It’s Monday morning. The start to a new week. The first week of July. The year is now just more than half-way completed. And though this fact is slightly frustrating for me, because time seems to incessantly fly these days, I decided I would make sure to do everything I can to make this week a great week.
I have no plans other than working. But I do realize that we have the chance to start off each week with the expectation of having a great week, and with the capacity to do what we can to make it so. If we think of the things we want to happen during a week, the things that we can do each day that will bring us closer to who we want to be then we can map out a week that makes us feel accomplished. So I’m making it a point to add in the things that I have been delaying doing (talking to bookstores about my book) and making excuses for doing (I will exercise today, despite the heat and despite having Jack with me).
With each new week, we have the chance to make it a week worth our time. And to do this we fill our time with things that are worthwhile. There are things we have to do in life, things we need to do in life, and things we want to do with our lives. When the things we want to do take on the role of things we have to do and need to do we make them a priority. If we don’t make the things we want in life a priority, then we will never look back and see them done. It’s okay doing the things we may not want to do, if we are also doing the things that make us feel like us. The things that make us feel like we are becoming the person we want to be. We can achieve happiness through the tiniest of actions, as long as those actions line up with who we want to be. As we take the time to remember that our dreams are worth accomplishing, our time is worth spending well, our hopes are worth believing, then we can take time each day to make our day great. And this can turn into a great week. Which turns into a great month. And then a great year. And eventually we will see a great life. A life where we filled our weeks and our days, our time, with the things we loved and felt were worthwhile. We lived a life of worth and hope. And when we do that, we find happiness and by default we share it with others.
So this week as you get the chance to choose how to spend your time, spend it making the week great. Make it a point to incorporate the things you need to look back and say, “This was a great week!” Take the time to look back and feel like you are making it a point to become the person you want to be.
Happy Monday everyone!
(and you know, if you need a good read for the week, my book will be on sale through Saturday for .99 on Amazon. Where else can you buy happiness for a dollar??)
Tonight while I was washing Jack’s hair, he kept putting his head down and the shampoo would get in his eyes. We have this issue reemerge every so often. I continuously tell him that if he would just keep his head up, he wouldn’t have that problem, nothing would get in his eyes, and the shampoo wouldn’t hurt him. And tonight when I told him that, it hit me just how much that idea really applies to our lives in general.
It’s easy to just put our heads down when we feel like something is coming at us or we are worried we are going to get hurt or times are hard. We can sense the danger, so we try to close our eyes and hide our heads away, but in reality this only causes more problems. Instead of escaping the issue, we’ve actually made it worse.
When we put our head down the water rushes over us. It gets in our eyes. We can’t see. It becomes confusing. Sometimes we even start to breathe the water in as we start to panic. The situation worsens. We start to choke. It’s hard to breathe, we can’t find the air. When if only we would life our heads up, we wouldn’t have the problem anymore.
We have to keep our heads high when that barrage of negativity comes at us. We have to choose to look up, even if it’s scary, even if we want to run. When we know that there is the potential to get hurt. We have to take on the world face to face, head held high if we are going to survive the wave, or even have the chance to ride the wave. We can’t see anything if our eyes aren’t open, if our heads are down. Look at the world, look at the wave, and choose to take it on. Even if it knocks you down, when your head is above water you know where you’re at and how to get back up. You’re still in control. You’re still in the fight.
**I keep trying to respond to the comments I haven’t yet, and it keeps telling me that it’s an invalid request – that’s also happening with this post, so if this ever does post, I’m not ignoring anyone, my blog is just being weird. I’ve asked for help!
Sometimes it takes crashing down onto the ground to realize what’s actually wrong. We have these skills that allow us to be really good at ignoring the things in our lives that we don’t want to pay attention to. In general, it’s necessary that we don’t pay attention to everything and only give large amounts of our attention to a small number of things at any given time. We can’t function if we are taking in every single thing that comes at us all the time so selectivity is important.
The downside to that is, we have a tendency to misuse this ability. We are really good at being able to pretend that things are different than they really are. We are good at pretending our relationships are sound, when we know that they aren’t. We are good at pretending that next year we will get our lives in order, when we know that we won’t. We are good at pretending we will look for a new job next week, and go back to school next semester. We are good at pretending that we will start our workout routine tomorrow, because we have a lot going on today and it’s really hard to exercise with no one to help me watch Jack (and I totally swam some today, so it does too count, stop telling me it doesn’t!). Okay so maybe that last one was mostly me. But that’s not the point.
The point is, we make priorities. Certain things get put on the back burner. Unfortunately, that back burner is still on. Maybe it’s on low, but if you continuously leave something sitting over an open flame, at some point in time it’s likely to catch on fire. And then that thing that you were planning to do, that thing that you really need to pay attention to ends up going up in flames. And once it’s on fire, that’s when we start to take notice.
Unfortunately it’s a lot harder to fix something once it’s been damaged. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot harder. If instead of ignoring the problems in the relationship, we had worked on them or at least acknowledged them, we’d be in a better position to keep it. Because it isn’t always that we want to let go, it’s just that we’ve gone too far to know how to get back. And when we’ve been out of school for so long, it’s hard to deal with being older than everyone and going back into an environment where our lifestyle is different than most of the people around us. Fitting things in with our schedules or lack of schedules gets frustrating when there’s not a simple fix and it’s going to require time and effort.
But once that fire is lit, once we start to crash towards the ground, that’s when we open our eyes. That’s when we realize something needs to happen. When that line is crossed and we’ve reached the point of no return. Things cannot stay the same any more. And those are the moments when we finally make the choice to change and to act. Sometimes it takes crashing and burning to find out how we know how to fly.
When I was considering what I wanted to do for my career I used to use the word “just” a lot. If I could just make enough money then the job doesn’t matter. If I could just work in this city, then I wouldn’t care what I was doing. If I could just have my dream job fall in my lap that would be fantastic! : ) If I could just do something I’m halfway interested in, then I’d be fine.
Unfortunately, I was never fine doing any of the things that I just wanted to do. Now there are circumstances where we have to JUST do something. Our livelihood depends on it. We have to be able to provide for ourselves. And that’s okay. And we can be okay in that, as long as we are continuing to work towards the things we truly want as well. It turns out a lot of the things we just want are fairly easy to come by. At least at first.
When we just want a job, there are jobs that don’t require any background at all, it’s just that it’s hard to make a living with those. But when we want a job that pays well, that we enjoy doing, and that allows us to feel like we aren’t settling, that’s a bit harder to come by. We justify the places we are at in a variety of ways. We have plans to move on to something else one day, we have to have some means of survival, we are in a safe place, and bad things can happen if we move outside of that comfort zone.
But what it’s important to remember is that it’s not necessary to justify not settling. No one else has to understand it. Only you, because you know what makes you happy. You know what will allow you to be fulfilled in your life. So maybe you have to work a job that is a just job. But that doesn’t mean you don’t continue to take the steps you need to feel fulfilled. You continue to paint, you continue to cook, you continue to look into classes for school, you continue to exercise, you continue to write, you continue to volunteer, you continue to find whatever it is that has the potential to make you feel like you are spending that time in a meaningful manner. Something that makes you have a spot of certain happiness and accomplishment. Continue to pursue that part of you that doesn’t make you qualify it with just. Don’t let the just define your life. Let it pass by as it does while you are on your way to being who you want to be and doing what you want to do. Let your time count. Don’t let your time settle. Because each day the sun will set and you won’t get it back. But if each day you make your time count, if you spend some time outside of the just then each sunset brings a sense of fulfillment.
- I thought I posted this yesterday… I wondered why no one at all had even like it, and it turned out I hit save as draft… Ah, technology and me!
Having a background in psychology and always being fascinated by the power of the mind, I love watching what unfolds as we utilize our thoughts. The things we think and the things we believe matter. In general the things that happen inside of our minds are quite cyclical and reciprocal. The things we think now influence the things we think next. So what we thought yesterday influences how we think today. And how we think today influences how we will think tomorrow. The more we reinforce these thoughts, the stronger they become. The more we continue in the same pattern, the more easily the habit forms.
So we have this continuous cycle of thoughts, they affect the future, they affect the now, and they feed off of themselves to make their neural pathways just a little bit quicker and stronger with each thought. Our brains work the way most things do, they search for efficiency. So our thoughts form pathways that often become similar to a groove in the road. It’s a well-worn path and it’s cut through the field, so when we try to change those thoughts, we have to work a little bit harder to jump up over those grooves and form a new path where one didn’t previously exist.
The thing is, it really just takes one thought to start to jump up over the grooves. We have to believe. We have to deliberately get off of the path of least resistance, and make a decision we don’t normally make. For me, when I was making the choice to be happy, it was a deliberate thought. I had formed a very well-worn path of unhappiness, and changing that took time. But the first time I jumped up off of that path, the first time I believed that I wanted to change, I jumped up over the groove and started a new connection.
I lit a pathway that had previously been darkened. It was unfamiliar, and a little bit scary, and in the beginning, I wasn’t sure it would hold out. After all, I didn’t have to put thought into being unhappy, I just was. But I believed enough to try. So I tried one day. And then I tried again the next. I would write it in my journal at night that I chose to be happy today, and in the mornings, I would write reminders for myself that I would choose to be happy throughout the day. And even though it took some time, each day it got easier. Each day I believed that I could be happy, that I wanted to be happy, and my thoughts jumped out of the groove each time, and traveled that new path each time. As the days went on it was easier and easier to be happy, the new path was become better-traveled, and its own grooves were forming. Until one day I didn’t have to think about it. It had become my new habit. I didn’t give it thought. It didn’t take effort for me to remember. It simply was. The same as my unhappiness used to be.
Our ability to tap into our own minds is our strongest resource. Our ability to choose, our freewill, makes us powerful. It is the only true control we have, which is over ourselves. It’s hard. Sometimes it takes help from others. But the moment we believe, we have the capacity to jump the groove.
I also want to say how thankful I am for all of the support for my book from everyone over the past few days! It has been a truly touching experience. I’m really excited that I was able to lower the price! And I honestly don’t have words to say how amazing you all have been. Thank you so, so much!
This post is a little long, I apologize. And it’s the first of two posts on forgiveness, because I’ve had a lot of people asking me about the subject lately. And I touched on it a bit yesterday, but decided to go with the long answer today, and that comes in the form of the first half of chapter 16 which is dedicated to the subject in my book. And here’s the post:
I think there is probably nothing that I have learned that has been as helpful as learning the importance of forgiveness. When I used to look back over my life, the list of people who had treated me unfairly was pretty long. I remembered everything, every conversation, every mean look. I knew who said what, who did what, even back to elementary school. I could go through them in my head, which I did somewhat often while I was in middle school and high school. I held on to the anger and the fear, and I would sit and remember why I was holding onto it.
These were people who were mean to me for no reason. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Or in the case of family incidents, I was right and they were wrong (I can’t help that this is ALWAYS the case – please note my sarcasm here). But there were people and times where our interactions made me feel like absolutely nothing at all. I felt so overlooked, and at times so betrayed, that forgiveness was nowhere on my radar. The things that happened to me were wrong. And I should be angry. I should hate them. But what holding onto that hurt and anger did was keep me right where I was.
Every time I thought about the things that had happened I was that girl, in that moment, feeling that hurt and scared. I never really snapped out of it. I let those things rule over me. I let my emotions get overrun, because I became too afraid to even want to be close to anyone. I felt unworthy, because all of those people on my list wouldn’t have treated me as they had if this weren’t the case. And it wasn’t until I was removed from the situation, I graduated and left for college, that I came to realize that the stuff that happened, for the most part, really did not need to continue to affect me.
As long as I let those thoughts and those actions rule over me I was letting the fear win. I allowed the treatment of kids who felt just as awkward and fearful (otherwise the interactions would have never taken place) to make me feel like I deserved to be treated that way. I had a small, but wonderful group of friends, all of whom I still try to keep in touch with today, but even with them, I didn’t really understand why they were my friends. I felt like they had so much more going for them than I did.
I was lost, because I was fearful. They all had plans, and I was absolutely certain they would fulfill them. I wasn’t the friend I could have been, because I knew they’d probably leave me behind. It’s not a good way to live your life, being that fearful. And the feelings I had were in large part due to my inability to forgive, because I couldn’t forget or overlook how I felt in those moments where I was hurt. Forgiveness is a continuous process. We have to forgive others and forgive ourselves. I used to think one was more difficult to do than the other, but I think they are fairly equal in their difficulty.
When Dr. Eger came and spoke to our Personality Theories class, she talked about forgiveness. She said that every night she prayed for the Nazi members who took her and her family captive, and who killed all but two of them. She and her sister were the only survivors. She told us that feeling guilty, because we didn’t have to go through what she went through was useless. And she was right, although this was very hard for me to comprehend. Comparing our lives to others does nothing but confuse us and give us excuses to stay where we are. She said we all have the option to be happy. But we cannot be happy if we don’t forgive.
I didn’t know how to imagine her forgiving those men for what they put her through. I didn’t know if she really had done so or not. But I believed that if anyone knew what they were talking it about when it came to forgiveness, it was quite likely to be her. That summer after I made the decision that I wanted to be happy, I decided that at 23, I wanted to start forgiving people for what had happened in my life and just try and see where it led me. I didn’t really know how to forgive, so I remember just sitting in my room praying and saying to the universe silently, that I forgive you. I am letting go of all of that fear and hurt. It doesn’t matter anymore, I thought. What good is it doing me to hold on?
“And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.
You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…” Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
I bought this book for Jack on Friday. It’s one of my favorite books in general. I hadn’t read it in years, and I was thinking about how frustrating it is to be waiting, when I came across this part of the book. Ironically what I thought about was the fact that Dr. Seuss, who I always imagine as being fun, and not having issues in life in general, he knew how I feel sometimes. He knew how hard it is to get out of a slump. He knew how frustrating it can be when you get stuck in that place where you are just waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting for someway to figure out what on Earth to do because nothing makes sense anymore and sometimes you don’t even know if you want it to.
It’s easy to get stuck in those places. Stuck in the darkness and end up waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting a lot lately. And it’s a normal part of life. Now I know that I have to do things and be proactive. But a few years back I had no idea that it was even possible to not be waiting. I didn’t know that there was something I could do. I didn’t really think that there was something I should have to do, because I sort of decided that I was put in the place that I was at because of all the things that had happened to me. So I didn’t understand why someone couldn’t just come along, and see what I had to offer or show me that I had something to offer like these other people I saw had happen to them. So I waited. And I waited. And I waited. And nothing ever changed.
That’s the thing. Nothing changes if we don’t let it, but nothing changes if we don’t make it either. We all have things that we are waiting on, but sometimes we are waiting on everything. And we can’t do that. We have to be able to take control of our minds and our bodies and our souls. We have to get the help we need when we need it. And we have to put in the effort. Because, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend reading it. You can google it, and find the text. It has good advice. (The urge to rhyme here is really bad, but I’m going to refrain, he’s better at it than me!)
Stop playing the waiting game. Nothing worthwhile can come of it. We have to live each moment. No one can live them for us. We are the makers of our own decisions. And that gives us power beyond measure over our lives!
Today was a bit of an adventure. We started off the morning celebrating the birthday of one of Jack’s friends. Then we took a brief 1.5 hour trip to the ER to get a chest x-ray for Jack. Fortunately three hours later I found out everything was all clear, and his continued coughing should resolve soon. I’m hoping that’s the case. Since it’s been such a long day and there is a Friday Favorite trend, I’m actually going to do a spin on that and pick one of my favorite quotes to talk about.
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier” – Mother Teresa
When I was sitting in the waiting room today I looked around at all the people. And I thought about all of the different struggles that were going on there. Yesterday my 88-year-old grandmother had surgery for colon cancer. We were one of the families that was nervous and anxious in the waiting room. But she is back in her room, and was sitting up today, and outside of a bit of nausea is doing quite well, especially given her age. But I thought about how nice the support is. Even when it’s hard, even when you don’t want to hear it, it’s nice to know someone is trying to care. (don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely irritating when the people we want to care are not the ones who care)
A lot of the time, I actually find it nice when it’s strangers who take the time out to be kind. In those situations there are no strings attached. It’s simply someone taking the time out to acknowledge your existence and in a positive manner, and it’s left at that. I really like this idea. People always talk about the power of a smile. And it’s true. It’s hard to be unhappy when you’re smiling. And that energy will carry on to those who let it in. We can’t force people to be happy, but we can make it a point to do our best to be positive and encouraging to others, even if it’s just a smile. And even if it’s just for that moment. It’s nice to know that we can brighten someone’s day. Because we know it makes a difference in our lives when someone takes the time to brighten our day. Moments are fleeting, and we have to make the most of them. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to let light in. And we can choose to give light out. So with all that’s going on and with the day dwindling down here, I’m going to leave you with this: Make it a point to make someone’s day brighter this weekend. Even if it’s a stranger you see on the sidewalk. Take time to smile, even if there’s no reason to. When that’s the case you’ve got nothing to lose anyway.
While outside playing with Jack yesterday I took a picture of an oak tree. We have lots of water oaks along the coastline in Mississippi and some of them have grown to huge sizes. They’ve survived for centuries, storm after storm, year after year. And I started to think about how that happens.
People mention building your roots a lot. In order for a tree to grow it has to anchor itself in first. But I think sometimes what we overlook is just how root systems work in trees. They grow down to form an anchor, and then they spread themselves out. They branch out in all directions creating the right amount of support for the tree itself to branch out in any direction it needs to. As we grow in life, we can’t just grow in one direction. We are multifaceted and complex. We have multiple talents, multiple needs, multiple areas we are capable of sharing in, of growing in. We have to make sure that we are tending to all the different areas in our life in order to grow as high as we can grow.
When a tree gets injured on one side, those branches can start to whither and die. The whole tree can end up weakened, because it’s no longer in balance. So the tree starts to regrow that branch whenever possible. New life will emerge from those areas that we’ve left untended, even when they were areas that were hurt. Whether it’s because we ignore those areas simply because we have so many things we need to focus on, or if the areas are damaged from things that have happened in the past, the chance for regrowth exists. And not only does it exist, it is necessary for us to find our balance again. For us to thrive again. We have to make ourselves as strong as possible in order to weather the storms in life, and to do that we have to pay attention to all of our branches.
Sometimes when we let things constantly eat away at one part of our life, it finds its way into the other areas as well. Inevitably we end up unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied. We get lost. We don’t know what’s wrong because so many areas are now at risk, and finding the source of the problem is hard. It’s easy for poison to find its way in when we can’t find the wound to close it. So it’s extremely important to begin paying attention, looking at ourselves and really realizing what needs to be done to help us feel whole again. They are not voids that can be filled by others. They are things that exist within us.
We have the chance to do great things and be great people in even the smallest of ways every day. We have the chance to grow ourselves with every sunrise and strengthen our roots with every sunset. Every branch we extend outward has the chance to touch someone. To help create fresh air and breathe new life, without do anything other than functioning at its best. By weathering the storms we have the chance to help someone else do the same. We just have to grow ourselves in all the different directions we can. We have to allow ourselves to be human, to be people. To have faults and weaknesses, but not let them overcome us, because we all have many ways to grow.
“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” - Louisa May Alcott
Today I am writing, and I’m writing rather quickly because there are a set of storms that will be coming through in about 30 minutes. The storms have already produced a small tornado. And I started to realize all of the things that I needed to do before the storms came in case the power goes out, I decided that what was I needed to write about as well. One of the things that you learn living through lots of storms, especially if you live on a coastline like I do where there are lots of hurricanes, is that there are things that you can do to prepare for the storms and things that you can do during the storm in order to survive. So today, since I’m preparing for the storms, I thought I would share my tips for surviving storms the storms of life. As it turns out those for surviving the weather, apply just as well to surviving the storms that mark our lives.
- Prepare. The reason this is the first step, is because no matter what is going on in our lives if we take the time to prepare ourselves, we are better able to face the storms. During hurricane season we have preparedness kits so that if things go wrong (like they did with Katrina) we can have the supplies we need to be able to survive both the storm and the aftermath. We need the essentials. Food, water, medical kits, money, routes to shelters. Things of that nature. And in life we have to do the same. We have to prepare ourselves for what we will face. Part of this comes from learning from the things that have happened in the past. If we reflect on the difficult times we’ve faced before we can take things away from those situations that will help us in the future. We can utilize the strength and the knowledge we have gained. These are some of our essentials. We can make it a point to put ourselves mentally in a place where we are growing and confident in ourselves and our abilities to weather these storms. We can build a shelter. We can supply it with the materials we need if we take the time to reflect on ourselves and our lives, and to use that information to make a path to where we need to be. We have to organize ourselves – make lists (that’s why I’m writing this in list form now), figure out what we plan to do, because if we have those plans and they are tangible, they are our routes to safety during the storms we weather.
- Focus. Once the storm hits we have to stay focused. We have to take the time to be still and listen, especially when the winds pick up. In elementary school during tornado warnings we used to have to move to the hallway and sit in silence listening for the wind to start to sound like a freight train, and if it did, we knew to cover ourselves. This is what we have to do during the storms in our lives as well. We have to stop and pay attention. We have to focus. We have to look to see if what we are doing is the right thing to do. We go back to our list that tells us where we are going. We see if our current situation is a part of it. If it is, then we look around and figure out the supplies we need to utilize while this storm passes. It can be that we just need patience and a look back at the list so we remember that the storm will always pass. Or we may need the confidence to remember that we are accomplishing what we have set out to, despite the storm – because there will always be difficulties on our journey. If our current situation isn’t part of our path, or we’ve come to a crossroads we have to decide if we are going to leave the path behind to stay where we are (if so, refer back to the previous statements) or if we are going to leave our situation behind so that we can continue on to where we planned to go. And leaving a situation, especially an emotion-filled situation can be hard. It can create a whole new storm. But as long as we are paying attention and focusing on where we need to go, and what is best for ourselves and those we care about, then we can know that we are going to weather this storm and turn out all right in the end.
- Find joy. This third step may seem a little bit strange, so let me explain. Whenever there were hurricane warnings and we had to stay home from school, I always got a little excited. I knew that I would get to see at home, maybe with just flashlights and candles. I knew we’d make a tent. I knew we’d play games. And those weren’t things that happened all the time. Even though I was scared. And sometimes we had to stop playing to hide in the hall, we always had fun distractions from the storm at hand. Sometimes when we get into the day to day of life, we forget to have fun. We forget to have those moments of escape from the storm. It’s important to remember that sometimes we need a distraction or two. We need an adventure, even if it’s in the tent in the living room, to remind us of why we are in the storm to begin with. And to remind us that even in the storms, we can prosper. We can grow stronger. We can find happiness. We can share love. Even when the world outside is spinning and crashing and shaking the door. We can still know that there is something worth surviving for. We can find joy and let it guide us. There can be a rainbow on the other side.