Sunday, October 29, 2006

What It Takes To Be Happy

What it takes to be happy is: 1) Find a sense of purpose for our lives and 2) Reframe the filter through which we view people and the circumstances in our lives. I’ve said it before and know by experience that this is true. I KNOW that we have the power to change circumstances and how we are treated by others. How?

We change our circumstances and how we are treated by others when we change what WE say and do and how we see ourselves. We change these things when we ask ourselves new questions and take new actions. As they say: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.

Even when what we do does not work out the way we hoped or thought it would, something changes when we push ourselves outside our comfort zones and try new things. IF we choose to see what happens as information, we grow, we learn, we recognize new possibilities. If one set of actions did not work, perhaps another will. IF we make the choice to keep trying.

We alter relationships in our lives when we begin to ask about others, especially those who are thorns in our sides: What are THEIR hopes and dreams and fears?

The thing is that it’s in our hands, how we live our lives. The possibilities are there but we need to find a way to see them. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW THIS TO BE TRUE!

Over the past few years I have made a great many changes in my life. NOW I see possibilities I could not grasp even a year ago and far more I could not see 5 years ago. Only by taking action and being willing to face my fears and honestly look at the outcome, accepting my own responsibility for my life, could I LEARN to see these new possibilities. I had to be willing to challenge old assumptions I hadn’t known I was allowing to control my actions and reactions.

Why is a sense of purpose so important? Because it gives us something to focus on beyond our own fears and self-doubts and past hurts. It’s important because we feel better when we are closer to being the kind of person we believe we ought to be. It’s important because while we may not be able to find the courage to do the things we fear if it’s just for ourselves, odds are much better we will when we know we are doing so to achieve something we believe matters.

And make no mistake—there is no way past fear except to walk through it and do the very things we think we cannot do. What we gain is priceless. And we cannot fail. Either we succeed or we gain new knowledge and insight and information—even if it’s that we may want to try something a little different next time.

This week I did some new things. Gained some insight, some validation, learned some information that on the surface seems deeply distressing. And yet I know that even with the information I find distressing, inherent in the situation is a gift—the gift of new possibilities, new ways of looking at things—if I choose to accept it.

We have choices. We can stay exactly as we are and we will have exactly what we have now—until the universe comes along and yanks the rug out from under our feet! Or we can choose to go forward, embracing change and new possibilities.

I believe that we can use everything that happens to help us move toward a life that is rich and fulfilling and filled with a sense of purpose. It’s our choice. And once we choose, it’s up to us to take the steps to achieve that life we want to have.

What is your sense of purpose and what choices will you make this week to help you achieve it? How will you move forward toward creating the life you want to have? How will you embrace the power you already, in this very moment, have within you to do so?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))))),


Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Gift of Discontent

Yes, I know I posted just yesterday—Losing It—but I hate to leave things like that. You see, today I remembered the power of choosing what to focus on. I remembered that discontent has often been a gift. It has pushed me to make changes in my life and so my life got better—changes I otherwise would not have made.

I stepped back and I looked at the things that have upset me over the past week or two and asked myself: What gift is this? What good could this bring into my life?

And I got answers. I realized that if I looked at each piece not from the point of view of how it scared me or made me angry (two sides of the same coin); I could see it as a gentle nudge from the universe to make some changes in my life. I could see that there might be steps I could take that would make me happier AND maybe help with the things that were upsetting me. I could see, too, an overall pattern. A global sense in which all of these things would work together.

Would I make some of the changes I need to make without such nudges from the universe? I’d like to say of course I would! But I know myself better than that. It would be easy to continue as I am without that gift of discontent.

I would not be living as I am, where I am, in the house I live in without the gift of discontent. I’d be making do. Coping. Getting along. My life wouldn’t be nearly as rich and wonderful as it is these days.

No, change isn’t easy. Most of us feel as if it would be great just to get everything all lined up and never have to worry about it again. After all, if we were in abusive situations as kids, we may have spent most of our lives constantly on the alert, constantly dealing with danger, always expecting the worst, always believing that things were going to go wrong. Everything that we did was about surviving. But now that we’re grown, good things can come into our lives, we make truly can make our lives better. Now it isn’t about surviving it’s about thriving. And as we achieve a given goal, we may feel that gift of discontent, that nudge to go in a new direction. Not because anything is wrong, but because we’re ready

Change happens. It always will. We can fight it and expend our energy doing so. We can pretend it won’t and smack up against it when it does. Or we can choose to race forward to embrace change in our lives. We can look always at life with the questions: What message is the universe bringing me today? How can I use it to make my life better and better?

So if you are unhappy today or in the days ahead, ask yourself: What good could I make of this? What gift is inherent in this discontent?

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs)))))),

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Losing It

What causes you to “lose it?”

For me, it’s feeling as if I’m being treated with disrespect or as if no one’s listening. The more important the situation, the more out of control it feels to me, the less power I feel I have, the more upset I get. Or if I feel I’m not living up to the standards I set for myself—usually in a context where I can’t depend on anyone else to do the right thing and/or do what needs to be done. It happens when I’m afraid—for myself or someone I care about—and I feel powerless to stop whatever it is that’s so scary. One way or another, it ALWAYS comes down to fear.

How do you react when you “lose it?”

For me, I want to withdraw. I want to quit trying. I want to quit doing the things I feel I’m supposed to do. I want to give up because after all, if no one’s going to listen or care or do anything, what’s the point? Or worse, I’ll lash out at people who are doing the best they can and who, even if they might listen if I could discuss things rationally, are not going to do so when I attack them. I also know that odds are I will focus on the least important issues and lash out about those because it’s less scary than really facing my fears about the really important issues I’m facing.

I bring it up because all of us have times when we hit that wall, usually at times we can least afford to “lose it.” But we do. And when we lose it, that’s when we’re least likely to be able to think of anything productive, anything that will work, and we may take actions or say things that only make our situation worse.

And I’ve hit that wall the past week or two. Situations feel out of control. People aren’t listening. I was powerless in situations that matter deeply to me. Lashed out more than once at people who aren’t going to listen to or care what I have to say—especially since I did lash out rather than approach them with respect for their position.

I know, you see, that everyone wants to be the hero of his or her own life. Everyone wants to believe they are a good person. And I know that if I attack, part of them will need to believe there is something wrong with me rather than listen to what I have to say. They will need to find excuses about why they are right or justified in what they are doing.

And I’ve pulled back. Because I’m so tired of trying and not getting anywhere. I even asked a friend if I should quit posting this blog because it seems as if no one reads it or cares.

In short, I’ve fallen into the trap of believing I have no power. It’s appealing, you see. Because if I have no power, I’m off the hook. I don’t have to keep trying. I can quit doing what’s difficult and just give up.

Only that doesn’t get me anywhere. I will end up more unhappy than ever. The only way things change, the only way I will feel better is to take a deep breath, pull myself up and realize that I do have power. If I haven’t found the means to create the effect I want, it only means that I haven’t found the right actions or words yet. Or perhaps I’m focused on the wrong goal. Maybe there’s another way to achieve what matters to me, another way to make a difference, another way to diffuse a threat.

The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is often simply that those who succeed keep trying new things until they find the means to achieve what matters to them.

I can’t control who reads or doesn’t read this blog. But I can choose whether it’s important enough for me to keep writing it or to try to get across my message in some other way. I can’t control whether or not an agent wants to represent me or a given publisher wants to buy a given manuscript, but I can control whether or not I keep sending it out and paying attention to the responses I get. I can’t control what my grown son does but I can choose the ways in which I remain part of his life. I can’t choose what our politicians do, but I can choose to vote and when I strongly disagree with one, I can choose to speak out—whether or not anyone listens. I can’t control what will happen with my friend’s breast cancer, but I can choose how I will support her as she fights the disease—even or perhaps especially when she has a set back as she did this week.

I can make the choices based not just on what outcome I can create but on what kind of person it matters to me to be. I can know that whether or not anyone reads or cares about what I post, it matters to me to try to share the tools I think can help. I can choose to write to politicians knowing that even if no one listens, it matters that someone speaks out. I can choose to share with my adult son my concerns about the choices he’s making even if I know he may choose not to listen because I can’t stop being his mother. I can support my friend even if I know that I am powerless to impact the course of her disease because it matters to me to be there for her so she isn’t facing it alone.

As I’ve said before, being an optimist doesn’t mean things never go wrong for me. Neither does it mean I’m always calm and happy. It only means that I know that when I have times like this when I do get upset I don’t have to stay stuck in those emotions. I know that I have the tools to find a way to change my mindset and take steps to make my situation closer to what I want it to be. I can always be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new possibilities in my life.

We all run into walls. The choice we must make when it happens is whether to stay there and cry—often quite justifiably so!—about how unfair life is or whether to find a way, no matter what it takes, to get over the wall to where we want to be.

Don’t know about you but this coming week I’m going to be doing some climbing—even if it’s by my fingertips. Wishing you all luck with your own walls—whatever they may be—and safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Saturday, October 14, 2006

How Do We Get Through....

How do we get through difficult days? I keep coming back to this theme because we all have up and down days. And it’s important to remind ourselves that we do have tools to cope. As I watched my friend get ready for and then recover from surgery, as I myself went to an event that I knew would be stressful, I found myself needing to draw on my coping skills. I worried about her, I was putting myself out there career wise, and I had to cancel meetings with friends I had dearly wanted to see. It could have been overwhelming but it wasn’t because by now I’ve had practice with these tools and by now I’ve gathered evidence that no matter what, I will be able to cope. Here are some of the things I drew on:

1) Trust yourself. There is a reason you are feeling what you are. It’s useless as well as unfair to beat yourself up over any of it. If you think you are supposed to do something and can’t make yourself, ask yourself what you could do instead that might be useful and/or a good idea.

2) Do things that make you smile. And if someone you care about is going through a difficult time, do something that makes them smile as well. Laughter is healing and lowers the level of stress hormones in the body.

3) It’s okay to cry when you need to do so.

4) It’s okay to tell friends you are going through a difficult time. I do NOT mean expecting or asking them to solve the problem or cry with you, but at the event I went to, when I needed space, I said so.

5) It’s okay to enjoy yourself even when someone you care about is going through a difficult time. As Wayne Dyer says, you cannot be poor enough to make someone else wealthy, sick enough to make someone else well, depressed enough to make someone else happy.

6) It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect and odds are you will actually do a better job at whatever it is you need to do.

7) Focus on what you love to do that you can offer to others. Choose to help or give or care in ways that empower and strengthen and fulfill YOU as well as whoever you are reaching out to help.

We cannot always choose what happens to us but we can always choose how we respond when it does. We can act in ways that empower us and put our energy in finding ways to still be happy—no matter what anyone else around us chooses to say or do.

Wishing all of you a happy and productive week and sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Indomitable Spirit

How easy it is to feel as if life is unfair, to get totally focused on how we’ve been hurt and feel as if the world needs to adjust to us because of it. And we hurt ourselves when we do that. As hard as it is, the best gift we can give ourselves is to let go of the “why me’s?” and focus on the “what’s next?”

I had an example of this over the past week. A dear, dear friend is fighting breast cancer. She went in for a double radical mastectomy on Friday. She came home, by choice, on Saturday! She wanted to be in her own home where she could be more comfortable and sleep better. She wanted to be home where it was easier to get up and move around—despite the pain.

And that’s the key—she wanted to do what needed to be done despite the pain because she knows that’s how she will give herself the best chance to recover, the quickest way to heal. She is in remarkable shape because she is willing to do so. She’s still in pain but she’s far ahead of where she would be if she had just lay in bed, telling herself she deserved to do so because it hurt so much.

For us, the pain may be psychological/emotional rather than or as well as physical. And yet the message, the lesson is the same. When we are willing to do whatever needs to be done to heal, we will. When we are willing to work through the pain knowing it will get us to a point where we do not hurt faster, we will heal. When we accept what is and go for what we want—given where we are starting now, then we will heal.

My hat is off to my friend and I am reminded again of the power of the human spirit. May we all find our own courage when it is needed, may we all find a way to do what needs to be done to heal.

Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),