Posts tagged: positive thinking

The Case For Joy

There Is No Joy Without Gratitude - Joy Quotes

What Happened to Joy?

I take my dog places and she is such a bundle of happiness and excitement that many people comment on how much she loves life. She bounces up and down, licks hands, and is basically ready to play at any moment. People are genuinely entranced by her sense of joy. I’ve noticed that each person who sees her, also seems almost wistful when they look at her, or they may even say something like…” I wish I was that happy” or “It must be great to be that happy.”Whatever happened to our sense of  ‘joy?’ By definition joy is:

jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture

When was the last time you felt exhilarated? exuberant? blissful? What do you think happens to our sense of feeling joyful?

Too Busy to Be Joyful?

I have no illusions that the ‘good old days’, were all that good or joyful. Just because things were simpler, does not mean that they were more joyful. However, we have worked hard to create more ‘leisure’ time and one would hope that in that time, we’d find our way back to a little elation or glee.

I wonder if it has to do with focus? If we focus on being like my dog, present in the moment… expecting good but simple things, the sunshine or the rain, the ability to smile at one another, getting or giving a hug. What if we just stopped a few times a day and looked for something to feel joyful about?

Just for Today

Follow your bliss, get out of the hallway, look for the good, appreciate the moment. Let me know how it goes.

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Image Credit: Joy Quotes

Follow your bliss

A Walk Before Breakfast

We had a rare rain the other day in So. Cal. Yoshi and I were walking through the park and he went into this puddle. I snapped the pic quickly.

Comfort

Everyday, I test to see how comfortable I am. Seems kind of odd right? I’m human, of course I am looking for comfort. But being fully human means going beyond your own comfort, to do things we may not want to do… for all kinds of reasons. Some of us wait until we are pushed into the discomfort zone, for example, we get an illness that requires us change our diet or medications. We don’t like it, but we do it because we have to.

Discomfort

What if we decided that, everyday, we are going to do something we are not comfortable with, just for practice. I don’t mean at work. That doesn’t count. Each of us are expected to be outside our comfort zone at work.  (It’s often the reason we get paid.) I mean doing the exact thing you hate. Like taking a walk before breakfast. Listen, I love breakfast, it’s my favorite meal and I look forward to it everyday. So the idea of going for a walk, before I do what I want? Sounds stupid. Yet, I do it every day. Here’s why. I knew that I needed to build exercise into my life. Not the, oh I’m going to the gym for 4 months, then I stop, exercise. The kind that I would do day in and day out. So I got a dog that needs to walk, every. day. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of my mood. There are many days when I don’t feel like going out. Too bad. We gotta go. And the last thing I want to do is go for a walk, before my favorite meal of the day. Right?

Change

Getting a dog is a pretty drastic way to get “uncomfortable.”  So what can you do to be, a little less comfortable, every day.

  1. Read something challenging – either to your beliefs or your intellect. This will take work because most of us have a set of sources we read. Certain news sources, authors, etc. We talk to people who agree with us. Find one source of discomfort and spend 5 minutes a day.
  2. Don’t complain – Complaining seems to be a regular way of life. There’s a difference between relaying information and complaining. You know the difference, especially when you are on the receiving end of listening to someone else. One is stating the facts, the other is laced with “poor me” and how could this happen to me? Catch yourself before you complain. Just. don’t. do. it.
  3. Do something for someone else that they don’t expect – This will also take work. It will require you to think about someone else long enough to imagine what they would like. I don’t mean making your kid’s lunch or your spouse’s dinner. I mean something unexpected. Something that actually takes effort on your part.

Like all habits, they take energy and focus to cultivate. But when I’ve managed to make it part of my mindset, it’s like… walking before breakfast.

Photo Credit: Reflection of Wee Westie

The Case for “Abby Normal”

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Who is Abby Normal?

In one of my favorite movies, Young Frankenstein, the lab assistant (Igor), has to steal a brain from another lab (for Frankenstein’s monster). Igor makes a mistake and takes a jar marked.. ‘abnormal’ brain. When confronted, Igor says that the name on the jar was, Abby Normal. Watch the clip

Normal is Overrated

I have a split personality. Part of me wants to be abby normal. I have always said I am, “too weird for the normal people and to normal for the weird people.” I meant this as partly reality, partly to justify why I am happy and proud to not care what people think. The other part of me is desperate to be normal. Growing up with limited parenting, I often had to guess at what was ‘normal’. The truth is, I still have to guess, more often that I would like to admit.

The amount of energy I have spent to appear ‘normal’ is well, crazy. Had a listened to Maya Angelou (quote above), I would have stopped trying to be what other people think is “normal”. I would have embraced my inner weirdo and been proud. Instead, I spent years looking to ‘fit in’ or be someone that people think is okay. Why? Right now, I’m not sure I know. There is human/biological need to belong. Could that be part of it? But really, reflecting on this, I don’t understand … why did I feel this was necessary?

Breaking the “Normal” Mold

It’s good to be normal, AND there’s nothing wrong with being weird. If you’re like me and feel a little too weird for the normal people, then I ask you to love yourself. We are big tribe!

Image credit: Zero Dean

Destination = A New Way of Seeing

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller

Where Am I Going?

Many people see life as a series of destinations. Go to school, get married, have kids… like items on a checklist, we move on to the next destination without thinking much about the alternatives. In fact, you might be thinking, there are alternatives? What are they?

  • Don’t Go To “School” – I’m not recommending that people NOT go to school. What I’m suggesting is that we think about choices. If someone decides not to get a ‘formal’ education… do we think ‘less’ of them? Do we wonder about their intelligence? their ambition? Probably, because we are programmed to check off the items on the list. I have the good fortune to have relatives and friends who have formal educations and others that, for all kinds of reasons, chose not to. Both of these ‘categories’ of people in my life are the same. They love me, they teach me, they see me, they inspire me. Level of education doesn’t factor into it.
  • Don’t Get Married – This idea, fortunately, has changed since I was young. In my early years, an unmarried 40 year old woman (not a man) was see as an ‘old maid’, unlovable, broken, unattractive. Our culture is geared towards couples. If you are single woman… after a certain age, you are considered strange. In 1900, if you were 22 and unmarried you were lost forever, a spinster. (note that there is no male equivalent for this word.) In 2017, being a single woman is more acceptable, but we are still viewed less favorably than women in relationships.

Life as a Series of Lens Changes

Another way to look at life, is to think of it as a series of ‘lens’ changes – the way we see the world. The goal then becomes, seeing myself, other people, poverty, politics, my home town, my job, my friends… everything… in a new way. Imagine if you set the goal to re-evaluate your world view and all it’s component parts every 5 years. Not, did I hit the societal norm milestone, but did I grow? Did I change? Do I understand my responsibility to the world in a new way? Have I worked to make the world a better place in my own way?

Some of us have this way of looking at the world pushed on us by circumstances. Some of us; the artists, the change makers, the thinkers, the poets, the philosophers… accept that this is how we’ll live. Some of us are afraid to not be ‘normal.’ Afraid that we will be alone and lost.

Not everyone can be an artist. But everyone can shift their perception just a bit. Practice it. Make it a priority. Look for role models. Let me know how it goes.

Photo credit: Never a Place

Small Things, Great Things

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All Things, Great and Small

When we are young, we are told that the decisions we make on things like, getting good grades or which college we go to, are the biggest decisions of our lives. The pressure to make the “right decision” is tremendous. Certainly in light of the cost of college and the associated debt, there is merit to this. But the truth is, the really important decisions are, small and occur daily.

Did I eat healthy food and rest enough? Did I talk to someone I love today? Did I get a hug? Did I remember to be grateful for my senses? My ability to walk and talk? For the beauty of the world around me? These may seem like ‘small’ things. But fortunately for many of us – they are huge, free and easily accessible. Yet, we take them for granted. We don’t see that these ‘small’ things are, in fact, ‘big’ and ‘great’.

Do I Hold On to Pain?

Some sadness and difficulty is part of every person’s life. How we take that burden and then grow (wallow) or shrink from it, is what separates those living fully, from those who are stuck. Modern living encourages quick solutions, instant information and self-gratification. If we can figure out how to harness the power of discomfort and/or learn to let go gracefully, then we can learn how the small things; a tweak to my attitude, a short conversation with someone I love, admitting I’m wrong, reaching out to someone else instead of thinking of myself, are the most important decisions we will make today.

Be Bold And Great Forces Will Come to Your Aid

I wrote a post in 2012 with this title. I remember the first time I heard it. It blew me away. Being bold seems like something someone else does… they take chances, they seem to get over failure easier than I do. They seem to be able to fight the ‘good fight’ and be a role model. I am here to tell you that you can too. You just need to find your way. Don’t do it because someone else is… do it because you believe it’s right.  Don’t compare yourself to others. It’s counterproductive. Be happy in failure, humble in success, joyful in our shared humanity.

Image credit: Life Hacks

Belonging

Rick Medina, right, a Yaqui Apache whose tribe is centered in Arizona, and his son, Miles Medina. They were among the participants at a Colorado Springs Native American Inter Tribal Powwow and festival in that central Colorado city

Where Do I Belong?

Belonging… as humans, we have an innate desire to belong, to be a part of something. And yet many of us don’t like to be part of a group. For whatever reason: the need for independence, the fear of rejection.. we find it difficult to assimilate.

There are origin stories… stories of our family, our town, our country, our history, etc. that remind us that we are part of something larger than ourselves, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Some of those stories are happy and make us proud. Some are shocking, sad and even brutal. Each of us probably has a little of each in our background.

How Do We Belong?

If you stop for a minute and think about the idea of where (and to whom) you belong, you may think of it in a few different ways. Family may the first thing you think of. But if you have a family story like mine, the story may be filled with sadness, so I need to find another way to feel like I belong.

Religion may be another way that we can feel that belong. We identify ourselves as a Christian or a Jew, a Muslim or a Sikh. Even being an atheist is a way to belong to a group that sees the world through the same lens.

Race is an important way that we find identity. Whether we are aware of it or not, it shapes our daily life.

Location can be one of the least understood and respected form of belonging. There are national and local identities. In many places in the world, the village where a person is born defines a great deal about their sense of belonging. Here in the US, with our ability to (relatively) easily relocate, we take for granted the ability to be American and keep that identity regardless of where, in the country, we live. Think about your “place/location.” I moved over 20 times before I was 22.

We Belong to Each Other

It’s important to understand how we define ourselves so that we can clearly see ourselves in relation to others. Regardless of our beliefs, country, skin color… we are all one, human. We love our children, we want to work and have meaning in our lives. Think about the things that make you feel a part of something and understand how that either joins or separates you from others. Let’s talk about this more in the future.

 

Image credit: Rick Medina, Yaqui Apache & son  Carol Highsmith (via the Library of Congress)

The Case for Doing Nothing

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Plans for the Weekend?

When someone asks me what my plans are for the weekend, I often answer.. nothing. In fact, my goal is to have nothing to do. My other answer is… “my goal is to do less, and then do less than that.”

The Cult of Productivity

If this doesn’t make sense to you, I understand. We live in a world where doing is more important that being.

“Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” Brain Pickings Newsletter

The Case for Stillness

Are you a human being or a human “doing?” Learning to just be took practice for me.

We each have so many gifts; a unique way of looking at the world. We need that. We need you to be you. If all we do is, well… do…then we don’t take the time to know ourselves. To hear our own voice. To cultivate our own thoughts, to pay attention to our feelings, to remember what is important.

For today, can you stop doing so much? Can you sit in a chair and look out the window? Can you take a 5 minute walk? Can you step outside and look at the trees and the birds? Try it and let me know how it goes.

Image Credit: To Do List

Irritation: A First World Problem

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“Irritation is a privilege. It’s the least useful emotion and… it’s a choice.” Seth Godin

Heebie Geebies

I  have been irritable lately. I noticed that I was being short with people, interrupting them, feeling jumpy… but I didn’t know why. I read this excellent blog post from Seth Godin “On Being Irritated,” and I made a decision to immediately take action to get off the crabby bus.

Honestly, I did know why I was feeling irritable … but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was obsessively thinking about things. I was not taking good care of myself. I was taking on too much. This is a familiar pattern for me and I thought I had defeated this demon. Wrong! Bad habits and negative thoughts/behaviors can sneak up on me.

Don’t Try Harder, Try Different

For me, when I’m irritable… it may be because I’m hungry, angry, lonely or tired. So I look first at these 4 things  to see how I can fix them. Then it may be that I am expecting something from someone and they are not coming through. Now my job is to make sure that I have made it clear what I expect, need, or want. The other person is free to say no, ignore me, or suggest something else. My job is make sure that I have been clear, with myself and them. Then I can deal with the situation from a position of clarity. I may be upset but at least I know what I need.

Caution: Feeling Irritable May Be Habit-Forming

There is huge difference between irritable and depressed/lost/hopeless. Irritation is minor, these other feelings are not. Look beneath your ‘irritableness.’ If you are feeling lost or hopeless or if there are people in your life telling you that ‘something is wrong’… then most likely ‘something is wrong.’ Pay close(r) attention. If you’re just crabby, because you’re crabby, then please take good care of yourself. The world needs you at your best.

Image credit: Image

Skeptic or Cynic?

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We are “in dire need of stewardship and protection from cynicism. The best defense against it is vigorous, intelligent, sincere hope, bolstered by critical thinking that is clear-headed.” Maria Popova

With our presidential election weeks away, I hear people talk about how they hate the two party candidates… that they are not going to vote, that the country is a mess, that they don’t see how this election could possibly turn out okay.

I understand. This will be my 12th national election. Most years, I didn’t like my choices either.

It’s much easier to be cynical than to commit to a personal effort to change things. Does the cynic serve a purpose? I don’t believe that the cynic does much to improve things. He or she may feel righteous, but nothing really gets better. Skepticism, on the other hand, can help us be discerning. So skepticism is useful, cynicism isn’t.

But what I see going on these days is beyond skeptical… it is surrender, a complete abdication of responsibility to think through what is good for our nation and neighbors. And this, I do not understand. If you are young and cynical to the point of inaction, then I feel sorry for you. If you are old, then I am ashamed of you. It is our responsibility to help the young understand that life is full of ups and downs. The downs don’t push us to whine and moan. They push us to look at ourselves and to figure out how to contribute to the common good.

“In its passivity and resignation, cynicism is a hardening, hope is a stretching of its ligaments, a limber reach for something greater.”

If you haven’t read  Maria Popova‘s 2016 commencement address, I hope you’ll take a minute. Her message is inspiring.

Walk Through The Fire

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“There are times when those eyes inside your brain stare back at you.”
Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much time in my head. I think about what other people are doing, why they’re doing it. I let their moods, problems, ideas effect me … more than they should. I rationalize that people are the most important thing on the planet so thinking about them is good! I think about the way:

  • they feel
  • they’re treated
  • what happens to them
  • whether they have food, friends, a home
  • how they feel in relation to other people

I was born a white, middle class girl. I know something of what it’s like to be a ‘minority’ because I’m a female and I’ve been put down, ignored, belittled, and shunned… in my personal and professional life.  I have a taste, the tiniest taste of what many people experience on a daily basis, just because they were born.

I’ve had a little taste of the ‘fire’, the pain and sadness. I hope I have walked through with some grace. At this point in my life, I want to see what I can do to help those whose fire is fixable or improved by education, political action, attitude adjustments, and perhaps a bit of magic, love and prayer.

I watched television host Trevor Noah talk about his upbringing and his book, Born A Crime.  Here’s where the title comes from:

“I was born a crime,” Noah said. “I was born to a black South African mother and a white Swiss father during Apartheid in South Africa, so them doing ‘the thing’ was illegal.” Apartheid , the despicable practice of white separatist rule in South Africa, only ended in 1990. Yes, 1990! The fact that Noah was born in 1984 to a black mother and a white father was literally a crime. How’s that for a fire to walk through?

When Noah is asked what he thinks about Americans complaining about our rights being taken away. His answer, “I never judge somebody for thinking their world is tough, because it is tough, to you.” Trevor Noah has walked through the fire and come out a man showing us how to live with the scars… with grace and humor. I tip my hat.