Monthly Archives: January 2007

Old Friend

I just got off the phone with my childhood best friend, Ted. I suppose that term is unfair in many ways, “best friend.” But children of a certain age think about who is their best friend in the way they later think about who is their girlfriend or boyfriend.

In my case, Ted held a special position because he played an essential role in helping me learn what was important to me. When we were in 7th grade, we used to have to walk past the 9th graders to get to our first period English class. Each morning, we passed two 9th grade boys, Richard and Tom, who bullied us and whom we liked to provoke. Or rather, Ted liked to provoke them and enjoyed it more when I was there to share the beating.

One morning in particular, I remember Ted’s telling me what we were going to say to taunt them. “Do we have to do it today?” I asked. “I really don’t want the beating.” “Yes,” Ted said. “But we do it every day.” “Is it funny every day?” he asked me. “Yes,” I said. “Then we’re doing it again today.”

For Ted, the price of a good laugh could be pretty high, and he taught me to be willing to pay. I was never as funny as Ted, but I could take a beating. I’m glad I don’t get hit any more, but I miss running that gauntlet to start the day.

It was good to hear Ted’s voice. It always is.

What Grabs Your Attention

In one hand I have a dream, and in the other I have an obstacle. Tell me, which one grabs your attention? – American Proverb

When I look back on my life, I see many times where I had obstacles in both hands because I had placed my dreams in a vault. The simple reason is that I didn’t believe I could make any of the dreams come true. So, for me it was less painful to deal with obstacles than it was dealing with missed dreams.

I had a turning point in my life in the spring of 1992, which changed my perspective dramatically. I’ll be discussing that in more detail tomorrow, but needless to say it was the first time in a while that I pulled some dreams out and actually had a choice, just like the quote states above.

In fact it was such a shift internally, a real pivotal point, that my thinking has never been quite the same. It was the seed of change that started the genesis of who I am today.

Now, everyday, I have a choice to choose a dream or choose an obstacle. I choose the dream more often than not. I find it much easier and much less stress inducing. And every day I choose the dream, I feel better about myself. And everyday I feel better about myself, I’m more likely to choose the dream. Catch 22? Maybe. But, it really doesn’t matter where in the circle you start.

Here is a suggestion. Make sure you have a choice; dream or obstacle. Next, try choosing a dream every now and then. See how it feels. Play with it. Get used to it. Try that choice again the next day. For fun, give an obstacle a chance. Compare how you feel between the two? What’s your choice now?

Have a day full of dreams,

Michael

Are your questions empowering you?

Today’s blog was inspired by an email I received from www.women-at-heart.com and a word of heart from one of the readers -Bonnie Hutchinson

If you ask a question…. or in how we state what we want, we can bring about positive change or keep us receiving more of what we already get.

Would you REALLY want the answers to these kinds of questions:

• What’s wrong with me?
• How long could this take?
• What could go wrong?
• How much trouble could it be?
• How hard could it be?

Wouldn’t these be much more empowering:

• Is there a message for me in this experience?
• What’s the gift in this situation?
• What’s the most loving thing I could do now?
• How can I turn this into a positive experience?
• What would the grandest greatest version of me do now?

Making conscious decisions about how we perceive, think and act on things is how we empower ourselves to make better choice and allow good into our lives.  And in turn see more good in it.

“If we would have new knowledge, we must get a whole world of new questions.”

— Susanne K. Langer

Determination

I’m finding it hard not to be trite the last few days. Fatigue makes me timid.

So here’s the challenge: how to share enough from my experience to help others find greater happiness when there are days I am not happy. Two years ago, Michael and I started talking about how to be happier. Naturally, there are systems people hold out to you as a path to happiness. There are also activities like meditation, prayer, service to others. They bring you a sense of purpose and well being.

What we promise is honesty. We will tell you what we try and what works, and we will look for help from other sources.

Tonight I had a great time at dinner with some friends from work. It was simple fun. A little rehash of the day’s events and some story telling. I’m a fan of appreciating the good things that happen to me. Tonight it was remembering how much I enjoy the company of my coworkers.

What does this have to do with determination? Just that last night I wasn’t thinking beyond the burden of driving late night through a snow storm to get to my hotel. Tonight I was sitting with friends in a warm restaurant. I just needed to hang in there for a few hours while things took a turn for the better.

It was worth the wait.

Do What You Want to Do

The great thing to learn about life is, first, not to do what you don’t want to do, and, second, to do what you do want to do. – Margaret Anderson (1886-1973), Editor

It took me over 40 years to learn the first part of this great quote. I believe it was one of the main reasons I was so unhappy most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I had some good times, but the overall feel of my life up until several years was just so so.

But, as I stopped doing what I didn’t want to do (work, relationships, friendships, etc.) and started doing things I wanted and loved to do, my life dramatically changed. In fact, it changed so much that I can barely recognize myself if I look back just 6 – 7 years.

I didn’t change everything all at once. That’s too much to undertake and will only cause you distress. I simply started picking out things one by one that I didn’t want to do anymore. As I stopped doing them, I quickly replaced them with something I wanted to do. So, little by little, over time, I was doing more and more of what I wanted to do and very little of what I didn’t want to do.

So, now, when I have a decision to make about doing something, I ask myself a simple question, “Am I going to have fun doing this?” If the answer is no, I don’t do it. For example, if I will not enjoy doing dishes at a particular moment even if they need to be done, I’ll simply not do them. And inevitably when I do them later, I actually enjoy the task of washing dishes. Maybe I’ll play some good music, sing along, or do a little bit of dancing. And you know what? The dishes or tasks don’t really feel like a chore. I had some fun and it didn’t take nearly as long as it would have if I did them when I didn’t want to do them.

So, what do you not want to do? Pick something. Stop doing it. Replace it with something you want to do. Watch how your level of happiness increase ten fold.

Have a fantastic day!

Michael

What you ask for…

I have always wanted a home that my children, as teens, would want to “be” at.  That has adjusted over my last few years and now also means that my home shall be respected.

As a result, I have ended up being the “home” in which teens flock.  Mostly through my niece.  Though my kids are still under the age of 6, I get the opportunity to spend time with these teens and young adults.

I want to be the Mom that is open to listening.  Allow my children the power of choice and let them be open to talk to me.  I am experiencing this now in a most unique fashion.  I have these kids that think I am “awesome”…. I listen, I challenge and I allow… but also they do chores.

But tonight, I faced a situation with a 16 year old (almost 17) in which her “first love” (who has ignored her for the last 5 days) wanted to talk with her.  She is so lost.  But the hard decision came (note: she has already left her family home) of what to do when she chose to leave with him for the night.

Though I have no “rights” to her, she asked if it was okay. She also asked her best friend’s mom.  And though we advised against it, she chose to leave.  The side benefit there in, she did not “sneak”… she let me know, gave me contact information and assured me she would be physically safe.

I think that is all we can ask.  As an emotional journey is your own.  I am not sure how this would affect me if my children were at this point… would I lock them down, allow…. or just do as I do now…. let them know the consequences and let them decide, even when my gut tells me the decisions they are making would be detrimental.

But then again, they would be safe, safety nets around them… while they take on experiences that will help them to develop their sense of self.

Interesting.

Looking Forward

Flo’s post http://cloud9000.com/flo/2007/01/30/moving-forward/  and Michael’s, to which she refers, raise an essential point. There is no progress in looking backwards (though as I say that, I wonder about Freudian psychotherapy). For me that’s true. My tendency is to look too far forward. Flo is right: the power of meditation is watching only the present moment.

Too often at work I’m wondering what I should be doing next, after I finish my current task. It would be more productive to finish the current task.

At my writing teacher’s suggestion, I am writing poetry now, to develop the knack of finishing things. When you finish anything, it gets easier to let the future worry about itself.

This sounds pretty trite, but the reminder isn’t. I’m afraid to look the present squarely in the eye sometimes. I’m worried I won’t like my options. But people I admire like their options. Surely I could copy them.

I’m in the mood to give practical advice. So here it is for tonight. Find friends who know how to attack the present head on, whether or not they are intimidated. Flo does that. Michael does that. Eirene does that. That’s a lot of models to start with.

Moving forward

Michael’s blog http://cloud9000.com/michael/2007/01/25/living-in-the-past-part-2/ echoes something I recently heard and scribbled on the front page of last week’s newspaper “Sometimes in order to move forward, you have to stop looking back”.

I was struck by this the day I heard it, by the sincerity of it, the truth to it.  Looking back isn’t always bad, it depends on what you’re doing while you look.  I previously mentioned a meditation retreat I attended in October but didn’t talk about the process I went through that weekend.  I spent the first two days thinking about past and present every time my eyes were shut.  It felt like I had made enormous progress when I was able to shut my eyes and notice the sounds in the room.  I heard someone sneeze.  Another person blew their nose.  There was a shuffling sound as someone returned to their mat.  Someone took a drink from their water bottle.  Because my eyes were closed, sounds and smells were what I noticed.  Had my mind been as it had been at the beginning, I wouldn’t have noticed how lunch smelled, how insightful the words spoken to us were.  I wouldn’t have noticed that my body was comfortable and at ease in the meditation position.  If I hadn’t had two days of quiet sitting, my body and my brain would have never met up with each other.

Namaste’  Flo

Promises to Yourself

My friend and business partner recently wrote about keeping promises. I also discussed the topic in my January 2nd post. I feel that it is so vitally important that it deserves a bit more discussion.

So, I want to talk specifically about promises to ourselves. Do you find it hard to even make a promise to yourself? I’ve had difficulty in the past. Do you find it easier to make promises to others? I’m on the fence about that one.

Why do you think it is so hard to make promises to ourselves and then once we do, we find it easier to break them? Oh, we have a million excuses. We had to help a friend do x y and z. My child needed something. I had to work late. My spouse needed things fixed around the house. I had errands to do. I’m tired. My favorite program is on. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I think the reasons are many, but some that pop in my head right now are low self-esteem, lack of confidence in ourselves, don’t feel we deserve to be treated the way our soul knows we should be, any number of fears, and etc. I didn’t play the guitar for about 15 years because I had to take care of my daughter. How crazy does that sound? I love to play the guitar. It gives me great joy. I didn’t because of several of the reasons I listed earlier.

During that time up until several years ago, my self-esteem was quite low. It was simple. I didn’t value myself enough to allow me to do things that I enjoyed. I think we all do this in different ways. Sometimes in little bits while other times can be quite big.

I use the analogy about building a savings account. All the financial wizards tell us to pay ourselves first (no matter how little) and then pay our bills. It works the same way with promises to ourselves. We must pay ourselves first (play the guitar, take that hike, paint, work out, go to the movies, do a craft, play games, etc.). As we do those things, our internal savings account grows by leaps and bounds. All of sudden, we have more energy to help others, coach our children, be there for a friend, be more creative and basically be more happy.

Some people may say that it is selfish, thinking of ourselves first. I disagree. Selfishness is when you only think about yourself and nothing else, which is not what I’m suggesting. Remember, you are as important as anyone else. When you’re healthy, you can better help others.

Think about it.

Have a great day!

Michael

A Loving Person Lives in a Loving World

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world: everyone you meet is your mirror. – Ken Keyes, Jr.

Wow! This is one powerful statement. I believe and live this quote everyday. I talked about a story of a traveler going to a new city in my blog on Sept. 29th, 2006. The principle discussed in that story is the same as so eloquently stated in the above quote.

Someone who loves themselves and loves others will, remarkable as it seems, see the world as a loving, dynamic and fantastic place to be. The hostile, miserable or negative person will see the world with jaded eyes. Their world will be one filled with liars, thieves, catastrophes and where no one can be trusted. You may be shaking your head, but think a minute. You probably know someone in both these categories. Look at how they view their world. So, are you loving or hostile, happy or miserable, trusting or deceitful? Whatever you choose, the world around you will follow.

Think about the people you know and meet. Do some of them make you feel good while others instantly annoy you? As the quote states, “Everyone you meet is your mirror.” This happens without fail. If something is annoying you about another person, consciously and honestly look inside and I suspect you will find that you dislike the exact same thing about yourself. The type of self-reflection I’m talking about here can be quite challenging if you haven’t done it before. Just be relaxed and easy on yourself but more importantly, don’t give up. You’ll love the results!

Have a day full of conscious reflection,

Michael