. . . that feeling when you can turn your alarm off the night before and sleep in the next day . . .
This thought of the perfect vacation occurred to me when I was sitting in a locals’ brew pub on Maui. I realized that I hadn’t needed my reading glasses for several days . . . meaning that I had been blessedly away from any printed materials and the computer screen . As much as I appreciate technology and its many wonders (I truly do), sometimes it just feels so good to unplug, turn my phone off, and just be in the moment that engages all of my senses.
It felt great to take a break from technology. And it causes me to think on making a conscious effort in my non-vacation days to unplug and seek experiences that engage my senses more fully.
Today, I am going for some balance! How about you? What does balance look and feel like for you?
When was the last time you just stood up in your office or your living room or your kitchen and started to dance because you just had to?
Well, today is the perfect day for it. Get out your Saturday morning dance shoes. Twist and shout and move around the room and have some fun.
Or when was the last time you dug out a pair of heels and went dancing at some honky tonk with that crazy-good band that sticks to the great dance covers? The band that plays Aretha, Stevie Wonder, and Coldplay. Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Grand Funk Railroad. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. The kind of music that speaks directly to some intimate and rhythmic part of you that tells you that you just have to dance.
The kind of songs that you can’t help but sing along with. Someone told me once that if you succumb to peer pressure and find yourself up on the stage with a karaoke mic in your hand, pick Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. It is guaranteed that you won’t be singing alone by the time you get to the chorus.
Wherever you are, turn on some music and dance. It is good for you in so many ways. Movement clears your chakras and inspires happiness. It limbers you up and gets you moving in ways that everyday life pretty much ignores. It instills grace and improves flexibility. It can also reduce stress. And it’s pretty difficult to be dancing to some awesome music and not smile. Maybe even impossible.
Life is a lively event, and it sure is quick. Do yourself a favor and do some dancing today. This mashup will definitely get you moving! These dancers have got some serious moves!
I was thinking today that I haven’t made a concerted effort to Try Something New for a while. Being a firm believer in the good consequences of this practice, I thought I would go for sweet and simple today. While running errands throughout the day — everywhere I went, I left a little note of encouragement for someone to find.
I didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with an elegant message. I just scribbled an acknowledgement that the finder was doing a good job . . . that he or she was an important part of the grand scheme . . . that we all appreciate his or her smile . . . that life is good because he or she was in it . . . this sort of thing.
It might seem simple and I cannot even begin to imagine who found the little notes, but I do hope that whoever found them felt appreciated. That they felt as if their life is testimony to contributing and doing significant things. That they are visible to me, even though I can’t physically see them. That they feel the genuine sentiment behind the words of a stranger.
Life is a lively event and, some days, I really have to scoot to keep up with the flow of things — but these little notes took but moments to write. How about you? Do you want to join me in leaving an anonymous note or two? I am going to be in town again tomorrow, and it is my goal to leave at least three little notes.
As I was leaving Dr. K’s office today, I picked up a business card that was on the counter. The lovely person behind the counter said, “You should read what’s on the back. I love what it says.” I flipped the card over and this is what I read:
After a day of leaving notes, I felt as if this was such a sweet and pleasant thing to read.
My final note of the day for you, Gentle Reader:
Can you remember that first time you were actually pedaling, steering, and balancing a bicycle all by yourself?
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein has had so many wonderful and uplifting quotes attributed to him. Not only was the man a genius, but he was also very wise.
Life is like riding a bicycle. If you are riding a bicycle and you stop moving, there’s a good chance that your balance will go all cattywampus and you will fall down. Boom and Ouch.
When it comes to bicycling and balancing, your options are somewhat limited: keep moving, stop moving and fall on the ground, or get off the bicycle completely and start walking. And when it comes to life, we intuit and believe and know that out life options are not somewhat limited. In fact, some of us believe that our options are infinite. But are they? I’m just wondering aloud here . . . what do you think? I think that Einstein’s brilliance might be the answer here: Our options stay alive when we stay in balance our Higher Self with the pavement beneath us.
I like the spirit of Einstein’s quote and how he has reduced this simile to its simplest terms: ride or fall. Keep going or get stuck. And I do believe that some life changes have necessitated the need to trade in an old ride for a new one.
There are times in my life that I look back on and now can see that parking the bicycle was the best thing I could have done. After living in a state of stagnancy, falling to the ground numerous times, and feeling the Ouch Factor, I finally came to my senses and parked the bicycle and walked away. Heck, I didn’t even bother locking it up to a bike stand or a nearby tree because I knew that I was never going to give that bicycle another go. Let someone else have it! Some events in life are Good Riddance worthy. At times like this, it is always good to select a new (and healthy!) set of wheels and ride like the wind off into a new paradigm.
Life, like a bicycle, is the vehicle we are riding. Our infinite options in life are actually the directions in which we point our front tire. The secret is to keep riding toward what we know are true directions to our Higher Self. I have felt my spirit’s unsettling, intuitive nudge when I know that I have been pedaling in the wrong direction, and I have certainly experienced that feeling of What the heck have I done? right before crashing and falling. Again. My takeaway? Patch up any scrapes and get back on the bicycle and find a balance point and keep moving forward.
Can you remember that first time you were actually pedaling a bicycle all by yourself? It felt so liberating and exhilarating. There was that split second when you felt your big brother’s hand leave the back of your bike seat and you felt your sense of balance kick into gear. I so vividly remember this. I went shooting down the driveway (and thank God that no car was coming up the street!), banked to the left and rode down the street to the cornfield that bordered the cemetery. (Yes, I grew up in a very weird Midwest town!)
It was that split-second feeling that has stuck with me. The second when I knew that I was balancing all on my own. No sibling to steer for me or to keep us upright on two wheels when I was bumming a tandem ride on a back fender. Just me, my hand-me-down sky-blue Schwinn, and the open road. I rode all afternoon in the relative safety of the cemetery — the roads there being so peaceful. I found My Balance while I practiced right turns and left turns. Stopping and getting started again. I arrived home feeling triumphant. Liberated, actually. I had discovered my independence. My Movement.
Yup. Einstein had it right. Movement and Balance are key. And let’s not forget Risk with a capital R. It takes a lot of guts some days to take a deep breath and sail down the driveway, not knowing if you are going to keep riding or if you are going to crash to the pavement. I believe that we all crave that feeling of Triumphant Balance in our days. That feeling deep inside that tells us we are doing life justice with the right amount of movement and balance.
Today? I am going to get back up on my Bicycle and ride like the wind. There is no cemetery down the road from where I now live, but I am going to head there in my mind. Back to that ultra-satisfying feeling of Balance and Movement.
Have encouraging words ever served to utterly discourage you?
Like when you are saturated in “Just Keep Breathing” Survival Mode, you can’t look beyond the immediate present moment of “what is.” And that “what is” just doesn’t feel all that great. No matter how hard you try to put a positive and enlightened spin on the situation, life feels like it pretty much sucks.
You are down and feeling like bad karma has taken over your life. You are in the doldrums and stuck in idle. Your friends and family know it. And they feel for you. They go into Encouragement Mode, or worse yet, Coach Mode, and they offer pep talks, platitudes, and well-intended reality checks. Their support is so lovely. You know that they are trying and you appreciate their concern. But it still feels like the encouraging words actually serve more as a reminder of how bad things are in your life.
If you have been in this place, you know that what you are feeling goes way beyond feeling sorry for yourself. You aren’t just stuck. You are buried.
When life isn’t so hot
Not so long ago, I was going through some really challenging financial, emotional, professional, personal, and academic times. I was going to school full-time, trying to sell the dream home that I had just finished restoring, going through a really yucky break-up, working four ill-suited, part-time jobs, and trying to negotiate house showings with an insane work schedule and three dogs.
I had to rush home from work each time a prospective buying agent called, so that I could take my dogs out for what felt to be marathon walks through the neighborhood while possible buyers viewed the house. One of the three dogs was enjoying his retirement years and couldn’t really walk very far, so we four would oftentimes go sit on a bus bench up the street to wait out the showing. Buses would pull up to the stop, mistaking my wave for them to keep going as an invitation to stop. They would pull up and shout at me like I was half a bubble out of plumb, “You can’t bring those dogs on the bus!” “I know, I know,” I would tell them and wave them on. The door would hiss shut and the bus would puff off in a plume of exhaust. All I can say is this was a really low time of my life for me and for my dogs.
When friends think they are helping . . . but they’re not.
I remember the time my friend Mary was going on and on about her three-week vacation on the beaches of Mexico. I was happy for Mary, but midway through viewing an insanely-long slide show of her pictures, I realized that Mary was the farthest thing from being in tune with me as a friend. Maybe even as a human being. I didn’t — and don’t — fault her for any of this (we are still friends) but her parting words that night of “Don’t worry, Dear. You are going to get through all of this” meant so little to me. In fact, they only served to discourage me.
It’s the little things . . . and the big things
I couldn’t help but think back to my old friend Donnalyn who stopped by my house one day to see me when I wasn’t home. She left an envelope on my front porch, and in the envelope was $50 cash with a note saying, “I’ve been where you are. After my divorce, I didn’t think I was going to be able to figure it all out. You are going to make it.”
Donnalyn. What an amazing and compassionate and empathizing friend. And I can’t emphasize this enough: It wasn’t the money. It could have been $1 or $0, and it would have meant just the same. Donnalyn understood the struggle. She had been there. She knew what Panic Mode felt like in the midst of Survival Mode. I will never forget her gesture of kindness, generosity, and empathy.
Empathy in action
Thinking about Donnalyn makes me realize that there comes a time when I need to put some action into my words of encouragement. Saying I love you or You’ve got this is great but being of service is maybe even a little bit better.
It is the Little Things in life and there are so many Little Things that I can do. Every little thing makes a difference, and the little actions carry a LOT of impact. Offer your washing machine to a friend whose washer broke down. Like and share a friend’s new blog to encourage her writing. Drive a family member to his or her doctor appointment. Scrub the floors for your sister who is returning from surgery. Vacuum your partner’s car. Clean the hideous microwave in the break room. Help someone figure out how to upload photos to his computer. Leave a little note of encouragement on the table at the coffee shop for the next person who is going to sit there.
When your new paradigm is Survival Mode
I was talking on the phone with my one of my best friends, Birdie, who is experiencing a major paradigm shift, and I asked her if she ever felt like this. Birdie just graduated and is starting a new business. She said the she, too, felt as if her life is in Survival Mode while she gets everything up and running.
Birdie told me, “People have been so nice, but I sometimes feel unworthy of the encouragement. I don’t feel like I have the resources to take them up on their advice — which is all really good — and make things happen, so it sometimes feel like I am wasting other people’s energy when they are being so encouraging.”
This is so honest. It made me think back to my Epic Life Meltdown and how I felt exactly the same as her. Birdie’s words really resonate with me. There is a difference between feeling sorry for yourself and Real. Birdie’s experience is Real. She knows that, ultimately, she is going to build her practice and that some of the bumps are eventually going to smooth out . . . but in the meantime? I try to listen, and we do fun things together. It’s the little things. I think of Donnalyn and her $50, and I try to transfer that same $50-intention into Real for someone else. I knew that my Birdie’s phone was no longer holding a charge, so I ordered her a new battery on Amazon and had it shipped to her house. Once her phone was all charged up with the new battery, she called me. She laughed and said that it has made such a difference not having to conduct business while being plugged into the wall.
No one will know unless you share.
And on the other side of this . . . tell people how they can help you. You don’t have to go on a marathon downward spiral about how broke you are or how awful your relationship is in order to convey what is going on. Sometimes we are admonished by the positive intenders in our lives saying that we need to stay away from negative talk . . . but how can people help if we don’t share our Real?
As for that crazy Survival-Mode scenario in the past . . . Well, the house sold, I graduated, I ultimately embraced the release of a bad relationship, I gradually let go of each job in lieu of one single job with the standard benefits, and I started to catch a rhythm of sorts. I started to play music again and the dogs, as they always do, adapted happily to their new home. No more marathon walks for lovely old Mac! I was able to breathe a bit more easily within my Real, which was no longer hitting the door to my soul with a SWAT team’s battering ram.
The funny part: That was then. This is now. Life took yet another epic turn, by my choosing, and I am reconstructing several pieces that have flown off the proverbial bus. I am using baling wire, paper clips, and duct tape to keep things running, but I am getting there. I have come to learn that I am pretty good at making the best with what I have on hand. And there is nothing wrong with that.
How about you? Are you in Survival Mode?
- Share your situation with someone who you can trust to really listen. Ask for input as to what he or she is hearing you say.
- Reframe your feelings with new words that steer you in a more positive direction. Even if you have to stretch the truth of your reality a bit, use words that set your thinking in a new light of positivity. Not always easy, I know.
- Keep your heart open to friends, family, and colleagues who might be struggling. Give them a hug. Ask them how they are doing. Listen.
- Take action — for others and for yourself. Look for ways to surprise and delight someone who is feeling a burden. Remember, it’s the little and the big things.
- Be kind. Be positive. Be hopeful. Know that, like an EKG line, life has its ups and its downs. No one wants to live on a flat line.
- Go with the flow and smile. Looking for the happy in life is a lot more fun than accepting the overwhelm.
Author bio: Kennedy Farr’s passion for writing caught light at the age of four when she first learned how to spell her name at a yellow kitchen table on a sheet of lined tablet paper. Kennedy is a daily writer and blogger, a lifelong learner, and a true believer that something wonderful is happening right now in this very moment. Kennedy lives high on the mountainside of an emerald-green island in the Pacific Northwest.
Procrastination . . . what is it? And what’s stopping you?
Are you a procrastinator? A big one or a little one? Or a kind of It-Depends one? This is a fantastic TED talk on the topic that is near and dear to all of us. No matter who you are — you are a procrastinator concerning something. Tim Urban really nails it when he breaks procrastination down into its simplest parts. I have watched this talk several times — some of those times being when I was procrastinating about something else.
This inspiring and funny talk is very much worth watching. It will encourage and it will remind you that life is finite and, if there is something in life that really really interests you in doing or learning or completing, you might want to stop procrastinating and get going. In his talk, Tim Urban does not resort to any doomsday tactics that will scare you into getting your stuff together so you can get stuff done. He just says it like it is.
Like I said, inspiring.
Do watch. The entire talk is only 14:03 and it will also make you laugh. At yourself. At life. At deadlines. At how life is. And what a relief this is, what with the upside down times that we are currently living in.
And one last short journaling question for you to add to your notebook . . .
What is one thing that you have been procrastinating on?
I can think of one thing immediately and Tim Urban is right: it is one of those things that has no deadline. No Panic Monster required. Which is why I need Urban’s reminder to evaluate and prioritize.
Is it going back to school? Or learning how to surf? Or learning a new chord progression on your guitar? Or taking better care of your health? Or being nicer to yourself? Or writing that thank you note that is beginning to feel embarrassingly belated? Or finishing that econ paper? Or that project at work that is just riding your sense of peace even when you aren’t at work? So many things and so little time. So I am thinking that I want to make time count for the things that give me a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, joy, and reward.
Life is a lively and fun event, full of wonderful things to do and to learn and to share. What’s stopping you?
I was listening to a meditation recording of Deepak Chopra’s the other night. Deepak said one thing that caused me to stop the recording, rewind, replay, and rewind it again. He was talking about how our stuck spots in our lives are revealed by repetitive thoughts, feelings, and statements. In other words, if you find yourself complaining or talking about the same thing over and over, the chances are this is one of your stuck spots.
This truly struck a chord of sublime resonance with me. I felt completely busted — in a good way. It made me realize that rather than ignore or abolish these stuck spots in my life, maybe it was time to use them, like throwing down kitty litter behind a spinning tire in the snow, to gain some new traction: in other words, re-write my Repetitive (and oftentimes boring) Statements into Rev-Up Statements.
I next decided that it was time for a little qualitative research of my personal gripes. I created a journal chart so that I could really look at what is going on. Every time I talked to a friend or family member or even a co-worker and heard myself complaining about the same old-same old, I wrote the topic down in one of the boxes on the left. In some boxes, I wrote down what I said verbatim. Other topics were such a random rant, I summarized the general idea.
My epiphany is two fold: The Good News is that I am not a totally-chronic complainer. Whew! Yay for not being an incessant whiner! The Bad News? I have some serious and consistent Stuck Spots that are definitely holding me back from feeling fulfilled, happy, and fruitful.
Next, I re-wrote my rants with a positive spin that was designed to get me up and going again. No more Stuck Spots! Putting the positive spin on things required ACTION on my part. I had to visualize and implement alternatives to just spinning into a deeper and messier rut. The great news is that I felt empowered by my own personal recognition of This isn’t good anymore. I want different. I caught myself and verbally stopped myself from launching into Rant Mode. It felt great! And I am guessing that my friends and family think that it is pretty nice, too! There is nothing like a broken record to put someone to sleep. It generates white noise that blocks a lively conversation exchange from taking place. Friends and family, I am trying to exercise new awareness!
With the ongoing research, I have been Paying Attention and there are definitely a few topics that are still holding me a wee bit stuck. Now? Rather than ignore them or stuff them into some spiritual drawer or closet, I am airing them out, hanging them on the wall, and slapping a new coat of paint on them.
I realized: Why not? I have learned that it does no good to ignore stuck spots or to bury them or to walk away from them as if they don’t really matter. To do so only invites passive-aggressive moments into my relationships — which then only serve to create newer and deeper and stuck-er Stuck Spots. Why not call them out, view them, and like the grand master painters, slap some new paint over the top and create something new and beautiful? That’s the beauty of creating a masterpiece. Sometimes they are considered to be even more valuable when there are hidden paintings beneath the one that we can see.
The great part? This process works! I have been catching myself as I spin myself deeper into some repetitive statement . . . and I have been stopping myself right there.
Let’s take the topic of work for an example. Let’s say that you don’t feel appreciated at work. You have been ignored for two promotions and your boss is utterly ineffective — late, sloppy, and unmotivated. He doesn’t take care of emails and he is lousy at following through on decisions — often leaving you hanging with your projects that have looming deadlines. You have complained, griped, and kvetched about this to your friends, your family, and even your dog.
Why not re-write this stuck spot? Be creative. There are so many things that we can do when we feel stuck.
- Think about one nice trait about your dog the next time your boss does something that drives you batty. (Silly, I know . . . but the thought of my dog always makes me happy!)
- Bring your resume up to speed. Start shopping it online and to associates.
- Laugh. It truly doeth good like a medicine.
- Watch a cute youtube video.
- Offer to take on more responsibility at work AND, at the same time ask your boss for a raise. It can’t hurt to ask.
- Put a pencil horizontally between your upper and lower teeth. Research has shown that by imitating a smile, the Smile Muscles release the same good stuff to your brain. Try it . . . it works!
- Write one positive affirmation in the present tense and tape it on the wall where you can readily see it.
- Go for a super quick walk around the building. Movement helps.
- Close the door on your office (or even the bathroom stall) and do an insanely goofy happy dance. I guarantee you will crack up.Take yourself out after work. Go for a beverage of some kind and get out your laptop and google baseball stats, fashion advice, new employment sites . . . your choice!
- And . . . click on the heart-warming and life-changing aqua-blue link below for your free download of today’s journal prompt: “Your Stuck Spot.” Happy journaling!
Here is some good Saturday morning music for you. It’s a nice cover of a good song. Have a great Saturday. Make it your own.
Life is a lively event. Improvise whenever possible and have fun.
Albert Einstein wrote, “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”
Being one who enjoys clutter and chaos while in the throes of creativity, I respect Einstein’s answer very much. The simplicity of his words speaks to me and inspires me to take a moment to reflect. What does a man need to be happy?
There is a tremendous amount of research being done on happiness, attitude, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. It is amazing what is being discovered about how important our Happiness Factor is in our lives. But what is your Happiness Quotient? What have you done lately to increase your HQ?
We try to define or measure our sense of success using several different factors, but what is it in your life that critically determines your sense of long-term satisfaction and self-fulfillment?
Does being happy require you to take phenomenal risks in order for you to feel alive and active on your pathway to success? Or can living a happy life be more analytical or more structured than this? Can you structure happiness into your life?
Being one who has lived life through radically-different career changes, lifestyles, and academic pursuits, I sometimes find myself at the end of the day wondering where I am going next. What is the new plan? What’s next? What do I want to study now? Which new instrument do I want to learn how to play? Which novel should I work on today? With all of this spontaneity and creativity that governs my days, I sometimes experience a let-down. When I am skipping a beat, doubt can settle in. I hear a certain quote by Lewis Carroll playing a haunting melody in my soul: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
Well, life is not all about career success and job titles and dollar bills and tropical vacations. There are many dimensions in life that play a large role in our personal assessment of success. Our relationships, our spiritual life, our sense of growing and contributing, our personal achievements that we share with others – all play a vital role in our happiness factor.
What makes you happy? What is key in your life that leads to your happiness? I once read a great article on “Happiness Criteria” which steered me away from my modus operandi of spontaneously and serendipitous-ly (and what can sometimes feel to be senselessly) seeking happiness. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this, the thought of creating a criteria for success and happiness gave me pause and inspired some more concerted thinking and action with a focus on what generates happiness in my life and on what happiness means to me today.
In other words, what am I doing to raise my Happiness Quotient (HQ)?
One thought: make a list of Happiness Criteria that critically determine your HQ.
For example . . .
Some things that popped up for me, in no particular order of priority, are
- A flexible schedule
- Can bring my dog to work
- Time for travel
- Creative expression in my work
- Helping others to grow and to create solutions
- Time to exercise
- Time for loved ones
- Great pay
As you can well imagine, everyone’s list is going to read quite uniquely. I once asked a group of students how many hours they would want to work in their ideal work week. I was simply stunned by the number of students who wrote “40 hours” as their answer. They asked me what my ideal work week was, and I told them “8 – 12 hours.” They laughed and thought I was joking, but . . . I wasn’t. My happiness criteria demands that I have time to volunteer, create, exercise, dance, be with my family and friends, etc. Have I worked 40 hours a week? Yes. Was I happy? Yes. Would I be happier if I worked my 8 – 12 hours? YES!
And how many of your criteria are non-negotiable?
For example, having a flexible schedule is non-negotiable to my happiness, but being able to bring my dog to work is negotiable. If my schedule is flexible enough, there will be enough companionship time at the park and on the trails with my dog.
Click on the aqua-blue link below to download your free journal prompt: Your Happiness Criteria. This prompt has some fun and revealing questions about you and how you choose to be happy and to implement happiness criteria in order to raise your Happiness Quotient (HQ).
What do you think? Has listing your Happiness Criteria helped you to focus on what is important to you? On what makes you feel happy? For some of us, these are not simple questions to answer; still, in my heart, I believe that the answers are vivid and clear. My Higher Self knows what contributes to my happiness. Taking time to think on these things and to let my intuition rule inspires me to grow in new directions. To stay open to coincidence. To appreciate the people in my life who want me to grow. To appreciate the joy in laughter.