Category Archives: lessons learned

How to deal with uncertainty

Dealing with uncertainty isn’t my strong suit. In fact, I’m a compulsive worrier so an ambiguous future tends to leave me feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I like stability, or at least knowing the general direction my life is headed in. For the last several months, though, I’ve been operating in complete tandem to that notion. And then yesterday, I finally just realized the chaos isn’t going away. It is what it is…until it isn’t anymore. So for now, I have to learn to deal with uncertainty the best way I know how.

1) Embrace the chaos

I’ve quickly realized my downward spiral of emotions is typically because of my temptation to dwell on my current situation and then to become obsessive about what the future holds. Living in a constant state of uncertainty the last couple of months means I’ve literally imagined every doomsday scenario imaginable. I wonder about the unknown, I set goals for where I want to be in the future, and then when I’m not sure I’ll get there all hell breaks loose. I blame myself. I obsess. I ask, “Why me?” And in the end I feel more helpless and anxious than ever before. When I asked my intuitive reader what I can change about myself to make my life richer, she promptly told me to stop over analyzing and obsessing about everything. Be present and enjoy the moment. Life never goes the way we planned for it to go anyways. Take comfort in the fact that when things get really shitty, it often opens up new doors and opportunities. Hard times – the uncertain times – are humbling experiences that test our willpower and certainly present challenges. BUT with every challenge also comes opportunity. So, embrace the chaos and uncertainty. I promise you something positive will come out of your situation, even if you don’t believe it right now. On that note, though…

2) Make peace with time

…opportunities don’t always present themselves in a nicely wrapped gift box and they don’t always come when we want them to. I realize that anxious feelings are temporary and fleeting, that every moment of panic comes to an end and that I’m still okay in the end – whether it works in my favor or not.  I continue to remind myself to take deep breaths, that everything happens (or doesn’t happen) for a reason, and that my future goals aren’t a matter of “if” but when. It’s really hard not to be disheartened when things don’t go your way but you have to keep moving forward. I remind myself to be thankful for the little steps I’ve made along the way and for the opportunities that continue to present themselves, albeit in their own sweet time. Keep going, keep moving forward, and keep living (my third point!).

3) Don’t let limbo keep you from living your life

For the last two weeks, I’ve thrown a one-woman pity party. I really hadn’t done much of anything until a friend of mine drug me out of the house and took me on my first ever Fear Fest experience. And guess what? I had the greatest time. I decided amongst the zombies and scary creatures chasing me in the Forgotten Forest that instead of fretting about what may be ahead, I need to do something that makes me happy. Screaming bloody murder and nearly peeing my pants made me happy. And it made me laugh uncontrollably. So this week, amidst the uncertainty, I’ll still be living and doing all the things I love: cooking, reading, writing, playing with my dog, shaking my ass at Zumba, and doing downward dogs at hot yoga. Yes – uncertainty remains, but life goes on. And I have a really great life.

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Filed under happiness, lessons learned, personal growth, perspective, self, well-being

Ain’t that the truth!

In preparation for my impending quarter-life crisis, I decided to write a list of 25 life lessons learned. I enlisted the help of my cohort Liz and here I present to you my list of 25 life lessons learned entitled “Ain’t that the truth!” Here they are in no particular order:

1. Google has the answer to everything.
2. The one meaningful piece of advice Steve Harvey has given America is for women to not give up “the cookie” – or sex – until they’ve hit the three-month dating mark. I now embrace “the cookie” and it has made all the difference.
3. Sometimes you have to forget what you feel and remember what you deserve.
4. Contrary to my naive 20-year-old self, money does in fact matter.
5. Family isn’t always biological.
6. In life, sometimes you have to put your big girl panties on and get ‘er done!
7. You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy books. And that’s kind of the same thing.
8. Happiness is a choice; you can’t lead a positive life with a negative mind.
9. Never underestimate the power of a simple note just to say “hi” or “thank you”.
10. Spend money on making memories and experiences, not possessions.
11. Embrace solitude and take care of yourself first. Always.
12. Enjoy simple pleasures. A 32oz diet coke and a new bottle of nail polish work wonders for me.
13. UNO will bring out the worst in people. Side comment: I’ve become a HAWK in this game. No one, I mean NO ONE, will get away with switching out 6’s and 9’s on me.
14. Sometimes taking control is tackling a vat of chocolate chip cookie dough. To each her own.
15. The best jokes are the corny ones. “Even pacifists have the urge to “pass a fist” across someone’s face.” True life lesson here: all corny jokes are hilarious.
16. Water is the most essential element of life because without water you can’t make coffee.
17. I am well aware I’m not everyone’s cup of tea but I’d rather be someone’s shot of tequila anyways.
18. Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.
19. Fuck covers a range of emotions. Use it frequently.
20. You can’t change what you refuse to confront.
21. Well done is better than well said.
22. The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves.
23. An emergency on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part!
24. Oh, I don’t believe in holding grudges. I do, however, remember facts. Forever.
25. The best is yet to come…

We’ll see what life lessons the next few years bring…5 years to 30 (scarrry!)

 

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Filed under lessons learned, quarter-life crisis

5 ways to nurture your friendships

We’re halfway through January and while I’m no expert in the science of friendship, I’ve already learned and put into practice five action plans that have helped me to nurture and appreciate my friendships more (which also bring me lots of happiness) so I thought I would share with you all.

1. Say yes more than no. I am, self-admittedly, what I dub a “bailer.” I always say I’m going to meet someone (or a group of people) out and then I end up not showing up. Usually because I don’t want to get out of my comfy yoga pants and sweatshirt. Lame excuse, I know. What usually happens after constant bailing is that I don’t get as many invites to come hang with the crowd. Then at some point I start wailing, “Nobody ever invites me out anymore! I have no friends!” and self-deprecation ensues. This is not true by any stretch of the imagination but I at least recognize I do this which is why one of the actions I’ve put into practice this month is to say yes more than no – as much and as often as possible. I’ve found so far that the more I say yes the more likely I am to get an invite to the next shenanigan (not-so-surprisingly).

2. Reach out, follow through. While saying “yes more than no” means you’ll most likely get more invites to go out, it’s important to also be the one initiating contact and suggesting friend dates – and following through with said plans. If you have a friend you’ve been meaning to grab coffee or lunch with and you keep saying, “Let’s get together soon,” then do it. Stop wasting time! Carve out some free time – even if only for an hour – and set up a time to get together, chat on the phone, or have a Skype date. If your friend doesn’t follow through or cancels at the last minute, then follow back up and reschedule. I’ve found this month that the more I reach out to my friends and follow through with get-togethers the more likely they are to want to stay in frequent contact with me. Not only has my social interaction increased drastically in just a few short weeks – thereby adding happiness and fulfillment to it – I’ve actually gotten more invites to events. It’s a give and take: say yes more than no but spend equal time initiating the contact. Not only does it enrich your friendship experience, it makes both parties feel special and loved.

3. Give gratitude and lots of love. Show your appreciation for your friends by writing them (email is okay but handwritten notes are the best!) a special note congratulating them on that new job they just got, how much you enjoyed their company at the latest get together, or to just let them know how much you love them. Doing nice gestures like sending a heart-felt card shows your appreciation for the other person. Not only do you make your friends feel loved but in turn you feel more loving. Gretchen Rubin speaks to this in her book Happier at Home.

4. Capture memories. Most people capture memories through photographs, which are great – if you actually take photos! For me, I’ve learned the importance of capturing memories with my friends and the little details of my day-to-day life through other means than picture-taking, like writing stories and keeping a one-sentence journal for example. I have a not-so-great memory and as I get older I’ve recognized the importance of writing it all down – how it’s not only my way of processing events but my way of capturing their existence as well. For me, writing is how I honor those memories and ensure they’re never lost. Whatever you do – appreciate your friendships and the small details of your life in a way that works for you. One of my greatest treasures is my one-sentence journal which is not dedicated solely to my own musings. A lot of what I write down are conversations with friends, things that happened to them, their accomplishments, good times we have together. I value these memories immensely and writing them down has become a sort of memory book for myself.

5. Have a positive, optimistic vibe. Nothing is more draining than being around a drainer! So don’t be one. You will not be happy every day of your life but don’t let it become a regular occurrence either. If you’re not happy, recognize it and make the changes you need to so that you can start being happy. Better yet – talk about it with your friends and seek out their advice. One of the greatest compliments I received recently was from lifer Monica. Two weeks ago I spent the night at her house and we stayed up all night chatting about what we were doing with our lives, where we were going, etc. The next weekend at the potluck dinner she told me my positive vibe was so infectious that night that it prompted her to join some activities in the community. She so missed being around me because my positive vibe and zest for adventure inspires her to find her own niches and passions; it gives her the ability to recognize that she wants more and provides the motivation to get there. What better way is there to nurture a friendship than to inspire each other? Best compliment ever!!

Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your own tips and ideas for nurturing friendships.

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Birthday wishes

I have learned in life that biology has little to do with who your Dad is and more to do with the person who is always there to support you and pick you up when you’re down. I am lucky enough to be loved unconditionally by two people I call Dad. This post is dedicated to one of them on their 64th birthday as I reminisce on some of my favorite childhood memories and lessons learned.

“I’m the adult and you’re the child.” I absolutely hated this statement growing up. I hated it even more when my Dad made me repeat it to him. He really knew how to put you in your place when you talked back. I vowed growing up I would never, ever say this to my children and then, on one mortifying day, it happened – I became my Dad. In college, I was the director of a day camp for at-risk youth. I loved my job but it was also trying to figure out how to set boundaries and induce respect in my relationship with the kids. Technically, I was only 4 years older than the oldest kid at camp so it got interesting. In particular, there was one kid who tested my limits every single day. One day, when he pushed a kid down on the playground, I lost it. I grabbed his arm and marched him over to the bench and demanded he sit down and write an apology. Before he could even ask why he had to do it, I slammed a piece of paper and pencil down and said, “And you’re going to do it because I’m the adult and you’re the child which means you’re going to do what I say!” It was awful.

The value of money. My dad loves to tell the story of when he decided to teach me the value of money by giving me $100. I was ecstatic because while he stressed the fact I had to take the whole family out to dinner and then buy groceries for the rest of the week, all I heard was, “..and after that, you get to keep any money left over.” I thought I was genius because I demanded everyone order water at dinner and that any plate over $10 was off limits. Afterwards, at the store, I thought I was even more genious for buying all the off-brand items. Nothing but the bare essentials was my motto. When my Dad asked if he could have cookies of some sort, I told him no. Finally, at the checkout counter, I pulled out the last of my money to pay the bill. I was left with less than $5. Obviously I was extremely disappointed becauase I thought for sure I’d make bank, but alas, I did not. In hindsight, I think this was a fabulous lesson to teach your kid when they think money grows on trees, however, I invariably blame my Dad for this experience because I’m pretty sure that’s where I learned to be incredibly cheap.

That’s life. In life, you’ll go through ups and downs. You’ll experience the good and the bad. Your heart will get broken by friends and by boyfriends, your car will break down in the middle of the ghetto, someone you love will die, you won’t make the cheerleading squad…you get the picture. When I used to talk to my Dad about how awful my day may have been or how stressed out I was he always asked me how big my problem was compared to someone elses. He would say, “There’s always someone out there going through something far worse than you.” Even though he was right, his response used to make me so angry because I always felt like it belittled my feelings. Hey Dad, in my world, it’s a really BIG deal when I don’t make an A! I once told my Dad how his response made me feel and I’ve never heard him say it since. Rather, he replaced it with a new rule (and probably one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my quest for a fulfilling, happy life). Now it’s, “Lindsay, you get one day to feel sorry for yourself. Tomorrow, your attitude better change.”

To know good, you have to go through the bad. Dad taught me that hardships exist in life for a reason. If your life was good all of the time, you’d take everything for granted. Dad has been through some of the most trying times I’ve ever known anyone to go through, especially with his health in the past four years. While the experiences have been hard, stressful, scary and sometimes heartbreaking, I think the experience has made him appreciate all of the other good things in his life that much more. For all the bad experiences I’ve gone through, I’ve learned to look at the positive side. What did the experience teach me or what was one positive thing that came out of it? I’ve come to think of the hardships I’ve gone through as sort of a reality check – they keep me from being up in the clouds for too long.

A love for the spanish language. My obsession with latin culture and the spanish language has always been supported by my Dad. I grew up in a pretty sheltered environment and had a great childhood. I never went through anything traumatic or life changing and I never really had any exposure to other cultures. Since my Dad spent his early 20s traveling the world he’s always encouraged me to get out there and do the same. When I moved to Guatemala, Dad was one of my most staunch supporters. Today, when I was thinking about some of my favorite memories, I had a vivid flashback to when I was first starting to learn Spanish and my Dad decided he would learn it too through audio tapes. I have this very distinct memory of him running around the house putting stickys on all the furniture, walls, and household items that showed the item’s equivalent spanish word. So, for example, you’d walk into the kitchen and on the sink was “el fregadero”, the stove “la estufa”, the oven “el horno” and so on. I don’t know why, but when I think of this, my heart smiles.

As much as I’m a Momma’s girl, I’m equally a Daddy’s girl too. Here’s to wishing you a happy 64th birthday, Papa – I love you!

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