Advice for 2021 – We Ring in the New Year with Your Words of Wisdom

We made it. We survived 2020. Remember this time last year, and the novelty of that clever sounding 2020? Remember how blissfully innocent we were, unaware of the pandemic train heading our way that would soon derail life as we knew it?

It’s behind us, sort of. The bad news is we still have some unmistakable unpleasant remnants of 2020 clinging to us, like pieces of something nasty that hitched a ride on the soles of our shoes after leaving a gas station bathroom.

The good news is now have the benefit of 2020 hindsight, and we’re walking in the right direction, slipping away from 2020 and on the path toward 2021, and with it, all the hope, promise and opportunity that any new year brings.

If there’s anything we learned from 2020, it’s to never take any year for granted. If there’s any year we should shore ourselves up and proceed with caution with our eyes wide open, 2021 is that year. Forewarned is forearmed. With that in mind, here’s some advice to start out 2021. I’ve shared some of my advice, and some of you have shared yours, too (thank you). I invite you to weigh in with any nuggets of inspiration and wisdom you care to pass on in the comments section.

In the meantime, I wish you a very happy new year. I thank you for being part of Food for Thought/A News Cafe, and am so grateful for all of you, but especially you who are loyal subscribers, advertisers, writers and photographers. I look forward to seeing how the year unfolds, and am glad we can experience it together. Here’s to a happy, healthy, safe, sane and prosperous 2021 that sees the end of pandemic lockdowns, and the resumption of happy days here again filled with real hugs, great love and joyful gatherings.

And now, my few words of advice, followed by some of yours.

Know when to fold them

Sometimes things in life wind down and come to a natural end. Some things are worth salvaging and fighting for. Other things should be let go, whether it’s a job, a marriage, a city or a plan. The trick is knowing when to hang on and when to throw in the towel.

There was a time a year after Marriage No. 2 crashed and burned that my website was also crashing and burning, which is exactly what Husband No. 2 predicted would happen without him at the helm as business manager. I’d lost advertisers and was losing money. At some point I was facing the reality of not being able to make payroll. So what did I do? Get a clue that the universe was telling me it was time to close shop and figure out a Plan B? No. Instead, I cashed in my 401-K  to inject an infusion of money into the business, despite the objections of my financial planner. She begged me not to do it, because not only would I lose my retirement money, but I’d pay a steep tax penalty because I was cashing in my 401-k early.

I ignored the financial planner’s advice. I imagined that surely, in a year I’d be back on my feet, and I’d be able to pay the taxes. I imagined that surely, the little hunk of money would somehow make everything right. I was wrong, of course.

Eventually, the money ran out. I had to lay off every staff member. I was gutted by the thought of letting people down. The most bizarre thing was that to a person, things turned out OK for them. Each moved on to do something else. No big deal.

The moral of the story: Yes, it’s nice to do things for others, and yes, it’s good to be loyal and committed to others. But it’s also imperative to watch for signs that we’ve stayed too long at the dance, and it’s time to move on. Be true to ourselves, and trust that everyone else will be true to themselves, too.


My father was married four times, so clearly, he was an expert on relationships. One of the few pieces of advice he ever offered – only after I’d been twice divorced (thanks, Dad), was this: “In the beginning of a relationship, men will always tell you who there are. Listen to them and believe them.”

Trust your gut

In the book “The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence,” author Gavin De Becker said he interviewed many people – mainly women – after they’d experienced some kind of violent assault. He said the majority of the victims reported feeling a negative sensation about the assailant prior to the assault, often contrary to the obvious observations, such as how the pleasant the person appeared, or even how he (and primarily, the assailants were male) behaved.

The author hypothesized that on a gut level our bodies can sometimes be smarter than our brains. He gave examples of women who’d answered doors to people who looked fine, but who had bad intentions, and the women had dogs inside the house, who inexplicably began growling at the person at the door, even though the dogs’ masters were smiling and seemed as pleasant as could be.

The author believed that the dogs weren’t growling because they could tell the men were bad people with bad intentions, but that the dogs were picking up on their masters’ repressed gut feelings.

The takeaway? If you feel that something’s off, then listen to your gut and act accordingly, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense; even if others ridicule you for your decisions. Better safe than you know what.

The Benefit of disengagement

A friend posted this on Facebook and it’s true. You don’t owe anyone an interaction. Think about all the inappropriate or angry or crazy things people have said or posted in an attempt to get a response, to draw you in to continue (or start) an argument. When someone says something in an attempt to provoke a response – you owe them nothing. When someone says something mean or derogatory to get you to strike back, they’re really talking about themselves. Control that conversation by ignoring it, or walking away, or saying you’ll respond when you’re ready. Not on their time. Of course, that will make them mad and they’ll double down, but by then you have the upper hand. Just because someone demands an immediate response doesn’t mean you have to give them one. — Submitted by Barbara Rice

A winner, either way

This is my favorite quote that has been my guide for many a year. I hope you will appreciate it like I do. It is a quote from, “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment” by Thaddeus Golas.

“Love yourself. And if you cannot love yourself, love yourself for not being able to love yourself.” — Submitted by Linda L Schreiber

Let go of control

My niece was single mindedly preparing the grounds of her home for her wedding when six of us (mom, godmother, aunt, sister in-law and besties) arrived unannounced to have a bachelorette weekend. She doesn’t like surprises and had a long list of wedding preparations to do. Needless to say she was not handling it well. She went on the adventure but was still not a happy camper. I mentioned that at work when things are not going the way I planned, I say to myself “Oh! This is what we are doing now!” We said it together a few times with a bit hysterical laughter. A month or so later during her wedding weekend when the inevitable curve balls arrived she would breeze by me saying “Oh! This is what we are doing now!” with genuine ease, a bright smile and delightful laugh.

I have used this bit of advice with myself ever since. It was a moment of clarity and inspiration when that bit of advice crossed my lips.

When the plan changes direction from what I think is “supposed” to be I say to myself, out loud in a cheerful voice and a big smile “Oh! This is what we are doing now!”

I love that if I have the inner courage to change my perspective, let go of controlling (I love being in control) things have a tendency to be fun and work out with a lot less effort. — Submitted by Colette O’Connor

Imagine, no more gossip

It’s kinda hard to do. This year, a young man (mid 30s) has been around my life and he is a gossip! I have had to actively build strategies to avoid being dragged down that nasty rabbit hole: “Let’s talk about something else.” “Well, I’m sure it will all be fine.” etc. Should be obvious to him, right? Not so much. I am actually so physically repulsed by his: ‘Did you hear?’ ‘Wouldn’t you think….?” “Don’t you think she should have….?” about various people, I told him directly that I would like him to stop and that it was not good role-modeling for his son. I don’t think he heard me. So I actively work on not responding and removing myself. I’m going to up the ante this year, make it a game, to save myself the aggravation! The advice? Well, it would be kinda fun if we all tried to break the gossip train.. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. — Submitted by Eleanor Townsend

Don’t wait

Use the good stuff. Eat off the good china. Burn the pretty candles. Drink the good champagne because it’s Tuesday. Wear the special perfume. Put the sweatpants in the wash and put on some nice clothes. All those lives lost this year? They had special things at home just waiting for the right occasion, and they never got to use them. Mail that greeting card you’ve had in your desk to someone who might need a piece of mail that isn’t a bill. If you bought someone a present and are waiting for their birthday to give it to them – don’t wait. —Submitted by Barbara Rice

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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