Posts tagged: strengths

You’ll Understand (When You’re Older)

i wish it was summer already :\

 It Doesn’t Make Sense To You Now

Remember when people said this to you? “I can’t explain it to you, you’ll understand when you’re older.” That answer is infuriating, isn’t it? In some ways it’s true and in other ways, it’s bullsh*t. I am acutely aware of how we “older people” talk to younger people. I don’t mean little kids necessarily, but even with them, we don’t give them a ‘straight’ answer. We say, “Eat because children in Africa are hungry.” We don’t say, ” There are children who live 2 miles from us that are hungry.” We don’t drive them over to this neighborhood and show them how to help others. Look, this isn’t a lecture. Each of us has to raise our children the way we see fit.

They Know the Truth

What I’m pointing out is that I’d like each of us to consider how we talk to our children and not just those that live in our houses, but all young people. They know the truth. Much more than we want to admit. Kids are very sophisticated these days. We can argue about whether this is good or bad but there’s no turning back. They have a computer in a phone, they have way too much stimulation and are aware of what is good and bad in the world beyond where they probably should. Denying that there are problems doesn’t serve them. Acting as if they have no power is useless. It takes courage to be a good parent, good citizen, good role model. And it takes hard work. With so many things in the world to worry about, how do we tell them the truth without causing them undue worry and harm?

I’m Older and I Still Don’t Understand

Even though my next birthday will be a ‘speed limit’ (65), I am dumbfounded at how much I don’t understand the world. My goal is to take action, to do what I can to change what I can and I pray to know the difference between what I need to accept and what I can do something about.

Image Credit: Sophie in Red Hat  Mike DelGaudio 

With Walls of Purest White  Erin MC Hammer

The Case for Kindness

“Practice kindness all day, to everybody, and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” Jack Kerouac

Why Kindness? Why Everyday?

I recently was surprised with a service award for volunteer work. I was mortified that they were recognizing me at their annual luncheon and I was caught off guard. (If they had told me they were going to do it, I would have said no so… it was the only way it would happen.) Despite my “self-conciousness,” I was very grateful for their kind recognition of my effort.

When I was giving my (unexpected) acceptance speech, I heard myself say, “the first 40 years of my life were tough but the last 25 have been good.” I didn’t plan to say that, it’s just what came out.

I think this explains why I remember so many kindnesses (large and small) that have been shown to me over the years. I hope it explains why I try so hard to be of service to others.  I know that many people I meet are in the middle of some difficulty. If I can show them a little kindness, a smile, just reach out and be human… maybe their day will be a little bit better. And maybe mine will too.

Intention

Kindness doesn’t cost anything. It only takes the desire and intention to show as many people as possible, everyday, a small kindness. I suppose it’s possible, that this is how the world gets changed.

Image credit: Begin the Beginning

When a Wall Is Good

Early morning sun reflected off the Great Wall of China. This is the last tower in the restored section as you travel east from Jinshanling. Near Jinshanling, China, September 2005

Walls Divide Us

There’s a lot of talk these days about walls and bridges. Walls to keep out our Mexican neighbors, bridges to heal racial and social divides. But a wall is good when it sets a boundary. When it says, nope… don’t go any farther than this. Setting a boundary, telling someone, “I won’t tolerate being treated this way,” is hard. Well, it’s hard for me. As soon as I say it, I feel guilty. My ‘nice girl’ indoctrination kicks in and I feel like crap. Is this normal? Maybe. Is it normal for women of a certain age (yeah old like me), maybe. I haven’t discussed this with many people. I only know that when I set a boundary about 50% of the time I feel ok, 25% of the time I feel awful, 25% of  the time, I don’t think about it. I am just reacting from pure emotion. I don’t like this ‘out of control’ feeling but, I accept that I’m human.

Generosity Can’t Exist Without Boundaries

In the article, “10 Great Things That Happen When You Set Boundaries,” the wonderful Brene Brown  describes that in her research, (the surprising conclusion that) the most compassionate people also have the firmest boundaries. This seems counter intuitive. If you think about Mother Teresa, it would seem, as an outsider, that she just gave and gave without a thought for herself. “Generosity can’t exist without boundaries,” Brown tells us. This idea is just blowing my mind. “Boundaries are the key to self love, ” she says. Oh boy, my head is spinning just a little.

Selfish or Compassionate?

So for today, I hope you will think a little about what is acceptable to you and what isn’t and if you are comfortable setting boundaries. If you are, hurray for you. Are you also as generous and compassionate as you would like?  Sometimes, if it’s easy to set boundaries, it’s because we are selfish, not in a good way.

For myself, I am thinking about, “do I accept certain behaviors from some people (people I love for instance?) but would never accept from people who I don’t love?” How can I get better at setting boundaries? Ugh. The whole thing sounds like a lot of work. I’m going to start by reading Brown’s books, watching more videos and seeing if this old dog can learn something new. I dread it, I welcome it, I embrace it, I feel sick… here I go.

Photo credit: Image _1033  Brian Jeffrey Beggerly

The Case for Silly

What Ever Happened to Silly?

If you’re fortunate enough to be around kids under the age of 10, you know you’re going to get into the sillies. One kid says something and then soon everyone is giggling and carrying on. I love this. I live for this.

Younger kids aren’t all judgy. They might try to one up each other in the silly department, but mostly, everyone settles in for a good snort.

Something happens to us when we become teenagers. Most of us become silly-averse. We decide we need to act ‘grown up’ and our silly days are behind us. We get cynical, ‘cool’, and generally stuck up. The disintegration into hilarity rarely happens any more. What the heck happens to us?

Even as parents, we seem to forget to encourage the sillies. We’re so busy ‘teaching’ our kids to talk, read,  study, practice, whatever (all very important duties!), we seem to forget that laughing, and laughing in most basic way, is key to a happy life.

Let’s Revive the Silly Tree

I have the great good fortune to have 7 grandchildren, several of whom live in the same city as me and all of whom are under the age of 9. My ability to get to some silliness is pretty easy. But what if you are one of those people who doesn’t have access to little ones, you have to improvise. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Remember what’s it’s like to be kid, find a kid to hang around, volunteer around kids, etc. The fastest way to get there is to go to those who are closest to the source. Laughing is really good. If you need some hints, ask people what they do.
  2. Making people laugh is the purest form of ‘pay it forward.’  Watch this Ted talk on the power of laughter to save lives. (It starts off slow but it’s worth it if you can stick with it).
  3. Laughter yoga?  You exercise your body and your mind (and hopefully your spirit), but do you know how to exercise your silly muscle?
  4. Here’s what the world renowned Mayo Clinic says about laughing.
  5. Go to the library or the bookstore (remember those buildings that house real books?), go to the humor section. Read the joke books. Read funny authors. I happen to like Dave Barry, Steve Martin, Jim Gaffigan, and a raft of kids books like Amelia Bedelia. Don’t forget the movies! I’ll recommend a few of my favorite but what I think is funny may not be your cup of tea. Anything by Monty Python, Airplane!, The Jerk.

But I Want to Be Grumpy

I understand. Being overworked, under appreciated, running around, busy all the time, leaves us very little time for silly. But somehow, I hope we’ll all, just for a minute, today, pretend that there is nothing more important than seeing the silly in the world.

Q: What did one toilet say to the other? A: You look a bit flushed.

Read more at: http://www.ducksters.com/jokes/silly.php
This text is Copyright © Ducksters. Do not use without permission.

Photo credit: Typical Riley Pose  peasap

The Tides of Confidence

PHOTO CAPTION: Delegates at the Pacific Youth Leadership Forum negotiate a confidence-building exercise at Camp H.R. Erdman, a YMCA camp located on the North Shore in Hawaii. The YLF was sponsored and hosted by Installation Management Command-Paci...

Confidence Comes and Goes

I was thinking about my confidence. How it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Sometimes, I feel supremely confident. Like my decisions, my thought process and my ability to ‘pull it off’ are good. No doubts, no questions. Then something happens. I’m never quite sure what happens. Suddenly, I’m questioning everything.

Like the ocean tides (although thankfully not as predictable!), my confidence almost disappears. I can’t control when I feel confident and when I don’t. For me, the first step is to realize when the tide is in (I’m confident!) and when it’s out (OMG, I can’t do anything right). The tricky part is to own the feeling and acknowledge when I’ve done something to deserve the feeling.

I Want to Be Confident All the Time

Because I carried a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I learned to depend on myself. And I know that I can… do a lot of different things, fix what’s broken, change, lead, and make good decisions. I know that I can come off as very confident. As a person who knows what’s going on and can handle things, and oftentimes, I can. But sometimes, I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to do and I can’t quite seem to muster any of that confidence that has served me so well.

In a heart beat, my confidence is like low tide, stinky and exposing everything. It’s like I only have 2 switches – on and OFF. This is not good. Cocky is bad. It doesn’t serve anything.  A dish rag doesn’t either. The really confident person stands a certain way. Even if they are unsure, they pay attention to their body language. They stand up straight, they smile, they’re usually kind.

Monitor the Tide

When it’s low tide , I try this: 1) take a deep breath (no really, do it now… take a deep breath)  2) stand a little taller 3) think of someone who loves me (unconditionally) 4) remember I can trust myself. Practice feeling confident when you’re not ‘feeling it’. Fake it ’til you make it. This is a very important skill.  Modeling this skill for our children is powerful. Realizing that confidence comes and goes like the tides, means that when I’m paralyzed… I have choices. And I won’t feel this way forever.

Image credit: Pacific Region Hosts   familymwr

Banana Management

I've been ignoring you for too long

Banana Management Is Serious Business

If you have a baby at home, you likely know about banana management. This is the art and science of making sure you have enough ripe bananas on hand for your baby (without running to the store everyday to get new ones). When my kids were little, they loved bananas. It was a job to make sure that I had enough bananas, at all stages of “ripeness” to satisfy their banana needs, not too green (tasteless and too hard) or too brown (too mushy, not to mention the fruit flies). Add to that the fact that my kids went to day care part time so that meant that I couldn’t just keep bananas for home, they had to be ready to go into lunch bag. Are you snickering at this “silly” topic? Then you’ve never had to get kids packed up and out the door!

Bananas Are Just The Start

I haven’t had to deal with banana management for a long time, but it struck me that the business of managing a commodity in everyday life probably takes more time than we imagine. If you run a household, you spend a lot of time juggling all kinds of ‘bananas.’ Toilet paper. Dish washing soap. Milk. If you add children to that, now the ‘banana management’ theory extents to all kinds of stuff like paperwork, homework, lessons, sports, etc. If I don’t sign the permission slip (for my kid’s field trip) today, it might disappear and then what?

If you see someone who has a boring wardrobe? Maybe they are managing a lot of bananas and trying to figure out what to wear in the morning isn’t that important. The stories about Steve Jobs and his black turtle neck or Mark Zuckerberg’s tee shirt tell part of this story. Managing the puts and takes of daily life, especially if you have a family, is a lot of work. If you can simplify any parts of the work, then do it.

Just Say No

There’s always someone who wants you to do one more thing. Can you help here? Can you do this? Would you mind? For today, just say no, I have bananas to manage. They’ll probably never ask you for anything again.

Image credit: CRW_2419  30 cent yellow banana

Outside Looks Inside

https://rhapsodyinbooks.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/artwork_images_939_777403_maira-kalman.jpg

When I go out for a walk, there is so much that makes me happy to be alive. Breathing. Not thinking. Observing. I am grateful beyond measure to be part of it all. There are trees. Glorious and consoling. Changing with the seasons. Reminders that all things change. And change again.Maria Kalman

The Case For Outside

This post is making a case for walking. Outside. A few years back my doctor told me I had to get regular exercise. I hate going to the gym and frankly the cost of the gym that is near my house is ridiculous. So, I decided the only way I would be able to make sure I got exercise everyday was to get a dog that had to go out everyday. This strategy worked for me. The dog is almost 4 and I go outside, 3x a time, in all weather.

There were multiple side benefits to this but the most profound was that I relearned how to appreciate the outdoors. The older I got, the more excuses I found to avoid taking a walk. Wrong shoes, too cold, too hot, too windy, whatever. What I found is that by walking, I had a quiet 30 minutes to myself. I didn’t have to do anything but walk. In fact, I couldn’t do anything but walk.

The Case for Outside, Inside

What have I learned from this adventure? It’s teaching or reteaching me how to be quiet. For me, this is a big deal. I work at a computer, I listen to music, watch TV, watch YouTube videos – you get it. My discipline for quiet is shot. I’m so used to noise, I’ve forgotten the power of quiet. I’m not sure I 100% understand the benefits to my insides, but I assure you, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye. How do you get quiet?

Image Credit: Maria Kalman  A Walk in the Cherry Blossoms

But I Had No Choice, Did I?

I liked both of these images! Why not put them together..??

It’s unlikely you have no choice. More likely: There’s no easy choice. No safe choice, that also embraces your potential. No choice you can make that doesn’t cause short-term misery in exchange for a long-term benefit. Seth Godin

Do I or Don’t I?

When I hear myself say, “I had no choice,” I know that I’ve stumbled. In my time on this planet, I’ve come to realize, I always have a choice. (ok, you can probably think of some time when I might not… but I’m talking about “most of the time.”) When I say, I had no choice, that means that I..

  1. Didn’t see any choices
  2. Didn’t like my choices
  3. Didn’t want to admit I was wrong, change my attitude or stop blaming someone else

But What If I Don’t Like What Happens

I’ve spent the past several years learning to understand that I have choices and then taking responsibility for the choices I make. I’ll admit, it’s been painful and hard. It was much easier to blame someone else for my divorce, my unemployment, my blah, blah, blah. Once I learned that when I default to the choice that is obvious, it’s often NOT great. When I take the time to consider my options and act responsibly towards my own well being, things get better. I could blame my parents. I could tell you a story about their addiction. But the truth is, once I got to be an adult, the responsibility was mine to get help and make my life better. If I’m not happy with my life, I need to make it better.

One fear is that if I make a choice, I might not like the outcome. In some ways, whatever the bad things are, they are “known” bad things. And the “unknown” bad things could be worse. Fear kept me stuck.

Choice is Freedom

When I see I have choices, even if I don’t like the ones I have, I am free. Freedom isn’t just a positive attitude, it’s also accepting responsibility for understanding my choices and then acting on them. It’s often not popular to make certain choices. When you rock other people’s boats, they get hurt and angry and if I change, then people close to me must also change. I’ve learned, when the choice affects others, that I need to act slowly and thoughtfully. But I still need to act. I’m grateful to be free to make choices. Good or bad.

Image credit: Fork in the road   Jrdn7730

Outlook: Grime or Prime?

This quote blows me away. It would seem like being miserable would take less work. Just head to the sofa or refrigerator or both and sulk. But when I stopped to think about it, I find that I agree.

I think the key word here is ‘work’. It doesn’t seem like I work at being miserable, it seems like it’s easy. Some other person just does something and I think I’ve been ‘wronged’. But I think the ‘work’ part comes from letting go. From not taking it personally. From thinking how important is this?

Sometimes it is very important. Most of the time it isn’t.

For today, I’m going to focus my energy on becoming strong. Set my intention to be calm and clear. Let go of miserable. Just for today.

The Case For Adaptation

Look at the picture, really look. Think about what might have happened. Did a child ride this bike into the woods, lean it against this tree and then forget it?  The poor tree was left to adapt to this ‘leaning thing’. What choice did it have?

What’s leaning against you? Loss? A person? An opportunity? Sadness? Take a minute and think about what is leaning against you.

Now imagine yourself adapting. Have the intention to adapt. Don’t try to ‘figure out’ all the steps to adapting, just imagine that you not only survive, but you are transformed.  To be even better than before. That this ‘thing’ that is leaning on you… will change you, for the better. It will make you unique, stronger, and interesting.

It’s easy to blame, rant, whine and moan about how this “problem” is weighing on us. If we can be like the tree and adapt, we’ll not only save ourselves some suffering, we’ll find new energy seeking out the inevitable changes ahead.

Photo credit: Even Trees Want to Cycle