The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is kind of a netherworld between regret over the past year and the exciting potential to begin anew. Time to mull over what worked and what didn’t, while you try and formulate the way forward into another year.
Maybe the past year was rough, maybe it didn’t live up to your expectations, maybe 2011 flew by and you didn’t lose the 20 pounds or get a better job or save as much money as you had hoped. The beauty is that we all get a mulligan; a do-over in 2012. Every year, every day for that matter, we can hit the re-set button and start again.
2011 was a better year for me than 2010; I made some personal progress in some areas that I felt that I needed to work on. I developed some new skills and hobbies. I let go of some stuff and I re-connected with some old friends. As we all must plot the way forward into 2012, my goals for the coming year include developing more humility and grace. I admire those traits so much in others and they don’t come easily to me.
You see, I have a tendency to evangelize. I try to bend people to my way of seeing or doing things. When I see the light, I want everyone to see that same light, to have that same epiphany that I’ve experienced. It’s my ego, mixed with an equal part of wanting people to be happier, less frazzled, less scattered. There are some philosophies and behaviors that I feel strongly about and I’m compelled to force them on others. No more.
What I’ve realized is that I can only control me; I can only impose my will or my beliefs or my knowledge or my epiphanies on me. Look, a lot of you have lived your lives this way for years. I’m usually a little late to the party, when it comes to self-realization and self-control. I got here through study, introspection, observation and finally, acceptance. People are gonna do, what people are gonna do, regardless of how I think they should behave.
The basic message of Christmas is what crystallized this for me: “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men”. Christians say they believe in Jesus as their personal savior; his message fills their hearts and their lives, yet many Christians seem to ignore what I believe is Jesus’ main message: 1. We are all sinners and 2. Love thy neighbor. I don’t study the Bible (that’s a whole other post, my friends), but I’ve read it and those two statements seem to distill it all down into a very simple premise that I intend to follow, even though Jesus is not my personal savior.
My no-nonsense husband put it this way: “God didn’t mean for it to be so complicated”. YESSSSSS! So, whether you are religious or a searcher, like me, it’s this: Take care of your own business and stay out of everyone else’s. We’re all flawed, messy humans and the only person that you can fix or control, is YOU. That’s it.
We can guide, we can teach, we can influence and then, we must accept. Simple. We make life complicated and frustrating when we list all of the things that we ‘wish’ other people would do: drive better, be more polite, go to church, don’t go to church, believe in God, don’t believe in God, vote differently, spend money, save money, raise your kids better, blah, blah, blah. Look, we’re all ‘that person’; you know, the imperfect one.
So, in 2012, I will work on me; I vow to stop bitching about everyone else because that takes away valuable time from my true work. I won’t worry about other people’s sexual orientation/diet/political views/spending habits/parenting skills/religion/work ethic. To paraphrase the J-man, who so many of you follow, “it’s time to worry about the plank in our own eye, dudes”. Simple? Yesssssssss!
Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids or maybe it’s because of the way my wonderful parents raised me, but Christmas doesn’t stress me out. I do very little shopping and my siblings and I agreed years ago that none of us ‘need’ anything and since we’re spread out from coast to coast, we all choose a charity and make a donation for Christmas, in lieu of gifts.
This year is no exception. I’m not anxious about Christmas, but I am disgusted and saddened and the funny thing is, I’m not a Christian. I’ve written quite a lot about my religious and spiritual journey (it’s on-going, by the way) and so Christmas is more of a secular holiday for me. I love the trappings of Christmas and I love the message of peace, love and charity that Christmas should inspire. Regardless of faith or lack thereof, who can argue with that message? Yet, I see very little of that spirit and an over abundance of greed, selfishness, materialism, bitching, complaining, ‘being stressed-out’. Where’s the peace and love?
People fight over parking spots, video games, toys, pajamas, canned hams, and cheap ornaments and then turn around and bitch about the ‘war on Christmas’, and how some retail outlets say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” as you swipe your credit card. WE are the war on Christmas, folks. It’s us. We’re “stressed out” because we are desperately trying to buy love, happiness and acceptance through shopping and wrapping.
Remember when you were a kid and the build-up to Christmas and Santa Claus and the PRESENTS was almost too much to bear? And remember how the day after Christmas was such a let-down? All that excitement about the stuff we were gonna get and then once we got it, even as kids, we realized that we were still the same person. Our lives were pretty much the same and there is so much other stuff out there that we didn’t get. Have we learned that lesson as grown-ups? No, ladies and gentlemen, we have not.
The dude whose birthday we’re celebrating would be shocked by our behavior. We spend something like $450 billion on Christmas each year and just imagine if we tithed 1/10th of that to charity. That would be a nice gift to honor Jesus and show some love to our fellow man.
So, as you’re rushing around, frantically trying to finish up your shopping at stores whose shelves are picked clean, reconsider your goal to buy more stuff for people who probably don’t need it. Think about someone who may be hungry, cold, or trapped in a war zone. Instead of buying something cheap and meaningless, show your love by making a donation to a worthy charity. You can do it online, while you relax in your jammies, rather than battling the last minute lines of ‘stressed out’ shoppers.
“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” isn’t just a line from Charlie Brown; it’s the essence of why we celebrate Christmas, regardless of your beliefs. Merry Christmas!
Let’s talk about money. I’ll go first: I like it, I’m for it and I want to collect as much as I can. I know this is a very unfashionable thing to say, but I’m past worrying about fashion. Here’s what I think; I think that most of you feel exactly the same way, but it would be unseemly or crass to say it out loud. It’s okay if you feel that way, because this post is aimed directly between your eyes.
I’ve always liked money and have always been quite the little saver from the time I was a kid, when I hoarded my allowance and couldn’t wait to put in my little bank every week. Every Christmas, I would get checks from a few relatives and I nagged my mom to take me to the bank, so I could deposit the money in my passbook savings account.
In junior high and high school, I saved not only my allowance, but all of the lunch money that my mom gave me, so that I could buy a tennis racket and a 10 speed Schwinn bicycle. I managed to talk my friends into buying me cookies and milk, while I saved my money, but that’s not the worst of it. In 9th grade, I would kiss Clayton Rice in the band room for a quarter, everyday! I look back on it now and am thankful that he never produced a $100 bill or my life may have taken a completely different turn. He became my actual boyfriend and so I lost that stream of revenue. It’s indecent to charge your boyfriend for, well, you know. By then, I was old enough to get a real job serving food for tips.
As a grown-up I’ve been completely happy to collect and nurture my money through hard work and discipline. Ever since my first post-college job, where I made all of $9000 a year, I’ve always set aside whatever I could afford, with every single paycheck. Eventually, I set a goal to save at least 10% of what I made. I married a man who shares my money style and over the years, we’ve scraped together a decent nest egg.
In this country, we’re accused of having ‘puritanical’ views on sex. I beg to differ; the current culture is absolutely INFUSED with sex, to the point where it’s actually kind of boring and fake and silly. Where we’re puritanical, is in talking about money. Go ahead, get with a group of people and start talking about money, I dare you. If you want to see people screaming and hyperventilating and calling you names, try to have a healthy conversation about money. Admitting that you earn a decent living, have invested smartly and want to have more money, is like unveiling pornography at Sunday school!
The current climate in our society encourages denial that money is important to you; to be suspicious or downright hostile toward wealth or success. What hypocrisy. I have YET to meet anyone who doesn’t wish for higher pay or more money. And yet, it’s fashionable to deny any interest in money and in my opinion, that’s not noble or hip or realistic. In fact, it’s flat-out stupid. I like to live in the real world where money is necessary to fund the basics in life. I prefer to have more than just the basics and have worked really hard to to make and save enough money to ensure that not only are our basic needs met, but that we can live comfortably and donate to worthy causes.
If you deny the importance of money or think it’s cool to ignore it, you’ll never have enough to meet and exceed those basic needs. In Deepak Chopra’s book, “Creating Affluence,” he said that money is like blood; it must flow, in order to create wealth in a society and wealth is good, if you hope to be gainfully employed. Notice I said “wealth is good”, not “greed is good”. There is a big difference. For those of you who are into the whole Law of Attraction philosophy, wealth can also be termed abundance.
So, let’s dig down to what money represents to me. First off, I equate it with security; I want to be able to pay may own way without outside help. When you rely on others to pay your way, there are ALWAYS strings attached. Keep this in mind, as we seem to be moving toward some other entity paying for our needs: strings, hassles and following THEIR rules, rather than your own. Secondly, money is freedom. Read the book, “Your Money or your Life” for a blueprint of how you can achieve financial freedom. If you have enough money put away, you are no longer beholden to others: your job, your family, the government (UGH!). You may think that’s out of your reach, but with proper discipline and planning, you can certainly move toward that goal, if it appeals to you.
Look, I’m not saying that money should supersede happiness or fulfillment. Don’t sell your soul for a piece of gold, but don’t feel awful about making it, growing it and yes, giving some away.
Dear Friends and Family:
Another year has passed and I hope this holiday season finds you well. As I write this, Junior our 1 year-old Jack Russell terrier is resting comfortably on the couch after a harrowing night of vomiting that had me scrambling for paper towels and carpet cleaner.
Junior joined the family about a year ago and his habit of eating anything that won’t eat him has certainly kept us on our toes in 2011. His diet includes wood, rocks, rubber flip-flops, whole rodents, styrofoam, bones, animal poop, and the latest, large amounts of wild bird seed. Apparently, bird food isn’t proper dog food. Who knew?
He’s blended into the family nicely and he and Chili are best buddies, when they’re not fighting.
The four of us (two dogs, two humans) squeezed into the SUV twice this past year and made the long road trip to Michigan, to visit my parents and family. The second trip was an epic 4000 mile test of our patience, that took us from Colorado to Battle Creek, Michigan and on up to northern Michigan to visit friends in Traverse City.
We then decided to take the northern route home; the furthest north we could get and still remain in the U.S. of A. So, we crossed the mighty Mackinac bridge and explored the Upper Peninsula of my home state of Michigan. Dee was glad to have me along to translate ‘yooper’ for him. After a couple of days, my response to everything was “yaaaaah, suuuuure”.
Back in colorful Colorado, we embarked on an expensive re-do of our leach field (for you city folk, that’s part of our septic system). The front yard was torn up for most of the summer, causing great concern for our neighbors, who stopped by regularly to inquire as to when we might cover the unsightly ditches in our yard.
Our health is good; in fact, I don’t think we’ve had one doctor visit this entire year, which Dee attributes to his new habit of popping a Flintstones vitamin every night before bed. I have been on bio-identical hormone treatment since last summer to smooth out the rough edges of peri-menopause and help me transition into old age in a far less shrew-like manner. Dee said he didn’t think there were enough hormones in the world to accomplish that.
As I write this, my beloved and beleagured Detroit Lions have a chance of making the playoffs this year, which proves to me during this wonderful holiday season, that miracles do indeed happen, although I’m pretty sure that it will only turn out to be a small case miracle as the rest of the season plays out.
We hope your year was as mundane and lacking in drama as ours and that you will embrace and enjoy this holiday season. Maybe next year, we’ll have something to brag about, like a new compact car or something. Oh, wait, 2012 is an election year…and we all know nothing gets done in an election year.
Jane and Demos