Hey, there! Greetings from Still Chasing Fireflies!
Friend, if you are reading this, I am so grateful that you are still here, waiting patiently for me. It’s been a while! I have thought about visiting you here on many occasions, but I’ve been waiting, too. Waiting for a certain feeling. The feeling that it’s time.
And I feel it.
I am SO very happy to “see” you here again!
The blog has been quiet for a few months, I know, but don’t let the silence deceive you. I’ve been writing – and writing and writing and writing! In fact, some very exciting things are starting to take shape. I *might* be experimenting with a novel, and a few screeners *might* be very excited about what they have read so far. (I wish I could tell you more . . . But I can’t!) My kids and I have been working on a children’s book; I am IN LOVE with our idea, and it would be a dream come true to see our story in print on a bookshelf someday (if paper still exists by then)! The publishing world is brutal, but we are up for the challenge, and we don’t expect anything to happen in a hurry. There are also some essays that may become blog posts, some poems, and some previously published pieces that I hope to share with a larger audience soon. So if you have missed Still Chasing Fireflies, don’t worry. I have so much more to share with you! And it’s really, REALLY good stuff from an emotional well that runs much deeper than I ever knew.
So 2016 has ended, and as one year ends and another begins, it seems like an appropriate time for reflection. Sometimes this reflection reminds us what a wonderful year we enjoyed. We are overcome with happy memories of family milestones, new adventures, fun celebrations, and special moments. We hope that the coming year is filled with just as much joy and satisfaction.
I certainly hope that describes the 2016 you experienced!
But other years, we say, “THANK-GOD-THAT-IS-OVER-BECAUSE-THAT-YEAR-WAS-TRYING-TO-MURDER-ME.”
That was my 2016.
Yes, 2016 will go down in the history books as the most challenging year of my life to this point. That is partly because I have not had a very challenging life. It is also partly because 2016 totally sucked. But the good news is that challenges can lead to deep reflection and incredible growth. They can make us more confident, productive, and resilient. They can give us insight into aspects of life that we never understood before. And there is something very fulfilling about those lessons, even if the journey to those revelations felt a bit like a scene from Saving Private Ryan.
I could write a long, long list of the things I have learned throughout 2016, and I’m sure many of those lessons will inspire future posts, but let’s start with a few that really stuck with me. Maybe one of them will stick with you, too.
1. You have much less control over your life than you think you do.
Okay, I will admit that I am a bit of a control freak. It drives me cray cray to watch my kids fold laundry. Honestly, I have to look away while they are doing it because it is just too painful for me to watch. (On my behalf, I get this from my mother, who refolded everything I folded for the first 20 years of my life. Love you, Mom!) When my kids push the cart at the grocery store to “help” me, well, I can’t stand that either. I am on a mission, and we have a pace to maintain, Kids. And when adult people use words like cray cray, yes, that drives me crazy, too. Grow up already.
I know. It’s ridiculous. And it’s all part of my illusion that I have the power to control things, and that if I control things, then I can prevent bad things from happening to me and my friends and my family and all of the other innocent people around the world.
Except I can’t.
I can’t control what other people do and what kinds of decisions they make. I can’t control how much it snows or how other people drive or when something might go haywire inside my body. I can’t make someone change or decide who my children will marry or prevent a loved one from having a heart attack or force someone to look at another perspective. I can’t do those things. All of them are out of my control.
And I really, really hate that. Even if it’s true.
2. You have much more control over your life than you think you do.
Wait a minute . . . That sounds like a contradiction to #1, right? Not really. We humans tend to vacillate between feeling completely in control of our lives and feeling completely out of control of our lives, and neither one is really true. Even when things are happening outside of our personal jurisdiction, we ALWAYS get to decide how to react to them. We can join the people on the high road or join the people on the low road. We can sulk and pout too long because life isn’t fair. Or we can choose to marinate in our own anger forever. Or we can pull on our grownup boots and start hiking down the path that has been charted for us, even if we don’t like that path at all.
Or we can write a novel.
Really, it’s up to us. But the happiest people take a few minutes (or days, or weeks) to lick their wounds and then find a way to climb the mountain in front of them.
3. There are a lot of people on the low road, but no one is stuck there.
I had NO IDEA how much traffic there is down there. It is a VERY, VERY CROWDED place. And I get it. It is very tempting to take that exit when life isn’t cooperating or emotions are running high. I’ve been there. I’ve tried it. I’ll probably be back. I know.
Some people are on the low road because they took a wrong turn and they don’t even realize they are there yet. Others popped on for a hot second and are desperately seeking the next exit to get off. And then there are people who have been there so long that they don’t even need the GPS to stay on course. They smile and wave and pretend to be friendly as they carefully orchestrate head-on collisions.
Fortunately, the high road is wide, with plenty of lanes to accommodate everyone. You can merge onto it easily and at any time, and the drivers there are imperfect but also encouraging, forgiving, and kind. The high road still has potholes, but it is more likely to lead to the destinations you seek, sweet spots like Happiness, Satisfaction, and Inner Peace.
4. Belonging to the sisterhood of women is an extraordinary privilege.
All women have the opportunity to join an ancient sisterhood that is very, very special. When one woman in the sisterhood suffers, her sisters do, too, even if they have not experienced the same hardships related to marriage, fertility, career advancement, motherhood, aging, or any other challenges that are unique to women across the generations.
Women in the sisterhood protect, support, and uplift other women. They do not bulldoze them to serve their own selfish interests.
You see, being a female is not a choice, but being an honorable, compassionate woman is.
Surrounding yourself with women from the sisterhood is a choice, too. DO THIS.
When life is hard, they will be your fiercest allies.
5. Even the best relationships are really, really, really, really, really, really hard sometimes.
All relationships. Your relationship with your spouse. Your relationships with your kids. Your relationships with your parents. Your relationships with your friends and your siblings and your neighbors.
Anyone who tells you otherwise is a LIAR.
Love people with your words and with your actions to keep those relationships healthy and strong. Be patient. Offer grace. Talk often. Share feelings. Put one another first. Make consistent, small investments.
It’s worth it.
6. Any relationship has the potential to be broken if people are not careful.
7. Any relationship has the potential to be healed if people are willing.
8. If you tell yourself anything enough times, you will start to believe it.
So make sure that what you tell yourself is the truth.
And make sure that what you tell yourself about yourself is building you up rather than tearing you down.
This is so important.
9. The human experience is the human experience.
Your race, your geographic location, your income – none of it matters when it comes to being human.
We humans are all looking for the exact same things. We all search for validation and love. We all seek to understand our purpose and our unique place in God’s universe. We all experience the same emotions, even while living in vastly different circumstances.
This is true for everyone. Everywhere. Ever since the beginning of time.
You are no more important and no more human than anyone else, even if you think you are.
You are no less important and no less human than anyone else, even if others say you are.
Certain experiences humanize us, like watching the birth of a baby or holding the hand of someone who is face-to-face with death. They pull our wandering spirits and our inflated egos right back to ground zero.
There is something about the pain of a deep, dark struggle that is also incredibly humanizing. It makes you feel more connected to humanity than you ever felt before. It makes you feel more whole in a strange kind of way.
10. It is easy to lose sight of who you are, but reconnecting with your true self will open the door to amazing possibilities.
This world is harsh. It will test you. It will tempt you. It will grab you from behind and try to take you hostage.
It is easy to give up.
But you don’t have to. When you see your face on the milk carton, you can bite and claw your way back to yourself. You can rediscover who you are and reevaluate what you truly value and believe. Then you will be much, much closer to attaining greatness in your life. And you will have a much clearer picture of what “greatness” actually looks like to you.
When you reconnect with what matters and begin to accomplish new goals, there will be people who can’t wait to celebrate with you. There will also be people who criticize you. And there will always be people who want to compete with you.
Choose the first people. They are more fun. They also have your best interests at heart, and they will propel you forward in positive ways.
Then you can help them fight the good fight and reach for greatness, too.
11. When you are at the end of your rope, serve others.
It sounds counterintuitive that the most effective way to help yourself is to help someone else, but it’s true. Acts of kindness are incredibly therapeutic. They turn your focus outward, renew your perspective, and remind you that every single person has a complicated story. You get to SEE the good and BE the good at the exact same time.
Volunteer somewhere. Help a neighbor. Buy a cup of coffee for a stranger who seems stressed.
Acts of service give you a greater purpose and create meaningful human connections. And purpose and connections are things that all humans need. (See #9.)
12. You have some truly amazing people in your life. Make sure you know who they are.
Again, I am so very, very glad to be back with you, my friends! Life will always be full of uncertainty, but here’s to an incredibly fulfilling adventure in 2017! May all of the wishes you work for come true!
Thank you, Nicole Wheeler Kunko, for sharing this image!