The Best New Year Yet

As this year winds down and the new year approaches many of us are already thinking about our New Year’s Resolutions. These almost always tie into what we think will truly make us happy, successful, etc. Things like, I’m going to use that gym membership I bought (was it two years ago?) and lose so many pounds, I’m going to update my resume and find a better job, I’m going to. . . . well you get the idea. We set goals and write it in our planners and let everyone know that this year We going to be different, better, wiser. Then life happens. Like. It. Does. Everyday. Schedules intervene with our best intentions, our resolve wears thin – I mean how am I supposed to lose weight when Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and my birthday, and St. Patty’s, and Easter?

So this year I’ve decided to try a different approach. Taking a cue from yoga (which I love) I’m going to create my Sankalpa. Resolutions differ from a sankalpa because the first assumes that we aren’t good enough, happy enough, wise enough UNTIL we accomplish said goal. It’s a sure-fire design for failure. Whether we reach the goal or not, we are left wanting. A sankalpa starts with the radical thought that we already are who we need to be to fulfill our life’s destiny. Resolutions are outward focused where as a sankalpa is inward centered. In Sanskrit, a kalpa is a vow or a rule to be followed above all other rules. San is a connection with the highest truth. So a sankalpa, then, is a vow or commitment to support our highest truth.

This will involve clearing my life of unnecessary things so I can take time to “breathe/meditate/reflect/pray/whatever-you-want-to-call-it” everyday. It will not look the same everyday. But I will commit to take the time everyday to clean out the mental junk in my life, take a few moments to just be still and find clarity with what really rings true to me. Knowing this will be a challenge at first, I need to remember that I am the most important person in my life and that I deserve/need to take this time everyday.  I will have to focus my mind and connect with my innermost heartfelt desires. And most importantly, I will need to channel the divine qualities that are already within me. Doing these things will help me to find the true purpose of my life. The beautiful thing is, this is a process so I don’t have to worry if I don’t have my life all figured out in a day or week or month for that matter. As I am still and listen to my heart I will discover what my sankalpa is.

Our minds are the architects of our lives. Don’t believe me? Think about it for a minute. When we think we can’t do something, aren’t good enough or are going to mess it up, we become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let go of negative talk and those that create negativity around you. Give yourself permission to bring out the power and potential that is inside you. When you do so, you’ll feel lighter and happier. Positive energy will flow from you and radiate to others.

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Even storms produce beautiful opportunities; the trick is finding them.

Remembering and time is the key to successfully realizing your sankalpa. Remember to take the time each day to develop this new direction for your life. See yourself in your mind’s eye already there.

 

So what do I really want? I will set aside time everyday to be still and listen to my inner voice. I will focus on what will truly bring me joy. Then I will realize the divine power inside of me yearning to come out.

For me, creating my own happiness will look different from day to day, moment to moment. Life is a journey, meant to be savored. I’m going to open my eyes, mind and heart to the possibilities that are already within. Yes, this year is going to be the best new year yet.

(Click here if you’re interested in learning more about how to create your own Sankalpa.)

The Present

I have always loved to read, and when I was a little girl, my favorite book, (you might be familiar with it) was Ramona the Pest. I think it’s probably because I could really relate to the star of the book, Miss Ramona Quimby. Nothing ever seemed to turn out right for Ramona, but her predicaments were simply part of her charm, and served to make her even more feisty and determined. (I’ve always liked a strong female lead, or was that strong-willed? Oh well, potato/potato.)

imageOne of my favorite scenes, is Ramona’s first day of kindergarten. Ramona, tummy full of butterflies, is directed by Miss Binney, the teacher, to a desk, and is told to “Sit here for the present.” So, Ramona sits. But Ramona has a busy mind, and her thoughts churn and churn,” What kind of present could it be?” (Oh, no! Back in the day, even my 7 year-old mind knew what was coming!) As the day wears on and no gift appears, the disillusioned Ramona questions the teacher.  Kindly, the teacher explains the misunderstanding, and offers up an alternate definition of present. Ramona leaves her first day no older-but wiser.

imageIn my last blog post, (Picture a Christmas) I talk about anticipation as looking forward to. Ramona spent her entire first day of kindergarten anticipating the present, and in so doing, she missed all the other memorable aspects of her very-first-ever day of school! With that in mind, I want to share a recent experience I had that really brought home yet another definition of present, and that is being present.
Last week, across my Facebook feed in classic movie “Star Wars” scroll, Marie Osmond announced a contest.  The prize was two tickets to a private screening of the latest Star Wars installment, The Force Awakens. I’m not a Star Wars fan per se, (gasp!) but I am a Marie Osmond fan. (There’s that strong leading lady-thing rearing its head again.) So I did what any middle-aged, non-Star Wars fan would do. I grabbed my daughter, made her teach me how to Instagram, (arghh…read my even older post, Old Dog, New Trick,) took a crash course in hash tags, (or the pound sign as I still call it), mocked up a picture with caption, and posted away.

"Lone Star" Wars
  “Lonestar Wars”

And so it was, that I, at 53 became hip. Entered D & M’s contest, instagrammed it, hashtagged it, and won two tickets, so apparently-nailed it! (Either that, or the fact that it was one hour away, in Gainesville, TX, population-not-too-many was a factor-but I digress…)

I never win anything, and boy was I excited-what a gift for the holidays! I got a good dose of anticipation myself…picking out a slimming outfit, so I wouldn’t look like a middle-aged whale next to Marie; who, thanks to Nutrisystem and Body Gym is lookin’ mighty fine, I must say. I knew there was no time for fillers or Botox, so I prayed over my Oil of Olay, “regenerized” my face, and threw in my turkey neck just to be on the safe side. I wanded my unruly hair, and all in all, after spending more time primping then I did on my wedding day, I looked fairly presentable. At the premiere, we were queued up, and the excitement was palpable.

droid sign

Nervous chatter all ’round. Most of the over-fifty gals were there for Donny, eyes glazed, swapping stories and harking back to their glory days. Me, not-so-much. I am a die-hard Marie fan, not one of those crazy groupies! (Did I tell you my wedding announcements were the same as Marie’s? ’cause they were…) OK…maybe I am a bit star-struck, but I can play it cool with the best of them. (Because I’m a little bit country, and a little bit rock-n-roll-yeah, I went there…)

Finally, a tour bus pulled in and the entourage of band members, crew, and dancers arrived. Then it was time. The glass theater doors swung open, and in walked Donny and Marie, amid whoops and cheers. Donny was as expected, but Marie is very small in person, and just a doll. Everyone had their cameras at the ready, snapping away and videoing as they passed directly by. I am technically-challenged, (snicker), so I made my daughter do the paparazzi work.

The small crowd eagerly pressed forward into the theater the minute it was open. My daughter and I split up, me to get us seats, and she to get our popcorn and drinks, also gratis. (Thank you Donny & Marie!) What we didn’t know then, was that Donny & Marie had stepped behind the concession counter to “serve” the theater goers.

donny serving marie serving

Most of the folks had rushed and grabbed their popcorn buckets and drinks prior to their arrival-anticipating the crush to see celebrity in person, and were already ensconced in their seats. They were unaware that those that had waited, were up close and personal with D & M, as they chatted and served up popcorn, soda, and Icees. My daughter felt bad for me, knowing I was missing it. She stood back from the fray and took a couple of discreet pictures and brief videos to share with me.

She shared that although she was excited to meet them, she didn’t want to invade their personal space. This was their Christmas gift to their staff and they had generously included their fans in the contest-but this was their preview as much as it was ours, and their free time as well. We felt like creepy stalkers, and we put our phones away for the night. D & M went on to graciously answer questions and joked around for about ten minutes. They were charming, down to earth, and open.

movie theater photo

Cherry-on-top, they gave away tickets to their upcoming Christmas show, and we were lucky again. (Marie, my new BFF, chose me! Donny asked my name for the will-call window and suddenly, “white and nerdy” was all cool celebrity, and I choked like Cindy Brady looking at the red blinking camera light! It took a few elbow-to-the-rib jabs from my daughter, before I could squeak out Williamson.)
As for Star Wars, even I enjoyed the movie! The 3D special effects were amazing, and the good vs. evil-believe me, I get. As we flowed out of the theater as a group, cameras were poised even at the restroom door for Marie to come out! Marie’s adorable daughter was there on holiday break with her, and we couldn’t help but contrast our mother/daughter night out with theirs. How hard it must be to live as a celebrity. How vulnerable you must feel, with strangers clamoring after you, and taking pictures left and right. No safe zone, no anonymity. We actually felt fortunate to NOT be talented and famous. (Yup, we’re lucky that way!) And here they were, more outgoing and fun than you can ever imagine, spending their night with us, and making sure everyone was having a good time. It was a gift indeed. Which brings me to the present.

We had a wonderful time that night, but I couldn’t help but notice that we weren’t all present. As fans, we were so consumed with getting the picture, that we didn’t get the picture. Videoing is not the same as seeing Donny, Marie, and her sweet daughter Abi in person. Snapping away is not listening, interacting, or experiencing. Eyes glued to a screen, we are virtualizing the real thing! In our quest to make a memory, we are missing it as it’s being made. I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I had my daughter take the video, but I would have done it if I were technically savvy. If I didn’t hate selfies so much, I would have selfied! Luckily, since I need readers, can’t work my phone properly, and everything I snap turns out blurry, I got to enjoy seeing, being, and experiencing-by default. (And, because I have a wise daughter.) Like Ramona, I learned a lesson that day that left me wiser.  Be aware in the moment, and savor it. The experience IS the gift!

concert signTwo days later we went to D & M’s Christmas show, and it was a sparkly, dazzling, holiday extravaganza. Although it was taboo, folks filmed and snapped away the entire time. And as for us?  We didn’t take one picture or video that night to remember it by. But we will treasure our memories. They were awesome seats, and we were just grateful to be present.

 

 

 

If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now. 

~Marie Osmond

“7 Tips for Surviving Social Anxiety at the Most Social Time of the Year”

This post is written by one of our guest authors, Jill Johnson.  We are so excited for you to hear from her.  She is also the author of the children’s book, Bipolar, Daddy, & Me and the creator of www.sunnysideupcompany.com.

So it’s that time of the year. You were coerced into being at the family gathering to do the turkey thing and somehow survived it. Now Christmas is around the corner and, no doubt, you’ll be spending it with the family. No worries! But what about the holiday that really matters to you? You know, the one that you want to spend exclusively with friends. If you’re young, or at least, feel young at heart, chances are you don’t want to be stuck in the house again with Grandma Moses and the FAM on one of the biggest social eves of the year – New Year’s Eve.

anxiety

Instead, you’re banking on getting out with friends, your own age to have a little fun. So you say to yourself, this year will be different than last year. I’ll shop for the perfect little black dress, my makeup will be flawless, and I’ll rock those slamming shoes that I never did get to wear last New Year’s Eve. It all sounds good until …you start to think about it! The very idea of going out on the town with friends and maybe even busting a move starts to give you the heebie jeebies. In fact, it paralyzes you. What gives?

Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out you may be suffering from Social Anxiety. Everyone experiences anxiety at some time or another in life. It’s common to everyone. If speaking in front of an audience makes you nervous and causes a level of anxiety to rise in you, that’s Ok. You are in good company with everyone else. Some experience anxiety at job interviews while others driving in heavy traffic, but it’s still all good. The anxiety we sometimes feel during these times can actually propel us upward. It can help us to prepare and perform better in the things we are trying to accomplish. However, when feelings of intense fear and distress overwhelm us and keep us from doing everyday things, and when it keeps us from socializing with others, we may have a big problem. [http://Nami.org/November 8, 2015]

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one of the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization said that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. An estimated 40 million adults in the U.S., or 18%, have an anxiety disorder. It affects more women than men. Whether it’s in the form of Social, Panic, Phobias or Generalized disorders, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common. It attacks one at the gut level and can do a number in one’s head.

Emotionally, the symptoms of anxiety disorders leave one feeling apprehensive, restless, irritable, dreaded, anticipating the worst and being watchful for signs of danger. And like an uninvited guest, physical symptoms can take over the body. You may feel like your heart is pounding or racing so much that you cannot breathe. The palm of your hands may get sweaty. You may suffer tremors, twitches, fatigue, insomnia, upset stomach, frequent urination, and diarrhea. These are the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Social Anxiety, unlike shyness, causes intense fear. It’s often driven by irrational worries about social humiliation such as being afraid of saying something stupid or not knowing what to say. Sufferers may not participate in conversations, contribute to class work, social discussions, or offer their ideas. They may become isolated and have frequent panic attacks. [http://Nami.org/November 8, 2015]

Self-help Tips:

According to John Tsilimparis, MFT, director of the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles and one of the therapists on A&E’s Obsessed, a show about severe anxiety disorders, “Three of the most common characteristics of someone with an anxiety disorder are perfectionism, relying on others for approval and need for control.”

Here are 7 tips that will help you in your journey.

  • Check out how this contributes to, feeds into, and ultimately affects your life.
  • Keep your thoughts in check. Distortional thinking feeds your anxiety.
  • Follow this mental exercise: Is it true to that person, that thing you’re feeling, etc.? If you do not have any evidence of what you’re thinking or feeling is true, send the distorted mind packing. Worrying is fictional not factual.
  • Look for, the evidence. Is what you’re thinking or feeling true?
  • Give up the control. Realize that you cannot control life. “While we can’t control the world, we can control our reaction to it,” Tsilimparis said.
  • Give up absolute, black and white thinking.
  • Trust Yourself. “Self-trust is the ability to believe that you can handle what life throws at you,” Luciani said.
  • According to Luciani, “If you’re anxious, your trust muscle has atrophied, and your insecurity has become muscle bound.” Strengthen your muscles by taking risks. [Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.]
  • Stop people-pleasing. Do you say yes to someone when you really mean no? [Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.]
  • Paying attention to how you interact with people and the times you initiate people-pleasing behavior.
  • Last but not least, learn to laugh at yourself. So what if you commit a social faux pas. No one actually cares?

Now that you know, go ahead and put yourself out there. You don’t have to overthink it. Give that work presentation you’ve always wanted to give. Speak up more loudly. Wear that little black dress that has been hanging in your closet. Go out and bust a move on a dance floor. The sky’s the limit. Who knows, this may be the start of something sweet!

About the Writer: Jill Johnson is the author of the children’s book, Bipolar, Daddy, & Me. She is also the creator of www.sunnysideupcompany.com.