The Present

Settle down
Look around
at all the magic that surrounds you
Breathe deep
Take it all in
Notice the goodness in our world
Make it grow
Let the gratitude fill your heart,
your body and your whole consciousness
We are one song,
the high notes and the low
Create kindness and love
Feel peace deeply
Laugh until you cry
Savor the Present

The Pursuit of Happiness Can Push It out of Reach

I’m slowly reading this great book called Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, by Forrest Hanson and Rick Hanson. I wanted to share these awesome bullet points about gratitude. I need to remember these!

  • We seek to feel good in the future, but this is often stressful in the present. Poignantly, the pursuit of happiness can push it out of reach. With gratitude, we feel good already.
  • Giving thanks for what is beneficial does not prevent us from seeing what is harmful. In fact, the ways that thankfulness supports physical and mental health make us more resilient and more able to deal with challenges.
  • Pleasure is easy to dismiss, but it is a rapid way to lower stress or to disengage from an upset. Wholesome pleasures crowd out unwholesome ones. The more you feel already full of pleasure, the less you’ll strain for it outside yourself.
  • Because of the negativity bias, we notice when we fail to reach a goal while missing the fact that meanwhile we’re succeeding at hundreds of other goals. Look for opportunities to feel successful many times each day. Take in these experiences and use them to compensate for and heal feelings of failure or inadequacy.
  • If you can be happy about the happiness of others, you can find a lasting happiness.

It’s Not Retail Therapy That I Need – It’s Therapy Because of Retail

I find it interesting, and mildly disturbing, that I often have dreams in which the setting is a retail store.  Tonight’s REM induced ordeal was one of frustration that I couldn’t find a customer an inexpensive blue pencil.  I knew where some were located, but I was unable to find any when the time came to offer them to the customer.  As soon as the customer leaves, displeased that I was unable to help, I find different types of blue pencils everywhere in the store.  But it’s too late to satisfy the part of me that seeks approval from others – the customer is now gone.  And the icing on the cake of this bad dream was that my manager found the bank bag, with the store’s deposits enclosed, unattended on the sales floor.  My negligence and irresponsibility at the end of this mild nightmare awoke me.

I have two theories about this.  The first is that some sort of critical brain development happens in your twenties, as this was my job at that time.   And as a result of this, I often dream about this time in my life.  As I’m typing this, I’m critical of myself that I haven’t googled this already to see if this is the case.  I may have to take a break during the composition of this post to check this out.  I’m back.  It looks like the brain is still developing in our twenties.  There could be some truth in this theory.  Maybe the connections made during this time made the daily retail environment a hard-wired structure in my brain.

My second theory is that I suffered some sort of trauma during my time spent working in retail drugstores.  I have often heard it said that prison changes a person.  Perhaps working in a retail store does the same thing.

Regardless of which theory is correct, I find it odd that I dream about a life experience that ended about seventeen years ago.  It is an experience that I don’t often think about in my waking hours, either.  Maybe the fact that I shopped today at a retail drugstore triggered it.  Or it’s easier and more comical to think that it was my trip to Wal-Mart today.  Wal-Mart is often a stressful experience for me.  I prefer order and predictability over the excitement of chaos.

It amuses me, and I am proud of some habits that I’ve kept from the experience of working in retail.

  • I am aware and courteous of the other customers around me in the store, and I give them the right-of-way
  • I mindlessly straighten the items on the shelves when shopping
  • I always put an item back in its proper place in the store if I decide not to purchase it
  • I never touch the glass
  • I remain calm, assertive, open-minded and respectful when confronting the staff about a pricing issue or a problem (retail injustice)
  • My ego believes that I have acquired a superior skill for locating items in stores due to my experience on sales floors
  • I never destroy packaging to look at the product inside

So, like life itself, I see a balance of good and bad about my experience of working in retail.  There were some awful things about it, but I really don’t think that any of it was traumatic.  It can’t honestly be compared to going to war or prison.  But I do find myself wanting to share a list of behaviors I’d like to suggest.  Retail etiquette, if you’ll allow me.

  • Please don’t unnecessarily impede the flow of other customers in the store.  You are not the only person left on Earth.
  • If the rare occurrence of a cash sale happens, cashiers should hand the coins to the customer first, then the bills and receipt.  Coins should never be placed on top of paper when handing them over – they slide and often fall.
  • Don’t stick your fingers in the testers of the cosmetics displays if you intend on smearing the remaining product all over said display
  • Don’t steal items.  What I found depressing about my former job was finding the empty packaging from items stolen stashed in the store.  I found it most disturbing to find empty expensive wrinkle creme boxes – if you’re old enough to use wrinkle creme, you should be old enough to know that it is wrong to steal and be selfish (and wrinkle creme is a non-essential to life item)
  • Treat retail workers with respect, and please lose any sense of entitlement.  The customer is often, but not always right (and I feel better about the word “correct” instead of “right.”  Now I’m worried about being an elite snob.  LOL!) But seriously, I don’t believe that I am any more important, or deserve any special consideration now that I am an accounting professional instead of a retail store employee.  The retail staff aren’t your humble servants, either – please treat them as peers.
  • Try to keep your children from destroying the place.  I didn’t appreciate the woman that didn’t correct her small child as he mixed up every lipstick shade in the entire 40+ shade display, for example.  Having a child of my own, I realize that children want to touch and handle everything, but I think there is a point when your inner parent should realize when it’s too much destruction and provide intervention.

P.S.  Here’s an interesting reference that I used when hoping to correctly spell Wal-Mart in my blog:  Updates to AP Stylebook include ‘over,’ hyphenation of Wal-Mart

Happy New Year!

We have a tradition of coming up with resolutions for the new year. In that spirit, here are some things that I want to work on this year, and probably much longer than that!
I want to let love be a guiding principle in my life, and I want to let go of fear whenever I can. This idea feels good and right to me. I don’t have well-defined plan how exactly how to accomplish this. But I’m reading some good books about it, and I believe some of my other areas of focus for the year will help me.
I want to become more mindful and meet each moment with my deepest values. Inherent in this idea is the need to define my deepest values. This sounds like a lot of work, but I think there are some truly meaningful rewards to be found here.
I want to live my life more intentionally. I want to examine my automatic scripts that I use in my daily life and rid myself of the ones that really don’t serve me. I want to be responsive instead of reactive.
This one is not a unique New Year’s resolution: I want to make care of my physical self a bigger priority. A long time ago, I got the idea that physical talents weren’t my strength. I think this core idea has allowed me to justify not focusing on physical fitness. But as I find myself smack dab in middle age, I think it would serve me to focus on fitness so that I can continue to do the things that I enjoy. There’s also this crazy possibility that I could gain physical skills and abilities!

I hope that you have a wonderful new year!  And I also wish that we all are successful working towards the goals that we choose to pursue!

Don’t Let Hate Win

Try to remember that a symbol doesn’t have any power or meaning that you don’t give to it.
Instead of allowing a symbol to inspire feelings of hatred, contempt, disgust and intolerance, try instead to choose to experience the feelings that will increase the love and the kindness in our world.
When I see a symbol meant to inspire negative feelings, I choose to deny it that power. I choose to feel grateful for the positive steps we have made towards tolerance and acceptance of others, instead of experiencing feelings of frustration, separateness and hatred. I choose to be grateful for the opportunities we still have to become more loving and understanding, instead of feeling depressed and hopeless about the injustices some of us may still have to experience. Instead of allowing General Lee’s battle flag to bring up sorrow in me, I choose to celebrate all of the good people in the world who are not perfect, but still choose to demonstrate love, kindness and tolerance more often than hate, greed and ignorance.
Don’t let hate win. Be strong, and find a way to personally translate those symbols into reminders to spread love instead.

Don’t Kill the Messenger: Social Media Is Not Bad, But People Can Be

I would like it if people would stop judging and categorizing certain types of media as bad. In my humble opinion the medium is neutral. It is the conveyance of the message. And like any tool available to human kind, it can be used for amazing good and terrible evil.
I was inspired to write my opinion, argument, if you will, because I got moved to action by another bashing of social media. The claim is that if you use social media, you will become depressed. I don’t believe this is necessarily true. And I think the claim misses the point. It is how you use and interpret the messages received and sent through social media that may reinforce or stimulate depression. It is not the neutral conveyance. We give things and thoughts the meaning. And whether it is good or bad, we judge.
I have to admit that part of my inspiration for expressing this opinion is to defend my ego. I love watching TV and sharing ideas, pictures, jokes and messages on social media. I do these things quite often. But because I prefer to receive my messages and communicate with other human beings through TV and social media, it does not make me “less than” people who prefer receiving messages through reading books or talking to each other on the telephone. Why do people feel the need to blame or glorify the conveyance? Or make one more righteous than another? I think the reason is probably ego and a lack of the assignment of personal responsibility.
I can do amazing things on social media. One thing that comes to mind is that I can continue a friendship with one of my classmates from elementary school. My friend, Stephen, and I went to elementary school in Kansas City, Missouri. And since that moment, a long, long time ago, we have both moved off to different cities. Stephen now lives somewhere in Oregon, and I live on the other side of Missouri in the greater Saint Louis metropolitan area. And if it were not for Facebook, I don’t believe we would communicate at all. But because Facebook exists, we were able to, first, find each other, and second, easily share ideas, our experiences, images of love ones and beautiful places. I am grateful that Facebook exists because without it, my friendship with my former childhood classmate would not exist. But it is Stephen and I that have made this a good experience, not necessarily the medium. If we were different people and shared different messages, this relationship could have become a negative experience. I believe that whether the experience is good or bad is up to us. And the strength and quality of the relationship is also up to us. I also cringe when people say, “but those people online aren’t really your friends.” Just because I communicate with Stephen on Facebook rather than calling him on the phone or talking to him in person does not change the quality of our friendship – it just simply makes it possible.
Sometimes people say terrible and awful things. And yet, there has been no campaign to urge people to stop talking. We have the common sense to not blame talking itself. I think we should use the same common sense with all methods of communication.

My Three Areas of Focus

I am an Oprah groupie.  I am not ashamed to admit it.  I have been watching her broadcasts of Super Soul Sunday and Oprah’s Lifeclass on her OWN network since its inception.  Integrating some of the great ideas that have been brought to my attention through these shows has been an awesome, fulfilling and a truly joyful experience.  I enjoy exploring ideas that might shift my perception, and allow me to arrive at a new appreciation of life as a human being.

One of the things related to Oprah that I am entertaining currently is a “O-Course” called “Thrive.”  The instructor is Arianna Huffington.  Many of the things we have covered so far make me feel proud of myself.  I didn’t need the instruction to know that plentiful sleep is important or that working until you fall over is not success.  Today’s assignment was to identify three goals, and then to let go of goals that aren’t a priority and that you can’t realistically include in your life.  Completing this assignment gave me the opportunity to clarify and re-affirm three key areas of focus in my life.  I’ve decided to share these with the biosphere of the internet.  Here we go…

Living life by being present and full of love.  Using this presence to cultivate awesome relationships with myself, my husband, my son and each person I encounter each day.  Removing mindless and numbing things I do out of habit.  Practicing gratitude and making decisions made from love.  Being aware and fully experiencing all the joy in my daily experiences.

Getting my “house” in order:  removing chaos and providing management for my daily life.  Employing self-care strategies to feel great physically:  improve diet, increase exercise, increase physical touch and massage and remove unnecessary stressors.  Employing strategies to make household chores and administrative tasks more manageable and less stressful…and get them completed to create an environment of peace and harmony instead of worry about what needs to be done.  Letting go of self-judgment regarding the things that I realistically don’t have time to do.

Using my employment opportunity not only to help support my family, but as a fertile training ground for helping others while achieving personal growth.  Monitoring the amount of energy I allow my career to consume.  Continuing to cultivate a positive, curious and helpful attitude while working.  Cherishing those with whom I get to spend so much time each work day.  Doing excellent work by focusing on one task at a time and maintaining a slow, steady way of being.

Be Kind to Yourselves

Deep down, I have the belief that we are all connected.  A couple days ago, I had an ‘Ah-ha’ moment.  I formulated a hypothesis that every person you meet in your life is actually another version of yourself.  This is a little far out, but hang in here with me for a minute.  In these alternative manifestations of yourself, different personality traits and characteristics are highlighted.  The dominate traits in others are different, but if you look inside yourself, you will see that those traits and characteristics are present in you.  It is the Universe’s clever way of teaching you about yourself.  It helps you notice, for example, the nervous and excitable part of yourself by giving you a prime example of a nervous and excitable personality in your life.  Or it shows you your innocent and childlike traits when you are in the presence of a little child and for a moment you are both full of wonder about the world.

I have no idea if this is true, but I think this idea is worth examining further.  I think that this idea may give me more compassion and empathy for other people.  Following this premise, I am going to be kinder to and more patient with all of ‘myselves’ I encounter out in my world.

Don’t Go to Bed with a Price on Your Head (Don’t Do It!)

I’ve been watching the movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this morning. There is a scene in this movie where one of the girls is working in a drugstore. She is begrudgingly putting price stickers on merchandise when she decides to put a price sticker on her forehead. This reminded me of a moment in my childhood.

In the 1970’s, there was a police drama called Baretta. The theme of the show, “Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow,” opened with the line, “Don’t go to bed with a price on your head.” In my young mind, I interpreted this to mean exactly what I saw in this scene from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: a person with a price sticker his head.  I decided I would definitely not do this, and I didn’t believe this was an exceptionally difficult promise to keep.  And so far, I’ve lived up to my childhood vow.

This was not the only concept I did not understand as it was intended. But most of the time, it was because I misunderstood one of the words being used. For example, I her a ridiculous story on the news about a man who was holding fifty ostriches (hostages). I thought, why would anyone want fifty ostriches?! I also thought that Bad, Bad Leroy Brown had an eraser (razor) in his shoe to make him appear taller. It is amusing to reminisce about the things I innocently did not completely understand as a child.

This makes me wonder about what kind of things my six-year-old son doesn’t quite fully understand. Hopefully, he will have equally amusing things to tell me when he grows up to be an adult.

Please leave a comment if you’d like to share an amusing childhood misunderstanding.