On a scale of 1-10, how much do you like yourself?

piano-1396971_960_720. be yourself

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,    Thou canst not then be false to any man.”  – Shakespeare

The other day, a friend asked me, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how much do you like yourself?”  I hesitated and wondered for a moment, letting self-awareness and self-confidence do a do-si-do with any real (or false) sense of humility and low self-esteem that was hiding inside me.

I was struggling that day.  Unbeknownst to me, it was apparent to this person.  I thought that I had been holding it all together so well with just enough breezy positivity to keep me afloat.  In reality, my world felt to be Continue reading

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The Meaning in the Count: Making Life a Noncount Noun

IMG_3357Numbers.

When I really stop to think, my Conscious Day is spent counting.  It starts out with counting and it ends with counting.  Minutes left on my snooze alarm.  Pounds on the bathroom scale.  Dollars in my checking account.  Minutes before I have to leave for work.  Pages completed on my writing project.  Calories.  Fat grams.  Minutes.  Hours.  Shots of coffee.  Pieces of toast.  Am I the only one who is consumed with and by counting?

Counting and measuring and weighing.  Reality dictates that I take care of my health and that I maintain a healthy weight.  That I pay my bills on time.  That I be punctual at work. That I move my dream project forward.  That I hold myself to some level of accountability concerning my food choices.  That I caffeine-ate fully and properly each morning.  That I try to stay under the speed limit when I am running late for work.  That I care about things in life that involve the measuring and weighing by number.

I know me.  Without counting, life would be a free-for-all that does not allow for any accountability to myself or to others.  While I think on this, I search for the value, the meaning in the count.  We have all wrestled with the concept of weighing quality over quantity.  But even here . . . we are still measuring and weighing the benefits.  We are taught to think that quality is more important than quantity.  But still.  Like the little girl that would rather have five pennies over one nickel, there are areas in my life where I tend to shoot for quantity.

Quantity in my hand.  Quality of the moment.  Where is the Real Value in the midst of the day and its ticking clock?  Daily, I put my day on pause for five minutes of meditation.  Are these five minutes worth more than five minutes spent watching silly videos on youtube? Research tells me that, yes, meditation is so good for us on so many levels.  And I will continue to take those five to reset my inner self.  But why do we judge ourselves so harshly when we aren’t doing that which is “good for us”?  Yes, I know that I can lose that final ten pounds, but is it worth beating myself up each time I get on the scale?  Am I really going to care, one way or the other, once I hit that Maui beach in December?  After all, it’s difficult to be hard on yourself when you are living in paradise.

But being a linguist, I very much like the semantics that extend beyond grammatical agreements.  For example, we English speakers agree to add the letter -s to most nouns to make them plural.  Lest we get into the exceptions such as person/people, tooth/teeth, mouse/mice, and ox/oxen, we can agree that adding the letter -s to a noun will signify that we dealing with the Concept of More Than One.

And then there are those tricky count and noncount nouns and their plural forms or lack therein.  According to the Purdue OWL, The Basic Rules for count and noncount nouns are as follows:

A count noun is one that can be expressed in plural form, usually with an “s.” For example, “cat—cats,” “season—seasons,” “student—students.” A noncount noun is one that usually cannot be expressed in a plural form. For example, “milk,” “water,” “air,” “money,” “food.” Usually, you can’t say, ‘He had many moneys’ . . . 

Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. They usually refer to what can be perceived by the senses.  Noncount nouns refer to things that can’t be counted because they are thought of as wholes that can’t be cut into parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have a collective meaning. 

best when freshThere is simply so much cool stuff going on there.  Quantity vs. quality.  Count vs. noncount.   We think of a life — a count noun — and we count the number of lives on the planet.  But when we think of our our own life?    We think “in terms of wholes that can’t be cut up into pieces.”  It’s one whole life.   It’s my life!  And like grass, rice, and money . . . we don’t actually cut our own life up into pieces . . . even when we think in terms of annual events such as birthdays and anniversaries.  It’s all one big whole that we truly prefer not to relegate to the Noun Category of Count.  We want to make it count in the ways that are important . . . not in some grammatical or statistical way.

There is counting . . . and then there is making life count.  As I go through the days and I count and I measure the pluralizations that I prioritize . . . I wonder.  I wonder about the importance of quotas at work and pounds on the scale and hits on my website.  I wonder about making my life count.  So much to wonder about.  Thank God that wonder is a verb in this context.  Otherwise, I would be inclined to start counting the many wonders in the world around me.

IMG_2800My advice to self:  Just live and give it your best in the moment.  You’ve got this.  While I appreciate the concepts of mindfulness and how important it is to be aware and to be positive, there is more.  There is life as a noncount noun.  It’s okay to count the little things as long as I remember the bigger picture.  And sometimes it is so hard to keep sight of this enormous, huge, ginormous Universe of which I am but a tiny speck.

I think I answered my own Life Question About Counting.  Stop counting.  And when I do count — which I will surely continue to do — I will try to do so with wild abandon and appreciation for the abundance within life’s “separate and distinct individual units.”

What’s one nice thing a stranger has done for you?

What’s the nicest thing a total stranger has done for you?  So many people have done so many nice things for me in my life.  Hmmm . . . I am going to focus on the time frame of Lately to answer this question.

Today I received a reminder email, indicating that I was up against a deadline to take care some financial business.  It involved status verification, updated info, and the like, and I have to be honest and say that this is the sort of stuff that intimidates the heck out of me. Thoroughly disliking the dreaded consequences of unnecessary stress due to the linking of procrastination with deadlines, I went online to take care of it.  I entered the various user names and passwords and opened the various web pages.  One page led to another, and I was beginning to feel befuddled.  Ugh.  All of these confounding questions kept popping up at me from my computer screen — questions for which I knew not the answers.  What to do?

It’s true.  I am form-a-phobic.  If any of you out there understand this, you will know exactly what I mean when I panicked when I saw all of the little boxes to type information into and the little circles for clicking Yes or No.  I saw dollar signs and address requests and more deadlines, and I deferred to my general go-to: I picked up the phone and dialed and prayed for a kind person who would be willing to hold my hand through the entire procedure.

After enunciating Representative for the fourth time, I was transferred to the proper department.  My anticipated wait time?  One minute.  I wondered, One minute?  Is this for real? Is this karma working back in my direction after helping that tourist on the street yesterday find the nearest shop where she could buy underwear?  [Lest you think that she was a wimpy or inexperienced traveler — Just go to the nearest Target, right? — she needed to compensate for her luggage having been lost . . . and what with the shopping options on our lovely little island being quite limited, she was feeling quite challenged in the Undies Procurement Department.]

The minute passed and, sure enough, the absolute nicest representative picked up the phone, established that I was indeed a bonafide account holder, and away we went into Formsville.  I explained to her that, although I graduated from college with honors, I was incapable of passing a multiple-choice test with a passing grade.  I told her that I couldn’t figure out which way to go with the various flow charts that were swimming before me on the screen and asked if she could help me navigate the scary waters.

As I said, she was just so nice to me.  I could hear the smile in her voice and the patience in her choice of words.  Ten minutes later, I had all of the boxes filled and all was clear as to what my next step was.  She told me exactly what to write on the required documentation and to what address it should be mailed.

When it was all done, I felt so happy that I had conquered this chore four weeks ahead of the deadline.  Now?  All I have to do is follow up with a call in about 10 days to ensure that the information arrived at its destination.  I told her how much I appreciated her kindness and that she was very good at her job.  Every now and then we get super lucky when we say the word Representative.  Today was one of those days.

People can be very kind, and I appreciate this representative’s kind demeanor.  Life.  It’s not that hard to offer each other a helping hand.  Be it in the area of underwear consumerism or financial forms, it doesn’t cost us that much more to extend some niceness into the mix.  After my lovely encounter today, I am greatly inspired to extend this same kindness to the next person who asks for some help from me.

How about you?

What’s one nice thing that a stranger has done for you?

[ . . . and one last question . . . Why do we say complete stranger or total stranger?]

 

Try Something New: What’s Stopping You?

IMG_3357Is there something that you have been wanting to learn?  To do?  To try just once to see what it would feel like?

Is the Fear of Failure holding you back? Does it feel like a lack of resources is underwhelming your life?  Is there someone in your life who is telling you that you procrastinate and you never finish anything?  Is there a voice in your head that always gives you bad advice?  Don’t start.  You have so much to do around the house.  You have to get up early in the morning. You haven’t done laundry for a week.  The garage is a disaster.

Do you feel like you simply do not have enough time to even think about starting something new?

You make the choice.

Well, there’s bad news and good news.  The bad news:  You don’t have enough time.  The good news: You do have enough time.  You choose which news you want your inner soul to hear.  You choose.

I kept delivering the bad news to my heart, my mind, my hands, my spirit, while forestalling the good news for an unspecific time in the mythical future when “I had more time.”  I was living in a steady hum of constancy that was focusing on everything that wasn’t quite right with my life: playing an elaborate shell game with finances, juggling too many jobs with school and homework, barely keeping up with household chores, and feeling like my life had all the fun sucked out of it by some cosmic vacuum cleaner.  All of this MindSpeak was proving to be so exhausting to my Inner Spirit that I simply stopped trying to inject newness or creativity into my day.

It felt like I was buried by life’s stuff.

I wasn’t merely stuck.  I was buried.  I would find myself paying bills online while listening to a class-assigned podcast while brushing the dog while folding the laundry while feeding the cat.  I was all over the place.  All of this multi-tasking madness. . . until I thought to add a new personal challenge to the day’s mayhem: Try something new every single day.

In the beginning . . .

In the beginning, this challenge verified the bad news –> it was something that felt like an added extra that felt to be overwhelmingly huge and impossible.  My MindSpeak went into hyper-mode: When am I going to have the time to try something new every single day?!  My days already feel like pasta in a pot of water — on constant boil and threatening to spill over onto the clean stove top at any given second.

The Wooden Spoon Trick

IMG_3360But I was so craving Different in my life.  Better.  More centered and mindful.  I remembered reading that if you lay a wooden spoon across a pot of boiling  pasta that it won’t over-boil.  The pasta can boil merrily away with no more messy stove to clean up.  So simple and easy . . . and it works!  This Wooden Spoon trick reminded me that life need not be so overly complicated.  Just try . . . and do . . . and lay the spoon across the pot. And try again.  It is absolutely possible to turn a moment of my day into a gesture of mindfulness.  I can make it happen.  I will make it happen.  I scrawled across the top of the wall-mounted white board in my office with my blue marker: You’ve got this!  Try Something New!  Today!  I mean it!

It has proven to be a bit of an experiment to see how it works.

I originally intended on focusing on one single something new to try for the 30 days — in an effort to create a positive new habit.  My thought: develop some consistency and build some sense of discipline by adding only one thing for an extended period of time.  Like one of those scary-clown jack-in-the-boxes, all sorts of ideas came popping up out of my mind’s Procrastination Department.  Play piano every single day.  Save on gas and ride my scooter to work every single day.  Eat a healthy breakfast every single day.  Work out every single day.  Sort through one box in the garage and get rid of stuff.  Do one or all of these things every single day for 30 days.

What did these things have in common?

But I found that these ideas weren’t working — and they weren’t very inspiring either. And besides, everything that I was thinking of involved fulfilling some obligatory should: be healthier, practice music, save the environment, clean the garage.  All of which are very lovely ideas, but still . . . This challenge was supposed to be fun and invigorating.

As I was casting about for the best way to implement my challenge, I discovered that was working was trying something different, unique, and unexpected every single day.  Examples?  I started piano lessons — and have been pretty disciplined regarding playing everyday.  I went dancing at a casino — great stories as a result of this adventure.  I broke out the new orange-and-white kitchen towels that had been preserved in their pristine state in my kitchen drawer — now brightening my kitchen and thoroughly broken in with the hues of red wine, carrot juice, and tomato sauce.  I introduced myself to a stranger — and we have since become acquaintances.

IMG_3317You get the idea.  I called an old friend just to say hi.  I bought Swiss chard at the vegetable stand.  I wrote a long overdue letter.  I told someone about my current writing project.  I had dinner at a restaurant that I had been wanting to check out.  I took photographs of garbage.  I added kale to my morning smoothie.  I had fun with some color and painted on canvas.  And another new thing for me? I set aside judgment of “what is good” when I was done painting.  I simply valued the experience and the time spent swirling color around.

IMG_3355I started reading my horoscope.  I subscribed to a new-word-of-the-day website.  I started blogging.  I bought three tiny wooden tops, which are proving to create a really relaxing “stop point” during work and study time at my desk.  I spin the tops and, while they are spinning, I do absolutely nothing.  I learned that an absence of activity can feel pretty good.

My Try Something New Challenge has proven to be that magical wooden spoon on the pasta pot.  I not only have enough time to Try Something New, I have plenty of time.  Life’s harried pace has reduced its boil a bit.  Not completely, but a bit, nonetheless.  Nothing is boiling over and making a spilly mess that I have to clean up.

It feels like I have effected change.  Like the motion of the little tops, the vibrational ripples have been spreading.  There have been some really fun and surprising and happy results from being willing to shake things up.   I don’t understand the way that time has expanded, but it has.  What I learned about this personal challenge: The hard part was starting.  The easy part is enjoying the expansive feelings of reward and appreciation.

You’ve got this!

Vision Board 058Would you like to share in this challenge with me?  Is there something new that you have been really wanting to do?

Please, leave a reply and post your One New Thing and share how it is enriching your life.  We all would love to hear about it!

Life is a lively event.  

Try something new, spin some tops, & effect the ripples of happifying change.

What’s stopping you?

Leap & Land with a Bang

Check out this BBC video of mobula rays and their artistic, acrobatic, and aerobatic show.  They are spectacular.  Who knew that rays could leap — and land — so amazingly?   Their landing sends a huge boom through the water.  The higher they leap, the bigger the bang upon landing.  It is believed that the rays that make the biggest impact, give themselves the best odds of standing apart from the herd and of leaving with a mate.

Watch these fabulous flying rays (3:12):

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150512-watch-these-giant-rays-fly

Mating rituals aside . . . when in a group, how do you stand out from the crowd?  How do you get noticed?  How do you draw attention to yourself?   This is not about ego-grabbing narcissism that demands every speck of attention in a social setting.  This is about expressing yourself in your immediate world such that you get noticed, feel understood, and build the best opportunities to connect with others.   Connection . . . it truly is what makes the world go around and is what gives significant meaning to what we do when we aren’t in the midst of connecting.  We, as humans, need connection . . . why not do it with a figurative bang?

So, taking a cue from the mobula rays . . . the higher the leap, the bigger the bang upon landing and the better chance to stand out from the crowd.  What is one thing you can do today or tomorrow or the next day to get noticed?  To make a difference?  To be you?  To exercise your unique you-ness?  Give yourself some credit for being important in the grand scheme of things.  Leap spectacularly and land with a big bang.

Being able to think of something that you will actually do might be a stretch for us introverts.  It might feel unnecessary or unbecoming or way out of one’s wheelhouse.  But why not try one little thing, make a change-up in your wardrobe.  Skip down the sidewalk to retrieve your mail.  Engage with the barista as you wait for your Americano.  Leaping is different for everyone; it is something only you can define for yourself.

Think One New Thing.  Leap and land and leap all over again.  It looks like these mobula rays are expending a tremendous amount of energy to go flying out of the water.  This is something that I think we sometimes want to avoid: The water feels so comfy.  I don’t think I can leap very high.  I’m not very athletic, after all.  Landing might cause me pain.  Someone might laugh at me or think I am weird.  Simply put? Expend the energy.  Your life will become different because of it.  I promise.

And the thing about leaping is that there is gravity on this planet.  You will land.  With a bang. Why not make it a Big Bang and stand out from the crowd?  Take a stand for you.  For a friend or a colleague or a student or a child or a stranger.  And for the world that surrounds you.  The Universe will thank you for it.

pencil stubClick on the sky blue link below for today’s journal prompt.  Have fun discovering (and making!) your leap!

Leap high and land with a bang. journaling prompt

[Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and start your journaling binder.   Take the writing journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.  Relax, read, think, feel, listen, write.  Repeat.  And enjoy the journey.  It is a fine one, and one that is perfectly-made just for you, I promise.  Life is meant to be grown.]

Your Personality . . . & the Glory of the Choice

Vision Board 058Your personality . . . what is it exactly?  Aside from the usual adjectives of fun or moody or sunny or temperamental or intense or Type A or laid back or . . . what exactly? What does it really mean to be assigned a personality type?

We’ve all pondered the big debate of Nature vs. Nurture . . . how the spark of life is blessed/cursed/or combination-therein by congenital behavior . . . or wait!  Is it actually shaped by environmental and emotional factors?  And then these is all of the vice-versa stuff that leads one to accept and embrace both and then not think much about it.

Fascinating research points to many interesting findings that help us to understand Who We Really Are, our emotional and social intelligence, and our perception of positive and negative influences.  Nature or Nurture?  It is an enormous question that no one can really answer with total authority.  Take the story of the two children — identical twins, actually — standing on the ocean shore.  They are enjoying themselves while the salt water is gently lapping at their toes.  Suddenly, a rogue wave washes over the top of them.  The same wave, the same temperature of water, the same element of surprise.  One of the twins starts to cry and scream and run from the water. The other twin splashes back at the wave while laughing.   While this story would neither withstand nor support the rigors of a research study focused on Nature vs. Nurture, I like it nonetheless.  It gives me pause: Why not laugh?  It’s a heck of a lot more fun than crying and screaming.

And in the midst of all of this wondering and debating and agreeing, I do believe that there is much to be said for the concept of timshelthe Hebrew word for thou mayest.

When I think on topics of this sort, my mind wanders back to a Time of Great Impressionability in my life, and I was reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  What a book!  Well, “the story bit deeply into me,” and Lee’s treatise on timshel has stayed with me all of these curious years later — a testimony to the notion that life is one great impressionable moment after another.

It is my hope that sharing this gem of Steinbeck’s brilliance and wisdom will not act as any sort of spoiler.  The book is brilliant and one worth reading.  Like life, Steinbeck’s writing is intense and provocative and profound.  He writes the sort of story that stays with you throughout the years.  I thank Mr. Steinbeck for opening my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and my sense of wonder to the notion of thou mayest“the glory of the choice.”

Last week, I came across this quite lovely Personality Test online.  I normally don’t click on these tests, expecting some sort of hook to be set before you receive your “results,” but something prompted me to go ahead and try this one.  Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the link and visualize your responses to the prompts.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/this-cube-personality-test-will-absolutely-blow-your-mind?utm_term=.onK9zJNbz&sub=4259074_8744597

All done?

What do you think?  How much of the explanation of your visuals did you feel was accurate?  At the very least, I felt that I was given a sideways glimpse into me — parts of me that are actually true that I generally don’t consciously associate with my “personality.”  I think about Steinbeck’s artistic weaving of timshel into East of Eden . . . and I am reminded that thou mayest carries with it a personal(-ity) responsibility of creative and paradigm-shifting mindfulness that requires daily cultivation, acknowledgement, and celebration on my part.

Personality assessment aside . . . overall, we need not be so hard on ourselves.  I think we sometimes embrace the opinions of  people — people who truly don’t know us — with far too much zeal, and we assign too much authority to the editorializing that is done by others.  We have a proclivity toward jumping into the sinkhole: a morass of self-blame, regret, and guilt that we assign to nature- and nurture-defining personality quirks . . . epic actions that play with our hearts and attempt to define how we choose to forge present moments into future goals and dreams.  Or . . . is this just my personality?

I used to have a quote taped up in every room of my house: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  In the midst of one particularly Challenging Time, I was re-reading the quote, and I realized that I needed to make an edit.  I crossed out about to happen and scribbled in happening right now:

Always believe that something wonderful is happening right now.  

The current paradigm of Overwhelm in that moment screeched to a halt, and life felt like it took a gentler curve toward heart-healing and happiness.  When I realized that I had a choice to become someone new on the inside, my whole life shifted.  This epiphany didn’t segue into some neat and tidy story-book ending, but it did nudge me into a new place, such that I could get back into a timshel state of mind: “the glory of the choice.”

toaster ovenI leave you today with the prayer, the wish, the hope, and the thought that today is a good day for you.  A truly good day.  One of gratitude and filled with micro moments that tell you that Now is Now and life is evolving, constantly evolving, as something that is wonderful.  If this moment isn’t all that great, just wait for the next one.  It will be here before you know it — full of promise and full of timshel.  With some refining, life really can be borne from “the glory of the choice:  . . . keeping “the way open.”

Click on the highlighted link below to download today’s free journaling exercise.  Have fun journaling and putting a new spin on perceptions and keeping your way open!

The Glory of the Choice. A Different Spin. journaling prompt

IMG_0703

A reminder that gifts of beauty await when we keep our hearts open.  So lovely.

 

[P.S. Here is the real Spoiler Alert: To read a longer excerpt that discusses timshel in greater detail from East of Eden, click here.  If you are planning to read the book . . . do not click here.]

The Way Things Stack Up

Stones pyramid on sand symbolizing zen, harmony, balance. OceanThe way that things stack up don’t always make sense.  You look at a rock cairn and you see dissimilar shapes and textures and sizes.  What doesn’t naturally fit together neatly and perfectly into one whole structure has the potential to allow for balance to offset the dissimilarities in size and shape.

Cairns represent a balance that requires delicacy and a measure of hope. They offer natural beauty presented in a random-deliberate-natural sort of way.  A lot like life.  They do not ask for some added adhesive that will make the balancing act a little easier.  The rocks defy gravity by leaning on each other. Cairns have the potential to  stand for a very long time.  They represent the possibilities that I might have overlooked otherwise.

I am thinking that cairns in the right setting appeal to me.  I do like to see them on the beach below high tide such that the tide will roll in and eradicate the evidence of man — restoring a different natural order.  The ocean is persistent that way.

I have an old scale that I bought at an estate sale.  This scale has seen better-balanced days.  In order for the pointer to balance the beam, I had to add several tiny antique French coins in one of the weights pan.  The coins bring everything up to true.  Balance.  What is it exactly?  We seek it.  We desire it.  We believe that we would appreciate how it feels . . . if we could only be certain that we are actually experiencing it.  There are books and poems and songs written about balance.  Still, I do not know exactly what it means or how it feels in my life.

Vision Board 058We weigh decisions.  And justice.  And mercy.  And priorities.  And options.  We weigh fairness and love and life.  We somehow intuit when something isn’t feeling quite right, so we start to mess with the scale.  We add more coins.  Or we pick up a different rock to add to the cairn.  We deliberate.  Or we sometimes say the-hell-with-it and just give it a go.

Life’s events tumble together, and my carefully-constructed towers of well-thought-out plans are strewn all willy-nilly.  Sometimes I am left with the oddest of pieces to balance back together again.  I see the beauty in the pile of rocks that are before me, and I seek guidance and allow my intuition to lead me.

I recently read a great Irish proverb: “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”   I so agree.  A good laugh is like medicine and a long sleep restores the body and the soul.  Along the vein of cairns, I was thinking about which life blessings provide me with balance: laughter, sleep, forgiveness, appreciation, humility, kindness, patience, travel, adventure, discovery, learning, courage . . .

The way that things stack up at times doesn’t always make sense, but I continue to attempt to counterbalance with those things that point me to true.

 

 

 

 

Smiling: a Super Power

black and white tree branchesDuring these gray, dark days of winter, I find myself turning inward.  I spend more time in reflection, in meditation, in exercise, in self-care, in research, in cooking and cleaning.  As I focus inward, I sense that I am not smiling as often as I normally do.  I thoroughly enjoy this indoor time of engaging with family and friends on a more intimate level; still, as my thoughts travel further and farther inward, so does my smile.

We are really lucky we can smile.  We are actually born smiling.  Scientists once thought that babies “learned” to smile by mirroring others, but they now agree that babies are smiling while in the womb.  The babies then, after their trip down the birth canal, do not normally smile until they are approximately six weeks old.  It is speculated that this is because babies have to get used to a completely new and strange environment . . . a stark contrast to the the baby’s stress-free environment in the womb.

“Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you’ll live – and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being?” I was re-watching Ron Gutman’s TED talk “The Hidden Power of Smiling.”  It is a great talk that reminds us of how important it is to our own health and to the well-being of others.  Gutman’s talk tells how the world can be changed by simply smiling.  Research and common sense and personal experience substantiate this.

Keep-smiling-keep-smiling-8001329-386-480I thought about this research today as I was out and about running errands.  I made it a point to smile at everyone who was stopped next to me in traffic.  Even at a few people who were walking on the sidewalk and crossing the street.  Some people’s expressions led me to believe that they thought that I was a creeper, but this was not the case with everyone.  Some people smiled back.  Some people waved.  One car let me go ahead of him in traffic.

Near the end of the afternoon, I found myself in the insane maze of Trader Joe’s parking lot.  Insanity rules in this particular location as the number of shoppers far outweighs the number of places to park.  People troll from lane to lane with grim expressions of determination on their faces.

I went into the maze with a philisophical state of mind.  Determined to carry out my mission of smiling at strangers today, I put myself into the ludicrous and absurd flow of cutthroat parkers.  People were cutting others off and zipping into parking spots ahead of them.  Sign language ensued.  A near fender bender was prevented by some pretty insane honking.  Everyone was wanting to get in and get out with their groceries.

I spied an empty spot, turned on my blinker, and then saw a car bearing down on me from the end of the lane.  Yikes!  This person must have really needed my spot because he zipped in ahead of me before I could even begin turning my wheel.

When he got out of his car, he smiled at me.  But it wasn’t a nice smile.  It was a smile of one-up-man-ship.  Gotcha! is what his smile said.   Now I am not a saint.  No, not by any long shot of the arrow.  And I could feel my brow furrowing and the corners of my mouth turning south.  But I paused.  And I thought.   And I remembered my research mission of the day.  As he came walking by my truck — which was hopelessly stalled behind two other cars that had been wanting that same parking spot — I smiled at him.  Really smiled at him.  He looked at me smiling at him, shook his head at me to confirm my insanity, put his head down, and kept walking.  I don’t know why, but this made me laugh out loud.

The moral of the story.  I ended up parking across the street from the fray of bumper cars, went into the store and ran the aisles, paid for my groceries, and rattled the cart across the way to my truck.  I was loading my bags into the back when a voice clear out of nowhere asked me, “Can I help you with your bags?”

It was a woman who had somehow materialized behind me.  I looked at her and thought, “Whoa!  Where did you come from?”  I almost declined her offer but then thought better of it.  She was smiling.  She helped me with my bags and then offered to return my cart for me.  Wow!  Like an angel, she rattled back to the store with the empty cart, still smiling.

I shut the tail gate and got into the truck and sat there while the truck warmed up.  I felt as if I had been visited by a significant act of kindness.

toaster ovenMy research mission for tomorrow?  Smile more. Even when I am here at home clattering away at the keyboard, I am going to smile more.  Research has shown that when you are feeling really blue, you can take a pencil and hold it horizontally in your mouth, across your bite, to simulate a smile.   This simple little act of holding your mouth in a make-believe smile — which is called facial feedback or priming — will indeed make you feel better. Good feelings are released.  It is like an instant therapy in moments of stress or sadness.

Below is a link to Ron Gutman’s TED talk.  Enjoy!  And it is my wish that your day is awesome and full of smiling.

Confidence . . . an Appreciation of Self

kindness confidenceConfidence.  What is it?  Confidence is defined as “a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities” (Google: define).  We read and hear a lot about appreciation.  Appreciation for our blessings, our possessions, our jobs, our health, our friends, our family, our senses, our brains, our abilities.   Technology, nature, transportation, travel, beauty.  We appreciate others for what they do and for the joy they bring into our lives.  We appreciate how they love us through those thick-and-thin moments.  We reciprocate and make them coffee in the morning.  We send a nice email to someone at work.  We let a stranger go ahead of us in traffic.  We leave a love note on the mirror in the bathroom.  We kiss each other good bye each morning. toaster oven

We pick up the slack on a project with a deadline.  We choose to be gracious when we don’t feel like it.  We laugh at someone’s bad joke.  We sky-lift a worm on the sidewalk after a rain to safety.  Little things.

When was the last time you paused to appreciate an ability or a quality you have?  Really appreciate it.  A quirk or a talent?  A spot of brilliance or a burst of intuition?  A kind gesture you have made that was based more on intuition than anything else?  Do we even notice when we are expressing a kindness?  Or do we continue to be hard on ourselves – when we might not have been exactly perfect in that instantaneous snapshot of time that we call Right Now?

We tell others what we enjoy about them or about what they do to contribute or what it is that makes them unique and lovable.  It seems that this is absent on a self-level – on a level that escapes the traps and chains of egoism or conceit or narcissism.  Just plain and simple appreciation.

What do you appreciate about yourself?  What one little thing have you done or thought today that you appreciate?  Maybe you turned a mad-attitude into an accepting-attitude.  Maybe you realized that you have been offering resistance in a situation over which you have zero control.  Zero.  Maybe you made some pumpkin pie and delivered it to your significant other.  Or maybe you gave someone a hug – someone who really needed a hug in that moment. Or maybe you told someone you love him when it just felt right in that second to say it aloud.

When we experience a moment of confidence, maybe it is as simple as acknowledging the little things that we do each and every day.  Moments that assure ourselves that we are on this planet for a reason.  For a good and mighty and blessed reason.  I believe that there are many moments throughout the day when one has an opportunity to give a high five or an elbow bump to your little ol’ self.

Would the world be a more self-actualized place if we were kinder to our own selves?  I think so.

self confidence