Happiness is a decision.

It’s that simple.

Our mindset has everything to do with how our day will be. On those days when we’re off center, we are less apt to choose happiness. Most likely, we buy into our self-pity as if it is real. We convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do. We may feel a sense of doom and gloom that lingers over our heads, inescapable and crushing.

We’ve all been there. It’s the human condition to feel the depths of despair as well as the high that happiness brings.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy. It happens. In our smiley-face culture, we are taught that happiness is what we should strive for (it’s even in the U.S. Constitution!). But let’s be real for a moment. Sustained happiness is a pipe dream. What comes up must come down. And we can choose in any given situation how to respond.

It takes training. Not every day is the same. You might have the very best intentions to start your day out right, but things go awry and you’re left overloaded, spent and downright stressed. With some practice, you can put yourself back on track, but everyone has their own pace to getting there.

That’s okay too. I hereby free you from the shackles of the must-be-happy doctrine. You can spit fire and curse too. Where there is light, there are shadows.

Are you ready for the biggest irony of all? If you can accept that part of you that you wish to hide from the world, you will be happy.

Of that, my friend, I am very certain.

Out of Control

September 28, 2012

Our modern age has given us so many new tools to manage ourselves. iPhones, laptops, PCs, traffic navigators, you name it. In effect, these gadgets offer us a semblance of control. And feeling in control is necessary for our mental health.

And yet we really aren’t in control as much as we think we are. That is why Facebook is so intoxicating. Updating your status, checking in with others, posting feelings, thoughts and memories provide us with pseudo-connection with others. But we don’t really hear their voices, feel their feelings or see their faces as they express these things. In addition, Facebook is another way of controlling our image. I like to call it Fakebook because in reality, who is going to admit that they just did something less than reputable, yet perhaps very human?

As connected and controlled as our lives appear, it is a virtual world we create when we use these social media platforms. Our real lives on the ground are the ones we need to nurture the most because there is no substitute for a physical hug when you need it.  It takes a moment of thought. It takes a human touch. And it takes time.

Everything else is a neatly controlled world, a cartoon version of ourselves.

I’m for being real. Are you?

 

The other night I attended a Twitter party. For those of you unfamiliar with such things, it is a gathering on the microblogging social media platform Twitter to discuss a particular topic. This time we were a group of bloggers that convened on Twitter using a particular keyword to follow the conversation for thirty minutes. The topic was, of course, blogging, one of my favorite subjects.

One question the moderators posed was what’s more important: grammar or getting the point across. I have to admit I love grammar and respect all its rules because language is something I highly revere. And I am traumatized even now, thirty years later, by my English teacher Ms. Willis whose smoker’s voice and steely glare still permeate my brain when I even consider saying “There’s two things” instead of saying “There are”.

But language, like anything else, is a compilation of sounds that is fluid and ever-evolving. We bend the rules sometimes to fit the situation. Being a Southern girl, I respect rule-bending. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, ya”ll. It gives life to new possibilities and ways of expressing ourselves.

You may have noticed I bend the rules on this blog a lot. Suddenly adjectives become nouns. Slow is one example. It is this very juxtaposition that challenges the reader to think in new ways.

So while good grammar is something to be preserved, let’s leave a little room for imperfection. After all, it is in that very place that we grow the most.

P.S. To my embarassment, I wrongly attributed yesterday’s image as Lower Elk Canyon, Arizona. It’s Lower Antelope Canyon. Apologies to all wildlife that has been offended. Imperfection at its best!

The Echo Effect

September 26, 2012

We all have a personal echo. It’s the stamp we make on the world, like footprints in concrete. And it reverberates around the planet whether you know it or not.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Some call it the butterfly effect. That is, when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a windstorm on the other side of the world. If you flap yours, who knows what will happen!

Have you ever noticed how one single car can stop traffic for hours, backing up a highway in a matter of minutes? That’s your personal echo at work.

Or the kick-the-dog syndrome, in which one person’s aggression, such as your boss’s, trickles down to you, then you pass it along to your kid, who then gives Fido a swift kick in the behind because of the chain of personal echoes swinging through the air.

Or the warm smile you offer the sales lady who then does something nice for someone else who then extends kindness to a stranger…and so on? Yup. You guessed it. Your personal echo strikes again.

Unlike the echo that haunts a cavern from your voice box to its sound-stung walls, your personal echo leaves a lasting impression. It moves the world. With one small act.

And you do this every day. What you do and who you are really matters.

What effect will your echo have today? Dag, just the thought of it makes me want to dance.

Clueless

September 25, 2012

What happens when you are absolutely clueless about a situation? You simply have no direction and your inner compass has gone haywire. Resting in the place of unknowing can be scary for most of us. We are used to always having an objective, a goal, a vision. In our linear understanding of time, the clock marches forward, not backward or sideways. When we are clueless, we are in a swirl that has no boundaries.

Did you know it takes the human brain a few milliseconds to process information so that what you experience is actually delayed in time? What you see, smell or hear happened in the past. So when you are clueless, it is as if you are standing in the immediate moment between what has happened and your experience of it. And that can be your bridge to understanding.

It is a place of suspension, of absolute nothingness, of inner space, of Ma. We can use that space to truly allow things to unfold, then let our brains catch up to experience its unfolding.

Imagine being clueless as a powerful place where you needn’t have the answers. They will come in their own time. And you get to be the participant-observer of their birth.

You don’t always have to run the show. In fact, in many ways your personal script has already been written. The question is which part will you play?

Running on Empty

September 24, 2012

Serenity Stewart sang in her minivan. Occasionally, she’d step in front of a choir and do the same. But for years she hid her secret gift of song, in which she had been classically trained, just to get by.

With four children to raise on her own, she kept her creative self locked away while she did what she needed to do. Working as an office administrator for a busy health care practice, Serenity ran a tight ship, always looking after others.

But that creative self needed to live. It took Serenity’s nearly dying to breathe life back into it.

In July 2005 she suffered a brain aneurysm that left her bleeding out of her nose and even her eyes. As she lay on the cold ER table, her last view was of the gorgeous doctor with tan, tight arms scrubbing up for surgery.

“God, this can’t be my last vision,” she spoke to the sky. “Look at how beautiful this doctor is. I’ve got some unfinished business to do!” It was this sense of humor that got her through the next months of recovery. For the first time in her life, she started to strip away the layers of “mainstream” as she calls it to really live. In an act of self-discovery, she began to realize that an empty vase has the most potential.

“Every possibility starts with courage,” she told me over the phone. She took a year off and sailed around the world. She discovered her passion for deep sea fishing and even caught a marlin off the coast of San Diego. She literally emptied herself out to start anew.

Serenity now sings jazz reminiscent of the 1940s. Hers is sultry music that speaks of a long-lost era of community and togetherness. At the end of September she will start her P.S. I Love You tour, which will land her in Paris next March (yes, I’ll be going!).

Music helps her and her audience tune into the healing energy that only music can bring. It is a meditation, and a dedication, to life.

Listen to one of her songs today. You will be glad you did!

Believe

September 23, 2012

Do you know the feeling when you believe in something so strongly, even though there is no supporting evidence, that you cannot help but know it is true in your heart of hearts? Do you know the sense you get when something isn’t right, based only on your belief or inner knowing, without having specific data to back up your claim?

Belief is a powerful resource. It is what keeps us strong in times of uncertainty. It is what kept Nelson Mandela from going stir crazy in prison for decades. It is what propelled Gandhi forward. Belief is what Martin Luther King’s dreams were made of.

In our hyper-fast world, we have lost the thread to that belief – in ourselves, our world, our communities. We have been led to believe we have a need for speed. Only doing more in less time is valuable. Everything else is a waste of time. That is so not true.

Driving on the backroads, instead of the autobahn, for instance, can restore our sense of peace, connection and belonging. Taking the scenic route in life, whether literally or figuratively, has value in and of itself.

When my son was really young, he struggled with self-confidence. I taught him an exercise that we still do to this day whenever he falls back into self-doubt. He thrusts his fists to the sky and announces: “I believe in myself!” We try different voices to see which one sounds the most convincing, then we choose to believe that one the most.

Believe in yourself and all that you have to offer. There is no one quite like you. The world needs you. Just as you are.

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