Letting Go of 2016

I’ve been casting my mind back over the last 12 months, like pretty much everyone else, and reflecting on the lessons learned, the tasks completed, and what was left undone. I noticed a post on social media deriding those who ponder a new year. “If your life sucked on the last day of 2016, it’s still going to suck on the 1st day of 2017.” This is entirely possible. And it entirely misses the point of reflection and marking time.

(This is the same individual who once demanded to know why people who built tiny houses on wheels didn’t just buy a travel trailer. To that I say, campers are ugly, not intended for year-round use, not built to international building codes, not designed to last more than 10 years, not set up for sustainability,…  but I digress.)

Humans mark time, and have done so since, well, time started to be marked. We’re designed to measure success (or failure), progress (or lack thereof), whether goals have been met, and whether the inexorable aging process is compensating us with experience and wisdom. We’re still operating on time systems left to us by the Romans and Babylonians, so now is the designated pause in our revolution around the sun for us to consider the past and the future.

My year was packed – almost frantic with activity. I’ve run 3 businesses and part of a 4th. I’ve been active in 3 organizations, taken multiple trips, published a book, started a magazine, and shared hundreds of blog and social media posts. I’ve sold 2 vehicles and a camper. Painted the house. Replaced furniture. Remodeled 2 buildings. I’ve lost some I thought of as dear friends and reconnected with others who reminded me of the true meaning of friendship. I’ve rethought my life, made some tough choices, and tested my limits.

Looking back, there is a theme – a pattern – to this year that stands out above other years. And it is this… Letting Go.

I let go of an unprofitable business. I released the bitterness and resentment surrounding my husband’s death. I removed the man-made fences surrounding my faith. I relinquished any illusion of control over the unhappiness of family or friends. I walked away from our once beloved co-op and surrendered management of my children’s every educational moment. I relinquished the responsibility of doing yard work, and the guilt of paying someone else to do it. I said good-bye to the fantasy of eternally young parents and the idea that they will always be here. I dismissed employees and clients that were not healthy for my financial future. I gave up the illusion that there are generally accepted societal norms, common sense, and basic humanity. I jettisoned emotional baggage and physical leftovers of my old life. And I stopped looking for the place that I belong.

I know there is more letting go to come. I need to let more possessions go. I need to eventually release the hold on my house (and let it release its hold on me). My daughter will probably learn to drive, a forced letting go. My mother may slip away. My favorite yoga pants have stretched their last.

But I want the next year to be one of Reaching Out. I want to move toward the next chapter of life to refashion my days to reflect my values. I want to grab hold of more travel, to relish the time I have with true friends and family. I want to work into a deeper healing and a greater joy and more forward movement.

This year, I invested in myself. Not all of the money multiplied (or even broke even). Much of the time was spent in learning, instead of escapism or worry or grief. My energy resources are definitely depleted. I might do some things differently, but I would still do them all.

Was 2016 good or bad? I do not know. It passed. That is all. It was a learning year. A year of stabilizing and accepting, while simultaneously letting go and upsetting the balance.

So I could be in a better balance.

Letting go means you have to open your hands, which means they are ready to accept something new. And my hands are open.

 

Quotes for Moving On

I recently read Barbara Sher’s It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now, and while it was good for those in a mid-life crisis, it wasn’t really what I was looking for. However, nothing is wasted, and I found these six nuggets to ponder on. I think they apply to anyone who is making a change, moving on, or letting go.

Respect Reality. It’s bigger than you are.

A waste of Time is a waste of Talent.

Do your part and forget about the rest.

When you stop wanting the carrot, and the stick no longer hurts, you’re going to turn into a donkey with an opinion.

(This is a great one for breaking the negative cycle in your life. Dare to be a donkey with an opinion!)

Disapproval doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.

Be good only to the good people.

Do you have any favorite quotes that help you deal with the ups and downs of life? Please share them here. We need all we can get!

It’s Time to Play “Rip-Off the Widow”

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I had heard of it before. The bizarre phenomenon of complete strangers to sense a newly-widowed woman. A kind of radar that auto repairmen, home improvement workers, and lawn care professionals possess. A dark side of them they would never dare to try on a female who had a man in the picture.

Lots of women have noted this instantaneous shift in their business dealings with others, mainly men, but sometimes with women, too. Although these seem to be confined more to being taken advantage of by women friends than women in business. One blogger described it as suddenly having a neon sign switched on over her head that said, “I’m a widow! Take advantage of me!”

This happened even while I was married. A local tire shop was notorious for quoting prices $100-$200 higher to female callers than men callers. I used to make my husband call and ask for the same thing I had the day before. Every time he got a cheaper quote. And I went down the road to the competition.

Just weeks after I had become a widow, I went in to my trusted tire shop for new brake pads. I remarked that my husband had just passed away and I needed some help getting the car in good order. $1200 later I had new brake pads, rotors, and tires. I’m still not sure I actually needed anything but the brake pads. And one year later, the whole thing was still squealing like a stuck pig.

Why one year later? Because I was loathe to go back and complain, to risk being fleeced again. But I eventually mustered the courage and told them I had been unhappy with the service the year before. They apologized. They took time to explain the details of the repair. They redid my brakes for free. And they won back my trust.

As disgusting and sinful as this practice is, there isn’t much point in disputing it or curing it. And if you don’t believe it exists, then you aren’t a lone widow in the wide world of wolves. But there are a few tips to help stave off the worst offenders. I’m sure you can spot where I made my first mistake.

Don’t tell people you are a widow. Make up a fictional husband you must confer with before any repairs or purchases can be made. Time and distance can create the boundary that was previously established by his presence.

Learn the Lingo. Before you go into an unknown arena (auto mechanics shop, electronic purchase, or other unfamiliar zone) take a moment to research some of the terms related to what you know you need. Using some of this jargon will deter a shyster from assuming you are ignorant, and therefore helpless.

Take Your Business Elsewhere. Know what you need and about how much it should cost. Get multiple estimates. And if someone isn’t treating you fairly, move on. Go with your gut. Every. Time.

Learn the Facts, and a few swear words. Be able to defend yourself with factual information. You aren’t going to marry these people, so stop deferring to them. For the hard cases, use hard language and accuse them straight up of trying to take advantage of you.

Get comfortable with being a bitch. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, if you are single, independent, and assertive, you WILL be perceived as a bitch. Get over it. You’re here to do business, so you’d better mean it.

Now, you may not like that I’m promoting a few white lies and some vulgar language. But understand this – I’m not proposing that you become that person. It’s a persona. Just like the nice, fake, smiley one on your social media. Or the subservient, acquiescent one you used with your husband. Or the fun-loving, free-spirited one you have with your friends.

Except that this one saves you cash and keeps vultures on the fringes of your existence where they belong. Stop being the next contestant on a losing game.