Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I’m always hearing people say “Karma’s a bitch, don’t worry they’ll get what’s coming to them” or other various sayings on how if you’re bad to other people that Karma will get you. I very rarely hear people say how when they do something positive for someone else that they are rewarded. I think the reason for this is two-fold. One reason is that people have a tendency of focusing on the negative things in life and seem to enjoy watching others suffer – that makes me so very sad. However, I think the main reason that we don’t seem to see the ‘positive’ side of karma is simple – we over look the small blessings and surprises we are afforded on a regular basis. Like having really good weather for an important event, watching a child succeed magnificently at something for the first time, or even having a pet “suddenly” housetrained. These are all great blessings that we take for granted.
I had a good karma message today that I’m sure stemmed from my actions yesterday morning. I woke up on a semi-spoiled mood yesterday; simply from not having a good night’s rest the night before. I was a little crabby, and more than sleepy. When I got off the train at Tower City I made the conscious decision that a bad mood was NOT where I wanted to be. So I took a few deep breaths, concentrated on myself for a second and smiled. As I was getting on the escalator, there was an elder lady that was having a difficult time juggling all the paperwork she was holding and trying to step onto the escalator. I asked if she wanted me to hold her things for her, and we rode up together. I proceeded to walk with her to the courthouse (a couple blocks out of my way, but the morning was beautiful and I wasn’t in any great hurry). We chatted about the small things in life, and she told me how her and her high school sweetheart had reunited and were getting married – that’s why she was downtown; to get everything situated for the upcoming ceremony. Totally made me smile, she is 71 and her soon to be husband is 72 – they are getting married on the anniversary of their first date together waaaaaaaay back in high school.
So, once we got to the courthouse and she was safely inside, I proceeded to Starbucks for my morning jolt. Those who know me realize that this is NOT an option :D. The crew at the Starbucks I go to every morning is amazing, and I always walk out of there giggling about something. Yesterday morning was no different. The sun was shining in my face, as I walked my way down Euclid Avenue. Humming to myself (music always helps my mood) and smiling at random people. Sometimes they smile back with a “good morning” sometimes they glower at me like I’m some rapid dingo waiting to eat their baby when their back is turned. Either way works for me, because if you don’t smile at people, you’ll never lift someone else’s spirits.
I noticed two guys struggling to get some cubicle partitions on a dolly out of one of the building doors that I was passing. There were so many people walking down the street, and they would just look at these guys, shake their heads and keep walking. Sometimes I just don’t understand people at all. I stopped, grabbed the door, and held it open for them. As they were coming out the door, they started smiling and I heard one of them actually say “see there are still nice people downtown”. I smiled, wished them a happy morning, and said you’re welcome in a very cheery voice when they thanked me. Side note: when you say thank you or you’re welcome to someone - -say it with meaning. Don’t mumble it, don’t look away, and don’t say mmhm. Look them in the eye, smile, and say it like you mean it – or don’t say it at all. It really makes a huge difference to the person you’re speaking to.
Onward down Euclid Avenue I went. As I approached the corner of East 9th and Euclid (right across the street from the building I work in) I saw three people lugging a continental breakfast for a morning meeting. This isn’t a strange occurrence downtown – as it seems to be much easier for people to pick up their catering than have it delivered sometimes. A young lady was carrying a box of croissants, another lady a box full of paper products, and a gentleman was pulling a little red wagon filled with a couple cases of bottled water and two platters of fresh fruit. The red wagon made me smile from ear to ear – just not really sure why. As we crossed the intersection (it’s not a very long time window to get from one side of East 9th to the other on Euclid – the walk light stays on for literally 13 seconds so you really need to rush), I walked closely behind the wagon; I was just too afraid that on the other side of the street, as the man pulled that little wagon up the curb, that the fruit might slide off the water and go crashing to the ground. It didn’t but I would have stopped it if it had. The group was going into the same building I was, so I naturally held the door open for them. They thanked me; I said you’re welcome and proceeded up to my office.
Now, granted, I usually don’t have the opportunity to help three sets of people all the same morning, but I was so glad I did yesterday. I really improved my mood, watching how cooperative and gracious people can be when they get unexpected help.
This morning, it paid off; and I was so very surprised when it happened. I don’t do good things for people to gain some reward. I do it because I love people and want to help them in every way I can. However, this morning, when I walked into Starbucks, Cagney looked at me and said. “Drink is on the house today.” At first I thought it was because my birthday is coming up on Sunday and they knew this was my last day of work for the week. But when I got up to the register (there’s always a line at Starbucks in the morning!), she told me that someone came in yesterday, described me and said they wanted to pay for my next drink. I’ll never know if it was someone that I work with, someone I helped yesterday, or someone else entirely. You’re probably asking yourself how anyone that I helped would know I’m a Starbucks freak and I’ll tell you a little secret. I have one of those re-usable, customizable cups that I get my drink in every day, and I was carrying it when I helped these wonderful people yesterday. So either someone was very observant, or it was someone else in my life that bought me a drink this morning. Like I said, I’ll never know; but it made me so very happy anyways.
So, I did something completely in character for me. I handed Cagney $5.00 and told her to pick someone at random today and pay for their drink for me. Maybe they will do the same, and a whole bunch of people will be smiling out of the generosity of strangers this weekend.
Be at peace with yourself and you’ll be at peace with the world.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Facts vs. stories is one of my favorite mechanisms to stop myself from getting pissed off too easily. Granted, sometimes it’s unavoidable – or my mood just won’t cooperate; but for the most part I use this technique almost daily. People around me (friends, family, even strangers at times) ask me “How are you NOT pissed off at
Before I start: the “cover my ass” statements. This technique works for about 80% of events that can piss off a person – it doesn’t work for everything. And, as effective as the technique is, it doesn’t always work. Hopefully if you apply it correctly, you’ll find yourself less stressed out about ‘life in general’.
Let’s talk about the word “event” for a second. In this case, I’m talking about the small and medium events that happen over which we end up getting pissed off. Things like someone cutting us off in traffic, a server being down and us not being able to pay a bill, a boss in a really pissy mood. Even things like having your car stolen or your house broken into. This does not count towards the huge life changing events like a horrible health diagnosis, a sudden (or any) death, etc. And when I say things like “every” … it applies to about 80% of the situations – so don’t hold me literally word for word? OK? Cool…let’s get this thing started.
Every event has two main elements – the facts of the event and the corresponding story. The facts, when stated correctly and honestly are indisputable – that’s why they are called FACTS. The story is what you state about the event that is either your opinion (read: what you’ve made up about the event) or your view. In most events, we don’t know the full story behind the event – or even part of the actual story at all. It’s usually our “story” about the event that gets us all riled up and pissed off. Not always, sometimes it’s the event itself – but most of the time, it’s what we say caused the event that pisses us off.
So, let’s get into an example, shall we? You’re driving into work on a rather rainy morning. Traffic is quite a bit slower than usual, but you’ve got your music going, you’re enjoying a little bit of alone time and responding to a text from your sweetie (hey traffic is slow, so it’s ‘safe’ to text, eh?). Suddenly, from out of nowhere, someone is a huge SUV comes down the shoulder of the highway, slices in front of you and slows down to stop from hitting the car that is suddenly in front of them. This, in turn, forces you to slam on your breaks and your bag goes spilling out of your front seat and onto the floor. Nobody hits anyone and all is well. Do you get pissed off and call the driver of the SUV all sorts of names?
This is where facts vs. story comes into play. Facts: SUV driver cut you off on the highway while it was raining, you slammed on your brakes and your bag fell onto the floor. That’s it...those are the ONLY facts of the situation that apply directly to the event. Not the fact that SUV driver is an idiot, or that he doesn’t know how to drive, or that he’s an
There could be a multitude of reasons why he cut you off, and most likely you will never know exactly the reason. Maybe he’s trying to get to the hospital before his child, who was just in a serious accident, goes into surgery. Maybe there was a death in the family and he was on the phone with a loved one trying to console them, didn’t realize his lane merged and was now trying to get back into traffic (and maybe that cut off wasn’t nearly as close as you thought since you were texting at the time?). Maybe he’s a really bad driver with no respect for others? But seriously – you don’t really know what the right story is. So you’ve made up your mind that this guy is a jerk for cutting you off, and all your anger (and the adrenaline associated with the near miss) is directed towards him. The facts are he cut you off, you’re not hurt, and life is continuing as if nothing happened. Choose not to be pissed off at him. (Chose Your Battles is later in this series).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I can just as easily come up with stories for this SUV Driver that make him into a horrible person. He hates my little eco-friendly green car, and decided to show me who’s boss, etc.” True, but it that really going to get you to a place where you’re NOT pissed off at him? If you want to be pissed off for no reason and be in a bad mood all day – that’s your choice.. but if you want to NOT be pissy – realize that you don’t know his reasoning, and I’m sure since you don’t know who he is he didn’t have some personal vendetta against you.
I could go into a hundred or so other examples from a boss who is suddenly in a bad mood, to a deranged person on the morning train. The process is the same – tell yourself that you do not know the complete story behind the event and that since there’s really nothing that can be done to change what happened; being pissed off about it doesn’t really help. Keep in mind that this doesn’t just work from a ‘pissed off’ perspective, but from a general stress perspective as well – and we could all use less stress!!Be at peace with yourself and you’ll be at peace with the world.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Adelle slowly opened the door and peeked out into the vast space. The lights were down low, and there was no noise anywhere. Must be night time - her favorite time of the day (or is that night?). At night she could roam free, causing whatever mischief she desired.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Let’s face it, kittens. Everyone argues – and I’m sure we all argue more than we’d like to. Personally, with two ex-husbands, a teenage daughter, and a wonderful sister with whom I didn’t always see eye-to-eye; I’ve certainly had more than a fair share of arguments. In all honesty, many of my arguments have been over petty things, and should have never occurred. I’m sure you can relate to that.
In my years (and years, and years) of arguing, I’ve actually learned quite a few things. These things, coupled with a few effective communication seminars I’ve attended have helped me realize that arguments, although unavoidable, do not have to be as hurtful, long, and painful as we tend to make them. How? The concepts are easy to understand, but difficult to put into practice. I promise, if you try hard enough at them and share them with the people in your life, you’ll find yourself with less severe arguments.
Before I begin, I need to put the “footnote” in here. I know there will always be major arguments or fights that are unavoidable; they will hurt and will be long and difficult. I’ll also be the first to admit that sometimes my emotions get the better of me and I don’t put into practice these principles. However, by keeping some of these things in mind, you will find yourself in a better place with the relationships in your life; especially when you can’t avoid the arguments. I can go on and on about all the things that you should and shouldn’t do with an argument – or any communication for that matter – but I’ll try to keep to just the major impact points for now.
The Facts versus The Stories This is something that I’ll get into deeper in a different post, but the simple version is this. Stick to the facts of a situation, versus making up your version of “why” the person did something. “I’m pissed off that you were 20 minutes late to the restaurant and we missed our reservation”. That’s a fact, and a valid emotion. This is a story “I can’t believe that Stacy is more important than me and you couldn’t tear yourself away from her in enough time to get here. We’ve missed our reservation and might as well just go home and starve for the rest of the night”. I know, you’re probably giggling, but let’s admit, we all over react and say stuff like that. How do you know that Stacy was the reason the person was late to the restaurant? Maybe the person was in an accident on the way? Maybe the other person got caught by a train? Maybe Stacy is the reason, but it’s because her cat was hit by a car and she needed to be comforted until someone else got home. Sticking to the facts versus making up your own reasons why the other person did or didn’t do something will curb a lot of frustration and arguments on its own.
Leave the Past Alone This is probably one of the BIGGEST mistakes people make when they are arguing with someone. They constantly bring up things the other person has done wrong in the past. “Remember that time in 1805 when I asked you to be sure the bed warmer under the comforter and you forgot? My feet were cold all night long and I ended up with the Plague”. “I apologized for that, and still feel really horrible about it – even 206 years later” “I know, but you still forgot to do it, and my feet were blue when we wok…..” You get the idea. The past is just that, the past. Everyone makes mistakes, and we apologize for them; and hopefully are forgiven (forgiving some things may take longer than others, I realize that). Keep in mind that actions or words that occurred in the past cannot be changed; if the other person has apologized for it, there is no reason to continuously bring it up – unless your intent is to specifically hurt them and make them feel terrible about themselves. If that is your intent, you should really reconsider your approach to things; would you like it if others did that to you? They do? Does it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? No .. it doesn’t.. so you shouldn’t do it to others, right? Right.
Actually and Actively Listen How often during an argument do you stop listening to the other person and start formulating what you’re going to say in response to them? If you don’t hear what they are saying, there is no way you’re able to actually understand their emotions, their line of thinking, or even their apology if that’s what they are saying. When you speak, you like to know others are listening and hearing what you are saying, it’s only proper to do that in return. Interrupting the other person to make your point (or to make your point AGAIN) diminishes their worth and in return, the argument will slide down the “you’re not even hearing the things I am saying” slope. We’ve all been there. Active listening is an entirely different blog (I’ll get to it eventually), but the basics are this: stop thinking about yourself and listen to what the other person is saying. Respond by validating their words (“You said that you were angry that I forgot to let the dog out, I understand, I would be angry too if it happened the other way around” versus “Last week YOU forgot to clean the litter box and your cat peed in my shoes, so I guess we’re even”. 2 rules broken right there – don’t bring up the past (assuming the dog thing is the actual argument) and not validating the other’s words) and their emotions. Everyone speaks from their own truth, and what might not seem like a very big deal to you may be to the other person, and to take that truth away from them is not fair.
Don’t Attack Character or Call Names and Button Pushing Calling names (especially hateful names like “a**h*le” or “b***h”) or attacking each other’s character is just another way of intentionally inflicting pain on the other person. What’s the purpose other than to make them feel horrible about themselves? I’m assuming by this time in the conversation, everyone’s emotions are high, most likely someone is crying, and all that is being accomplished with this is to tear down someone’s self esteem and invite them to do to the same to you. The same thing applies to what I consider Button Pushing. It’s knowing the things that make the other person feel bad, angry, or upset, and intentionally bringing them up. For example, the person the following statement is directed towards has self esteem issues about their weight. The argument is about whether or not the dog should be kenneled at night so it stops eating the couch (and nothing to do with diets, exercise, etc.) Button Pushing would go something like this (extreme example) “Maybe if you weren’t so fat and always ate your chips on the couch, Polly wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about chewing the couch”. I said it was extreme, but you get the point. A more subtle, but just as damaging, example: “Polly chews the couch because she doesn’t get enough exercise, you should know what that’s like”. Keep the argument to the facts at hand; don’t try to hurt each other.
NEVER use these words I’m guilty of using words during an argument that I would never ever say to someone in a regular conversation. I’ve also witnessed enough arguments to know I’m not the only one that uses these words. These are the worst of the worst during an argument and can cut deep, and wound for a long time. Shut-up and Hate. Telling someone to shut-up (shut your mouth, etc.) is demeaning and more hurtful than you realize. When you tell someone to shut-up, you’re basically letting them know that whatever they say is invaluable and you don’t want to hear it. Even if that is the case (but seriously – invaluable? If you believed that you would never speak to them) there are better ways of telling them. In my experience shut-up is usually used to stop someone from interrupting when you’re trying to say something. So try “Can you just let me say what I need to say, then I’ll listen to your side”. Hate is a word that I try to never ever use...especially during an argument. It’s just a horrible mean thing to say to someone “I hate you. I hate the way you talk to me. I hate the fact that .. “ etc. Use ‘don’t like’, use can’t stand’ … but please please please don’t use hate.
I’ll leave you, after all this rambling with this. End the argument. Simply say “Can we not argue about this anymore? I’m done trying to fight about something that we can easily fix if we both calm down (notice “if we both calm down.” Don’t use “if you calm down)”. End on a good note, and be sure to apologize to each other when you’re ready to. “I’m sorry I said things that might have hurt you, etc.” It’s just good for the relationship.
Be at peace with yourself and you’ll be at peace with the world.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
This is a re-post -- I originally put it on my Facebook since I wasn't quite "there" yet with the whole blogging thing. But now that I am, here it is again.
I’ll be completely honest, it’s been a very long time since I’ve “blogged’ about anything, and although FB is by no stretch of the imagination a blogging website; I’m posting this here regardless. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons; but mainly because everyone that has access to read this little “note” of mine is someone I consider a friend. When we are going through difficult times, we reach out to our friends for love and support. During good times, our friends are there to celebrate with us. We share, and over share, with our friends, and hope that they feel as comfortable with us as to share their lives in the same way.
I really don’t know where this is going to take me, or if I’ll even post it… or save it. It might be one of those things that, once written and read, is deleted and never again thought of. However, something tells me that it will be shared, and read by others; sometimes it’s important to share our stories so others can learn from them.
I have recently had a revelation … and it’s something that many people in my life have been telling me for years; I was just too stubborn and focused on other things to accept it. It may sound silly to some of you – or obvious. For those of you who truly know me; you know it isn’t either of those things. So here it is in the simplest form there is: I deserve my own personal happiness. See … simple, right? Not always – and not for as many people as some would think. I know what you’re thinking “You’re one of the happiest, motivating, inspirational people I know” (wow, that sounded conceited, but eh – it’s what it is). I’m not unhappy; it’s simply that for as long as I can recall (at least since high school) my happiness has come from helping others succeed, be happy, and achieve their dreams. Watching someone I care for succeed in something, or helping them overcome a problem, or seeing them achieve a goal makes me happy; mostly because they are happy. Let’s face it… when those we love are truly happy, it in turn, elates us as well.
The drive to see others happy led me to be a very self-sacrificing person. I’m certainly not complaining about that – being selfless is something I strive for on a daily basis; as I think most people should. I give up things I want, things I know will make me happy, to ensure the happiness of the people in my life. I know, you’re thinking to yourself “everyone does (or should do) that sometimes”; because the basis of a happy, healthy relationship is the ability to compromise. There is a fine line, however, between compromise and continuous self sacrifice; and if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a situation where you realize that everything you spend your time on is for someone else; and that the happiness you feel is theirs, and not yours. When you encounter that situation, things can go bad relatively quickly. You start to lose sleep. You stop eating as well as you should. You find ways to let out aggression on people you love, because you don’t know where else to place it. Worst of all, you start to resent the people you set out to help; not because they have done anything wrong; but because you realize you’re not truly happy.
So, you’re thinking, where am I going with this, right? I have finally admitted to myself that I deserve the personal happiness that comes with focusing my efforts and energy on things that make me truly happy. I will certainly not stop helping other people. Offering advice, guidance and leadership is something I really truly enjoy. When I help someone through a difficult situation or give them advice on something and it helps them, it makes me incredibly happy; I’ll never stop doing that. I will, however, be more selective on what I do with my ‘free’ time – and what I spend the limited energy I have on.
Being sick for the last 11 years has taught me that life is way too short not to do things you enjoy (cliché’ much?). Granted, I have to work, and grocery shop, and do my taxes, and clean the litter box; some things are inevitable. For those of you who have read the “Spoon Theory”, you know that there are days when I have very little energy to get to work, home and dinner made, let alone do something “fun” for myself. It’s the limited “fun time” I have that I need to make the most of – isn’t that a goal for all of us? For those of you who have not read the “Spoon Theory” I highly suggest doing so, almost everyone knows someone with an illness – whether it’s chronic or terminal. http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory-written-by-christine-miserandino/
So, this personal happiness thing…what is it, exactly? It’s different for everyone. I’ve realized that I don’t like spending all my time alone, but I don’t necessarily NEED a significant other in my life to be happy. (Previous significant others in my life have shown me that having one does not, in itself, bring happiness). Not that I don’t want one...but it’s not a “must have” for me – I can, and have been, happy without one. Animals are NOT negotiable for me – feline energy is a must have – cats in any shape and size seem to balance me out and make me more level. Dogs I can do without (hahah sorry Sami!); but cats are a must have for me. Remember, sometimes it’s the little things that make us happy. There’s a lot more, but it gets much more personal than you probably want to read, and much more than I want to share at this point.
Why am I posting all of this? I’m doing it for two reasons, actually. First, I want to inspire others to take a look at and evaluate their situation. It’s a task we should all do from time to time, as it helps us grow as people and allows us to be who and what we are meant to be. Count your blessings and be thankful for the good things and the challenges in your life. If you’re not happy with a situation, it’s up to you to take control of it and change it; your friends can support you through it, but only YOU can make it happen. I know I am not the only self-sacrificing person on the planet – and I want others to know that your own personal happiness is important as well; as difficult as it might be understand and obtain.
Secondly, I’m doing this because the changes I have to make in order for me to be personally happy may, and most likely will, impact people in my life. I’m not doing any of this to intentionally hurt anyone; and I know as my friends, you will all understand that. I have lost an amazing amount of sleep coming to these decisions and wondering if I deserved my happiness enough to change the parts of my life that I want to now change. Everyone assures me that I do; so I’m trusting them, and myself, to not send me in the wrong direction. I do know, however, that some people may be disappointed in my decisions, and it’s a very real possibility that I will lose friends by the end of it. I’m not making massive changes to every aspect of my life and to some the changes won’t even be noticeable. The change in my mood, my outlook, and my attitude will be noticeable to everyone – and I hope they consider it a change for the better.
Alright, I’m done… I think. If you’ve gotten this far without thinking “wow… she’s really self centered, and full of herself, and thinks she’s all that”… congratulations – because I’ve thought that a lot about myself recently – but have decided that as self centered as it sounds, it doesn't make the fact that I want to be happy in my own right less true.
Be at peace with yourself and you’re at peace with the world.