Monday, December 26, 2011

Review of Resolution 2011: Love, Fear and Choices

Another year, another lesson.
I think I enjoy  New Years more than Christmas. I love reflecting on the course I'm on and having a chance to fine tune it. Makes me feel like the captain of a ship... a PIRATE SHIP. A pirate ship with 4 crazy loud parrots and a co-captain who lets me steer while he sleeps off the night shift. It is a good ship. We call it Lollipop.
Okay, I'm getting lost in my own day dream. Let's get back on course and I'll get back to that later when someone it telling me something important yet boring.
So, last year's resolution was LOVE. You can read about it and about the previous year's resolution (and the one before and the one before) HERE if you have nothing else going on.
When I chose my theme for the year I wasn't quite certain where it was going to take me but I was looking forward to finding out. It was an adventure and I learned many lessons along the way, some huge and some tiny and some that I have already forgotten because I am quite certain that my brain has reached it's maximum storage capability and the hard drive needs to be dumped. (I blame most of that on my need to watch every episode of Scrubs and That '70's Show all over again this year.) Let's focus on what I can remember, 'mkay?
Love is a choice.
There are lots of ways love is a choice. We choose who we love, we choose how to show others our love, we choose when to express love and when to repress it. 
There are choices in what kind of love we express too: Romantic, plutonic, parental, conditional and unconditional.
Of course we also have a choice in who and what we love... family, friends, neighbors, food, tv shows, inanimate objects (like my Kindle Fire... I REALLY love my precious), pets and even ourselves.
Yep, lots of choices. 
When you see all these choices you would think we would feel an overload of love in our lives. So many people to adore, so many ways! Yet, as I focused on LOVE this year I noticed something sad. 
Most of us feel very unloved. We feel afraid to show love to others and we often reject others who try to show it to us, not trusting their kindness. We separate ourselves from others if the love we want isn't exactly what we get (you know, like, "I want to be her friend and she WON'T be my friend! She is nice to me, but she isn't my best friend! I hate her!") We refuse to acknowledge love and we withhold it from others in order to gain power over them. We even refuse to love ourselves with the way we put ourselves down and refuse to accept ourselves as imperfect yet completely wonderful creatures.
What is the deal with that?
I had a conversations with someone about this very recently and I asked why people did this. She said a lot of things that made so much sense, but the one thing she said that has stuck with me is that there are two main paths people seem to take in life. The first is living with love. The second is living in fear. Most of us choose to live our lives afraid (you know, afraid of rejection, mockery, judgement etc) and when we are afraid we can't really love others or ourselves they way we ought to.
Today I read this quote and it rang so true with me:
Years ago while walking with a wise friend of mine, we passed one of his neighbors as he stood in the front yard of his home. My friend greeted the man with, "How are you, Bill? It's good to see you." To this greeting, Bill didn't even look up. He didn't even respond.
"He's an old grouch today, isn't he?" I snapped.
"Oh, he is always that way," my friend responded.
"Then why are you so friendly with him?" I asked.
"Why not?" Responded my mature friend. "Why should I let him decide how I am going to act?"
I hope I will never forget the lesson of that evening. The important word was "act." My friend acted toward people. Most of us react. At the time it was a strange attitude to me, because I was in grade school and following the practice of "if you speak to an acquaintance and he does not respond, that is the last time you have to bother," or "if someone shoves you on the playground, you shove him back."...
The perpetual reactor is an unhappy person. His center of personal conduct is not rooted within himself, where it belongs, but in the world about him. Some of us on occasion seem to be standing on the sidelines waiting for someone to hurt, ignore, or offend us. We are perpetual reactors. What a happy day it will be when we can replace hasty reaction with patience and purposeful action. -Marvin J. Ashton
Love is a choice.
We can act or react.
These two thoughts have been the keys in my resolution this year. 
I have the ability to not only choose who and how and when I show love to, I also have the ability to act in love instead of react.
I learned a lot about showing love to my family and I am afraid I have more work to go in that area. I improved, but I don't think that is an area that is ever "good enough". I have no desire to be a good enough wife or parent or sister or daughter etc. I want to be excellent at it. I'm happy with my progress, but I have some miles to go.
I learned so much about showing other people love too. I feel like I had some great moments. I realized that my weekly time volunteering for Bountiful Baskets  isn't just time to plunk produce in a bunch of baskets; it is my chance to serve my community  on a weekly basis and doing that for others not only makes me enjoy my community more, it makes me feel like I am making a difference where I live and that makes me so happy. In all the ways I serve others I realized it is more fun doing it with the true desire to express affection for those who we serve. It made so many things I do so much more meaningful for me and I hope I was able to convey that to those who serve with me.
I also realized that when others don't like me I can choose to focus on their negative feelings that may or may not be directed at me (sometimes we just have bad days and people who come in our path are unfortunately the recipients of those bad days, it isn't personal) or I can choose to overlook whatever is causing their potentially hurtful behavior and I can be sweet and kind to them. Who cares if someone doesn't like us? If we treat them with compassion and friendliness (when advisable... I will never think befriending an axe murderer is a good plan and boundaries can show love too. Another story for another day) anyhow, if we treat someone with compassion and friendliness and we genuinely mean it two things are going to happen in my experience.
1. We are going to feel a change in our heart towards them. If we had any crap feelings towards them they will lessen and quite possibly disappear altogether leaving nothing but warm fuzzy feelings that keeps us looking young and perky, makes us feel better about others and ourselves and I honestly believe will improve our health. (What? The warm fuzzies can't cure cancer? Says who? I believe happiness does a lot for our health so let me live in that wonderful world please!)
2. They are going to feel a change in their heart towards themselves and maybe even us. When you are kind to them they are going to quite possibly be confused at first. Then enraged as you are certainly messing with them. But, over time as you continue to treat them they way you hope they would treat you I bet their heart will soften. They will learn that you know they are a person of great worth and that feels good, especially when your perceived enemy feels that way. Over time as they feel those validating feelings they will realize that if you are treating them kindly that you must not be as evil as they thought and though they may never become your best friend, I know they will certainly treat you better, be it in person or behind your back. That is wonderful.
*I realize some people will say, "no way". That person will hate me forever. Okay, There are exceptions, you are right. You can choose to focus on them because those exceptions disprove what I'm saying and I get why that is a big deal. However, why not instead think long and hard about this angry, unkind person and feel bad for them. Not in that "I look down on you and pity you way", that is judgey and mean and totally not the way to think if you can help it. Look at their lives and really LOOK. Maybe they have a physical ailment or had a nasty divorce. Maybe their marriage is on the rocks or their children are going through some serious hardships. Perhaps they have a substance abuse issue or some other emotional disorder. If they are being that nasty mean to you, they are going through something rough, even if you can't see it. Think of the pain they are in that causes them to lash out at others who show them kindness and feel for them. Hope for their pain to be lifted. Pray for it if you are the praying sort. Whatever you do, don't give up on them because I promise, they NEED you to not give up.*
Finally, I learned that in order to truly love others, I had to love myself. I had to sit down and look at my strengths and my weaknesses and face them. I had to embrace all of it and while I still want to improve in areas where I am weak, (I am the worst housekeeper on earth. I am way too loud. I forget to be still and let others do things. I must stop eating candy late at night as it is a horrible habit and I always forget to brush my teeth at 2am.) I am loveable BECAUSE I am not perfect. My imperfections make me a work in process and make me someone worthy of help and love from others and especially from myself. I still beat myself up some days but I learned to give myself a few hours to be mad, then make a plan of action to improve or to sit down and reflect on the lesson I learned and then MOVE ON. Because love forgives. 
These are just a few lessons I learned this year. I could tell you so many more, but this post will become a novel and that would be way too boring. Besides, you need to learn something for yourselves about love. Please, even if you just do it for a week, try it out. 
Love is a choice, choose it. You can act in love or react in anger, hurt, insecurity. Choose to act.
Now for next year. I've been pondering this for a month now and I finally decided my goal. It isn't a one word goal but I'm okay with that. I think I can graduate to a sentence in 2012.
I'm going to walk by faith and not by fear.
I know some of you will think that sounds like a scripture and you are right. This scripture is pretty much it:
For we walk by faith, not by sight
(2 Corinthians 5: 7) 
But I actually got the idea from a song I have loved for years. 
Lyrics are HERE and a video of the song is HERE.
Remember that conversation I had with that friend who talked about people living one of two ways, love or fear? It inspired me. I plan to spend this year trusting that people are more often good than bad. I am going to hope for good things and when life doesnt' go exactly as planned I am going to find the positive in those situations. I'm going to trust that while I am not in total control of my life there is someone much wiser than me who is guiding me down a road with occasional potholes (or honey badgers holes if that amuses you. Yes, it amuses me) but this road is going someone awesome and I need to have faith in that. 
2012 is going to be a fantastic year, I can't wait.


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