Out With the Old Year & In With New Opportunities


Photo by Simon Wilkes on Unsplash

“There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.” ~Author Unknown

Life is a tough road sometimes. We’ve all had our fair share of ups and downs.

Sometimes it feels like a journey of ongoing contradictions. One minute we’re celebrating successes; the next we’re mourning a defeat or loss of some type.

English journalist Henry James Slack described human life as “the source of deep suffering and gorgeous hope.”

Now there’s a quote I can relate to.

And the ways in which we suffered or fell short in the past year become more apparent as it draws to a close. This is when we reflect on our wins and losses and try to determine how to improve, despite the silent fear that we’ll fail again.

However, a new year always offers hope. The hope that we’ll conquer our worries and accomplish our goals. We’ve gained fresh wisdom through trial and error, so we restore our settings back to the factory defaults and try again. 

Writing was one of my defeats in 2018; I’ve been away from my blog for a long time. With the exception of an occasional quote or photo challenge, I’ve been pretty much absent for over a year. 

I could feel it happening shortly after I took the job and as my Mom’s health started to decline. There was a lot happening around me, both good and bad, that provided plenty of material to write about. However, the creative part of my brain took the last train for the coast, to borrow a line from Don McLean’s American Pie. I got too busy with the mechanics of everyday life.

We writers periodically hit dry spells, better known as writer’s block. Opinions vary about why it happens, but in my case it was a combination of fear and fatigue. 

Adjusting to a new job means new people and building relationships. It brings us to different places and encounters and offers daily challenges that we didn’t have before. Despite requiring more time and energy, the overall experience has been positive.

However, watching your mother’s health deteriorate has the opposite effect. It also brought me to different places and encounters, and involved new challenges.  Unfortunately, these responsibilities and their accompanying emotions left me exhausted and empty.

I didn’t want to stop writing, but I couldn’t muster the will or the words. This blog is supposed to be about self-reflection, learning from the past, and living more mindfully. However, I was just too tired. The analysis required to look deeply within myself and the situations around me had to wait for another day.

And yet, I was angry with myself. I felt that writing about my experiences might actually alleviate some of the sadness and self-doubt. Looking back I wonder if I was afraid to face the feelings in the same way we’re afraid to look in the mirror after a bad haircut. You know it’s there and you know it’s ugly, so better to ignore it until it grows back. Or, in this situation, disappears altogether.

I didn’t want my mother to go into a nursing home, but I knew that my siblings and I couldn’t take care of her any longer.

Mom lost her mobility, requiring a wheelchair and round-the-clock care. Moving her to a nursing home was a tough decision, particularly after watching my dad’s time in a dementia unit. She didn’t want to go, although she never said so. But, we knew, just as she did, that her care was beyond our capabilities.

I formed a mental list in my head of the pros and cons. The cons were obvious, but I promised to make regular visits and get Mom involved in the activities. Just when I convinced myself that “all would be well” the guilt would wash over me again. 

And the underlying grief of this was knowing she was never coming home. I went through it with my dad and it’s a feeling you never forget. Like a death in slow-motion you watch your loved one fade away, grieving together, while trying to pretend it isn’t happening.

While all of this was occurring there was another tragedy unfolding. My ex-husband, who had a long history of alcohol abuse, was spiraling downward physically and mentally. Forty years of drinking had taken its toll. 

I didn’t want him to suffer, but it wasn’t my choice. During the marriage I tried to convince him to get help, but the addiction was stronger than his desire to save himself. Eventually, I mustered the courage to leave, but it took a long time to work through the pain and repair the damage. 

As humans we have a deep-seated need for a sense of control in our lives. Without it we are fearful, anxious and the chance for self-realization is unlikely.

Our own words and actions often impact the circumstances of our lives, while much is beyond our control. I could have made the effort to write something during this past year, but I couldn’t stop my mom from growing old.

Reaching our potential has much to do with choices and expectations. They must align with one another if we want to reach our goals. Being realistic about a reasonable timeframe is necessary. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Therefore, I’m going into 2019 with these thoughts in mind:

  • The Serenity Prayer – Learning to accept what I can’t control, working courageously to make positive changes where I can, and knowing the difference between the two.
  • Realizing there are important lessons to learn in all situations, even unfavorable ones.
  • Understanding that strong boundaries promote healthy relationships, which can withstand the ups and downs of life.


Why Should You Believe In and Help the Refugee Crisis?

“We take in so few refugees worldwide. We resettle less than 0.1 percent. That 0.1 percent benefits us more than them. It dumbfounds me how the word “refugee” is considered something to be dirty, something to be ashamed of. They have nothing to be ashamed of.

We have seen advances in every aspect of our lives — except our humanity. There are 65.3 million people who have been forced out of their homes because of war — the largest number in history. We are the ones who should be ashamed.” ~Luma Mufleh


“Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.”  ~Marie Curie


How To Differentiate Between Good Fear & Bad Fear

“There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.” ~ George Patton

I’ve always believed that fear is like a double-edged sword.  A little bit is a good thing; we stay away from the edge of the cliff and that keeps us safe.

Conversely, too much is a bad thing;  it can cripple us, preventing new experiences and growth.

The trick is knowing the difference and understanding when fear is appropriate and when it’s debilitating.

Thanks to the almond-shaped amygdala nestled deep in the temporal lobe of the brain, our body generates fear quickly in reaction to external stimuli. The “fight or flight” response kicks in and directs us to either stay and fight the thing that scares us or run away from it. This physiological reaction is due to a tangible threat: a snake, a bear, an intruder wielding a gun, etc.

At the other end of the spectrum is fear that results from imagined threats. Yes, if we quit our mundane job to pursue our passion we might not make as much money. If we move to another city we may not be happy. If we ask for a raise we might not get it. So, because something bad might happen, we never venture outside our comfort zone.

Some risks in life are worth taking if we want to grow. Author Susan Jeffers discusses this in her best-selling book  Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.

Changes are often needed to improve our lives, but change is scary.

People in abusive relationships will stay in an unhealthy relationship and not leave their abusers. In spite of the potential for violence, these people cling to what is familiar and not face the fear of the unknown.

I credit fear with making sure I use a seatbelt, drive defensively, brush my teeth, pay my bills, etc. Fear kept me out of the deep water until I learned to swim. Fear guides me away from those things that I know can be dangerous and threaten my survival.

However, I’ve also allowed fear to paralyze me when changes were needed to improve my life.

“Throwing caution to the wind” is something I’ve learned to do over the past ten years when the circumstances called for it. I’ve made many major changes in my life and there have been great improvements because of it.

Each of those changes caused a certain amount of fear. Understanding which type of fear and whether it’s reasonable for a given situation helps in determining what the next step should be if any.

“Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety.” ~ Henry H. Tweedy

Keeping that double-edged sword close at hand is advisable; knowing how and when to use it is imperative. If you don’t believe me, just ask General Patton!