If You’re Bumming, Check This Out

The recipe for happiness and joy is as follows:

Compassion + Connection + Gratitude = Happiness

Happiness Bomb Recipe:

Write a thank you note to someone you love and appreciate (gratitude and compassion)

Read it out loud to them (connection)

You will both feel an immediate boost in happiness that could potentially last several days.

Love.

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I’m So Weird!

The Mad Hatter: Have I gone mad?

[Alice checks Hatter’s temperature]

Alice Kingsley: I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.

Last night I was talking with someone and the dumbest thing came out of my mouth. It is as if it did not stop to pass go or collect $200 dollars. It just came out and landed on the ground with a plop. At the moment it plopped on the ground my mind gremlins went into full force. The gremlins screamed “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” and “Retreat! Retreat!”

Retreat is exactly what I did. I exited the situation like a vaudeville villain which probably made me look even crazier. I returned back to the group of people I was sharing time with. All the while, the mind gremlins were in full force “I’m so dumb!” and “Why did I say that” and “I’m never going to live this down.” Outwardly, I smiled and carried on like there was not a war happening in my mind. I think I am actually quite good at this.

I’ve come to accept that this is my life. I’m weird. Like, super weird. I say the oddest things sometimes and it’s not until they leave my mouth and hit the air that I realize just how bizarre the words are. I once nicknamed someone kitty litter. This is the type of weirdo we’re talking about. I wonder sometimes if people keep me around just to see what falls out next. I suppose that must be both terrifying and entertaining for the people in my world. It’s really all about balance.

I also talk to myself quite a bit. When I walk my dogs, I’ll catch myself having a conversation, out loud, about something that’s happening in my life. I live in a well populated neighborhood so I can imagine that some people have their opinions. It’s not that I’m intending to have these conversations out loud, it just happens.

When I was first dating my partner, he called me weird and it hurt my feelings and I know he did not intend to be hurtful. Those words don’t bother me anymore. I know I’m weird and I have worked to fully embrace my eccentricities.  Naturally, the mind gremlins aren’t too fond of the weirdness. I mean, I’m human so sometimes it’s hurtful when people call me out on it but not too often.

What gives me the most peace about my weirdness is that I think most people spend a lot of time with their own mind gremlins and aren’t really thinking too much about what I’m saying or doing. They might make the mental observation that I said something weird and then slinked away while looking side to side, thus making them even more confused.

I know that I can’t escape who I am so I will raise my cup off coffee and cheers to the great and powerful Maria Bamford, Amy Sedaris, and Leslie Jones, for it is on their shoulders I stand and embrace my peculiar way of being in the world.

Even if you’re disgusting, and everyone is creeped out by you and thinks you’re gross, you know, keep doing what you love! “- Maria Bamford

Let Me Out Of The Cage!

“Any fool can make a rule
And any fool will mind it.”
Henry David Thoreau, Journal #14

I started a new job and it has left me gloriously exhausted. Part of the new position is developing and teaching courses in mindful meditation. Mindfulness meditation has changed my life in beautiful ways and I hope I am a worthy teacher on the topic.

That being said, I am diving deep into the literature as I prepare these courses. I wrote in a previous post about a story I read in my preparation and I want to share another story. In Tara Brach’s meditation talks she tells a story about a tiger.

Once upon a time, a tiger lived in a cage. He lived in this cage for most of his life. As he aged, he was sent to live in a large nature preserve with acres and acres of world for this tiger to explore. However, the tiger found a small space in the preserve that resembled the cage and spent the rest of his days there. He never explored the world that was now open to him.

I think this story represents how so many of us live by rules and limitations that are no longer applicable or healthy for our lives. We fear leaving a cage that no longer exists. Many of us rest in our safe corner of the world without believing that we have permission and even expectation to explore our world. I think this relates to opening ourselves up to new experiences, new relationships, new jobs, and new adventures. I can appreciate that new is terrifying but I feel like living in a cage my entire life is far more terrifying.

I think some of the bars of our cages are made up of our life experiences. Sometimes well meaning parents wanting us to be safe put expectations on our lives that don’t match what our soul desires. I think some teachers may imply that you struggle in a subject and we take that to mean we aren’t smart. Maybe the art we create didn’t turn out the way the instructor imagined and we took that to mean we couldn’t sing/dance/draw/write. The problem with these bars is that the opinions of others do not have to control our lives. For many of us, long after the person with the opinion is gone, we still live by their rules and opinions.

I try to explore the ways I live in a cage in my own life. When I feel like “who do I think I am to do/say/feel something” I realize that this is probably my cage talking. But, I want a cage free life. I want to explore the preserve.  And, I hope you’ll join me.

Love.

“There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”
Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person

The Disease To People Please.

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”
Ming-Dao Deng, Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony

I was spending time with people I love this weekend and I made a comment about something someone (outside of this group) said that hurt my feelings. One of my friends said, I thought you don’t care what people think about you anymore. I responded with of course I do, I’m a human with feelings.

I don’t think it’s an option not to care about what people think about me but I do believe I have a choice as to what to do with that information. At this point in my life when someone says or does something that hurts my feelings I know that I have choices as to how to respond. For example, I can tell them they hurt me, I can set healthier boundaries, or I can just notice that it hurts. What I am not willing to do is compromise my values in order to please another person.

The disease to people please would make me miserable for a lot of reasons. The most important one being that I would be being dishonest with myself about who and what matters to me. Each of us are built uniquely and that should be honored and respected. The next most important reason it’s important to be honest about who and what matters to me is that I want to be surrounded by people that share my values. If I lie about what matters to me, I run the risk of being surrounded my people who do not share my values and I would feel bad about myself all the time.

One of the top regrets of the dying is wishing that they had lived a life true to themselves. The great thing about this kind of life is that if you are true about who you are, you will be a magnet for others like you. These last few weeks have been a testament to that in my own life. If you spend your life people pleasing and saying or doing things that are not consistent with who you are and what matters to you, you will find that the people in your world make you feel bad about yourself and you may not even know why you feel bad about yourself all the time. I believe that at the core of our being we know who we are and what’s important. When that is not honored or respected it leads to a lot of problems both physically and psychologically.

It take courage to stand in your truth (as Brene Brown always says) but for me there is no other way to do this life. I am not going to shrink or lie about myself to make you like me. I refuse to treat myself with such disrespect. There will be some people who just don’t like me or agree with me and sometimes that hurts and that is okay.

In conclusion, this does not mean that if we disagree we get to treat each other poorly. I think it is all about being selective about who you share time with. I know that there are a lot of situations where we don’t get to choose who we spend time with. In these cases, I will not try to convince another person to agree with me or like me. This is futile and a secret way to try and people please (I need you to agree with me so you like me). I can rest comfortably in the truth of who I am and what I believe about my experience in this world.

Go forth and find your tribe, you will know they are your tribe because you can be all of who you are with them.

Love.

“If nothing else in this long and short life, let me be true to my conscience, to the dignity of my own heart. Let me act in a way that says, I have honored my spirit as truly as I have honored others’. Let me stand tall and rooted as a mountain in the face of a quaking world.”
Jennifer DeLucy

I’m Begging For My Misery.

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I saw a meme recently that praised Eeyore’s friends (Winnie the Pooh and them) for standing by him and letting him be depressed. I felt differently. Emotional states are contagious and I am quite particular about who I share time with. This is not to say that I think people should be happy all the time because that is impossible. I know the people I love will struggle and have hard times. I know that I will (and have) struggled and had hard times. Life is hard and we’re allowed to have bad moments, bad days, and a bad few years. But, why would you want a bad life?

One of the greatest regrets of the dying is: I wish I had allowed myself to be happy.

Happiness is a choice. It’s a choice to focus your attention on the good things in life. It’s a choice to be kind and compassionate. It’s a choice to be particular about who you share time with. It’s a choice to make a change.

Each day you are presented with thousands of choices. Do you pause to notice the beauty in your child’s smile? Do you pause to appreciate a blue sky? Do you pause to tell your partner, friend, family that you love and appreciate them? Do you let someone go ahead of you in traffic? Do you hold a door? Do you smile? Do you call a friend just to say hey how are you?

Do you know that this could all end in the next moment? 

Life will always be hard and present challenges. There is never a time in the future where all of your problems will cease and life will be easy and happy. I’ve worked with clients in their seventies and eighties and they told me that this was one of the great epiphanies of growing older: They learned to be happy despite their challenges. And, they were happier because they survived challenges. They learned not to take one moment of this precious life for granted. All you can ever do is get up and do the best you can and do the same thing tomorrow. That’s it.

Frankly, Eeyore needed to take responsibility for his depression, get on some medication (because depression is a real and serious medical condition that cannot be toughed out!), and see a therapist. I’m concerned that his friends were enabling him.

It was no one’s fault, darling, but it’s still all on you. – Cheryl Strayed

Dear 15 Year Old Sissy.

Dear 15 Year Old Sissy,

I see that you are busy on your teen line talking to your friends. Perhaps, someone called the operator to bust into your conversation and see what is taking you so long to end your conversation. Sometimes you turn the ringer off so you can read some Maya Angelou or American History. Sometimes you turn it off so you can take naps. I suggest you keep the naps up because sleep will never come this easy again.

I am not going to tell you the things that are coming for you. I can’t bring myself to shatter your adolescent comfort of pizza, popcorn, boyfriends, sleep-overs, and friends. I will tell you that friendships you make now and over the course of your life will sustain you so I’m glad you made your relationships such a priority. Your friends will be your family.

I wish I could tell you to go downstairs and look at your parents as they are right now. I know they’ve made a lot of mistakes and you resent them. But, please just put the phone down and walk down the stairs. Maybe your dad is embarrassing you dancing like Carlton from The Fresh Prince and your mom is cleaning (again). I don’t want to regret taking those moments for granted anymore: so go watch them be parents. It will be nearly impossible to remember what that was like in 20 years.

If I could whisper something in your ear, it would be “It’s going to be okay even when you have no reason to believe this to be true.” I’m not going to tell you what is coming for you because it would terrify you. And, you have no need to be scared right now. Right now, you are too busy borrowing CDs from Tiffany or watching Menace 2 Society with Trina. Maybe you’re calling Billy or Nate and asking them to pick you and take you on an adventure.

I’m not going to tell you that everything is going to fall apart and you’re going to feel like you are drowning for years. I’m not going to tell you that you will lose everything you thought was yours to have. You will realize that nothing is yours to have and everything is borrowed. This makes things and moments so much more precious to you.

I am going to tell you that in ten years, you will walk down the hall and see a handsome man sitting at a computer and you want to talk to him. Doing this is the best decision of your life. Talk to him, ask him out. It is scary and out of character for you but it changes everything. You will find that you’ve been crossing paths for most of your lives and never knew it until now. You will believe in serendipity because of this.

I am going to tell you that it’s okay to cry for days on the bathroom floor and it’s okay to take medication to make the bad a little less bad. I am not going to tell you to be brave because you don’t give yourself any other choice. There will be times where you believe that you will never feel good again.  I mean, the kind of good where you feel a deep sense of contentment. But, one day on a warm afternoon you will be walking your dogs and contentment will pour over you. It will take your breath away. I will tell you that when you arrive at that moment the beauty of your life will overwhelm you.

I’ll see you when you get here.

Love.

 

 

 

Well That Must Be Nice!

“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

(Side note: I am super into Marianne Williamson right now.)

Few words frustrate me more than the phrase, “Must be nice!”  When I share something I am excited about or an adventure I am planning, and someone responds with, “Must be nice!” It really hurts my feelings.

Why does this hurt me? 

One, happiness is a choice. A choice I try to make every single day. Happiness entails concentrated efforts to identify that which makes you grateful. It is a way of life. Two, I have been through plenty of times in my life that were not easy, great, or even manageable. Three, I worked my tail off (and still do) to live a life I love. Put simply, if you think “must be nice” fits my life: you do not know me at all.

But beyond my hard work and effort, a person should not have to share with you their struggles (or lack of struggle) for you to be happy for them and with them. We cannot assume that we understand what a person went through to reach where they are now. It is true that some people have it easier and better than others. However, resenting how good someone else has it will only make you miserable. If you want to have a “must be nice” kind of life than please spend your time making that life as opposed to resenting others.

Finally, I know that I will still face struggle and hardship. And, there are struggles I am facing right now. I know that life is not fair and the bottom can drop out again. I recognize how fortunate I am to have the things I have. Countless people work harder than I work and have a lot less. Because I know these things to be true, I will delight in the good when it presents itself. I will use any excuse to be happy. I would love to share these moments with you. I love when the people I care about do the things that they love. Goodness, the world needs a lot more happy people doing what they love and a lot less resentful people trudging angrily through the daily grind. I will not dull my sparkle and I beg you to let your own light shine. Life is not a competition and when you let go of that thinking it feels a lot better.

Spoiler alert: We all die in the end.

“Every time a friend publishes a blog post. Every time an acquaintance’s story gets viral. Every time a colleague gets a better job. Every time a childhood friend posts about his travels to the end of the world. Every time.

Every single time, I need to remind myself: Their success is not your failure. Just because they are succeeding, that doesn’t mean you are failing. Just because they climb higher steps, that doesn’t mean you are walking two steps behind.”  – Marcella Purnama

Love.

 

What Are You So Mad About?

“Anger, resentment and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others– it only changes yours.”
Shannon L. Alder, 300 Questions to Ask Your Parents Before It’s Too Late

(note: writing/researching this post put me in a negative funk. that is the power of anger.)

Research suggests that we are more compassionate with others than we are with ourselves (Dr. Kristin Neff says so). If that’s the case, then we have a serious problem. If you look at any article online you will see that people are primed and ready to fight. We struggle to give anyone the benefit of the doubt or to extend compassion to the people we love the most.

For example, I picked an article on dropping pizza prices to review comments. A topic I thought we could all agree is a great thing, right? Nope. Here are some of the comments I found associated with the article:

Since neither of those qualify as “Pizza” anywhere where real food is available, they should change this headline.

I noted that you have to buy an overpriced side to get one deal.  You have to pay a couple bucks for a drink that costs them a few pennies to get the deal.  Or rather the rip off.

Bet on this…as the price goes down, so does the quality.  And whatever happened to one of the essential pizza ingredients, anchovies. Can’t find a pizza with anchovies anywhere.

If we can’t get behind deals on pizza, is there any hope for us? Seriously, we are so combative and defensive that we pick fights about anything and everything. I made the mistake of reading comments on a political article posted on social media. Apparently the gloves are off online. People cuss each other out, call each other names, make vile comments about groups of people. To what end?

You have to walk around in that skin holding onto those awful and angry thoughts. Those thoughts and feelings will rot you from the inside out. I’ve seen it happen. People come to me wondering why they are so lonely and sad. Then, I hear them call their partner an idiot. They say their son is a worthless piece of garbage. And, the world is going to hell (in a handbag).

Are you really asking me why you’re miserable? Because it sounds like you just answered your own question. 

I think the outrage around things like pizza prices stems from peoples’ unhappiness with their own lives. I think that a lot of people are unhappy at home with their family and they extend that anger and resentment to larger systems. There is a negative energy created when sitting around talking about “idiot republicans” or “idiot democrats.” For a moment, one may feel superior, like they somehow figured it all out. Of course, it is short lived because no one has any of this figured out.

We think it’s acceptable to call our partners “the old ball and chain” or “the nag” or “the worthless idiot.” I suppose if you have no problem calling the people you love names why would you have a problem calling someone online an asshole.

Naturally, I’d be lying if I said I did not participate in angry talk. But, I know it is ultimately a reflection of my own well-being as opposed to a constructive means to an end. The moment I express anger the other person gets defensive and stops listening. This turns the conversation into an argument and leads nowhere.

There is definitely a time and place for anger. If you are witness to the abuse of people or animals, this should make you angry. But, that anger needs to be channeled into action or it turns to rage. The lovely Una Henry once helped me understand the difference between anger and rage. She said anger is how anyone would react in the face of injustice and rage is what happens when the injustice continues without end. For many oppressed groups, the rage is justified. But, rage is like anger in that it will destroy you.

I suppose I’m asking you to consider what you are honestly so mad about. Is it the quality of pizza? Is it traffic? Is it the weather? Is politics? Or, is it that your life is not where you want it to be and it is easier to rage against pizza and politics than to examine your misery and do something about it?  Is it a helplessness? If so, maybe reach out for support or try to do something to right the injustices. Or, risk letting hate, anger, and rage ravage you and your life. It’s your choice.

“When we get angry, we suffer. If you really understand that, you also will be able to understand that when the other person is angry, it means that she is suffering. When someone insults you or behaves violently towards you, you have to be intelligent enough to see that the person suffers from his own violence and anger. But we tend to forget. We think that we are the only one that suffers, and the other person is our oppressor. This is enough to make anger arise, and to strengthen our desire to punish. We want to punish the other person because we suffer. Then, we have anger in us; we have violence in us, just as they do. When we see that our suffering and anger are no different from their suffering and anger, we will behave more compassionately. So understanding the other is understanding yourself, and understanding yourself is understanding the other person. Everything must begin with you.”
Thích Nhất Hạnh

Love.

You Deserve That Awesome Love.

“If it’s magic
Then why can’t it be everlasting
Like the sun that always shines
Like the poets in this rhyme
Like the galaxies in time
If it’s pleasing
Then why can’t it be never leaving
Like the day that never fails
Like on seashores there are shells
Like the time that always tells
It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst…”

I recently manifested a person into being. I wished, begged, and prayed for one of my favorite people to find awesome love and awesome love presented herself. I know that the idea of manifesting a person into being sounds super crazy, and of course, I know that I did not create a person with my thoughts (but I can’t help but think that it is a little true). There is nothing more important to me than the people I love having love. I want awesome love for my lovelies because I believe that love is everything. Unconditional love is transformative and healing beyond what any of us can comprehend. Love is the magic of the universe. 

What is this post about? It’s about believing you deserve that awesome kind of love. It’s about believing you deserve it. So when it presents itself, you believe it is there for you. This is what happened to one of my favorite people in the world. He struggled for a lifetime to believe he deserved that awesome kind of love. This meant that awesome love passed him by again and again.

Instead, other types of mangled and distorted connections were offered. We attract connections that reflect our own health and well-being. If I believe I’m mangled and distorted, I will attract mangled and distorted. If I believe I am awesome love, awesome love will find its way to me. 

After years of hard work, the awesome love appeared. Even then, the awesome love scared the stuffing out of my person and he pushed it away. However, this time, he realized what he was doing and pulled it back in. He wanted the good love. He was ready for that awesome love. 

“So
If it’s special
Then with it why aren’t we as careful
As making sure we dress in style
Posing pictures with a smile
Keeping danger from a child
It holds the key to every heart
Throughout the universe
It fills you up without a bite
And quenches every thirst…”

That awesome love is not reserved for perfect people (because they don’t exist). It is reserved for people who believe that awesome love is real. It is reserved for people who are willing and ready to be that awesome kind of love for someone else. It is the kind of love that, when you see it between two people you just know it’s real.

It’s not about soul mates (although I have theories about this). It’s about vulnerability. It’s about letting yourself be open. It’s about listening and compassion. This post isn’t about research or theories, love is bigger than that. I know awesome love is real for no other reason than I can feel it in my guts. In my life, that is more than enough evidence.

Anyway, I wanted awesome love for my person more than anything. I wished, prayed, and hoped this for him. I don’t know if those things are real (just kidding, I am certain they are real). Who knows if the awesome love will go the distance. It’s here now and, that my lovelies is magic. 

“So
If it’s magic
Why can’t we make it everlasting
Like the lifetime of the sun
It will leave no heart undone
For there’s enough for everyone”

– Stevie Wonder, If It’s Magic

Love.

The Gift Of Trauma.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
Mary Oliver

We often hear of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but we seldom hear of Post Traumatic Growth. What is post traumatic growth? Well, let me share the researchers’ definition:

Posttraumatic growth tends to occur in five general areas. Sometimes people who must face major life crises develop a sense that new opportunities have emerged from the struggle, opening up possibilities that were not present before. A second area is a change in relationships with others. Some people experience closer relationships with some specific people, and they can also experience an increased sense of connection to others who suffer. A third area of possible change is an increased sense of one’s own strength – “if I lived through that, I can face anything”. A fourth aspect of posttraumatic growth experienced by some people is a greater appreciation for life in general. The fifth area involves the spiritual or religious domain. Some individuals experience a deepening of their spiritual lives,however, this deepening can also involve a significant change in one’s belief system. – Post Traumatic Growth Research Center

What does this mean? It means that surviving trauma or great suffering may allow you to experience a deeper and richer appreciation for life. I suppose this makes sense, one cannot have the sweet without the sour. If you allow for it, for all the sour you’ve experienced in your life, you are allowed the potential for just as much (if not more) sweet.

For example, if you grew up poor, having resources and a safe home are not something you take for granted. If you grew up in an abusive home, living peacefully feels like heaven. If you survived an illness, you appreciate every breath you take and every morning you wake. You are able to truly enjoy the simple things that so many people take for granted.

If you allow yourself to moon over the little things (sunshine, puppies, laughter, friends, glass of wine, a peaceful day, a warm bath, time with loved ones) that make up the ever so important details of our lives, you will continuously feel overwhelmed with gratitude. If you pause to reflect on the amount of courage and resolve you demonstrated when you were faced with adversity, you will know that you are made stronger and adversity is genuinely a gift.

I don’t necessarily agree with people who claim to blessed or lucky for never having to struggle. The expression, “But for the grace of God” never made much sense to me. Often , these people are fearful because they haven’t been forced to survive the unsurvivable. They don’t know that they will be okay no matter what (and they will be). I would never wish a traumatic event on anyone but, if you survive, a certain kind of courage and resilience is born.

I believe resilience and courage can develop without trauma. I think that when a person steps out and is willing to live a life they love and risk upsetting some people in doing so, a certain kind of courage is cultivated. Don’t wait for trauma to have post-traumatic growth. Go out and be brave now. 

Life is a curious journey because I would have never chosen a path with so many winding turns and potholes. If given a choice, I would not have chosen to experience the pain and loss that my life has provided. But, I was not given a choice. I was given a choice as to what to do once the pain was in my lap. I can say from experience, traumatic events have the capacity to enhance your life in ways I never dreamed.

The darkness was indeed a gift. The wrapping paper sucked and I don’t know why some things happened the way they did (and will never know) but I’m here now, sipping coffee, looking out the window, filled with gratitude.

“Despite the real struggle associated with trauma recovery, there is often a simultaneous increase in a person’s capacity to enjoy the mundane. A blue sky, a delicate fragrance, a small act of compassion, the subtleties of nature, and the innocence of children and animals are often noted as having significance. Perhaps the sweetness of normalcy is illuminated when confronted with certain kinds of darkness.” The Unexpected Gifts of Trauma