A few good things inspired by a not-so-good year

gold wave

Surely you too heard people say (and read people post) that 2013 was their worst year. Ever.

Ok, so maybe to call it that is overkill, but I agree it was difficult in the extreme. It not only felt like, but was a bit like a stroll through Mordor, only with much better food.

Of course I don’t mean to suggest there was a total absence of the good, the great or the wonderful. There were, to be fair, numerous gems sprinkled in an otherwise nasty mix. And one of the best things about this past year is that it was so bad.

An average bad year is just blah. A really bad one has a lot to teach.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the good things that came out of this not-so-good year for me. Some are new, some just represent uber-validation for lessons already learned. And I know for sure it’s genuine validation, because it’s been thoroughly tested. Yet again.

1. As much as everything is always about the love, it is also about forgiveness. Forgiveness as a process, at every step…for everything, for everyone. And when you can’t forgive, or slip back into anger, you have to pick yourself up and start over. There’s no way to live with any measure of peace or claim to decency and kindness if you don’t constantly forgive.

2. Being right is sometimes so wrong. It leads to self-righteousness and barriers. To judgment. To un-forgiveness. Not everyone has the same resources to work with, or knows how to apologize. So if we have an advantage of perspective or ability in any situation, it’s up to us to step up and ‘be the hero’. That doesn’t mean turning into a doormat. It simply means being kind even if someone is unkind. It means looking down, as the saying goes, not to judge but only to help someone get up. Whether or not it’s appreciated doesn’t matter. True kindness and friendship do not keep score.

3. Most men really don’t appreciate very smart, independent women. Unless, they (men) have the upper hand in some way. Or think they do. Then it’s ok. (Calm down, I said most men, not all!)

4. Unless one is a high functioning sociopath who refuses to try (and there are many of them, so let’s not look at statistics), it is absolutely possible to change and outgrow even the most stubborn negative patterns…thoughts and behaviors alike. Seriously. It’s totally doable.

5. We need to remember to give those we love what they need (and ask for) when they’re struggling. Not what we need. We can’t put our own needs for being appreciated, useful and necessary first. If we love someone, letting them know that we do, and that we are there for them is enough. Unless we are asked to help, we have to learn to step back and be patient. Pushing with questions, offers or expectations makes everything so much worse. Sometimes people have nothing to give for a while, or else no energy to give anything. And we are all more passive-aggressive than we realize even when we have the best of intentions.

6. Fresh lemon juice and zest always make everything taste better. As do fresh chives. (And by everything I don’t mean desserts, although some work with the lemon.)

7. A sense of humor and flexibility make or break the deal…every deal, every time. Can’t live without them. Anyone who takes themselves, their opinions, choices, achievements, education, wealth or status too seriously, is a jerk. Period. (Also applies to those who refuse respectful debate, dismiss all opposing views with only condescension and the intent to belittle another, or spend a lifetime hoarding insults and injuries done unto them.)

8. When it comes to self-improvement, most of the time we have only a general idea about what we need to learn and figure out. We think we know everything of course. What we know is the equivalent of “the destination is somewhere north”.  Yet as we search for answers, work hard, meditate and pray, we remain convinced we’re holding a precise map…and if only the terrain would be made easier to navigate, we’d be at our destination in no time. It doesn’t work that way. We can reach our goals, and the universe does help. But no responsible universe will ever allow the equivalent of gifting an adult racing motor-bike to a toddler who asks for something nice to ride. In short, we get what we want and need when we are really ready, not when we believe we are ready.

9. It’s important to get comfortable with hypocrisy, because we’re all guilty of it. Still, we can all do our part to make the world a better place, even as we struggle with difficult (and painful) contradictions.

10. Nothing is uglier than selfishness. Except being stingy, regardless of whether you’re rich or poor. (And the saddest thing is not realizing you are selfish or stingy.)

I’m afraid I don’t have a grand finale here. Except to reassure everyone 2014 will be a better year. I believe we all learned a lot from the last one. And it also wouldn’t hurt for us to aim for a little more lightness in our step…a bit more laughter. Maybe we can all try to be a bit less self-absorbed, more generous even if we have very little ourselves. Less counting of money, more appreciation and sharing of value. More focus on those who don’t have a voice and need us to speak up for them (like animals, children, the environment…) wouldn’t hurt either. And maybe, also, let’s worry less about how we’ve been wronged, or how many mistakes we made ourselves, and think more about what we can do to show more kindness, compassion and love.

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