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Holiday Survival Kit

Take a deep breathe.

Acknowledge that the holidays are coming. For ‘any’ family that raises the stress quotient by no less than 27%. Being divorced adds another 15-20% regardless of the state of the relationship with your ex. Why? Well, there are numerous factors that come into play.

1. School: Depending on where you live, kids may be out the entire week while you may have two days off.
2. Christmas: Long before Thanksgiving the kids begin eyeing that glorious morning. Catalogues start arriving and items are getting circled well in advance of the carving of the t-day bird. Each child’s energy subsequently increases exponentially as their already short attention spans suffer serious drop offs andfd429767a2ccdf1658f9889d081c65c5 their ability to listen flies out the window.
3. Finances: Holidays = $$$. Not trying to be a scrooge by any means. It’s just a reality. Between holiday meals, decorations (lights, trees, etc), presents, travel, vacation time, child care needs, aspirin, therapy … it adds up.
4. Family: Look, the truth is, that for most humans the idea of getting together with family brings thoughts of both warm fuzzies AND which alcohol to consume first. It’s just natural. We all have parents and siblings. Bottom line: it’s always fun to parent when you yourself have regressed to the age of seven.
5. Weather: Days are shorter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s dreary. Kids are inside more (see number 2). I’m depressing myself just thinking about it.
6. There’s a good chance you won’t be with your kids as much as you’d like and will have moments without them that will understandably bum you out.
7. Thanks to brilliant advertising agencies, the perception is that everyone’s head is full of sugarplum fairies during the holidays. The reality is for a lot of people the holidays are one of the most depressing times of the year. For some it’s grieving loved ones lost through the year. For others the holidays bring back painful memories. Regardless, if you’re down I guarantee you you’re not alone.

My advice? Sit back and let it happen. You’ll drive yourself nuts trying to control it all or understand why you continually find yourself in the fetal position while your parents attempt to comprehend what divorce means in the twenty-first century. Remember that you’ve done well. Your life may not be perfect, but you’ve overcome a lot to get to this point and have a great deal to celebrate.

If you can’t be with your kids; surround yourself with supportive friends, family, neighbors etc. If you’re single, don’t just sit in the house alone. I promise you there are people in your life who would love nothing more than to open their homes and hearts to you this holiday season. If you and your ex are fortunate enough to be on speaking terms, take advantage of opportunities to be together with the kids. The kids know you’re divorced. They get it. But it does wonders for them to be able to spend a peaceful hour or two with both their mom and dad at the same time and not have to choose.

First and foremost, resolve to live by the creed of “If the kids are happy, I’m happy.” Make it fun for them. Encourage them to enjoy every single moment of it whether they’re with you or their mom. Give them that. It’s a gift they’ll hold with them their entire lives. Always remember, regardless of your situation, you’re creating their memories, right now. You owe it to them to do your best to make their recollections of the holidays something that will always make them smile. In doing so, you’ll likely enjoy them a great deal yourself.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Trust Me

Do you remember when you believed everything people told you? Or knew in your heart that your “bestie” that week was going to be your “bestie” for life? Unfortunately, eventually we catch our parents leaving a dollar under our pillow or our best friend sits with someone else at lunch and our view of the world is forever changed. Watching my children get hurt through what is normal every day interaction with human beings is tough. You can’t protect them from it. It just happens as we all know. The world is not there to serve them which is a hard lesson to learn sometimes. Sometimes people hurt you, even if it’s unintentional. All you can do is prepare them and then be there to catch them if they fall and reassure them that it’s just a part of life. Some of us can shrug it off relatively easily, others, not so much.

But let’s face it. When you’re an adult and have been hurt enough times, it’s hard enough yourself to trust, let alone teach someone else to trust. Despite being fortunate enough to have had terrific mentors and loving family members; like you, throughout my life I’ve had my share of backstabbing friends, self serving bosses, lying girlfriends, and haphazard thieves who helped themselves to guitars out of the trunk of my car. And then there’s life’s ability to sucker punch you, like when my best friend died at the age of twenty two. And, of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance the one relationship1390267987623884429306.15044 you knew you could count on for eternity simply went Ker-Plunk for what could be a multitude of reasons.

So there you sit; all wounded and banged up, when your kid walks in crying because their best friend lied to them or said something mean behind their back. Based on the type of day you’re having, in your head you may be thinking, “People suck honey, best you realize that now.” But you and I both know that’s not the answer nor is it a true sense of the big picture. Yes, some people suck. And sometimes people hurt you inadvertently or unknowingly simply because of childhood wounds that leave you vulnerable to certain actions by those around you. Sometimes you simply assume the worst or misread someone’s actions. Or perhaps their own world may be a train wreck and you simply happen to be standing on the tracks at the wrong time.

Regardless, the truth is life is complicated and humans are a crapshoot. My mentor in college once told me, “Every day we each have the potential to be the asshole. So look in the mirror each morning and ask yourself, will I let it be me today?”

Staying positive and remaining a trusting soul takes effort and character. I’ve done a relatively good job of being able to focus on the positive or overcome the adversity of negativity throughout my life; but trust is a whole other ball of wax. That one has always been a struggle for me and every knock down only makes it harder.

As I watch my kids grow, evolve, learn and progress, I realize there are certain lessons I need to teach them that I myself need to learn as well. Not giving up on humanity, my world or those around me is one of them. Becoming a more giving and open individual is another one; even if it means leaving myself open to pain. Finding that balance between being smart, cautious and streetwise while being trusting, open and vulnerable is one of life’s greatest challenges. But to close ourselves off completely due to hurt, anger, disappointment or perceived judgement is a dangerous path to take. We may need to hole up for a bit to lick our wounds, but eventually we need to let people back in and give them an opportunity to gain our trust.

My children will hurt. That’s a given. I can’t help that fact. They’re human as are those around them. But despite having experienced my share of hurt and disappointment, I can teach them to continue trusting and believing in people, life, their world and the cosmos. To be trustworthy in their own right. To appreciate and understand human nature. To be self reliant and strong. To be vulnerable but self assured. To be giving as well as FORgiving.

And above all, I can give them the greatest gift; and that is to always trust themselves.

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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4th Down and Twenty Yards to Go

Quick insight; I’m originally from Buffalo, NY. Basically what that means is I’ve lived my entire life rooting for the underdog. Despite having witnessed some horrible defeats, I’ve also witnessed some remarkable comebacks and moments when I’ve seen my teams overcome enormous adversity. Either way, throughout my life, I’ve often related quite directly to both the Bills and Sabres. (There’s a point to this so hang with me).

Yesterday was a good example. The Bills were playing Minnesota and shot themselves in the foot no fewer than ten times including four turnovers, a couple of which directly cost them points. They kept making mistakes, digging a progressively deeper hole. Each time they’d start to gain momentum, they’d make another mistake. And all you could do was sit there and628x471 acknowledge you’d been watching this for over forty years.

Yet, despite the multiple debacles, with just over two minutes left in the game, they found themselves only down by six points; eighty yards away from a winning score. Despite having lost their two top running backs to injury earlier in the game, they started their drive. A fourth down and twenty yards to go appeared to be the typical insurmountable hurdle that symbolized the past decade. Amazingly they got twenty four yards and continued. Then a third down and twelve completion. And with one second left on the clock, a two yard scoring strike that led to the go ahead extra point; capping an unlikely come from behind victory.

As a divorced dad, we’ve all fumbled. We’ve entered the day without a proper game plan. Failed to make proper adjustments at half-time. We’ve squandered leads. Mismanaged the clock and run the wrong routes. We’ve battled the referees and been flagged for illegal procedure, unsportsmanlike conduct, offsides, intentional grounding and a plethora of other penalties. Some flags warranted, others not so much. We’ve been blind sided and sacked more times than we’d like to remember. And yet, somehow we’ve managed to stay in the game.

As a Buffalo Bills fan, I’ve watched my team be demoralized more often than nought. So what impressed me about yesterday’s victory was the resilience displayed by the team at the end of the game. Nobody whined. Nobody quit. Nobody pointed fingers. They simply acknowledged and moved on. They put the mistakes behind them and gave it everything they had.

Let me ask you something. How many times have you faced a fourth down and twenty yards to go? Maybe it was needing to be in an important meeting that was scheduled at the same 5068b8c799fe0.preview-620time as your daughter’s softball game across town which was at the same time as your son’s soccer match on the OTHER side of town. Perhaps it was searching the aisles for a specific toy at 11 p.m on Christmas Eve. Or recognizing you’re out of peanut butter while you’re making lunches just as your daughter comes downstairs looking for a specific pair of jeans you know are in the washing machine, all five minutes before the bus is supposed to pull up. Maybe you had to figure out how to pay for an air conditioning unit that just died unexpectedly at a time when your bank account is running on fumes. And of course, in the huddle we’ve all had a time when we heard one play, but your ex heard a different one and then proceeded to run a post pattern when you were expecting them to cut across the middle leaving you holding the ball with nobody open and three hungry kids coming at you completely unblocked.

It may sound stupid, but I could relate to yesterday’s game. I’ve looked down the field wondering how in the hell I’m going to get the team to the other end in time. Especially when the entire game has been filled with one debacle after another. When you’ve turned the ball over multiple times, been sacked six times and hurried the entire game it can be tough finding the inner strength to hang in there. You find yourself just waiting to be blindsided convinced it’s just not your day. Just seeing someone stand up, acknowledge the mess and then shrug it off and make the plays necessary to be victorious was inspiring. For some reason, just seeing someone else muster up the strength to persevere, regardless of the circumstances, made me think perhaps my season isn’t quite over just yet. For some reason, after seeing how this game turned out, I entered the week believing I could score a touchdown even when facing a fourth down and twenty yards to go.

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Sink or Swim (facing regret and fear)

Life has a funny way of forcing us outside our comfort zones. We may go kicking and screaming, convinced that doing so will cause us to shrivel up and die a slow painful death. A friend of mine recently shared a quote by Deepak Chopra who said that “Most people live their lives regretting the past or fearing the future. Therefore most people live their lives in a dream.” Researching the quote I found that author Fulton Oursler had earlier written that “Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”

As I sat and let these ideals seep into my head I realized that the times in my life when I felt the most stuck or frozen was when I was either regretting a decision I’d previously made or feared what may happen down the road because of those decisions. Panic has often ensued worrying about the “what ifs” rather than focusing on the here and now.

I am a person who thrives on momentum. I have periods in my life when it feels like I’m flying a mile a minute with each event leading me to another. All of which are leading me in the direction I want to go. In those moments I see myself climbing mountains and achieving goals. Such momentum is nearly impossible to maintain however and eventually it will either slow or600571_10151634974992908_1391745395_n stop all together. When that momentum comes to a screeching halt, it throws my system into complete shock and leaves me on the verge of uncontrollable depression. Regardless of how many times I’ve experienced the momentum eventually picking back up, I convince myself that this lull will be everlasting. Add a few additional negative punches to the soul and it can get awful dark.

The truth is, that we get comfortable in our lives. And fear tends to cause us to hold on to that comfort zone like a big log floating in a vast ocean of uncertainty. But when you’re growing. When you’re evolving. That floating log that you’re clinging to, could be the very thing keeping you from swimming to shore. And there you lie, bobbing up and down in the same ocean waiting for a ship to pass and pick you up.

Letting go of that comfort is scary as hell. What if I drown? What if I sink? And there you go again, worrying about the what ifs. Here’s a what if. What if no one rescues you and you live your life bobbing up and down on the same damn log the rest of your life? What if the log you’re holding on to gets waterlogged and sinks. Then what? Then you die and your kids get to bob up and down on the same damn log.

Some of the most successful people in the world got to where they are because they had no choice. They had to sink or swim. They were forced out of their comfort zone and forced to find out what they’re made of. Do you know what YOU are made of? What are you holding on to that’s keeping you from advancing and growing? Take a good hard look at your world. What do you fear? What are you clinging to?

I bet if you look hard enough you’ll recognize that your comfort zone is actually causing you a great deal of discomfort. Which should be your first clue that it’s time to start swimming.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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But What If?

Last night I was at my daughter’s softball game. It was a late start so by the time the first pitch was thrown the sun had already set. Off in the distance was a spectacular lightning display as storms were raging to the south of us. I overheard a child ask their dad, “What if it starts raining?” The dad reassured her that the storms were very far away and not an immediate threat and to enjoy the game. I took the guy’s advice and just sat back and enjoyed watching my daughter play what was probably one of the best games of the season. I put all other thoughts to the back of my mind and focused on the joy of watching my kid steal third base.

How often do we get wrapped up in worrying about the “what ifs” in our lives? So much so that we completely miss the opportunity to enjoy the here and now. I’m guilty of it. Quite frankly, I’m guilty of it right now. Worried about two weeks from now to the point of not focusing on2012-10-17 21.21.03
how amazing today is and how hard I’ve worked to get to this point.

You can easily cloud your head with what ifs. They’re so easy to create as there are countless scenarios as to how things might turn out. The problem is, we typically make “what ifs” a negative thing. What if it rains? What if she breaks her ankle? What if the car breaks down? What if the check doesn’t show up on time? What if my ex gets a boyfriend/girlfriend? What if I’m unable to support my family? What if it turns out Godzilla is real and he terrorizes my town forcing us to live underground and live on beetles? Sound familiar? I believe there’s a fine line between preparing yourself for the future and worrying about the things we have absolutely no control over. Or, as I’m well versed in, creating unrealistic scenarios, many of which would make for a great Lifetime movie of the week.

Some things we simply can’t tackle until they happen. Think back to all of the what ifs you worried about during the past year. How many of them actually came to being? I’m willing to bet it was less than 10%. We cloud our heads so much worrying about things that never actually happen. We really do. Yes, bad things are going to happen and there are going to be bad days. They’re going to happen. But they don’t need to consume us before they happen.

If it’s absolutely necessary for you to worry about the future, give yourself a time each day to do so. Then acknowledge and move on. Go watch your kid play softball. Or let them teach you how to play Minecraft or demonstrate to you the value of making a list as my middle child often does. Focus on those things that you can control in the here and now. Consider the what ifs for sure, at the same time acknowledging you can only manage “What is.”

 

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