Ten Lessons I Learned When Life Tried to Drown Me – Part 2

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Don’t worry!  If you missed Part 1, you can check it out here.  If you already read that post, thanks for coming back!  I know the anticipation was killing you, especially since I am a day late . . . Here are five more lessons I learned when life tried to drown me in 2017.

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6. You can’t change people.

We’re approaching the end of January, and gym attendance has already dropped dramatically since January 1.  In fact, according to statisticbrain.com, 67% of people who have gym memberships don’t even use them.  If you are still plugging away at your new year’s resolutions, kudos to you!  Statistically, you were probably more likely to have been hit by lightning or killed by a hippo, but you persevered!

Resolutions are tough because it’s hard for us to change what we are accustomed to believing or doing.  Change is not impossible, for sure, but it’s difficult, even when we really WANT a change to take place. Here’s the point: If it is incredibly challenging just to change yourself, then how would you possibly be able to change another person who sees no reason for an adjustment in the first place?

Let me say this (to myself) one more time.  YOU. CAN’T. CHANGE. PEOPLE.  You can love them.  You can encourage them.  You can share your wisdom and experiences.  You can listen.  You can care about them from the very bottom of your heart.  But you can only change yourself.  You can play a supporting role for other people when they decide to change themselves.  And that could be . . . well . . . never.  Changing them is not your responsibility.  Thank goodness.  Because you can’t do it.

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7. Grief is like a cloud.

Grief is like the clouds in the sky.  At first, the clouds are thick and heavy, and very little light slips through.  The days are foggy and dark, and time feels long and slow and kind of blurry.  Fortunately, as the weeks pass by, the clouds break up and the sunbeams win.  Brightness, clarity, and sunshine become normal again.  The clouds become lighter and fluffier, and they blow by gently, and sometimes you don’t even notice them at all.  Some days there is not a single cloud, just a bright blue sky, and those sunny days are more magnificent than they ever were before.

But clouds always return.  They always blow in and out of the sky.  They are smaller and farther between, but they are never really gone.

Sometimes you can feel a storm cloud rolling in before you see it, like older people say they feel the rain in their bones.  Other times, a single dark cloud surprises you.  It shows up out of nowhere in the middle of a clear blue sky.  You are having a picnic or swimming in the pool, playing with your kids or laughing with friends, and you unexpectedly find yourself running for cover.

But the sunny days, after a while, far outnumber those sprinkled with clouds.

There is no timeline for grief, no good way to measure or explain it.  Be patient with friends who have experienced a loss. It’s okay for you to ask them how they are doing, even after time has passed.  You aren’t going to remind them of something that they have forgotten.  Most likely, there is still at least one cloud in their sky, and they might appreciate that you recognize that.

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8. Your value does not depend on your success or your failure.

After several disappointing team losses recently, my son was feeling defeated as an athlete.  I could see it.  He didn’t need a lecture on how to improve his skills or a play-by-play account of the team’s mistakes. He already knew that stuff, and I’m not his coach.   What he needed from mom was encouragement.

We talked about the season and his goals and his improvements.  We talked about some camps and some training he might like.  But his disappointment was heavy, despite his usual resilience.  I wasn’t really sure what else to say.  And then these words spilled out of my mouth, “I know disappointment is hard, but do you know what would make this experience really tragic?”

He raised his eyebrows and looked up from his phone.

“If your value as a person were actually tied to your wins and your losses.”

I don’t really know where that came from, but my first thought was, DANGTHAT was some good parenting!  Yes, I nailed it!  Then my throat tightened just a little bit because the message was also convicting.  Because sometimes I forget that my own value as a human being isn’t tied to what I do for a living or what I have in the bank or who likes me or how many mistakes I’ve made or what I mark off my to-do list each day.

The fact that I am losing my job does not diminish my personal value. Yes, teaching is very important to me, and, yes, I love helping teenagers, and, yes, I am proud of what I have accomplished over the past fourteen years, but my job does not determine my value.

The fact that I am going through a divorce does not diminish my personal value. Yes, it dramatically changes what I imagined for the future, and, yes, it has been a painful experience, and, yes, family is incredibly important to me, but my relationships do not determine my value.

The fact that some people don’t enjoy my writing does not diminish my personal value.  Yes, rejection stings, and, yes, I wish everyone liked me, but what other people think does not determine my value.

Your value, the true measure of who you are, is separate from your parenting, your marriage, your friendships, your job, your hobbies, your paycheck, and your successes. Every one of those things can be stripped away from you, yet you would still BE.

You.  Would.  Still.  Be. 

And if that leaves you wondering where your value actually comes from, maybe it’s time to slow down and reflect on who you truly are and where you put your faith and what that really means.

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9. The opinions of other people matter.  Sometimes.

When I hear my high school students say things like, “I don’t really care what people think,” or “Other people’s opinions don’t matter to me,” or “Nobody is going to tell me what to do,” that can usually be translated into “I am making some very poor life choices right now.” The reality is that I rarely hear those words strung together by students who are experiencing success at school and in life at that moment.

But I specifically remember one girl in my English class who wrote that whenever she makes a decision, she asks herself what her Aunt Diane would do.  Her Aunt Diane’s opinion matters.  She trusts it.  Every person needs an Aunt Diane.

There are people in our lives who play an important role in encouraging us to make the best decisions and in holding us accountable when they see danger lurking around us. Their opinions matter to us, even after they are gone.  (My grandmothers’ voices still play a powerful role in my life.)  But there are a whole lot of other opinions that don’t matter, voices that serve only to distract and discourage us, with no true concern for our well being at all.  There are people who don’t even know us and people who have not earned our trust that complain, criticize, and try to convince us to give up on the good things we are doing.  It’s so important to discern the opinions that matter from the opinions that don’t.

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10. Bravery is not what people think it is.

The bravest people I know do not fit the image of bravery that American culture has created. We like to associate bravery with physical strength and tough words and a lust for adventure,  but brave people are often quiet and humble.  They often suffer and sacrifice in ways that other people don’t even notice.  And bravery doesn’t always sound like we expect.  Saying “I am not perfect” is braver than saying “I don’t make mistakes.”  Saying “I was hurt by what you did” is braver than saying “That didn’t matter to me.”  Saying “I made a mistake” is braver than saying “I don’t see a problem.”  Saying “I can relate to how you feel because this happened to me” is braver than saying “Call if you need me.”  Saying “Actually, life is hard right now” is braver than saying “Everything is fine.”  Bravery can be big and loud, but it can also be quiet and unassuming.  Be sure to notice and appreciate (and maybe even try to experience) both kinds.

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Thanks so much for reading this post, sharing the blog with friends, and weathering the storms of life together!  (We all need a village, right?  Don’t tell me you forgot #1 already!)  Here’s to hoping, but not expecting, to win the lottery in 2018!

*Pictures created using Bitmoji.

Join the conversation!  Which of these ten lessons resonated with you the most?  Comment below or on the Still Chasing Fireflies Facebook page!

Ten Lessons I Learned When Life Tried to Drown Me – Part 1

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Without a doubt, 2016 tried to kill me.  On December 31, my match was lit and ready to set that calendar on fire.  I vaguely discussed some of the challenges of that year in this post last January, expecting (OOPS! – see #5 below) that 2017 would be the BEST. YEAR. EVER.  I thought everything would fall into place last year.  I thought things would change and the world would start to make sense again.  Plus, I totally deserved to win the lottery or something after keeping my head above water during the year that nearly drowned me.  And life usually gives us exactly what we deserve, right?  (Bwahahahaha!  I may have just laughed so hard that Diet Coke came out my nose . . . )

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In reality, what life often gives us feels a little more like this . . .

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Truth be told, the past year was better in a whole lot of ways, and I wrote about a few of the highlights on the blog throughout 2017.  But I’m still in the midst of a difficult divorce, and I just learned that the school where I’m working must close, so this post  would be a big fat lie if I did not say this: I didn’t win the lottery in 2017.  And my joy, as refreshing as it was to rediscover it, was often still entangled in a web of uncertainty, disappointment, and hurt.  It turns out that flipping a page on a calendar (or burning the whole thing to ashes . . . ) doesn’t really fix everything, at least not instantly.  But one thing is for sure: I’m supposed to learn something from these experiences.  The years that tried to kill me have taught me that there is beauty in the tremendous growth and wisdom we gain when wrestling with unexpected challenges.  Here are a few more lessons I’ve learned from my WWE match with life.  (By the way, I think I may be winning . . .)

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1. Stop apologizing already and use your village.

Humans were designed to live in communities, both physical communities and social ones.  Individually, we are unable to compensate for our own weaknesses, but together the gaps created by one person can be filled by another until there are no gaps left in the community at all.  That’s a beautiful thought, right?  And you aren’t weak because you have a need.  You’re just human.

But human nature also makes us act a bit like toddlers, little kids who want to do everything independently, even when they aren’t really capable.  They want to pour the gallon of milk that they can hardly lift off the table.  They want to tie their shoes before anyone has taught them how.  They want to swing the bat their way and dunk the ball in the hoop despite being only two feet tall.  For the grownups, it’s maddening.

We cringe at that behavior, but think about the crazy things we do just to prove that we can do them.  We consider it an accomplishment to handle everything on our own.  We drive ourselves to the emergency room when we are practically dying.  We try to manage impossible schedules without asking another parent who is going to the exact same place to give our kid a ride.  We agree to things that we don’t want to do so that we won’t look incapable of juggling one hundred and fifty seven responsibilities at once.  Seriously, it’s ridiculous.

If you are lucky enough to have handled everything on your own until now, you win a . . . well, nothing actually . . . but, really, that’s pretty amazing.  Still, I will advise from experience that you should start building your village today because everyone gets caught in a storm with no umbrella eventually.  (Or wakes up seriously sick with a kidney stone in the middle of the night . . . We all have our own issues . . .)

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2. Don’t just sit there and expect people to build a village around you.

I once read a string of comments on the Today Parenting Blog in which some moms lamented that neighbors aren’t thoughtful anymore and that people with a caring village are just lucky and that no one ever helps them when they need it.  Now, maybe these ladies live in towns where everyone looks a bit like the Grinch and no one shares a casserole anymore, but I find that a little hard to believe.

I find that a lot hard to believe, actually.

Remember the famous line from Field of Dreams?  The voice that Ray hears over and over as he envisions his own baseball diamond says, “If you build it, he will come . . .”   So he builds it, and people come.  Even ghosts come, for goodness sake.  Most of us aren’t interested in attracting dead baseball players, but the advice is solid: The magic is secondary.  First, you have to do the hard work.

If you don’t have a village, start by envisioning the community you want to create.  What kind of friend are you wishing to have in your life?  Then – and this is the secret that the ladies I mentioned above may have missed – YOU HAVE TO BE THAT FRIEND.  You have to make the first move.  You have to start the conversations.  You have to help the mom who looks frazzled.  You have to notice the stressed out woman and buy her a coffee.  You have to invite the neighbors over for dessert.  You have to show up when it is totally inconvenient.  You have to send a card to someone who needs a lift.  YOU have to lay the foundation for the village that you want to live in.

If you build a baseball diamond, baseball players will find it.  (Maybe not ghost ones, but ghosts are creepy anyway.)  And if you build a village that starts with you being the kind of friend that you want to have, then you will attract the kinds of friends you are looking for, too.

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3. You can survive more than you think you can.

You know all those people who have overcome huge challenges only to move forward and contribute to the world in positive ways?  You read about them or see them on television, and their optimism and fighting spirit seem superhuman.  Their stories are uplifting and really do motivate us to be better and stronger and more hopeful than we were before.

But at the end of the day, they’re people, not superheroes, people like you who are just trying to make something good out of an otherwise crappy situation.  Hopefully, you would do the same thing, too, if you were faced with a similar adversity.  And although your resilience would inspire others in really wonderful ways, you probably wouldn’t feel all that inspirational – because moving forward after a crisis really just feels like, well, survival.  You have the strength to survive hard things, too.  You are no different from those people.  You have the power to thrive and to inspire others and to make something good come from your own despair.

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4. It’s important to stay busy.  But not too busy.

Balance may be impossible to achieve, but it’s certainly something to aim for.  This is especially true when you are faced with hard times.  Unfortunately, many people who encounter scary hurdles resort to extremes – either staying so busy that they never face their problems and emotions, or isolating themselves so much that they are more apt to sink into a very dark place.

As Winston Churchill famously said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”  The danger of standing still, of course, is that you will never come out on the other side.  Spending time with friends and family, contributing within the community, and finding your bigger purpose can help you to feel contentment and joy.  But quiet time for reflecting, reading, journaling, connecting with your faith, and talking privately with close friends is also really, really important in order to move forward.  It’s okay to give yourself time to process and time to be alone, just not too much.  I’m still seeking this balance.  So should you.

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5. Your expectations will shape your outlook.

One of the greatest barriers to finding happiness after a loss is accepting that your life no longer looks like the photo-shopped image of the future that you had already plastered in the album in your head.  It can be very, very difficult to let go of the expectations you had for today and for the future so that you can appreciate the beauty of what you actually have – which is still probably pretty awesome in a lot of ways.  And the longer we hang onto expectations that are no longer realistic, the more time bitterness and anger have to make themselves really cozy in our hearts.

During a run this week, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and skinned myself up.  It was totally embarrassing, and, DANG, a skinned knee hurts more than I remember!  (So sorry, kids, for telling you to suck it up . . . )  While I was bandaging a few scrapes, I inadvertently knocked my phone in the water.  So my kids came home to a limping mom with a bag of ice in one hand and an iphone in a bag of rice in the other.  “You had a really bad day,” they said.  And I probably should have felt like I’d had a horrible day, but I didn’t.  (Disclaimer: I definitely can’t say that I always handle situations like this so calmly!  I nearly threw my computer out the window just a few minutes ago when the wifi stopped connecting. . .)  Here’s the thing.  When you stop expecting life to be perfect, some of the situations that might have seemed tragic in the past lose their power.  And sometimes overcoming some of the bigger problems in life brings a healthier perspective to the smaller issues and helps you to focus on the positive.

It’s important to have hopes and dreams, to work hard to achieve those, and to maintain high standards for your life, but make sure that your expectations aren’t setting you up to be an unhappy person.  Accept that life isn’t perfect.  That you can’t always have what you want. That people will make mistakes.  That things will happen that aren’t fair.  That you can’t predict the future.  All of that sounds pretty bleak, right?  It really isn’t.  Life is full of wonderful things, as well.  But these truths are, well, REAL, and we often prefer to live in the pretend rather than in the reality, which creates unnecessary disappointment.  Expect problems to happen, because that is just life, but also recognize that the overall quality of your life isn’t determined by a single problem, even if that problem is a big one.

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You can read Part 2 of this post here!

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*Pictures created using Bitmoji.

 

Happy 2017 From Still Chasing Fireflies!

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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.

It’s time.

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.

I promise.

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!

GOODBYE, 2016!

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Thank you, Nicole Wheeler Kunko, for sharing this image!

What’s on the Horizon (and How You Can Help)

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As Still Chasing Fireflies’ birthday celebration draws to a close, it’s time to look forward and make some plans for the coming year.  Here are a few goals that I would love to achieve before Still Chasing Fireflies turns two, but I need your help!  (Be sure to read #4.  It’s my favorite!)

  1. First and foremost, I want this blog to stay true to who I am and what matters to me.  If you see Still Chasing Fireflies straying from its purpose of sharing the emotional ups and downs of being human, please, set me straight!
  2. Still Chasing Fireflies has enjoyed some exciting exposure this year, so I plan to look for more opportunities for publication in the coming months.  If you enjoy the blog, please share it with your friends!  You are welcome to send them a link and an invitation!  All of the blogs that I read were introduced to me by my closest friends.
  3. Now that Still Chasing Fireflies has a strong foundation, I want to build a sense of community!  I invite you to leave comments on the blog or on Facebook. I’m going to experiment with posting more about the blog on the Still Chasing Fireflies Facebook page and less on my personal page to move the conversation to one place.  If you haven’t liked or followed the Still Chasing Fireflies page, please join us there.
  4. AND HERE IS THE IDEA THAT EXCITES ME THE MOST!  I love to share a good story with all of you, but there are SO MANY stories that I can’t tell because I have not experienced those stories myself.  I don’t know what it is like to live through divorce or receive a cancer diagnosis or lose a parent.  I don’t know what it is like to adopt a child or watch a daughter get married or live on a farm.  I don’t know what it is like to be a minority in a place with little diversity or to raise a half dozen kids or to save someone’s life.  BUT SOME OF YOU DO!  Maybe you don’t want to manage a blog of your own, but maybe you have a story to tell.  Maybe I can help you tell it or help you share it on my blog.  Please reach out to me!  I would love to host a “What It Feels Like” series with guest posts from people who have stories to share.  If writing isn’t your thing, I can help!

What will the coming year bring for Still Chasing Fireflies and for me as a writer?  I. HAVE. NO. IDEA.  But it’s time to stop partying and get back to work!  Thanks for celebrating the first year of the blog with me this week, and please consider sharing your own story here (or even somewhere else) in the coming year!  Your story could change someone else’s life.

Trust me.

This year has taught me just how much our stories matter.

~Mary Ann

My Top Five Post Picks

Wow!  Choosing my top five posts of the first year was harder than I expected!  The first three choices were easy.  There was no question what those first three would be.  But the last two picks were harder.   I wrestled with questions, like how do you pick a favorite child, anyway?  What makes one post better than another?  How did I feel when I was writing each piece?  How much of me was invested in each one?  Does the number of readers who liked each post matter, and, if so, how much?

There were several close runners-up, including this post about my nephew’s cute fishing story and this one about developing “real” relationships with our friends.   And then there were posts that started conversations and made a difference to people, like “A Letter To My Son’s Soccer Coach” and “Yes, I’m a Christian.  No, I’m Not Like That.”  However, the posts that I chose as my top 5 are posts that are so close to my heart that all kinds of hidden emotions start swirling when I read them.  You can click on the infographic below to go to the “live” version.  It has links that will take you to any of the posts that you want to revisit! (Aren’t these infographics FUN?!?!?)

top-5-favorite-posts-on-still-chasing-fireflies (3)

Now it’s your turn!  I REALLY want to hear about your favorite posts on Still Chasing Fireflies in the past year.  Please comment, here or on Facebook or both.  Let’s create a conversation.  Thanks for chasing fireflies with me this year!

~Mary Ann