Hindsight Resolutions: What Got Done in 2021?

What Got Done is Also Who You Are!

Happy New Year! If you feel like you’ve already let yourself down by not yet making any Resolutions for 2022, you can opt to give yourself a break.

How? Just decide not to make any resolutions this year. Instead, take a look back and see how 2021 played out for you. You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you accomplished – or at least survived – in the last 12 months.

Yay, you! Pat yourself on the back.

For inspiration, take a look at your calendar, and some photos, of the past year. Then answer these two questions:

  1. What got done in 2021? This is the place for things you accomplished, even (maybe especially) if you just went with the flow and took a spontaneous shot. It could be anything, from finally replacing the toaster to earning a PhD. If you feel proud (or relieved) it counts! This list is more proactive – life didn’t force it upon you. You created the change.
  2. What challenges did you meet/survive/learn from in 2021? Here is where you give yourself credit for getting through the stuff life threw at you this past year. We all get a free square for living through another year of Covid.
  3. If you rewrote (or wrote) your 2021 resolutions now, with the hindsight of what actually happened, how cool would you look?

If, at least, sometimes, life is what happens while we are making other plans, then what does your personal history have to teach you?

Share your top three items in the comments! (just click the bubble next to this article’s title)

Be proud! You are a rock star.

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Parenting: The Love Whose Goal is Separation

Children Must Learn to Ride Without Us, Step by Step

I waited at the school bus stop for E, my oldest (Kindergarten) grandchild, and looked forward to the huge smile and hug she always gives when she sees it’s me meeting the bus today.

This time, though, I got a consolation hug and a small smile. No running into my arms. No “Hi, Grandma!!!!!” . Instead, E handed me her backpack and walked four steps ahead of me to be with the two older girls who live across the street.

For the first time as a grandparent, I got the lukewarm shoulder. Oh, E was sweet and respectful, but I didn’t feel like the bestest person in the whole wide world in that moment.

Ouch.

For the first time as a grandparent, I got the lukewarm shoulder.

As a parent, I’d gone through this twice already. I know all too well the ego hit when your son or daughter grows away from depending completely on you to stepping further and further into the world.

Then I read this passage from The Art of Loving, by Erich Fromm.

In erotic love, two people who were separate become one. In motherly love, two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child’s separation.

This is not meant as a total embrace of Fromm’s writings: I find a lot of it sexist and otherwise flawed, but this quote, standing alone, helped me view parenting through a different lens, and I’ll need it again as the grandkids grow up and step away.

The goal is separation.

The best gift we can give a child is the love, support and confidence to eventually take over their own lives, wisely and well, with confidence.

For that, we take little steps away, as appropriate, and our own egos must relearn to find other sources of esteem when our children begin to notice that we aren’t perfect, and that we are not the center of their universe all the time.

Painful, yes, but necessary – for our growing children and grandchildren, and for us.

Someday we will be an embarrassment to our children. That’s the hard truth. No matter how cool we think we are, they will find us, um, let’s just say less than cool.

I guess I just didn’t expect a moment of that from a kindergartner. Sigh.

The best gift we can give a child is the love, support and confidence to eventually take over their own lives, wisely and well, with confidence.

The goal is separation….with love. Doesn’t mean we can’t be the safety net, the foundation, the guideposts…but when children show signs of being okay without us, that is a good thing.

Gotta remember that when the two younger ones get off that bus in a year or two.

 

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“I Appreciate You”: Does Enduring Love Require Gratitude?

“Without gratitude, love cannot endure.”

This quote stood out to me in the required reading for an adult learning class on Mussar ” a traditional Jewish path of spiritual development that leads to awareness, wisdom, and transformation.” That week’s topic? Gratitude, which happens to be a vital element in Core Phrase #4 in Happier Made Simple‘s chapter about Appreciation.

Three things come to mind:

1- Resist the temptation to take things for granted. Whoever gets up first in my house makes the coffee. These days it’s often my husband, even though he switched to tea months ago. I always, always thank him for the coffee. It’s such a joy to come downstairs and smell the caffeine. A relationship gets stronger with every sincere thank you.

2 – Express the gratitude whenever possible – don’t keep it inside, don’t make someone guess. I first heard my daughter say “I appreciate you” to the man who later became her husband, and I love how that sounds and what it means. When you are grateful to the person and not just for the task done, it adds another layer of positivity.

3 – Appreciation is the opposite of contempt – One study on marriage ( Drs. John and Julie Gottman) found that the strongest indicator that divorce might be near was the attitude of contempt, as expressed in gestures like eye-rolling. Imagine what might change, if we could catch ourselves before expressing contempt, and substitute appreciation instead.

Judaism changes with the times, but one practice in its roots is the concept of everyday blessings for simple situations.  An early form of the “gratitude list” – but expressed many times in a day, in the moment. I don’t spout Hebrew prayers all day (don’t even know those prayers), but I love the concept. My days are richer when I look for appreciation moments instead of trying to remember it all and make a list before bed (which seldom seems to happen).

In my book, I also talk about thinking how we are grateful to other people (as well as a higher power if you wish), and not merely grateful for.

This simple change can add the element of Engagement and Connection to Appreciation.

No one is an island.

Say thank you. Or I appreciate you. Your relationship will be stronger for it, your life richer.

Thank YOU for reading this, and for any stories you care to share.

 

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Can Words Help Us Mid-Panic Attack?

Last week I experienced my first panic attack. Ever.

At least, that’s what the internet says it was.

All I know is: my body took over my brain. My heartbeat was too fast, too loud, too strong. My limbs were trembling. My mind and my heart were both racing; nausea took over my digestive system. I was one step away from asking my husband to take me to the Emergency Room – but I had no idea what they could have done for me. I would have voted for temporary oblivion.

Instead, I talked myself off the cliff- well, I talked myself away from the edge of the cliff – using the advice from my own book.

Talk about a test of the material.

The Core Phrases are not designed to fix any serious mental illness or condition – but it was worth a try. It turned out to be enough to allow me to get some hours of sleep, and to function at work the next day.

What happened?

Background: I’ve had three surgeries on my left hip, and the last two contained some “surprises” – in one case, a damaged nerve that resulted in paralysis of the left knee for months; in another, a defect in the replacement causing it suddenly to slip out of place, leaving me to squeak like a rusty hinge with each step until emergency surgery could be scheduled.

That was two years ago, and though I don’t have full function in the leg, I can walk. I’ll take it, gratefully.

But suddenly, last week, out of nowhere: shooting pain in that hip. Like – owwww!

I can deal with pain fairly well – I gave birth to two children – but what caused the panic?

Fear. And the unknown. My body remembers sudden trauma all too well, and my inner (primal) brain just took over my logical brain.

I did not decide to have a panic attack. My fear just stepped in and took over.  It worked overtime.

To make it even more stressful, I had to be up all week at 3 AM to do a work shift (radio), and there was no understudy.

Worry layered over worry – and pain, and nausea.

So I did the only thing I could do -I took my own advice. I lay there, trembling, and focused on my breath. I tried to take air all the way in. With each inhale, I started repeating the two phrases that seemed helpful through the fear:

All Will Be Well. (Core Phrase #4, Trust)

and

Whatever Happens, I’ll Handle It Somehow. (Core Phrase #7, Esteem)

Did I miraculously get all better? No. But the ship turned around enough so that I stopped spiraling, and didn’t make myself worse.

I repeated those phrases over and over until, mercifully, I fell asleep. I repeated them again at midnight when my fear woke me up again, and got three more hours of sleep. I was able to get up, walk (with a walker) to work, and get the job done. And research my symptoms to understand what my body had decided to do.

I’ll confirm at my orthopedic surgeon appointment tomorrow, but I think the hip pain is muscular (a muscle that rests on the sciatic nerve), and the rest of the episode was, indeed, my body in panic mode.

With any luck, this is treatable. With more luck, non-surgically.

But in the meantime, I know how to talk myself away from the cliff’s edge. Words work.

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Aging Proudly: 5 Ways to Fight Back Against “Age-Defying”

68. And a half. That’s my age number, and I’m proud of it.

Or at least I’m working on it. Constantly.

My little grandkids will announce my age number loud and proud to anyone in line at Stop and Shop –  so why does part of me cringe when they do?

We’re Here to Love and Pass On Wisdom

In my best self, I, too, announce the number loud and proud. But…that little inner voice…the one fueled by years of “don’t admit you’re a grandma”, and “but you don’t look your age” , Zoom image enhancers, Insta photos of Christie Brinkley in a swimsuit (rockin’ it, as she always has, now at age 67), and countless ads for products that invite us to DEFY age, to DENY age, and to FIGHT age…that inner voice sometimes struggles.

And then, there’s plastic surgery for vanity’s sake. Don’t even get me started — and yes, of course it’s sometimes tempting – not the slicing of my face, just the supposed results.

I once voiced a documentary that mentioned a myth where a young man was advised to “seek out someone with grey hair, for they will be wise.” When did that wisdom become something to be feared, hidden – something shameful?

I’m frickin; wise, dammit!

My biggest teachers here are my granddaughters, ages 5 and 3 1/2 – and (of course) their mom, my daughter. If I were to act all coy about my age, blush with embarrassment when someone says the number (gasp!) out loud, or stare into the mirror obsessing about my wrinkles – what does that say to them about getting older?

Happy Proud Birthday, whatever the number!

Getting older. Is it something to desire (seems to be, until about age 21…), or to bemoan? In this world, where Gen Z is poking fun at Millennials on TikTok (yes  -insert eyeroll here – I know what TikTok is. Also Clubhouse.), when do we express respect – and admiration – for the wisdom that comes with age?

Women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.

 

Five ways to rethink Age-Defying:

1 – Notice what you are telling yourself about your age.  Catch yourself judging yourself – or others – when a number is mentioned. Is it the number, or what you are telling yourself it represents?

2 – Question where any negative “stories” come from. Is it that magazine ad you just saw for Botox? Is it the sitcom where the older person (parent, grandparent, senior manager) is portrayed as an idiot? Is it something that was modeled for you by your own family or friends? (“oh, my god, I look so old in that picture! Rip it up!!”)

3 – Replace the words with another message. Not so easy. Models are hard to find. Compile a list of go-to phrases that work for you. I often remind myself that women (especially) are trained to pick apart their appearance, to focus on specific parts that they’d like to “fix.”. Other people – especially those who love us – see the whole, not the parts. My grandkids look at me and only see pure, mutual love.

4 – Seek out role models for age-proudness – and be one. Look for celebrities who haven’t had plastic surgery.  Which ones own their age without apology? Who has a sense of humor about it? Think Bette Midler, Sigourney Weaver, Sally Field, Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Justine Bateman. Jeez, we all get older! We are LUCKY to get older. Hollywood, and advertising creators, just don’t often agree.

5 – Limit Social Media Overuse. Come on, seriously? Filters, photo editing, selfies that were the best out of 15. Instead: Learn something new. Take a class. Read a book. Draw a picture. Toss a ball. Take a walk somewhere where the trees are way oldewr than you are.  Expand horizons, that kinda thing. It’s what we’re here to do.

so….what next?

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Hello Again, Stranger!: Tiptoeing Back Into Small Encounters

How I’ve missed you, person I meet by accident. We’ve been in our caves, zooming away, and hiding behind our masks for too long.

Cheers!

Yesterday my daughter Ali and I went took her three little munchkins out for ice cream at a local shop located on a family farm. Afterwards we went out to see the donkeys (gotta get fertilizer for the corn crop from somewhere!), and in the blink of an eye our 5yo made instant friends with another little girl named Emily, and (blink again) suddenly our kid troupe of three was a horde of five kids – Emily had a little brother – running around as if they’d known each other forever.

Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

And, as moms of any age do, Ali and I started to chat with Emily’s mother. They don’t live in our town, so it’s unlikely we’d run into them again. Still, what a nice ten-minute conversation – we covered sleep training, school in a pandemic, sibling rivalry, and ice cream flavors.  And then we each went home to our separate lives.

But – oh, how lovely. For the past year, most “meetings” with people outside our pods have been carefully orchestrated, sanitized, and/or with a computer screen between us. Being able to go out somewhere and accidentally meet and talk with someone random is something I hadn’t even been aware I missed so much.

Ah, people.

  • Ah, little child sitting next to me on an airplane who gives me a sticker from her collection to put on my iPad case.
  • Oh, couple we chat with at the bar, talking about our families, our work, even (sometimes) politics.
  • Oh, woman behind me in the produce section who shares exactly how she can tell a melon is ripe. (thank you!)
  • And -for me – oh my audience members how I miss you. The exchange of energy, the shared laughter during the show or presentation, , the small chats afterwards.

How I’ve missed you. How I treasure you. These small encounters are little gifts from the universe that we didn’t know we needed, experiences to remind us that we don’t have all the answers, and that some of our plans need to be flexible.

Because: life.

Let’s inch out of this pandemic together, probably on tiptoe, but let’s never forget how much we can meant to each other – even in ways we took for granted, or didn’t remember to treasure, before we were isolated from them.

Stranger: welcome back. I appreciate you as never before.

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Unmoored: What To Do if Life Goes Adrift

I’m not a huge interpreter of dreams, but last night’s was a doozy. My home was about to fall into a sinkhole. ( What ?!?!  )

So I had to climb onto the roof, leaving behind all I had worked so hard to create.  Carefully chosen wallpaper, brownies baking in the oven – all abandoned; I climbed up, nearer to the sky (with a friend, identity unknown) as the house drifted into the water (I guess I had scored a waterfront property in this dream, wahoo) – destination entirely unknown. No map. Just safety from disaster, and no choice but to trust that we would land somewhere. Somehow.  And eventually we did land – on an island where my family was among others waiting to share this new experience.

I know where this dream came from. Life is like that now for me – unmoored. Maybe for you too. My business has changed. More people getting into voice-overs and narration – suddenly everyone and their grandmas have created in-home audio and video studios, (and so my cool set-up isn’t the novelty it used to be).and they are lowering price points.

Live speaker gigs with actual people have disappeared for now – or morphed into virtual presentations. Even audiobook narration (my constant staple in 2020) slowed down for awhile – so I ‘ve had more unscheduled time than I had before Covid, and have been feeling (like in the dream) adrift and unmoored. Not sure what to leave behind, not sure what the Universe is trying to tell me.

One year (and counting) into this pandemic, and I can barely remember what it felt like to have a jam-packed day and then gratefully collapse back home, grateful to slow down at last. Can you?

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

But in-between the old and the new, there is that time we spend adrift. Boats unmoored, not quite knowing how to navigate.

Still – there is a lesson in everything. I firmly believe that. I have to. I’ve been unmoored before – and, looking back, it always led me to greater things.

So – we adjust. I’ve jumped (or been forced to jump) many times before, and have always landed on my feet. I bet you have as well.

My husband deserted our family when my kids were 3 and 6, leaving me to fully support and raise my son and daughter. This led to a new career as a radio broadcaster, and also a drama teacher. It also inspired me to greater heights as an actor and voice talent.

After 17 years, the radio station decided suddenly to “make a change”. I felt lost (unmoored). This feeling led to time to write my book (Ben Behind His Voices) – and to my speaking career, national and international.

Two years ago, I discovered that my biological father was actually a sperm donor – and my whole concept of “family” had to change. This led to discoveries: a new genetic half-sister; a reinforced concept of the value of “shared experience” and that family is what you embrace.

Every job loss, every relationship gone pffft!, every empty space left when you lose something is also an opportunity. Sometimes you know where to steer the boat – sometimes you don’t. In that case, some faith is required.

  • Stop flailing and complaining
  • Let Go of the past
  • Listen to what the world seemed to be telling me
  • Trust that you don’t know – or control – everything. But you do have choices.
  • Take a New Step off the boat onto that new land.

How about you? When have you been set adrift in the past, and what happened (oh, hindsight, you fantastic teacher). What did you learn? What new things did the open sea lead you do?

Unmoored. For now. Where will you travel to?

 

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Dear Evi: Wishing You Simple Childhood Joys

Dearest grandbaby Eviana –

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

Simple Toys bring Best Joys

New Year’s Eve Day has forever gained a new meaning, leaving things like resolutions in the dust of a much more important focus: your birthday.

This year, you will be one whole year old on December 31, and you’ve already changed the world. Well – ours, at least. Your joy, your love, your needs, your snarky sense of fun and play…what an amazing person you already are!

And of course all other parents and grandparents feel the same about their babies. And so it goes, quite beautifully. But watching you grow in this past year has opened the window even wider to some nostalgia for a simpler time – and I hope, as your Grammy, to be a part of making sure these joys are part of your life.

A few truths you have reminded me of:

  • People need to play. It’s what you do all day, and something we all need to fit into our lives.
  • People love to learn. It’s not a “chore”, it’s a privilege. I see your face light up whenever you learn something new.
  • It’s fun to laugh. And your laughter has sparked so many laughs in me. I’ve missed that!
  • People want to connect. Differences disappear on the playground. As long as someone else (child or caregiver) is considerate, kind, and caring, there is no color or clothing that can be judged. We need each other. Love does indeed trump divisiveness.

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In a Word: New Year Changes Made Simple

Bah! Humbug! to New Year’s Resolutions.

I mean, seriously, have they ever really worked for you? If so, then you are a stellar human being and – seriously – I applaud you.

So this is for the rest of us.

what's yours for the new year?

what’s yours for the new year?

Simple instructions: pick one word to focus on in 2017. (Come on, you can do it!. Write it down, in your own handwriting, and place it where you can see it. And see what happens this year.

I don’t wanna pre-judge your word, but I find it’s best to pick an active verb, something that can translate into action when you it spires you – otherwise the magic can’t really happen as well. It kind of pays there like a dead fish.

Words like: dream, hope, believe…they’re nice and all, but rather inward-focused and passive.

On the other hand, what happens when you:

  • Share?
  • Hug?
  • Finish?
  • Simplify?
  • Organize?
  • Upgrade?
  • Weed? 
  • Focus?
  • Listen?

Feel the difference?

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#TrumpPanic? Five Reasons to Choose Hope Instead

(Author’s note, 2021 — I wrote this over four years ago, trying to find the silver lining. I was wrong about Trump. He did not rise to the job. But I stand by my right to have held onto hope, and still do. -Randye, 2/27/21)

. pollyannaI am not a Pollyanna.

Well, maybe a little bit.

But, two days after the Election, I’m tired of feeling my stomach in knots over something I can no longer control. I’m tired of anger. And I’m sick of literally losing sleep over the reality of Donald Trump as President.

So I am choosing to hope. I am choosing love. And I’m surprised at how many people are trying to talk me out of it.

Maybe you are celebrating Trump’s election this week. Maybe, like me, you are in one of the first four stages of grief: Denial (“this can’t be real!”) Anger  (“It’s not fair! Who is to blame?”), Bargaining (“Is this bad news reversible?”) , Depression – (“I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”)  

But, sooner or later, we’re all going to have to get to a (guarded, realistic) stage 5: Acceptance – (“It’s going to be okay.”; “I can’t fight it, I may as well prepare for it.”)

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