Insights: 365 Days Ahead

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A New Year is upon us. Doesn’t it seem like last year went by too fast? Time goes by if we make something of it or not. Time is so easy to let pass, and then we wonder where it went.

I know for me this last year had its challenges, but even our challenges show we are moving, living, changing or growing even if we are present to life or not.

Challenges are part of living and there are always lessons to be learned from our tough times.

This past week I had to put down my 17-year-old dog that I rescued when she was just a year old. My daughter and I rescued her from an agency that would advertise dogs that were going to be put down within the week to try and find them a home.  My daughter begged me to go see this little dog, so how could I resist? We named our rescue dog Chelsea.

I was reflecting with my daughter all the memories we have from the past 16 years: watching Chelsea go through all the stages of life, from puppy to the teenage stage, to adult hood and then her aging.  When we rescued her we thought we were doing a kind thing rescuing her from being put down.  However, really she gave us more than we gave her.

There is sadness with having to put a dog down, yet the joy we experienced over the years is worth all the pain. It is easy to stay stuck in our pain rather than looking at the lessons, look at the experiences you got to enjoy.

Sadly, I look around and see people who are not really living. They are numb. They stop living out of fear: fear of pain, sadness, and illness either emotionally or physically, hurt, or loss.

This ambivalence to life is dangerous.

Yes, we all have to experience challenging times.  It is understanding these times that allow us to truly live. The grief of these painful times allows us to heal and learn and appreciate life.  They also allow us to grow and giving more depth and meaning to our lives.

Through a challenging time we may need to set new goals for ourselves.  Part of the problem is we often go forward but don’t change our goals which now may be obsolete; we do not want to look or experience life differently.

We all have our stories of disappointments.

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a teacher.  I dreamed of the day I would become a teacher.  I would make my brother and friends be my students.  Yet, when it came to going to school to become a teacher I was not accepted into the program.  I was heartbroken.

Many years later I went back to school to do my masters and doctorate in psychology.  Now, I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life. Best of all, I also get to teach as a guest speaker for colleges and organizations, which I love to do.

Life may be different that what you would have first imagined, yet there is always another option if we are willing to grieve and change our course.

This is life. It is unpredictable.

his year my biggest lessons have been:

  1. You do not always have control of what happens to you, but you do have control over how you respond.
  2. Write your goals in pencil, not ink.
  3. Always have a Plan B.
  4. There are always many options in life.

A friend sent me a cute animation for New Years.  It said, “365 new days, 365 new chances.”

So true.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].

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