Monthly Archives: December 2017

Five Of The Seventeen Lessons I learned In 2017

As the title suggests, I don’t plan to share my complete list of these lessons. Rather, in this entry I am choosing to share a few lessons that are already making a difference in my life. My thinking is that if I consider a few of my big breakthroughs, and you consider those and your own lessons, we can all end the year with some needed closure and fresh insight to make 2018 easier. As an adult learning expert I know that confusing and difficult life dilemmas give us an opportunity to learn and grow. I am certain 2017 has been a year when I have expanded my perspective, deepened my thinking and yes, gotten wiser. And I bet no matter what went on in your life you realize you learned some amazing things too.

For me, the biggest lesson was personal, not political, learning. The year began with a thud for my dear sister. She had a fall – not off the wagon, she doesn’t drink much – but a set back in her life that she was not prepared for, caught her totally off guard, and totally surprised Bill and I too. What happened next – the ups, downs, dramas and recovery is where it got very messy but amazingly interesting. While going through a depression triggered by my still not totally conquered codependence, (I have read Codependent No More dozens of times). I wound up realizing that I didn’t know my sister nearly as well as I thought I did. And that much of my initial feelings and then suffering was based on false assumptions about my sister – and about myself.

When we finally allowed things to unfold as they were meant to, we both more clearly understood the essence of each other’s character – and how our different but compatible passions were confusing us. While Wendy will always see justice, and correcting wrongs as central to who she is; I will always consider making things peaceful and calm as the highest good. We both are drawn to different north stars. We just needed to GET that our ideal “outcomes” can often feel far apart but ultimately are not for each other. We both have to turn down our “need for control buttons” and know that we are both OK as long as we allow each other to fix things based on our different passions. This profound lesson has let the remainder of the year work much more effectively for us both – and for us to enjoy and love each other in ways that are truly healthy.

Another of my lessons resulted from what I am now calling the chaos of 2017. There has been so much upheaval in technology, marketing and lifestyles, wrenching surprises everywhere from Washington DC to LA, and long-held expectations turned upside down. No matter what the focus of your year, it was touched by a sea of chaos happening everywhere we looked. Half of us just stopped looking and put on headphones. The rest of us tried to balance letting “some stuff” into our world while claiming our own roads. There wasn’t a set of friends or a family that didn’t put up the “no politics sign” at the entrance to some event. The truth is that the world was put into jet drive — change at the speed of light. And tough, very hard on everyone due to storms of nature or storms of our own creation.

Remember the phrase “you are what you eat”? Turns out you are also what you read, listen to, see and choose to engage with. We KNOW that, but do we really work to shape our input environments even as we respect our needs to keep current and apprised of important events? For many, the reaction to potentially disconcerting news is to shut it out. Logically, if and when something happens that is truly life changing, you will tune in – and of course you vote. Fabulous women vote. High standards – and that includes being a good citizen – are critical to all our futures. But let’s say you are like me: really interested in current events, but still concerned with getting too riled up over day to day nonsense while also worried about offending people I love who may have a different reaction or response to events. Remember I mentioned my need for peace and calm?

The lesson was pretty simple – but surprising – I had missed it till close to year-end. I realized that what I was really interested in was history and big current trends – both economic and political as well as social and artistic. If I am learning and growing (a huge passion) by reading interesting and complex ideas about diverse events and trends – from the Vietnam War to Leonardo Da Vinci (click on the links for specifics); if I am seeing and exploring art exhibits about Dali and Schiaparelli on a recent trip with co-blogger Cathy to Florida; then I am happy and more than satisfied with reading my beloved New York Times every other or third day and just checking headlines in between.

Cathy and Patty at the Dali Museum December 11, 2017

I don’t want to be out of the loop about things that matter – but more critical for me is to have my mind stimulated regularly and deeply. It is odd to me that I missed this very obvious need in myself. I wasn’t missing the details of DC daily as much as knowledge and insight into the world and how I might use that knowledge to help myself and others live happier more productive lives. What I realized that was watching CNN or MSNBC, while somewhat interesting some of the time, often was shrill nonsense and not particularly stimulating.

This week I read the new Chris Matthews book on Bobby Kennedy. Loved it. There it was – a biography that gave me insight and information to help better myself and have a greater understanding of today. It just doesn’t have to be today’s rundown.

So there you go. Two big lessons I learned. Add those you did. Just in case you’re interested in that list of 17 lessons of 2017, let me share numbers 15, 16 and 17.

15: Stop taking yourself so immensely seriously.

16: The world will always be challenging, so focus on what’s truly important for you.

17: On or near New Year’s Eve/Day, thank yourself for hanging tough this year – and wish yourself the happiest of New Year’s. Cathy and I wish that for all of you – whether you’ve learned anything or not.

Patty

Christmas Presents for Teenage Grandchildren: Gift Cards Again This Year?

My husband and I have five grandkids. Actually, they really aren’t “kids” anymore since they range in age from 16 to 21.

Three of them live in Nashville and the other two in Florida.  We live in North Carolina and generally don’t see them during Christmas (Thanksgiving has been “our” holiday with them over the years). So, we ship their presents by mid-December.

When they were little, we enjoyed shopping for toys and cute little outfits and wrapping them in sparkly bags and boxes, often with candy canes or chocolate Santas.

In those early days, we only made one big gift mistake when our second oldest grandchild, Terra, was around three years old. We shopped at FAO Schwarz and bought a life-sized talking doll that said things like “it’s time to get up” and “let’s play”.  Terra was scared of her doll and told her mom that it was “too bossy”.  Back to the store it went!

Otherwise, we seemed to have done well with the toys and outfits we chose for the five of them at a time when their parents were happy to have our help with Christmas presents.

As they moved into their teens, however, it got more difficult.

My husband’s two daughters couldn’t help much. They had their own problems figuring out what to give their picky teenagers.

A few years ago, we tried outerwear jackets. Apparently they weren’t cool enough. Another year we tried clothes. Ditto.

We started buying accessories like earrings and necklaces and makeup for the girls and belts and wallets for the grandson. These were safer and worked well for a couple of years. But the older they got, the more they seemed to evolve into “fashionistas”.  Grandma Cathy and Papa weren’t too cool when it came to choosing clothes. And, we didn’t really understand what they might want in technology either.

So we did what their parents suggested. We began giving them gift cards so that they could buy what they wanted.

At first we tried to find out which stores they liked so that the gift cards could be “special”.  That wasn’t easy. Ultimately, we bought generic “use anywhere” cards.

We’ve been doing that for a few years, and even though it seems a little impersonal to us, they have all seemed to appreciate them.

So once again this year, as December rolled around, my husband and I found ourselves talking about giving them another gift card.

Then it hit us. It won’t be long before all five of them are out on their own – with jobs, their own homes and even their own families.

At that point, we probably won’t be buying them personal Christmas gifts anymore.

So, this year we decided to go shopping to buy “real” gifts once again. We are going to wrap them in pretty Christmas paper and ship them to their parents’ homes to be opened on Christmas morning.

The gifts might be the wrong color or style.  But that’s OK.  We like to think that they will know that their grandparents picked out each gift – just for them — with love.

Cathy Green

Fabulous At The Holidays

One of my dear friends is turning 60 this coming week.  I sent her a card and assured her it was going to be OK.  I may have been a total mess back in 2010, but with her mature outlook and strong leadership style she will likely only cry a little and get ready to keep on shining as she enters her 60s.  She has a high-powered job and lives in NYC – I think both these things will help Kathy transition smoothly.

Another of my dear friends is turning 70 next week.  She is beautiful, strong, determined and brave.  She just had knee surgery and is recovering from that agony with grace and little fuss.  Barbara has been a FabulousOver60 woman during this last decade.  How will she handle turning 70?  My guess is she’ll wince at her change in decades; and then proceed to do her 70s every bit as well as she did her 60s.  Not sure of the right adjective to use for the 70s yet.  Thankfully there is time for that to come to me as I spend my final 2 years in my sixties starting this January.

As I recover from a lovely Thanksgiving with only one major upset which is now receding into family history; and start getting into the holiday card, shopping and celebration season, I am reminded of some important wisdom. It is simply this: that any given day in our lives, especially the very hard ones, can be long.  But the years go quickly as we review the years of holidays past come late November and early December.  Which means, having great holidays are not only nice to have, but a must-have for our older selves.  We have no holidays to waste or energy to squander.  Here’s my big three ideas to make it so – please borrow whatever strikes you as sensible and doable for you.

 

Idea #1: Act with a light heart and extreme gentleness.  In this past year we have all seen more bad behavior from leaders at workplaces, in politics, or around one of our own corners than I thought was even possible.  Despite believing I have “seen it all” some of these outrageous acts have really shocked me.   Actions and language have been too rough, crude, and in some cases actually dangerous.  So my first plan is to meditate daily, pray frequently, and approach any actions this holiday with a light hand as well as heart.  I refuse to be drawn into any heated discussions or expose myself to negative energy and overall nonsense.  I am becoming as peaceful as possible and when interacting with anyone at anytime in the next weeks before the new year, my goal is to be soft and kind in every way possible.

Idea #2: Give what you can and want to, but don’t overdo. More simply, put happy boundaries on the holiday.  That means making choices.  I am definitely going to write and send cards – it is something I actually like doing.  It gives me a chance to reach out and touch people I am not able to see or visit with during the year.  Or, a chance to say something I have been meaning to say but just hadn’t had the opportunity to. I am not going to get overwrought with shopping though.  Am limiting who I buy for and what I spend.  There are so many amazing sales it really isn’t hard to act with a conscious and common sense.

My daughter Courtney just helped me out too.  She wrote that our Christmas in New York with all her husband’s truly wonderful family will include the “Secret Santa thing”.  For those of you unfamiliar with this approach, it works like this.  All the adults who are meeting on Christmas will draw names of one other adult who will be in attendance.  Everyone buys one gift for the person they “drew” and everyone gets one gift – a huge break for a fruitcake like me who would normally get something individually for each of the 20+ people who attend. Amen Angels – I thank you with all my heart.

In addition to my fruitiness and nuttiness and due to my compulsiveness I have already shopped for many of those who will be at the event now having a “Secret Santa approach”. SO, I can now use much of what I have bought early as gifts for other family and friends on my list.  Hurrah for me!!!  Forced by sensible relatives to take it all down a notch.

Idea #3: Keep events short, monitor drinking and eating, and spend loving but not too much time with any given family member or friend.  No matter what, the holidays can be stressful.  Sadness at lost family and friends can bring un-prepared tears and sadness; too much sugar and partying can drain our patience; and the volume of noise, running pets and multitude of people in small places can wreck havoc with even a normally calm person’s center.  So plan accordingly.  Going out to dinner one night?  Make the next evening simple, slow and low key.  Lots of visitors on one day?  Try to take in a movie the next day. Balance and pace the time to include all types of love and happiness, and keep it low key enough not to make yourself or anyone around you sick, irritable or grumpy.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and all those you love and hold dear to have beautiful, peaceful and fun-filled holidays.  May there truly be peace on earth — good will toward each and everyone!

Patty

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