What I Want For Christmas…

Christmas has become too commercialized.  Since when did it become bigger than birthdays?  Not everyone enjoys it either.  So much guilt is generated around this holiday.  Not everyone gets along with their family or wants to spend time with them.  I really don’t want my kids to feel obliged to visit me for Christmas.  As much as I love my kids, if they want to be somewhere else, then fine.  I would rather not guilt trip them about it and see them when they are happy to come around of their own accord.

I haven’t spent Christmas with my parents for years.  I don’t even live in the same country as they do!  Are they alone?  No!  Granted, the holiday isn’t the same without me…hehe!   Sure, I like decorating the house and giving gifts.  But when did the gift giving be the all important aspect of Christmas as it seems to be today?   What pressure there is in these austere times for parents to ‘give’ to their kids when many are struggling to pay the bills.  It would be really interesting if the kids told their parents not to worry about a present this year because they know it hasn’t been easy since mom or dad got laid off from work ( or any other scenario where a family is struggling).  I somehow don’t see that happening.

When my children asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I honestly couldn’t think of anything.  I have all the ‘stuff’ that I really need, as well as stuff that I don’t really need.  When I asked my sweetheart what he wanted, he couldn’t think of anything he wanted either.  When he asked me what I wanted, well, I couldn’t think of anything. I don’t need anymore diving equipment, or art supplies right now.  I don’t need clothes or shoes or handbags.  I don’t need furniture or accessories.  I haven’t seen anything that jumps out at me and screams, ‘buy me!’  There isn’t anything that I really want.  I would rather save the money for a great night out or a holiday.

In this run up to Christmas, I have had some free time on my hands to get ready for the big event.  Actually, it is in two parts as my daughter will be away for Christmas and so she came to visit me this past weekend.  I spent the week before running around like a mad woman getting all the shopping and decorating done before she arrived.  It was exhausting.  The upside to that is I don’t have to run around like a mad woman this week before my son comes down for Christmas Part 2.

What I enjoyed most about spending Christmas Part 1 with my daughter was the fact that she was here and I got to spend some time with her.  Sitting with my family at the dinner table is more important to me than presents.  Sharing time and making memories can’t take the place of a new sweater or any other item.

I am really looking forward to Christmas Part 2.  I haven’t seen my son since August as he has been away at University.  I could care less about a present.  All I really want is to spend time with my family and loved ones.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Holiday!

Knowing when to quit

Quitting can often have negative connotations.  Calling someone a quitter is usually intended as an insult.  I don’t see it that way.  Sometimes leaving or quitting something that is no longer serving your purpose can be a life-saver.

As a child, I was taught to persevere and never quit, at anything.  Even if the thing I was doing was making me miserable.  Completing a task was more important than the enjoyment of it.   I think this has changed with my generation.  Many parents of my generation are all to quick to allow their children to quit things when their children say they don’t like doing something.

I have experienced this with the father of my children.  He would all too happily allow the children to quit things that I signed them up for at either their insistence or my suggestion.  I learned very early that children will want to quit when what they are doing becomes challenging or difficult.  The problem with letting them quit meant that they would never learn how to overcome challenges or obstacles and take pride in accomplishments.  I always took the view of my parents in not allowing my children to quit.  You want to learn Karate?  Ok, but you have to do it for the term I pay for and you can’t stop in the middle of it unless you are actually physically unable to.  So the belts got accumulated and then it started to get hard.  Sorry, you have to wait until the term is finished.  My daughter wanted to stop the violin when it got challenging and I said no.  There were tears from her and arguments with her father, but I stuck to my decision.  Once she got over her hump, she was fine.  Same thing happened when she was learning how to ride horses.  I can’t tell you about the arguments with the boys when doing sport.  So yeah, the mean mother that I was, I made my kids do things and when they didn’t like it anymore and only after I got my money’s worth, I let them stop doing the things they didn’t want to do.  At least they learned what they liked and what they were capable of.  I never forced my daughter to play the violin once she got over her hump and she could have stopped having lessons in high school when ever she wanted to, but she didn’t.  When my children went to a new school, the deal was that they would all take advantage of some of the sports that were available.  My eldest tried out for soccer, knowing that he wouldn’t make the team, but I also made him try out for volleyball which was the only sport left to try out for.  He actually enjoyed it to his surprise.  Sometimes children won’t try things or will want to quit because of their self-esteem.  If you don’t try things, how will you know if you will like it or not?

Only by trying new things, overcoming obstacles and learning what we are capable of can we make effective decisions in our lives. We need to know how to proceed when things are no longer working for us.  Do we stay or do we go?  This can be used for relationships of any kind and for our working lives.

Because I was brought up with a work ethic which meant carrying on regardless, because it was important to have a job and earn money, I wasted a lot of time in jobs that I should never have stayed in.  Ditto for relationships.  Although I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, I do know what things work for me and what I need to be happy in my work.  Although I do not know how my current relationship is going to end up, I do know what I need and what works for me.  Hopefully it will turn out great.  So far so good.

I no longer feel that I have to stick at something which is making me unhappy or serving me no purpose.  I have had to re-learn the skill of trusting my instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right, then it most likely isn’t and no matter what you do isn’t going to make it right.  So rather than dragging things out and trying to ‘manage’ hoping things will get better, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to quit before things get worse, because they usually do.  I used to be the one who worked at the relationship and would do everything to make things work not realising that it was supposed to be a two-way street.  When I couldn’t do anymore, I had to quit.  Why wait so long?  Because there was something ingrained in me to keep going, to keep trying, even though I was dying inside and until there was nothing left.  Quitting was my last resort.

I believe that each situation we encounter teaches us something.  Sometimes we learn new skills or we learn things about ourselves and what we are capable of.  Sometimes we need to learn to say no.

This time last year I started temping.  I didn’t (and still don’t!) know what I wanted to do except that I wanted to earn money and see what was available.  I started doing data-entry for an insurance company.  The pay was good.  The job was dull and exhausting.  It was supposed to be for a month, but got extended.  I could have said no and that would have been ok, but I was flattered and the money was good.  I was still exhausted and there were issues between two colleagues that I had to distance myself from.  However, there was some benefit to me even though the job was mind-numbingly dull and exhausting.  I did it for three months.  They wanted to keep me on, but instead of just saying no, I told them I would only do part-time at my current rate.  So they said no instead.  I was so happy to have some time off and vowed that I wouldn’t stick a job out if it didn’t serve my purpose.  I loved working at a Nursing Home, but the journey and work involved didn’t balance against the really poor pay, so I didn’t apply for that job which was mine for the taking.  My last job was at another nursing home, within walking distance and the money was great.  It was a three-month contract, but I left after less than five weeks.  I dithered about staying three weeks longer than I should have.  I kept asking The Universe what the lesson was and I think the answer was to follow my gut and to cut my losses and run.  Things were not working for me.  It reminded me of a negative work situation I had been in years ago and it was not a situation I wanted to re-visit.

The relief I felt when I handed in my notice was enormous.  There was no way I could have stayed the whole three months.  If I had, I wouldn’t be temping where I am now.  I had handed in my notice, went on holiday for two weeks, and came back to start another assignment, as I knew I would.  What I didn’t know is that The Universe would reward me with a calm environment, with really lovely people, where I can learn new things, and be of service to others.

So, yes, I am a quitter, and much happier for it.  I want to point out that I would never quit my work because the job was a challenge.   I thrive on being able to prove myself at work and love the sense of accomplishment that comes with doing something different and getting out of my comfort zone.  I quit because the situation or environment was not conducive to my productivity or emotional well-being.  I want to be happy at work and to enjoy what I do.  It is also nice being around pleasant people when you spend about eight hours a day with them.  I don’t have to be best buddies with my colleagues, but a team environment with mutual respect and consideration is vital for productivity.  I haven’t been able to do much in my first week except to answer the telephone, which was unusually quiet, but I was told on several occasions how much my presence was appreciated as it took the pressure off the rest of the team.  I have been able to use the down time to read up on procedures and at the end of the week I was finally able to start some on-line training.  I have five weeks left to go and anything can happen.

Leaving a job or relationship that is making you miserable is not something to be taken lightly.  In this economic climate, it might not be possible to quit a job, especially not without something else to take its place.  That could be irresponsible if there are others to look after and living expenses to cover.  However, if something is making you unhappy, and you have done everything you possibly can to improve matters without success, it might be time to work out an exit plan.

Quitting doesn’t make you a loser.  It can make you a winner in the long run.

Making an Apology and Complaining Effectively

Most people find it difficult to apologise.  It can be a big blow to one’s ego admitting that one might have been wrong about something they said or did.  Our egos cannot cope with the fact that we are not perfect human beings and don’t always make the right decisions or say the right thing.

By the same token, many people have difficulty complaining effectively and tend to avoid confrontation.  Most people don’t like to create a ‘scene’.  The easy way out is avoidance.  They don’t go back to the restaurant where the food or service wasn’t acceptable.  They stop seeing people who said or did something upsetting without saying why.  If you don’t complain effectively, how can the restaurant improve?  If you avoid people who have upset you, how can that person change something about themselves to improve the situation?  If you don’t say what is bothering you, how will the other know that an apology may be in order?

About this time last year, the relationship I was involved with ended.  Just like that.  No dialogue or forewarning.  The most difficult thing about the relationship ending wasn’t the fact that it ended, but knowing why it ended.  I wasn’t given any reason other than the relationship had changed and wasn’t like it was before.  No kidding!  How vague can one be?  No matter how I tried, I really didn’t get anything more than that.  I found it very frustrating and hurtful.  Things weren’t perfect, but what relationship is?  I knew things didn’t feel right for the last few months, but I couldn’t put my finger on it and didn’t know why.  It was just a feeling.

The real problem was communication, or lack of.  I pride myself on being able to communicate effectively.  It has taken me years to develop this skill.  It is important to me to be understood.  Have I made myself clear because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding? 😉  However, there are times I don’t communicate effectively, or at all.  There are times I don’t like to ‘rock the boat’.  By ‘handling a situation’ rather than being completely and utterly open and honest (I thought I was being mature) about my feelings, I was actually controlling a situation.  My control freak tendencies had not completely dissipated.  It is something I need to work on from time to time.  If I had completely and utterly expressed myself during difficult situations and honoured my feelings, would the relationship have ended sooner?  If my partner communicated to me things that were bothering him as and when they occurred, rather than after he ended the relationship, would the relationship have survived?  We will never know.   However, the relationship lasted as long as it had to in order for me to learn that open and honest communication is the key to any successful relationship.  (Well, I knew that, but didn’t always practice it.)

By not saying what is bothering us, we build up a huge pile of resentment within.  The key is to complain effectively, but many people do not know how.  It is actually very simple.  I wrote about it here.  The Daily Temperature reading teaches us how to communicate effectively at the most basic level.  If you complain, you must follow it up with a recommendation.  This is the nicest way to complain.  You are already telling the other person what is bothering you and you are also telling them what would make you happy.   There are no guarantees that the other will listen effectively or apologise, however, you have opened a door and provided insight.  By the way, I did use this method of communication in my previous relationship, but not always.  In order for it to be effective in relationships, it must be done constantly.

As I stated earlier in this post, the ego can’t handle criticism.  It automatically puts us in defense mode when we come up against any form of criticism or perceived negativity, even when put to us in the nicest possible way.  The ego is what stops us from making an effective apology or any kind of apology at all.  The ego stops us from really listening to the other person and caring about their feelings.  The ego is all about me, me, me!  The ego makes excuses for their behaviour and tries to justify actions.  Sometimes the ego will go on offensive mode and make it seem as if the person doing the complaining is the one with the problem.  It is at this point when things can go horribly wrong and further dialogue becomes useless.  The ego has shut down the situation and has gone into overload.

So, what does one do?

Step 1:  If someone has the courage to tell you what is bothering them and you get a little twinge of ego, pause.  Yes, pause.  Do not react!  Take a deep breath, count to 10, do anything but respond straight away.  Overcome your ego, become pro-active.  Listen!  Look at the other person.  They were very brave to tell you their feelings.  They could have been working on it for days or weeks!  If that person is of some importance in your life, they may have been weighing what the outcome might be, good or bad, and hoping for the best reaction.  Even if they are not that important in your life, that person is a human being with feelings and needs to be listened to.  Acknowledge their humanity.

Step 2:  Look at yourself.  This is one of the most difficult things to do and is one of the most important.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  If the other person has ‘hit a nerve’, well, maybe they have a point!   What may be important to the other person might not be so important to you, however, you cannot put your standards onto other people.  If the issue was big enough for the other person to mention it, then it needs to be seriously looked at.  Remember, this isn’t about you!  Well, it might be about something you did or said, but the situation is brought to light by the other person, so this is about them and you need to look at how your words or actions have an effect on others.

Step 3:  Apologise.  Do not make excuses or justifications as it will only null the apology and it won’t be sincere.  This is the most common mistake people make when offering an apology and can cause nothing but further problems.  It is a guarantee to lose friends and alienate people.  If you don’t care about anything other than yourself, then this isn’t going to be a big deal for you.  If you do care about others and feel there may be room for improvement in your personal development and relationships, then this method of apologising can be the easiest to master.

Before writing this article, I already knew the best way to apologise.  I wanted to see what was out there in cyberspace to confirm what I instinctively knew and found this link , one of many.  It is good to know that I can trust my feelings to know when something is right or wrong.

If you are on the receiving end of an apology and it isn’t going quite as well as it should, you need to look at your complaint.  If you complained effectively and the other person is not apologising effectively, then you may need to pause.  We all have choices.  Sometimes people need space and time to reflect on their actions.  If a sincere apology comes our way after an unsuccessful attempt, we have the choice to accept and move on.  Even if it doesn’t, we have the choice to accept and move on.  Either way is a win-win situation.  We either improve relationships with others or we weed out those that drag us down and make room for those that will treat us with respect and consideration.  Best of all, we create a wonderful relationship with ourselves.