Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29: Circle the Wagons

This post is not so much about me as it is about my Mom.  It's just us girls right now because my Dad and brother are out camping until tomorrow.  Today I enjoyed the quiet and the gloomy, cool weather, cleaned up a little, read, made dinner and dessert.  I liked our house tonight.  Sometimes it seems too small or cluttered or dirty.  But tonight it was cozy and bright and smelled like brownies.  I was watching a classic in the living room, excited for my Mom to come home and be able to relax.  And then she arrived in tears, totally stressed out and overwhelmed by a recent meeting she'd gone to.  My sister was at her side in an instant, letting her spill out the whole story, calming her.  Then when I heard I went in as well.  This is what we do.  This is the beautiful thing about families.
     There is an old saying that goes "circle the wagons."  It comes from pioneer days when traveling companies would park their wagons in a circle.  This would shield them from harsh winds, provide a sort of central safe zone, and make the wagons easier to defend in case of an attack.  During this time, campfires would blaze, meals were made, and surely there was singing, dancing, and laughing as well.  Now it is a term which means to gather together as a group and protect, uplift, or nourish.  Hopefully we all have people in our lives who can surround us in times of distress.  A warm meal, a soft blanket, a calming word, a good laugh, this is what it takes to set us right again.  May we all try harder to uplift and comfort those around us.

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on
~ Bill Withers

March 28: Be Silly

      Two of my favorite cousins spent the night last night.  The younger one, Patrick, is 4, and so he wanted to watch a really dumb movie and we all watched it with him, and had fun making fun of it.  And then as he was supposed to be "winding down" for bed, he spent a good half hour running awkwardly around the living room and making weird noises and talking to himself and growling.  It was wonderful.  Before they left today I wanted to do something fun with them, so we played the game "Curses."  For those of you who haven't played this, everyone must perform a silly challenge, like "mug the person to your left" or "pretend to tell your child their pet has died," all while acting as if you're under a curse, like "talk like a vampire" or "every time you speak, you must scratch yourself like a monkey."  Needless to say, it can be a very funny game, and quite challenging.  I once played up to 7 curses at once!  I was quite proud of myself.  Anyway, the key to this game is, you have to act silly.  Downright ridiculous.  It is really best if you have no reservations whatsoever.  And the sillier of a mood you are in, i.e. late at night, etc., the better.
     Then tonight after a friend's soccer game we came home to watch a movie and eat junk food.  The badminton set was right beside one of the couches (which face each other), so of course we ended up playing badminton in the living room and food absolutely got involved.  It was so much fun.  And then later after our friend got up to leave, we busted up laughing at his butt, which had a melted m&m smeared all over it.  There were the necessary "mess in the pants" jokes, and they left around 2 a.m.  Ever notice how the later you stay up, the sillier you get?  It's a beautiful kind of euphoria that reminds me of being a kid.  When everything was simple and little things were funny and we didn't care about what we looked like or what people thought of us.  Now if we want to be "silly," we have to really let our guard down and work at it, which is sad.  However, "a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."  
     So try and get a little more silly into your life.  There's a great article about it at http://www.hiphomeschoolmoms.com/2011/03/the-many-benefits-of-being-silly/

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26: Sustaining Joy

I am cranky tonight and I have a raging headache.  Nothing especially awful happened today.  In fact, I was able to paint a little, work on my book a little, read a ton... all in all it should have been a wonderful, relaxing, delicious day.  So what is this mood all about?  Just the other day I'd had an amazing meditation.  Toward the end of it I focused on all the really joyful moments in my life, just ran though one after another in my mind and it was as if I could feel that joy, that contentment, as if I was in those moments.
     I thought of a birthday of mine years ago, where my family loaded up in the van and we were driving through downtown at dusk to go over to the island to go bowling.  I remember that everyone was getting along, and the kids were excited, and I felt love as I watched the way the setting sun came through the window and colored everything gold.  I thought of the night before my first day of school at SVU, how I sat in the windowsill of my room, looking down the hill at the lights in the city, astonished that after all the months of planning and filling out papers, and figuring out money, I was finally there.  I thought of the beach house, how it smelled and how the floor was smooth and sandy beneath my feet, and the fans blew the saltiness around, and the moonlight came through our window and we could hear the waves.  I thought of my trip to England, how I'd walked the streets of Bath alone and threw coins into fountains and ate croissants and oranges under humongous trees in the park.
     It was the sweetest feeling I'd ever felt, filling me and overflowing my heart with gratitude for the wonderful moments and people in my life.  But I knew that feeling would fade as I went about the tasks of the day.  I knew that inevitably, I'd get angry at someone, I'd get annoyed with someone, I'd stub my toe, or lose something, or fail at something.  So how can we not let those setbacks derail our happiness?  How can we sustain our joy?
     Well, like any dork, I looked it up online.  And here's some steps that I found to sustaining happiness:  1.) choose it ("people are as happy as they makeup their minds to be")  2.) focus on the moment (instead of agonizing over the past or worrying about the future)  3.) enrich your relationships (with gratitude, honesty, and love)  4.) let go (don't try to judge, control, criticize, or blame others- this will only bring frustration)  5.) be compassionate toward yourself (a lot of our frustration comes from focusing on our own flaws and failures)
     This may take some work...

March 25: Enough is Enough

Oh my-lanta!  This has been one weirdo day.  (Not that being a weirdo is a bad thing.)  It started off awesome because my sister didn't have to work, so both of us got to sleep in and then we went to the beach.  We are communicating so much better now, it's amazing!  Then we came home and I did nothing for three hours but sit outside, read, pet needy cats, and swing in a hammock.  It was glorious.  Then I decided I would give myself a painting lesson.  I have this book that teaches you how to paint a particular image step by step.  Problem is, it's totally different from how I usually paint and I got frustrated and completely fell apart.  I mean, I wasn't crying or anything, but I crumpled it up and threw it passionately on the ground.  I was frustrated with myself for getting frustrated, more than anything.  And then I thought, well, maybe I'm not supposed to paint like this guy.  I have my own way of doing things and it works okay, so why bother trying to master someone else's technique?  But that prideful moment melted away when I realized that we have something to learn from anyone, no matter how different their approach.  So I cleaned up my stuff and I am going to try again tomorrow.  Then I went online to answer some emails.  A friend of mine asked if I would check out his website and give him some feedback, which tickled me pink, but also worried me because I am REALLY critical on myself, and when I get into that mode when asked for my honest opinion, I never know where to draw the line.  Luckily, it was a really good website, or I would have had to lie to him, which is not me at all.  Then I replied to an email from a friend of mine and ended up getting into a deep discourse on love and marriage.  When I started this post, I had so many thoughts swimming around in my head that I hardly knew where to start.  And then I saw one simple theme throughout my day.  "Enough is enough."  If I had applied that principle correctly, I might not have stayed out in the sun for quite so long, as I have a slightly painful pink sunburn now.  I did, however, apply it to my art lesson. I was frustrated, and I'd had enough for one day.  I could also apply it to the delicious dessert that my sister made tonight- Frozen Lemonade Pie.  Mmmm.... I cannot accurately describe how intoxicating this particular food item is for me.  If I could have only one food for the rest of my life, this would be the one.  I always want more and more and more of this tart, chilly seductress... But tonight I managed to stop at 2 small pieces.  As for my emails to my friends, hopefully it was just enough.  What a great, simple principle to apply to our lives more wisely.  Imagine if we always knew when to put down the fork, when to listen instead of talk, when to step away from an argument that isn't going anywhere, when to go to sleep, when to... you get the picture.  Surprisingly, I still have more to say on this topic, but it's late and I guess enough is enough.

"Half of art is knowing when to stop."  - Arthur William Radford

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24: Be, Do, Have

I had this written on my hand the other day, with little flowers beside the word "Do."  My sister spotted it, and, being a girl of few words, said, "Um...."  I explained to her that in my meandering internet research I had stumbled upon a statement that embodies a technique I am trying out in my life.  This technique is called "Be, Do, Have," and these are the basics of it: BE the person you want to be right now by DOing what they would do, to HAVE what they have.
     Well, those of you who know me, know that there are many things I'd love to BE- a writer, an artist, a world-traveler... skinny.  So the question I pose to you is, what are the things you want to be, and are we being those people now and doing the things that those people would do so that we can have what they have?  Probably not.  Many of us are too scared to ask for the things we really want or may even be scared to get them.  Or, we see these dreams of ours as being far off into the future.  Well I'll be (this) after I do (that) and then I can feel (like this).
     Unfortunately, it is exactly this line of futuristic thinking that is holding us back from realizing our dreams sooner.  I am reminded of something I read in a book about writing once.  (I am great at reading books about writing, actually writing on a regular basis, not so much...)  It states, "WRITERS WRITE."  This woman put a huge sign of it up in her office, and all around her house, if I remember correctly.  She had to remind herself to embody this role she was attempting, even though it was something she loved.  Now that I write for visitsouth.com, and I get paid actual money, I should consider myself a writer.  And yet, a part of me feels like I won't really be a writer until I publish my book.  This is silly, backwards thinking.  I am a writer because I write. I am an artist because I paint.  I don't have to be famous or rolling in money from either one of these endeavors for it to be more real, more true.
     So I am trying to change my thinking and Be who I want to be now.  Changing our thoughts is the first step, because our actions spring from what we believe about what we can and can't do.  Just bought some new paints today, feeling nervous, but I'm excited to start again.  After all, painters paint.

Our thoughts and imagination are the only real limits to our possibilities. ~Orison S. Marde

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23: Put Yourself Out There

I had a nice chat with my g-ma today.  And when I told her that I was writing for a website she said, "that's good, now people will know you are alive."  And I thought it was really funny for some reason.  It is really hard for me to put myself out there, in any capacity.  Meeting new people, striking up conversations, trying to make valuable contacts.  Even in our personal relationships that should already be comfortable- we don't like to be vulnerable, we don't like to apologize or look weak or strange or let the people in our lives really know how much we love them, how much we need them.  Logically, I can work things out.  The more friends you have, the more loved you feel and the more fulfilling your life.  The more contacts you make, the higher the chance of finding someone who may teach you something or provide you an amazing opportunity you otherwise wouldn't have had.  The more generous you are with yourself in your personal relationships, the more generous those people will be with you, and the deeper and more meaningful those relationships will be.  I know all of this... and yet...
     So I looked up "How to Put Yourself Out There," and found some disturbing advice. 1.) Think of ways to get more attention.  (I am the "put on your sunglasses, be quiet, blend in, and observe girl.")  2.) Be courteous, confident, and outgoing.  (Courteous, okay... but confident? yikes.)  3.) Go for what you want.  (You mean instead of waiting for someone to pluck me out of obscurity and hand it to me?)  4.) Stay dedicated and determined.  (Guess my "try it once and move on" technique is holding me back...) and 5.) Don't be afraid of change.  (This one I can really get behind.  I LOVE change.  And not just because it's shiny and goes "ting" when you put it in a jar.  I THRIVE on it!)
     Anyway, I am mildly proud of myself tonight because I "put myself out there" in several ways today: I emailed an artist who was kind enough to check out my blog and comment, I introduced myself to several business owners downtown while researching for my latest article, and I struck up random conversations with total strangers while out and about.  Were all of these interactions rousing success stories?  Not really.  But hey, who knows what the future holds...

Each one of you has something no one else has, or has ever had: your fingerprints, your brain, your heart. Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise. Make someone notice. That's the power of individuals.” ~Jon Bon Jovi

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22: Be wEiRd...

Okay, so I had no idea what to post about tonight, and I even surfed the internet for awhile seeking inspiration (which is totally retarded because inspiration should come from withIN).  And I'm not sure if it's the cough medicine thinking or not, but I decided to write tonights post on being weird.  What made me think of this is that I had an awesome meditation today, and I almost told my sister all about it, but thought it was maybe too weird. But then, I thought, "she knows I'm weird, I've been weird around her her entire life, why should I shield her from my weirdness now?"  Weirdness, in fact, is one of my favorite qualities in life: weird people, weird food, weird art, weird books, weird movies, weird music.  All weird really means is unusual.  And unusual is interesting.  The best things in my life are weird.  For example, my weird family:
1.) remember that time we went through a drive-thru and they gave us like ten straws even though we only got two drinks, and you turned around and put the extra straws between your fingers and then slashed my throat and yelled "WOLVERINE!" and I swerved and almost killed us?  Yeah, that was great.
2.) remember the time Dad was working over at the neighbors and you were driving home and he saw your van down the street, so he laid on the ground and put the ladder on top of him so you would think he fell?
3.) remember how you came home from school and I said you smelled like E.T.'s bellybutton?
4.) remember that one night that dad was pouting and hadn't spoken to anyone for like an hour, and we were making up a poem and needed a word to rhyme with Cody and Dad said "bloaty" and we were crying we were laughing so hard?
5.) remember how Magic (our cat) used to hide under the beds when it was time for her to go out at night and we used to lure her out by throwing my heating pad on the ground and turning on the massager?
6.) remember when you brought in the laundry by piling it on your back and then started talking like that freakin' creepy lady in "The Labyrinth?"  "Where's your panda slippers, you can't forget your panda slippers..."
7.) remember how dad found that mummified cat when he was remodeling a building and he kept it for years and brought it out to show our friends and told them it was our pet, "Noodle?"

For tips on how to be weird, check out: http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Weird

We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21: You Create Your Reality

Last year I went to a Relief Society Conference in Idaho.  I remember absolutely nothing except a few thoughts from one class, taught by an artist.  She reminded us that as beings of a Creator, we have creative capacity within us.  She talked about how important it was to try new things, to work with our hands, to use our imagination.  And then she asked us to imagine ourselves as a blank wall.  Do we let other people decide how we are decorated?  Or do we decorate our own wall?  Who we are is a direct result of the choices we've made, from where we live, what we do, how we look, who is in our lives, the struggles we face, the successes we've had.  Once we accept that, we can begin now to focus on what we want for our future.  Because in ten years, we will be living in the reality that we started creating right now. We are both the artist and the masterpiece.  This is a concept I'd heard many times before, but it was never so apparent as when I recently watched "The Secret."  In it, educated people from various fields in the United States discuss this concept of "the power of attraction."  Basically it states: Every aspect of our lives (positive or negative) has been attracted to us by our own thoughts, feelings, and actions.
     In a way that kind of sucks.  That means we are responsible for our own circumstances, we can't blame anyone else.  But it also endows us with limitless power to shape our lives.  So, how do we begin doing that?  It comes down to clear and positive thinking, practicing feeling it as a reality, seizing big or small opportunities to realize your goals, and expressing gratitude for the wonderful things in your life (even those you don't have yet.)  And so, I have decided to put this "secret" stuff to the test.  More on this later...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19: Have Charity

In the scriptures, charity is defined as "pure love."  It's something we've all heard before, but what does it really mean?  When most people hear the word charity, they probably think of donating things to the poor and needy, giving money, food, clothes, or services to help others.  But it is so much more than that.  Doing those things is noble and good, but without compassion and pure love behind those actions, they are empty deeds.  True charity means that we don't look down on others, don't belittle others, don't gossip about others.  It means that we are kind to others in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  It means that we are patient with others, realizing that they have faults and virtues just as we do.  It means that we are not easily angered or puffed up in pride, but that we are meek, humble, and submissive.  It means that we should focus on the good in others and not seek to control and change them to suit our own desires.  
     Tomorrow in church I am teaching a lesson in R.S. about charity, a subject I'll confess I didn't know much about.  Now that I have a greater understanding of what it means to be truly charitable, I see evidence of it all around me.  Tonight as I was wallowing in my germs, trying to put my lesson together, my Mom went ahead and spent a couple hours preparing the refreshments I wanted to give my class.  This is a woman who works full time, has children to raise, a house to keep, time-consuming church callings, and a host of other things to do.  And yet, she more than anyone else in my life, has constantly performed loving and thoughtful acts of service for me and so many other people.  Thank you Mom, you are a true example of "pure love."

"Without charity... whatever else we accomplish matters little.  With it, all else becomes vibrant and alive."  ~ Joseph B. Wirthlin

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18: Doubt not, but be Believing

     I've had a cold for a few days now, so I have had no energy.  I've been achy, my sinuses are crazy, and I just feel all around cruddy.  And even though I sometimes use that as an excuse not to do some of my dailies (like working in the yard, for example), I thought there are some that might really help (like meditating).  So as I was coughing and sneezing and wiping my runny nose, I lit candles and listened to calming music and kind of laughed to myself thinking, "Yeah, I'm really going to feel peaceful and get a lot out of this tonight..."  I couldn't focus, I couldn't relax, and finally I said, "Okay, I'll just breathe deep and smile for 1 song and then I'll go do something else if I feel like it."  So I took a deep breath and a moment later, I had an idea that felt so inspired, so life-changing, so encompassing of everything I love and want to be and do, that it blew my mind wide open.  It was a big idea, HUGE!  And though I had no idea HOW I would accomplish this, I could see it in my future so clear and obvious that it felt like it had already happened.
     Coincidences are messages from God, ideas are invitations to action, and challenges are opportunities.  We don't have to know how we are going to do something, we have to first believe it is possible and then seize opportunities to bring it about.  We have to "doubt not, but be believing."  Which reminds me of a journal entry I once wrote: "In my city there is a small hill.  And when I am riding up it, sometimes it is too hard.  I slow down at the top and walk the rest of the way.  And after I rest, I will sit on my bike and look back down.  It is so dark I cannot see the path.  And yet I pick up my feet and fly into the darkness.  I cannot see the path, I only trust that it is there."
     So I have this dream.  Now... what will I do with it?

   Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17: Make Things Happen

I had such a great day today that it was hard for me to decide what to post, but finally I decided on "making things happen."  Possibly my worst fault (and I have many) is that while I may have great ideas and good intentions, I don't often see them through.  My Feb 17 post was about committing- about knowing when to focus on the task at hand and see things through.  And my Jan 11 post was about reading more.  And while I have been reading a lot (right now I'm reading 3 books at once and about to start a 4th), I also mentioned my desire to start a book club.  This is something I've wanted to do for years.  It's not especially difficult, it doesn't cost much money, and I had no major barriers in the way of doing it, and yet, I never did.  Until now.  Tonight was the first meeting of my new book club.  And as I sat there with friends and family I love, voting for books and enjoying delicious food, I was filled with the pure satisfaction of having finally done something I'd been meaning to do.  Of course, this will be an on-going thing, requiring endurance and consistency, but I think starting was more than half the battle.  Starting is half the battle in most things, just like in my Mar 7 post, Try the rule of Five.  Don't you just love when things intersect like that?
Anyway, to sum things up, there are several important steps to making things happen in your life: 1.) focus your intention, 2.) be open to opportunities to achieve your goals, and 3.) receive those opportunities by acting upon them.  The more action we take, the more opportunities will come our way.

Success, happiness, peace of mind and fulfillment - the most priceless of human treasures - are available to all among us, without exception, who make things happen - who make "good" things happen - in the world around them” - Joe Klock

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 9-16: Make Up

Ok, as you see, time snuck away from me again.  Actually, it punched me in the face and ran away giggling.  We have been having internet problems again, and rather than writing out my posts each day and then putting them in individually as I should, I just let them pass by altogether, something I have a bad habit of doing.  Some of you may recall me talking about my Dailies- a dorky little chart I made of things I want to do every day (but am too stupid to remember without a dumb chart).  Things like praying, meditating, writing my morning pages, going for a walk, doing yard work.  I try to get in a little of each one every day, but often, things do not go according to plan.  Making a dorky chart not only helps me remember, it helps me take a look at what things I am really good about doing every day (like my morning pages) and what things I totally suck at (working on my book).  And because I am an ocd freak, these empty little boxes get on my nerves.  So I have recently come up with the idea of making up overdue dailies.  If I have an empty box in, say, meditating, I will make it up by meditating twice on makeup day, or for twice as long.  Making things up should not be too easy, but it should also not be so difficult that you throw out the idea altogether.
     And to make up for my overdue posts, I'd like to present 7 little themes from the past week: 1.) pain is your body's way of telling you you are really out of shape 2.) rain is awesome- especially when it gives you an excuse to take the day off 3.) puzzles are good for your brain but can be addicting and distracting if you are a major dork 4.) good movies are made better when you watch them with people you love 5.) even if things don't go according to plan, they usually work out (so calm down)  6.) angry people can often be distracted when you compliment them or give them candy, and 7.) the amount of wisdom you gain from life is in direct correlation with how earnestly you seek it.
     Sometimes we feel like the rabbit chasing the carrot on the stick, we can see it, but we never quite get there.  But there are some little things that we CAN catch up on, and accomplishing those little things can add up to a lot of satisfaction.  There now, I feel better already.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mar 8: Calm Yourself

So, my sister and I have this ongoing issue between us where we really get on each other's nerves.  She gets frustrated with me because I am flaky and irresponsible, and I get frustrated with her because she gets angry a lot and really easily.  Sometimes we can keep things light-hearted and joke about our flaws.  Other times it turns into a knock-down, drag-out, war of the words and things get ugly.  I drive her crazy with my talk about controlling anger, being more centered, having a peaceful heart, blah blah blah.  Most of the time it just makes her more angry.  But how can I preach this theory of cool heads, even tempers to people if I can't even control my own anger?  I have come a really long way, I think, in the past few months.  But tonight, as I was waiting for my sister, who was hugging her boyfriend FOREVER, I was getting so impatient, then frustrated, then angry.  "Why is she taking so long?!  Doesn't she know I'm waiting for her?!  Can she only think about herself?!  Are they trying to be funny?!"  When she finally started walking back to the van I tried to take a deep breath and calm myself down, but that only provided me with the air I needed to attack her.  "Are you serious?  Why would you make me wait that long?  That's so rude!"  "I'm sorry..."  "No you're not."  "He gave me a necklace."  "I don't care."  (silence)  "I'm sorry.  I do care.  I just got really frustrated.  What's it look like?"  And thus in a matter of seconds, I went up the angry scale and glided right back down again all by myself.  What's the point, after all?  Am I really going to care that much about this in an hour?  How bout a week?  A month?  A year?  Maybe it's a good idea to start measuring things on a scale of how long we'll actually care about them, how much they actually affect our lives, before we indulge too deeply in expressing our anger.

If you do not wish to be prone to anger, do not feed the habit; give it nothing which may tend to its increase.

Click here to watch a humorous video about ways to Calm Yourself

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mar 7: Try the Rule of Five

Okay, so I was supposed to work with my Dad today, but after a strange morning I ended up back at the house with the rest of the day before me and nothing that I had to do.  There were lots of things I wanted to do, but couldn't get up the initial enthusiasm for, like working in the yard, cleaning my room, meditating, etc.  (Why anyone should need enthusiasm to meditate is beyond me, but sometimes sitting still and doing nothing is harder than making yourself get up and doing something.)  Anyway, I remembered this old trick that I made up a long time ago when I'd gone through a similar phase of trying to do a few select things daily:  the Rule of Five.  The Rule of Five states that most often, if you can make yourself start something with the intention to do it for at least five minutes, it is easier to start and you will end up doing it much longer.  So this afternoon when I really wanted to take a nap I thought, "I'll work on the yard for 'five minutes'."  I ended up working for over an hour.  Then when I wanted to watch a movie I thought "First I'll meditate for 'five minutes'."  I ended up meditating for 45 minutes.  Most of the time, the hardest part is just getting started.  We are like cars that need a push-start, but then run great.  So next time you're facing some task you really don't feel like doing, just tell yourself, "I'll do it for five minutes.  Five minutes is nothing."  Sometimes you will only want to do it for five minutes.  But five minutes can add up over a week, a month, a year.  Most of the time, however, it will be just the start you need to get going, and then you won't want to stop.

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”  - Mark Twain

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mar 6: Don't Go There

One of my favorite movies is "The Fantastic Mr. Fox."  And one of my favorite lines is when Ash says "There are a lot of attitudes going on around here.  Don't let me get one."  Living in a big family, you get used to having a lot of attitudes around.  He is grumpy because his truck is acting up, she is worried because the electricity might get shut off, she is peaceful because she just meditated, she is tired because she's been working, she is happy because a cute boy talked to her today, he is excited because his friend is coming over.  There are so many emotions, feelings, and thoughts going on within one household at one time, that we are bond to bump, collide, and rub off on each other.  If we are lucky, it is the good moods that become contagious.  But more often than not, it is the bad moods that spread... like a virus.  Family, more than anyone else, knows how to push us over the edge with the least amount of effort.  A simple phrase or look can send us into a "self-destructive rage spiral."  Yesterday I was reading "Eat, Pray, Love," (again) and she mentions how her guru recommends not letting yourself fall apart too often, because it becomes a habit.  That instead, we should practice staying strong.  At first I thought this was kind of harsh.  We all need to fall apart sometimes, don't we?  It's healthy to have a good cry, right?  Well today I almost fell apart.  It was over something that started small and escalated quickly.  I drove away from the situation, thinking I would go to a park, have a heavy conversation with myself, maybe cry for awhile.  But instead I drove straight to my best friends' house.  I didn't have my cell, so I couldn't call ahead and see if she was there, or warn her that I was a wreck.  I just showed up thinking, well, if she isn't here I'll go with plan A.  But she was there.  And though I did vent for a couple minutes, my problems seemed very small and petty compared to all that she is dealing with.  She is a single mother of two young children, living at her parents' house, dealing with an ex, and going to school full time.  I felt pretty stupid, getting so upset over something that really wasn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.  By the time I left, I was really glad that I didn't let myself fall apart.  Why go there?  Why indulge in that when it was a beautiful day, I was strong and healthy, I have family and friends who love me, I have talents and pleasures and so much to be grateful for and to look forward to?  I believe we have more control over our thoughts and feelings than we sometimes realize.  Life is too precious to waste one minute of it in despair, anger, regret, worry, or anything else that doesn't help us or those around us.  So next time you feel yourself on the verge of a powerful and destructive emotion, consider what good it will do to let yourself go there.  And then, just maybe, choose not to go at all.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mar 5: Think "Why not me?"

So one of the many annoying things my little sister says whenever asked to do something she doesn't want to do is "Why me?"  Put away the movie you got out.  "Why me?  I wasn't the only one who watched it." (This particular conversation went on for what seemed like forever.  Finally the dvd got up and said "Oh my gosh! Fine!  I'll put myself away!")   We all have things that we don't want to do.  They might not be particularly hard or time-consuming, or even selfless, we just don't want to do them.  Today I had three such opportunities.  My dad was out working in the yard.  He is a hopelessly disorganized business owner- a bad combination.  He was in the backyard, clouds forming overhead, staring at the bed of his truck, surrounded by buckets, tools, tarps, and other construction paraphernalia, and looked as if he was either about to climb under the truck in a soppy pile and cry or have a stroke.  I went out and made a little small talk with him, knowing he needed help but thinking (selfishly) of all the things I wanted to get done.  (Like write a new article for visitsouth, clean my room, read, meditate, and not work in the yard.)  I wanted very badly to slink back into the house and cloister myself in my room.  But instead I took a deep breath and simply said, "Need some help?"  Later when my stressed out mother was trying to handle the kids, make a pie, and get ready to go out, I offered to go to the store for her.  Anyway, even though this post seems very uppity, I think I have illustrated quite thoroughly the innate selfishness I possess.  I did not want to do these things and of course the first thought in my mind was "Why me?"  But then I tried to use on myself what I try to use on my sister.  "Why not me?"  This needs to be done, why don't I do it?  This person needs help, why don't I help them?  Why is this an important concept to me?  Because I hope the next time my car brakes down, or I am choking in a restaurant, or I am carrying something that is clearly too heavy for me, that the people who see this ask themselves the same question.

"Let me do all the good I can, to all the people I can, as often as I can, for I shall not pass this way again."
~ John Wesley

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mar 4: Don't Assume You Already Know the Answer

So... tonight was the March First Friday Artwalk, which I wrote an article about for visitsouth.com and was really excited to go to.  There was one problem, I didn't have anyone to go with me.  Now, I am not the kind of person who can never be alone.  In fact, I need constant blocks of time in which to be alone or I will lose it.  But sometimes you just feel like enjoying something with someone.  I was just getting ready to go by myself, but for some reason, at the last minute, I asked my dad.  Now, my dad used to be quite the social butterfly, I hear, when he was young- surfing, girls, hangin' out, goin' out, causin' trouble.  But since I have known him (and especially in the last few years), he has gained a reputation as somewhat of a loner.  While he wistfully tells us stories of his former glories, he is content, for the most part, with his bed, a strange documentary, and some scrambled eggs.  He doesn't like going out, he doesn't like crowds, and he has never shown much of an interest in art.  And so, when I asked him, I was sure he'd laugh or say something sarcastic, blow me off without a second thought and commence his usual evening.  But instead (after only 2 encouraging/whiny comments from me) he said yes!  Needless to say, I felt like I was having a stroke.  But when I pulled my jaw off the floor I was delighted.  I hope I showed him how happy I was that he joined me.  He was so cute, pretending to be interested, being patient when it took an hour and a half instead of half an hour.  I even think he had a little fun.  Sometimes we think we know people so well, that we count them out when really all they may need is a little encouragement.  All of us want to feel loved, appreciated, and like it's never too late to surprise ourselves.

"the people you love can surprise you every day... maybe who we are isn't so much about what we do, but rather what we're capable of when we least expect it." 
 Jodi Picoult (My Sister's Keeper)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

March 3: Don't Be Afraid to Hope for Things

Too late again, but hey, an hour earlier than last night.  I have been thinking lately about a comment someone made to me.  We were discussing something we both wanted to happen, but she "didn't want to get her hopes up."  I thought about what a funny expression that is.  Why are some of us so afraid to "get our hopes up?"  It made me think of another friend who said he never plans things too far in advance, because if anything went wrong, as it usually did, he would be too disappointed.  I feel sad for people who feel that way.  In trying to avoid a crushing let down, they are missing out on the deliciousness of anticipation.  Studies show that often the anticipation of something is more enjoyable than the attainment of the experience itself.  I guess people figure that the more they reach for something, the more they let themselves fantasize about a dream coming true, the higher they rise on hope's wings, the farther they will fall, the more they will hurt.  Now I am not one of those people who has succeeded at everything she's attempted and gotten everything that she wants.  I have experienced failure, defeat, and disappointment.  But I have also experienced many amazing, beautiful, wondrous things.  Things that I might never have experienced if I was too afraid to look forward to them.  When we look forward to things, we push our destiny in their direction.  If we fail, we fail, if things don't work out, well, that happens sometimes.  But it makes us that much stronger, that much more determined, that much more positive.  It's hard enough to maintain happiness is this stressed-out, unpredictable, topsy-turvy world, why deny yourself of joy just because you aren't sure if things will work out?  In fact, who's to say that our attitude toward the likelihood of something happening doesn't in fact affect whether it happens or not?  Imagine if all the writers, painters, composers, etc. in history thought, "This might not work out, so I'm not going to invest too much hope it it."  Without the hope of succeeding, we lose all purpose and motivation in even trying.  So whether it's a life-long dream or something as simple as a new recipe turning out well, don't be afraid to hope for the best.

In all things it is better to hope than to despair” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Feb 24-March 2: Take the Good with the Bad

Oh, man, I should NOT be up this late!  But we just got our internet back today and I was itching to get blogging again.  I wrote a new article for visitsouth.com first, but have really been missing the personal catharsis I get on this blog.  A few of you who follow me regularly have been asking me why I haven't been posting, and I'll tell you why- LIFE.  It always seems that when we hit a nice rhythm or we are really satisfied or happy or peaceful about things, something happens... like a wrench thrown into... I don't know, some kind of machine.  One thing bangs into another, which snaps, until the whole thing implodes.  At least, that's how it feels.  It can be easy to get thrown off track and go in a completely different direction.  What's important, is that we get back on.  So how can we do that?  Well that depends on what kind of track we are trying to get back on, whether it's doing something regularly like exercising, writing, getting up early, being positive or kind, or refraining from something like smoking, drinking, swearing, or rolling our eyes too much.  Whatever it is that we're wanting to do or not do, sometimes life gets in the way.  Things get lost, packages arrive late, companies downsize, our favorite fingernail polish colors get discontinued, the internet goes out for a few days.  But among all that icky, frustrating, unfortunate stuff, there are little blessings... like a diamond hiding in a steaming pile of manure.  For example, even though the last few days have been "bad," I have also: gone to a festival, hung out with friends, slept in, laid out, walked on the beach, read a good book, and just today I made (with a little help from my dad), painted, and decorated 2 cute shelves for my room.  "Good" and "bad" are like the banks on the river of our life, they aren't going anywhere, and they are guiding us together, side by side.  I don't think it's a coincidence that my last blog (a whole week ago) was an "upper."  I was high on life and things were going so well.  So in a way, this comes at a perfect time.  As, I think we will some day find, most of the "bad" in our lives does.

“When things go wrong, you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.”  C.S. Lewis