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January 2012
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parting positively: 4 tips for saying goodbye


In five days, I will be saying goodbye to the job I've had for almost two years. During the time I've spent there, I've really bonded with some of my colleagues and it's going to be very difficult to say goodbye to them after all the hours, days, weeks we have spent together. Unlike a lot of people leaving their jobs, I don't have the promise of new bonds and colleagues to look forward to (at least not yet!). I'm going to be working from home, working on my own, which makes the goodbye even harder. It's always so much harder to say goodbye to someone when you don't have someone else waiting in the wings (a truth I've battled in my personal relationships for years). 

When, months ago, I looked forward to this week, I didn't imagine feeling anything but excitement and gratitude to be finally been given the opportunity to focusing my attention on what I love: writing. But it's not all exhilaration and anticipation. There is a bit of sadness there in knowing that some of the people I loved seeing every day will no longer be part of my daily routine. No matter how big or small a part someone has played in your life, when you have to say goodbye, it can be tough. Below are some of the best ways I've come up for coping with goodbyes. 


4 Tips for Saying Farewell

1. Focus on the positive.
Looking back at the time spent with colleagues, it's oddly tempting to zero in on the people who were not positive, who made working with them difficult and irritating. It might be a trick of the mind that urges us to look at what we won't miss so we don't feel so down about what will miss, but don't forget to focus on the positive. Think of the good times you had with those you're saying goodbye to and remind them of those positive experiences when you go (stay tuned for my Friday post filled with all the positive things I'm going to be sad to say goodbye to). 

2. Embrace the present.
Saying goodbye often causes us to think back on the past -- both the good and the bad -- and dwell on it. We want to cling to the good times or feel slighted by the bad times. But life -- and goodbyes -- is too short for that. Don't allow yourself to dwell on what was. Instead, focus on what is. Be grateful for where you are today and encourage others to do the same. As I mentioned in #1, it's tempting to focus on the negative people and situations, but don't go there. Instead, wish everyone -- yes, everyone -- well in this present moment. 

3. Share your sadness.
It's okay to be sad about leaving. Don't feel like you have to keep all of this to yourself. Find a colleague or friend you can talk to and express how you're feeling. Others might be feeling the same way and appreciate your openness -- and you will release some of the burden once you open up and share your emotions with others. Change of any kind can be intimidating, but we don't have to face it alone. Don't underestimate or ignore your emotions. Embrace them, address them, and share them in order to overcome them. 

4. Exit with grace.
Over the years, I've seen a lot of people come and go in the workplace. Most people do it with grace, but there are a few that have left angrily, quickly, harshly. No matter what your situation (unless, of course, it's something extreme like harassment, etc.), don't leave in anger. Don't leave a sour taste in the mouths of those you are saying farewell to. Instead, leave with grace. Say goodbye to those who meant the most to you. Move forward to the present and do not dwell on negative interactions you have had in the past. This is the last time you will see many of these people so leave them with a positive impression of you. 


I'm fortunate that my upcoming goodbyes are due to my happily-ever-after dream coming true, but not all goodbyes occur on such positive terms. While there's never going to be a perfect way to let go of the people you've grown accustomed to having in your life, I hope these steps might help you if you are facing a goodbye scenario in your own life. It's never easy. It's never fun. But it's one of those "it's part of life" things that we sometimes have to suck up and deal with. If goodbyes are something we must face, we might as well do what we can to make them as positive as possible. 

 Any tips for dealing with goodbyes? 
How have you cope with saying farewell? 

how do you want to feel today?

Reading one of my favorite sites the other day, Danielle LaPorte, I was inspired by her article "How Do You Want It All To Feel?" in which she asks what she calls the burning question: "Your day, kissing, next success, friendships, nervous system, money-making... How do you want it all to feel?"

We are often reacting to how we feel -- or anticipating how we think something will feel -- rather than contemplating how we actually want it to feel. And, to top it off, we usually only spend time thinking about feelings when it comes to the big things -- life changes, relationships, the year ahead, etc. But what about how we want the little things to feel? The day-to-day things? What about how we want this very moment to feel? 

We have more control over how we feel than we think we do. Unfortunately we don't always realize we have that control. It seems like we experience things only after the fact, recognizing our emotional state after we're already swallowed up by it. Or we experience emotions and feelings that have yet to happen. (For example, I was completely consumed by grief last weekend when I thought my beloved pup Bella was gone for good; I was experiencing an emotion for an event that had yet to happen.) Too often we don't focus on the emotional outcome we want; we only react or create emotions in our minds. 

Danielle's question got me wondering: what would it be like to start off the day with an emotional game plan? What would it be like to take actions to make those emotions stick throughout the day, rather than simply allowing the day's events to govern our emotional states? I think it would be pretty great to take control over our emotions and determine how we want to feel.

Below are some ideas to help you start thinking about how you can take charge of your emotions and (hopefully!) choose to focus on the positive aspects of your life. 


How to Take Charge of Today's Emotions

1. Figure out how you want to feel.
Use the prompts below (and download this worksheet) to figure out how you want to feel today. I'd recommend focusing on the positive. Starting off the day with a positive mindset won't guarantee a day filled with happy and carefree emotions, but it will improve your chances of making the most of the day. 

Today I want to feel.... 

I choose this emotion because... 

I will start today off with this emotion by... 

To maintain this feeling, today I will... 

I want to look back on the day and feel... 


2. Keep at it. Really focus on that "maintain this feeling" question and start off the day with some ideas of how you will keep at it. In every day there will be emotional roadblocks and setbacks. Identify what those might be and focus on ways to control your emotional state during them. While I don't usually recommend focusing on the negative or the what-could-go-wrongs, it wouldn't hurt to take a moment or two to identify emotional triggers and creatively combat them. (For example: If you know you're going to hit tons of aggravating traffic on the way to work, download some new songs to keep you inspired or purchase an audiobook to entertain you.) 

3. Recognize + redirect. 
 Of course choosing an ideal emotional state doesn't mean we won't have reactions to situations or events occurring throughout the day. You might start off the day declaring you want to be happy and encounter an unexpected situation that makes you extremely angry. I'm a big believer in experiencing your emotions (a positive attitude doesn't mean sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything's just peachy!) so go ahead and feel whatever emotions come your way. Just don't let them dominate your day. Recognize them and then redirect your attention to how you want to feel. 

4. Stay in control. Remember: you are the one in control of your emotions. It is very tempting to blame other people, situations, or even others' emotions for the state of how we're feeling, but ultimately we have the final say over how we feel. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent," and that goes for all feelings in my opinion. Without your consent, no one else can make you feel anything. Sure, they might push your emotions in a certain direction, but you have the final say. When struggling with this, repeat this mantra: "No one can make me feel [angry/sad/upset/annoyed/etc.] without my consent!" 

Emotions are tricking things and, as much as we really do have control over them, it can be hard to admit to this power we have. Admitting we are in control means we have to be accountable for how we feel, something we don't always want to do. But being accountable for your emotional state -- and choosing it on your own -- is a wonderful, powerful thing. But choosing how you want to feel -- and refusing to let anything (or anyone) stand in your way -- you can create the life you want to be living. Start with today and take it one day at a time and soon choosing your emotional state will become a habit you can't live without! 

lost & found: 7 steps for coping with a missing pet

Bella Collage

The Missing Maltese

" knows not its own depth until the hour of separation."
Kabil Gibran

Saturday afternoon my beloved pup, Bella, went missing. Those of you new to Positively Present or not following me on Instagram -- @happilyeverafternow -- might not be aware of the love I have for that dog. It is an over-the-top, can't-live-without-her kind of love. It's one of those dog-human bonds that's almost hard to understand, given the species barrier. I love all dogs, but I love Bella. When she went missing, having slipped out the back gate and trotted her way to god knows where, I was devastated. At first I was shocked, then determined to find her, then heartbroken as the hours passed, then terrified and stricken with sadness when darkness fell. 

Try as I might to stay positive, my mind wound it's way to the dark side, imagining the worst. I could not bear the thought of losing her, but after looking for hours -- recruiting the help of my entire family, neighbors, and even the mailwoman -- it became harder and harder to have hope. Bella had never been away from home before. She is one of the most sheltered, coddled, spoiled dogs I know. She is terrified of men, strangers, and other dogs. Even if someone saw her, I couldn't imagine a situation in which she would go willingly into the arms of safety. 

I told myself over and over again to be positive, to have hope, but there was a heavy weight that I carried around during the time she was missing. It was a mixture of love and loss, hope and fear. Over the past eight years, every time I felt loss or sadness, Bella had been there. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote about her dog, "[Her] ears were often the first thing to catch my tears." Without her, even crying, sadness, was different. That, in and of itself, was a new kind of heartache. 

When darkness had covered the city for hours and I had already crawled into bed, attempting to rest amid fits of sobbing, the phone rang. Someone had seen her a few blocks from where she'd gone missing -- on the opposite side of a busy road -- and though he'd attempted to catch her, she was quick and scared, racing away from him. Disheveled and desperate with hope, I jump from bed and my boyfriend and I raced over to the neighborhood where she was last seen. My parents met us there and neighbors joined in on the search, our hopeful calls poking holes in the silence of the night. 

Another phone call arrived, alerting us that she'd been spotted again near the neighborhood pool. We all darted up and down side streets, calling her name. With every moment that passed, a little bit of my hope was chipped away. We'd spent the whole day looking for her. What made us think we would find her now, in the dark? After all this time?

I got back into the car, ready to circle the streets one last time before turning back toward home. And then my phone rang. It was my father and he had found her about a block from where I was. Hearing his voice, she had come to him slowly, shaking with fear and cold. I jumped from the car and sprinted down the block, shouting her name, until she was in my arms. She licked my face and my heart flooded with love and gratitude. 

There was a moment of disbelief when I couldn't believe that this -- what I'd been hoping and searching for all day -- was finally happening. After hours of crying, panicking, searching, and struggling to stay positive, the seven pounds of fur was finally back in my arms. A wave of peacefulness washed over me and I realized that, even though someday I would have to let her go, today was not that day. 


7 Steps for Coping with a Missing Pet 

I've been through some tough times, but having a missing dog was one of the hardest things I've been through. Hours and hours of guessing and looking and calling. Hours and hours of hoping and wondering and begging the universe to bring her back. It was terrifying, traumatic, and downright terrible. Finding her, however, was amazing. As was seeing all of the people I didn't even know helping out, looking for her with the same determination that my family and I possessed. 

As heartbreaking as the experience was, I can look back on it now -- with sweet little Bella sleeping by my feet -- and share what I learned from going through it with you. My hope is that you never have to deal with the loss of a pet (or person!), but if you do, I hope these tips will help you cope until the time that s/he is found... 

1. Stay positive. The most important -- and hardest -- thing to do when dealing with a lost pet is to stay positive. Losing an animal puts us in survival mode, which causes us to expect the worst. It's normal to have these racing, negative thoughts, but it's not okay to dwell on them. Negative thoughts will only bring you down and distract you from your mission: finding your pet ASAP. 

2. Ask for help. We ultimately found Bella because neighbors had been alerted and had the necessary information to contact us when she was spotted. In a frantic state, it might be tempting to focus on the task at hand without reaching out to others for help, but in this situation -- as in life -- it's important to ask for the support of others. Without the help of other people (complete strangers, no less!), I'm not sure we would have found Bella. 

3. Don't give up. When I crawled into bed last night, there was definitely a part of me that had given up hope. Don't. You never know when everything will change and in the blink of an eye, you could be given valuable information that will lead you to your pet. Life holds so many surprises and you never know what will happen. Keep the faith. Don't give up. Keep hoping, hoping, hoping. 

4. Allow yourself to feel. When I first found out about my missing pup, I didn't react. I went into autopilot, immediately searching for her everywhere. It wasn't until about an hour or so into the search when I broke down and had a good, hard sob. It wasn't my proudest moment (wailing, "I can't function as a human being without her!" was a tad drama queen), but it felt good to release those emotions. Let yourself cry, scream, whatever you need to do -- but don't dwell in that. Feel it and move forward. 

5. Be productive. One of the things that helped me the most when I was in search of Bella was staying productive. I was either searching, making flyers, posting notices online, or calling local animal shelters and vet offices. Keeping active kept me distracted from the possibility of not finding her and the sadness of her absence. Doing something is a distraction and it's also a great way to keep options open for finding your pet. 

6. Stay present. It seems illogical to stay present when things feel so incredibly hard. You'll be wishing you were in the past when your pet was still safe at home or imagining the future when you are either reunited with your pet, but it's important to stay focused on the now. You want your focus not to be on what could happen (those negative thoughts will try to creep in!), but on what is actually happening. Focus on the present to keep calm. 

7. Practice kindness. When times are tough, emotions will run high. Try to keep in mind that the people around you are feeling the same emotions that you are. At one point, I found myself snapping at my mom, forgetting that she was just as sad as I was. It's hard to focus on other people when you're overwhelmed with emotion, but working together with others and being kind is important for focusing on what's really important: finding your pet. 

I hope, hope, hope you never have to go through what I experienced on Saturday. But if you do, I hope these tips will help you stay focused on being positive and present. Difficult situations really try my goal of living a positively present life. (Who wants to be present when something terrible has happened?!) But I realized that focusing on what could have happened or what might be won't change what is. Dwelling on what could go wrong won't help -- or change anything -- either. Odd as it might seem, these are the times when being present and positive are the most important. Focus on the now. Focus on the positive.