Becoming stronger step by step for the New Year

               This time of year is so encouraging as I read all the blog entries regarding the New Year and starting afresh.  Indeed, it is a new start, and the sight of those crisp clean double ones is both promising and enticing.

               A few years ago, I gave up on making resolutions specifically for New Year’s Day.  I found that what worked best for me was to ever strive for growth and improvement and, when I felt the wind beneath my wings, to go for it and make a new resolution at that time, not necessarily on a specific date.  Over the last year, as I have been progressing toward becoming a refined, sophisticated (in the genteel sense), well-mannered, and well-bred lady, I have undertaken multiple little habits one by one, and am happy to see the growth in my life as I look back over 2013.  Following are some of the new habits I adopted:

Always going out dressed up a little with both makeup and jewelry–a minimum of mascara and earrings–and never wearing tennis shoes for activities other than hiking or outdoor events.

Taking a little time every day just for me

Renewing an old habit of reading at least one non-fiction book a month

Enrolling in two continuing education courses to begin in the next month

Losing 25 pounds over the summer based on a diet found in The French Diet by Michel Montignac and maintaining my new weight

And a few more that do not come to mind at the moment.

               But there is still so much room for improvement.  Even though I do not make official resolutions anymore, I never stop trying to master previous difficulties, acquire and apply new knowledge, and adjust my lifestyle to fully meet my potential and desires.  The newness of the season refreshes old battles that I would like to engage in once more to try to find an acceptable solution.  One of the most pressing situations I have experienced over the years is how to deal with the manipulation of others.  Several good books have been written on the subject, such as Emotional Blackmail, but I am still trying to incorporate the principles into a solution that works for me.  Following is an incident that recently occurred to me and how I dealt with it in, I hope, a manner becoming of a well-bred woman.  I welcome the thoughts of my readers on this subject.

               On Christmas Day, while relaxing with my family, I received an email from a complete stranger telling me I had won a free photo session for me and my family.  Immediately I was suspicious, because I receive multiple emails weekly claiming that I have won everything from the lottery in Malaysia to a trust fund safeguarded by the FBI.  I assumed this was no different.  The author of the email included a link to her Facebook page, and after investigating it I realized that it was indeed a legitimate business based somewhat near to my area.  I asked politely and specifically how my family’s personal information came into her possession and she refused to tell me, saying that an anonymous person had nominated me for this prize.  At first I decided to accept it and I made arrangements for my family to utilize her services, but I felt terrible about it.  In my mind, I kept ranting about the anonymous person, blaming them for my discomfort about the situation.  I even contemplated a way to try to figure out who it was and confront them.  But something nagged at me inside.  Finally I realized that my behavior was all wrong.  Accepting a prize that I did not apply for under circumstances that made me feel uncomfortable was going against my values.  I have always preached that just because something is free does not mean a person has to accept it–I refer to that mindset as part of the “poor person mentality” and I have considered writing about it on the blog someday.  Also, jumping to conclusions about who may have leaked my information and confronting them would go against my beliefs regarding not jumping to conclusions and not accusing someone without all the facts.  Finally, I believe first and foremost that life is too short to do things that one is not sure about;  that is, if it is doubtful, do not do it.  I obviously had qualms about the situation so I decided to email the photographer and cancel the session.  The immediate relief I felt confirmed my decision, and even though I could not control how my information was passed on, I could choose not to let myself get manipulated into accepting a prize that came about through another person’s violating my privacy.

               Even though I am not making any resolutions to last day to day, I do hope this year to slowly begin reversing old habits of fear, guilt, and obligation regarding being manipulated by others and manipulating others myself.  I consider the above incident to be one small way that I was able to triumph over the situation in which I was “forced” to be in.  Truly, I was not being forced to do anything, as the only obligation to accept the prize depended on me.  In my haste to try to accept something simply for the sake of its being free, I was feeling forced because my motives in accepting the prize were wrong.  One always gets what one pays for, and often the most inexpensive way to acquire things can be the way lined with the most regret.