You Say you Want a Revolution?

“Easy is a refuge, and it’s an easy place to be.” – Needtobreathe


So, here we are – December twenty-ninth – the last Thursday of 2016.  I’m back in my favorite little coffee shop, sipping on a twelve-ounce hazelnut latte (four ounces more than the usual, because – hey – it’s been a while), and ready to compose my final blog post of the year.  The New Year is always one of my favorite holidays and – if you’ll remember correctly – it was the entire reason for firing this thing up in the first place.  Starting a blog was last year’s resolution.  A good handful of friends and family had affirmed my flair for writing and I’d always liked the idea of sharing my thoughts and stories with the internet – even if no one read them.  I figured if someone did happen to stumble upon them and get something out of it, then – mission accomplished.  If not?  Well then I suppose no harm, no foul.  At the end of the day I was still able to compose several well-worded paragraphs of strung-together anecdotes into one cohesive thought – a win in my book.  I mean, if you had a gorgeous voice and sang a beautiful song on an amphitheater stage, would it sound any less gorgeous or beautiful if there were no one in the audience?  No.  Same principles apply.  Even if no one read my posts I would still – to quote my very first post – “relish the satisfaction and frustration along the way.”  And thus, I certainly have.  I promised myself (and you guys, I guess) one post per month and while I didn’t exactly post one each month per se, I did end up making good with twelve posts total, so I’m counting that as promise delivered.  Plus, I’m throwing in this bonus thirteenth post just for fun.  You’re welcome. *wink*

My mom was texting me yesterday morning and among them she asked me what my New Year’s resolution was going to be for 2017.  I told her I was still tossing around a few ideas and wasn’t sure yet.  I’ve run into the same problem that I have in years past – I’ve got too many things that I want to do.  I always get to feeling really ambitious this time of year, so sometimes it’s hard for me to pare my list down which, a lot of people think is weird because they have a hard enough time thinking of one thing they’d consider worthy of resolution status.  I’ve talked to so many people who tell me all the time that resolutions are pointless because nobody follows them anyway and that’s true, I suppose.  A lot of resolutions do go by the wayside because they’re too difficult or the person loses motivation, but sometimes – and, I feel like it’s the case more than folks give credit for – a resolution gets carried out to the end and starts a domino effect of positive changes that carry on into the next year.  Now, I don’t claim to be a persuasive speaker by any means, but if you find yourself to be one of the former – a resolution skeptic – I’m taking it upon myself in the next couple of paragraphs to convince you to switch sides.  You might think that New Years resolutions aren’t for you, but here’s the thing…

They’re for everyone.  And everyone includes you.

The biggest thing for most people, I think is that they’re intimidated by resolutions.  They think they have to be something cosmic and grand, but if you think about it most big changes are just an accumulation of small ones, right?  So, that’s my first bit of advice – Start small.  Send snail mail.  Call your parents once a month.  Practice better posture.  Keep a daily journal.  Finish one of the books you started.  Small bites.  Keep it simple.  I’ve found that it’s usually the less grandiose resolutions that make it the course of the year and end up having the most impact, for that matter.  When it comes to self-revolutions, we all want to change the world, yes?  Well, The Beatles didn’t lie – We can.  We just need to set a realistic starting place.  For example, one year my resolution was to wear skinny jeans.  Over the course of the year that change led to a few new pairs of shoes and tops, which led to adventures in layering and accessorizing, which led to me “bumping” my hair for some reason (back combing my hair, mind you – I did not use those stupid plastic “Bump Its”).  Point being – one small change led to the next.  While I hadn’t set out to change my style, by the end of the year it ended up being a pleasant side effect.  However, if you are looking to make a bigger change you’ll need to implement tip number two – Specifics.

Losing weight is probably one of the most common New Years resolutions of all time ever.  Right?  Want to know why it never works year after year after year?  It’s generic as all get out.  Way too broad.  It encompasses far too many elements.  When you set goals for yourself, it’s always best to be a specific as you can.  Not only do specifics make your resolution more palatable and approachable, they also ensure that you’ll stick to it.  If you’re too generic, you lessen the accountability on yourself and you’re more likely to shrug it off a few months in.  It’s much easier to make excuses for why you didn’t keep to your guidelines when they’re too open for interpretation.  There’s no guilt when you slip up.  Plus, I feel like you care less about whether or not you stick it out, because you didn’t care enough about making it in the first place.  Ya know?  You kind of just threw it out there like, “Well.  I guess I’ll tell myself I’m gonna lose weight again this year because it didn’t work last year.”  Not an effective motivator.  Same goes for your resolution.  Instead of resolving to lose weight, narrow it down to one of the many weight loss contributors – diet, exercise, etc.  Make your house a potato chip free zone.  Try no soda for twelve months (or no alcohol if you’re super ambitious – or crazy).  Resolve to go to the gym once a week.  If you already go to the gym on a regular basis, make it a goal to take a new class, or master an intimidating piece of equipment, or maybe add some weight lifting to your cardio schedule.  Resolve to run a 5K each month!  (I’m actually considering that one, so we could be Resolution Twins.)  Anything goes!  Back in 2011 I wanted to lose weight for my wedding, but instead of making that my New Years resolution, I set a goal for myself to be able run a mile without stopping.  Soon, I graduated from one mile on the treadmill to multiple miles on the sidewalk and that year I had kick started a whole knew active lifestyle.  You know what else happened?  I lost weight.  The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.  (Isn’t that a math or science principal or something?)  Identify your end game, pick one of the elements that will get you there, resolve to stick to it for a whole calendar year and the rest will take care of itself.

My final bit of advice?  Have fun with it.  Consult the bucket list.  What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, or a place you’ve always wanted to visit?  Do it!  Go there!  You have a whole year to make it happen, a whole year to stash away your financial acorns and accumulate your needed amount of time off.  Fly to Europe.  Ride the Amtrak as far east as the rails take it.  Take a week off to be a tourist in your own city, exploring all of its history and hidden gems.  Always wanted to learn a new language?  Learn it!  Interests and passions are some of the strongest motivators.  Maybe you’d rather sharpen a certain set of skills or blow the dust off some old hobbies that got forgotten in your lack of free time.  Fire ‘em back up!  Become a master of your wok.  Take a pottery class.  Start a blog.  *wink*  Pick a passion and go for it.  It can be as casual or extensive as you want.  Think of it like college classes.  Which ones did you tend to get better grades in – Your generals that you only took for the credit hours or the ones that actually focused on things you were interested in?  My guess is the latter, unless you majored in general studies and that was your interest.  For example, while I’ve never been very good at cooking I’ve always had an interest in it.  Baking is more my jam.  But, I’ve always been curious about the different styles and techniques showcased during my frequent Food Network binges.  So, one year – I think it was 2010 – my New Year’s resolution was to host “Gourmet Night” on Sundays at the duplex that my sister and I rented out in Kearney.  At least one Sunday a month we would have friends over to eat the feast we had prepared.  We tried to encompass as many cooking styles as we could.  I burned sesame chicken, hand rolled four different kinds of ravioli, and one of the Sundays ended up staying awake ‘til three in the morning (or some obnoxious hour) making Julia Child’s famous “boeuf bourguignon.”  (Who knew a recipe could require so many steps and so much oven time??)  I still don’t know how to cook that well and it was a challenge at times (I had to throw away two jellyroll pans.  Literally.  Pans in the actual trash.), but it gave me an excuse to have friends over and I got some good stories out of it.  Resolutions don’t always have to be serious.  Sometimes they can be just for fun.

Keep it simple, be specific, and have fun with it.  That’s all it takes, really.

I’ve got a handful of strong contenders for my 2017 resolution and I’m still not sure which one I’ll run with, but one thing I am sure of is that I will run with one.  It’s tradition.  I’ve never not made one for as long as I can remember.  If you’re still on the fence or maybe dismissing the idea of New Years resolutions all together, let me ask you the same thing I asked myself last year when I wavered over starting this blog – What do you have to lose?  New Years resolutions are nothing but tiny steps towards self-improvement or self-happiness, and I see no harm in either.  Refer to the opening quote at the top of this post – “Easy is a refuge, and it’s an easy place to be.”  Easy is not making a resolution because you know you’ll quit halfway through.  Easy is not straying from your life’s cattle trail.  Easy is not wanting to have “another thing to think about.”  Easy is just that – it’s easy.  It’s challenge that sharpens the mind, adversity that creates opportunity, and sometimes a gentle push outside your comfort zone is all it takes to spark an unexpected self-revolution.  Embrace it, my friends!  Close your eyes with your arms spread wide and feel the fanfare that the New Year ushers in!  Soak it up.  Harness the swirling cloud of positivity and fuel some change next year.  Do some good.  Surprise yourself.  After all, what do you have to lose?

Positively Unpopular

"Shaded by a tree, can't live up to a rose.  All you ever wanted was a sunny place to grow."            - Miranda Lambert


Negativity – The trendy, seemingly common, societal thread that holds everyone together (Especially these days).  It surfaces quickly and rolls off the tongue with downhill ease.  It’s not just a tone.  It’s a mood.  It’s a motto.  It’s our “spirit animal,” to quote the kids.  A mantra slipped silently into our daily routine.  We wear it as comfortably as our favorite, broke-in tee.  We exercise it without thinking – Brushing our teeth in the morning, taking our contacts out at night and filling the gaps with our less-than-sunny dispositions.  Why though?  I mean, forgive my dramatic wordsmithing above (I have a bit of a flare for that) but, I find it very disheartening that we’ve all gone so dark.  Maybe “dark” isn’t the word.  Perhaps “cloudy.”  And speaking for “everyone” probably isn’t fair either.  I’m sure not every single person out there has gone to the cloudy side (Puns?  Puns to lighten the mood anyone?).  I’ll amend to those in my circle – myself included.  Myself probably most of all to be honest.  And, I’ve always considered myself to be a mostly positive person but I’ve been catching myself more and more saying snarky things and making snide remarks and rolling my eyes.  Like when you get a job promotion and all you think about is the added responsibilities that go along with it.  Or someone compliments you on how you look that day and you think, “Oh, what?  Because I look like shit every other day?”  Things like that.  Little things, but when repetitive – a much larger problem.  Thus, bringing us back to our question of “Why?”  This topic has been nagging at me for several days.  I’ve been trying to pin it down, and here’s the thing…

It’s easy.

Being negative is easy.  It requires minimal thought, hardly any skill and zero effort.  The hardest part is pulling your face and skill and thought only come into play if you’re adding in some well-placed sarcasm.  Other than that, negativity is a cakewalk.  Think about it.  Think about the things in your life that irritate you.  Things that drive you absolutely insane and just grate on your every nerve.  It’s a decent sized list, right?  Came to mind pretty quickly, too I assume.  Now think about the things in your life that bring you joy.  Little everyday nuggets of life that bring you happiness and put you in a good mood.  Were those harder to think of?  For most people, I’ve found – They are.  It’s generally much easier to rattle off the negative.  Restaurant reviews are also a prime example.  If you have a fantastic time out to eat some place – I mean the food is good, the service is attentive, the night is just a total hit from start to finish – you are more than likely going to leave that place one hundred percent satisfied and talk about it for days to come.  Now, say you go out to that same place and have the exact opposite experience – Shitty food, non-existent service and a poor time – you are going to get out your phone, Google that place and more than likely post some scathing review about your night.  Just ripping them up and down because you want all who are thinking about eating there to know how big of a shit show that place is.  Right?  It’s a proven service industry fact that people are more likely to fill out guest surveys at the end of a meal if they had a bad experience.  If they have a good experience they just leave satisfied.

Negativity spreads, too.  Quickly.  Ever showed up some place in the world’s best mood only to have your first interaction be with a stressed out boss or an irritated coworker or rude teller or a moody cashier?  Your balloon pops right then and there.  Your sun shining face falls, and before you even realize what’s happened you take on that same disposition.  Then you go someplace else with a blank stare and an annoyed face and what starts as polite small talk from the chick behind the counter is met with your shortened, ruffled remarks and the irritation spreads down the line.  A negativity train my friends, is very hard to stop.

I think that negativity is also perceived as experience, much like wisdom is with age.  You trust it more than you do positivity.  If someone’s being positive, you wonder what’s up.  Are they trying to hide something?  Are they all there?  Positivity equals cluelessness.  It’s for the naïve.  For those who haven’t been hardened by the realities of the harsh, unforgiving world we live in.  Negativity is the weathered old man with the peg leg and kraken tattoo with a rolling glass eye and all the cool stories of the sea and all her adventures.  Positivity is the baby-faced deck hand with glistening eyes who stares at his surroundings like he’s seeing it all for the very first time grinning like a sap and asking millions of questions.  He’s annoying.  Nobody likes positivity.  They’re all gathered around negativity because he’s got all the cool stories.  Negativity is the Fonz, people (Or, Regina George – However you want to look at it).  Positivity is for losers.

It’s easy to fall into negativity’s draw and once you’re in it’s quite comfortable I’ll agree.  But, once you’re comfortable isn’t that when you know that a change needs to be made?  Change tests patience.  It’s frustrating.  It challenges perception.  It ruffles feathers and creates enemies, but it also births great revelations.  It broadens understanding and carves out space for growth and kindness.  Change is difficult and positivity isn’t popular, but when you think back to some of history’s greatest breakthrough moments many prove to be just that – Unpopular ideas that conquered difficulty and emerged as something fantastic.

This weekend, as we soak up all the thankfulness of the holiday, may we also be empowered to take those good vibes and keep their warmth with us and when we find ourselves in those inevitable situations where negativity dominates, may we make a conscious effort to be the positive pulse whose presence – however faint – serves as a light to those who are seeking to make the same change.