Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Roatan, Honduras
A few years ago I was planning to visit Cuba, an amazing country, rich in culture that even some of the most seasoned travelers haven't experienced due to the United States embargo. For months I envisioned what I would do in Cuba. I was so excited to compare current times with my memories of being there twelve years prior. Would I remember any landmarks? Would all the cars still look retro? Would I think the cuisine was just as delectable? Would I feel the heavy influence of the government in seemingly casual conversations?

As I got closer, word spread that my group would not be allowed to visit. Our plans changed from Cuba to Guatemala and then Guatemala changed to Honduras. My companions and I could have focused on the disappointment we felt, but we shifted our attention to where we were heading instead of where we weren't.

I knew very little about Honduras. I hadn't researched it because Honduras wasn't on my itinerary—it was not part of my plan. As I accepted that I would soon be in Central America, disappointment disintegrated. While not on my initial list, I started to see Honduras as more than a consolation prize. I began to appreciate it for being its own country with a new culture I had yet to experience. I made an adjustment. I chose to enjoy Honduras rather than mourn Cuba.

When life takes your plans and crumbles them right before your eyes, do you simply mourn the plan or do you adjust? You may have envisioned a life very different from where you are at this moment. Maybe you thought you would have a spouse, children, a better job, more money, and/or a home by now. Maybe you planned to relocate or travel more often or to further destinations. It's possible that when you look at your life it doesn't even resemble what you anticipated. In either case, you can mourn the plan or you can amend the plan. You can cuddle up to disappointment and shift even further from your plan or you can shift yourself and make adjustments to the plan.

Whether life doesn't deliver what you anticipated or you haven't delivered on the promises you made to yourself, it is important for you to exercise flexibility. Focus your attention on where you're heading instead of where you aren't. Make the most out of detours by making adjustments. Detours can bring the most memorable and fulfilling adventures and teach the most valuable lessons.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Choice

Most are inclined to offer opinions on everything. Without being prompted people blurt out their judgments on music, fashion, television shows, movies, current events, and even the way you live your life. Although annoying, it is typically harmless. However, there are occasions when opinions can be a hindrance. When people offer opinions on highly charged situations in which you are not confident or when people you love want you to do what is not in your best interest, it can be an exhausting, emotional battle. It's important to remember that the choice is always yours.

When it comes to your relationships, someone always has something to say about who should or shouldn't be there. This isn't meant to negate the value of the opinions of others. There are times when you need others to illuminate what you fail or refuse to recognize and see. However, decisions ultimately come down to your choice and you should always choose to live well.

When someone hurts you, you owe it to yourself to do the necessary work so that you don't harbor that hurt. Call it forgiveness, reconciling, or moving on, but no matter the term, do what's needed so that the effects of the hurt aren't compounded by your refusal to release. What is absolutely not required when you forgive, reconcile, or move on is for you to place yourself in the same circumstances or in the company of those who hurt you. Reconcile the incident and move forward, but healing does not constitute that you have to return to the relationship. There are some circumstances when the hurt is larger and has made more of an impact than the bond itself.

Someone else deciding to stay does not mean you have to stay. Someone pleading for you to return does not mean you have to return. Hearing promises does not mean you have to believe those promises. Feeling like you don't have the strength to refuse does not mean you cannot find the strength to refuse. You have options. You can move past the incident and reconcile the relationship or you can move past both the incident and the relationship. The choice is always yours.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Life's Best

Since graduating from college I have lived in Maryland, Virginia, California, Indiana, and now I've returned to Michigan. My contact list is varied and over the years relationships have divided into categories of a solely historical context, some level of interaction, or an increasingly important relationship. Many times busyness and distance gets the blame when people drift apart, but I own the right and responsibility for prioritizing and ensuring that those who belong in my circle remain there.

As time passes, I am increasingly selective with how and with whom I spend it. A few years ago, though, guilt directed my behavior and led me into situations that were not only unwanted, but did not even feel right. Now I am guided by the pursuit of peace. My choices are not always understood or even appreciated, but it is more important to be honest than to gain approval. It is better to be healthy than pleasing. It is more beneficial to be at peace rather than nurse confusion. Has it been easy? Not always, but the alternative, taking time and attention away from those who have proven that they have my best interests at heart and support all of me, is not fair nor desired. My life is much more full, free, and pleasant since I've intentionally nurtured sustaining relationships instead of trying to force life into draining ones.

Your relationships are vital. They can usher in life's best. They can provide support, encouragement, belonging, consistency, affection, joy, laughter, safety, security, companionship, and love. Alternatively, unhealthy relationships can reduce life's best by bringing in anxiety, distress, uncertainty, stress, heartache, disappointment, jealousy, conflict, and hatred. History is not enough. A bloodline is not enough. The presumed absence of guilt is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. The fear of being alone is not enough. None of those are enough to prevent you from ushering in life's best by way of the people that you allow into your space.

Whether with relatives, friends, or friends who choose to be family, it is both your responsibility and privilege to distinguish which relationships bring you life and which ones diminish it. Once you make that determination, you owe it to yourself to feed healthy relationships and not permit the unhealthy ones to consume you. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Standing Firm

As infants we were trained to make noise. When we needed to eat, be changed, or be held we cried and someone came to meet those needs. As we grew older, we replaced crying with words and learned that in order to get something, we needed to say something. At times, speaking up and often is appropriate, but far too few of us have learned the power and influence that exists in simply standing firm.

For many years I felt far from being understood. It was a combination of me trying to live out imposed family obligations and me not clearly and thoroughly grasping the many ways that being abused as a child had influenced so much of my adult life. I carried being misunderstood like baggage even though understanding was what I desperately needed. I did not know how to get it because I focused too much of my energy and attention being frustrated and irritated that I had to ask to be understood. I could not get pass the fact that empathy wasn't automatically granted and this refusal to move forward hurt me, not anyone else.

It wasn't until I made the choice to move forward that I could seek out understanding in a way that was healthy and true to what I valued. I set up boundaries and stood firm on those boundaries. I no longer expected or sought understanding from anyone who required an explanation or had to be convinced. My need to be understood was met by those who wanted to understand. It didn't require persuasion. It didn't require a sentimental monologue detailing my hurt. It didn't require noise. It required me shifting my focus from external to internal. It required me being rational and honest. It required me standing firm on my boundaries.

Most of your needs are attached to direct involvement or cooperation from others. If they are not being met noise is not always the best recourse. Consider your options. What have you tried already? Who have you reached out to? How did you reach out? Having needs is normal. How you try to achieve them is the variable. At times, standing firm can move more than noise or force, but you have to be clear on what and who are worth your firm stance.