Lessons Learned: The Toughest, Hardest Year

When growing up, my neighbor and “other mom” (she wanted a daughter and gave up after six boys so I became her honorary daughter) had said that the toughest year of marriage was the first year. She fought and fought with her husband as they adjusted to life together. Her words stuck with me, for over forty years. Today, I agree that the toughest year is the first year. The toughest, hardest year is when you have yours, mine, and or ours involved.

Mike and I had the yours and mine scenario. We had different opinions and ways of raising our kids. The first year was tough. The first year was hard. And it didn’t end there. If I were to give a little girl advise, like my neighbor, I would have to add that the first year is tough and the hardest year. However, it doesn’t end there. What’s also important is how you adjust from the first year to manage the following years. Too many people give up way too easily. Unless your safety is at risk, you should stay put and work at your marriage. It gets easier. You learn and blend your habits. Make sure to communicate, letting each other know what’s upsetting you. If you’re overwhelmed, let your spouse know. Work on your marriage together. Relationships take time.

After time, when the history starts to build, you’ll feel the stability and the accomplishment. The years will continue to have moments of tough or hard times, you can’t get around it. But knowing you have that rock who will help you in time of need, to comfort you, and laugh with you can be the ultimate reward. Some people fall out of love, and when that happens, remember what you’re beliefs are and how that can affect your future and others. Can you rebuild that joy? You won’t know until you try again.

For my other mother, she lost her husband to leukemia. His life ended way too early. But I do know that if he were alive, they would still be together today.

Lessons Learned: Routines are Temporary

Everyone has certain routines that turn into automatic pilots. For example, I get up at 5:54 a.m., exercise, get ready for work, eat breakfast, and then head out the door. I’ve been doing this routine for quite a while now so my body goes where it needs to while my mind wanders to other things. This routine has morphed from different routines throughout the years. When the kids were little, I’d have to get them ready for daycare or school. When I experimented with writing in the morning, I woke up 40 minutes earlier to handwrite my novel. Routines are great and keep you moving but they are not permanent. You can’t get so hooked on them that you can’t function without them. I’m guilty of it. My husband’s guilty of it. Just remember…routines are temporary. They need to or will change based on life events.

Getting up every morning and getting ready for work is pretty common and will change to a degree. Other routines are pretty drastic and can take their toll on you or the people around you. For example, my husband and I walked during our lunch hour for over ten years. Two years ago I started a new job. Our buildings are farther apart, and my schedule doesn’t allow for a set lunch hour so it’s rare when we have the opportunity to meet. In many ways you can say that we were blessed being able to walk for as many years as we had. But when you suddenly don’t have that time anymore, the routine is sorely missed. I had to adjust based on schedule. My husband was forced to accommodate. He still continues to walk like we used to which makes it harder on him to adjust. He misses sharing the time with me, and I feel guilty, having been the one to break that routine. It’s been two years since our routine has changed, and we still haven’t fully recovered. We continue to look for that new routine to help us gain more time together.

Being aware of routines and adapting when they have to change can help you transition to your next routine. Nothing stays the same. Even if your routine is changed temporarily due to an illness, you may not go back to the original way of doing things. Be accommodating. Try making it better. Work on compromises as new events or ideas come along. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. You have to adjust to new ways, try different things, until one can fit your needs for the time being.

Lessons Learned: Growing Pains at 50+

As we near retirement age, Mike and I are tossing around different ideas on how we want to retire. My husband has around five years before he can retire, and I’m closer to ten years—unless we can figure out how to retire early. This is why I call it having growing pains at 50+. We are looking forward to starting a new adventure in life, yet we’re not quite there yet. We still have to work.

I remember in high school when I couldn’t wait to graduate and be done with school. My dream then was to move out to Colorado and start my independence as an adult. I was excited for my big adventure. Back then, my only focus was moving out-of-state. I’d take it day by day. I had no plan, except for counting the days and figuring out how to get a job out there. (I did move out to Colorado approximately ten months after graduating.)

This time the growing pain is a little different. It’s “we” now versus “me.” We have to plan for it. We know we want to simplify our lives and be able to travel (a.k.a. get away from the subzero winters). Yet, we also have set tastes and responsibilities. We need to think about our financials and that looming gray cloud of how to afford health insurance.

Now we’re slowly narrowing down our scope from all the possibilities that are out there. My goal is to write full-time to supplement our income. My husband wants a part-time job that involves some type of craft. Today we found the “house” that we want to live in. I used quotes for the word house because it’s a moveable cabin. Now we’ll have to find land where we can keep it (and figure out how to pay for it).

The good news is that we are starting to plan for retirement. We’d really like to be there now, to start our new adventure tomorrow, but with a heavy sigh, we can’t. I just have to remember…like in high school…I had to have patience. I have to remind myself that we’ll get there.

Lessons Learned: Summertime Blues

It’s hard to believe that summer is near the end. I used to say that summer was the only time that flew by, but now I think pretty much all months disappear within a blink of an eye—no matter the season. I think the reason why summer ending has more of an effect on me today is because I know that the sunny days, warm air, sandals, light clothes, and camping will soon be saying goodbye.

I’m not a big fan of having to bundle up in a coat, gloves, scarf, and heavy boots in the winter months. I don’t like having to leave 15-20 minutes early to go to work because of ice and snow on the roads. I always think twice about leaving the house because it’s too dark or too cold to go out. Not to mention how much fun it is to shiver in your car when you’re waiting for it to warm up. And the freedom of interacting with the outdoors is limited. I’ll open the door every once in a while in the winter time to let the fresh air in, but it’s not too often.

So with summer leaving, I have to embrace winter and expect what’s coming. I know once the colder weather is here, I’ll embrace it. Still, I get to have my heavy sighs now. I get dibs on one day for the summertime blues.

Lessons Learned: Never Expect

One thing I learned later in life is that you can’t let expectations rule your life. I have found that every time I had expected an event to happen exactly as I’d pictured it in my head, it never turns out that way. The same is said when I’ve expected a person to behave a certain way or to follow through on their promises. I’ve usually been disappointed. I’ve learned that I can control the outcome by not expecting. And now, my daughter has had to learn the same.

A good example occurred this weekend when my daughter had her bachelorette party. The person who hosted the party had set the theme for the party, had many fun ideas on what they were going to do, and how she was going to invite all these people to attend. My daughter was super excited. As it turned out, the invites weren’t sent out until three days before the event (so many couldn’t go), there was no time listed on the invitation as to when it started (which caused confusion), and not everyone received the invite. As my daughter started questioning what was going on, she found out that the theme had fizzled and the fun events had never been set up. Instead, the host had no plan. They would meet at her house and then go out to the bars. My daughter was pretty upset, and I don’t blame her. This was her night to get out and shine.

I gave her my talk about expectations. I told her that she would have to start the evening with a different mindset. If she stayed upset, she wouldn’t have a good time. Instead, she had to go with the flow and enjoy herself. The night could be fun in a different way. I think my daughter learned a few lessons that night. She did have some fun with the four that did show up. One of them was her stepsister who she doesn’t get to hang out with very often. For that, the evening was worth it. I think my daughter handled the evening well. She also learned that she had to let go of being upset with the host. My daughter knew that changing her mindset was better than letting it boil inside her.

There’s nothing wrong with being excited for an event. You should expect to have fun. Go with the flow, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to, or dance your heart away. Some of my best memories are ones that I didn’t have any expectations on how the night would play out or expect how people would behave. One included dancing on a coffee table with music blaring on the stereo at a small get-together. Another, more recent, was watching my grandson on Friday afternoon. I had expected to get many of my chores done that afternoon until I found out my daughter was arriving early and needed me to watch him. Instead of being upset or worked up about getting my chores done, I changed my mindset. And, I enjoyed every minute of being with my grandson.

Lessons Learned: Perfect Timing

I was late getting out of work today due to an issue that needed attention. My husband was waiting for me in his car and in a no park zone (we carpool together). I rushed out and got in the car. I could tell he was pissed. Mainly because security was out patrolling the area and he thought he was going to get a ticket. I kept quiet, knowing that he was steaming as he sped off. And then, when we were at the light to turn, we both saw the bumper sticker on the car in front of us. It read: #mellowthefukout.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Luckily, my husband did too.

Lessons Learned: Being Happy

I decided to look up the word “happy” when hearing a few people say how unhappy they are in life. So what is the best way to being happy? Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com, defines “Happy” in three ways:

Being pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.
This is the easiest to achieve. Little moments can bring definite joy in life. It can be an indirect feeling or sheer elation. Some moments of happiness are upfront and in your face, while others need to be drawn out. If you always let negative feelings come in, it’s harder to see the positive ones. Each night, think about what made you happy that day. If you weren’t happy, was it because of your attitude? Or, were you happy just being miserable? Hint: Acceptance is the first stage to recovery!

Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment
This one is achievable but still requires work. Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment can be a simple gesture that can go a long way for you and your recipient. But how can you make someone else feel happy if you’re not? What if you try to do your best but it comes out wrong?

My suggestion is don’t think about it so hard. Just do it. If you know that your mom likes flowers then surprise her with a colorful bouquet. Watch her face light up. If your neighbor’s wife is suffering an illness, bring them over a meal. Leave gratitude out of the picture. Do it because it makes you happy to help them out. A bonus is they’ll be happy because they have such a great neighbor.

Smiling can go a long way too. I love smiling at my grandson when he’s been crying or when he just wakes up from a nap. Seeing his mood lift and his face turn bright always makes me happy.

The pleasure and enjoyment because of your life situation
I believe this is where most people rate their happiness, and the one that is misinterpreted the most. I don’t believe there is a cut and dry “happiness” but more of a general, inside feeling.

If you are unhappy, think about your life-long efforts or situation. How did you get there? Did you or someone else weigh you down with too much responsibility? Are you letting peer pressure or ego get in the way so you’re blind to what true happiness is?

Just remember that sometimes the harder stuff, the life situation happiness, really isn’t so hard. Your happiness may be within you but is waiting to be pulled out. Take a moment to give yourself time to see and feel it. Define your happiness. Consider all three situations listed above, apply them all, and let that be your path.