Changing Colors

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  • So yet another Valentine’s Day has come and gone … and on this post-Valentine’s Day Tuesday, a lot of people are still disappointed.

    I have many girlfriends who had flowers delivered to their office just to give the appearance of a romantic and thoughtful boyfriend or husband waiting in the wings to fulfill all of their Valentine’s expectations. And I admit, after getting a beautiful bouquet mix of roses and lilies sent to my office by the real thing, I was tempted to leave my door open all week long for the haters to see. (Kidding, but not really.)

    Whether you were appreciated by someone else or appreciated yourself, having expectations in our culture is normal and … well, expected. We are brought up that way.

    Having great expectations sounds great, however, when the expectation is unfulfilled, we bitch, we moan, we become disappointed. And that becomes a problem. If I expect you to love me a certain way, and your love doesn’t show up that way for me, I’m mad. So it’s easy to imagine how quickly a person can get caught up on the one day that we, as a universe, celebrate love.

    For weeks leading to Valentine’s Day, we are immersed in all things love. We let advertisers, acquaintances and strangers define what our love is supposed to look like. So, even though you or I am content with the love we’re getting, we find ourselves questioning that love or putting new – and sometimes unrealistic – pressure on that love, and for what? So that Hallmark, the flower delivery industry, the candy biz and restaurant franchises can get richer. We spend time hating on those who had picture-perfect Valentine’s weekends instead of finding the goodness in what we’ve got at home.

    A good friend once said to me when I was feeling a little envious about her Valentine’s Day, “Shall I tell you about the Valentine’s Day that he didn’t come home at all?”

    That was a stark reminder that the color of love reflected in our lives today may have not been so vibrant in a different season. By the way, her Valentine’s Day this year was less than stellar, so I hope she will be uplifted by these words.

    Here’s my point: Last year this time, when I posted the blog, “What Color is Your Love?” I was not in the best place in my life. In fact, my love was downright moody blue. But every situation and season brings a lesson. And what I’ve learned is that one of the best things you can do if you blog, journal or just have a good memory is to look back at where you were a year ago. You learn one of two things: How blessed you now are or how blessed you were then – and they’re both excellent lessons.

    A year ago, I was on a new job in a new city, and my boys were in a new school. I moved forward a day at a time, a step a time, keeping my goal in front of me, which was essentially to make my babies’ transition as easy as I possibly could. And I did that. Their first year went very well. Meanwhile, I’ve had to deal with car issues, nanny issues, housing issues, puppy issues and yes, issues of the heart. We call it life, but at the time, it seemed like no matter what I did, nothing would fall into place.

    I made it through, and upon reflection about what I would do differently, I discovered I was taking care of everyone and everything but myself and that, in actuality, my biggest challenge weren’t the issues going on around me, but inside me. I wasn’t finding time to love on myself. And that’s not cool.

    So, at some point, I decided that, no matter how foreign it felt, I absolutely had to build some “me” time into my schedule – even if that meant saying no to friends, family and the J.O.B.

    And there are a dozen ways to do this. Spend an extra 15 minutes in the tub before you go to bed. Stop and get a manicure after work – before you get home. Trade babysitting time with your girlfriends, and go read a book in the park.

    But my biggest tip is to teach your children how to entertain themselves while you recharge your batteries. I’m not suggesting that you sit them in front of the television or stick a video game in their hand – although sometimes you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get it done. But it’s an awfully neat trick if you can teach your children to take time for them while you take time for you. Whether it’s drawing, reading, building a Lego skyscraper, writing in their journal or taking tons of random pictures with a disposable camera like my youngest son – If your kids are older, how about letting them go to a movie without you? It’s amazing what you can get accomplished in two hours. And to make it a learning experience for your children, make them write a movie review … maybe they can post their own blog.

    The point is to get in touch with yourself and your needs, and I’m here to tell you that it can altar the shades of your world. Suddenly, my love is multi-colored, vibrant and new.

    When I look back at last year’s blog, some of those feelings I had then are almost unrecognizable, while others are still on point.

    How about you? Where were you a year ago compared with today? Has your love gotten brighter, duller or remained the same? If it’s brighter, congratulations. Figure out what’s working and how you can keep it that way. If it’s duller, what can you learn from your transition?

    And if it’s the same, spice it up, spruce it up and – to coin a dated phrase – let your freak flag fly, no matter what color it may be.

    Even if you’re the only one watching.

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