Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year Mood Modification

I thought about doing a typical New Year's resolution blog post, but honestly I wasn't too motivated. I've done them before (1/16/13 and 1/13/12), and everyone is doing one (or, probably, has already done one). Only 8 percent of people actually keep their resolutions, according to That's a rather depressingly low statistic.

I aim to give you the unexpected. As the details of my day-to-day are frequently unexpected, I don't have to try very hard, frankly. Drama just seems to come to me. Still, I never thought I'd be titling a post "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1/1/14) or have a series called "When Things Get Dicey" (2/15/13 and 2/25/13), for example.

So instead of offering up yet another piece on resolving to lose weight, exercise more, or keep the house in better order -- blah, blah, blah -- I would like to put out something different. While it is certainly true that I intend to work on the aforementioned four and many other goals (professional and social, in particular, don't even get me started!) in 2014, what I really plan to focus on this year is something intangible: mood.

This shouldn't come as a surprise if you read my last post -- the one mentioned above and named after a movie starring Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver -- about starting off last year on the wrong foot, which made me feel out of control and then some. Tell me: who can be in a good mood while feeling that way? No one I know.

As a 24/7 single mother, things are often out of my control or, at least, not in as much control as I would like. Sometimes that can be changed; sometimes, not. The challenge becomes: how do I reach and maintain equilibrium throughout the year?

First, get off to an enjoyable -- if not all-out propitious -- start. Ring in the new year in a way that genuinely makes you happy. If you are limited in your ability to celebrate because of young children at home and no babysitter then make do as best you can. Raise a glass. Watch Anderson and Kathy. (This year the bold Ms. Griffin handcuffed herself to the silver-haired CNN anchor, which provided an unexpected level of amusement.) Have a small party with your kids or a big one with other families. The important thing is to make New Year's Eve an occasion of sorts. By doing so, you give the new year -- like a good friend -- a proper welcome. You've set the stage for positivity to come.

The new year is only eleven days old, but so far so good is what I say. I've been able to maintain a happy demeanor, though everything hasn't transpired perfectly. I'm speaking about two calls from the school this week (same day) regarding a nauseous child who needed to come home and a frustrated child who needed to visit the guidance counselor.

With my new outlook, I was able to take the calls in stride instead of feeling annoyed by the loss of "my" time and rattled by the latest upset-son scenario. I carried on with my day in an even-keeled manner and even managed to gain back some time by sending the boys to the after-school program the following day.

Also, as part of my strategy to protect my time, I turned down an invitation to do something that would have eaten up almost my whole afternoon before school pickup. Accepting the invite would have made me feel resentful -- I knew from past experience -- because I needed that block of time to work on this very blog post.

In retrospect, I'm pleased I was able to compartmentalize my emotions when staff at the school phoned. I'm grateful I thought of extended care for my boys. And I'm proud of saying no when my gut told me the invitation didn't serve my needs the best. Under the circumstances, I was good to myself -- a lesson I hope to carry with me throughout the year.

The next day my somewhat sick child returned to school feeling well while my agitated child experienced a calm day of classes. A win-win

What's more, I didn't even have to sacrifice something else I very much wanted to do. Since I rarely get to a movie that isn't animated, I had planned to see a matinee of a live-action film. My choices had been narrowed down to three due to my time restriction of making school pickup.

However, with the unexpected company of my child -- he had a sore throat but wasn't coughing, a slightly nauseous feeling with no vomiting, and felt a tad warm though had no temperature to speak of -- the R-rated picture would have to wait. My son is ten years old but has the maturity and size of a thirteen year old. Thus, I didn't consider it too much of a stretch to take him to PG 13-rated Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Hey, I know some fourth-grade classmates who have seen Ted! Besides, who wouldn't want to watch Will Ferrell and Steve Carell acting as nitwits to make themselves feel better?!

Goofy movie? Yes. Great for one's health. (Though hold the popcorn.) Evening basketball clinic? No. My son was afraid the running around would cause him to lose his cookies all over the elementary school gym floor. Staying home was the right decision.

Talk about a model at handling unexpected circumstances! Now if I can bring a similar psychological control, problem-solving attitude, and just-say-no-ness to each and every challenge I experience this year then I will surely be in good stead.

One situation. One day. One week. One month. At. A. Time.

Difficulties don't have to defeat us mentally if we can approach them with ingenuity. Keeping our mood uplifted will translate to having a great, good or, at least, a better year. I intend to have the first of these.

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