By Carolyn Bahm
Once again, I look back over an imperfect year and see many small steps (the only kind that ever seem to get me anywhere) that helped me be more authentic, kind, and happy today.
It’s been an uneven path of successes and failures: I worked hard to lose 60 pounds, and gaining a few back doesn’t diminish that effort. I worried when funding dried up for my contractor job, but I regained my favorite way to make a living when I committed to a job change. And although my 23-year-old daughter was reluctant to admit she wanted to come home after leaping out of the nest in 2008, I welcomed her back after her years in Georgia. Those big changes mattered, but so do the small steps that add up.
Three lessons from 2013 are the small steps that have gotten me happily to the last few days of the year:
Listen to the people I love. My kids love explaining to their dear ol’ adorably clueless mom just what the latest meme on Tumblr.com is, why I simply cannot wear khaki “granny pants” in public (these, apparently, are loose-fitting — “comfortable” — pants), and how they have ambitions and dreams I would never know if I didn’t listen to their quiet cues. My life is richer when I listen. And my pants aren’t quite so ugly (or comfortable).
Be helpful. I also work a seasonal job in retail, and this week a customer plopped down a book on “arduinos” at my register. While I was scanning and bagging his purchase, I said, “Finally! I see that all the time online, and I actually get to ask someone how to pronounce it.” He grinned when he got to be an expert for a moment (it’s “ar-DWEEN-oz”). He added, with a sheepish look, that he plans to tinker a bit over the holidays. His eyes lit up when I mentioned there’s a local group of tech-friendly people who love to do the same. He left with a bounce in his step and information on how to look up MidSouth Makers. I was pleased with myself for the rest of the night, or at least until I forgot to click the button for someone’s gift receipts (again).
Be clear. My husband often works a few hours on major holidays for his job at FedEx because customers around the world need help at the darndest times, it’s nice to get a little extra pay, and he’s a humble guy who often puts other people’s needs first. This year he mentioned his plans to volunteer a few hours on Christmas Eve to help his boss and to boost the family budget, and I didn’t have to search my heart at all to have an opinion. Instead of quietly swallowing my disappointment that family time would be limited, I said, “I really DO NOT WANT you to volunteer.” He heard the capital letters in my voice, and we compromised: He won’t volunteer, and I won’t get mad when he works IF he’s directly asked to do so. I’m reminded it doesn’t hurt to say what matters, and it gives us the chance to get things right.
Carolyn Bahm is editor for The Bartlett Express; contact her at (901) 433-9138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.