Guest blog: My 12-Step Plan for 2013 “Mom’s Peace Promise”
Today I bring you a guest blogger. This lady is a wonderful leader, mentor, military officer and all-around great person. She never ceases to amaze me and make me smile.
A New Year’s must-read, particularly for all parents and all military: Our MomsInHawaii.com blogger who is deployed in Kyrgyzstan, Col. Shirlene DelaCruz Santiago Ostrov, resolves in 2013 to let peace begin with her … and lays out 12 practical steps for how she plans to do it in small, gentle ways every day.
It’s happened. I’ve hit the wall. I’ve been here for six months now, living a double life as a deployed military officer and a mom (10,000 miles away). To be honest, it’s been a bit of struggle. When we heard about the tragic Sandy Hook school shootings, all of us out here serving in the military wanted nothing more than to hug our children and know they were safe. I’ve got to admit, I am one of those illogical “Mama Bear”- type moms. When it comes to the safety and wellness of my children, I can be downright irrational. Yes, I know that my children are safe and sound with my loving husband in Hawaii, but you can imagine how hard it is for me to personally find peace without having held my children for so long. It’s been quite a test for me.
Indeed, serving during wartime in a foreign land is not exactly a logical place to find “inner peace” but I don’t know anyone at all, military or civilian, who is especially peaceful at this moment. The whole world feels a bit threatening. We are filled with fears and worries – about losing our homes, losing our jobs, retirement packages, freedom. We are concerned about the state of our nation, the recent elections, the war, and global political unrest. Each day presents a new struggle we must grapple with. There is no doubt that we are living in very tough times. Chaos is everywhere–but the key is to find peace within this chaos. So as I sit in my hooch on the other side of the world welcoming 2013 in a quiet and reflective moment, I’ve decided to make “Mom’s Peace Promise.” I am going to look for gentle ways to incorporate peace into my everyday life and pass it along to people I know in meaningful ways so that we can all weather the storms of life better. And don’t be fooled by the name of this “resolution-ish” manifesto, this promise is not being made just so I can be a better Mom. This challenge is being made so I can also be a better wife, a better sister, a better daughter, a better friend and absolutely a better commander and leader. Here’s my 12-step program on how I plan to do this.
1. Practice Gratitude. I am going to focus on the positive in life. I believe that harboring a sincere attitude of gratitude will invite more to be thankful for. I also hope to be an example for others to follow. I will examine areas of your life in which things are going well and find opportunities to be grateful. I will start with faith, health, family, friends, nature, friends, love and laughter—then acknowledge them.
2. Enjoy the Journey. In every difficulty or failure in life, there is a lesson and an opportunity. I promise to look for the lesson and learn from it. I am reminded by the humble people of Kyrgyz Republic and the little they have, that life is precious and doesn’t have to be difficult. I will spend 2013 finding joy in everything.
3 . Cultivate Loving Kindness. With the hustle and bustle of a very busy world, we’ve come to an existence where sharing our love and our kindness is not always an easy task, and sometimes even downright inconvenient! But sharing kindness is one of the most powerful ways to create peace. I hope to show, through gentle example, that there is a great reward each time we greet another human being, or a situation, with love instead of anger, resentment, and fear.
4. Be Silly, Laugh, and Have Fun. This is perhaps the easiest part of my promise to fulfill! I plan to hang out with people who bring out the best in me. I’ve learned all too well that seriousness and intensity can steal your joy and cause anxiety. I’m going to watch my children and follow their lead in laughter and play. I’m already thinking of a joke for my staff meeting tomorrow. (It goes something like this: Knock, knock…)
5. Foster Optimism. I’ve seen time after time how staying positive may very well prolong our lives. I am going to challenge myself (and family, friends and fellow military warriors) to catch those negative thoughts early and then gently transform them. I’m going to always give people the benefit of the doubt. I am going to be gentle with myself and others while keeping my thoughts positive, hopeful and happy.
6. Turn it Off! This is the hardest one, having a habit of always being connected to my work 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year. Technology has made me perennially accessible and has become a leash. Upon completion of this deployment, I plan to disconnect on the weekend. The lame part is I hear my own excuses already! I promise to give my work brain a rest. It’s a given that if your life is overflowing you will never be able to achieve balance and manage it all. It’s just not possible. I’m going to be ruthless with this one.
7. Follow my Bliss. I’m going to dance more often. I’m going to volunteer with children. I’m going to learn to play the ukulele better and sing at least 25 songs by heart. I’m going to read “chick lit” and mystery novels. I’m going to take a design class because it is something I’ve always wanted to learn how to do. I will promise to take naps when I’m tired. Most importantly, I plan take time out from being in charge, in control or in motion.
8. Be Generous. This is another one that is easy for me to do. It really makes me happy to give of my time, talent and resources to those who need it. I will always leave a large tip, donate frequently to charity, and this year I will teach someone to read. I will always go the extra mile, give the benefit of doubt, give praise. I will lead my life by example and never hold back when I have an opportunity to share. My 2013 mantra will be “Live to Give”.
9. Don’t Take Things Personally. As a middle child of eight children, I have an uncanny need to make sure everyone is happy. It’s my nature, it’s my personality. So when things don’t go exactly right, I tend to shoulder a lot of personal baggage. I plan to finally learn this lesson “It’s not about me.” Like I’ve stated over and over, this life we live in can get very crazy. People are busy, weird, and lost in their own stuff. When things don’t go as planned, I plan a four-step recovery plan: stay calm, be clear, get over it and move on.
10. Don’t Compare or Complain. I’ve always loved this saying: “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses”. And one of the best things that I’ve taught my children (and I think they learned this lesson well), is that the sooner they learn that life is not fair, the happier they will be. I’ve never heard these words uttered out of their lips: “It’s not fair!” and I feel a small triumph in that. So while life is continuously throwing curve balls, I plan to do exactly what I preach to my own children. While life continues to be “unfair”, dream big, work hard and do what’s right anyway. And don’t whine about it. Attitude is everything.
11. Forgive Every Day. Oh wow, this is a hard one, especially for this self-professed “road-rager.” So the next time someone cuts me off in traffic, I plan to instantly forgive. Additionally, for the cashier who is mean, for the child who failed, for the Airman that consistently makes poor decisions, for a fellow commander who doesn’t listen…oh dear, the list is endless! And forgiving people for the small stuff is as important as the big stuff.
12. Create Joy. I’ve been married to the most wonderful man for more than 22 years now and we seemed to have such a wonderful marriage because together we have the power to create joy in everyday things. Every simple moment has the potential for joy if you choose let it happen. Folding laundry can be a mundane chore you can’t avoid or but we let it be an opportunity for impromptu “date night” where we watch silly TV shows and laugh uncontrollably together. Walking the dog allows us to enjoy the quiet rhythm of our Hawaii neighborhood and even doing yard work allows us to enjoy the beauty of the landscape that we cultivated ourselves. Even a trip to the grocery store becomes an adventure for us (does this mean I need to get out more?!! HA!). In all seriousness, we’ve navigated a dual-military career home for so long and had to endure so much time apart serving our country, that we take great joy in the most simplest of chores. Perhaps that’s a lesson learned for us all.
So there you have it. A simple 12-step plan for me to infuse peace amidst the chaos of the crazy, stressful world we live in. Writing “Mom’s Peace Promise” as I ring in 2013 in land far away from home brings me great hope for the New Year. I hope we can all find our own ways to bring peace to our homes, our families, communities and world we live in. So as I get ready to put my combat boots back on and get out there to do the work my nation needs me to do, I have two thoughts. The first thought is of my wonderful husband Mark and my beautiful daughters Jessica and Julia — they are the reason I serve, and I am so blessed to have them in my life. But just as important, to all of you, I wish you the most beautiful and blessed 2013 full of health and happiness. And most of all, I wish you PEACE.