Be of good cheer

New Year’s Day is generally a non-event for me. Sure, if I’m with people, I’ll enjoy whatever rituals and traditions they have, but I don’t expect to feel that life has been ‘rebooted’ and is all bright and shiny just because the calendar says it’s the start of a new year.

This year, though, I haven’t been neutral, but apprehensive for a number of reasons – political, economic, cultural – you name it. Perhaps at some point I’ll look back on this time and say I and my family and friends worried for nothing, but I’m not feeling that way right now.

However, not wanting to feel so helpless in the face of all that’s going on, I went looking for words to hold on to and found some.

From my friend Bonnie:

We all thought 2016 was really bad but now we have to face 2017. It’s time to focus. Think about what you want to see in 2017 that is positive and good and then figure out the steps needed to get you there. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be flexible and above all, just be kind. And, post cute baby animal pictures, puppies, kittens, babies and wow, those baby otters! We will get through this together. For myself, I know that I will never again be complacent about things I took for granted – like the rule of law, freedom of speech – that stuff. Stay outraged and vocal.

Definitely on posting cute baby pictures and on being kind.

From Charles M. Blow, writing in the New York Times:

Exclaiming your resistance, while necessary, is insufficient […] You need to augment your outrage with actions that are affirming, behaviors that reinforce principles and values.

When politics seem out of your control, remember that community and culture are very much in your control. We help shape the world we inhabit every day. A life is a collection of thousands of decisions, large and small, made every day.

Italics are mine because I like what he says about community and culture being in our control.

From an article by Nicholas Kristof, also writing in the New York Times:

I’ll do my part to support the society I’d like to see. I’ll eat Chobani yogurt because its owner has been subjected to racist attacks for his willingness to hire and promote refugees […] I will do what I can in my own life to make sure that the needy aren’t forgotten in the next four years […] I can support Reach Out and Read, an outstanding program that helps at-risk kids learn to read: a $20 donation covers one child for a year, or one can serve as a reader. Or I can be a Big Brother or Big Sister or help through iMentor.

Okay, so I won’t be eating yogurt because it gives me indigestion, but one of my Christmas donations was to Reach Out and Read. Since children’s literacy is one of my core causes, I was glad to be reminded of this fine organization and I felt I had made a small contribution to the good of this world.

From Alistair Cooke, one of my favorite quotes:

In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.

In my case, not putting off enjoying things will mean seeing all the interesting and beautiful things I can, drinking good wine, and eating good food.

This phrase has been used in numerous speeches and verses and I like the sound of it:

Be of good cheer.

 

2012_01_01_newport_0041

First light.

 

Charles M. Blow. “The Anti-Inauguration.” The New York Times. 5 Jan. 2017.

Nicholas Kristof. “12-Step Program for Responding to President-Elect Trump.” The New York Times. 17 Nov. 2016.

Image © Melissa Corcoran.

Inspiring quotes

Despite 30 years of experience with New England winters, I’ve found this one to be tough (when I check the weather in the morning and the temperature is -10 without wind chill, it’s a little discouraging). A combination of general malaise and seeing a quote I liked on a client’s website prompted me to review my list of favorite quotes and combine them into this post.  Inspiring quotes won’t make everything all better, but sometimes they help!

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

– Mary Oliver. The Summer Day.

When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.

– Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist.

Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.

– The Dish.  Film.

Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.

– Basil King.

You are daring to imagine that you could have a different life.

– You’ve Got Mail.  Film.

Fortune favors the brave.

– Virgil. Aeneid.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

– Marianne Williamson.

Just this once

Years ago, my dad told me a story he heard from a speaker at a business conference. The speaker talked about someone going on a diet (in the days when a diet meant eliminating certain foods altogether). The speaker said that when offered dessert at a dinner in a restaurant, the person thinks ‘I’ll never have dessert again after I start this diet, so just this once, I’ll have the chocolate cake.’ The speaker noted how much more powerful that phrase could be if it was turned into ‘just this once, I will pass on dessert.’

I’ve thought of that story many times since, mostly during the two periods in which I participated in Weight Watchers. As I learned new eating habits, I would say to myself ‘just this once, I’ll…’ Using that phrase didn’t require me to come up with the willpower and energy to resist a fattening and/or unhealthy food choice long-term; I only had to do it ‘just this once.’ I was amazed at how effective and helpful that phrase was for me.

At this time of year, when many people are making resolutions about improving various aspects of their lives, including health, I’m thinking of that phrase again and all the ways it can be used to help us make changes:

Just this once, I’ll pass on dessert. I can have one tomorrow if I want one.

Just this once, I’ll go to the gym even though I’m tired. If after exercising ten minutes, I still want to leave, I will.

Just this once, I’ll turn off my electronic devices and talk to my family / read a book / work on a craft.

Just this once, I’ll keep my mouth shut when a stranger is rude to me, rather than perpetuate the cycle by responding in kind.

Just this once, I’ll shrug it off when a driver cuts me off in traffic, instead of letting myself get worked up about it.

Just this once, I’ll try something new. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again but maybe if I add up a couple more ‘just this onces,’ I’ll discover a new activity that I enjoy.

Just this once, I’ll consider that I might be wrong.

Just this once, I’ll listen before I talk.

Just this once—it can be a powerful statement.