Thursday, October 6, 2016

Live with Gratitude

Gratitude is a mindset.

It should not be relative to whether or not you're having a good or bad day, or whether those you encounter are (seemingly) doing better or worse than you are.

Learn to be grateful for what you have, and not just because you have what others do not. Yes, seeing someone in a difficult situation reminds us to be thankful––for example, reading a Facebook post about a kid with Cancer tugs at my heart and makes me extremely thankful that Ivy is healthy. But I believe one of the keys to true happiness in life is to have a heart full of gratitude, not just to be happy that you're better off than someone else (or that you perceive that you're better off). Gratitude is not about comparing yourself to others, or to some standard set by society. To have gratitude means that you take time to notice the things that are truly important to you and that make a positive impact in your life, big or small. It's about choosing to notice these things, training yourself to take notice of these things instead of allowing negativity to cloud your thoughts.

Having gratitude doesn't mean that you always smile and say, "THANKS" when things don't go your way. This isn't about seeing the silver lining and ignoring the dark cloud, or viewing the world through rose-colored glasses.

Gratitude is about seeing the world as it truly is and acknowledging the ugliness while focusing on the beauty.

Life is truly a gift. And it's short. Be grateful every day!

New feature for 2016: book recommendations! Two books I highly recommend related to the subject of gratitude:

  • Living With Intent by Mallika Chopra
  • Thanks! by Robert Emmons 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

You can go your own way

When Ivy started preschool she was VERY routine-oriented and VERY skeptical about anything outside of her norm. About a month after school started they had water day and sent a note home informing the parents that the kids were encouraged to wear their bathing suits under their clothes. Ivy had never worn her bathing suit under her clothes. The whole idea was ridiculous to her and more than her little three-year-old brain could handle. So, we went to school sans swimwear and I relayed this information to the teacher, who tried to encourage her by pointing out all the other kids who were wearing their suits. The kids proudly lifted up their clothing to show their suits, and her teacher said, "see, Ivy, everyone is wearing their bathing suit!" Ivy's response was brilliant: "Everyone, but not Ivy."

Peer pressure! We all experience it at varying degrees throughout life, and it's not always bad. Sometimes peer pressure can encourage us to take healthy risks and try something new, or push ourselves further than our comfort zone resulting in a boost of self-confidence or a new skill. Or sometimes, we learn the joy of wearing our bathing suits under our clothes! On the other hand, we're all aware of examples when peer pressure results in poor choices, especially during the teenage years, but we can address that later.

The point I want to make is this: when you find yourself in a precarious situation with your gut telling you one thing and someone you may or may not even respect telling you the opposite, listen to the  wise words of Lindsey Buckingham and remember, "you can go your own way."*

Not every instance of peer pressure is going to result in an after-school-special lesson. The key is that you need to make your own choices. Don't be afraid to go against the grain: go with your gut. If you're going to make a mistake, make it your own and not someone else's.** And OWN IT!

This is how we learn and grow and gain life experiences (that we can then write about on the Internet!).

*Yes, I know Mr. Buckingham was telling Stevie Knicks that their relationship was over and she could go her own way with Don Henley, but that's not really the point for this post. We can discuss break-ups another time.

**Slight disclaimer on this one: if your own mistake is to do meth or something equally as risky and illegal and stupid, remember the equally  wise words of Frances McDormand in Almost Famous, "Don't take drugs!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Don't wear this. And don't pierce your navel.

We all go through many fashion phases in life, and upon looking back, realize that many of them are EPIC FAILURES. (Facebook friends may remember my plaid flannel shorts from high school. Why were those even ever made??!!) This is all a part of life, growing up and discovering yourself. So please, Ivy, experiment, express yourself, try out different styles. Just don't wear this:

Because... ehhhh... just don't.

And don't pierce your navel!

Whatever happens, we'll handle it. Together.

A friend recently told me about her sister-in-law's fight with breast cancer. The first round was several years ago, and her reaction was to be feisty, with an in-your-face, "I'm going to beat this!" attitude. She underwent treatment successfully and had a few healthy years, but then the cancer returned. This time her attitude was more relaxed. Her reaction isn't apathy or denial, she's still fighting it, but her approach is coming more from a place of acceptance: "ok, this is what we're doing now."

My friend said that she is trying to approach life in general with this attitude. When things go wrong outside of your control, instead of blowing up and freaking out, just accept it, change directions and move forward. Onward and upward!

I really think this is a great attitude that I am trying to apply in my own life (although I recognize it is often easier said than done). It doesn't mean that you accept bad circumstances or let wrong-doing go without consequence, it means that you accept the situation as it is and determine how to move forward.

The last few years I feel like I, and many of my loved ones, have been slapped in the face with "things don't always turn out the way you plan," and I've learned that life is just that way. And it's not always a bad thing! Sometimes disaster strikes and you've got to pick up the pieces, and sometimes you are met with a super fabulous surprise that you could never even imagine. And in all cases, your experience and reaction will continue to shape who you are (and you don't want to be a miserable, angry person!).

An important part of this approach to life is to build and nurture a support system. I am extremely fortunate to have an amazing support system of friends and family both near and far who have shared my highs and lows (and will continue to!), and I am eternally grateful that my daughter will be able to grow with this support system as well.

Whatever happens, babe, we're all in this together!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Don't spend too much time worrying "what if?"

I took my daughter to the doctor this week for her 6-year-old checkup. The night before, and a few times in the morning, we had this conversation:

Ivy: Will I have to get a shot?

Me: I don't know, sweetie, we'll just have to wait and see.

Ivy: It will hurt if I get a shot!!

Me: I know it will hurt, but it only hurts for a second and then it's over. Plus, we don't know if you need a shot so let's not worry about it just yet.

Ivy: But what if I have to get a shot??!!

Another example. Someone I know has 2 little girls and told me that his wife watches MTV's "Teen Mom" and worries, "What if the girls end up like this??!!" I think we can all agree that show is extremely disturbing for many reasons (mostly the outfits and the butchering of the English language), and no one wants their daughter to become pregnant as a teenager, but... sitting up at night worrying about your 3-year-old losing her virginity (and her fashion sense) as a teenager is not the best use of mental energy.

We all worry. We all lose sleep over things we can and cannot control. Ultimately, however, we figure out a way to deal with whatever happens, good or bad. My advice to Ivy is to try to make smart choices and try not to put yourself in bad situations, but whatever happens, we'll deal with it, and we'll deal with it together (regardless of whose fault it is!).

If you must spend your time thinking "What if?" - spend it dreaming about fun and exciting things to come, instead of worrying.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

There will always be someone better off than you, there will always be someone worse off than you

We've all heard the expression the grass is always greener on the other side. The way I see it, although the grass may be greener, if you look closely enough you'll probably see crab grass, dandelions, mushrooms or dog crap.

Having perspective is one of the most important lessons of life - being able to see things from other points of view and having a sense of where you fit in the world. When things are not going well or not turning out the way we want, we often look at others and resent their success or happiness instead of focusing on improving ourselves. I, for example, am currently unhappy with my job situation, and often find myself feeling jealous of
1) people with short commutes,
2) people who love their jobs and are truly passionate about what they do, and most importantly,
3) lottery winners.

Instead of wasting my mental energy sitting and seething, I should be spending this time
1) being thankful I have a job,
2) focusing on the good points of my job, and
3) looking for a new job.

So when you're feeling like things could not possibly be worse, or that no one has ever experienced anything as horrible as you are currently experiencing, look around. Most often you'll see that you fit somewhere in the middle.

(And for the record, I really do need to get a new job, so if anyone knows of a high paying / short hours job, please get in touch with me!)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Be present in the moment

Looking forward to something fun in the future is something that gets us all through the day. We look forward to the weekend, a vacation, a visit with a good friend. Sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is looking forward to going back to bed at night.

There are also things that we look ahead to with some degree of dread - Mondays, dental appointments, looking at your credit card statement.

I often find myself sitting at work thinking about being anywhere else and doing anything else. Then when I'm at home my mind drifts toward what's coming up next, whether business or pleasure, and I find myself distracted from the activities at hand instead of fully engaging.

My advice is to make it a practice to be present and focused in the moment. You will be more efficient with tasks that have to be done and will get more joy out of the activities you choose. You'll be a valued friend and family member and will appreciate your relationships more.

Life moves very quickly - learn to appreciate every minute.