Merry and Bright

Winter is my least favorite season. There. I’ve said it.

I love the holidays, but I really sort of despise winter. I guess we’re not technically there yet—the winter solstice is still a couple of weeks away—but someone apparently forgot to tell the local weather. It’s utterly convinced that the season has arrived.

What that means in the Pacific Northwest is grey skies, fog… and rain. Lots and lots of rain, for months on end. Until recent years, I’d spent most of my life in sunny climates, and I don’t think I appreciated the sunshine enough. I can tell you, it’s not something I take for granted now.

Today there’s been a constant thrum of rain that has all but washed away the noise of the outside world. Without any background sounds from music or television, the only things to be heard are the clicks of my keyboard and a steady musical plink as drops hit the roof’s metal flashings.

And it’s dark. Why is it so dark at 4:30 in the afternoon?

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Present Tense

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

As the temperatures fall, and I begin to see the skeletons of the trees and the frost diamonds sparkling in the morning sun, I welcome the idea of a warm wood stove, and quiet evenings spent with family and friends. This can be the most peaceful time of year, if you allow yourself the freedom to enjoy it.

I realize that may be easier said than done. This month, I did some research on the holiday season and discovered that 62% of people say their stress and anxiety is “elevated” this time of year. I think the biggest reason for that is increased responsibilities; we’re stretching ourselves even further physically, mentally, and financially to meet the demands of the season. You can see my Forbes article that addresses that idea here.

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Rooted In Confidence

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – E.E. Cummings

I published an article earlier this year that discussed the idea that a lack of confidence is limiting women’s career trajectories. In short, women tend to project less confidence in their abilities than their male counterparts (even when they’re highly skilled) and are less likely to take professional risks, call attention to their successes, or ask for raises and promotions.

It occurred to me that a lack of confidence is not something that just appears in adulthood; it begins much earlier. Further research proved the idea-  a recent study finds that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%.

Our daughters’ confidence levels begin to drop when they are just eight years old. Let that sink in.

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Character Study

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. – Toni Collette

My son is in his first term of college and is taking a career class that is helping him narrow down career options based on his interests and personality. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wish I’d done something similar in my first year of college; perhaps I’d have realized that my chosen career wasn’t a good fit for me and changed tracks.* Instead, I had to figure it out the hard way in my 20’s, when I finally started to realize what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who missed the mark on understanding certain things about myself as I established my adult identity, but I got so many things wrong. There really should be some sort of “adulting” certification, and personality testing should be a mandatory component.

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Lady in Waiting

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down”. –  Lily Tomlin

We’ve all heard the idea that life sometimes throws obstacles in your path to force you to slow down- and that the slowing down will serve a purpose. All right, sure. I’ll take one for the team here, so we can find out how much truth there is in that idea. For the last month, I’ve been living this particular lesson as I’ve been recovering from foot surgery.

Before I went in, someone told me they’d be interested to see what I learned from this time. I felt sure that it would offer me yet another lesson in patience. It did … but, as usual, my conclusion in that regard is that I still have a long way to go. I do not wait well.

Whatever.

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An Ounce of Stress Prevention

There’s some really interesting research out there on stress and the physical, emotional and mental toll it takes on us. You’re not the only one feeling it’s effects: up to 90% of doctor’s visits are now for stress-related issues.

As I poured through information on life’s most stressful circumstances, it seemed a large number of them fall into three specific categories, and that’s what I’ve written about this month in Forbes: how to reduce common types of stress and feel better.

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