Tag Archives: keep it simple

Why Bother to Live An Unhappy Life?

Another rough day. I’m pretty sick and tired of these. Trying to turn my day, week, month, year, etc around by keeping it simple, focusing on taking care of myself and my kids, taking responsibility for my thoughts and actions and enjoying the people and wonderful things I have right now. I struggle with putting this into practice every day but every day I get up and I try again, hopefully making better or at least different choices.

This life is too short to get hung up and stuck in all the things we have no control over. This life is too short to hold ourselves back from becoming the people we dreamed of as kids. This life is too short to not be happy. This life is just too short and there’s no guarantees on anything. All we have is right now and right here, so why waste it worrying?

Life is for the living. I don’t want to continually be stalled in “survival mode.” I don’t want to just be getting by, moving through life half-alive. It’s not an easy thing to make changes, it’s not an easy thing to really live the beliefs you believe. It’s not easy to do anything you haven’t done before.

But why bother to live an unhappy life? However you live your life, whatever you do, say, think, behave, believe…it is always your choice and you can change your choices whenever you’d like. Why choose to be unhappy?

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The Asteroids Club

As I believe I mentioned, I’ve been reading, “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt for a philosophy class I’m currently taking. Now, we were only assigned the first 6 chapters, but I will be completing the book because I find the subject matter fascinating and, perhaps, even enlightening.

Recently, Haidt spoke at a TED Talks about how common threats can make common ground. He starts by briefly discussing morality and how, “…one of the most important principles of morality is that morality binds and blinds. It binds us into teams that circle around sacred values but thereby makes us go blind to objective reality.” (On a side note, you can learn about your own morality, ethics, and/or values at YourMorals.org).

So if everybody thinks they’re right, how can we possibly make any progress? Haidt suggests that, “…we don’t start by looking for common ground. Common ground is often very hard to find. No, we start by looking for common threats because common threats make common ground.” This idea, of finding common threats, led to the creation of The Asteroids Club.

The Asteroids Club is, “an opportunity for members of a community to explain what matters to them most deeply (their asteroid) and for others to try to understand why it’s so important. The magic is that folks with different moral and political beliefs each get to share what matters to them. The key is that you’ve got to listen, with empathy, to the “other side” in order to have the right to explain your side and be heard.”

If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between “for” and “against” is the minds worst disease.
– Sent ts’an, c. 700 C. E.

I think it’s a really wonderful idea. It’s not a debate but a mutual, civil discussion. As Haidt states, “this is possible. We can do it. Let us therefore go to battle stations, not to fight each other, but to begin deflecting these incoming asteroids.”

The Importance of Routine

It’s the last day of August and my oldest daughter has been back to school since Wednesday. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem “right” to be going back to school when it’s still August! August is a designated Summer month. And school and Summer shouldn’t really intersect in my opinion!

None the less, it is what it is and we are very much attempting to get back into some semblance of a routine. Getting my oldest daughter to the bus on time, my youngest to daycare and (starting on the 4th) myself to school in the morning is a challenge.

We aren’t “morning people” (do those really exist??). On school days my children would likely sleep until noon if I didn’t drag them out of bed (why isn’t this true for weekends?!). If I don’t plan my mornings I wouldn’t have any chance of ever getting out the door remotely on time. Even with planning, there are mornings when the alarm clock somehow doesn’t go off and everyone ends up frantically getting ready, rushing to be late (such as the 2nd day of this school year! Oops!)

I’ve discussed how I deal with keeping my family on schedule as stress-free as possible before. I continue to schedule everything, prep the night before and meal plan. As my children have gotten older I’ve included them more in my routine making.

This school year I gave them both checklists for their morning and evening routines. I found some magnetic dry erase boards in the dollar section of Target (LOVE Target) and modified them by putting the markers on attached strings, so they wouldn’t get lost. I had each child help me come up with their list of tasks, which we separated into morning and evening. Since they take medicine in the morning and evening, we put that task in the middle so it only had to be written down once.

By the way… the checklist on the right… the task in the middle is “take your medicine”. I know. It’s really hard to decipher and I’m not so good at drawing a medicine spoon or bottle.

For my oldest daughter, Z, (8 years old) I wrote out her tasks. For my youngest daughter, E, (4 years old) I drew pictures to represent her tasks since she cannot yet read and I wanted both my children to independently be able to read and complete their tasks. Their checklists are hung on the side of our refrigerator (a central area in our house) at their height levels so they are easily assessable to them.

Being able to check off a completed task honestly feels pretty awesome and it helps guide them in what they need to get done without me having to constantly tell them. Instead, they can look at their checklist and see what needs to be completed. If they get distracted (which happens with children, especially those with ADHD) I can redirect them by reminding them that they need to look to see what needs to be checked off.

So far, this has worked quite well and has given them some responsibility over their morning and evening routines. It also doubles as a reminder to me what they need to be doing!

That hot pink marker will jolt you awake in the morning! Or make you add “change marker color” to your list…

Of course, I decided to run with the checklist idea and made myself one as well. My checklist is hung on the opposite side of the fridge and is something I see every time I walk into the kitchen. Having tasks written down really helps keep me organized. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all that needs to be done, I can clearly see my tasks and focus on completing them rather than figuring out what they are.

Also, checking off tasks really does feel AH-MAZING!

This is only the beginning. Of my organization, planning, scheduling and routines. Of the school year. Of the rest of my life. So if this morning doesn’t go well, I can take a deep breath and realize I can try to have it go better tomorrow.

The Illusion of Time & Perceived Guarantees

Simplicity.

It’s something I often lose sight of in the everyday chaos. It’s something I entirely forget in moments of added stress and chaos – in the moments when I need to remember it the most.

Often times I find myself moving through chaos. Through stress from school. Through trying to be a good parent. Through keeping up a household. Through dealing with physical and emotional and financial issues.

I lose sight of the “little things”. I lose focus of what’s really important. What really matters.

And then there are the curveballs that, by all accounts, there is no possibility of preparation for.

The sudden death of a loved one. The realization that your child has a disability. The breakdown of communication and relationships. A life-altering accident.

In the past month or so, my close friend’s (now) fiance was in a near-death accident. He thankfully survived and is currently at a rehab facility with a spinal injury that has left him partially paralyzed.

Weeks after this happened, my brother’s friend who grew up in the same town as me, was also in an accident. He also thankfully survived and is currently at the same rehab facility as my first friend. He too has a similar spinal injury.

It’s not an easy task to make sense of two healthy, active young men from adjacent towns being in similar accidents, with similar injuries, in such a short span of time.

It’s easy to get lost in the flood of emotions, to be gripped with such sadness and the feeling of helplessness. To focus only on the negatives.

However, they both survived. From all accounts, they are in good spirits. Friends, family and the entire community have come together in support. There is an overwhelming amount of people coming together to be there for these people.

It also brings me back to my original point.

It’s so easy to get lost in the stress and chaos, in all the negatives. It’s easy to ignore the amazing things that exist everyday around us. To pinpoint what is important and to savor and place focus on those things.

Thinking about situations like the accidents mentioned above makes me wonder how we can possibly waste so much of our lives not really even living them. We focus on material items. We worry about money. We get upset and dwell on things we have no control over or ability to change. We live in the past and the future, without taking the time to live in the present – the only place in time we can actually live. We don’t take the time to tell the people who mean the most to us what they really mean to us. We don’t say I love you. We don’t say what we mean.

We take forgranted the very nature of life – that life is a finite thing. We act like we have all the answers but fail to acknowledge that often times much of what happens is unpredictable, unfathomable and not “according to plan.”

We live our lives as if we are immortal, as if we are immune from death and will live forever.

We need to live in the present and appreciate all that we have right now.  Time is an illusion in that we assume forever, when nothing is ever guaranteed. Life is fragile. So much more so than we like to admit.

Even in the Pain There is Beauty

There are times, so many times, when it seems like there couldn’t possibly be another thing you could handle. No possible way you could deal with anything else.

And then life hands you another lemon (or whatever vague analogy you’d prefer to use) and you’re faced with the requirement of dealing with that too.

There are people who will tell you stories about how when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or that when one door closes, another opens.

These are cute inspirational sayings but I won’t insult you with such simplicities. Sure, sayings such as these can sometimes help to uplift us.

But sometimes, life just sucks. And there isn’t necessarily any good reason why. Or any reason at all.

I can’t tell you why some people seem to constantly have bad things happen to them. Really I can’t tell you anything.

Because I don’t know.

I think a lot… about everything. One concept I inevitably come back to is that of reality.

What is real? How do you define real? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasyyyyy? (Sorry, sometimes I can’t help but fall into lyrics).

Reality is constructed, by those around us and ourselves. And what you believe, externally and internally, to be true is what’s real for you.

As someone who helps construct reality (and so MANY things in this world), you do have some say in how you construct your beliefs and perspective.

Bad shit isn’t going to stop happening because you have this knowledge, but this knowledge can allow you to alter your perceptive of said bad shit in the context of your life.

We can’t predict the future and we can’t control it. Neither can we control the past. Whatever you focus on is what life is for you at any given moment. Focus on the negatives in your life and that’s what your life is for you. Focus on worries, that’s what your life is. Focus on gratitude and positives and, yep, that’s what your life is for you.

It’s so difficult to not solely focus on the negatives when there are so many presented to you.

Like when your kid is sick and you have to miss school to stay home with them and your car breaks down so you can’t even make the doctor’s appointment you were lucky to get — this is when life seems overwhelmingly horrible.

Or like when your relationship with someone is stressed and you’ve been trying to deal with their addiction while remaining detached enough not to get hurt, but also attached enough to still care and you just can’t save them. Because you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved and slowly you watch them change from the person you loved the most into the saddest stranger you’ve ever seen.

You start stacking all of these negative things, overlapping one another, and you’re stretching yourself out to continue at the same, or higher, level of productivity for an endless period of time. It’s difficult to see life as anything but negative.

But if you looked back at your horrible day or week or year, really look, you’ll see that there is likely positive things as well. The day your car broke down and your child was sick allowed you moments with your child that you both enjoyed and may seldom get to have. Even in the really painful moments there are spaces of positivity. If anything, there is growth and beauty in pain if we allow there to be.

So yes, shit sucks. But you do the best you can with what you have in this moment and you continue to work on improving yourself. People aren’t perfect. Life sure as hell isn’t perfect. You just keep moving forward, getting through each day. And as the Monty Python song goes, “Always look on the bright side of life…”

Happy New Year!

The holidays were both wonderful and stressful which is, as holidays go, about average. Placing less stress on myself to have the “perfect holiday” and more focus on the things that really matter (my family, the moment), I was able to have a more enjoyable holiday than I usually have.

I know with the new year many people like to make resolutions and wishes for the new year. With that many take the time to reflect on the prior year – myself included. I do a lot of self-reflection (what seems like) almost daily.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want to feel bad anymore for doing the best I can. Or feeling like it’s not good enough. It’s what I’ve got and if it isn’t good enough for you, too bad. It’s good enough for me. 2012 is going to be the year where I stop playing the victim. I’ve been the victim, I know the role, so it’s been an easy role to fall back upon. But I’ve also played the survivor and I play it well. I haven’t survived by laying down and giving up.

I am a capable, amazing person who is working so very hard every day to navigate through this life. To try to look on the bright side and see the positive. To try to propel myself further forward towards my goals in education, parenting and personal growth. It’s ok if sometimes I feel sad or angry or frustrated because denying myself feeling those emotions only strengthens their negativity. I can allow myself to feel sad or angry or frustrated and come out the other side.

I’m not perfect. But neither is anyone else. No longer will I be trapped by others negativity and attempts to stifle my achievement and growth. I am strong. I am smart. I am capable of loving and I am capable of receiving love. Not only capable, but worthy. It starts with me. And today I tell myself, “I love you.” And I mean it.

How often do we focus on other’s happiness and well-being, neglecting our own in the process? How often do we give ourselves endlessly – our time, our resources, our love? How often do we do the same for ourselves? Give something back to yourself, everyday, even if it’s as simple as saying a little mantra — “I love you”, “You are capable”, “You are strong”, “You can do this”.

The Myth of the Perfect Holiday

Life has a way of building up, of stacking situations, events, emotions, needs and tasks on top of each other. Until it gets difficult to clearly see what is a priority and what is really important.

The holidays are especially a time like that. Making sure presents are gotten and wrapped. That the decorations go up. That the tree goes up and gets decorated. That you can find where the menorah is. (We celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Winter Solstice). There’s excitement in the air and the kids can’t contain it (often the adults can’t either).

There’s traveling or guests coming to your house. Is your house clean? I better put away the empty bottles from the kitchen. And dust everything. And did I vacuum the floor in the basement where no one will go and that no one will see?

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all the things we need to do and all the details that we fail to pay attention to the “other” things. Like driving. I’m not certain why, but once it hits the week before the holidays it seems that many people forget how to drive. Blinkers? I know where I’m going! Stop signs and speed limits? I need to get there 10 minutes ago.

And the inattention continues in the stores. People rushing and carelessly bumping into others. Failing to hold the door for the person behind you. Huffing at the long lines at the check out. Even fighting over the last of an item.

How is this beneficial to anyone? We’re all stressed out. Rushed. Anxious.

Everyone would like to have the “perfect” holiday. The perfectly decorated house. The perfect holiday meal. The perfect gifts, for loved ones and ourselves. But not at the expense of others and ourselves.

How about some goodwill towards others? Hold the door for the person behind you. Donate to those less fortunate, with monetary donations, donations of a gift or food, or volunteering your time. Say thank you to those helping you at the stores. Retail is brutal this time of year (and year round!) and a simple gesture such as thank you goes a long way.

Even if your house isn’t perfect. Or your meal doesn’t turn out as planned. Or the presents you give/receive aren’t exactly what was wanted. Be grateful of what you do have. And slow down.

Be kind to those around you in your daily travels. Be thankful of the food you consume. Be present in the moment and enjoy the time you’ve been blessed to spend with those you love.

It isn’t about the food. Or the presents. Or the decorations. Or what you receive. Or what you didn’t receive.

It’s about the moment.

So slow down, take a deep breath and just be here.

Wishing you all happy holidays, whatever you choose to celebrate.