Wednesday, October 31, 2012

day 22: reflect

What a difference a month can make.

As I look back on the past 30 days and 21 posts, I am proud of myself.  I knew 31 days in a row would be a challenge for me, and it was.  Sure, in hind-sight I see clearly where I could have done better, but I know that for each day this month I did the best I could do with what I had at the moment.  I have a list of things I've learned to do or not do for the next time around and another for the things I'd like to try.

At the end of the day, I feel that I'm leaving this month stronger and with more clarity than I came into it.  Really, isn't that all we can ever ask for?  To be better than we were.  

When I wrote the first post in this series, I had no idea what I was in store for in my writing life or in my everyday life.  Even though I was aware of some of the calendar events that I figured might offer hinderances in the process, I never imagined some of the other obstacles that rose up along the way.  That's life though.     

It's important to reflect on the things we've done, whether we're proud or ashamed of the process, the outcome, or both.  We have to look back fearlessly and take an honest inventory of what we've learned, what we've missed, the things we've done and those we wish we would have.  Reflection can be a painful process, because it requires honesty with the one person we lie to the most: ourselves.  


Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”  Being a sweeter person isn't about putting on aires and being as close to impeccable as humanly possible, it's about becoming a more authentic person.  A person who is so secure in herself that she radiates that same sense of calm and serenity to those with whom she crosses paths.  We won't become if we can't reflect.


So, until next time y'all...
live, reflect, revise, repeat

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

day 21: impossibilities

"Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'one can't believe impossible things.''I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'"

- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


Source: pinterest.com via Nabil on Pinterest
There are a lot of different takes on how it happened, but Alice fell through the rabbit hole and no matter which version is being told, nothing happened the way anyone expected it to.  Some days are strange like that.  Maybe the cat doesn't talk, the Queen of Hearts isn't breathing down our necks, and we don't have to fight the Jabberwocky.  But maybe, just maybe, we're caught in a day where other's expectations have us feeling trapped.  Where we feel like we will simply burst if we have to put on the act one. more. minute. 

A girl can just simply not be sweet when she is suffocated with all of the rules of the should's and must's.  It's why sweet has to come freely from the heart.  

A free heart is one that is open.  It is free to dream and explore and make mistakes and have successes.  A free heart is not stifled.  It is childlike and open to impossibilities because impossibilities do not even exist.

If we get caught up in believing everything that we are told as truth, well, we simply will have nothing else to do except find ourselves searching frantically for an escape.

Whether we realize it or not.
  
How many impossible things have you believed today?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

day 20: pursue

I made bacon to go with my eggs for dinner tonight.  It was glorious.

And. 

Right now, as I type, I can hear one of my man-eaters in the kitchen trying to track down the remnants of said bacon.  I can hear her rummaging in the trash right now {of course, I'm on to her antics so I  threw the contraband away in the dumpster while she was still outside}; then she will go to the sink to try to sniff the dishes, but they have already been washed and put away; finally, I will hear her nose open the cabinet where I keep the screen that keeps the bacon from spitting.  At that last resort, I will have to leave you for a bit.  It's a little gross to let the dog lick the clean pots and pans.  Just sayin'.

The dog is relentless.  The kitchen is like her personal casino and dinner time is like playing a hard-core game of craps.  One time, I left the kitchen briefly and came back to find she had eaten a whole stick of butter.  What?  Who does that ish?  Apparently, my dog.  Another time, she managed to turn on the stove with her big ol' feet.  {That wasn't really funny, I for real have dreams that I wake up in the morning and she's got the burner lit and just-a-roarin'.}  Yesterday while I was making chili, she just about knocked me over trying to get a piece of onion that I had dropped on the floor.  I thought that might deter her scavenging ways, but clearly a little onion will not stand in the way of a bacon hunt.

All in all, though, Miss Sadie Lou is sweet.  She is stubborn.  She is head-strong.  She is prissy.  And if she had pinky fingers, she would have hers permanently and proudly raised.  And for goodness sakes, when she bats her eyes in the midst of whatever havoc she is wreaking, my heart just melts and I find myself fighting the urge to cuddle her.  {She only cuddles on her terms, ever been snubbed by a dog?  Right!  I told y'all she was stuck up!}

This man-eater has a whole lot to teach her mama about being sweet and holding her own at the same time.  But, the lesson this afternoon was that sweet doesn't mean settling with the same dog food every morning and every night.  It means employing stealth, creativity, and perseverance to savor even just the smell of some bacon.  

Or in the case of the pictures above, batting her sweet brown eyes thus deterring me from making the bed and forcing me to stop and love on her just a bit.  Until, of course, she had had enough of the lovey-dovey nonsense.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

day 19: forgive

The quote that hangs on the wall to the right of my desk at school is from Anne Lamott.  It reads:
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past."
Forgiving is a lot like accepting, except it has more to do with making peace with what has already happened.  Accepting is about making peace with things as they are currently happening.   It means taking out all of that baggage we carry around, looking at it, taking note of what we've learned by going through it {and carrying it around for so long}, accepting that we cannot change it, and then simply letting it go.

Here's how it starts:

Some unfortunate event occurs.  It does not matter whether the event was planned or accidental, real or imaginary.
That little side-talker in my head says something like "You shouldn't have done that." or "She has no right to do this."

And then it grows.  and grows.  and grows. 

Because sometimes I am too angry, afraid, dumbfounded to speak up or I can't because I don't know how or because the risk is too great.
Or I do.  And the repercussion is more than I thought I could handle or doesn't resolve it the way I thought it would.
Or.  The offending person is me.

And then I become resentful.

And trust me, my lovelies, I am not sweet when I am resentful.  I am mean.  I use my words to cut and hurt and demean.  
I destroy what fractured, splintered, hanging like "sinners in the hands of an angry God" piece of a relationship was left as a result of the unfortunate event.
The only person who is really hurt is me.

If I can learn to forgive, I can learn to accept.  If I can learn to see things in my past as they were without judgement; then I can learn to see people and things as they are, rather than what I want or hope for them to be.   If I can learn to forgive, I can stop punishing people for the things that others have done to me in the past.  If I can learn to forgive, I can trust people to be themselves.  And that, my darlings, is the sweetest thing of all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

day 18: be brave

I'm a lover of all things worded.  I love pretty fonts and profound words.  I love reading, pinning, and re-reading pinterest quotes.  {Really, this shouldn't be too surprising!}

Source: stylecaster.com via Laura on Pinterest
So, while I was looking through my boards for an appropriate quote for my last post, I realized something:

I have a lot of quotes about overcoming fear.  Probably because I spend a lot of time being afraid.

Source: flickr.com via Laura on Pinterest
Afraid of what, you may ask?

Really, I'm so glad you did.

I'm afraid of:
failure, success, dishonesty, honesty, moving forward, staying stuck, growing old alone, having a family, doing things wrong, being too dependable, being mean or rude, being a doormat, regret, being attacked by a crazy, being annoying, loving too much, loving too little, being fake, being to honest, not being good enough, being too good, but most of all...

I'm afraid that I've let all of this fear limit the amazingness of my life.
Source: laurenconrad.com via Laura on Pinterest


This past weekend, I took a little vacay to my cousin's wedding.  I almost let fear spoil my sweetness.  And when I look at it from a different angle, it becomes clear that when my anxiety gets kicked up a notch, I am not a sweet person.  at.  all.
Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Some time ago, Susan Jeffers told me to "feel the fear and do it anyway" and I know she's on to something.  Upon some further net searching, I came across the insight of John Maxwell who suggests that a gal might be plagued by fear if she is feeling apathetic, scatterbrained, alone, putting things off, or getting easily sidetracked.

We all want a diagnosis these days, what if most of our problems are rooted in that grand friend, plain old fight-or-flight inciting fear?  Just.  What if?
~or~
What would our lives look like if we pushed the limits?  If we were really brave enough to do it anyway?  

I'm not talking about jumping off of literal bridges here, just maybe digging a little deeper into the words of that little side-talker inside of our heads, you know, the one who says things like, "You don't have to do it today, if you don't want to..." and "You know you won't be good at that" or a personal favorite, "You know everyone expects you to, you just can't let them down now."  

What if today we all took a baby-step toward something we've always wanted but never thought possible.  Even if that baby-step is a simple internet search or a single sentence on a blank page?  Take a baby risk, then tell me about it.  How sweet was it to be brave?





Monday, October 22, 2012

day 17: give thanks

Whoa!  I've kinda gotten a little bit off track on my 31 day goal.  No worries, though, I have full intentions of jumping back on track and gettin' it done.  Rest assured, my lovelies, even though I haven't been writing, I've been doing some thinking and experimenting.  Trust me, I've had a lot of opportunities to practice my sweetness.

But without any further ado...

Today we're gonna talk about being thankful and giving thanks.  It's really really easy to get caught up in the hardness of the world around me.  It's second nature for me to be looking for the better option.  It is not easy for me to be actively thankful as I pay my bills, get up for work before dawn, and go about all of my mundane daily tasks.  BUT.  Those are precisely the tasks that we need to be most thankful for.  Here are just a few of the less-than-bragworthy things I have to be thankful for today:

Source: sparkpeople.com via Laura on Pinterest
I'm thankful for the bills in my mailbox because they mean that I have a job and can afford to have warm running water, electricity to refuel my many electronic toys, gas to heat my house and cook yummy meals for myself and friends and family, a fun car to drive, and a cozy house to hug me.

I'm thankful for four o'clock alarm clock because it means that I have a job to go to.

I'm thankful for my most difficult students because they push me to be a better teacher and person.

I'm thankful for my exhausting, whirlwind trip this weekend because it meant that I could see my cousin get married and spend time with my mama, aunts, uncles, and cousins who live far away; because it gave me a chance to explore a new city; and because I was able to have a fabulously interesting conversation with a stranger on the plane.

I'm thankful for the dog-hair tumbleweeds in the corner of my living room because it means that my ferocious man-eaters are alive and well.

I am thankful for the muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor because they mean that I have a back yard for my man-eaters to run and play in.

I'm thankful for my dishwater-chipped nail polish because it means that I had the resources to cook, serve, and eat a good, hot, hug-in-my-belly kind of meal for my dinner.

It's easy to be thankful of the good stuff y'all, but the sweetness really comes from being able to take the costume off of the things that look like curses and burdens.  What are curses and burdens are y'all thankful for today?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

day 16: pray

I often compare my runs to life, it seems that each little run is a lesson that helps me move forward in my everyday life a little more smoothly; but, I also like to compare the bigger picture of life to a vacation with a lot of different people.  Almost ten years ago, my family took a four-generation, seventeen-person, two-minivan vacation to Florida.  Both grandmas needed wheelchairs, one needed to be pushed while the other refused to sit down; my step-grandpa wanted to go to Gatorland; the little girls wanted to be princesses; my brother was afraid of the water at SeaWorld; and, my mom and aunt made us all wear matching t-shirts.  We all had stuff we wanted to do, expectations for the trip, and the mutual conclusion that if we couldn't get along, we wouldn't have fun.  I think life is like this.

One of my Anonymous Beloveds is a tremendous planner.  I'm not gonna lie, I love to vacay with her because everything is always taken care of.  Even when something I'm not super into is on the agenda, I'm able to relax and enjoy it {some times more than others} because she's got everything under control.  I know for a lot of people in my life, I represent a similar calmness and security.  We all represent this for at least one person in our lives.

And, sometimes it's a lot for a girl to carry on her shoulders.  But, y'all already know that.

It's no surprise {or probably a coincidence, either} that I've been working through some stuff as I've been writing this series.  In a way, we're always working on something {or working on not working on it}.  It always is just a wee bit funny when the thing I've been searching for has been in my face, under my nose, or in my hand almost mocking me while I've run around like a cray-cray trying desperately to find it.  And of course, it's way worse when I'm ├╝ber-stressed about all of things I've got to get done and all of the people who need all of the other things, and so on and so forth. So here's what smacked me in the face yesterday morning.  Y'all ready?

God is kinda like my AB, except with way more resources and is not at all daunted by carrying it all on His shoulders.  He's ready to take the load.

Then, I realized that in the midst of all of this stuff, I had forgotten to pray.

The thing is that praying isn't just about asking God for the things and outcomes that we want; it's about confiding in Him our deepest fears and concerns and asking for advice.  It's a conversation.  And it doesn't always take place while I'm on my knees at the side of the bed.  Sometimes it takes place while I run.  Sometimes over my morning coffee.  And sometimes, little signs like repeating numbers or the hourly notifications I set on my phone telling me that God is in control reminder me that I'm on the right track or that I need to get back on it.

When I first got my man-eaters, I read A LOT of books about dog training.  One of the most consistent piece of information I learned, no matter the method, was that dogs need to re-learn everything you teach them in every new situation they are in.  Humans are like that, too.  It so explains why I give great advice that I, for the life of me, cannot follow myself.  {It's okay to nod your head a little bit if you see a little bit of yourself in this, I won't tell.}  It also explains how I forgot to pray.

Stuff can be throw-you-off-the-tracks-completely hard.  Really, it's just a new opportunity to learn something new or master a tactic.  For me, it's been a little bit of both and prayer is a necessary piece to lightening the load.  I know for sure that carrying it all around does not a sweet lady make.

day 15: make it fun{ny}


A couple of weeks ago {ten and half, to be exact} I was fairly successful in my personal goal to have a good ol' almost-pee-my-pants kind of a laugh once a week.  I was successful for three weeks in a row.  Then.  I went back to having an adult life, filled to the brim with deadlines, to do's, seriousness, meetings, and all of the other stuff that a girl can ignore during a summer hiatus from the adult world.

Two weeks ago, I caught myself, mesmerized in of my Godson's laughter and I realized how far away I've gotten from my own.  There is nothing more beautiful that the way children look and sound when they laugh.  For just those few moments, all that is arduous and burdensome in the world disappears and there is only the sweetness of pure joy.


Since I re-became a functioning adult, I have not laughed good and hard, much less hard enough to almost pee my pants.  I'm not sure how sweet a girl can be when she's too busy taking the world so seriously.

My solution?  To fake it till I make it, baby!

Source: lovwekanc.com via Laura on Pinterest

When I was a kid, one of my favorite games was the ha-ha game.  The rules were simple, in a group of at least two people, each person took a turn saying "ha" one more time than the person before her.  So, for example I would say "ha" and then you would say "ha ha".  We would continue doing that, adding one ha at a time until one player {usually me} could not control the serious any longer and burst out in genuine laughter.

I seriously loved that game.

Today, I will be playing it with myself.  All.  Day.  Long.  Maybe even all week.  I'll be the one laughing at her own jokes.  The one putting things back into perspective.  The one reclaiming my sweetness, one laugh at a time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

day 14: but don't settle

Theres a little voice inside all of our heads that tells us what we can and can't do.  It affirms what we subconsciously believe is {or is not} possible.  We'd like to stand up and scream in its face that what it is saying is false, but we second guess.

Oh, the what-if's.

Yesterday we talked about how it is a-okay to not be perfect.  But.  There's a fine line here.  Because, while we are all amazing in our own sweet imperfect way, it's not okay to settle for mediocre.  It's not okay to let that little voice convince you to stop, give up, or give in.

Take for example, my dishes.  My dishwasher is otherwise disguised as my two sweet little hands and the only garbage disposal that exists in my house doubles as two, four-legged, tail-wagging, man-eaters who prefer dumpster diving over actually eating men.  So you can understand, then, why I despise cleaning up after dinner and why sometimes I'd rather let one of my many personal chefs cook dinner.  It's one thing to accept that I'm not probably going to ever have a real dishwasher in my current house; but, it's a complete other thing to give-up on the whole having-a-house-that-hugs-me-back thing, feel defeated because I have to do it myself, tell myself that I don't deserve to have nice things if I can't have dishwasher, let all my dishes pile up, and become a hoarder eating off of paper plates while the real ones grow things in the sink.  Ok.  So, maybe it wouldn't be that serious.  But it could be.


I've struggled a little lately with the concern of losing the wit and snark that I so closely identify with in my endeavor to become sweeter.  I have feared the idea that sweet might mean ignoring boundaries and putting on the facade of a constant state of "nice-ness" and perpetuating doormat-like tendencies.  In the last several days, however, it seems that by becoming more sweet, I have opened the door for me to feel more authentically like my self, more confident in my "flaws", and more determined to deepening my connections with beloveds.  My conclusion is that my desire to be sweet is really my desire to be a better, happier, more welcoming, more imperfectly unique me and nothing less.

Monday, October 15, 2012

day 13: accept

I was supposed to run 10 miles on Saturday morning.  I ran 4.  And I'm honestly not sure what if I did could even be called a "run".  But there were 4 of them.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  4.  Four.

Last Thursday, I ran five miles like I was a rock star.  No, really.

It's funny how one day can seem like the only possible limit might be the sky and then, in a matter of seemingly minutes, that same limitless sky seems to be falling faster than my poor heart did after hearing that my alma mater lost their homecoming game this weekend.  ugh.  and to a mean team.

The fact is that not every day, run, or body for that matter, is gonna be perfect.  In fact, perfection isn't probably ever going to happen and we just have to accept that.  Undoubtably, it is when we do finally figure this out that we learn how to truly love.

For as long as I can remember, I've beens searching for approval.  striving to be perfect.  because my underlying belief has always been that I was not enough.

This is painful to write, to see it in print on this screen, because for 32 years, I've known this wasn't true, I just, for the life of me, can't seem to believe it.

And then, Saturday, while I was cussing a little about how I should be doing better than I was, a little voice cut through the anger and self-condmenation and said, "hey, let yourself off the hook!"

Sometimes our high expectations and aims for perfection prevent us from seeing the truth in ourselves and in others.  We can't really be sweet to someone if we can't accept them for who or what they are.  And really, how sweet can we be to others if we can't be sweet to ourselves?

Friday, October 12, 2012

day 12: handle your business

Anxiety and insecurity are not only ugly, they are not sweet. They are huge attention whores and only leave a girl drowning in her stupid drama, prayin' and hopin' that some sweet person is going to come and throw her a life preserver.   They prevent us from living fully and relishing in the amazing things that we so often fail to notice in our everyday lives.  Now, there is no shame in taking a helping hand once in a while, but there is no gain in sitting around waiting for someone to come save a sister from her own self.  No one likes a person who is needy.  And I'm gonna tell you that this anxiety ish that has gotten in my brain today has made me feel ultra nee-dee today.



Ultimately, the cold hard truth is that no one is going to save us from ourselves.  They can't.  It's impossible.  It is a choice that we have to make on our own.  And it's usually more difficult than we think we can handle at the moment.  Especially because the underlining belief is usually that something happening beyond our control is taking control of our lives.  

So how am I gonna get out of my drama and back to my sweet self?

I'm gonna pray.

I'm gonna focus on the things in my life that I have control over: my thoughts, my actions, my words.

I'm gonna spend some time with people and doing activities that make me happy.

Source: Uploaded by user via Laura on Pinterest
I'm gonna check some stuff off of my todo list and maybe even attempt reign in the beast of disorganization that has wreaked havoc in my once cozy little home office.

And then, once I've found myself back on sweet stable ground and my life is back under control and in perspective, I'm gonna address this drama mess.

But not until I know I can do it sweetly.  Addressing problems is about solving them, not creating more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

day 11: relish

It was as the end of second hour today when, while patrolling the classroom, I looked back up at the board as a reference to the point I was making and experienced a small surge of joy run through my soul.   What, you might I ask, could a girl possibly see that could possibly bring so much excitement?

This:
I'm bringing diagramming back, yo!  

Then, ya know how there's always those people at the gym?  Today there was that woman who could not for the life of her seem to pick up her feet while she ran.  For reals, I could her the squeaking of her shoes fighting the belt on the mill over the Eric Church I was rocking out to.  And, a couple of weeks ago, I was on a machine next to that girl who used the treadmill like it was a ballet bar {for the record, I love me some fluidity bar workouts, I just tend to think it best to use a *bar*}.  At any rate, I think I became THAT girl tonight, right next to the squeaker, while I mouthed the words to every song {and maybe, possibly threw in a couple of head bobs or arm movements} over my whole. entire. fifty-five minute. workout.  and ya know what?  I don't care.

Earlier in this series, I mentioned the charming little objective of having a life that hugged me back as a priority to becoming more sweet.  In order to have this, a girl needs to relish in the things that build her up and while those things are different for everyone, the tend to fit into at least one of three categories:

  • Things I love and I do not mean that I like them.  I mean I love, love, love them.  The reason doesn't matter, just the love.  
  • Things I need.  I did not need to make pecan pie last night, although I do need to eat, but I love pecan pie and so I did make it and then ate it for dinner.
  • Things I use.  Not the things I'm going to use when..., but things I use now or for a particular occasion, like my Christmas tree.
Of course not everything is going to fit into one of these categories, like say, the dear beloved who drives me batty with crazy talk about things that are not usually very important to me.  I do not love him, probably don't need him, and find very little applicable use in him {although once in a blue moon, he reveals tidbits of information that I find intriguing} BUT I do value him as a human and as a beloved and so it is important to me that I am sweet to him.  

You know the old adage about dancing like no one is watching, it's about creating that life that hugs you.  It's about relishing in the things that bring us joy.  Because as I realized while I mouthed along on the hamster wheel marinating over this post, the more I surround myself with and relish in the things that really matter, the more my life hugs me; and, the more my life hugs me, the more easily my sweetness flows.  When my life hugs me {for me it's when my relationship with God is open, my running is regular, and I've been able to, if only for a short while, let go of the what-if's that often plague me}, I feel balanced and that I can grin and bear the not-so-sweet aspects of life for just a little bit longer.  I may not particularly love that dear man, but I do love the peace that comes from an amicable relationship with him.  It becomes a cycle y'all. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

day 10: the truth doesn't have to hurt

When God installed the filter that runs between my brain and my mouth, I'm certain that it was one of the cheap ones.  And for the most part, it works just fine, especially for all of the big, chunky obnoxious comments that I keep to myself on a regular basis.  But suffice to say that I'm not known for my finesse in addressing difficult situations or subjects.  I'll blame it on my immigrant grandmother.

I'll be completely honest with y'all, well, 'cause that's what I do.  Sometimes, I don't even realize how mean some of the things that come out of my mouth really are.  My heart's not made of stone; and while I'm pretty good at apologizing, I probably take for granted that the people who know me just accept this as one of my flaws.

Yesterday, while I was focusing on not complaining or bringing nonsensical drama to the party, I was apparently failing to pay attention to how I was saying what I was saying.  It was brought to my attention by a third party {because, I'm apparently a wee bit intimidating as well}, that I may or may not have said somethings that may or may not have hurt a person's feelings.  This is not the first time I've been notified of such a thing and so I was not surprised, but definitely a bit remorseful {but only sort of, because, I mean, it was the truth}.

But still, it left me wondering if I could have delivered the same message with just a tad less brashness.  Would the message have been lost?  Would my sweetness have been perceived as weakness? Does causing a person to shut down or feel the need to defend themselves really help the message?

After some serious thought on the matter, I'm going with a big fat no.  A spoonful of sugar really may help the medicine go down!  Who knew?  And thus, one more reason to work on my sweetness: to be more effective.

I've heard relationships be compared to bank accounts via many different sources.  The way I sometimes pretend that I have an unlimited supply of money in my checking account is similar to the seemingly endless supply of support,  patience, and understanding from my beloveds.  I roll along all hunky-dory-like until I gravely discover after procrastinating on paying the bills for one-too-many days or one-too-many humorously judgmental declarations, that I have once again, taken for granted how far I can really stretch a dollar of either currency.  The remedy, apparently, is to save four dollars for every one I spend and to give a person four positive statements for every negative.  If this is true, I've got a whole lot of complementing {and saving} to be doing!

The next phase of this whole sweetness project is to employ my newly aquired questioning technique to understand the logic behind a person's action instead of making mean, mocking, or angry judgements and assumptions; to watch my words and the way I use them; and to avoid at all costs making any interaction a public spectacle.

This is, by far, the most difficult task I've set for myself yet.  So, please, help a sister out: what do you do, or have you done, to help you remember to bite your tongue {especially when you're so Mike Tyson angry that you'd like to bite the other person's ear instead}?  Thanks in advance, I knew y'all would have my back!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

day 9: quit complaining

Some time last year, a beloved and fellow blogger, suggested that she had been abstaining from complaining.  I've been marinating on this idea for about that long.  I mean, I really like the idea and admire her for sticking to it, but I mean, let's be for real.  I like to complain.  Mostly because it means that I can hear myself talk a bunch more, I like to call it venting.

Look, y'all, I'm just being honest.

So this next couple of days, I'm challenging myself to work on my words.  The current challenge is to relinquish my tendency to bring my personal {and very important} critique and drama to any given interaction {including those that take place in my head}, unless of course, it's funny.  I love being funny and laughing with people, especially over my many tribulations.  

As a side note, it occurred to me this morning that it's been over a month since I've laughed so hard that I almost peed my pants.  That needs to happen.  stat.

Today, I managed to circumnavigate commiserating with no less than two Anonymous Beloveds.  And, I'm working on putting some current Little Miss Salty drama nonsense on the figurative shelf for a later date when I might actually know precisely what to do with it {or it simply just works itself out, drama is funny like that}.  It has felt good to clear out the nasty clutter that seems to have been pervading my brain for the last couple of weeks and I'm starting to feel like the more light-hearted version of myself, who I love way more, again.

Of course, I'll admit that I slipped up.  at lunch.  while discussing a topic I've been particularly crabby about lately.  And you know what?  It was not sweet, quite the opposite in fact.  And it made me feel a bit ugly. and people left the room.  ew.  not sweet.  at.  all.

I will say, now that the day is over and I'm safely tucked in my warm bed, that despite my flub, I had an overwhelmingly better day than I've had in a while.  The crazy thing is that nothing that has been going wrong corrected itself, but I stopped focusing on it and started focusing on the things that I do have control over.  I had a great conversation with an AB that wouldn't have happened if I had not been able to keep my drama-mouth shut and I enjoyed my Hart of Dixie mini home-spa night way more than when I treat myself to a whine, wine, and ice cream night.

Monday, October 8, 2012

day 8: payoffs

I spoke with one of my Anonymous Beloveds last night.  She yells a lot.  It seems her kids usually err on the side of bad.  I do not think she is very happy.  I contemplated telling her about this here project thing I've got going, but I didn't want to get into it.  Sometimes sweet means, simply listening without giving in to the overwhelming need to give advice.  I got to thinking though, that she gets a pay off; she's in it for something.  We all are.

No matter how selfless or selfish a person is, everything they choose to do gets them some type of a pay off.  The problem is that most of us don't even realize that our rewards are making us miserable.  But what's my payoff for being sweet?  For sucking it up when I really want to tell the mean mommies to shove their stupid little rain boots where the sun really isn't shining or  from shoulder checking the person who's too busy yelling into her cell phone to see that she's walking on my side of the isle at the store?

I think the ultimate payoff is the world we build around us.  My girl Flylady suggests that we all deserve to build a home that "hugs" us.  Isn't that a fabulous image, y'all?  I want a life that hugs me back.  All the same, it's hard.  Its hard for me to make friends, well real friends anyway, you know the ones you really let get to know you.  Ok.  If we're really gonna be honest here, it terrifies me to be vulnerable in the same way that my man-eaters pace in the basement with their ears perked up, eyes so wide I can see the whites of them, and tails tucked to their bellies during a storm.  So, I've adapted.  I'm the girl with a plan, the one with doggy-tranquilizers and peanut butter as soon as the tornado sirens start wailing.  You know, the self-reliant one, the regular old boy scout.

To simply say that I want a life that hugs me back in return for my sweetness is only scratching the surface.  I want a life that hugs me back because sometimes the walls I build to protect myself leave me a tad bit lonely.  Because one of my greatest pains in life is watching others live a life that I can only dream of right now.   One of my very special ABs always reminds me that when the pain of remaining the same becomes greater than the fear of changing, you'll change.  I'm learning how to be vulnerable one sweet day at a time and my payoff for becoming sweeter is opening my life up to new possibilities.  What are your payoffs?

day 7: what you might miss

I got my first real experience with the mean mommy group today.  No, I'm not a mom; but when I take my Goddaughter out, people assume that I am.  It gives me an interesting perspective, people treat moms different and not always in a good way, for reals.  When I found out I was going to have Little Miss today, I began planning to watch and learn lessons in sweetness from the two-year-old perspective.  I know I'm partial, but she really is a sweet girl.  I had no idea, though, that I would have such a tremendous opportunity to both practice and observe sweetness in action in the adult world also.

It just so happened that I was watching my little charge on a whim today and so I'll gladly take the I'm-Not-The-Mom Caregiver of the Year Award for taking her to not one, but two fast food chains to eat over the course of my eight hour shift.  She's apparently not a fan of left over chili, one hotdog was not enough, and it sorely broke my heart to watch the child happily eating ketchup with a spoon asking for chicken.  And so we ate chicken nuggets and fries and played in fast food play places twice today in two very different parts of town and had two remarkably similar experiences.

In both establishments, I got snubbed by the cool-mom groups.  As both groups clearly ignored my existence, one maybe a little more blatantly than the other {it was probably my failure to choose to wear yoga pants and rain boots out in public that sealed my fate there}, I made the powerful observation that both groups were also ignoring their kids.  There were, however, a handful of moms {three to be exact} who seemed interested in monitoring their kids' play and those were precisely the moms with whom I had the pleasure of exchanging a simple smile.

As I expected, it was the kids who demonstrated the purest sweetness.  The younger the child, the more likely he or she was to interact with a new person in a welcoming way.  When I let LM play on the play place with the bigger, more rowdy kids {I know, I know, as if the food wasn't bad enough...} it was the youngest of the kids who stopped to acknowledge her and even gently guided her out of the way of the bigger kids who clearly did not see her.

When LM walked into both play places, she was cautious but determined to play.  She wore a smile and was clearly perfectly content to play with a new kid or by herself.  And as I sat and enjoyed watching her play I was reminded that if I would have taken the time to have been angry or hateful about being snubbed, I would have missed the sheer joy of that lovely little girl's sweetness.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

day 6: but, what if?

I knew it was bound to happen.  I suppose it's better to just get it done and out of the way.  Now's as good a time as ever, and sooner's always better than later.  Well, usually anyway.

My mini me is throwin' another fit, y'all.  And this time, she's angry at me.  It seems that she's pretty sure all of this sweetness stuff is going to backfire and leave us with nothing more than the dirt everyone else has left over from wiping their feet on our pretty little faces.

Sure, being sweet can get a girl's heart hurt, no one likes knowing that their kindness has been taken for granted, or worse, gone unacknowledged.  And yet, these are not valid reasons for choosing the opposite of sweet.  The choice to be sweet to the people we encounter in our lives, be them strangers, friends, or family, is a gift and gifts are not given because people earn or deserve them, they are given out of love.

Of course, we don't need excuses to be sweet to the people we love and who are sweet to us, although sometimes we need reminders {we'll cover this in a future post}, what mini me is afraid of and what keeps most us on guard in public are the people we don't really know or who we are getting to know and the pressing urge to protect ourselves.  Being sweet doesn't mean I am a doormat.  It means I choose to take and interest in other people and have respect for their journey as fellow humans ~ regardless of whether or not I agree with some, few or none of their decisions.

So, because mini me really likes clearly defined rules {they make her feel safe and secure, like she at least has a compass in the middle of the wilderness}, I thought I'd share the guidelines we have come to agree upon for the rest of this journey:
  • People may not immediately appreciate sweetness from others, especially strangers, and that is okay.  If we are interacting with them anyway {passing through the same isle in Target, entering the highway at the same time, or even just walking down the sidewalk while we're gathering the mail} we lose nothing by being sweet and we have the benefit of going about our activities with a smile.
  • We do not need to seek out people who do not wish to acknowledge or appreciate {although we're surely not being sweet for appreciation} our sweetness; in fact, sometimes giving people space without bitterness is the sweetest gesture we can make.
  • We do not have stop enjoying our own activities in order to fill our time with what makes others happy; doing things that make us happy helps us to stay sweet.
  • We are allowed to decline invitations as long as we do it sweetly.  This doesn't mean we have to give an excuse or tiptoe around the subject, simply acknowledging the gesture is plenty.
  • We must always be genuine in our sweetness, it is okay to follow our mama's advice, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."  People can see through insincere actions and being fake just isn't sweet.
I figure being sweet, you know, the genuine kind, is sort of like buying a raffle ticket from that little neighbor kid's  school or church fundraiser: the underfunded cause gets a helping hand, you've strengthened {or begun building} a relationship, and because you now have a raffle ticket, you've got a chance to win a prize, which is a bonus, because we all know that whatever is being raffled off is not often the reason we bought the ticket in the first place.  If it's done right and for the right reasons, there's no real downfall to buying a ticket from the poor kid, even when it's not a winning one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

day 5: a choice

When I first formulated my mission statement, and much more recently the topic for this series, I was not thinking of myself.  Okay, well kinda, because deep down I knew that the only real way to enhance my own life was to be an enhancement in the lives of those I meet.  And let's be for real here, everyone we know and love in our lives was, at one time, a stranger.  So yes, strangers are included in this.

We have nothing if we have no one to share the ins and outs, ups and downs of our lives with, and while it's super important that we surround ourselves with people who genuinely care about our lives, we have to genuinely care about theirs as well.  And sometimes genuinely caring about someone feels downright uncomfortable.

A seriously foundational book for me, one that I've reread several times, is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  In it he outlines the five ways people give and receive love by suggesting that love is not only a verb, but also, and probably more importantly, a choice to learn and give love in the way others are uniquely built to receive it.  The most important message: it's your job to find out what makes the people you love feel loved.

Because being sweet has a lot to do with getting out of our own heads and loving people {especially our loved ones}, it's important that we actively remember that what makes us feel loved will not automatically make someone else feel the same.

So let's put the last two days into perspective here:  we cannot be sweet to people if we don't see {physically and figuratively} them because we are too busy walking around in our own drama and even then, if we fail to take genuine interest in what makes them unique because we are still in our own drama or do it solely as a means of getting attention, then we have done nothing more than allowed the important people {and we've already established how strangers fit into this} to become physical objects that stand to be manipulated or avoided.  What I've learned so far in this process is how unbelievably scary, amazing, and so precious it is when I shut my mouth and invite another person to share their world with me, even if just briefly in a passing conversation or exchange of hello's.

Being genuinely sweet is mindful choice to put our own desires, needs, and insecurities aside for the benefit of someone else.  It means sweetly reminding ourselves that there is greater joy in doing for others.  Today, I challenge you to put it all together and make the choice to be sweet for someone else's gain, for the sole purpose of letting them feel uniquely special.  Then, please, let me know how it goes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

day 4: old dogs, new tricks, and the intersection

True story.

I had been watching a particular student's body language during my week of observations and could tell, based on some of the subtle changes in her body language, that something was going on with her.  It so happened that I found myself standing next to her in the hallway and I took note that it was a perfect time to check in with her.  I headed off the conversation with the standard, "How is everything going?"  Her response: "fine." Aaaaannnnd.  Silence.  She looked at me, I looked at her.  and.  nothing.  Within milliseconds, the friend that she had been waiting on appeared and they had both disappeared into the abyss that is a high school hallway during passing period and I hadn't done anything to build that relationship.

I do not love awkward silences, and, well, let's just get this out of the way, I love to hear myself talk.  I think I'm very funny and I'm fairly certain that I'm always right, additionally I'm certain that my insight will always help a person solve their problems.  It has always been my M.O. {mode of operation, I love this asking questions thing!} to strike up a conversation by way of a personal funny story, allowing the development of conversation to rest on the continuation of my stories or on the other person asserting their own stories, questions, or comments.  If I'm gonna be honest here, I have to admit that I'm not really a great conversationalist.

And thus, we return to the failed hallway attempt to be sweeter.  I don't honestly think the poor girl knew how to respond.  She may have been waiting to hear what I was going to say; she's very respectful that way.  She could've been been laughing in her attempt at my feeble attempt.  Maybe she was just counting the minutes until we were no longer sharing the same air.  At any rate, the lesson here is two fold:
  • It's not enough to simply take notice, now I must take interest.
  • This ish is hard.  
The solution to lesson one: start askin' some questions.  The solution for number two: suck it up, the good stuff ain't easy.  

My second attempt at taking an interest came out a little more like a police interrogation, during which I may have appeared only slightly more inept than I did during the blank stare I encountered in my first.  BUT, all was not lost, in every failed attempt there is a new opportunity to succeed, here's what I learned after this go-round:
  • Slow down and listen, asking questions means nothing if I'm not paying attention to how the person is answering.  This is not an archeological dig; every word has the potential to be a precious key into understanding that person.
  • Ask more open ended questions, for goodness sakes, let the poor person give an answer that consists of more than a simple yes or no.
If at first you don't succeed, yada yada yada.  Luckily, the third time was indeed the charm.  And I tell you what, magic happened.  Ok, so maybe without the angels singing and such, but still, it was a proud moment.

I was riding in the car with my particularly handsome potential suitor and because I was taking notice, it became clear that he was, maybe, not overly thrilled with something and grunted something along the lines of "long day" when I inquired. {I'm sure it didn't help that we had to fight traffic twice because I left my phone, especially after I jested about always being prepared for anything ... any who...}  My choices became clear: let the silence be, interrogate, or start talking.  I soaked in the silence.  The cool thing was that as the evening went on and I continued to eloquently pepper the quiet with inquiries {read: stay as far away from the third degree interrogation schtick as possible} and kept the "I" statements to a minimum, the worry lines started to fade off of his face, his posture became a bit more open, and his grunts became whole sentences.  I'll call that a success and I'll gladly pat myself on the back for it.

Old habits die hard, that's for sure, but old dogs can learn new tricks.  Becoming a sweeter person will not happen over night, nor it will I be successful at it on the first try.  There is a leaning curve.  Sometimes, all I can do is look back and learn from what I could've, should've or would've done.  The cool part, though, is that, even when all I can do is look back, it is enough.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

day 3: take notice

I'm a very important person.

On any given day, my mind is madly overflowing with an obscene number of pressing issues.  Important people are reduced to simple items on a list waiting to be checked off, special events are resented as duties, and gift cards are unapologetically given for lack of a more thoughtful gift.

There is just so much to do.

I know I'm not alone in this.  On the rare occasion that I've managed to step outside of my own Very Important Pressing Issues while out and about, it's clear by the apparent grimaces {no, not the purple guy from McDonald's} on peoples' faces that they are also feverishly consumed by their own VIPIs.

And so my first mission in becoming a sweeter me took shape.


It has become clear to me that I cannot possibly be sweet to anyone if I am unable to get outside of my head.  Since we're taking baby steps here, I began my journey last week with some good 'ol people watching.  With the help of the phenomenal little book You Say More Than You Think,  my goal was to simply make observations, without attaching judgment, of the people I encounter on a daily basis.

Can we say mild anxiety attack?

The truth is, it's been a long time since I really paid attention to what and how people communicate.  I get so focused on how I can use the information that a person is giving or how I can give my personal expertise as a response that I find myself only listening to the facts not the person, or worse, simply biding my time until my turn to talk comes back around.  {I really do have great stories to tell!}  When I opened my eyes,  took off my me-me-me goggles, and got over the overwhelming amount of information that people share without speaking, I realized how small my world actually is.

Then, almost in the blink of an eye, it occurred to me that, for some of the people I had been observing all week: my students, co-workers, friends, family, and potential suitors {he stepped back on stage, hurray!}, I am part of their stories and the way I hold myself and speak to them is intertwined into theirs.  It is truly a humbling notion.

It's no longer quite so overwhelming to take notice of the people who I encounter in my daily life and it is refreshing to be able to almost automatically remember that I don't already know what is going on in a person's mind based solely on what he is saying or doing.

Being sweet means recognizing that other people's stories and experiences are just as important as mine; I can't possibly expect another person to take notice of me if I can't get out of my head and notice how important they are also.

Day 2: so what's the problem?

If you've been reading along with me for the last couple months, or you've just stopped in and perused a bit, you'll know that I've been making some eye-opening discoveries about my self lately.  My most disturbing recent {and possibly most important} was that, despite my increasing patience with life, greater faith in God, and growing attention to detail, I have become a bit more ... um ... well ... uppity.

*sigh*

It turns out there is pride in becoming a better person, and really, there's no blame in a chica being proud of the better person she's growing it to.  It becomes a problem, however, when that little chica mistakes her bettering as becoming better than other people on their very own journeys.

I'm actually quite embarrassed by the whole thing.  But.  I've also learned that if I don't deal with things immediately, they become, well, a bit of a pickle.

What's a girl to do in such a predicament?

I have a suspicion that the answer is simply to turn my focus onto those around me.



If only it were that simple.  Of course.  The best things in life are never easy.


Day 1: why sweet?

Welcome to day one - I know, I know, it's already the third day of the month, better late than never y'all  -  of 31 days of sweetness, my first link-up ever.  A whole month where I focus on my personal mission to be sweet.

So, the first step to every project is to define the problem.  What does being sweet really mean?  I mean, people often tell me that they think I'm nice.  I think being sweet is more than that.

My fancy-shmancy Mac dictionary defines it this way:


And so begins my quest to be more pleasing in general, kind, and thoughtful because those are descriptors for the type of people with whom I most enjoy spending my time, because people who do for others are happier, and because the world does not {contrary to my popular opinion} revolve around me.