Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

It is January 1st, 2012 here in Okinawa already.  Time to start anew and all that crap.  Because let's face it, most New Year's Resolutions end up being crap, don't they?

Lose weight . . .

Exercise more . . .

Be more positive . . .


I'm trying to be realistic in my plans for this year.  Yes, I'd like to lose weight and yes, I'd like to exercise more.  I do plan on trying to do those things, but I'm not foolish enough to curse those plans with the brand of being resolutions.  They're just things I'd like to do and that I know would be good for me.

So here are my two really hardcore resolutions.  I want to write more.  Maybe even finally start my book. So my first resolution is that I am going to try to write a blog post here every day.  Crazy, right?  I go months, sometimes even more than a year, without writing a post here.  But I'm going to try to change that in 2012.  I need to get back into writing, so I'm going to make this my daily writing exercise.

My other resolution is more of a fun one.  Every day I am going to choose a theme song for that day.  I bought myself a blank journal today so that I can write them down.  At the end of the year I will build a playlist in iTunes for 2012.

To start off the year, my song for today is The Catalyst by Linkin Park.  Why that song?  Well, I had a bit of an epiphany in the shower yesterday.  I love it here in Okinawa, but in a lot of ways I feel like I have lost track of who I am since coming here.  I've been sucked into playing different roles.  Of course, it has been my own misplaced sense of duty that has sucked me into them.  I have wavered back and forth between feeling like I should join certain groups and act a certain way because of my husband's position in his squadron, and feeling like I want to thumb my nose at them all and just do what I want to do.  Yesterday it finally hit me that I have lost my connection with Shannon . . . with who *I* am.  Yesterday was my catalyst.

A big part of who I am is being a fighter.  I fight for kids with cancer.  Most of all, I fight for Keeghan.  I really found that fighter when I joined 46 Mommas Shave for the Brave back in 2009.  The connection I made, not only with the other mommas who are like sisters to me now, but with myself when I shaved my head for the first time was beyond powerful.  I found myself again.  I had been lost since Keeghan's death, trying to figure out how to continue on without him and yet still fight for him.  I can still actively be a mom to Mackenzie, and a wife to Mike.  Shaving my head, raising money for the kids still fighting cancer, gave me a way to feel like I was being an active mom to Keeghan still, and in doing that, be 100% connected with myself.

So in about 15 minutes - at 5:00pm here in Okinawa, which is midnight in California where so many of my family and friends are - I will shave my head again.  Instead of trying to be what I think so many here might want me to be or expect me to be, I will go back to being Shannon the Momma.  Shannon the Fighter.  Shannon the Independent.  Am I afraid that people here will look at me like I'm crazy?  Yes and no.  Yes, I think people will think that, but I really don't care.  I will finally be showing this place who I am and what I'm made of.

Bring it on 2012.  Shannon is back.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Things I've Learned . . .

It is December 26th.  The holiday season is officially over, or at least in my house it is.  I cannot emphasize how much saying "finally" right now just isn't a strong enough word.

The sheer hell of it started in November when so many of my friends on that "other" social site decided it would be a great idea to state something they were thankful for every day of the month.  It's always so easy to do that when you have lots of things to be thankful for.  When life has never handed you a shit sandwich and asked you to not just eat it, but to reheat it and eat it again, every day, for the rest of your life.

But enough on that.  Suffice it to say by the time November was over, I hated more than half of my friend list.

December wasn't quite so annoying, although I can honestly say if I see one more person post "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" I might puke.  It's amazing to me how people are so selective in what they "know" to be the truth when it comes to how they celebrate Christmas.

It's over now though.  Life can go on without all of that holiday focus.  It was while thinking about this this morning that I began to think about life lessons . . . what lessons have I learned from the people around me?  What have their ways of living their own lives taught me and how have they changed my own way of thinking?  As is the way with my mind (just ask my husband), my pinging brain started making a list of life lessons.  So that I don't forget them, I decided to "write" them down here.

For better or worse, here it is - Shannon's Life Lessons (in no particular order).

1.  Be honest.  I am known for not holding back.  Sometimes I am almost brutal in my honesty.  The biggest advantage to being this way, however, is that I know when someone likes me, they like me for me.

2.  Be yourself.  Piggybacking on that last one, I've learned to never try to be something I'm not.  When I say that I've learned that lesson, that doesn't necessarily mean that I live by it 100% of the time.  Sadly, I still find myself in situations where I feel like I need to try to fit in, and equally as sad is the fact that it always comes back to bite me.  Being true to me may not always go over well with the people I'm around, but at least I can look myself in the eye in the mirror.  That's a good thing.

3.  Surround yourself with happy people.  It is never a good time to be around people who are unhappy and, unless you are getting paid big bucks by the hour, it is not your job to fix them.  I love my husband.  We have a happy marriage.  We like to socialize with other couples who are also happily married.  Being around couples who aren't happy is not fun.  Period.  And no matter how hard you try to hide it, an unhappy couple is easy to identify.  We once had a friend stand up in the middle of our living room and SLAP her husband across the face, right in front of us and one other couple.  She then walked out and left her poor spouse sitting there with the rest of us (mouths agape) staring at him.  Not fun.  Not for him, and certainly not for us.  Needless to say, we never socialized with that couple again, and to this day, we do not socialize with unhappy couples.

4.  Don't bash on your spouse.  I'm spinning off of that last lesson again, but this one needs to be a lesson all on its own.  Don't speak poorly of your spouse to others.  I know, I know . . . girlfriends should be able to talk to each other about this stuff.  Whatever.  I grew up without any sisters, which may be why I've never subscribed to that whole "women need girlfriends" thing.  It's nice to have female friends, but I don't need them.  If my husband and I are at odds, that is between us to fix.  It is NOT something that should be shared with friends.  It's unfair to put them in the position of having to take sides, and this isn't high school.  Be an adult and fix your own life.

5.  Be a parent.  Anyone can give birth to a child, but that doesn't mean they will be a good parent.  It takes hard work and a lot of sacrifice.  If you're not willing to give up everything - and by that I mean if you are not willing to give up sleep, relaxation time, money, vacations, manicures, massages, nights out dancing, etc. - then don't have children.  Because once you have them, you can't go back and to whine and complain about it is not only disgusting, it makes you look ridiculous.  What is worse is when you let your children get away with everything because it is too much work to make them behave.  When your kids are screaming and annoying you in the store or restaurant, guess what?  They're annoying me, and every other person in that establishment, ten times more.  Be a parent.  Don't roll your eyes and say things like, "Do you see what I have to put up with?" or "He's such a stinker."  Be.  A.  Parent.

6.  Love publicly.  Never be ashamed to show your love in front of others.  I tell my husband I love him every time we hang up the phone from talking to each other, no matter who is around to hear me.  When I go see him at work, as I am leaving his office, I tell him I love him.  He always responds in kind.  Does this mean that my husband is "whipped" - yes, it does.  It also makes him more of a man than any of those men who treat their wives like employees and only tell them they love them when they have to (or when it will get them something they want).  Of course, it means that I am "whipped" also.  I'm ok with that.  I have always been very public about showing my love for my children as well.  It means that my children never doubted whether they were loved or not.  My son died at 12, and the one thing I know that I did absolutely every day of his life is assure him of how much he was loved.  Do your loved ones know this?

7.  Never assume people know how you feel about them.  Isn't it cool how one lesson leads right into another?  If you care about someone, tell them.  There is never a guarantee that you will get the chance to tell them again.  Say the words.

8.  Honor your parents.  Our culture is so missing the mark when it comes to our elderly.  It's so easy to think that we are doing things so much better than our parents did and to write them off as being obsolete, but we should honor them for the lives they've led.  Never forget who gave you life.  Even harder for some (ok, for me) is to allow your spouse to honor his/her parents equally.  In a perfect world, we would all love our in-laws just as much as we love our parents, but that isn't always the case.  Allow your spouse to love his/her parents even when you can't.

9.  Do not let someone else dictate your life.  Not even your spouse.  This is a hard one.  When you marry someone, you become a team.  One part of that team cannot dictate everything for the other or the team loses.  Decisions, both major and minor, need to be made together.  Sometimes this means deciding whether you will use Dove Soap or Ivory, Miracle Whip or Best Foods Mayonnaise, what religion you will raise your children in, where you will live, whose parents you will spend holidays with . . . the list goes on.  One person in the relationship should not dictate all of the decisions.  The feelings of each should be considered and addressed or you are doing yourselves a serious disservice.  Additionally, by example you are teaching your children that this is the right way to do things, thus setting them up to have dysfunctional relationships later in life.

10.  Never forget.  Don't forget the mistakes you've made, or the accomplishments you've achieved.  Never forget the people who taught you things, whether it was the 4th grade teacher who helped you through your first funeral, or the snobby "best friend" who dropped you as a friend because the new girl was prettier.  All of those life lessons need to be remembered because they made you who you are. YOU are a sum of all your life lessons, but you only grow if you recognize those experiences as lessons.

That is all I've come up with today, but I think it is a pretty decent list.  If I can live by these ten lessons in the coming year, I'll be happy with myself.  Can you look forward to a year from now and say the same?