Merry Christmas from Shannon

Christmas is literally right around the corner and are you ready? Not just ready with the activities planned and ready with shopping done, but are you ready? Ready for whatever may come up, both positive and potentially negative. I don’t know about you, but into each of my own holidays, a little bit of good and a little bit of hassle always seems to go hand in hand. Some years it’s a lot of good and some years it has been a lot of hassle. Such is life, right? Our hope is that we can plan ahead to help create realistic expectations and remove (when we can) the problems that could pop up.

We all want to have great memories of Christmas 2015 and feel included in the club of functional families and individuals who had a wonderful holiday. We want the picture-perfect Christmas morning and day full of laughter and warmth. We don’t want kids to wake up that morning vomiting with the flu or a grumpy family member who decides that December 25th is the perfect day for them to be a scrooge all day long. Yet, both realities happen sometimes. So, what is the best way to squeeze out as much enjoyment of the day? I think it includes planning the things we feel we can control.

For example, I love baking on Christmas day. I love the warmth of the oven on and the good smells filling the house. I pre-plan what I want to bake and have all the necessary ingredients ready ahead of time. I love to watch movies with my family on Christmas day so the day before we will go and pick out some favorites and have them ready for the afternoon lull that hits after the presents are opened and before dinner. I really don’t enjoy cooking dinners because inevitably not all the food is hot at the same time and it drives me nuts! After the frustration of last year, when half the meal was hot and the other half was stone cold, I have decided to set a crock-pot for Christmas dinner. It can sit and slowly warm while I am busy baking and all come out hot at the same time!

I encourage you to think back to last year or years ago and what were sticking points that made the day either really enjoyable and that you can duplicate or on the opposite, what are some things that need to be changed up this year to make the day go smoother.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and send you wishes for a day that is enjoyable and leaves you satisfied when you lay your head on your pillow on the evening of December 25th.

Keep Dreaming Big!

Shannon

Boundaries Is Not A Four Letter Word

Our culture has taught us that only rude people set boundaries or perhaps they are only for people who have spent a lot of time in counseling. We have this belief that in order to be a person who implements boundaries, we must do so in some melodramatic or forceful way. We think that people who set boundaries are those that step up on a soapbox, pull out their mega-phone and announce “Hello everyone, please pay attention because I am now about to set a boundary! Thank you for observing this act of defiance.”

On the contrary, setting limits with other people’s behaviors is best done with it’s not shouted through a loud speaker but rather quietly and yet firmly implemented.

Boundaries can be unspoken and steadfast

We don’t have to be aggressive or dominating when we decide to limit the impact that someone’s toxic, or just unwanted behaviors, are having on us. Sometimes we need to simply limit our own role in the chaos and as they say: back away, back away. I am sure we all have had “that” friend who likes to stir up conflict with the people around them. Rather than openly confront the dysfunction, perhaps we quietly put some distance between ourselves and the trouble-starter. Sometimes speaking up is needed but other times it only makes the situation much worse.

I wish I had the boundary skill perfected many years ago. It took me a while to learn the art of the quiet boundary and I was a little more like a soapbox mega-phone shouter. If I had known what I know now, I would definitely have done some relationships differently. One in particular comes to mind and rather than making changes behind the scenes, I chose to openly confront someone who I already knew ahead of time didn’t have the communication skills to handle outward conflict. I was honest with the person about my experiences and the friendship promptly went downhill from there. Now, in my wiser older age, I would not speak up to this person but instead adjust my actions so that my boundaries would still be implemented. Instead of me quietly making changes, the friendship fizzled and was never restored. I had good intentions by trying to clear the air, but because of mistakes in my approach and the other person’s lack of communication skills, it all fell apart. See how unspoken boundaries are sometimes the best approach? We can still achieve what we are looking for and maybe limit some relationship drama in our lives.

A boundary isn’t withholding forgiveness

Setting boundaries can be difficult if we internally worry that we are remaining resentful by setting a boundary. We may even have been told that true forgiveness means having a full restoration in the relationship. Boundaries have nothing to do with forgiveness or resentment but everything to do with the quality of our interactions with other people. We can forgive someone and still not want to be around them or be exposed to their dysfunction. Forgiveness isn’t about returning to the scene of the crime again and again so we can be re-harmed. Forgiveness is something that takes place within ourselves and leads us to a place of peace with our past or present hurts. Boundaries help put an end to or limit the exposure we have to behaviors that don’t work for us.

We have a right to decide who and what we allow into our daily lives. We are the stewards of our time and energy. Some people just don’t need to have access to us or they need guardrails on their interactions. Boundaries help set the tone for what we find acceptable and what we are not willing to tolerate. We have the right to make that choice.

What boundary or boundaries would be good and healthy for you to start implementing? My suggestion is to write it down and remind yourself of your desire to make your life as healthy as possible. Some people may not like your boundaries and guess what? Those are probably the exact same people who need the boundary the most. Ironic, right?

I wish you all the best in making your life as healthy and peaceful as you desire.

Keep Dreaming Big!

Shannon

 

You can also view this post at www.plaidforwomen.com

Everyone Has A Story

My Story - Shannon Thomas

One of the things in life that interests me is the collective experience of being a human in this world. We often hear about someone who has a “great testimony” because their life was once down and out but then radically changed for the better. You may even have read my own story and were more than a little surprised at the different trials that I have walked through. The truth is that a dramatic transformation or a life story full of chaos, doesn’t make the person any different than someone whose story isn’t as speckled with the highs and lows. We all feel the same on the inside. Sure, there is wisdom that comes only through pain that has been properly dealt with but does that pain have to be extreme or intense in nature to count? I don’t think so.

No matter what our journey has been so far, the emotions we experience are not unique. We all have shared in fear, hope, letdowns, nervousness, loss, loneliness, joy and so on. The circumstances that triggered those emotions are certainly going to be special to the specifics of our own life story, but the embodiment of the feelings are exactly the same for each human being.

For instance, let’s say we have anxiety while doing something normal in life. What is ignited is the same part of the brain that would be active if a bear were chasing us. The body doesn’t really differentiate between a bear and some other less than life threatening trigger for anxiety. The same goes for other emotions. As I have been known to tell many people: tears are tears. It doesn’t matter what caused them to flow. Once they are present, we know the person is experiencing them in all their depth to that person’s capacity.

Why do we honor or revere the life stories that are more like a Greek tragedy, while the quiet life stories seem to be downgraded? Perhaps it’s because we as a population feed off of drama. The tragedy of the plot pulls us in and keeps us watching. We as people relish in the under-dog coming out of the shadows to pull out the victory. Those are wonderful stories. I won’t deny that but I will say that if we are going to truly get to know ourselves and the value that our story brings to the entire picture of humanity, we must stop being as awed by the drama of a tragic life and honor all experiences as valuable.

Imagine if we each honored our individual journey and were very comfortable with sharing all that we have learned. The knowledge base of those around us would be beautifully enriched. We could learn from one another at a much richer level and perhaps, we could even avoid some of the pitfalls that many of us unintentionally fall into.

To know me is to know that I truly value life lessons; no matter how they are learned. Sometimes our best teachers are those that have quietly gained wisdom through truly observing their own lives and living fully aware of their own emotional state; tragic or not.

Everyone has a story.