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Wednesday 31 December 2014

Lessons of 2014: What I Know Now, By Josie Gagliano

So much has happened to me in 2014, and I know that SO much has happened to you, too.

How do I know this?

Here's something I recommend you do.

Stop what you're doing. Go to your phone. You've taken lots and lots of photos throughout the year, right?

Have a scroll. No, have a good look. Start from January 2014, and look at all the dates and take a moment (or several) to immerse yourself in how you felt in that moment. What compelled you to take that shot. Why it made you happy. Or sad.

I had a look at my iCloud a few nights ago, as I felt compelled to post all those photos I took but never quite got to post on social media. There must have been a reason for that. Most likely: I was having too much fun enjoying the moment that I didn't have time to post it.

One thing I did see in each and every photo - posted or not - is the joy (or sadness) in what I snapped. I also saw, in action, the lessons I learned, the mistakes I made, the deep sadness I felt, the intense joy I shared. But, those lessons. Oh, those lessons. They were HUGE. The biggest life shift of my 42 years on this beautiful planet. I have written them here. For me. For you. For my children. It's honest, and they are MY lessons, but I reckon you get can lots from them, too:

- Do not expect someone to understand your grief. YOU are the one going through it. However, DO expect the loveliness of people to completely envelope you, to hug your hurt back together (even momentarily), to listen to you, to watch how you are doing and tell you they are thinking of you, to step up, to bring you food and love and words of hope. These are all the bandaids that will help you back on your feet. When you are all healed up (though still licking your wounds) you will look back and say, 'Wow, that person! Such a quality human being. They understand deep vulnerability and utter nakedness and they did not turn a blind eye, take advantage of that, nor made me feel bad in any way for needing them'. This, my friends, is the essence of life. It is easy to 'do' life when all is rosy. Life is a series of parties and fun and celebrations. Much, much harder when shit hits the fan. The people who come to you to offer up any help they can are gold. I would naturally say here 'keep them close', but it won't be hard to keep them close because trust me, they want to be where you are anyway.

- On the flip side, it is okay to let people go. Friends or family who do not want to be a part of your life should be let go gracefully. They tell you they are ready to leave by their words, but more obviously, by their actions. Mourn them as if you would a death. Grieve the end of that relationship, recall all the good stuff, appreciate it and smile when you remember it. It was special at that time. Then let go of the bad stuff. It will give you peace, help you sleep soundly, and you will have no regrets. Sometimes strong bonds come to an end. The moment you accept that your life will be happier.

- Say yes to help when you are grieving, and before those final moments of a loved one's life when you inevitably fall apart. Friends offered to be there for me when my mum was in hospital and before we found out she was terminal. I refused for a moment because I didn't want to bother them. This serves no purpose. Perhaps you get to be right about not needing anyone, but that's pretty much it, and when you think about it, it's kinda silly. Yes, put people out. Yes, allow them to come running. Yes, ask them to leave their lives and families for a few hours to be with you as you start to fall apart. If you know you would do this for them, expect the same of them.

- Let go of the anger you hold inside you, associated with people who have not reacted the way you expected while going through your grief. This does not mean you won't have the opportunity to tell them how you feel later. Chances are they know what they have done, and they are avoiding you, to avoid talking about it. You will get your chance. Just wait. The truth inside you should not stay silent. Why should you pretend? Stop selling yourself short by not validating yourself and your feelings by making them feel better about their mistakes, their shortcomings, their inability to reach out. Thing is, they ARE able - it just makes them feel uncomfortable. That's their problem, something they need to work on, not you.

- Again on grief. If you expect something from someone, and they have let you down find the opportunity to tell them, at some point. My yardstick: if someone has my phone number, and hasn't picked up the phone to offer, at the very least, condolences for my loss, well, I know I now have to look at how close I think I was to them, how important I am to them. They will seek out your phone number, even, if they really want to reach out. Not reaching out when you have some kind of relationship is NOT normal. This is not the new acceptable. Facebook does not cut it. Neither does an SMS. People who have known me, and my mother, for years and have not reached out have given themselves permission to diminish my grief, to not validate what I am feeling, and they have convinced themselves, 'Oh, she's fine.' Not fine, not right, not acceptable. NOT the new normal. Don't move your boundaries of expectations just because someone has moved theirs. It validates their choice when actually, you do not agree with it. In the midst of all that, accept this is not your 'thing' to work out. It's their thing. Let. It. Go.

- Do give yourself permission to change your way of being because people have shown you they will not run for you. This is different to changing your WHOLE self. Because the essence of you can remain. It should. In the early days of my grief, I thought: 'Why should I change now?' Um, because I'd be a fool to do any different! It would not be natural to be available and open and ready to comfort someone who has abandoned you when you needed them most. Do not let time gloss over what happened, make you write a different story in your head, make you don those rose coloured glasses. Throw those damn things away! Be aware and present and remember how things made you feel at the time. Do not downplay your feelings or you will do yourself a disservice and disrespect yourself in the process. Keep being the person you are, don't change to suit others. This sounds so high school, but it's true.

- Keep some distance from people you love if they do not give you what you crave - themselves, their company. Sometimes they just need some distance from you to understand how very special you are. Once the pattern is broken, with you reaching out and them just reacting to that, it gives them time to contemplate how valuable you are in their life. Or not.

- Be angry. Be pissed off. Stand up for what you feel. Anything else is just selling yourself short, not being true to yourself. Protect your heart. If you don't, nobody else will.

- Protect those you love. At all costs. This means not enabling gossip in your own home by cultivating a thinking that tells that person: yes, you can put shit on my family, and it is okay. It is NOT okay. You worked hard to create this family. Don't ever give anyone the right to feel they can destroy that by asking you to create waves in your own home. A happy home is of paramount importance, especially when you are responsible for the emotional wellbeing of your children. It is up to you to ensure your home remains happy. This is not Pollyanna advice at all - my kids see conflict, see bad stuff. BUT: they see things resolved, see that the world is good again. It's my job as a parent to protect them from people who do not wish us well. Sometimes, these people come disguised as people who care. Again, the actions of those around you are telling. Let that speak volumes. Let that do the talking.

- Treat your marriage or relationship like gold, and the golden moments will happen daily. Stop inadvertently sabotaging your own relationship, stop throwing your partner under the bus, be publicly and privately supportive of your life mate, love completely and honestly and speak up when you feel what you feel. Festering on anything is boring and immature and petulant and serves no purpose. Love honestly and openly and your relationship will be the best thing you wake up to every single day. You'll wonder how this person became so fabulous, so supportive, so wonderful. Ah, they were there all along, my friend. You just opened up your eyes to the beauty of having someone in your corner. A person like this is one of life's true gifts.

- Remember all the good stuff that happened to you. Appreciate it deeply. Give thanks and gratitude to whichever God you pray to, whoever and whatever you believe in. The universe has looked after you, blessed you, guided you. Be thankful for what you have, and believe that more good stuff is on its way.

- Accept that bad situations will happen, and they were actually inevitable. You did not bring them to a head, you did not cause the unrest, they were going to come to conflict. This does not mean you are shirking responsibility. No, it means that something was stewing, something was bubbling and that something had to give with all that festering; it was inevitable. Some people like to resolve the issue, really get to the crux of the problem in order to restore peace. And some people do not. What you MUST know is this: they have already made up their mind about you and the situation. This is not fate - this is a conscious decision by one of the two parties. Best to accept this gracefully, live peacefully, and move on.

- Grieve the departed, then 'let them go'. Always recall the good times, treasure the memories, how they made you feel, what they did for you, your history together. But do recall the bad; if they were ill, accept that it was time for them to go, that the universe saw fit to have them rest for eternity. It is infinitely harder if that person was young - how does one reconcile that? I do not have the answers for that one. I do know, though, that people I admire who have mourned someone who has died way before their time do it with grace and poise and much love and nostalgia about all the wonderful stuff. Follow suit. It's the only way to be in order to be sane.

- Surprise yourself by letting things deflect, let them roll off you. Let Teflon be your nickname. I constantly shock myself at how little I give a shit about people's opinions of me, whether they make them known, or if they are thinly veiled attacks but pretty damn obvious to you. Remove yourself from toxicity, especially when it becomes obvious you are being asked to trawl through someone else's emotional baggage. This saying says it all for me:

- And finally, live life loud. If that's not really you, live as loud as makes you comfortable. But do not let go of opportunities which are the stuff of memories later. For you, for your partner, for your kids, for your parents. Those last people, your folks: appreciate them and show them lots of love. It will make them soar high, and love you in return. When one day they are gone the pain you will feel will be deep. However, it is tempered by knowing you loved them deeply, appreciated what they did for you. What you give, you get in return ten-fold, manifested in various wonderfully good-karma ways. Appreciate life and all it offers. It is all there for the taking. We just need to continue to recognise that. Every. Single. Day.

And then… this quote I saw just yesterday. It feels like I have been waiting a whole year to discover it:

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