Saturday afternoon as I padded around the little cabin in my bathrobe, a leftover cheddar smokie drizzled with mustard and rolled up in a napkin in one hand and a Krispy Creme donut in the other I felt content. I unabashedly slept in, waking to roll over, stretch out and sleep again on repeat. It seemed like it had been forever since I had been able to do that and I wasn’t going to ruin it by feeling guilty. I happily had no responsibilities except to relax.
I had gone to visit my husband out of town and meet his work crew. He convinced me to stay an extra night but in the interim I had a whole day to myself to do as I wished. I was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to fill my time so I decided to just slow down and enjoy the quiet.
I was watching a Ted Talk with Carl Honoré about his bestselling book In Praise of Slow, about the slow movement. Carl explores the idea that if we actually slow down, in our speed obsessed society, we can actually accomplish more, be happier and create greater success.
Our culture of speed takes a toll on every aspect of our lives; living in the fast lane is damaging to our health, our diets, our well being, our communities and our relationships. When we live our lives in fast forward, we are missing some of the most important things.
“Everybody these days wants to know how to slow down, but they want to know how to learn to slow down very quickly!” ~Carl Honoré
In the last couple of years since I started the W.I.S.E. Project one of my greatest challenges and desires was to be more mindful and learn to live in the moment. My entire life needed a complete overhaul to learn to live in the present moment instead of speeding through to the next. I learned that I wasn’t really connecting to myself and to the world around me, I was literally racing against time to accomplish everything I could possibly get done in a day. It made me ill, unhappy and detached. I longed to have deeper, richer and stronger relationships and wanted to take an active role in my own well being and pursue activities that I was passionate about but the truth was that I didn’t have time. To be clearer, and more honest; I didn’t make time and I equated a great deal of my self worth with how much I could do and how much I could achieve in a short amount of time.
The message of ‘less is more’ has many meanings and can seep into several areas of our lives. We collect things, more and more things that don’t matter; that clutter our lives and fill voids. We subscribe to the notion that time is money and we race against the clock, busying our lives and barely taking the time to just breath.
I do believe it is possible to slow down but it is an undertaking that requires careful thought and an honest desire for change.
“There is more to life than increasing it’s speed.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Personally, one of my greatest tools in my battle against time and practicing mindfulness has been meditation. A daily meditation practice has allowed me to achieve something that I have always longed for; a strong and resilient mind among the chaos that is my life. I have discovered the luxuriousness that is silence and I crave more and more quiet and unhurried moments to ease my burdens and feed my soul.
Being still can seem strange at first. Most of us run on autopilot and we are trained to constantly be doing. For me, I often have to overcome the guilt that I should be doing something. Slowing down is healthy, silence is golden.
The World Health Organization has identified noise pollution as a global health hazard affecting both developing and developed nations. The impact includes hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, mental-health effects, hypertension and increased blood pressure. People surrounded by noise are often in constant states of stress, which can degrade their immune systems.
Slowing down and taking the time to embrace a quitter and yet more fulfilling existence is a healthy escape from the everyday that can be life changing for you and your loved ones.
Do you think your life could benefit from learning to slow down?
How do you find moments of calm in your busy life?
I recall a time not so long ago that I ridiculed people who read self-help books. I cannot pinpoint when and how I became enthralled with the wildly popular genre but in the past several years about 90% of my reading has been dedicated to memoirs and self-improvement. I take courses and workshops and online boot camps dedicated to understanding myself better and reaping more joy from the world around me.
I went from So What to Don’t Worry Be Happy on the musical scale of life.
When I initially started the W.I.S.E. Project I was going through a period of uncertainty and unexplained sadness and though I was going through the motions I wasn’t living a life that was bringing me a great deal of happiness. I made some changes right away in my life by being more mindful and aware which lead to me doing a relationship study and exploring the connection between our emotions and our actions. I made a conscious effort to try to control what I search and see online and to make choosing happiness and gratitude a priority every moment of every day.
I still get sad, angry, emotional, bitter and annoyed but I am much more aware of the cause of these feelings and I know that my actions in those moments of distress truly matter. I believe it was Brené Brown that first said, “You cannot selectively numb emotion.” What she meant by that is if we numb the bad emotions in hopes that we will never experience pain or anger we will also numb those delightful feelings of happiness and joy that we want to feel as well. It would be like taking a brilliantly colored rainbow and putting a bleak filter on it, making it dismal and uninteresting. It still passes for a rainbow but it it isn’t vivid and gleaming.
I think we all want the same basic things from life, we all want to live a happy and fulfilling life, but I respect that we all follow a different path to get there.
Newly “Happy” people are like people who were very successful on a diet or that just found Jesus. They are excited and they want to help you have the same experience. The problem with that is that we are all individuals with different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and challenges, what works for one may not be a “one size fits all” fix.
In the past month, I have encountered the same thing repeatedly relating to the happiness experience and I thank my husband for encouraging me to look at things in a new way, especially in those cases that relate to our teenage daughters. I was leaning too far into the “don’t worry be happy” approach to guidance which gives very little regard to the vast emotions that we; as humans, experience daily.
Though I still wholeheartedly believe that gratitude breeds abundance and happiness is a choice, sometimes shitty things happen to us and we have every right to feel shitty about them. Telling someone who is hurting to “get over it” or to look on the bright side” is probably not the best way to be supportive. We experience feelings for a reason and they deserve to be acknowledged so that we can keep moving through life making the very best choices we can in the moment.
We are hardwired for struggle, if we respond to our pain, our sadness, our fears, we are admitting that our feelings are real and that they deserve our attention. We cannot overcome that which we refuse to acknowledge.
There has been a hopeful shift in the way that I relate to my teenage daughters. By acknowledging their fears and their pain instead of quickly dismissing it by telling them it won’t matter in twenty years or that they need to get over it, I have observed the emergence of their own coping mechanisms. My husband reminded me to think back to when I was a teenager and how things that may not matter to me now were a very big deal. It was a huge eye opener, and so effective to put myself in their shoes, at their age for just a moment. They are assured that their feelings have substance and that pain has a beginning, a middle and an end. I am seeing them accepting their fate and recognizing the steps they need to take to move through their difficult emotions, without holding unto the bad energy or passing it along to others. As a parent, it is very satisfying to watch their character reveal itself.
I was quite annoyed the other week as I was discussing a situation with some friends and one proceeded to tell me how I felt and how I should feel about the circumstances. I thought that is was presumptuous to tell me how to feel. It gave me a moment of pause to consider if I have been guilty of the same thing.
There is a great deal of people in the world who wrap themselves in pain and anger and live their entire lives blanketed in misery. Unlike those people, people that are willing to experience the emotions that visit them, to identify their cause and travel through their struggles, hanging on to the lessons only; are probably some of the happiest and most intelligent people I know.
Diminishing and disregarding the feelings of another does not make us a shining example of anything. Even though we may think me may mean well, in our attempts to help we may be unwittingly devaluing their emotions.
One of the society’s biggest problems is that we listen only to respond. Sometimes people just want us to listen, not to tell them how to feel or how to fix their lives, they just need us to listen.
“Sometimes all a person wants is an empathetic ear; all he or she needs is to talk it out. Just offering a listening ear and an understanding heart for his or her suffering can be a big comfort.”
― Roy T. Bennett
DISCLAIMER- I apologize in advance for the use of the word fuck, I am struggling to find another word that can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, an interjection or an adverb. If it bothers you, you can replace with the word flower or meatloaf.
“Now, while not giving a fuck may seem simple on the surface, it’s a whole new bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t even know what that sentence means, but I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it.” ~Mark Manson
One of the most valuable pieces of advice I was ever given was to give up all my expectations of people. It took me a very long time to get behind that advice, the thought was foreign to me. I was heavily into volunteering at the time and I expected everyone to have the same level of commitment that I did, and because that didn’t happen often, I allowed it to cause me a great deal of stress. When I learned to stop expecting things of people it was a step in the right direction, I stopped taking it personally when people didn’t step up or follow through. Eventually I decided to move on to other things myself and albeit that was initially a difficult decision. When you put your heart into something and dedicate countless hours to a cause it is hard to walk the other way and not look back. That was the day I decided not to give a fuck. Too many fucks had been given and I was simply out of fucks to give.
I teetered through life with my bucket of fucks, giving fucks to things that really didn’t deserve a fuck. I gave a fuck if the cashier at the grocery store was rude, I threw another fuck at the driver that cut me off in traffic, I was handing out fucks to strangers and events that in the grand scheme of my life didn’t matter all. One day I found myself scraping the empty bottom of my bucket of fucks. I had given out fucks like they grew on trees, here a fuck, there a fuck…everywhere I am tossing a fuck, fuck!
I had one fuck left to give. It turns out fucks don’t grow on trees and if someone didn’t throw a fuck my way, I was going to be fuck-less!!
Simply not giving a fuck at all, ever, is apathetic, and that type of indifference is reserved for people that are lazy and uninspired. However, it is absolutely okay to not give a fuck about every little thing. It is fine to cache our fucks for things that are important, like family, friends and wine.
Younger me gave a fuck about everything and everyone. I was a people pleaser, I wanted to be liked, I gave a fuck about what people thought of me, what they said about me, whether they thought I was smart or funny or they liked my hair. I had a ton of fucks to give and I was handing them out all over town like I was that stranger with candy that your parents warned you about.
Age and maturity has taught me to be selective with the fucks I give. It is a work in progress but I find that I am certain of my identity, surer of myself, and I able to reserve my energy to give a fuck, only when it is important.
I went through this period of uncertainty not so long ago where I really struggled with who I was and how to be happy. I had it in my head that I wasn’t enough, that I was meant to do more with my life and I desperately wanted to have some sort of skill that would make that happen. After some soul searching I realized that I am never going to be a National Geographic Photographer or a Pulitzer Prize winner. I am not going to heal people or co-host a show with Ellen. I am OK with it. I am OK with being who I am and where I am in my life and as I sail through the days with my dwindling bucket of fucks I realize that it is alright not to give a fuck about every little thing. I am enough. I have everything I need and I am happy not giving a fuck a lot of the time!
It is not easy. There are days when I want to give a fuck about everything. It gets tiring though and I find that at my age, the more fucks I give out, the less fucks I can dedicate to things that really deserve my time and energy. My goal is not to simply “not” give a fuck at all but to learn to redirect my fucks to the right people and things.
“The point is that fucks have to be earned and then invested wisely. Fucks are cultivated like a beautiful fucking garden, where if you fuck shit up and the fucks get fucked, then you’ve fucking fucked your fucks all the fuck up.” ~Mark Manson
I have come to realize that when I am giving way too many fucks to insignificant things, even things that bother me like the toilet paper not being changed, the drive through attendant’s lack of enthusiasm or whether there is toast crumbs in the butter, I am lacking something in my life, something that I genuinely give a fuck about.
Sometimes I am genuinely enthusiastic about so many things that I struggle with giving a fuck to everything , it’s like a big ol fuckstorm, blowing fucks all over the place. When the wind dies down I know that I need to gather up my fucks and put them back into my bucket of fucks and restrict my fuck giving to the things that matter the most to me because handing out fucks like they are mini chocolate bars at Halloween is not only tiring, it keeps me from offering up a fuck to the most important things.
If you are able to achieve the art of giving your fucks out selectively you will have learned a skill that takes others decades to accomplish. Like your favorite little black dress hanging in the back of the closet for the most special of occasions, your fucks to; must sometimes sit on the shelf, in wait until the time is right.
Do you struggle with giving a fuck?
Do you give too many fucks or not enough?
Do you give a fuck about trivial things?
Do you think there is a balance between giving a fuck and not giving a fuck?
If you want to learn more on the subject I highly recommend The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
I have been gone from here for almost a month and though I thought about you often I had committed to spending some quiet time with my family and though wonderful, enlightening and sometimes hilarious thoughts ran through my mind, I was way to relaxed to form complete thoughts and put them in black and white.
For those of you that celebrate the holidays I hope they were wonderful. I had a quiet and relaxing holiday with my family but we are well into the new year now and I have a feeling it is going to be a good one. Whatever may be and however it ends up-good or bad, it will happen and I will either be swept along or I will lead the way so hold on…
While I was writing my last W.I.S.E. Project Post in December I was feeling a little bit of uncertainty about where to go from there but I got a lot out of the project and if nothing else it is a reminder to seek happiness and joy in every single day and that does require effort from me. I can get easily overwhelmed by the world, media, politics, sensationalism and my own first world problems. Seeking reasons to be happy has been good for me and something I hope to continue always.
A very important thing that emerged for me during the 2016 project was energy. I would like to think that I possess good energy and I quickly began to discern the things and the people that energize me and the experiences and people that are constantly in the withdrawal line taking my energy and depleting my balances without adding anything meaningful to my life.
I have believed for some time that our physical body is just one small part of our being, and I also believe that our physical body could not exist without the spiritual life force that perpetually guides it. The different parts of our bodies, energetic and physical are coupled together and effort as one, exchanging energies with the environment.
I know, I know, some of you are reading this and wondering what kind of hippy dippy mumbo jumbo I am trying to sell you. I am not trying to market anything at all, I am simply sharing with you that I am learning more about life force energy and how it connects our mind, body and spirit and how I can use that knowledge to lead a better life.
Last weekend I took my daughter and her friends to the trampoline park. I was sitting on a sofa in the corner reading an enriching article and a Muslim woman asked me if she could sit down. I have to admit, on a glance I am often quick to assume that a Muslim woman and I would have nothing in common, but that is not always the case. This particular lady was full of good energy and her eyes sparkled with it. She had a beautiful little boy with the most stunning brown eyes and he had dumped nacho cheese all over her, him and the floor and she was attempting to clean it up. She chatted amicably to me as she did and her beautiful boy charmed me with his almond shaped eyes and his magnetic smile. The minute they left I went back to my article and if there wasn’t a smile on my face there was one in my heart. A moment later two ladies came and sat on the sofa beside me, there was plenty of room but I felt immediately crowded. The energy had shifted quickly. The ladies were close to my age and they were talking about their friends in a very gossipy and malicious manner. They were reading private messages aloud from their texts and Facebook and making comments calling their “so called” friends idiots and stupid. It made me extremely uncomfortable to the point that I had to bite my tongue and refrain from telling them how horrible their behavior was. Their kids came over as they were out of breath and needed a break. One of the women was quick to shout at her son to “go away, stop pissing me off. You only have an hour so go play and stop wasting my goddamn money!” The kid told his mom that he needed to catch his breath and she continued more of the same tone and talk to make certain he stayed away from her. The other mom seemed to agree with her friend but quietly told her son to just walk around if he needed a break. When the kids walked away the one woman continued on her rant, calling her son a ‘fucking idiot’. At this point I felt like I was going to explode and I wavered between saying something and minding my own business. Ultimately I decided to mind my own business but I was affected by it. The most vocal woman suggested they download Tinder ‘to make fun of people’. The other woman asked why she had been on Tinder (a hook up site) when they had both been married for years and she replied that it was ‘fun to check people out and make fun of them’
As appalled as I was later that evening I was contemplating the times in my life that I had been that unhappy that I spent my free time with people I thought were friends, gossiping about other friends.I am sorry I was ever that person, but I was. Maybe not to that degree but I certainly was guilty of sharing secrets, breaking trusts and talking about people that I called friends behind their backs. I don’t ever want to be that person again. We are all guilty of a little bit of mindless chatter, I am not perfect and neither are you but I like to think that for the most part if you are my friend I try to have the best of intentions and I hope you will do the same for me.
Misery loves company, people that are unhappy take solace in the fact the others are unhappy too. Unhappy people share their unhappiness in the way of bad energy the same way that happy people share their good energy. It would be impossible to never be affected by negative energy, it is like getting a cold…you didn’t want it, you didn’t ask for it, but you have it all the same. There are precautions you can take to not get a cold. You can wash your hands frequently, you can refrain from shaking hands with someone who has a cold, don’t share drinks. In the same token you can take steps to make sure that the majority of the energy that you exchange is good energy and you will find that the more good energy you put out into the world, the more you will get back.
I actually just had a discussion with my boss today about how last year I started spending a lot of time by myself, I wasn’t even joining my coworkers for lunch. I needed to take a step back and find myself in the silence and sort out my own energy and find a way to be sympathetic to the stories and problems of others without taking them upon my shoulders. It was something that I had to do to heal myself and I feel really good about it. When I was learning to distinguish between good and bad energy I spent more time with my family and my dogs. I got my energy from the sun, the grass and the trees instead of noisy, crowded places.
I have been feeling inspired to further research energy and learn more about how our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellness are all affected by the functioning of our energetic body. I know that there are many different ways you can look after your energy and there is one that has always fascinated me and that is Reiki. Many years ago I had a Reiki treatment and it was such an intensely energizing and healing experience that the memory stayed with me. I have been trying to get my husband to go for a Reiki treatment so that he can let go of some of the negative energy that weighs him down. He has tried Energy massage that works with chakra balancing and he thought is was a positive experience. I decided to explore the universal life force that is Reiki on my own as a means for personal growth and to keep myself in optimal mental and emotional health. I am pleased to say that I have obtained my Reiki level 1 and I plan to continue through the levels and hopefully in the future I can attend workshops and do some practicum and maybe share the gift of Reiki with others.
I have some other fun stuff that I am working on but I am trying not to overload my brain. I do have a tendency to get really excited about things and take on too much and then I feel stressed and lose interest. I will keep you updated on my journey and I really hope that if any of you are excited about something you are learning or you are engaged in a new activity this year you will share it with me.
One thing I decided too do a little differently is alter the W.I.S.E. Principles. I think they were really good to keep me focused during the beginning of the project last year but focusing on them took me away from my initial pursuit to be more mindful and find joy in the present.
Instead I would like to use the W.I.S.E. acronym to describe myself or an aspect of my personality that I am proud of and elaborate on that somewhat throughout the month. You can creatively choose your own.
The W.I.S.E. project will continue to be a way of life, a means to focus mindfully on the moment, to invite abundance into my life by being grateful and to invite joy into my life by being present. Breath in-be present, breath out-be free!
A couple attributes I came up with quickly are Warrior, I am actually doing a Warrior goddess course and I think that without knowing many of us are warriors, I am insightful, I do not remember dates or facts or history the way some people do but I am intelligent and I am often keenly intuitive. I am strong, I know this without a shadow of a doubt, I think it is common for people to be fearful and doubt their strength but once you know…you know! I am eager, always eager to be better and to learn new things and to love the people I love with my whole heart.
I am an just ordinary girl in an extraordinary world but I set out at the beginning of this year wanting to paint my surroundings in bold and vibrant colors and live a life full of joy. Truthfully I know I am not ordinary, I always knew. Even back when I was nine years old sitting on the old wooden step at my country home with a notepad and a pencil and imagining all the wonderful things that I could put on that page…I knew. Somehow with time and circumstance I lost myself or perhaps I gave pieces of me away and I never really got them back. Today I call myself a work in progress but I have reunited my mind with my soul and it is a much nicer place to be.
Thanks so much to the universe for keeping me on my toes with your constant challenges this year. I would like to believe that I have passed all of the damn tests and that we are about done with this nonsense. I “womaned” up! My warrior spirit cannot and will not be broken. I am tired though and never mind that I have been insanely tired since 1999, the complete mental drain of the past several months has left me a new kind of tired that I didn’t even know existed and no matter how many weekends I spend in my pajamas, curled up in fuzzy blankets the feeling has not been alleviated.
My husband and I realized last night that he has been gone for eight of the last twelve months. His struggle with depression and being away from his family and my struggle to try to be more compassionate than I am hurt and lonely has definitely changed us. Had I not began this little project I started almost a year ago and made a conscious effort to live mindfully and seek joy and be grateful I really am not sure who I would be right now. Some days were torturous. The loneliness, the uncertainty and the longing has been difficult, but mingled with all of that has been a sense of gratitude for what I have and the people that I love and those that love me unconditionally.
In short, I think the project has been a huge success. Focusing on the present instead of the past or the future is really difficult and takes a lot of practice and though I am not a master by any stretch of the imagination I have made leaps and bounds. Had I not learned to be mindful and practice meditation I would not have been able to sleep at night through these demanding times and the insomnia would have rendered me useless. I have a job, a family and three beautiful pets that depend on me so I occasionally need to sleep.
I cry and I feel sadness but I also know that I have the capacity to feel immense joy and I do. I have learned a great deal about gratitude and how it reciprocates. You will never live a life of abundance until you learn to express gratitude for the great gifts that you already have. I have learned how creativity and purpose in life bring me a great deal of joy. I have learned that the right connections with the right people can energize me and in the same token that time spent on the wrong things with the wrong people can suck the life out of me. I am responsible for the energy that I put out into the world and eventually I will attract the right people into my life.
I have learned that the wonders of the world are not just places; they can be things that we often take for granted such as touch, sound, smell and sight. The significance of these things may habitually go unnoticed but I guarantee you that it is these little things that you will miss the most if they are suddenly taken away. There were eight months this year that I missed the sound of my husbands voice, the touch of his hand, the smell of him after a shower or the sight of him after a long day. There are days I would have traded anything for just one of those things.
We often look at things without actually seeing them, without appreciating them and we put value on the wrong things. The sunrise and the sunset are miracles that we see everyday and sometimes we fail to realize their worth or truly appreciate their beauty, the same as we take people for granted because we assume they will always be there. We stop noticing how bright their smile is or how they are always there when we need them.
We undervalue traits such as courage, compassion and curiosity and what would the world be without them?
We think of forgiveness and vulnerability as weaknesses instead of the huge strengths that they are. Having the courage to forgive someone, sometimes even ourselves can be so important. To not forgive, to hold unto negative feelings of hurt and shame can be an enormous deterrent to living a good life. Having compassion for others can help us see the world in a whole different light. I actually dislike the dictionary definition of compassion because it refers to it as sympathetic pity, nobody wants to be pitied, but we could all use a little kindness and concern, a little understanding instead of judgement and someone who genuinely cares for us and our situation.
Humanity needs love and compassion for survival yet we have been treating these things like luxuries instead of needs. The Beatles told us many years ago that all we need is love.
Generosity, patience and love will take you further than money, education or social stature.
I have learned about the anatomy of trust and how important it can be to set boundaries. Brené Brown describes trust as BRAVING in a wonderfully authentic way and I think that everyone can learn something valuable from her.
What have I learned about myself?
I have learned that I am a warrior and I will fight for the people I love and the things I believe in until there is no fight left in me. I am an eternal optimist but not in a fairy tale romanticized way. I know there is a lot of bad in the world but I genuinely believe that the world can be better and I know that there is goodness and light in me and if I can affect one person with it that is change. I have learned that I like myself and that is way more important than worrying about who does and doesn’t like me. The most important thing that I can do for me is to be true to myself and honor my wants and needs and not try to change myself to fit into a box that was not built for me.
My December W.I.S.E. Principles are wonderful, invincible, shining and expressive. You may interpret these any way you see fit but for me I want to enjoy the most WONDERFUL time of the year with my family. I already know that I am invincible and Christmas will not defeat me. I have learned the importance of time this year and I am elevating that above everything else. I will not be taken in or conquered by commercialism or the need to fill a space under a tree instead of a space in my heart. I want to be a shining example for my children about the real spirit of Christmas so that one day they can share the same spirit with their family. The most precious gifts we can give each other can never be bought, only given. I want to be able to express my love, my excitement and my joy. I want to express my gratitude and my feelings about the true meaning of Christmas and one day when my kids look back I want them to remember the time and the love that I gave them, not the time I spent at the mall buying them things. My Christmas wish for all of you is that no matter how many gifts you give or receive that you continue to be grateful for the gifts that you already have and that you realize that those who give you nothing but their time are giving you the most precious gift of all. All we need is love, love for ourselves, love for others, and love for the world we live in.
“I have found that if you love life, it will love you back”
Happiness doesn’t happen by accident
I discovered a lot of amazing people on the internet this year, I never found them before because I was not looking for reasons to be grateful and happy. It is phenomenal the things you will discover when you commit to gratitude and living a more joyful life.
Charlie Chaplin wrote a poem about self love in which he states “When I began to love myself I stopped stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future. I have always felt happiest when I am making a contribution but I think at some point I started equating my self worth with how busy I was and how much I was contributing to the lives of others. Some days my biggest contribution is playing a game with my kids or cuddling with my dogs and that is OK.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
The snow is falling softly outside my window to the tune of the little drummer boy and my heart is full of so much joy, love and gratitude. Despite the many obstacles I have been faced with the past several months I am feeling warm and full of the real spirit of Christmas.
I remember a moment last week when I was so overcome with sadness that I wondered if there was such thing as a happiness plateau? Do we manage to only create so much happiness and then we just flat line? Even as I contemplated the question I knew the answer. We can only be as happy as we choose to be and the wall that I had hit I had constructed myself with pain and fear and guilt. How can I be any happier when others are suffering? My future is so uncertain so I should be afraid instead of joyful? I am hurting so how can I still be happy? These are the messages that my heart sends to my brain to keep me just happy enough. It is my cross to bear, my mountain to climb, my plateau to surpass.
I have learned so many wonderful things this year and as I reflect on the past eleven months I cannot help but feel that despite the difficult times and uphill battles I have continued to grow as a person. I spent a lot of time by myself, I got to know me again and I took care of me when times got tough. I feel like the W.I.S.E. Principles were a good guideline, they especially helped me in the beginning months of the project when I needed something to focus on other than the bad news that filters through our TV, social media and Facebook everyday.
I think one of the biggest successes for me with this project was recognizing the importance of self love. Charlie Chaplin wrote a poem about self love in which he states “When I began to love myself I stopped stealing my own time and I stopped designing huge projects for the future.”
I have always felt happiest when I am making a contribution but I think at some point I started equating my self worth with how busy I was and how much I was contributing to the lives of others. Some days my biggest contribution is playing a game with my kids or cuddling with my dogs and that is OK.
Chaplin goes on to say “Today, I only do what brings me joy and happiness, things I love to do and that make my heart cheer, and I do them in my own way and in my own rhythm. Today I call it “SIMPLICITY”.
I love this so much, it makes my heart smile.
When you make an honest and firm decision to live mindfully and create a life that brings you joy, it is essential that you prepare to simplify. You may need to limit your exposure to media, certain friends or family members, reconsider your busy schedule and really focus on things that make you feel good.
Things do not look exactly how I expected them to look at this point in the project but to be honest I think they look exactly how they are supposed too. There is always going to be something to overcome, there will be hard times and tears. If your focus is a happy life, no matter what you face you will face it and you will be your own kind of happy. You will find the lesson in pain and you will face each day with grace and gratitude because the only way to invite abundance into your life is to be grateful for what you already have.
Because this is a project it is only fair that I tell you what I have found are the top ten things to creating a happier life. Sharing-When we share a smile, our time, a kindness or a compliment it activates the pleasure area of your brain. Kind and unselfish actions release endorphin’s in the brain that not only boost happiness for us but also for the stranger we smiled at on the bus or the person we held a door for at the bank. It is one of many simple changes you can make that will make a huge difference in every day. You may need to remind yourself at first to make a small change each day but after awhile this will come naturally. Improving Relationships– our relationships can be a source of great pleasure and immeasurable pain. Some relationships take more good out of you than they ever give and you need to determine whether they are healthy for you and worth it. Living a good life has a great deal to do with the people we surround ourselves with so making improvements in our relationships, setting boundaries and sharing with and supporting our loved ones is important. it is OK to express our wants and needs but it is also important that we are willing to take a deep look at ourselves and make some changes to promote growth in our most important relationships. Energy– People and experiences can give us energy or draw it from us. We often are given what we seek in life so if we seek happiness and joy we are often attracted to people that are happy and joyful. You will start to recognize the people that give you energy and those that drain you. Dedicating a lot of time to people that are negative, attention seeking and miserable can be physically and emotionally draining. Some people, like me, draw energy from quiet times alone or with my loved ones and I am drawn to people who not only do good in the world but they seek out good as well. Everything from the shows we watch on TV to the people we follow on social media can add our subtract from our good energy.
Nature-Nature will always give you the answers you seek. A breath of crisp mountain air, the sound of crashing waves, birdsong, trees swaying in the summer breeze, these are all things that can calm and rejuvenate us. We crave these things and often we need to get out of our head and get outside and find a little solace in the great outdoors. Gratitude-No matter what difficulties we face in our daily lives we always have plenty to be grateful for. Nothing invites abundance into our lives more than being grateful for what we already have. People who are truly grateful for their life, for the people in it, for the sun that greets them in the morning and the moon that lulls them to sleep each night are among the happiest people in the world even when times get tough. Science/Faith-We all have circumstances and environmental issues that work against us, even our genes which we have no control over can play a factor in our happiness but it is important to always remember that at least 40% of our happiness is intentional and that means we have complete control over it. For me, studying the science behind happiness gave me permission to be in the driver’s seat of my own life, knowing with certainty that my intentions could and would help create the experience I wanted. Faith-I lumped faith in with science and I realize some of you will not like that but I am not going to talk about religion. For many, their religion and their faith is something they are very vocal about. For me it is very personal and as I continue to grow so does my faith. I think it is important to have something to believe in and to trust, to be thankful for in times of abundance and to draw strength from in times of hardship. No matter who or what you pray to I think it is a wonderfully joyous thing to have faith! Head of the class– We never stop being a student. If we are open to new ideas and we seek opportunities to learn and stay engaged in our lives we trigger a lifelong curiosity and our accomplishments and the knowledge gained help to boost our confidence, self awareness and overall well being. With the internet at our fingertips we have such amazing opportunities to filter through the crap we often accept as fact and commit to real learning and growing as a person. Indomitable Spirit– We cannot always determine what life will bring us but we can be responsible for the attitude we bring into our lives. We cannot live a life free of pain or circumstance but if we learn from our pain, learn to sit with discomfort and take the lesson from it we will be amazed at how enduring and strong we are. We have the heart of a warrior and though we may be knocked down occasionally the only thing that can hold us down is our own attitude. Accepting who you are and where you are in life– Emotions like happiness, joy, gratitude and love are the gifts that keep on giving. Though we cannot always control our circumstances and the curve balls life throws at us just when things are going well, we can work hard to take the good out of every situation because those positive feelings I mentioned above are the gateway to a spring of positive emotions. We have to be willing to accept who we are and where we are in life without comparing our lives and accomplishments against those of others. It is a skewed and damaging measuring stick. What we see on the surface and through social media can often paint a distorted view into the lives of others. It is a very small window to a much larger picture. Accepting where we are in life is a very important part of being mindful. If we are focused on the past or on the future we lose sight of the present moment which is so precious and the only thing that is available to us. Control-people who have a sense of control over their life are the happiest and this can be a little misleading because there is so much of our lives we cannot control but you can do the things you do with purpose and meaning, whether that is being a parent, a friend or an employee. Do what you choose to do in a way you are proud of and develop a sense of who you are, knowing that there will always be another mountain to climb and knowing with certainty that you have the strength and the grace to climb it and continue to grow as a person. You will continue to grow and change every single day, you are not the same as you were yesterday and because you are in control of your life you know that this time next year you will not be the same as today. You are in control!
In the next couple of days I will post the principles for the final month of the W.I.S.E. Project 2016 and some thoughts as we head into the holiday season. Be W.I.S.E. friends.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Today was a good day or I guess yesterday was because its 5 am on the first day of October. No I don’t get up at 5 am I am still up.
My daughter played High School Football under the Friday night lights and the air was crisp. I got home and almost immediately crawled under my covers with a good book and dozed off but woke much later to chat with my husband. It is work to keep the flames of this long distance love affair burning bright.
I would love to have a lady’s maid like in Downton Abbey to get me ready for bed. Dress me, turn down my sheets and brush my hair 100 strokes. She could bring me a bedtime snack of hot tea and a biscuit that was really wine and nachos.We would laugh and carry on and she would fluff my pillow and tuck the covers up around my ears. However, I am neither rich nor royalty so I just yelled to my oldest daughter that I was cold and she brought me a sleeping bag and threw it across me. She moved my book to tuck the sleeping bag around my ears but smashed me in the face with the zipper. My bedtime snack was a bottle of water. All things considered I am feeling pretty blessed even knowing that the only help I am getting to get dressed this morning is my day of the week underwear.
I am laying here listening to Buddy’s stomach making unusual noises, he is probably still digesting the box of pancake mix he and Rocky ravaged last night. Hubby and I were just on video chat discussing how we would love to have a nanny cam to see which one of the dogs is the actual instigator. Kirk is convinced that the cat is the badass leading them into temptation and then sitting pretty while they go down for their dirty deeds. It is just too bad that they couldn’t just fry up some bacon and eggs but who knows if they would if they could. Dogs will eat a dirty diaper if given the opportunity so I am guessing they will always choose quick over quality. Animals are so much fun though. They are always so excited to see you and they seem to know when you need a little extra love! I don’t get people who don’t get animals. The older I get the more I realize that I like animals better than most people and the people I do like love animals.
We were also discussing who we would have lunch with if we could pick any two celebrities. Kirk decided to skip lunch and go to the mountains sledding with Jann Arden and Rick Mercer. He would lead them in highmarking on his Artic Cat but he was pretty certain that Jann Arden would put Rick to shame. We used to spend a lot if late nights discussing hosting an All Canadian content radio station and Jann Arden would be our first guest. She is the epitomy of Canada’s musical sweetheart slash warrior slash funny lady. We have such fantastic ideas in the wee hours. The thing I always adored about Rick and Jann together is that they are not just hillariously funny they are also smart. I admire people that can combine those two elements. I think I am ridulously funny when I recount fart and poop stories but sadly there is no intelligence to my humor. I think we all can agree though that poop stories are so freaking funny.
I didn’t actually get to come up with my own plan because hubby was fresh off an 18 hour work day and when he gets enthusiastic it is hard to get a word in edgewise but its ok I am happy to hang at the ski chalet marinating steaks and testing the quality of the tequila for our esteemed guests.
My daughter is in the shower now heading to work the breakfast shift at McDs. I was planning to catch a couple more hours of sleep but I would forfeit it for a sausage and egg mcmuffin.
Today is going to be a fabulous day. It is the first day of the month which is a beginning and I love beginnings. It’s like having an empty canvas and paints in front of you, promise and opportunity abounds. It looks like rain. Rain will wash away any bad things left over from last month so we can start fresh.
I am going to put on my big girl Saturday panties and seize the day. My biggest goal this month is to be fully engaged in my life. To show up and be seen. I hope you do the same.