Living In Joy

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Happy Everyday

Yesterday was my birthday, the day that marks another year passing and makes me think of what I have done and hope to still do in this lifetime. I am not oblivious to the fact that I am closer to 50 now than to 40, or that I have reached something that must be nearly the halfway point of my life. Sometimes, I can feel a little confused and disappointed by this. On the other hand, there are also great benefits to aging. For example, the things that threw me into great despair at 20 years old, aren’t even close to making the cut, these days, and I am amazed at all of the opportunities I’ve been given to learn something that actually makes every day a little bit easier. I’m sure I must have thousands of bits of wisdom tucked away in some corner of my mind, just waiting for me need them. Here are the top 10 that I can recall without much provocation:

10.          Egg slicers do not work on onions.
9.            On any day that it really matters, take an extra pair of panty hose with you, because you WILL get a run.

8.            There are no days when “it really matters” if you get a run.

7.            Cheap, aerosol hairspray gets ink out of fabric.

6.            If you loan someone money and you never see them again, it’s money well spent. 
(On the other hand: Gel eyelashes cost $200, last only two weeks, and don’t look any different than wet eyelashes.)

5.            Hearts that don’t break because you hide them are no less lonely than broken ones, but they get cheated of all the fun beforehand.   
          
4.            The appropriate response to the oil light illuminating the dashboard of your car is not, “Oh, look at that cute little Jeanie lamp!”

3.            Almost nothing is so bad that a nap can’t help to fix it.

2.            We all have friends and advocates we don’t even know we have, and they are probably saying something nice about us, even right now.

And the number one thing getting older has taught me:

1.            You will be disappointed that you are not further ahead until you realize that neither are you further behind.
Cheers to living our lives for the very purpose of loving with reckless abandon, learning with an unquenchable thirst, and seeking to experience every emotion and possibility our particular paths provide.
Happy Everyday, everyone!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The List

MSN.com is really stepping it up. I like that they aren’t all bad news. This week, they decided to post a “Build Your Own Bucket List,” link. Sure I have a list. But I was mighty curious to see what their prescription for me was going to be, since I can always use a little more inspiration, and they have some pretty great ideas. (http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/life-unleashed/20-things-everyone-should-do-at-least-once#1)

How many of the things on the list have you already done?
How many of them would have made it on your Bucket List, if you would have thought of it?

This is an exercise really worth doing. If you haven’t already made your list of 20 things you’d most like to experience in this lifetime, it’s time to make it. And if you have made one, it’s time to cross of what you’ve done, give yourself credit, and add more to complete the list, again, because it’s very important to have something you can put into your own hands, periodically, to remind you of your own passions.
Remember how I said last week that I had accidentally fallen into a routine, and scarcely given thought to the things that most excite me? And I was paying the price, too. I wasn’t particularly happy, even though I wasn’t sad, either. And I wasn’t feeling like I could even write about living joyfully, because I wasn’t having much fun. What cured me? My list.

When you have a list, you can see where you are going. Your work that may seem mundane, now, will suddenly have a purpose! Your relationship that may have drifted toward distant will come alive, again! Your list will help you find your enthusiasm, and through enthusiastic eyes, everything looks new and attainable.
Lynn Grabhorn talks about the Law of Attraction and how a person in touch with his own excitement will feel like he is virtually vibrating. She says that is when good things start to happen: coincidences will place the people you most need right into your path, timing falls into perfect step with you, and ideas seem to pour into your brain as if from a wide-open spigot. It’s a bit like prayer and faith. Formulate the idea, then start getting excited about it, because it’s going to happen.

So, how do you get to vibrating? How do you get in touch with your own excitement? You think about which of these incredible gifts on this amazing playground of a planet you’d most like to experience. Suddenly, like a giddy child waiting for Christmas, you’ll find your own delight!
How about it? Ready to make a list? Let’s start with the one MSN made. I’m going to add to it, “Take the train tour through Alaska.” (http://www.princesslodges.com/alaska-rail-tours.cfm)

What would you like to add?

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fun vs. Joy

Have you ever invited someone into your home, and discovered as you met them at the door and brought them inside that you were suddenly seeing your home through their eyes? Have you been two steps ahead, picking up a blanket that was crumpled at the back of the sofa, or stacking mail and placing it in a drawer, for example? These things don’t bother you. You live with them. You barely notice them. But when you see them, suddenly, through the eyes of someone who may be taking it all in for the first time, you really see them. And you think, in a split second, “This isn’t as good as it could be. Let me make some adjustments.”

This just happened to me with someone who came to visit me after 30 years. Only it wasn’t my actual house I felt compelled to get in order, it was my proverbial house. This well-meaning friend asked me the simplest question of all: what do you do for fun? I had no answer. I love to enjoy the company of my friends at parties or over a glass of wine, and I appreciate feeling challenged at work, but what, praytell, do I do, exactly, for fun?
I suppose what I find most interesting about this is the fact that I have been doing research and setting goals and working my own Living in Joy plan for awhile now.  I’m in touch with Joy, per se, meaning that “all is well,” undercurrent that allows me to enjoy every experience for what it is, comfortable and uncomfortable, alike. It took awhile to get there, and I’m glad to report not only that I do, indeed, live in Joy, but that I am also delighted to be able to share that learning with anyone who is interested. But what about fun?  

One good thing about my Living in Joy work is that I have already answered the very difficult question, “What would you do, if you could do anything at all.” As it turns out, that puts me ahead of the game. I went back to my original answers to that very important question and found my list. I want to swim with dolphins. I want to write and travel and speak. I want to play guitar and be able to sing along. I want to find and enjoy all of that with the Love of My Lifetime, whoever he turns out to be… and lots of other “fun things.” I had forgotten those goals, in favor of learning my new management job. I had done exactly what I coach against… “Don’t give up on your dreams, while you make a living.”
As soon as I realized that I had been operating on auto-pilot, I almost immediately felt my slump of the last year dissipate. I had things to do and things to look forward to doing. I have a mission, and that is not only to live in touch with Joy, but to have fun, too!

Carolyn Myss suggests that our SoulMates aren’t the loves of our lifetime and meant to stay with us, but rather, are the transient souls who drop in for a moment to give us the wake-up calls we need along the way. If that’s the case, then this friend from my past is one of my SoulMates. Thank you for reminding me to have fun. Thank you for motivating me to continue pursuing the things I most want to experience in this lifetime. Thank you for helping me see the dust on the shelves and the clutter on the counter. Because my little corner of the world isn’t as good as it could be, it’s time to make some adjustments.
So, how about it, everyone? What do you do for fun?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weathering the Weather

There was a Facebook Quiz, today, on my MSN homepage:
“It’s nearly Spring. What’s your favorite part of this time of year?
A. The change to warmer (hopefully drier) weather
B. Seasonal foods like asparagus, peas and morels
C. The colorful fashion updates

Is anyone shocked that choice “A” won out by 84%? I think we all know how much the weather influences our moods and how we feel, physically. What we may not know is why.
You may already know that vitamin D supports bone strength, but did you know it’s also critical to building and maintaining the neurotransmitters in our brains, as well as supporting immune function? Sunshine helps our bodies make vitamin D and a lack of sunshine may contribute to a shortage. We also get a surge of endorphins (the “feel good” hormones), just by being in natural settings, and in the winter, we’re not out in nature nearly as much as we’re likely to be in friendlier months. Without that nature boost, we may experience fewer “feel good” hormone surges. Lastly, because the weather doesn’t allow for as much physical activity and shorter days promote more lethargy (triggering a hibernation response), our bodies can lose energy and our moods can follow suit.   

What do we do about something over which we have absolutely no control having such a tremendous influence on the level of joy we may be able to access at any given time? Answer: We find other ways to feed ourselves the Vitamin D, release the endorphins, and maintain stable temperatures and comfort. Here are my top 3 suggestions:

1. Get your Vitamin D! Although there’s some controversy about whether or not tanning beds are a good option for this, they aren’t. They are now listed as a carcinogen in the same category as cigarettes! 400-1000 IU are recommended daily allowances, and in the winter, you should move toward the higher side of supplementation. Canned tuna or salmon have anywhere from 200-800 IU so try to incorporate those into your diet. Not sure what you can stand to eat in the canned salmon category? Try recipes from the experts: http://www.alaskaseafood.org/canned/recipes/appetizer.html  Another option? Swap your non-fat latte for a vanilla soy misto and save on calories while upping your intake by at least 50 IU per drink.

2. Keep indoor plants and pictures of nature at the ready. Research shows that the brain responds to only seeing pictures of the sun, the beach, trees, and flowers, in the very same way it responds to taking a walk through the real thing. In addition, cut flowers are available all year, and a small bouquet by your bed table has been shown to help you get up on the right side of the bed. Fill your house with these visuals and take a minute to enjoy them. http://www.art.com/gallery/id--b1833/scenic-posters.htm

3. Let there be light. When sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depressive disorder triggered by dreary days and a lack of summer light, relief can be found with some simple home solutions. Don’t be a scrooge about turning on your lights; use full spectrum light bulbs, too, at least in the rooms you spend the most time; keep your rooms bright when you are awake, and dark when you sleep. Keep windows uncovered; eat tryptophan rich foods which are not as likely to add to your middle as, say, the donut you are craving. Turkey, bullion, and whole grains are good options; exercise daily, even if it’s just a walk on the treadmill. If you haven’t yet discovered Planet Fitness, at $10/month with no contract, it’s the perfect commitment to make to yourself and enhancing own best mood.

Take heart. Summer is coming, days are getting longer, spring bulbs are sprouting. Get yourself ready to peel off those winter layers and become active, again. Hibernation season is over, regardless of what color the sky is today. Enjoy yourself, wherever you are, as you watch the world and yourself come alive again!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Email Error

I have an email address that has been compromised. It’s not my official one. It’s an extra one that I get for free through my internet provider. It’s simply shelly@... And, apparently, I’m not the only Shelly on the planet who used that email address. There’s some Michelle, somewhere, who uses this as well. About half of the emails I receive at this address are meant for her. I know this, because they are from a grade school coach who talks about her son making it to the bus on time; or an auto insurance company who thanks her for requesting a quote; or from countless other web addresses to whom I diligently Unsubscribe, just so my email box won’t be cluttered. I know that I was never meant to receive this email:
I showered and shaved............... I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat.............. In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer......... As I closed my eyes.

I saw the shoe of the man next to me.....
Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side...... I thought,
"Why must our soles touch?"

It bothered me, his shoe touching mine...
But it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began: "Our Father"............. I thought,
"This man with the shoes.. has no pride.

They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse,
there are holes on the side!"
"Thank You for blessings," the prayer went on.
The shoe man said............... a quiet "Amen."

I tried to focus on the prayer....... But my thoughts were on his shoes again
Aren't we supposed to look our best.. When walking through that door?

"Well, this certainly isn't it," I thought, Glancing toward the floor.
Then the prayer was ended............ And the songs of praise began.

The shoe man was certainly loud...... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters......... His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear.. The shoe man's voice from the sky.

It was time for the offering......... And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached.... Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out............ What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft "clink" . as when silver hits tin.

The sermon really bored me.......... To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man..... For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service........ As is the custom here!
We must greet new visitors.. And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow............. And wanted to meet the shoe man
So after the closing prayer.......... I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark..... And his hair was truly a mess.
But I thanked him for coming......... For being our guest.

He said, "My names' Charlie.......... I'm glad to meet you, my friend."
There were tears in his eyes......... But he had a large, wide grin!
"Let me explain," he said........... Wiping tears from his eyes.
I've been coming here for months.... And you're the first to say" Hi".

"I know that my appearance........."Is not like all the rest.
"But I really do try................."To always look my best."
"I always clean and polish my shoes.."Before my very long walk.
"But by the time I get here........."They're dirty and dusty, like chalk."

My heart filled with pain............ and I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize......... For daring to sit so near.
He said, "When I get here..........."I know I must look a sight.
"But I thought if I could touch you.."Then maybe our souls might unite."

I was silent for a moment............ Knowing whatever was said.
Would pale in comparison... I spoke from my heart, not my head.
"Oh, you've touched me," I said......"And taught me, in part;
"That the best of any man............"Is what is found in his heart."
The rest, I thought,................. This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am... That his dirty old shoe touched my SOUL!

You are special to me and you have made a difference in my life.
I respect you, and truly cherish you.
Send this to your friends,
No matter how often you talk, Or how close you are,
And send it to the person who sent it to you.

Let old friends know you haven't forgotten them, and tell new friends you never will. Remember, everyone needs a friend.

Someday you might feel like you have no friends at all.
Just remember this and take comfort in knowing that someone out there cares about you…  and always will.
Like sunsets are a gift of nature, but not, specifically my gift; like an easy commute is an accidental gift of chance, but not a gift meant for my convenience; like a sale price on the very thing I need the most is a gift of luck, but not some cosmic gift of generosity on my behalf, this email was never meant to be a gift for me.
Or was it?
Have a beautiful day, and look for all the things that you don’t think were meant for you. They were. Little gifts are hidden everywhere!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Examples from Unexpected Sources

I have given-up drive-thru food. Although I expect a relapse, anytime, I have avoided eating food that comes in a fast food sack for almost 6 weeks, now. I have not, however, given up on the one dollar, large, unsweetened tea that McDonald’s so proudly serves. Last Wednesday morning, I went through the drive through before work and was so stunned by the greeting I received from the young man who handed me my drink that I had to pull over, park the car and go in to find the manager.

When the manager approached me, I could tell she was nervous. She smiled politely and asked if she could help me, to which I replied, “Yes, please. Do you see that young man at the drive through window?” I asked her, pointing in that direction. She nodded. “Do you know what he said to me?”

“No, ma’am.” She was quiet and cautious, waiting to hear what I said and bracing for the worst.

“He said, ‘Thank you for choosing McDonald’s. I hope you have a wonderful day. And please, drive safely.”

I smiled. The manager smiled, too, but a little warily. I continued, “I’ve been going through drive-thrus for about 25 years, now, and I have to say, I have never been greeted so sincerely. I wanted you to know that he’s doing a great job, and you are doing a great job. Thank you so much. He made my day.”

And she smiled bigger. Later, I was told by another patron who followed me out of the restaurant, she gave that employee a big “High 5,” and they smiled and laughed, together.

I am not na├»ve. I know that employees are coached to say, “Please,” and “Thank you,” and “Have a nice day.” I even know that some employees like to put their own spin on it, and say, “Have a great day,” or “Have an incredible day,” in an effort to help people hear the greeting, instead of allowing it to be just another bit of polite noise we exchange with each other. But I have never been told to drive safely, and certainly not with the full eye contact and smile that conveyed such earnest well-wishes. How simple. How impactful.

I don’t know what the rest of the day was like for that employee or for that manager. I do know that the rest of my day, I was happy. I was happy that someone cared about his job. I was happy that someone cared about the customer. I was happy that someone cared about, and seemed proud of, her employees and her own effect on the team. The entire exchange inspired me. Through some form of psychological transference, I then saw my own team as people who cared about their jobs and their customers, and who were proud of themselves and their effect on the team. I am sure that my renewed outlook allowed me to talk to them with more care and enthusiasm than I may have on other days before.

You never know exactly who might set an example for you, or what small thing you might do, today, to set an example for someone else. When I think about that simple exchange, and how great an impact it had on me and, therefore, the people with whom I interacted that day, I realize just how powerful our human connection can be. I hope to remember this example for a long time, and continue to pattern myself after that young man who handed me a glass of tea through a drive-thru window.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Social Media

There was an old joke that asked: what are top three ways to pass information to others?

Answer: Telephone, Television, and Tell a woman.

Now, I think that punch line would have to be: IPad, IPhone, and IPosted it on Facebook.
In some ways, social media with all of the constant updating annoys me. It seems almost ridiculous that we post less than news-worthy information as freely as we do, as if we are certain that the world is so amazed with us that everyone deserves to know whether we ate traditional Cheerios this morning or Honey Nut.  What is this craving we have to be known? We want people to see our pictures, to know that we are shopping at Target, to read what we are thinking. In some ways, this blog is a testament to that, as well. After all, apparently I imagine, possibly as some subtle sign of my own arrogance, that people may just want to hear my thoughts on subjects like red shoes, love, and… well… social media.

Perhaps, though, this tweeting and updating is more of a reflection of our mobility than of our arrogance or curiosity. In years past, when families rarely ventured out of their home towns, it may have been easier to keep track of one another. We saw each other, I imagine, at the drug stores or walking downtown. We probably passed one another on sidewalks where we said things like, “I just had the best spaghetti at Sally’s mom’s diner. Did you know they had spaghetti there?” There was something friendly, I suppose, about sharing the non-earth-shattering details like, “Jody fell from the swing, so I’m here to buy some mercurochrome.” After all, everyone can spout the headlines, but only the most trusted and intimate of our friends know the nitty-gritty happenings of our daily lives.
Perhaps, for the 21st century, social media is our way of maintaining some of what Mayberry had to offer. We can gossip, share our thoughts, ideas, fears and situations in a way we might have shared with our druggist, our barber, our filling station attendant in previous decades. Since we aren’t as likely to pass our friends on the sidewalk anymore, we can substitute the posting of our little one-liners to pass information through our profile pages. We may have become busier and more removed from others, but clearly, we’re not willing to live without some way to tell someone a funny joke we just heard.

It’s important to feel connected, to think that someone cares what made us happy today (which they can “Like,” if it makes them happy, too) or watch as a quote we thought was interesting spurs conversations between our friends who live hundreds of miles apart. We can move out of our parent’s homes, out of the towns of our childhoods, across or completely out of the country. Still, thanks to social media, no matter how mobile we have become, we can feel connected to the people in our community by sharing those little, day-in-the-life details that only friends care to hear. 

I guess when I think of it like passing a neighbor on the street and saying, “Hi! I’m headed to the grocery. Do you know if peaches are on sale?” I don’t mind all the Tweeting one bit. In fact, it makes the world seem a little more like a small town and just a little friendlier. So, if you’ll please excuse me, I think I’ll go update my status. And while I’m at it, I’ll look for yours and hope it reveals that you are having a joy-filled day!