Have you heard about this W.I.N. acronym? It stands for – What’s Important Now. A simple, yet effective reminder on how to prioritize a way forward through complex issues.

As winter memories are fading and the fresh air of spring is rising, this might be a good time for a WIN. I don’t know about you, but I have some stale energy stored up inside of me, built up from a season of exposure to smaller toxins that seem to pervade in this ever-evolving life. No hard hitting, or knock-me-down, drag-me-around kind of moments. Just lots of sneaky little stresses that have now reached a point of critical mass.

Sounds like a wonderful problem to have. Nothing really hard going on, compared to some of the moments in my life where ‘critical’ happened daily. So, what is it about the everyday, normal, upsets, that has me raising a white flag, surrendering to the battle and wanting to crawl in a corner til I hear a bugle-call to signal the end?

Maybe I lack perspective. So I better get some!

I am a survivor. This has shaped my sense of identity, my ability to trust and my definition of success. My past cannot help but be part of the present, and I am constantly choosing whether it gets to be part of my future. Next.

I am a parent. The children entrusted to me, for reasons I may never understand, have manifested every challenge and intricacy imaginable (except committing murder and ‘coming out’, and of those two options, I pray the first one to never happen!) The roller-coaster ride of parenting 5 kids damaged by domestic unrest, does not stop. Next.

I am a cop. I don’t talk about this very often (not everybody likes the police, if you haven’t heard) but this is a good time to take stock of the stress this profession brings each day. I am held to a higher standard, whether I am on duty or not. The decisions I make could include life or death outcomes for me and other humans. For the past year, I have met an unfriendly work environment – not on a hostile level or one of persecution, but one that left me feeling isolated and undervalued. My request to be re-assigned to a more positive role was granted last week. Next.

I am a spouse. Normally, this feels really good to say. Lately, it feels heavy. Maybe I have picked up some of my old spousal baggage I thought got left behind several years ago. Maybe this is part of the ‘storming and norming’ of the beginning phase of being empty-nesters. Maybe this is the pressure of our unfinished income taxes. Maybe our communication needs an overhaul… because there are things I just need to talk about, but for the life of me, I have not yet brought myself to express. Next.

I am a friend. Oh boy. I say that with utmost grace and humility, as I know how tricky it can be to stay balanced in our connections with our favorite folks. I have fallen into an old trap of desperately chasing friendship. This condition undermines my sense of healthy boundaries and fans the flames of miscommunication leaving a feeling of general emptiness and shame. SIGH. Next.

I am a writer. (Hah! I said it.) This is a new label for me and not as comfortable as some other identities I own, so it brings many doubts, self judgments and insecurities. It also brings deadlines… which I am currently avoiding right now, so what kind of self-talk do I have about that? Ummm-well… after the negative name-calling subsides I must gently concede, my writing cultivates self-preservation, so that beats deadlines, every time. Next.

I am a volunteer. In my community, for my church, with charitable organizations – as a worker bee, as a mentor, as an advocate, and as a ‘yes’ girl. I am energized by the people this puts in my life, the experiences it affords, and the fulfilling joy it brings. But I am tired, and not loving the effort it takes to put everything listed above into balance. Not to mention my most important volunteer role of being a hands-on Grammy… hence wanting to go to bed last night at 7 pm!

Oh my. This is clarity. My hopes, fears, heartbreaks, baggage, dreams, weaknesses and strengths… now that they are all on the table, I feel better. Lighter.

Okay, with my perspective clear, where do I go from here… continue to snap at random service workers when I do not get what I want? Get angry at hubby for little remarks that mean nothing? Treat co-workers with paranoia and distrust? Put off the last revision of my book (its sooo close to being complete) for fear it will not a success?

Express. Evaluate. Forgive. Accept.

Expression fights my internal disapproval mechanism constantly, like it is a forbidden action or at the very least, its in my uncomfortable zone. Yet it is so often the necessary thing to release the little toxins invading relationships and outcomes. Sometimes it is the only requirement to align a situation, when fashioned in love and kindness.

Evaluation is subjective. Am I looking for hard stats to prove a point, or anecdotal evidence to shed light on effective strategies? My life evaluations must be heart-lead, after the facts are presented with gentle courage. Then, and only then, can the defensive layers of pride be over-written with self-empathy and curiosity.

Forgiveness… yes, for myself, for others and society at large… cuz, we have messed up, guys. Like really messed up! AND?!?! The argument goes something like “some people/things do not deserve to be forgiven”… maybe a little too harsh? I guess that all depends on your definition of forgiveness, which for me goes like: Letting go of the things that cannot be resolved with logic, but would destroy me to hold onto for the rest of my life. It does not include a free pass or forgetting inhumane actions, which I am currently leaving in the hands of Love (Creator) to resolve.

Acceptance does not happen by choosing it. One of the worst pieces of advice I have heard is, “just accept it” but I cannot force an early acceptance of something before laying the ground work. I can fake acceptance but it will not sit well inside. To wholly accept a truth that will direct and change me, I must meet expression, evaluation and forgiveness first.

AHHH… as I breathe in this formula, it is freedom. That… is a WIN.

I am free to speak.

Free to think.

Free to feel.

And free to choose.