Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year Reflections & Resolutions

My favorite day of the year is January 1. I actually get more excited about New Year’s day than any other holiday. It’s my R&R day - reflection and resolution day. There’s just something wonderful about the first day of a new year. It’s a new beginning, a clean slate, a year stretched before us with endless possibilities, hopes, and unknowns. What could be more exciting?

On New Year’s Day I can reflect on the past year, remember it’s high points and low points. It was filled with single struggles and the usual single disappointment of spending another year alone. All the online dating sites failed to deliver (where’s my money-back guarantee?), and I didn’t meet anyone at the last single group or bump into the love of my life on the street. I learned a lot this past year too. I matured a bit, grew a bit emotionally, lost an old love, took my pain and reached out to others, tried something new, lost weight, gained it back, found a few more grey hairs and wrinkles, and married off my son.

Now as far as resolutions go, I can’t remember at this stage of the game what they were on January 1, 2007 or if I accomplished or kept any of them. Funny thing about resolutions, you make them, forget them, and make them again the next year. I guess if we were really "resolute" we’d keep those "resolutions." I’m the first to admit, I don’t do well in that area, so I’m keeping my list short this year.

But, hey, it’s a new year facing us now. What’s on the horizon in your life this year? What are your hopes and dreams that you expect to see fulfilled before December 31, 2008? You have a clean slate now, so make your mark. Sure a lot of unknowns await all of us, but we’ve been given a chance to do new things, change our bad habits, make the best of 2008.

For me, I have my hopes and my dreams, and I will still strain toward what is ahead. However, at the same time, I’m going to wake up every morning and take one day at a time. If I look at another year alone as a single stretching before me, I might as well stay in bed. So this year I’m going to be resolute on only one thing. I’m going to remind myself every day when I get up the following verse in Lamentations 3:22-23 that even though I’m not sure what the future holds that day, I can be assured of two things along the journey: God’s love and God’s mercy:

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (The New Revised Standard Version, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson publishers 1989).

What’s your resolution for the new year? Happy New Year friends! May 2008 be blessed for you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Finding Purpose in Life

Dr. Rick Warren wrote a book a few years ago called the "Purpose Driven Life" that made it to the best seller list. Since that book was released, having purpose in life seems to be a hot topic on the Internet.

What is purpose? According to the dictionary one of it's definitions is the reason for which something exists. Being alone as a single and dealing with loneliness, it's pretty tough to find the reason for existence, isn't it? So why are we here? Where do we find purpose? Here are a few thoughts from my own life.

I've learned that finding meaning and purpose in life cannot be dependent upon the people or relationships around us. For my own life, taking care of my elderly mother before she passed away gave me purpose. But when she died, it left a hole. Being married and taking care of my husband and a home gave me purpose, but when my marriage ended and I was no longer wanted, it left a hole. Taking care of my son gave me purpose, but then he grew up, left home, and got married. It created an empty nest and another hole. I lost all of those three things in my life in the period of a few years -- my mother, my marriage, my son leaving home. The result? I ended up on anti-depressants and in a counselor's chair. I found out the hard way that I was drawing my purpose in life from the relationships around me, and when those relationships ended, I had nothing left. No purpose for existence.

Nothing has changed much in my life. My parents are still buried, my nest is still empty, my bed is still cold. But you know what? I'm off those little white pills and out of the counselor's chair and on with my life because I've learned a valuable and hard lesson. Our meaning for living and the purpose to continue with life can't be contingent upon others. Why? People die, people leave us, people change. Life has a way of not being constant. It's always evolving and changing. If that's the case, our purpose in life has to be rooted in something more deeper and meaningful so we can survive.

For now, instead of finding purpose through a mate, I find purpose in what I do, who I am, and what I can give others. It's not contingent upon who is in my life or not. I depend upon my Creator for purpose and not in the frailty of human relationships to give me a reason to exist.

Watch where you draw your purpose in life from. Find eternal purposes and not transient purposes. Anchor yourself upon a rock and not on shifting sands. Then you'll always have a reason for being and the joy to face another day alone.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pursuit of Happiness

Are you happy? I keep stumbling across that question on the Internet quite a bit. It's usually posted on websites where there are open questions and everyone can pop in with their own answer. In all the answers I've read, I haven't seen one yet that has that all encompassing right-on response to the secret of happiness, though it seems people are trying awfully hard to find it.

If I were to answer that question myself as I write my weekly blog, I'll have to stop a moment and ponder that thought. Let's see...if I am to take an assessment of my present state of happiness at 11:53 a.m., PST, on December 16, 2007, I would say I am happy, BUT not quite as happy as I believe I could be, if per chance I finally realize the one thing I'm waiting for in life that I believe will bring me ultimate happiness. Since I've yet to achieve that all encompassing happy thing I dream about all the time, I can conclude in my own mind I'm not at the peak of ultimate happiness.

Alas, the question remains though, if I do finally obtain the thing that I desire the most in life, will that thing bring me the happiness I think it will? Or, will I discover after obtaining it that it wasn't really the thing that could bring me to ultimate happiness? If that's the case, then I'm definitely going to have to find another thing to achieve or acquire to bring me to another level beyond that one, in the hopes of when that achievement or dream materializes, I will have arrived at ultimate happiness.

If that's the case in life, then happiness must be a very elusive emotion and something we continually strive for, but never really accomplish. Happiness can never really be satisfied, because it always demands more, as it is contingent upon obtaining what we want; and if we don't obtain what we want, we believe we can't be happy.

I believe that happiness is not an emotion to be achieved or a place we finally arrive due to realized wishes, but it's an attitude that we should possess every day. If happiness is always contingent upon achieving something, we will fail in our attempts to constantly obtain it or maintain it. However, if we carry it as an attitude, hold onto it as a way of looking at life, not letting our surroundings or circumstances affect it, then happiness is a state we can always live in to some degree.

I may never obtain that one thing I think will bring me to that ultimate place of happiness, but it doesn't mean I can't possess happiness without it. How about you? Are you going to keep waiting for that one thing or are you going to stop, take a look around you, and find happiness where you are?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

New Beginnings

Today I went to the show and saw a movie that will probably go unnoticed by many. It's entitled Noelle. I occasionally shed a tear at the theater, but I don't usually blubber uncontrollably like I did at this one. It's a low budget, hardly publicized movie, with a touching message. It will never win an Emmy or an Oscar (though it has been recognized at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival). Those who act in it are unrecognizable as famous stars. However, there are three words spoken at the end of the movie that are very profound and life changing.

As Christmas approaches for Christians, Hanukkah for Jews, and the Holidays for others, we are all participating in a time of the year that is meant to touch our hearts. For Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. For Jews, the story Hanukkah and its miracles, and for others it's a time for Happy Holidays, Santa, and the ushering in of a new year. One standard theme prevails, however, and that's the one of gift giving.

I remember as a child Christmas had such a magical feeling, a spirit, an air of anticipation, an awe surrounding Christmas eve. But now as an adult, alone and single, I feel very little of those things. Instead I'm surrounded by a world gone mad, with crowded streets, parking lots, and short fuses on the road. Everyone is pressured to perform in the area of gift giving. The holidays are commercialized and pushed on us after Halloween by retailers. It holds more meaning in the consumer price index than it does in the hearts of men.

The movie Noelle is a story of two priests, who both have problems, failures, secrets, and questions about their lives. It's a story of people who carry guilt and shame. It also has in it the meaning of Christmas, and that is a gift. The gift is one of a new beginning.

So this Christmas, if you could have one gift what would it be? Would it be that cool new phone, that big screen TV, that I-Pod, or other neat gadget you've wanted all year long? If someone had a gift of a new beginning, would you take it in its place?

This holiday, remember the reason for the season and ponder the three little words spoken at the end of this movie as your gift to take. "All is forgiven."

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Dealing with Leftovers

The inspiration for this week’s blog is from my friend and co-worker, Loretta, who suggested that I write about what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. Hum, since I rarely cook, I don’t usually deal with leftovers, but after pondering the leftover thought, I figure there has to be a lot of correlations we can draw from a Thanksgiving feast to Thanksgiving leftovers in our own lives, especially in the realm of relationships.

Relationships at their peak can certainly be likened to a feast. They taste great, look great, and satisfy. When relationships break, however, we’re certainly left with a lot of leftovers in our lives such as memories both good and bad. What we do with those leftovers is pivotal as we move forward. We can either take those leftovers and recreate something just as wonderful as the first feast, or we can leave them in the cold refrigerators of our hearts to rot and grow mold. The choice is up to us.

My fondest remake of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers is from my almost sister-in-law, Bev. (Forget the almost sister-in-law story. I’ll save that for another day.) Anyway, traditionally speaking, we’d all go over to Bev’s house after Thanksgiving to have turkey enchiladas. She had a way of transforming leftover turkey into a great dinner the day after. It tasted just as good as the feast the day before.

I suppose if she had left those leftovers in her refrigerator and done nothing with them, we’d have another outcome. You know the kind. A week later you lift the lid on the Tupperware and find something green, moldy, and fuzzy beneath it. The leftovers are good for nothing except the garbage disposal. Relationship leftovers we fail to deal with are not much different. If we don’t take those leftovers and make something positive out of them, they’ll do the same in our hearts - rot.

So whatever leftovers you’re dealing with in your life, take them and remake them into something positive. Don’t stash them away to grow poisonous in your system. You know the saying, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well in this case, when life gives you turkeys, make enchiladas.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"Accentuate the Positive - Minimize the Negative"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Being single, I know it can be tough, especially if you're alone.

When I grew up I had a large family. My mother had four brothers who all had kids, and we'd get together every holiday as one great big clan. I remember my mother's cooking, and her great raisin tarts that were our holiday tradition (boy I miss those). Now my parents are dead, her brothers are all dead, my cousins are married and thousands of miles away. I haven't seen any of my cousins, except one, for over 12 years, or my brother since 1996. My cousins are disbursed in the U.S. in a variety of places, and we never talk to one another. I rarely talk to my brother either, except during the holiday season for short phone call.

Not having a mate is hard during the holidays. Family is important to me because I have such fond memories of the joy of the holidays with them. However, being single, I still feel that there's another half missing, a large hole beside me that I can't seem to fill, no special person to share it with or pass the mash potatoes to and smile at those I love.

When I pick up my National Geographic magazine and look at the slums in some third-world country, I do so to remind myself how lucky I am -- blessed, though alone, to have a roof over my head, a good job, a weekly pay check, a wonderful hairy dog, food on my table, a car that runs, my health, my writing, and close friends at work. On Thanksgiving, it's time to focus on what we have - not on what we don't.

As Johnny Mercer's song says, "Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." Sure some of you may still have painful emotional areas in your lives, but you need to put any pain into perspective. Today you are not at a place of total destitution or despair. I'm thankful every night I crawl under my warm blankets and go to sleep, I'm not out on the streets under a bridge. Sure I don't have a warm body next to me, but I know I'll wake up, Lord willing, to a new day with new possibilities and new opportunities ahead of me.

So alone on Thanksgiving? Choose today to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Finding Self Worth

Well, let me start by saying I've received correction from a reader that men who choose younger women are not particularly doing so because it strokes their egos. It was the writer's opinion that younger women possess a certain "energy" older women lack, which they can find attractive. I could possibly argue that point, since I work over 40 plus hours a week on my regular job, work another part-time job from home, manage my blog and website, go to a gym almost daily, speed walk on treadmills, pump those weights, clean my home, take out my garbage, shop for myself, take care of my car, feed and walk the dog, and dispense all of my current energy into my own single life. Having said all that, I'm not sure what particular energy a younger woman would possess that I don't (unless of course you're referring to between the sheets). But, I'll let that argument drop and get to my blog for the week...

...which, by the way, brings me to the topic of finding worth in ourselves as singles. Depending on how we view our singleness, whether a blessing or a curse, it could affect how we feel about our own worth as individuals. Let's face it, we have people who look at us as deficient because we're unmarried. Then there are those of us who are divorced, who probably have that thumb and index finger to our foreheads in the shape of an "L" calling ourselves "losers." Then on the other end of the spectrum you might be like Steve Carrell in the movie Evan Almighty standing in front of the mirror every morning saying, "I'm successful, powerful, handsome, and happy." Self worth is all about how we view ourselves in the mirror of life.

Unfortunately, the world through media and advertisements sets for us their standards of worth and value as humans. Those standards usually include good looks, ideal weight, youthful appearance, and money. The reality is the majority of us do not possess all those ideals, and finding self worth can be a real challenge in the world today. Being loved, needed, accepted, and recognized are those things that build self worth in us as individuals. Some singles, however, don't have others giving them the positive feedback they need to feel good about themselves.

So what's the answer? Do we stand in the mirror every morning declaring we're successful, powerful, handsome (or beautiful), and happy or do we dig down deep inside of us and find that self worth in ourselves. I've learned that self worth must come from within me and how I believe my creator views me. As a Christian, I know I have value because Jesus saw enough worth in me to take my sinfulness and pay the penalty on the cross. Every day I have to remind myself not to let the world define who I am or, for that matter, the next man I might meet who doesn't find me attractive or skinny enough to be of value to him. My worth belongs to the one who created me, and I refuse to let the world and others define my value.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two-Edged Sword of Single Life

I find living the single life to be a two-edged sword. It has its positives and negatives. I've truly struggled with being single for years. I've been divorced now going on nine, have had only one relationship since then. I've met men at online dating sites and they've come and gone as quickly as a click of a mouse. Most of these men have been on there for years. I have no idea what they expect, besides younger women to stroke their egos. All the men at work are married and those who are not have alternative lifestyles. There's 5,000 people who come and go at my church, and 40% of them are single...but we never talk or cross paths. The single group has a whopping 30 or so in it. I'm not sure where the other 1,970 other singles are hiding.

As far as family goes, I have one brother 2,000 miles away who I haven't seen in 10 plus years. No other siblings. My parents are long gone and buried. I have one son, who is married and busy with his own life. As far as friends, who has the time? I work 40 plus hours a week. Come home, try to take care of the rest of life. I occasionally try to hook up at people with church. I recently thought I'd go to a new Sunday class to meet other people, but I was the only person to show up. So I never returned. I have friends at work, but they go home to their husbands and children. The singles there are young, who have families to surround them.

So out of frustration, I figured that there has to be a lot of other people out there like me, who either love being single, trying to survive being single, or are just trying their best to find a mate. This blog gives me purpose. It gives me something to do besides look at my dog and watch meaningless TV shows every night. I might as well try and embrace that which I hate the most and try to help other singles in the same boat. Being alone.