On Control and Learning to Let Go

“You can’t always choose what happens to you in this life but you sure as hell can choose how you respond and react to it.” –Brixston

Control is a funny thing.

Growing up I was a goodie-two-shoes. I didn’t want to get in trouble so I always did what I was told; I respected authority and the elderly. I was sure to always say my please and thank you’s. I’ve never been arrested or broken any (serious) laws. I never did drugs nor did I drink at all until I went abroad my second semester junior year. I’ve never had that random kiss in a bar or one-night stand; I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been sick from drinking too much. I make lists so I don’t forget things and will often take ownership of something to make sure it gets done. I always sat in the front of the class, turned my homework in on time and I never played hooky from class. My bills are always paid on time; I take daily vitamins, work out, I eat very healthy and watch everything I put in my mouth. I realize I unintentionally take some things too serious, like jokes and some aspects of relationships. I used to care a lot what people thought and tried to please everyone. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a planner. I try to get to the airport with time to spare and always have at least a quarter tank of gas. I’ve always been overcautious, meticulous and constantly trying to do the right thing. I could go on…

While a select few things have changed, most have not. And I would not change who I am.

But in the past 6 months, there have been multiple serious life-changing events, that were both good and bad, that despite all my efforts and precautions, still happened. And there is absolutely nothing I could have done differently. All of it was completely out of my control.

While I cannot control the outcomes, I can control how I react and respond to the situations.

It is frustrating and defeating at first, and it is okay to have those feelings. But rather than dwell and wallow, I’ve chosen to focus on the positive aspects that I can take away from it. What can I learn? How can this situation make me a better person? What is the positive in this particular situation? How can I use my situation to help someone else?

I’ve learned that the Universe often has its own plans. No matter how much you try to be in command of the situation, to do all right things, say the right things, be in the right place, and to protect yourself against the dangers of life, sometimes you just have to let go, take some risks, love freely and live a little because some things are just out of your control.

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Cast Your Own Patronus. Smile. Choose To Be Happy

Choose Happiness

I know I’m not going out on a limb here when I say moods are contagious. It’s pretty obvious, right?  We’ve all been there. One minute you are all full of smiles when suddenly, you sense the Dementor’s presence upon you and all your joy comes to an abrupt halt, thanks to your friend, Mr. CrabbyPants. Just because he is grumpy, doesn’t mean you have to be. While a foul mood is contagious, a good mood is too. Which do you want to spread?

If moods are contagious and have a domino effect on others, can you imagine what this world be like if everyone looked on the positive side of things, smiled more often, and complained less? Look at the people around you. How many people look to be truly happy? People are always frowning, dwelling on the negative and finding something to complain about.

While it is perfectly normal to have blue moments occasionally, and I certainly do not expect you to be happy 100% of the time, constantly being a Debbie Downer, incessantly being a grouch, and endlessly complaining and scouring at people is NOT an attractive look. On anyone. When you are feeling down, you give off an unwelcoming, don’t-come-near-me vibe. When you smile, your whole body smiles. Facial expressions do not just express one’s mood, they contribute to one’s overall feeling. Smiling elevates your mood and makes you feel happier. You are constantly giving off an energy and what energy you choose to share is entirely up to you. When you choose to be happy, when you put that positive vibe into the universe, positive things happen in return.

So whatever it is that you are complaining about today, stop it. Think about what it is and why it is bothering you. Ask yourself,  is this really a serious problem? Is this a battle I really want to fight? Is this worth the stress it is causing me now? Probably not. Instead, think about what you can learn from the situation and what you can be grateful for. There is much to be happy about and thankful for in this world, so dwell on that. Find the positive in the situation. Yes, sometimes it is hard to find, but it is there. Something positive can be drawn out of every situation, even the darkest ones. Being happy doesn’t mean you are ignoring the issue. It means you are electing to see past the imperfections and make the most out of the situation at hand.

I’m a firm believer that you make your own happiness.

If you want to be happy, then do. You have the power to choose how you feel and only you are stopping yourself. You don’t need anything or anyone else to make you happy. Being happy is a conscious choice, but luckily, it is no ones choice but your own. While you cannot control what happens in life, you can control how you react to it and how you let it affect your mood. The only true control you have in life, is the control you have over yourself.

Make a habit out of smiling more often and finding the positive in situations, and it will eventually come natural to you. It is a self-fullfilling prophecy. The path will continue to become clearer, until one day, you will no longer have to think about being happy, you will just BE. As the Dalai Lama tweeted, “Through constant training we can enhance our positive attitudes and thoughts and reduce their opposing negative attitudes.”

We are always told that things will get better in the future, that we’ll be happy when we get graduate, when we get that job, when we get a boyfriend/girlfriend, we get married, when we have children, etc. We are always chasing the future. But spoiler alert – we’ll never catch up to it, that’s why it is called The Future. So stop chasing. Don’t wait for tomorrow to be happy. Be happy today.

Every day you have a choice. You can choose to look at the negative side of things or you can choose to be happy. Life is short and unpredictableDo not wait for happiness to find you or let others dictate your mood. Cast your own Patronus. Make your own happiness. Choose to be happy. Smile.

Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. – Mother Teresa
 

Apartment Living: How To Have A Stress Free Move

I hadn’t planned on moving this year. I loved my apartment. It was a huge two-bed two-bath apartment with a massive walk-in closet, a balcony (and grill!), a fitness center and sundeck. But when things shifted and I could not afford to stay there on my own, I knew I had to move out. Moving can be as stressful or as easy as you make it. Here are some tips that helped me make the move as smooth as possible.

Plan Ahead:

  • Do your homework: Start researching and visiting potential new places about 30 -45 days out. The stress of not knowing if you will be homeless is enough to give you an ulcer.
  • Research multiple moving companies: Compare moving companies to see which fits best with your schedule and budget.
  • DO NOT wait until 1 week before to schedule your movers. Weekend and end of the month moves fill quickly, so schedule this as soon as you know your new address and desired moving date. Do you have an elevator that needs to be reserved? The longer you wait, the harder it is to coordinate the buildings and to get the time/date that you want.
  • Call to confirm mover/vendor appointments a 3-5 days prior to your move to avoid any surprises.
  • Create a “change of address” check list of vendors. Go online or call (credit-card companies, subscriptions, work documents, bills, bank) to include your new address.
  • Get your mail forwarded by going to USPS website 7-10 days before you move. *Note: most magazine subscriptions do not get forwarded. You must manually change this online.
  • Contact utility companies to activate service at your new address and to cancel or transfer from your old address. You don’t want to move in with no electricity or heavens forbid, internet!

Organize/Packing Strategies:

  • Bankers boxes are great for the heavier items. They are smaller and have handles so this makes it easier to lift and carry.
  • Get wardrobe boxes! If your moving company doesn’t provide these – this is worth the investment. Instead of shoving your clothes in garbage bags, boxes or suitcases and then having to spend the time to hang everything back up – it is a simple transfer. Simply move them from the closet to the hanging box and directly into the new closet. It makes unpacking a snap and keeps clothes as virtually wrinkle free. Plus, it helps you feel productive and less overwhelmed when it comes to unpacking.
  • Group similar items together. Pack books with books and DVDs with DVDs. Keep kitchen items in one box and bathroom supplies in another.
  • Pack cleaning supplies last so you can do a final clean before you leave the keys behind and a quick clean at the new place.
  • Make a To Donate box to give to the local shelter.
  • Label boxes: Identify general contents, location to be delivered and if it is fragile. This helps you unpack more efficiently and helps the movers know where to place them. Use sharpie pens or stickers. This packing strategy can eliminate a lot of stress.
  • Use towels & blankets to wrap fragile items. This accomplishes two things – it serves as protection for the breakable item as well as a place to pack the blanket, thus leaving more room in other boxes for other things.
  • Do not overpack a box. Although it may all fit, remember they get heavy fast and that you have to be able to lift and move the box.
  • If you live in a building that has doormen or maintenance men – ask them for boxes. Or go to your local grocery store and see if they have left over boxes they’d like to recycle. Boxes aren’t cheap.
  • If you have something you are afraid might spill – like an olive oil pourer – tape a cotton swab to the spout before wrapping.
  • Do not wait until the night before to start packing. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you run out of tape/boxes, all the stores are closed and the movers are coming in 4 hours. It will be a lot less overwhelming if you make it a gradual process.
  • Use a buddy system: packing is more fun when you have someone to help keep you focused and motived.
  • If you rent your own moving truck – put the big heavy stuff (the couch, bed, tables, TV’s) in the truck last so they are the first to come out. This way you can determine where you want them to go and place the boxes around them rather than have to trip over boxes and move the heavy stuff again.
  • If you move on your own – get a dolly. It will save you weeks of aches and pains and medical bills.
  • Pack perishable food last.

Eliminate:

  • Moving is a great opportunity to purge those belongings that you have been unnecessarily hoarding. Go through your belongings for things to throw away or donate. The more you keep, the more effort required to move it and unpack it. Do you really need those magazines from three years ago? Those shoes you haven’t worn in 5 years? That half empty hotel shampoo bottle?
  • Check expiration dates: Go through your cupboard and toss anything that is expired, will expire within a month of moving or has is 1/3 or less remaining.

Keep This “Just In Case” Kit With You:

  • Move any items yourself that are especially delicate, valuable or personal. The mover’s limits of liability would not cover the replacement of these items of they were lost or damaged during the move and it gives you a piece of mind.
  • Basic tools (hammer, screwdriver, knife, tape, etc.)
  • Payment for movers
  • Bathroom Essentials (towels, soap, toilet paper)
  • Kitchen Essentials (snacks, disposable utensils, cups, plates, etc.)
  • Cleaning Essentials (sponges, all-purpose cleaner, broom, dustpan)
  • Important Documents & Personal Essentials – (fancy jewelry, medication, glasses, medical records, bills, passport, new/old lease etc.)
  • Keys and directions to your new home (pick this up before the move to avoid delays and stress)
There’s a lot to do when moving, things can easily be forgotten and there can be a lot of anxiety about the process and pending change. But, following this easy tips and with a little planning and organizing, moving can be stress-free and possibly even an enjoyable process.

What are your best moving tips? 

My last wardrobe box.                                         The others were filled to capacity.
*This post was sponsored by you move free. They can help you find a new apartment. All the tips and suggestions are my own.*

How To: The DOs & DON’Ts of how to help a friend get through a breakup

We’ve all been there before.  It doesn’t matter the details of the breakup, whether they were dating 5 weeks or 5 years, if they weren’t serious or if they were engaged. What does matter is that she is hurting and heartbroken and she needs you, her friend.  But we all handle things in different ways.  Not every tactic works for everyone and not everyone wants to be supported or cared for in the same way. Know your friend – but Here are several suggestions on the DO’s and DON’Ts for helping your friend through her breakup through her breakup:

DO be there for her, be supportive and listen: One of the most important things you can do for her is to listen. Let her know that you understand and that you are there for her. She may be a broken record in your eyes, but she needs to talk it out. Be there to just listen.  Be there emotionally, physically and mentally. Tell her she has people in her corner who love and support her and that she is not alone.  When she is lonely, keep her company. Even if you sit in silence or watch TV, she’ll appreciate your mere presence.

DO offer positive & healthy distractions to keep her busy: Encourage her to get out of the house. Help her get involved in fun activities – Take a day trip together, go for a walk, window shop, volunteer for a cause, go to a movie or a concert, go out for dinner, play games, see a comedian, get her a massage. Invite her out to things, have a girl’s night out (or in), or watch an episode of Glee together.  Make sure she is not always alone and get her out of the apartment.

DO reach out just to say hi and that you’re thinking of her via calls, texts, emails, e-cards or even snail mail: Remind her that she is not alone and that someone (you!) care. Be genuine, not nosey. Ask how she is doing or if she prefers space. If she prefers space, that might be just that day. Tomorrow she may want your presence again. If she does want space, she will tell you to stop but still appreciate that at least you cared enough about her to try.  However, most people need to feel loved and thought of and will need their friends to check in on them.

DO NOT set and forget or one and done.  Just because the breakup is not at the forefront of your mind, does not mean that she has moved on, too: One text or call is not enough. Even a few weeks or months later she still needs to know that you care, that you are still thinking about her, and that she is not alone. You may think you are a great friend because you went to dinner with her once or texted twice, but a real true friend continues to reach out consistently, not only in the beginning.

DO encourage her to rediscover herself:  Is there something she has always wanted to do but never done? Anything she never tried like knitting, taking dancing lessons or baking peanut butter cookies because he was allergic? Has she always dreamt of traveling but he was afraid of flying? Encourage her to explore new things, to find new hobbies and passions.

DO NOT make the breakup about you: Let her have this moment. Don’t compare her breakup to your past breakups. She is the one grieving now, so let her work it out. After some time has passed and her wounds are not as fresh and she is doing better and moving on, then you can swap battle stories.

DO have comments & feedback but keep it positive:  It is okay to say, You did the right thing, or I can’t believe he did that to you. BUT…

DO NOT Bash and trash the ex: This is not the time to let all your real feelings out of the bag. Don’t release all the personal complaints you’ve held against him. Avoid criticisms of his personality, looks and habits. She chose at one point to be with that person good or bad so don’t say you never liked him anyway or how ugly he was. What happens on the off-chance they patch things up and get back together? She won’t forget what you said and your comments will likely come back to haunt you. You might think bashing is helpful but it is not supportive behavior. She will go back and forth on hate – be supportive and positive. Don’t hate.

DO make her laugh and have fun together: The breakup shouldn’t end the fun in your friendship.  She will have good days and bad days, but let her know it is okay to laugh and have fun even if she is sad and missing him. Help take her mind of things. Try to make her laugh even when she thinks she doesn’t have it in her to smile.

DO NOT expect her to “get over it” after x amount of time: She doesn’t know how long it will take but she needs to be able to grieve. Time heals so let her have her time. Be patient and understanding. Breakups can be like a death when you lose someone from your life. It is a loss. Let her mourn the relationship. Don’t rush the healing and grieving process.
DO reach out proactively: Don’t wait for her to tell you she is struggling. Check in with her before  she reaches out to you. Knowing that someone is thinking about her (without her bringing it up first) will help her heal faster.
DO NOT forget to say 4 little words: “I’m here for you”: She is venting and heartbroken but she is also probably worried about if she is annoying you, too. Be present, listen, and her confidant. Be encouraging and supportive. She has so much on her plate and is worried about so much. Don’t be another cause of worry for her.

DO respond to her emails or text messages with a little thought of something that shows you care: Even if you do not know what to say, try to say something that makes her feel like you care. Replying only “I’m sorry” to her plea for help is not supportive and screams that you do not care. Instead try, “I’m sorry, is there anything I can? Let’s grab a dinner or coffee soon.”

DO NOT tell her that dating sucks and that there is no one out there. Remind her that this pain won’t last forever: Remind her that she will be happy again and that it gets better.

Do be her personal cheerleader: Breakups can be are a blow to the self-esteem and she may have a lot of self-doubt. She may feel she is not pretty enough, not love-able enough, not fun enough, that she is never going to find another man – etc.  Tell her how wonderful she is, remind her of her great qualities, and how much your friendship means to you.

DO NOT make her cry about her ex in a bar (or anywhere for that matter): She will cry about it anyway. Do not instigate it. Do not try to get the gossip out of her about the details of her breakup. If she wants to talk to you she will. Do not bring up The Ex after she has been drinking. Again, if she wants to talk  about it she will.

DO be a confidant and trust worthy: She is talking to you because she trusts you and needs a friend. Do not be a blabber mouth. Don’t go sharing her stories with others. Show her you care by keeping her trust and stories confidential.

DO NOT get upset with her if she asks you to do her a favor regarding The Ex: If she tells you, “I’m still getting his mail” or “can you please give him his pants that he left at my place” just be a doll and offer to pass along the pants & the mail. It is hard to have The Ex’s stuff still lying around. Help her move on by removing the memories.  She isn’t asking you for this favor to start anything or make you feel uncomfortable. You are her friend and she is looking to you for help. Odds are they are not on speaking terms or it is too painful. ** Note: Once or twice is ok, but you cannot be the monkey in the middle.

DO set boundaries but be polite and subtle: The breakup is hard on both of you. You want to listen and be there for her but it can be stressful for you too. Help yourself and help her at the same time. Be upfront and agree to talk about the situation for 15, 30 minutes, an hour, whatever seems appropriate for you both, with the intention to change subjects after the time has passed. (note: Don’t interrupt her and say TIME’S UP though!) It is good for your mental health as well as hers. This allows you to continue to listen but stops the breakup from taking over her life, too, allowing her to think about and move on to something else.

DO NOT tell her juicy gossip you her about The Ex: Be considerate of her feelings. If you are still friends with The Ex, do not tell her that he slept with Susie Slutface. This will not make her feel better.

MOST IMPORTANT- DO BE A FRIEND!!: Maybe she actually is your first friend to go through a breakup. Maybe you don’t know what encouraging words to say or what to do. Don’t worry about that. You don’t have to talk about the breakup.  Whether she is your first friend to experience a breakup or not, being a friend shouldn’t be unfamiliar territory. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here- JUST BE HER FRIEND. All she needs is you to be there for her. 

Life after breakups can be very emotional and challenging. She will learn a lot about herself and who her real friends are during this process. Be the friend that you would want to have if you went through this. Being a friend shouldn’t be a foreign language to you, but here are few of my personal favorite things my closest friends are doing to help me: 

  • Coming home to an empty apartment after he moved out was heart wrenching. My ex neighbor turned friend came over and helped me rearrange the couch, do laundry, hang pictures on the newly barren walls, make my bed with said clean sheets. It was the littlest thing but it made such a difference to me.
  • Offer to bring dinner over. If she is anything like me, I have trouble making myself dinner when I’m blue. Bringing her dinner (and eating with her) is one of the most helpful things you can do.
  • Have a girls night & sleep over.  Sounds silly to have sleep overs as an adult but it will mean the world to her, especially if she used to live with The Ex.
  • Fly across country to physically be with me, to hug me and to help cheer me up.
  • I got Snail Mail letters filled with encouragement, support and love from fellow bloggers. Emails are good but getting an actual physical envelope to open really shows her that you care.

*this is all from ‘her’ perspective for consistency but same advice applies to guys.


What do you say to or do for friends when they are going through a breakup? What has helped you move on from your own breakups?  Are you, like me, going through a really tough breakup right now?  Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. You are not alone!