The Gift of Less

As we inch closer to towards the end of the year there is always this temptation to cram in as many events as we possibly can. I love the holidays and I love celebration. The opportunity to gather, connect, and rekindle friendships is so enchanting. However, it can be overwhelming to add more to our plates than we have to give. Not only are we inviting friends to join us but we are being invited elsewhere. Our schedules fill up quickly.

This year, as I stare at the twinkling lights on our tree – up before Thanksgiving because we are hosting our first holiday party on Saturday, I am reminded that there is never enough time for all of the things we want to do. There will always be one more party, call, or event.

The best advice I can offer when the list keeps growing is to give the gift of less. Pause. Consider, what’s one thing I can take off this list right now? What is one less thing that I can do to give myself space. What can I do less of in the year ahead?

This practice sounds simple. But it can be a real challenge when we’re involved in social life, our communities, and relationships. One way to dig deep is to consider what brings us joy? What truly delights you and enhances your life? When you consider the friends and events, it’s easy to get wrapped up in “tradition,” or what is comfortable.

In the new year I challenge you, and myself, to look at daily life. How do you spend a regular day? Does it feel nourishing and fulfilling? What tasks, people, or experiences fill you up and which feel draining. If a person, place, or activity is taking from your energy rather than filling you up – let it go!

It’s important to remember that no matter what we give to the world, our partners, or families and friends we need to keep a bit of ourselves for ourselves. Never give away that which you need. In fact, you are of no use to anyone, least of all yourself, if you are perpetually running on empty. Save some of you for you.

As you give back time an energy to yourself that it becomes easier to whittle away the things that have become obligations rather than joys. Even if you let go of something you later want back, nothing is permanent, everything is temporary. You’ll make mistakes, figure it out and move on. As you take away those things that no longer serve you, it creates space for the things that nourish, fill you up, and bring you joy. And that’s a new year worth getting excited about!

Mature Relationship Needs

In relationships it is often easy to lose track of balance. It’s easy to find yourself in the midst of long term relationships that do not reflect your current awareness of your own value and worth. As we grow and change we sometimes find ourselves in the midst of mature relationships with people we did not so much choose as those who exist within our social or professional proximity. When we recognize that the relationships we are in no longer serve us, the good news is, just because a relationship is long standing doesn’t mean you have to stay in it. Below are some common challenges in mature relationships and some suggestions in how to proceed. I hope these strategies serve you!

Take Up Space

You are allowed to take up space. Any relationship that is predicated upon your being supportive to another person while taking no support for yourself is unhealthy. It’s time renegotiate the terms of the relationship. In relationships both parties deserve to have their needs met. Bending over backwards to assist someone else while they absorb your generosity and offer nothing in return is not a reciprocal or healthy relationship. If your relationship is entirely in service to someone else, that is not a relationship, that is a job. You need to quit unless you willingly plan to volunteer your energy, time and expertise for someone else’s gain.

Keep Some For Yourself

If the conversation is never allowed to be about you, it’s time to reconfigure your attention. Pouring into someone who can never get enough of themselves is a loosing proposition. You will continue to give. They will continue to absorb. And you will have nothing left for yourself. Instead, focus your attention on friends who may in fact reciprocate your care, love, and attention. When you realize that you have come in contact with a relationship vampire it is best to let that relationship go. We give in our relationships but we always keep some of ourselves to ourselves. Just ask Dolly Parton.

Accept Healthy Attention

If a person only notices your absence when it is in relation to their wants and desires, chances are they are not in relationship with you. They are in relationship with with a service you once provided. When someone only wants to get together when they have a task to be completed, they are looking for staff not friendship. Expecting you to be prepared to help them, while being disinterested and unavailable for events that are meaningful to you, they are using you. This person only wants to assure that your attention remains focused on them and their needs while refusing to meet your needs at all. 

Avoid Manipulation

Anyone who threatens to abandon you or your relationship because it no longer meets their exact specifications is using fear to manipulate you into complying with their wishes. Do not fall prey to this tactic or you will continue to feed an insatiable hunger. Time spent together should be reciprocal and involves both people giving their time and attention to one another. Sharing connection is a gift that allows your bond to flourish and grow. When you find yourself planning parties, trips, and adventures for another person and are then told that, “you’re so hard to buy for, I didn’t get you anything.” OR, “Thank you for the thoughtful gifts, trips, and parties you threw for me but I am unable to return that favor.” This person has chosen this behavior. Unless you change your willingness to cooperate they will continue to take advantage of your kindness.

Make Healthy Choices

Giving to other people in relationships is a choice we make. We can be confused by the difference between sharing our love with others and giving to others so that they might like us in return. It is possible that we have lost our way. When we consider ourselves unlovable, we are willing to accept any connection, even when it does not meet out needs. Perhaps, our sense of self-worth was the problem all along – believing we are worthy and deserving of love and attention. Below please find a list of mantras to support you as you evaluate your mature relationships.

I am worthy of love, attention, and affection.

I am allowed to be the center of attention.

I am deserving of fun.

I deserve to be loved, cared for, and supported. 

I want people in my life who care for me and not just what I can do for them.

I want friends and family that know and love me exactly as I am.

I get to choose my friends and family and I will chose those who love me for being myself.

I have intrinsic value. I am magic already. I will find friends who can see, appreciate, and celebrate me.

Five Phrases to Keep Us Grounded

Today I am thinking about the things I learned as a child that have stuck with me all through my life. The little gems of wisdom that we sprinkle on children and hope they stick. These are cliches but they are also accurate and cuttingly quick – why waste your time trying to say it another way? Here’s a few of my favorites and I hope you’ll share some of your own – I’m always game to learn something new

Keep hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself. This was a great one from the wall of rules that our sixth grade class would have to write repeatedly until we learned them. I’ll say they stuck, it has been a long time since sixth grade. I remember Mrs. Richards and I have managed to follow this rule throughout my life. What a powerful and wonderful lesson to remind us to be respectful of ourselves and of other people.

You can always stoop over to pick up nothing. This one I learned in college from a friend’s mother. At first I did not understand it and I mulled it over long and hard before suddenly one day it made sense. What a wise woman, you can waste your time or you can learn from what I’m teaching you that is all your decision. What an elegant way to call someone on their bullshit. 

If you can’t say something nice come sit here by me. Steel Magnolias remains one of my favorite movies and the wisdom of southern women never ceases to impress or delight me. The homespun wisdom of Dolly Parton, the sharp wit of Julia Shugarbaker, and the countless friends I have accumulated over a lifetime of devotion to the cult of southern womanhood. I could write a whole post about the brilliant one-liners of southern women but I’ll hold off with one more.

It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world. Dolly Parton, the visionary, musician, and living breathing angel among us is full of timeless wisdom that soothes the soul and warms the heart. It is challenging to be authentic in a world that expects perfection but rarely explains what that looks like – for women it often resembles a centerfold, who is also a devoted mother, partner, and void of any challenging opinions like her own intrinsic value or desire for respect and bodily autonomy. None of us fits that mold because we are all complex, unique, and divinely flawed people. Dolly’s words apply on so many levels, don’t they?

Actions speak louder than words. Now wasn’t this embroidered on a pillow in all our houses at one time? This classic is wonderful and holds weight. We can say all the kind things in the world but if we fail to show up for our friends or support our families at times of need what are we doing? You have to back up that lip service with a little hustle and some action. Send a casserole, call a friend, shoot a text. Let people know you’re thinking about them. It’s the only way they’ll know!

What are some other wonderful words of wisdom that you carry with you to help keep you honest and grounded? I am aching to know!