, (with the greedy intention of extorting money from us), blocking some of us from reaching each other, there are simply some connections that are meant to be, and will transcend time, distance and Facebook blocking.  I imagine a "thank you, Facebook" is in order for initially providing the media.  And a deep and heartfelt "thank you", to my friends...who validate me every day, and remind me on the few occasions that I forget how valuable I truly am, that they will always have my back, and that every day, they will bring me my JOFA, and I can enjoy it with my java:)