A Better New Year in 10 (somewhat manageable) Steps

2019

By: Jana Greene

Well, well, well….

It seems I just got used to writing “2018” on my checks (yes…I still use checks) when BOOM! – it’s a brand new year.

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve, even when I was a drinker. It was not my style to do the party circuit; I was more of a “lock myself in the bathroom with a whole bottle of wine” person.

Alas, it has been 18 incredible years since I’ve had a drop of alcohol. And that, my friends, is a miracle of such magnitude that Moses parting the Red Seas pales in comparison. I had all the emotional fixins’ to prime me for alcoholism, and an alcoholic I was.

Am, actually. I won’t graduate from alcoholism.

This year, I will try to intentionally pour emotional resources and time into my recovery. Meetings with my 12 Step tribe and self-care strategies will become more of a priority; one that I have not been as vigilant about in 2018 (and struggled as a result.)

I would very much like to say – or at least pretend – that I am past it now, the drinking – and that I am a wise and sage maven of serenity. That I have my shit together and have written books about ultra spirituality, and meditate regularly. Although I HAVE written books, I assure you that I don’t have all the answers and never will, and have exactly 0% of my shit together.

I CAN however make some realistic resolutions (a.k.a. “goals”) and so can you. These are just a bunch of ideas for actions that are both little and incidental, and huge and profound. They are things that I can control – unlike every other dang thing in the universe, which is chaotic and unresponsive to my control-freakness (damn it.)

In 2019…

1. I will give myself credit for doing things right.

In today’s world, the focus is on what we DON’T accomplish, and that kind of self-flagellation is right up my alley. As a person with chronic and painful health conditions, I never get nearly enough done.

At the end of the day, I may have cleaned two rooms, which means I will obsess about the other six that didn’t get touched and look like three cats have thrown cat parties in them. Because we have three cats, and every day is literally a party for them.

It is not, however, a party for ME most days. Most days, I have a certain amount of physical and mental energy and have to ration it out little by little, prioritizing while knowing full well the things low on the list WILL NOT GET DONE.

Here’s to a kinder, gentler to-do list in 2019. An era in which I ask myself if I completed a task, and focus on THAT.

Did I put on pants today? BRAVO, world-slayer!

2. I will be less harsh on (physical) self.

Hooooboy. This year, I turn 50 years old, and Father time is walking across my face. It would appear that he is wearing soccer cleats whilst doing so! Two-thousand-eighteen has been the Year of the Carb. And the funny thing is that last year, NO CARBS was #1 on my internal resolution list. Do anything, Jana….EXCEPT CONSUME CARBS. As Dr. Phil would say, “How is that working for me?”

I’ll tell you how. I gained 20 pounds in a year. The reasons why are legion – lowered mobility, pain when moving, and FOOD. Because I did the exact thing I promised myself I would not do, and I did it TO THE EXTREME.

I hate mirrors; hate them. And that’s kind of a shame because I am now as young as I will ever be, and my husband is not complaining about the way I look. I don’t want to be that woman that fights ageing with panic, honing in on every new wrinkle or fat cell.

Life is simply too short.

3. I will put away the bat in general.

In recovery circles, there is an expression: “It’s time to put away the bat.” The phrase gives a nice visual representing the way we beat ourselves up. Not just about missing goals or gaining weight, but about how we stack up in comparison to other people. We beat ourselves to a bloody pulp with a virtual baseball bat because others clearly are “getting it,” and we perceive that we are not.

Comparison is a thief of joy! I’m going to work on letting it go, and putting away the weapon of emotional torture.

4. I will try to say “thank you.” Just “thank you.”

If you tell me that you like my blouse, it’s likely that I will vomit forth details about it, such as how I got it at Goodwill and it was only $3.99, and it had a frayed hem but I fixed it, and unfortunately I had to go up two sizes.

If you tell me you enjoy my blog, it is my instinct to convince you why you really shouldn’t. I don’t know why, but this kind of minimizing can be cured with two simple words: THANK YOU.

Just “thank you.” And I mean it from the bottom of my heart.

5. I will catch myself when I’m exhibiting co-dependent behavior and lovingly steer myself from it without chiding.

I have no right to be happy if you’re not happy. Crazy, right? But this principal manifests all the time. Especially with my children and husband. When they are sad / mad, I am sad / mad. Because maybe I can “fix” their problems if I get sad, too. Or something like that.

I think it has something to do with being an empath. We absorb the moods of others, particularly of those we love deeply. It literally feels frivolous to be happy if someone I love is not.

This has got to go.

Hey, I’m really sorry your horribly grouchy – that sucks. But I’m TEFLON, man. You can try to rub your grumpiness on me, but I’m not owning it.

That’s the kind of thought process I aspire to. And speaking of thought processes…

I will make time for therapy!

6. I will make time for laughter.

God, I love the internet, unapologetically and 100%. And do you know why? Partially because if I’m not up to wearing pants, I can still communicate with friends on Facebook. Just kidding (not really!)

But my favorite thing about the interwebs are memes. I’m a grown-ass woman and I love me some cats pictured with snarky comments and eat-shit-and-die expressions. I was embarrassed about this for a long time, until I starting posting these squares of silliness to my social media page, and other people started laughing, too.

OMG, if there is anything better than heart-lightening laughter, it’s making OTHER PEOPLE laugh!

Oh, and videos. Ditto prior embarrassment. But then my kids introduced me to ‘Vines’ and life has never been the same.

There are days – especially when I’m struggling and depressed – YouTube videos of Jon Crist have saved my sanity.  If you’ve never watched “Juggling the Jenkins” by YouTuber Tiffany Jenkins, you are missing out big-time.

7. I will make time for music.

MUSIC. IS. LIFE. And I don’t listen to enough of it.

My musical tastes range from Bach and Beethoven to “please don’t judge me.” I love Al Green. And Eminem. And Don Williams. And The Black Crows. I listened to very little music in 2018, on account of I was so seldom “in the mood,” which is a damn shame, because music is a mood changer.

I’m not sure if this is it’s own distinct mental illness, or just a sub-group of my several, but I can almost SEE music. Playing a song sweeps me up and carries me off. Music is color and light and carbonated joy.

Music is therapy. Need a good cry but can’t get it started? Coldplay’s “Parachutes” album. Just do it, and for extra expedition, lean your head against a window whilst it’s gently raining outside or something. You will cry, and it will be cleansing.  Earth, Wind, and Fire cannot be usurped when it comes to getting jiggy with it. It is literally impossible to wallow in the funk if the funkiest tunes are blasting. Worship music can shift the whole atmosphere, and I’m not exaggerating. It can pour a salve into all the hurting places in my soul.

Krunk that stuff UP.

8.  I will try to do 10 kind things for other people each week without telling a soul.

I used to write gratitude cards every single week. Just little note cards sent to friends to remind them specifically why they are so incredibly fabulous. I don’t do that anymore. At some point, it became more of a chore than a kind endeavor, and I hate that.

May 2019 be a year of less selfishness and more kindness. Ten itty-bitty things can make a huge difference.

Holding a door open. Paying for the coffee of the person behind me in the drive through. Phone calls or texts to say I’m thinking of you and I love you.

It’s something I learned in The Rooms (a recovery term for 12 Step groups): You keep it by giving it away. Your hope, experience, strength.

One of the kindest things we can do for someone is express gratitude. We each have something within us that not a single other person on earth can give. I generally do much better if I express gratitude with kind words to others.

I want to work on that.

9. I will invest in my relationships like there’s no tomorrow. Because there may not be.

We once attended a church where the co-pastor was an elderly gentleman. He was a real salt and light kinda guy….always smiling, quick with a joke, and charmingly honest. For instance, he stood at the pulpit one Sunday morning and opened with this zinger: “We’re all terminal.”

He was right.

Notice how time goes much faster with every passing year? I’m going to try to savor it instead of wishing it away. And to savor it, I need relationships. Not acquaintances; real, rich, messy, intimate bondings.

And no….not that kind of intimate! The kind where you bring your raw, honest self in communion to another human being, (and they bring their real, honest self to you,) and you appreciate them for exactly who they are. God created each of our friends with the intention we invest in that person. He has had each friendship in mind since before we were born!

Enjoy it, he is saying. You aren’t meant to do this hard life alone.

10.  I will keep an open(ish) mind.

At some point, Christians have given all our mysticism over to the pagans and such. Please trust me when I say that there is NOTHING more mystical than the Triune God.

It’s the trippiest, man. That a Cosmic Creator inhabited flesh to draw us near. DUDE.

Considering alternate points-of-view is not turning my back on Jesus. Pretty much everyone has something to say worth hearing. Recently, I’ve been reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With You” by Cheri Huber. It is positively incredible.

It is not a “Christian” book. I’m pretty sure she is not a “Christian” writer. But she has some very Jesusy things to say.

“If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”
And…
“All of life’s conflicts are between letting go or holding on, opening into the present or clinging to the past, expansion or contraction.”
Those are Biblical principals.
In 2019, I will work on my spiritual expansion and contractions. I will adsorb light and love, and embrace who Jesus Himself is, and not what 2,000 years of man-made doctrine and musing has made him.
LOVE.
And, HEY…if you read my blog?
THANK YOU.
Dear readers, I wish you the very best in this new year.
May you laugh, and dance, and give yourself credit for the things you do right.
I hope you be happy, even if no one around you is happy.

Hold on to your joy!  It’s yours!

I pray that in 2019, you will put the bat away, and see yourself for
who and Whose you are – perfectly BEAUTIFUL.
May you have a party in your soul the likes of which my three cats enjoy
on the daily. They have not a worry in the world.
And most of all, I pray that God blesses you in overflowing measure
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Reasonable Happiness

Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: Jana Greene

God grant me the serenity…

Last week was an almost magical week for me, having had the opportunity to connect with some family members and friends, with whom I needed connecting. For a few days I was back in my state of origin, geographically. But my spirit was in it’s element…happy. There were times that I felt my heart would burst from the pure enjoyment of living one moment at a time, just as my belt would burst from so much Texas barbecue. My face was sore from smiling. There was healing and forgiveness bestowed and accepted, and the kind of camaraderie that only dear childhood friends can resurrect.

Visiting rivers and singing along to songs in the car to Pandora’s “’80’s Radio Hits.”

Seeing how much my hands are like those of my father, who I’ve only ever seen a handful of times in my 46 years.

Coming to know my half-sister and her family.

Remembering that I do have people.

Happiness is to serenity, as serenity is to joy – the ultimate goal, the place where we are in God’s presence with no distractions. We long for supreme happiness, but have only delicious, fleeting tastes of it.

What made me happy last week – Texas – might be different than what makes me feel happy next week. We are fickle creatures.

I suppose I have kind of an emotional hangover. Today,  I’m weepy and sentimental, and have this crazy urgent want to make all things right. But that’s a problem in this world, because setting all things right is not my job. Trying to make it my job leads straight to unhappiness. I know enough to know that.

It makes me think that maybe perfect happiness is too much…just too much to ask for. I can’t wait around for everything to get it’s collective act together before I allow myself a slice of ‘happy.’

Oh, how I love the Serenity Prayer – such a simple thing! Most people know the first refrains of it, but it is the last half of the famous prayer that really speak to my heart.

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

It’s hard to take this world as it is, not as I would have it. Expecting supreme happiness in this life being unreasonable and all.

The state of my origin can also be melancholy, and sometimes I get my wheels stuck in the muck of melancholy. It helps if I just go ahead and feel what I’m feeling already, instead of attempting to stuff, manipulate, or eat my feelings.

Feel the bittersweet. Feel the melancholy. Really let it squish around between my toes like Texas mud. And then step out of it to walk into the courage to change the things that I can. Because I can’t experience the pure joy of living one day at a time any other way than to surrender to His will.

Accept that hardships – those stumbling blocks to happiness (a feeling) – are nothing but paving stones for the pathway of peace.

God,

Grant me reasonable happiness and help me to trust YOU to make all things right.

In the name of Jesus.

Amen

 

 

Breathe Joy into Me – a poem, a prayer, and a plea

POEM

God,
I’ve been feeling so discouraged,
Two steps forward, one step back,
Feeling like my soul is tired,
Over extended, under attack.

Oh to have my joy back!
I know it is mine for the asking.
To gain it I must first surrender to you
The pain that my sadness is masking.
The tiredness, the sickness,
The constant striving,
On my own human power
It keeps me from thriving.
Oh, God, please be infused in me.
They way Holy Spirit desires to be.

I want to have my joy back –
That birthright you left in the empty tomb.
I want the peace – the good shalom –
You left me in that Upper Room.
The weary dark replaced instead with
Your open, welcoming arms,
The chronic illness bested by
Your protection from all harm.

Oh God, please inhabit me, my
Source of peace so close to me
That Holy Spirit breathes in me,
Breathe joy into me.

Remind me that two steps forward –
In spite of the one step back –
Still means that I am traveling
On the forward-moving track.

Oh to have my joy back!
I know it is mine for the asking.
Oh, God, please be infused in me.
The way Holy Spirit desires to be.

And all the days of my life I will be,

Yours.