2015 in Reflection

I wrote a reflection on my year in 2014 (2014 in Reflection) and, looking back, to see when and where I was in my life at each month in the past is a very powerful experience. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things can change and directions in Life can alter. This time last year I was preparing to begin a new career, was steadily becoming more infatuated with a new relationship, and the worst loss I had to cope with was that of a broken heart. 2015 brought about a whole new level of craziness that only reinstates Peonies ‘n Mint’s tagline: I am truly blessed to have loved, lost and gained so much.

While looking back at the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015, I have to laugh. I made a list of 15 Goals for 2015 and actually succeeded in quite a few of them throughout this year. How I was successful with each strike off the list may not have been completely planned, but it was a success nonetheless! My only “failures” were not running a timed race every month, not going Paleo for an entire month, not learning mixology, and not seeing Miranda in concert. Thankfully, these are options I can make goals for in 2016 if I choose; 2015 was not my only shot!

Overall 2015 was very eventful::

January: I began work at Heartland in a new career path of real estate. This path took me to enrolling in real estate classes and ultimately passing the state examination to receive my real estate agent license by mid-summer.

February: Referring to my goals list in 2015, I chose to continue working and volunteering with Susan G. Komen after leaving Shadowland and no longer being in the event planning business. I was asked to be head decorator at a gala called Pink Tie Ball held on Valentine’s Day where over $18,000 was earned for research and treatment of breast cancer. I also helped decorate for the Little Black Dress event at Shadowland in October 2015 and will be on the event committee for Pink Tie Ball 2016.

May: I lost four friends in 2015, and May marked the passing of the first. My best friend who has been my Harry Potter-premier partner and country concert comrade since kindergarten lost her mother unexpectedly. Jamie, whose home was like a second dwelling for me growing up, went to heaven following complications with a minor surgery. Jamie was a highly intelligent woman and one who gave me a lot of advice during my drama with X. I looked up to her fondly. And though the loss was painful enough, my heart hurt most for Granger, who is my best friend and daughter of Jamie. Every person handles grief differently, but it seemed as if Granger simply did not want to handle the grief at all. My heart still hurts for my friend as she and her family continue to struggle with the loss.

June: The second friend lost was Army. And though I might scoff at calling him a friend today, back in June that is exactly what I considered him. I never thought him and I had a future together; we were far too opposite in personality and beliefs. However, Army was someone I cared for and his family was some of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting. The sudden and unexpected break up left me in tears for a few days, and then mad at anything male for a few months.

In retrospect, it was quite the blessing to lose Army. Not only did I come to the realization that my heart could continue to mend after another heartbreak, but I learned I could love people differently with every relationship I came in contact. I also broke out of a very gloomy and God-forsaken viewpoint after this break, something of which I can never fully thank Army for granting me the opportunity.

July: I ventured on a spontaneous road trip with Teeth in July and it ultimately ended our friendship. Though we are back on speaking terms, Teeth now lives in North Carolina and our conversations are very limited and usually spoken within group texts with the other two girls from the 2014 cruise, Saki and Toto.

August: June and July led me to the most pivotal change in 2015: my participation in House. While being disgusted with men and dealing with the after effects of a broken friendship, my life was a bit gloomy. I was questioning a lot of things and I felt as if the only way for me to break out of the darkness was to force myself into some light. And so one Tuesday evening I chose to branch out and join a Bible study group full of individuals I had never met and at a church I had never attended.

I have not looked back since.

House has become a firm foundation in many aspects of my life. Not only has it reignited my heart to be open to God, but it has provided me with some of the strongest friendships I’ve had to date.

September: Speaking of House, September is the month I attended a bonfire of a fellow “Houser”, roasted stale marshmallows, and met Wilbur. Wilbur has quickly become one of my best friends. My feelings for him grow stronger every single moment I spend with him and, at least right now, this is all I’m going to share about our relationship. I’ll keep you all updated in the future…

October: I moved in with M at the very beginning of October. We painted and pounded and were pleasantly surprised when the vintage apartment went from being “a place” to “our home.” Living on my own is not the same as going away to college and living in a dorm. It’s been an eye-opening experience, but one I am loving every minute! 2016 will be a great summer what with living only a minute from Lake Michigan and the beach, and living right downtown has been perfect with remaining active in the community and keeping up with friends.

November: The last loss of 2015 and one that continues to haunt me in my dreams sometimes: Saki’s cousin and a friend of mine, Brandi, lost her life tragically to Lake Michigan after being washed off a pier. Brandi was a strong supporter of the Right for Life, which her and I worked together with during college. Her loss hit a spot deep inside me; she was only 24 years old at her passing. It’s incredible how much losing someone can hurt, but death of a young friend is even more painful. I’m still working out why God decided to take her when He did, but I believe it was for the best reasons. I am proud to have called Brandi a friend, and I am happy to know I will see her sometime in the future.

December: December has been wonderfully uneventful thus far. There has been quite a bit of holiday joy: work holiday parties, Christmas light viewings with Wilbur, enjoying the Star Wars VII premier, gift shopping with friends, small game nights to enjoy Christmas movies and treats. I hosted a Christmas party for House on the 11th which was a hit. I made all the food myself and coordinated a White Elephant Gift Exchange — all of which I am happy to report was a success. I am enjoying the lead up to Christmas with those closest in my life, and I wouldn’t want things to be any different than they are right now.

As for Firsts in 2015, I had several:

  • First career shift
  • First full year with no school or homework
  • First time dating someone with no religious affiliation
  • First experience with the pain of death in my life
  • First venture away from my home church
  • First time joining a group I had no connection with (House)
  • First consideration of switching my church membership
  • First Ultimate team weekly activity
  • First trivia team weekly activity
  • First spin class
  • First time going to a movie alone
  • First friendship sparked via the blogosphere (Hillary)
  • First spontaneous road trip

Life is good and I am happy.

Next up for the end of 2015: Christmas Day celebrations, New Years Party, MSU taking on Alabama, and receiving a little Christmas bonus from work.

What I’m looking forward to in 2016: family vacation to Disney, new goals and aspirations, three weddings of some very close friends, lazy summer beach days, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and everything else the New Year brings to me life!

5 Ways to Stay Positive in Negative Situations

Everyone knows what it is like to have a hangnail: no matter how hard you try to ignore it, all you want to do is get rid of it. So you pick or pull or find nail clippers to get the job done. It might hurt, but once it is gone, you feel a tremendous sense of relief. Only once it is no longer dangling, catching on your clothes, and being a nuisance can you get on with the more important aspects of your day.

Negativity is just like that hangnail. It pierces your consciousness, inflames your mind, and consumes your thoughts. How many times have you caught yourself laying in bed after being hurt or angered and continuously processing it in your mind? I have one-sided arguments with myself frequently. This week, for example, I had an argument about once every hour as I went through what I can honestly say was the worst week I’ve had the misfortune of enjoying.

I’m not going to go into lengthy details, but here was the gist of my Thanksgiving week: an awful cold resulting in a cough comparable to strep, a slide-out on the highway, hearing from the Golfer after 3 months of silence, miscommunication issues, waking up to a flat tire, my roommate’s boyfriend spending the night in the ER after having a seizure at our apartment, hearing my best friend broken-hearted and on edge, and ultimately finding out a dear friend tragically lost her life to Lake Michigan at the crushing age of 24. All of this in a 7-day span; to say it’s been the week from hell would be an understatement.

It became quite the battle to clear my mind enough to simply remember to breathe. As I sit here writing this tonight, my heart remains heavy with sadness and pain, but I’ve reached the point where I have begun to tell myself that things happen everyday, and not everything can be peachy and bright 24/7. I’m fighting the negative thoughts with positive ones; I’m smiling through the pain.

So, there’s the key point of this post: Negative situations happen all the time. We can’t avoid them. Instead of dwelling on these thoughts, though, it is important remain positive. Learning how to stay positive in negative situations is something I’ve found to be invaluable in leading a healthy, productive lifestyle. So next time you are angered, or hurt, or tragedy strikes, here are 5 ways I’ve learned to achieve a positive outlook on life even when life seems to be digressing fast:

positive-quotes-5

Realize you can find opportunities in negative situations.
I’m sure you’ve heard the cliche that every cloud has a silver lining, right? Well, guess what, it’s true! Negative situations are put into our lives to test us and to strengthen us.  Sometimes they don’t make sense — not a single lick — but somehow, in retrospect of every single “bad thing” that has happened in my life, there was something good to come from it.

The best way to find these types of opportunities is to MAKE them. In example, take the focus away from yourself and do something nice for someone else. Or actively look for a positive tone in your thoughts when considering the situation. It sounds difficult, and it can be, but in the long run it is a great stress-reliever.

The hardest part of my Hell Week was the loss of Brandi. Death is never an easy thing to understand, but top that with such a tragedy and you’re stuck wondering, “Why?” It is incredible, though, even in my grief that I can smile at her passing. Brandi was a crusader for the Right for Life. She touched a lot of lives during her time on this earth, but upon her death, her story has found its way into the lives of thousands of people. Thousands who may never have met her. Thousands who may have been touched by the power of such a young woman and her fight for Life. It warms my heart knowing that, even when she is no longer physically in this world, her spirit has carried such a powerful message to the community grieving her death.

pos8

Have or find a positive support group.
No matter the situation, it is necessary to realize that you cannot please everyone. In fact, no one can! Once you come to this conclusion, you relieve yourself from a lot of unnecessary burden so that you can focus on the people with whom you can positively interact. Encouragement is a key factor when looking to move from negativity to positivity.

So it is crucial to have a positive support group to help one another through difficult times. Surrounding yourself with positivity will help you stay positive in a negative situation. Whether it be family or friends, lean on someone for support and encouragement. It’s a lot easier to talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking through constructive feedback.

Remember: You might be strong enough to weather a storm on your own, but when you have a safety net cast out to you, why not grab hold for the extra assistance? Fighting the waves gets tiring after all.

positive-quotes-10

Express what you are grateful for.
Even in the worst of times, each one of us still have things in our lives for which we can be grateful. Be thankful! Practice gratitude and openly voice your blessings. Not only will this provide you peace at the time of negativity, but it will also give you fuel the next time a bad situation enters your life. Actively acknowledging what you are grateful for will help you have a thankful mind and heart, even when bad things happen.

For me, I am most grateful for the people in my life when negative situations arise. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be granted loving parents and friends who stand behind me when the times get tough. However, apart from people, I am blessed with a striving faith community, beautiful area to live, and abilities to push through in any situation. I have something to be thankful for everyday and that is a huge shield against any negativity marching my direction.

b38c1f8787c66a642ecc420761a34f59

Take time to exercise your body and mind.
Exercise for your body is good in so many ways Not only does it release natural endorphins to make you feel happier, but it relieves stress and betters your body which can boost self-esteem. I highly recommend yoga to learn to focus and meditate your mind. However, any sort of exercise is ideal.

Exercising your mind is just as important as working out your body though. If you’re like me, then you are the type of person to continually beat yourself up mentally and constantly question your own actions. You need to retrain your brain to stop thinking in that way. It only makes sense that the more negatively you talk to yourself, the more negativity will become a part of you. When my mind starts turning against me, my practice has been to take those items I’m grateful for above and think of those instead. Somehow, this has become a natural occurrence for me and I’m thankful! My brain automatically — once it’s gotten over the initial shock of pain or sadness — works to turn a negative thought into a positive.

One easy way to do this is to take one negative statement that has been pulsing through your mind and make it a positive one. When I walked out to my car to find the flat tire, my initial thoughts were:  Now I’m going to be late for work., How much is this going to cost?, and Why of all the weeks did this happen today? However, once I walked away and cooled off a bit, my mind automatically changed its tune. Instead of negativity, I began to recite these statements: Now I’ll know how to handle similar situations in the future., At least the leak is happening in the tread and not the sidewall (way less expensive!)., and Thankfully I was home and not driving when I found out! It is all about changing your tune that will ultimately impact your outlook.

3a69e3b0da503a9448d402f3b4b3b939

Don’t play the victim, take responsibility of your life.
No one but yourself has the choice to make things happen. If you feel stuck in a negative situation, move. Whether that be figuratively or literally. Too many people are resistant to change, but change happens with or without our permission. So when you begin to accept that changes are a part of life, you also are training your mind to relax and be more accepting at all things life throws at you.

A great example I recently saw about changes in life is this: consider a bad job situation. You can accept the situation as it is and work to make it better, or you can take the opportunity to make a change for yourself and apply for that job you truly want. Either way, you’re taking reign over your own life in the face of negativity.

At the end of the day, you control your life. If you make a mistake, admit it. If you were hurt by someone, realize your negativity is only hurting yourself, not the wrongdoer. Look at negative situations as your training sessions through Life. Realize that your life is in your own hands and you cannot keep playing the victim card when everyone is going through their own troubles.

positive-quotes-11

So, to put things simply, with the power of positive thinking, you can learn to put negative situations in perspective and continue to deal with every bad circumstance that arises. My week may have been one of the worst in my own personal history, but knowing and practicing how to stay positive wouldn’t allow tragedy to destroy me.

I’m shaken, but not crushed.

To quote one of my favorite characters, Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Do not let the dark thoughts and negative situations in life overwhelm your light. Push forward and keep on living, because there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy.