50 Shades Darker, 10 Things to Keep in Mind for Valentine’s Day

I am honored to publish a guest post written by Karen Amster-Young, co-author of  The 52 Weeks: Two Women and Their Quest to Get Unstuck, with Stories and Ideas to Jumpstart Your Year of Discovery  (Skyhorse Publishing). The book is available at amazon.com and in stores everywhere.

Karen Amster-Young

I love this book and have mentioned it in past blogs!

I know you will enjoy Karen’s take on activities for celebrating this day set aside for fun and romance. (As for me, I’m going with When Harry Met Sally!)

50 Shades Darker, 10 Things to Keep in Mind for Valentine’s Day

By Karen Amster-Young

I didn’t run to see Fifty Shades Darker, the 2nd movie made from the best-selling 50 Shades trilogy by E.L. James. It wasn’t because the early reviews weren’t great; it was more about lack of time and making choices and, let’s face it, there are better date night options if you are looking to strengthen your relationship with a significant other. Besides, the books are better. For 50 Shades of Grey, I actually went with a group of girlfriends. We laughed out loud together at the dialogue and cheesy sex scenes like a group of teenagers.

Which reinforces the point of this Valentine’s post: there are many relationships in our lives – from siblings to friends to our kids. When we’re young, we may spend time giving out love notes or something to our classmates and crushes. Now we have many relationships and they are often in need of a shot of attention. Unfortunately we don’t spend enough time on making them stronger – maybe we just never think we have enough time or, more complicated reasons leave us overthinking the matters of the heart.

When you get right down to it, relationships are everything. They fuel all aspects of our life — and without that fuel, the days can feel pretty empty. But no need to go there. Here are 10 low-impact ways you can build bonds and re-think Valentine’s Day. And, let’s face it: with the constant stream of non-stop daily news, we can all use a few days thinking about something else. In fact, on second thought, maybe going to an entertaining, trashy movie with someone isn’t such a bad idea after all!

  1. Plan a group date. More people around takes the focus away from you and your relationship, which can be a good thing sometimes.
  2. Stay in bed and finally treat yourself to a day of doing nothing. Love this quote: “You call it being alone. I call it enjoying my own company!”
  3. Make annoying heart cookies with your kids for their classmates. It’s really about the time together. Remember, they grow up and one day you will miss it!
  4. Smile more often. It actually tricks the brain. It is impossible to feel stressed if you smile.
  5. Married for 100 years? Recreate your first date with your spouse.
  6. Clean house: toxic relationships are not relationships.
  7. Write a real letter to your favorite aunt (or uncle, or cousin or whoever you have been, let’s face it, neglecting).
  8. Plan a girl’s weekend.
  9. Give love to a stranger: volunteer to keep someone company, read to an elderly person or make a home-cooked meal for someone in need.
  10. Show love to your country in whatever way is right for you.

And of course, there is always 50 Shades Darker playing in the theaters. It’s probably the perfect antidote to CNN.  If you’re worried about your brain cell count, try LA LA Land instead for some romance; better yet watch old movies at home – When Harry Met Sally anyone? The best!

 

Finding Solitude During the Holidays

Cap 1

It occurred to me as I sat quietly sipping my cappuccino that lately I have been plugging a considerable amount of activities into my smart phone calendar. Today I took a closer look at the events over the next eight weeks and sighed. A little voice down deep warned me I would soon be bordering on over commitment. Thankful for that inner wisdom I decided to be more mindful regarding my schedule.

As we move into a celebratory season filled with friends, fun and a host of parties and get-togethers, it is easy to obliterate the white space from our calendars. Although the warmth and comfort of gathering together in thankfulness and love is what makes this the best time of the year, we pay a price when removing our much needed solitude.

Holiday Plate

Meaningful alone time is required to balance the hectic pace of our lives which increases during the holidays. According to psychologist, Ester Buchholz, “Being alone gives us the power to regulate and adjust our lives. It can teach us fortitude and the ability to satisfy our own needs.”

During my teens and early twenties I constantly craved being with friends and family, always active, always on the run to the next activity. I clearly recall one day being hungry and without a lunch date, which meant eating alone. I found going into a restaurant on my own both an enlightening and scary experience.  Looking back I realized it was really one of my growth moments because I discovered being alone was not lonely, it was necessary. Psychologists tout that time spent alone signals emotional maturity, so I had finally arrived. I discovered Henry David Thoreau was right when he said: “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

Being in your own company provides the power of perspective. It enables you to analyze your priorities, your future goals and where you’re going in life.

enlightenment, silhouette of woman practicing yoga on the beach

But let me be clear, solitude does not mean sitting at your laptop alone interacting on Facebook or browsing on your smart phone. To embrace solitude, you must be alone with only your thoughts to guide you. Unplug from the world and just be. If you’ve forgotten how to enjoy being on your own, just observe a child alone at play. Children are totally content to take pleasure in a world they create. They delight in their own company.

So this season, do justice to your schedule. Limit the number of gatherings you attend.

Plates and Candles

Gracefully excuse yourself by acknowledging the generosity of an invitation but follow up by saying you are sorry you cannot be present as you have something else planned during that time. It is not untrue. You do have another pressing engagement, a quiet slot on your calendar. Enjoy the alone time and use it to be thankful for your many blessings.