Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The POSITIVE side of Karma

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

Rushing Waters Cause Drowning Souls

So, I was talking to one of my best friends today (Hi Mara) and she mentioned that someone should write a blog about rushing things and how quickly we tend to jump head first into stuff. I told her Id' be happy to write about it - and give her the credit for the idea.. so thanks Mara!!

I'm no expert by any means, but I know I've made my mistakes, and as much as I'd like to stop others from making the same mistake - I know all I can do is advise and hope that they get through it safely.

Let's start with a couple analogies. You're standing by a river and it's rushing so fast past, that all you can hear is the roar of the water. Jump in. Go ahead... jump in. What's the worst that can happen? Oh yea, you could drown.. or get beaten by the rocks. You could be knocked unconscious or sliced open by something in the water. Probably a good idea not to jump in. So, we'll take a walk to the nearby highway. Ooh rush hour fun. Cars are speeding by, weaving between lanes, and are occasionally slamming on their brakes. Go oooonn... run across. Dart through those cars and trucks, and semis and get to the other side? What are you waiting for ... DO IT. What? Oh, you don't want to get run over? Or hit by a truck and smashed into the guardrail? I guess I can understand that.

So why is it, then, that we aren't as protective with our emotions and our hearts? I'm on Facebook (a lot -- a whole lot) and I see a ton of people (and these are not just teenagers) that start to go out with someone and BAM a week later they are IN LOVE and this person is their WHOLE WORLD, etc. After one week. 7 days. Suddenly, they can't live, breathe, or eat without this other person. I try to be happy for them, but all I can really think is .. how well can you possibly know someone after 7 days... and please don't give me the soulmate line. You don't even know this person's middle name, where they grew up, or if they have some kind of bizarre personality glitch that you haven't discovered.

Then, after a month or so -- they break up for one of a myriad of reasons. Suddenly hearts are crushed, souls are clouded and eyes are red-rimmed for weeks. It happens more often than not -- falling in "love" that quickly goes bad fast. And it's not just because the couple is young (I've seen this happen to 30 year olds as well) or that both partners aren't 100% into it. It's because they have an unrealistic version of love trapped in their heads. Relationships are hard, they take work, commitment, and communication. You don't have that 7 days into any relationship - so when you think you're in love, and something goes wrong, the world falls apart.

I am not against relationships (even though I can't seem to find a decent one for myself!), I've seen people so deeply in love that it's amazing and gives me hope. If you ever get a chance to see Cook and Belle perform on stage, you'll see exactly what I mean. I am, however, against jumping in to a relationship too quickly. Slow down - take some time to get to know each other. Learn about your pasts, your future goals, what you like and don't like. Form a friendship for the basis of a solid, stable relationship. Then fall in love, it's soooooo much better that way.

Of course, there are other things that we tend to rush into at times, that can hurt just as badly. Job hopping is a big one. Say someone has a great job - good pay, good benefits, pretty decent boss, etc. Suddenly this person decides that a job as a caretaker at the zoo would be MUCH better -- so they quit their job and apply at the zoo. Six months later, they are still scraping goose droppings off park benches and emptying trash bins. Why? Simple; the person didn't stop and think about the fact that he might need a specialized degree to work as an animal caretaker, or that he didn't have the schedule flexibility needed at the zoo. Granted, he may love his new job -- but in this case, he misses his old paycheck, his old benefits, and the fact that he didn't go home smelling like old hamburgers and bird poop.

There are a hundred other examples I could give (rushing to buy a new house without the right down payment or solid credit, deciding to start a business without researching the market, how you're going to make a profit or find a client base, trading in a decent fuel-efficient vehicle for a grand sports car - to find gas prices on the rise, etc.) but I think you get the idea.

So, the next time you're 30,000 feet up in an airplane and you decide that you're going to jump out and have an epic sky-diving experience. Take some time and think about it. And make sure you're parachute isn't a backpack.

Be at peace with yourself, and you'll be at peace with the world

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Facts vs Stories - How to Not Be Pissed off (part 1 of a series)

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 ”? If I have time, I give them a little synopsis of this technique, if I don’t have time, I usually smile and say “it’s not worth the negative energy”… although sometimes that statement REALLY pisses people off.

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 and should go back to his own country. Those are all part of the “story” that you made up … because honestly you have no idea who SUV driver is or why he cut you off.

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 the Angel Haired Kitchen Fairy

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.

The Humans didn't know she actually existed, even though she left her signature everywhere. A half eaten cookie on the counter? Blamed on the daughter. Cat food scattered on the floor? The work of an ambitious and hyper cat. Even the pot holder hanging out of the drawer was blamed on a lazy cook or one who was in too much of a hurry to put it away properly.

As Adelle roamed around the kitchen, she caught a glimpse of herself in the side of the stock pot. Her hair is getting much longer, and her bright green eyes were gleaming with the thought of causing some more small kitchen trouble.

She meandered around the kitchen and realized that today was the perfect day to celebrate her beautiful hair .. and to remind the Humans with whom she dwelled with that she's here, and she is the beautiful Angel-Haired Kitchen Fairy. The best way to do that? With the Angel Hair pasta in the cupboard, of course. She fiddled most of the night to make things just right, ensuring that her plan would be executed perfectly. As she finished up, the sun was just spilling over the horizon; all she could do was wait.

Later that day, the Adult Human began preparing the evening meal. Little did the Adult Human know that she was soon in for a kitchen fairy reminder. As the Adult Human continued the meal preparation, Adelle sat back and prepared for the show. The Human did exactly what was expected, and opened the kitchen cupboard. As she reached for the pasta .. the box tipped just perfectly, and every piece of Angel Hair Pasta poured down in a waterfall onto the Human's head. Adelle giggled and giggled, nearly falling off her perch atop the cabinets. The Human, and her two younglings laughed and giggled right along with her; celebrating the joy of the spontaneousness mess.

The picture above is the wonderful noodle art created by Adelle and her actions .. and the mess that I was tasked with cleaning up during dinner last week. Yeap, I was the Adult Human that Adelle graced with her friendly and exciting presence.


Be at peace with yourself and you'll be at peace with the world