Today, I choose Happiness!! I’m trying like hell, anyway

If Voltaire could choose to be happy, why am I having such a hard time?
If Voltaire could choose to be happy, why am I having such a hard time?

Some days are easier than others; you wake up, smile to the rising sun and choose to greet the day with a positive attitude. It’s a great day to have a great day!  Things could be worse! Count your blessings!   But some days it really, really takes a great deal of effort to smile, to forget the wrongs being done continually by inconsiderate people.  Some days are a lot more gray than others. It’s just the way of the world.

There is a fine line between shrugging things off “for the greater good” and putting your foot down and saying “enough is enough”.   When someone doesn’t bother to honor my feelings, or at least my professional dignity, it can be hard to feel part of a team; it makes me feel more like a cog in a very rusty wheel.  A wheel running willy-nilly down a steep hill.  I suppose every time you put yourself out there, take down the wall and allow yourself to get lost in something, there is the possibility that someone will hurt you.  Without the protection of thick skin, emotional distance and professionalism, it’s a lot easier to feel the pain of disappointment.

For me, passion is not an option; it’s who I am.  When I love something, become passionate about it, I cannot give less than 100%.  I put my Taurus head down and pour my heart and soul into it. It becomes part of my identity.  It’s not just a job, a relationship, a hobby.  I’m all or nothing and while I try not to, I take life very, very seriously.  This trait can obviously lead to a lot of disappointment, heartache and the desire to just give up completely.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option for me either.

It’s my own fault I suppose.  Over and over again I put my trust in people who do not deserve it. I give myself over to situations I cannot control and hope (with all my might) that this time, this time, things will be better.  And when they aren’t, when I still have the same results, I chastise myself for being naïve enough to believe again.  Because by then, it’s too late. I’ve already given myself over. Because I don’t know another way of being, I keep believing in people. I keep trying.

It’s a choice to be happy and it’s a hard, hard choice to make on days such as this. The biggest problem for me is that I want to make a difference.  I want to be more than just your average gal.  I’m smart, I’m loyal, I’m passionate and I give my all.  But for some reason, I’m incredibly obtuse when it comes to believing in the wrong people.  In believing that this time it will be different.  This isn’t my first heartbreak. This isn’t my first let down.  I’m 46.  I’d love to have the option of not caring, of not trying, but it’s just not who I am.  So, I take a deep breath, build another layer on my already thick skin, and put another brick in my wall.  I paste on a smile, try my very best to shine despite my pain, and keep on going.

While I can’t control how other people treat me, I do have control of how I treat myself.   Anger and pain is a poison that destroys my ability to be happy; destroys my ability to be the person I want to be.  So I’ll repeat slowly and often, “I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health”.  And sooner or later, I’ll believe it.

As sung by one of my favorites, Frank Sinatra (written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields)

Pick Yourself Up

Now nothing’s impossible, I’ve found for when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.
Don’t lose your confidence if you slip, be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up, dust off, start over again.
Work like a soul inspired until the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you be a man, my son.
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, start all over again.
(musical interlude)
You gotta work like a soul inspired until the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired, but you be a man, my son.
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then to rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
(musical interlude)
Once again now:
Will you remember the famous men who have to fall and then rise again,
So take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
(coda)
That’s enough now.

Personal Mission Statement

It’s been a long time since I took a class, but I recently signed up for a year of classes through Franklin Covey. Cheesy perhaps, but I’m finding them just what I need in my life right now.  The “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is the basis for the classes (of course) and while I know these are really nothing new in life, it’s good to have them pointed out to us from time to time.

A few of the classes are interactive videos that walk you through the Habits; I just completed 1-3 last night.  One step in the process is to come up with a Personal Mission Statement.  The thought had never once crossed my mind. Sure, I’ve helped with our company Mission Statement, but the idea of a personal one was foreign to me.  Until I thought about it.  What’s the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”?  I began to wonder if the choices I’ve made in my life would have been different if I’d had a Mission Statement of my own.  So, with the help of the Franklin Covey resources, I’ve started sketching one out.  There are 10 pieces to consider:

Performance:   I’m at my best when…

I’m at my worst when…

Passion:                What do I really love at work…

What do I really love in my personal life…

Talents:                What are my natural talents and gifts?

Imagination:     If I had unlimited time and resources and knew I couldn’t fail, what would I choose to do? (no brainer there, but even I was a bit surprised on what came out along with “be a writer”)

Vision:                  Your life is an epic journey and you are the hero.  What are you doing, who is it for, why are you doing it and what is the journey’s results?

Character:           It’s your 80th birthday.  Who will be there and what tribute statement would you like them to make about you?

Contribution:    What is the most important future contribution would you make to the most important people in your life?

Conscience:     Are there things you feel you should really do or change even though you’d dismissed them many times before? What are they?

Influence:         Name three people who have influenced you and name one quality/attribute for each person

Balance:          What is the single, most important thing you do for balance that gives the greatest impact in these areas:

Physical:

Social/Emotional:

Mental:

Spiritual:

These are the questions I’m answering to try and help me with my Personal Mission Statement…and each one is a volume of information on who I am (that’s the purpose, duh!).  Each one of these questions makes you stop and truly consider what is important and dig into who you really are.  What you want, what you desire, what you need to be completely true to yourself.  What if we taught THIS in high school?  What if every teenage child was asked to create a Mission Statement and to be true to it?  Think of the understanding they could gain from their lives.  Think of the direction it would give them in some of their most turbulent times.  Why AREN’T we teaching this?

I find the idea of a Personal Mission Statement much like spiritual guidance; we are asked to look deep within, pull out everything that truly means something to us, and put it on paper.  We are asked to live with truth and balance in our lives based on our OWN needs and desires.  Will it change as we age? Of course!  But the basics will always be there.  It’s a guide to our own heart, soul and deepest needs that no one else can provide.  People often live their lives based on religious doctrine set down by others, but rarely create their own.  If God is in each and every one of us, doesn’t it only make sense that He/She has given us our own doctrine deep within? We just need to dig down, find it, and live by it.

One sample was “I hope to be the person my dog already thinks I am”.  Think of the power that small statement has.  How it would shape your thoughts and actions towards yourself and others!  Mine is a work in progress and I promise to publish the finished product here 🙂  

Mastering the Can Opener

It’s a simple thing.  The hand crank can opener.  A kitchen appliance that’s been around forever. It’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s easy to use. Right?  Wrong.  I have never been able to use one.  It gets stuck, falls off the can or just will not cut.  Stupid things!  But recently our electric one died and I opted to purchase a hand one for a couple of reasons.  One, it takes up less room and I’m on a mission to remove the clutter from my life (and more precisely, from my kitchen counter); two, it reduces our “carbon footprint”.  I’m a hippie remember.

Well, it still didn’t work.  Mind you, my husband and both my teenage kids have no issue using it, so thankfully the inability was not passed down to my children.  But I kept trying.  Not like I really had an option, after all.  Either use it, or skip adding the tomatoes and beans to the chili, making myself a tuna melt or some other treat packed away in the fortress of a can. It always ended the same way; a family member coming to my frustrated pleas of help when cans were mangled and I was ready to chuck the opener across the room. They would stroll in, open the can and stroll out giving me a look of mingled pity and annoyance.

The other day I finally figured it out. It wasn’t an epiphany at the time, but it certainly made me happy!  After opening several cans effortlessly, proving to myself that, yes, I indeed had mastered this feat, I called my family in to prove it!  After all, they stuck by me all those years when I couldn’t do it.  “Watch!!!” I was so proud of this new found talent! They smiled, patted me on the back and said encouraging things like, “Wow.” and “Finally!”

Sure, I suppose practice was at the root of why I can finally, at the age of 46, open a can with a hand opener.  But I think it’s a lot more than that (of course I do…it’s how I operate).  I finally understood the key to making it work.  I stopped trying to force it.  All these years I’ve been holding on for dear life and trying to force the cutter around the can as if it didn’t know how to perform without my guidance.  Once I let it guide me, it worked perfectly.  Hmmm.  Now, if that isn’t a metaphor,  I don’t know what is!

This is truly where I am in my life right how.  I’m having a zen moment with my can opener and letting it teach me another lesson in my relationships.  I’m tired of trying to force them to work.  It’s frustrating and unfulfilling.  While I know I need to participate and be part of the function to make it truly work, I can’t do it all myself.  The opener knows its role and does it well.  The can knows its role and also complies.  I was the only one that never understood that it’s a joint effort; only when you stop trying to control the situation, everything works as it should.

Yup, all that from successfully opening a can!

Listen to Your Narrator

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Is this real life, or is it just fantasy….

As a writer and avid reader I am always looking for the metaphor in situations; what does it really mean? In novels it’s rare that the main character sees what’s really happening.  People say one thing and mean another.  Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the narrator will tell us what’s happening in the other person’s mind. Reality doesn’t give us the luxury.  We have to try and figure it out for ourselves.   This is where my overactive, creative mind leads me astray. I try so hard to seek the metaphor that I completely miss the point.  I miss the actual WORDS and morph them into something else.  I run scenario after scenario around in my mind until I pick the one that fits snugly into the little world I’ve created.

But even in my own novels, while there may be twists and turns, the truth comes out in the end.  The truth eventually sets you straight and everything becomes clear.  Even in the world I’d created the truth finally reared its ugly head. I wasn’t completely surprised; deep down I had known all along.  No matter how many meanings I swirled around in my mind and no matter how I crafted my own world around them, I knew, I knew in my gut that I was fooling myself. I knew what the true reality was.  I just refused to listen to the narrator. Life does give us a narrator; not into the minds of the characters surrounding us perhaps, but into our own mind. It warns us when we are being foolish.  It warns us when we need to pay attention. We just need the ability to listen. I ignored those pangs of warning, the grumblings deep within telling me that something wasn’t right. Instead, I chose to soldier blindly on.

According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

in·tu·i·tion

noun \ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü-\

: a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence : a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why

I think we all know what it means.  That little voice in your head…that little feeling in your gut that guides you or warns you that something isn’t right.  Hunch. Inkling.  I heard it. I just chose to ignore it.  But it only prolonged the pain.

Like learning to dance along to the music, I’ve learned the importance of listening to my narrator.  Listening to the warning signs bubbling in my existence. I need to get back in touch and feel the rhythmic hums warning me that all is not well. I was stupid, but I wasn’t blind. I chose to close my eyes.   But I won’t beat myself up. Like all good characters, I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’ve grown.  Every experience is a blessing or a lesson.  The only difference is how you perceive it.