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Open Roads and Rearview Mirrors…

Well, that was a little CrAzY! But, hey! We survived 2020! And to use a tired and trite phrase, (and the title of a Kelly Clarkson song), “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

I’m in no way making light of the heavy-handed, exhausting, unprecedented, unpredictable, devastating, insane year we’ve just experienced. In some form or fashion, we all have been battered and bruised, disappointed and denied, and permanently scarred by the events, situations, circumstances, and outcomes from a year like no other.

And here we are. Looking ahead to the New Year, and hoping to keep 2020 in the rearview mirror. I for one, would like to forget many parts of this past year, but in doing so, I would be forced to give up some pretty awesome, unforgettable, and one-of-a-kind moments, along with the many life lessons that resulted from the ups and downs, highs and lows, victories and losses.

You see, if we put 2020 completely out of our minds, we will be doing ourselves, as well as others, a great disservice. We will be wasting the hardships, seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and the opportunities to become stronger, and better, and wiser.

It seems that when the new year bounces around, we fall into the mindset that we need to make a resolution: a firm decision to do or not do something.

Many of us view this as a time to “re-make,” or “re-create” ourselves through diet, and exercise, and healthier lifestyles that include being more positive, or kind. We might choose to volunteer, or create something new, or finally get organized. We are resolved to try new things, set new goals, climb new mountains. And for some reason, we use the new year as the reason and hope for making all of our dreams come true. To reset with the rote aphorism, “New year, new me.”

I consistently fall for this idea every year when the calendar flips over to January. For me, that means it’s time to start over. To have a clean slate. To begin again.

But after enduring the most trying year I can remember, I now see the flaw in this plan. It’s not about starting over, it’s about looking at where you are, and making improvements where they are needed.

This idea of “resolutions” doesn’t seem to lend itself to longevity. We may begin with the most earnest of intentions, but as the days move along, and our routines fall into place, and life gets in the way, we begin to lag. Excuses will be made, and workouts will be missed, and steamed broccoli will be replaced by a handful of M&Ms, or an entire bag of Wavy Lays Ranch flavored potato chips.

And then we say to ourselves, Well, I’ve already broken that resolution. I might as well drive thru Whataburger and get a Patty Melt meal, super-sized. Go big or go home, right?

As I look at where I am, and where I want to be, I’ve learned a most important lesson. And it was taught to me by a year where I felt everything was out of control, and in most situations, there was nothing I could do to change what was happening…

Except for changing how I looked at things.

And that, my friends, is the key to it all. Changing your outlook and your attitude.

It’s about personal responsibility.

You see, once you realize that most of what life deals you can’t be controlled, you become powerful. This epiphany will give you complete control of how you deal with all the things that life dishes out. Good or bad, happy or sad, goals or setbacks. The mindset is all up to you. And the hard things—-well, give those to God.

There are so many things that I want to blame on others these days. Not really individuals, but society as a whole. From the outcome of elections, to the selection of the top four playoff teams in the NCAA football championship, I have felt defeated. Oh, I have many theories about every bit of this, but when it’s all said and done, I lost, or was “outscored,” as we Aggies say (a positive spin we’ve used to overcome the defeats and disappointments through the years).

And it’s in this defeat, that I’ve found places to lay the blame: the mainstream media, inconsistent voting rules and regulations, and in the arena of football, not passing the “eye test,” or not having a big enough “brand.”

As disappointed as I’ve been lately, I know there is absolutely nothing that I can do to change these outcomes.

Or is there?

Maybe in the midst of all the muck and mud, and graft and debris of 2020, I can clearly see that there are ways that I can better shape and help determine outcomes for the things that matter to me. Afterall, hindsight is 2020 (sorry…I had to say that).

Maybe I could participate more as a citizen. Not just through voting, but through actively supporting candidates whose platforms represent my views. I could be more vocal, not in an obnoxious, overbearing way, but in a way that invokes civility and respect for others’ opinions.

I can research, and try to find answers to questions, or information on issues that I don’t understand. It might be difficult, as it seems the news these days is slanted, and controlled by the the media, both mainstream and social.

And that leads me to this confession: As much as I adored being on Facebook, and reconnecting with friends, I disagreed with the platform, the censorship, and bias. And as I would speak about this, I realized the hypocrisy of my words. I knew I couldn’t continue being a part of something with which I so strongly disagreed.

And, oh, how I wish I could be the person who simply scrolls on by, or who doesn’t dwell on the many ways we’ve been controlled and brainwashed by these platforms. I know many of you might disagree with me on this (or you might think I’m wearing a tinfoil hat, as I read about conspiracy theories, and other nonsense), and that’s okay. I know I’ve been down far too many rabbit holes of late, and as an adult, I should be able to separate the “social” aspect from the political undertones, but I can’t. Kudos to all of you who are more balanced and mature than I.

As I look back on 2020, I feel that in many ways we’ve fallen under the psychological tool known as “gaslighting”—manipulating individuals into questioning their own sanity. We have been told how to think and feel. We’ve been lectured on right and wrong. We’ve been made to feel guilty about things that we have absolutely no control over. We’ve watched statues come down, and seen history revised. We’ve witnessed tragedies, and chaos, and have worried about the stability of our republic. And it’s taken a toll on us all.

As you look ahead to 2021, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just as we should do to others, accept yourself where you are. Evaluate both the good and bad. Move ahead with pride, and dignity, and purpose. Improve the things you can. And embrace the things you can’t change. And always remember, it’s not about trying to control the things around you, it’s about controlling how you think about and deal with those things.

Be strong. Stand up for yourself, your family, your country. And don’t make a resolution. Instead, try doing things daily that will lead to long-term change. It’s been proven that if you consistently do something for twenty-one days, it will become a habit. So start with that. Three weeks. Decide the areas where you need to grow stronger: personal health, accountability, time spent in the Word.

And if you mess up, don’t use it as an excuse for a “fast food” fiesta! Simply keep trying.

Setbacks lead to great comebacks. And that’s where I find my hope, and peace, and excitement for the year 2021. In many ways, we have nowhere to go but up!

So be intentional, and dedicated, and stand by your beliefs. And always know you aren’t alone.

And just as Jesus instructed his disciples, “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” When you’ve done all that you can do in a specific situation, move on. I don’t mean give up, just move on and give it to God.

Farewell 2020! I bid you adieu! As hard, and stressful, and chaotic, and heartbreaking as you’ve been, I thank you for the many things you taught me. I thank you for the opportunities you’ve given me to become a better me. You bent me in all kinds of directions, but you didn’t break me. Thank you for the lessons, and for reminding me of the fire and grit that is within my soul.

And mostly, thank you for the blessings of babies, family, sweet friends, freedom, grace, and love.

I wish you all the best in the year ahead. I pray for health, and wisdom, and peace. I also pray that I can use this blog as a positive platform. As a place to not throw out my obnoxious opinions, but rather, lift you up, make you think, and somehow, make life a little better. It’s a lofty goal, but one that I will take seriously.

And since we’re talking about my blog, I have changed the domain name and blog name. It can now be found at https://www.whenasoutherngirlrebelles.com

I like this name better, and hope that it is a more accurate reflection of my philosophy and personality. As part of the direction I hope to go this year, I am focusing on this blog, rather than on writing books. (this is a subject I will specifically address in the upcoming weeks). In a year that has left me feeling disappointed by my last book venture, I am hoping that I can turn that setback into something positive. I appreciate all of you for reading, and sincerely hope you will share this blog with anyone you think might like it.

As I close, I want to share with you these words from one of my favorite songs by Jeremy Camp, “Overcome.” I also hope you’ll listen to the song, too.

Here’s to a new year, and to overcoming the past years’ slings and arrows.

“Power in hand speaking the Father’s plan.
You’re sending us out, light in this broken land
All authority,
Every victory is Yours.
Savior, worthy of honor and glory.
Worthy of all our praise, You overcame, You overcame.
Jesus, awesome in power forever
Awesome and great is Your name, You overcame.

 

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