2016- The Year of Connection

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Missing Hawaii

It is midway through December. The Christmas tree is up, and that combined with the smell of pine and fallen leaves outside the house has me in a nostalgic mood.  It has me thinking about the past year.  God, so much has changed.  This time last year, I lived in Kailua, the most gorgeous place on the planet.  I dare you to tell me different.  I lived a mile away from a beautiful beach.  My best friends lived in walking distance from me.  On a Saturday morning I had a dozen people I could call at the drop of a hat to invite to a last minute hike or walk on the beach.  I knew my neighbors, and I had healthy, active people surrounding me.  I could walk to Crossfit and my work was a mere 15 minutes away.

Why then does it feel so right that I’ve moved to this out of the way place, where we are surrounded by squirrels, deer, bugs and birds?  Where Walmart is the best option for produce?  Where the beach (which in no way compares to Kailua) is a half hour drive away?  Where we are afraid to let our dogs run loose because they might get eaten by alligators or snatched up by large predatory birds?

One major answer is family.  I am missing my best friends like hell, and I am going to have to figure out how to visit soon, but now I feel like I live on the same planet as my family.  When I call them in the morning, it is also morning for them.  I don’t get the news 6 hours later than they do.  I saw my family and Nathan’s family in July.  Then I drove to New York for Thanksgiving.  Twice.  I am going to see

them again over the Christmas break.  I think Nathan said it most eloquently when we spoke of it in the car the other night.  He said, “This last time we drove away from the house, I was sad, because I would miss them, but I wasn’t thinking Is this the last time I am going to see them?”

How shitty is that question?  This is why I moved from Hawaii.  If someone in my family gets sick, or a family member gets married, or a family member has a baby, those things matter to me.  And living in Hawaii, you start to question whether you can afford to go see them.  That’s screwed up.  My mother-in-law had a liver transplant.  My sister-in-law gave her half of her own liver.  That’s freaking amazing.  And when we got married, they couldn’t come to Hawaii, because traveling when you’ve gotten a liver transplant is pretty freaking difficult, especially at first.  That sucked.  Big time.

Living so close feels amazing.  I feel like I am getting to know them again.  And it’s not like I didn’t talk to my siblings or my parents.  We kept and still do keep up a pretty good conversation via facebook

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Seeing Family is Priceless

and email and I was able to have Skype conversations with them on most of the holidays over the years.

Seeing Family Is Priceless
Seeing Family Is Priceless

But, let’s be honest.  It’s not the same.  It’s not the same as trying to sleep on the top bunk at your parents’ house when your oldest sister is sleeping on the bottom bunk and you’ve got years of catching up to do.  It’s not the same as being able to clear your crap out of your parents’ house for them.  It’s not the same as having a cup of coffee with them across the island in the kitchen or building a bonfire or playing Pandemic or talking about the Dragonriders of Pern books or simply being in their presence.  It’s not the same as spending time with your nieces and nephews and the dogs.  And it’s definitely not the same as being able to give them a hug.

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Seeing Family is Priceless

I feel like I missed a lot over the years, but at the same time, I grew up in Hawaii.  I became a big girl there.  I learned how to be a kind, loving, healthy, individual.  I learned how to love myself and I found friends there that became my family.
So how, in 2016 do I find what I had in Hawaii (not the beaches, but the friends and the lifestyle) and stay close to my family?  How do I find that connection somewhere close enough to New York?

I haven’t found the answer yet.  My husband and I are looking for employment possibly near Asheville, NC or in Colorado.  I need to find a group of people who are interested in health and wellness like I am.  We need to find a place that doesn’t have an undercurrent of discrimination.  And I need a place to be able to hike and work out, but this place can’t cost as much as Hawaii did.  I refuse to be a slave to the price of a plane ticket home.
Any ideas?  Comment below!  Where do you think the best place to live is?

 

Missing my Hawaii Family
Missing my Hawaii Family

Surprised by Nature

In July, my husband and I began renting a house in North Carolina.  After being in a townhouse in Hawaii for 13 years, we decided to get a place with a yard.  Out here we were able to find a lovely house complete with a firepit and a stream running through some woods out back, and a bunch of trees in the front yard.  I am surrounded by flora and fauna that I am not familiar with.  There are the regular old Pine and Oak and Hickory that I recognize.  What I have come to learn, is that in a rental property you don’t know what has been planted over the years and sometimes you get a surprise.  And we have had a couple of really beautiful surprise displays over the last couple of months.

We had an incredible display of mushrooms when my in-laws came to visit:

There was this incredible looking mushroom in our driveway:

This vine covered in white flowers was growing and blooming everywhere for about a week and a half.  The air around us smelled so beautiful.

This random berry patch grew out of the swamp next door:

Groupings of these fabulous red plants started blooming in random spots around the house:

Then, after cold weather came for a little while and I thought we wouldn’t have any more surprises, this bush out front of our house went from boring green plant to this:

Gorgeous white flowers all over!  The blanket of fallen petals happened over a few days’ time.  I continue to be stunned by the beauty in the nature around us right now.

I feel so blessed to have been able to find such an amazing location to ease my way back to the mainland.  Mushrooms, flowers, squirrels, foxes, deer, and some really large birds have appeared so far. I can’t wait to wake up every day and see what the property has to offer.

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

Three weeks ago I was walking in Walmart in the gardening section.  And there, tucked quietly on the side, in a row, near the patio furniture, were Christmas trees.  This was before Halloween.  I feel like the school year just started.

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Now, this is not a rant on how we are celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier.  Frankly, I don’t care about that in particular.  I’m sure there are people who quite brilliantly leave their Christmas tree up year round because it takes less energy.  That I don’t mind.  What I do mind is that the “holidays” based on getting stuff are squeezing out the holiday for appreciating the stuff.

Halloween has always been about dressing up and getting candy.  What’s cooler than dressing up and becoming something or someone completely different from yourself for one evening?  And getting Snickers bars to boot?  That’s amazing.

After Halloween is supposed to come Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is a holiday about family, about quality time spent together, about playing soccer or football in the backyard after eating a ton of food around a huge table packed with loved ones.  The whole idea of Thanksgiving is preparing food for someone else.  It’s spending hours together in the kitchen getting different dishes ready.  It’s everyone pitching in to make an entree or a dessert.  It’s guests helping you clean your dishes when half the party has left.  It’s playing Atari with your cousins in the basement and going on a long walk in the woods to counteract the tryptophan from the turkey.  This holiday is all about giving and thanking and community and kindness and gratitude.

No wonder it’s been completely overshadowed by the Christmas holiday season.  I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but here in America we like to get stuff.  We think our kids deserve hundreds of presents and we think other people should know what expensive thing we want to get under the tree.  In every school I’ve worked at over the years, Santa has become a bargaining tool for the children.  If you’re good you’ll get stuff, but if you don’t listen, Santa won’t come.

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So we go from dressing up and getting stuff in October, to a quick thanks for a second in November to “give me, give me, give me” in December.  January we have a momentary break and then we jump into February’s candy and card fest.

I guess I don’t need to go on, you can see where this is going.  We have become a country run by the gifts we get for each other.  We deserve the new car, the newest iPhone, and my child should have all the things on his Halloween, birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day lists.  We have become collectors of shiny stuff.

This year, I challenge you to cover your eyes and ears when the commercials for Christmas come on.  Stop believing the advertisements telling you how much you need.

What do you really need?  You need Thanksgiving.  Over and over and over again.  Remove yourself from the craziness.  I’m not saying not to give gifts.  But you don’t have to get everyone you’ve ever met a gift.  You don’t have to make a card for everyone who has ever crossed your path.  Your loved ones don’t need more than one present from you.

holding-handsThis holiday season (whatever that means) do your best to schedule time for the people you love.  Get out a board game.  Go outside for a walk.  Read a book together.  Create a meal from scratch together.  Do anything, but do it with someone.  Put your phones and your iPads down and look each other square in the eyes.  Whether you pray or not at your holiday of choice, you should still sit next to each other around a table and hold hands for a moment.  Maybe just take a deep breath together.  The human connection is something we’re losing.  Be the one to bring it back to your group.

Stop asking for more and appreciate all the things and people you have.

Do you have any plans with friends and family for the holidays?  Share it below!

Adulting

1029151915a_HDRToday was a new day.  If you read yesterday’s blog you know that I had a temporary meltdown.  I think that’s par for the course, that everyone has days like that.  I was tired, hungry, and spent the day trying to look busy.  So the follow-up of a dead battery and a car that wouldn’t start pushed me over the edge.  I’m pretty sure everyone has days like this every once in a while.

Today was a much different kind of day and it’s the reason I can tell that all of the hard work I’ve been doing over the years is working.  Rewind back just 7 years and this type of incident might have set off days or weeks of feeling down.  For me that usually looks just fine, maybe slightly frazzled or a little tired at work.  I would hold it in and put on a happy face for my professional colleagues and then I would drive straight home to crash.  I would watch tv, read a book, or just sleep.  I would definitely eat like crap and isolate myself.

Today it’s a different story.  This morning I knew that I was going to wake up feeling junky.  That’s expected after a day like yesterday.  Especially since I replayed the incident over and over in my head over night instead of getting a good night’s rest.  But, I’ve been here before, and I know what to expect.  So this morning my alarm went off and I angrily jumped out of bed to silence it.  I got straight into the shower, then turned on all of the lights, turned on some music and made coffee.  I took the time to sit in my sunroom to meditate this morning.  I listened to the crickets chirp, the jets flying over head and the birds.  I took the time to center myself for the day.

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When I got to work I wrote down my Core Desired Feelings.  If you’ve never heard of Danielle Laporte and her Core Desired Feelings, you’re missing out.  The very, very basic of it is to identify not what you want to do, but how you want to feel.  I put “supported, connected, joy, freedom.”  I took the time to seek out friendly faces, to smile and chat for a moment.  And as the morning went on I started to feel very good.  This afternoon I texted my friend to go for a walk around the track.  We did 2 miles, talked, and then did some random plyometric moves and had a good laugh about it.

When I got home I decided to take this thing all the way, so I made dinner on an actual plate (courtesy of my in-laws) and set the table for myself.  I ate looking out the window at my front yard and listened to the crickets chirp again.

This wasn’t easy.  It took a lot of work to continue to take actions to make myself feel better and dig myself out of the hole.  But it was worth it.  Tomorrow I know I’m going to wake up in a better mood and hopefully I can enjoy my weekend instead of curling up in my jammies.

Now that I’ve adulted all day I’m going to search for last night’s Criminal Minds episode, and hit the sack early.

Today is the Only Day

What if today was the last day?  What if today was the only day?

Recently I was asked the question:

“What do you want your legacy to be?”

Wow.  What a question, right?  But, it’s an important question.  When you ask yourself this question, it makes you dig deep about what you want to leave behind.  What would you want family and friends to remember about you?  What would you want your children to know if you could only pass on a short message in a letter or a video?  It makes you clear away the clutter and get to the heart of what your message in this world is.

I had a few ideas.  I’m sure this is a list that will grow, expand, and change as I continue to live my life.  Today, here is what I want you to know:

I want  you to know how incredibly essential and significant you are.  Yes, you.  Right there, reading this.  You.  This world needs you.  Your actions and words and thoughts and energy are an integral part of this universe.  And knowing that, I want you to believe in yourself and the potential that is in you.  That thing you want?  That you tell yourself is too big or expensive or grand or improbable.  You can have that.  The barriers are an illusion.  They are not real.  There are obstacles, but they are conquerable.  Every single one of them.  

That’s what I want you to know.

What I want you to do is test this.  Stop believing what you read or see on tv.  Try with something small that you’ve been putting off.  Figure out what the obstacles are and figure out how to get through and over and under and around.  Have fun, be creative, ask for help, get messy and laugh.  And then all of a sudden you’ll see you have or have done the thing.  Congratulations!  Now do something bigger.

 

That’s what I want you to know.  Believe in yourself.  Do cool shit.  In the great words of L’Oreal “You’re worth it.”So now it’s your turn.  What’s the legacy you want to leave?

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Oasis at Night

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30 Day Blog Challenge

 

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Hello my dear friends! As a member of the Easily Distracted crowd, I have probably mentioned before that I have a tendency to get an idea, start an activity, and then forget about it before I finish.  That is why, even though I love crafting, I have to pick projects that can be finished in a few hours, otherwise it might end up incomplete in the Land of Unfinished Toys.  When I moved from Hawaii to North Carolina I was forced to finish or give away many eyeless and earless elephants, unstuffed monster pillows, and cut, but not sewn bags.  The vault of half-finished ventures includes a list of about 20 blog post drafts, carefully thought out, started and abandoned.

Other than limiting myself to projects that can be complete in one day, it helps if I can find a group of folks that can motivate me.  So, in the name of those abandoned posts, my friends and I have begun a 30 day blog challenge.  I am hoping that this will light a fire under me to get in the habit of completing posts and publishing them rather than banishing them.

This post counts as Day Number 1.

My goal for this challenge is to create habits.  Hopefully along the way you will be entertained and informed.  My hope as always is for you to feel empowered, brave, and free.

I’m not sure what’s in store for tomorrow!

P.S.  If you’d like to join our facebook group and get motivated to blog with us, comment here or message me on my facebook page.

Do what you love for money.

valentine heart shape made by dollars isolatedThis evening I am running my very first Meditation for the Easily Distracted class.  This is super exciting for me, because like most of us, I have had always had this vision in my head that work has to somehow be work.  It has to be difficult and unpleasant and you have to be able to complain about Mondays and be excited about Hump Day and celebrate Aloha Fridays as a huge relief that you can escape work for 48 hours.  For the last couple of years I have been practicing what I preach, getting closer and closer to a job that I actually love.  And I’m close.  I love Life Coaching.  That, to me, is heaven.  Why then do I have a 40 hour a week side job working for the government?  It’s a counseling job, I love working with the children, I love working with the staff, and I enjoy the freedom of the job.  But I work for the man.  Truthfully, the only problem I have with this job at all is that they tell me when I’m supposed to be there and give me guidelines on what I am supposed to be doing.  Ew.  I don’t like people telling me what to do.

What does this have to do with my Meditation Course you might ask?  Well, I freaking love meditating and reading about meditation and mindfulness.  It’s something I love to do in my free time.  So the question is, why did it take so long for me to put a course together about something I love?  The answer, as it is to most questions about hesitation, is fear.

Ask yourself, how would you feel about getting paid to do something you love?  How would you feel about asking people to give you money to do or teach the thing you do for fun in your free time?  It feels weird, right?  There’s this thought that if this is something I am doing for fun, I should have to pay money for it.  And if someone wants to do it with me, that it should be free.  But why?  What if the thing you love is running?  And you know people who want to get into running shape.  What if you started a weekly gathering of people who run together that you are in charge of?  I can hear the thousands of protests that your brain is coming up with right now.  I’m not trained, I’m not a teacher, I only do it for fun.  This is just an example, but as a culture we have, for some reason, divided our lives into “work” and “fun.”  There are the horrible, nasty things we do for work and the freeing, lovely, energizing things we do for fun.

Ask yourself, what if you started to blur those lines?  What if you started to look for work that is fun?  What if you took a minute to dream about getting paid to do the thing you do in your free time?  Do you hike, do you garden, do you drink, do you create excel spreadsheets?  There is somebody else in this world that could use what you know.  In fact, there are people in this world who need you.

Today, take a few minutes to picture yourself doing the thing you look forward to doing when your job is done for the day.  The thing you daydream about during your breaks.  And then picture yourself doing that as a full-time job.  Your brain will protest.  For just today, ignore everything it says about it.  Today, it is okay to imagine that you could make a living lying on the beach in paradise reading steamy novels.

 

What comes up for you, what are the arguments that your brain makes when you think about getting paid to do what you love?  Share below!

 

How to Get Over Your Fears and Breathe Underwater

About 5 years ago, my husband and I decided to get certified to Scuba Dive.  Hell, we live in Hawaii.  How could we leave here without giving it a try?  I had been snorkeling many times before and I never had any problems breathing through a snorkel, so I did not foresee how terrified I would be.  Before you ever take your course, you have to read through the book they give you.  You learn all about the dangers, including how deep you can safely go, what happens to the air inside of your body as you go deeper, why you need to clear your ears, why you need to ascend so slowly, why you need to wait a certain amount of time in between dives and how long and how deep you can safely dive if you go twice.  You learn about how long you have to wait before you fly in an airplane after you dive, not to hold your breath, to empty all of the air out of your BCD before you start to ascend.  This is, obviously, all very important.

I was very excited about learning to dive until we practiced for the first time.  Your first practice is in shallow water.  You learn how to put all the gear together, you practice putting your mask on and off under water, you practice safety breathing, you practice all of the emergency prep stuff that you might need when you go deep.  You also practice swimming around under water.

This cat breathes underwater better than I do.

In Hawaii we are lucky.  We don’t have to practice this stuff in a pool, we can just go to a shallow, calm section of the ocean, put on the gear on shore and wade right in.  And it was then that I realized how heavy the gear is.  The weight of the air tank did something to me mentally.  And when I waded into the water and put my head in, I panicked.  Something in my head was saying, “you are going to put your head under water and try to breathe and that is seriously stupid.”  I am not one to quit, so I basically forced myself to go through the motions.  I had my husband there and our instructor, so I was able to pack down the terror by basically telling myself that they know I’m new at this, they will watch me closely and they won’t let me drown.

Then, as part of your class, you do a deep dive and a shallow dive.  I didn’t fully admit to myself how terrified I was, I think I told myself it was just because I was a beginner.  But the fear got in my way so much that it was hard to concentrate on what everything did.  I had a really hard time remembering the name of the gear, how much weight I put in my BCD, how to connect the regulator, and kind of let the instructor set everything up for me.  I got through those dives again, by thinking that the instructor was going to keep an eye on me and not let me drown.  Awesome.  

After the class was over it was another year before we dove again.  We went with a dive group and I felt okay knowing that we would have a dive leader who would remind us of what to do and stick around us just in case something went wrong.  My husband and I were buddies, and I knew he would keep an eye on me.  Well, I jumped off the boat for the dive, got to the rope and couldn’t force myself to go down.  I panicked.  I put my head under, started to sink and then started flailing like I was drowning.  The dive leader came back up and told me to breathe out, I did, calmed down enough and went down the rope.  I had an okay time, but I struggled with how much air to keep in my BCD and kept thinking about my breath.  We saw fun stuff, but I spent most of the dive thinking about my breathing.

The second dive was similar, minus the panicking at the top of the rope.  I kind of floated around with the group thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and trying not to move too much.  Then, on the way up, my husband went just a little too fast.  He was having a hard time keeping himself on the rope.  The dive leader grabbed him and pulled him down, but it was a struggle to go slow enough.  When we got to the surface he had a small bloody nose, but everything else seemed to be okay.  The dive leader, who I will not name, did not check on him.  He did not explain to him why he might have been going to fast, or even talk to him at all about it.  We got back to shore and later than night he had pains in his chest.  Yes, we probably should have gone to the doctor and we are idiots that we didn’t immediately head off to the emergency room.  He was okay in the morning, so we just went on about our lives.

So, when we go the opportunity to go scuba diving on Christmas Day this year I had mixed feelings.  I was excited and I was terrified.  I remembered how the last trip went.  I checked the weather and surf- there was supposed to be big waves and very little visibility.  Things weren’t looking great.  But I decided that since the only thing I could control out of the whole situation was myself, that I would do so.

Christmas Eve, before I fell asleep, I did a visualization of myself, with the gear on, breathing fantastically.  I recalled the way it felt breathing out of an air tank, and I reminded myself that it would feel different, but it was safe.  I thought of all of the things I could do to make this trip go better.  And I took charge.

That morning two of the five that were supposed to go diving didn’t go.  So I told my husband and our friend, Brian, that I reserved the right to go on the boat and decide not to go in the water.  Of course, they agreed.  Just that one thing made me feel better already.  They were okay if I decided it was unsafe.  When we got to the group, and the leader asked us if we were comfortable divers, I flat out told him, no, I was kind of terrified and I hadn’t been diving in years.  The truth felt good.  We got on the boat and we started to put our gear together.  I told Brian that I had some dumb questions, including “What the hell do I do now?” and “How do you scuba dive?” and similar questions.  He is experienced, so I let him walk my husband and I through how to put the gear together.  And this time, knowing that I was more in control, I really watched.  I asked questions about how much weight I should wear and how when I should fill my vest and really listened to the answers.  I told the dive leader that I might go really slow, I might decide to turn back.  I also made sure he knew that my husband has tubes in his ears, so there was a possibility that he wouldn’t be able to clear his ears, and in that case, we would both be going back to the surface.  Again, the truth felt really good.  And this time, when I jumped in the water, I felt much better.  I remembered to breathe out, take my time, do a really quick meditation and when I got to the rope, I let all the air out to descend.  I wasn’t heavy enough and couldn’t get under water.  But the leader came over and made sure all the air was out of my vest and helped me go under.  I reminded myself that I was in control.  I knew what my gear was for.  I took my time and went slow.  I made sure to concentrate on all of the cool stuff happening around me, like the bubbles coming from the divers below me.  I made sure to clear my ears and looked at the rope in my hands.  As long as I was concentrating on the good stuff, the fears about my breathing went away.  I made sure, the entire dive, that when I started to feel the panic about my breathing, to breathe out, and to look at my surroundings and pick something to concentrate on.  The only time I allowed myself to think about my breathing was to check my air level periodically and to make sure I wasn’t holding my breath.  As long as I was enjoying the moment, the experience, the fish, the bubbles, the wreck, and the Eagle Rays that we saw, I was totally fine.  We went very slow on the way up, and I appreciated that.  Nathan started to float a bit again, and go fast, but he held on, the leader made sure he didn’t go too fast.

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The next thing that happened was the most important for me, and why I was able to do the second dive in utter bliss, and am excited to go diving again someday.  When we got back on the boat and took our gear off our leader came over to check up on us.  He explained why I didn’t get all of the air out of my vest and couldn’t go under at first.  He explained what to do next time.  He explained to my husband why he was going up so fast last time, and what to do next time.  We talked about the dive, the cool stuff we saw and problem solved a few things so that the next one would be even better.

I set up my own gear for the second dive, and when I descended the rope, it was such a joy.  We went very, very slowly, because my husband was having difficulty clearing his ears.  At one point I thought we might have to go back up, but it would have been okay.  It was that feeling of accomplishment, that I had overcome complete panic and terror to be able to breathe underwater with such ease.  And that dive was amazing.  I was able to swim a tiny bit farther away and look at things on my own.  The dive went great and we went slowly to the top.

Taking the time to overcome of of my fears was one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received.  Is there anything that you were able to overcome in 2013?  Celebrate it with us below in the comments!

 

Living a Happy Life- It’s not about luck.

As we come upon the end of the year and look forward to the next, the posts about how to improve your life are taking over social media.  And in response I’ve seen many posts about how annoying it is to have those posts pop up all over the place.  I enjoy reading both sides, the ones outlining activities and practices that lead to more positivity and those convinced that those people should just shut up.  What really entertains me is the comments at the end.  I am floored by the numbers of people who take the time to comment.  And it saddens me to see how many people are convinced that happiness and joy are out of reach.  I understand that these articles often come off with a Pollyanna vibe, like it’s supposed to be easy.  “10 Easy Steps to Joy!”  And if you are currently in a depressive state, reading the easy fixes like, “Smile more!” might make you want to punch someone.    The truth of the matter is that Joy and Happiness are not easy to come by. Not at first.  Especially when you’re out of practice.  The people writing these articles have usually taken years of practice to come by their current state of calm, peace or joy.  They didn’t just “smile more” for a day and then BAM, HAPPINESS!  It is not easy, and it doesn’t happen quickly.  But it CAN happen.  One of the first steps is to figure out if you even believe it’s possible, despite your present circumstances in life.  You can be in exactly the same circumstances that you are in now and have a more peaceful, calm, even joyful state of mind.  Another thing to realize, is that being happy or joyful despite your circumstances does not mean that now you become a passive floater in life.  The people writing these articles are not simply running down the shore of the beach in the sun all day.  That might be a part of their day and all the power to them!  They take the time to have fun.  But they are also feeding their families, paying their bills, writing blog posts, putting their effort into the projects that they care about.  They work hard.  They do not simply lie on the bed all day with a big grin on their faces.
I know, because I’m one of those people who tend to write and share those positive posts.  I love to talk to people about how to live a more joyful life.  But the truth is, I didn’t use to be this happy.  I used to be pretty miserable.  I went to my boring, stressful job, came home to my husband and dogs who I love very much, and made dinner and either worked out or worked on the computer and went to bed.  It wasn’t a bad life.  If you had asked me then, I probably would have said I was pretty happy.  I enjoyed a lot of the things I was doing.  I was being paid well enough to continue to live in Hawaii, which is a beautiful place to be.  My husband took wonderful care of me and dogs give unconditional love, the best kind.  And yet, looking back, knowing how happy I am now, I see that I was “pretty happy” but also “pretty miserable” in probably equal amounts.  Good memories and moments of sadness, boredom, discontent.  And that feeling that I couldn’t change it.
So I know.  I know what it’s like to think to yourself that you should be happy because you have a great husband, family, dogs and for $#@$ sake you live in Hawaii.  I know what it’s like to look at people with those beaming smiles and think they’re faking it.  Believing that that level of happiness doesn’t actually exist.  Believing that those people were trying to sell me something, their product, their website, something, and that when they were done convincing me how awesome it was, they were going to go home and collapse into an exhausted heap of human, spent after spending the day trying to keep up that level of deception.  I believed that it wasn’t possible.
Seeing a therapist in 2010 was a big change for me.  I stopped trying to do things by myself.  And in that small act of asking for help from someone else, I became a little braver.  I decided that I didn’t have much to lose by trying.  I decided to live an experimental life.  I decided to give it a shot and see if it was actually possible to enjoy the little things in life.  To see if, in fact, meditation works.  To test out whether or not those joy gurus were right.  I started to listen to “self-help” books and to experiment with prayer, yoga, meditation and mindfulness activities.  Even if I thought it was stupid at first.  In fact, when I started meditating, it was painful.  My mind raced, thinking of all of the more important activities I could be accomplishing, my legs hurt because I’m so inflexible, my back hurt because I don’t like to sit up straight and they tell you you should.  Sometimes I would fall asleep, other times I would peek open my eyes to see how much time left I had on the clock.  But I gave it a shot.  I made a commitment to a week of meditation in the morning.  And slowly, in little tiny moments, I began to feel that inner peace.  Those moments of just being and nothing else.  Where all the pain in my body and all the painful thoughts were briefly not important.  In the beginning it was so short, but once you’ve felt that, you become a bit of an addict.  You want more.  And then I finally believed that those joy gurus could be right.  That feeling does exist.
At the same time I was exploring books on the subject.  If a book didn’t interest me in the beginning, I stopped reading it.  I wasn’t there to waste my time.  Over time I found a few people whose words touched me and hit a nerve.  Not everything they said was like that, but every once in a while there would be a statement that just zinged me from my head to my toes and landed in my heart.  And I knew, just knew it to be truth.  I felt it.  It was not logic, it was knowing.  It was similar to that feeling of just “being” during meditation.

Because I took the time to experiment, I allowed myself to be open to the possibility.  And I discovered it could be true.  And it took a long time.  A 10 minute meditation in the morning is long for me.  I still peek at the clock sometimes.  But there are times when I start to meditate and I drop into this wonderful state of calm and peace.  And I’ve come to a point where I can find that state during times of stress and frustration.  In traffic, in long lines at the supermarket, while one of the toddlers I work with is purposefully taking as long as physically possible to put his dish into the dish tray after lunch.  In these moments I can drop down into that feeling of relaxation.  And here’s where I think we have led people astray.  Once I’ve reached that state, I don’t just smile and say, “Oh, it’s okay, do what you want” and pretend to smile blissfully.  I don’t let people walk over me just because I’m able to stay calm.  Being peaceful and calm is not the same as being a push-over.  In those moments, though, I can clear my mind and think of something to keep me busy.  Instead of fuming about how slow the lady in front of me is, while she counts out 85 dollars worth of pennies and drops a handful on the floor, I can take a second to drop in the calm.  Then I can look around and see if there is a different line, I can see if the person behind me is friendly and wants to share a smile about the situation, or look at the cover of the Enquirer which is always entertaining.  And instead of being furious about the pennies on the floor, I can smile at the woman with arthritis, assist her in picking up pennies, and wish her happiness in her life.  The truth is, either way, the woman is going to pay her money for her groceries.  I can fume, I can help her, I can find another line.  When you are paying your mortgage bill, you can do it with a smile or a grimace, both cost the same.  When the child takes forever, you can make a calm decision about how to react.  Do I shout at him to hurry up?  Do I take the plate from him and do it myself?  Do I let him continue on so that a more important lesson of self-sufficiency is learned?  Can I use a gentle, but firm tone to remind him that we have something to do so going fast is important? mIs it more important to be fast or for him to do it himself?  I can decide in a calm state of mind instead of reacting in anger.
So ask yourself a few questions.  Do you believe that happiness is possible?  Do you believe that being calm and peaceful would change you into a push over?  Do you think that once you accepted reality,  you would have no power to change it?  Leave your answers in the comments!
“Happiness is not circumstance.” Marianne Williamson says this on an episode of SuperSoul Sunday.  And I truly believe this to be true.

Preparing for New Year’s Goals

December is my second favorite month of the year.  July wins out because that is my birthday month, so it is full of celebration.  But December is close on its heels.  I love December for many reasons: there’s the holiday celebrations, the holiday food, the holiday music, and the gracious attitude that people seem to adopt as they count the days to Christmas.  But my favorite part of the month is its representation of the end of the year.  Over the last few years it has become a time for me to reflect on the past year and think about the next.  It gives me a chance to look at all of the challenges that I went through and to congratulate myself for the successes.  And it is a time for me to prepare for my New Year’s Goals.

How many New Year’s Goals have you successfully made and kept throughout the year?  For the majority of the population most goals are dropped by February and completely forgotten about by March.  Health clubs go through a ginormous spike in memberships during December and January.  And more than half of those people stop showing up a few months later.  Why is this?  People are usually VERY motivated at first.  They get the membership.  They buy the outfits.  They research the diets.  They get the nicotine patch.  They bite the bullet and look at their finances.  They stop buying things they don’t need.  They buy the Spanish Rosetta Stone.  They spend more time with family and friends.  But soon enough the motivation goes out the door.

I believe that we do not spend the time we should on figuring out WHY we want to reach the goals we choose.  We pick lofty goals that sound great, but when our desired outcome is superficial, or we’re trying to please someone else, we tend to lose motivation.  Want to lose weight?  Why?  Want to get out of debt? Why?  Want to stop smoking? Why?

 

If you can’t answer the question, you are likely to be one of the millions of people who drop their New Year’s Goals.  And if you answered that you just want to stop smoking because other people tell you it’s a good idea, your chances of following through are pretty slim.  But if you desire to stop smoking because you have a new baby in the house and you want to feel energetic enough to play with her, or you want to protect him by keeping second hand smoke away, now those are more likely to push you through the year.

So what if you can’t answer the why or you’ve just figured out you have no motivation past pleasing your spouse?  Journaling is my first recommendation for most problems.  The process of writing helps you get clear on what you perceive the problem to be, and helps slow down your thinking when it comes to solutions.  You can also go back and look at your writing if you lose motivation or need to remember something you’ve forgotten.  For those who don’t like writing, drawing a picture, cutting out pictures, or recording voice memos can be helpful as well.  Here’s some journal exercises that I have done over the years to get really focused on my goals and helped me follow through.

  •  Write down what you think your goals should be.  Then ask yourself the question, “Why?”  and write the answer.  Continue to ask yourself a few times until you feel like you’ve really gotten to the answer.  An example-  “I want to stop drinking.”  Why?  “Because I have gained weight and been less motivated to do work.”  Why? “Because I feel unhealthy.”  Why? “My wife is unhappy with me.” Why? “Because I feel unhealthy and I’m not taking care of myself.” Why?  “I want to feel healthy and take care of myself.”  Why? “Because I want to be healthy enough to take care of myself and take care of my wife.”-  Now there’s motivation to stop drinking.
  • Write down previous goals that you have made in the past.  Free write about any challenges or successes you had while meeting those goals.
  • Write out your fantasy life.  Write how everything would be different if you met your goal. All of the things you would be able to do, places you’d be able to go, or things you’d be able to have.  Get precise and specific.

Now that you’ve gone a little deeper with your goals, it’s time to evaluate if they need to be rewritten.  Continuing with the example above, wanting to stop smoking because of the new baby in the house, maybe you realize that it’s not just about cigarettes.  You want to feel energetic enough to play with your baby and keep both of you healthy.  Quitting smoking might only be a part of this goal.  Writing your goal in a more positive frame will help keep you on the right track, even when things get hard.  Your new goal might be “By February I will be able to have the energy to spend at least 8 hours with the baby.”  Framing your goal in this way might help you make decisions not just about smoking, but about exercise and healthy eating as well.  And if you give in and have a cigarette, you have not “failed your goal.”  You don’t have to give up.  You have the motivation of spending time with your baby to keep trying.

What goals do you have for the New Year?  What is the motivation behind it?  How will you keep the motivation to make it all the way through to December 2014?  Comment below!