Connecting the dots

In the past year I have learned so much – about writing, blogging, social media, about people and about myself. And it couldn’t have been learned in a week, even if I read and wrote 24 hours a day, clocking up the same amount of hours as over the past year. It doesn’t work like that.

Sometimes you need to see a snapshot over time and I feel I am now beginning to connect the dots. What I have learned is that I am not alone in my ups and downs. I experience great highs and lows and unless the entire blogging world of writers are all bipolar, then nor am I! (Actually, don’t answer that). I read and get to experience wonderful highs in others’ posts, words of joy, wisdom, encouragement, faith and now I look on them not with skepticism, knowing that it will crash back at some point, but with love and connection. I read about people’s lows also, interpreting what’s between the lines and only guessing at the depth of pain contained therein.

But my aha moment today is seeing the ebb and flow of it all. Our inner worlds simply can’t remain the same; it’s not possible. I want to get out there and hug every blogger, whether they are at their peak or wondering how they let the joy slip away without noticing and wondering what on earth to write about if they felt their blog should be all joy and roses.

Here is my hug people, whether the sun is shining, your world is simple and the decks are cleared, ready for the fun times ahead to be enjoyed or whether you are wondering why you are bogged down and nothing seems to interest you these days. I truly believe we are ultimately all the same and there is nothing wrong with that. Remember to connect your own dots and see the picture you are creating.

need a hug

need a hug

 

 

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A Wordless but Excruciating Battle

 

Marilyn in thought 1960s

Whatever is good to know is difficult to learnGreek Proverb

Thinking deeply about what this quote means to me is actually painful because it brings up memories of some awful times, from my childhood onwards. I don’t think ‘good’ is the right word in this proverb. Maybe it got lost in translation from the Greek. ‘Whatever is essential, life changing, character forming is excruciating to learn.’ Yes that’s better.

The kind of situation I think this most applies to is, for example,  when you have had a hideous argument with someone. You might be fuming, full of adrenalin and thinking things like ‘if only I’d said that’ or ‘and yes I really am right because of this and this’, or ‘they hate me, I am useless, I will always be useless’ or ‘they are awful, I don’t want to ever be friends again, just think of all the rotten things they have done to me in the past’.

All sorts of nasties can creep in whispered by the gremlins, or ‘pain body’ (Eckhart Tolle) or the devil, if you will. As your mind tries to work out the solution to ease the discomfort you are feeling, and find a way to dissipate this anger, you don’t realise that you may be using the wrong tools to solve your dilemma; like using your elbow to clean out your ear.

We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them – Albert Einstein

As a child, you are likely to continue on this path, storing hurts and painful memories. You might avoid the other person until you’ve forgotten what you were arguing about and eventually sweep the hurt under the carpet. Or the fight escalates and others get involved until so much damage is done that you fall out permanently. The worst outcome is that you decide you really must be useless.  You create this opinion about yourself (which you are sure is based in reality), thanks to all the information you have gathered in this terrible hyped up state. You condemn yourself and slowly slip into the habit of depression, imprinting your brain until it’s in your neural pathways and hard to fight off, useful as a reliance mechanism; a mental way out that’s like a stinky but familiar old blanket.

But, with maturity and a lot of difficult soul searching, I learned what was ‘good to know’, namely that it can all change in an instant. The path is not set; it is created by you as you take each step. For it is you and only you treading the path and creating your own consequences. I later learned how to effect that change in myself and learned what needs to happen internally and externally.  These kinds of situations will be offered to you again and again until you learn the lesson, so you might as well learn it sooner rather than later.

Here are some of the ways this situation can be resolved, either by our own hand which has longer lasting effects or by others;

– The other person comes to apologise and all those destructive thoughts you were having evaporate, until perhaps the next time.

– You gather yourself (it comes with practice, but try focusing on your breathing for a start) and look at the situation more objectively until you calm down and start to see the other person’s side also.

– You realise you might actually be wrong if you would only admit it, and that it’s OK to make horrible mistakes.  You will live and survive, head held high. Perfectionism be damned!

– You reach out and say a simple sorry to the other person, whether you feel sorry or not (everyone always thinks they are right, but really there is often no such thing; it’s too subjective).

It’s best if you do feel sorry of course, having recognised the nonsense of the argument, your part in it (why don’t we dare admit to ourselves that we are far from perfect?) and remembering why you have a relationship with that person in the first place.  Even ‘faking it till you make it’, nips the destructive and out of control feelings in the bud.

To me the most important lesson is to not give yourself time to wallow if you are running down this thorn-filled path. Tell yourself you are not listening to this rubbish and won’t make any decisions about anything until you are calmer. Hop off this runaway thought train this instant.

I guess that’s why they say ‘don’t let the sun set on an argument’; so that you don’t have time to create mountains out of mole hills in your head. This can be sturdy advice but here’s another way of looking at it;

My ex (still good friends) and I agreed to never argue at night, when somehow things seemed worse because of being tired or due to the darkness. The sun coming up the next morning makes a huge difference to one’s psyche. It’s just biology. If you are calm and fully able to sleep, knowing the other person is OK too, go for it! You might agree to continue the talk later; at least forging some kind of agreement between you amidst the discord.

If you are centred enough to mend bridges now, do that. But if the person who is battling the strongest emotions needs time to settle down and has the capacity to calm themselves, then distance is good. This process of learning to calm yourself may take years to acquire; or if you are a mature soul, you may be born with it. But it is difficult to learn, it is good to know and so essential to finding happiness. The reward is trust in yourself and your ability to endure and enjoy living as a flawed human being, when life’s inevitable changes are thrown at you or you let yourself down.

And why is it so difficult to learn to change our thoughts instead of be ruled by them, with the accompanying emotions and dramas; to try a completely different path; to put ourselves out there and be vulnerable, especially to ourselves?  Why protect our egos?

I guess it’s difficult because we have to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation where we don’t know the outcomes.  We are afraid of ourselves, not of the other person.  This new thinking will change the dynamic of the relationship with the other person of course, but most importantly with our story about who we think we are.

So we dither. Why we dither and how to get around it is one of those ‘good to know’ things to which this Greek Proverb alludes. It’s probably one of the hardest things in life to learn to know and accept yourself, warts and all and then test it out on other people.

Anyway I digress.  I believe if you practise learning to center yourself, calm down and forgive yourself it becomes easier with time. Say sorry to people. See how they react! Are you nervous of their response, of making them feel uncomfortable or of your being rejected? If so, a hug goes a long way and does just the same as words, without any need for eye contact.

Marilyn Hugging

And if they push you away, you will still feel good for trying. You haven’t pushed you away.  You are now a stronger person. Their response has nothing to do with you. It is their journey; only they can mend their inner world. You can only work on your own inner peace and happiness, but I bet you will have left your mark.

Marilyn and Joan Copeland 1957

I know nothing so why are you reading? :)

Pink apples

You don’t get good apples from a bad tree – George Repnin

I know the saying ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ in which the children are assumed to be very like their parents. But I disagree with that one. The ‘sins of the parents’ could be exactly what drives a child to be different in their lives, ‘better’, in the important ways at least.

So by this quote, I am understanding that when your mind is not right, it is not fruitful and the results of your efforts are not good apples.

Do you know how you will behave in a certain situation? Would you be a hero or a coward in a life or death situation, risking everything? I’d like to think I would be the hero. I am impulsive enough and negligent of consequences most times so I don’t see why that would be any different. But who really knows?

I have been mindful of my own behaviours. I would like to think I know myself. I know that when faced with an array of cakes and desserts on offer, I am completely unlikely to avoid them, no matter how strict my ‘diet’.

is that cake

I know that when I am really happy (in love) I eat what I like (think sugar and carbs) and put on weight. When I am bored or discontent with my life, I battle with my conscience and yet still eat all those wickednesses that I have stashed away in my bedroom that I should be avoiding, let alone buying and squirreling away.

long romantic walks to the fridge

I also know that when I am really stressed, the weight falls off ridiculously fast as I lose my appetite and the term ‘comfort food’ suddenly doesn’t apply.

I am seeking clues at the moment to this happiness thing. (All good today, by the way, just deep in thought). I have started a list of what has managed to lift my spirits in the past when I am inexplicably unhappy. This list differs for everyone, in the same way that different diets work for different people. I keep my happiness list on the noticeboard in my bedroom.

When I am a ‘bad’ tree of course, the items on that list don’t seem to work to cheer me up, much as they might have done another time. Things such as tidying or cleaning. Or reading, or doing logic puzzles. In fact the more I sloth with magazines and brain teasers, the worse I feel but am unable to stop. It’s a bit like the child that is abused by the parent goes to that very same parent looking for consolation! Don’t we weave complicated relationships in our lives – with people, food, activities?

Do you know how these relationships function for you? How you are likely to react to events, temptations, people, discord? Do you have a family history of sweeping things under the carpet and continuing cordial relationships as if the ‘abuse’ never happened? That works well in one of my relationships, if you can call it a relationship.

Anyway I digress. My point today is that it really is the quality of your mood that defines how fruitful (in terms of happiness) your day will be. That seems like tautology, if I am using the right term. SO obvious. Your mood defines your happiness, duh Emma. What I mean is that how the tree is being treated, with love and fertiliser, doesn’t always make a difference to how the apples turn out. I certainly don’t blame every parent of a serial killer. And how you treat yourself, doing things you love and look forward to, doesn’t always bear fruit if your tree is bad that day. I think depression is defined by no longer enjoying that which you used to.

So I will keep looking for the fertilisers for my tree. I will resist trying to fell it also. It’s enjoyable and satisfying to my ego to think I am getting somewhere permanent. In fact that’s what gave me the courage to even blog. I figured that I had a lot ‘sorted’. But the wise man knows he knows nothing! And the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know.

Why did I blog today? No clue. Do I feel I have any wisdom to impart? Not really, only questions to ponder. But that doesn’t matter because

Knowledge can be communicated but not wisdom – Hermann Hesse

 

A Slap in the Face

Sleeping Rough

 

I had my little pre-Christmas panic attack yesterday which I have had every year since getting divorced. I get overwhelmed at the responsibility for making my kids’ Christmas as ‘good’ as it’s always been. They say they have the best Christmases ever. We love Christmas, playing carols from June onwards, making gingerbread men together still (and a whole lot more when they were little as I love craft) and in December, our family tradition is to watch a cheesy Christmas movie together every single day until Christmas if we can possibly can. I have a huge selection of movies.

Anyway I digress. I admit there is no charity work, no church involved, no Christmas feasts or coming together of families on the day as mine are far away.  There is just more togetherness in the lead up and a large amount of inexpensive presents, mess, games and doing whatever we like as a four on the day. The panic is that I rarely shop, unless I absolutely have to as I dislike it, I can’t make a decision (on what to buy) to save my life and because I am not a big earner and a single mum I get too stressed wasting large amounts of money. I say wasted because I see so many things around the house that were never really loved, no matter how enthusiastically accepted on the day.

But yesterday I was reminded of the expression my kids have started using, which I love which is ‘First World Problems’ which is another way of saying ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’ or ‘Get over yourself’ or ‘Tell it to the hand or to someone who cares’. It’s actually quite rude and I LOVE IT. A slap in the face reminder is a good thing once you get over the shock. The point is to get past yourself and agree with the essence of what someone thinks is worth telling you. I think that’s the answer to being happier. Take the ‘criticism’, process it, agree as much as you can because it’s in your best interest not to defend yourself but to examine and accept your imperfectness. It’s OK to be you.

A colleague at work sent me this image yesterday among many others but this is the one that spoke to me. I asked what the mask and snorkel was about and she explained it’s to make a ‘living’ diving for scrap metal in the Ganges. Such love, tenderness and to us, discomfort all in the one photo.  Third World Problems?  Maybe, maybe not.

My ‘problems’ are ‘First World’ which of course are no sorts of problem at all unless I cling to seeing them that way.

 

Close the door on guilt

This seems a little controversial to me. I was introduced to the works of Paulo Coelho by a man I got talking to at the beach 5 years ago. I read a few of Paulo’s books and couldn’t really understand at first why he was so extraordinarily popular as he seemed to be a little egotistical and also simplistic. I think I am drawn to the honesty in his writing. Perhaps that is the drawcard. Honesty takes great courage in the face of society. We hear so many ‘shoulds’ in life that say you mustn’t close the door on this or that, that it’s lazy to give up or rude not to stay in contact with someone or you should persevere with this or that because it builds character. I have heard that family is everything and you should stick with them no matter what. But that ‘what’ is sometimes too high a price to pay and we are all free to walk away if we can be courageous enough to be ourselves and give ourselves what we think we need at any given moment. What is the price of doing something we want instead of something that someone else wants? Guilt usually. Guilt creates a no win situation if you let guilt creep into your life. Banish it immediately!

 

So I love this quote of Paulo’s. You won’t find too many like it. I love Barbara Sher because she also give you permission. We would find inner peace if we could give ourselves permission. Permission to be ourselves and to ‘do’ ourselves.

 

When we are bombarded with messages daily, we can choose whose opinions resonate and sit well with us. Barbara Sher gave me permission to stop blogging at any time and it is obvious of course but nice to be reminded. I will blog as long as it suits me which may be another week or forever! She actually gives you permission to stop doing anything you want; that’s it’s OK to do something only for as long as you want. I am a jack of all trades and get wildly excited by certain new things. It could be a song, a handbag, a YouTube video, a person, a recipe, quantum physics, the colour of something, whatever. But if I had to stick with something for too long I would miss out on discovering new things. I would ‘fall off my energy beam’. I think the general consensus is that you should settle down, become an expert in something in order to be successful, or stick with a spouse forever in order to have a successful marriage or have friends you’ve known since kindergarten. How about working at a job for a decent amount of time in order to look good on your resume? There are many examples of where we are encouraged to do, be, know something long past it’s due date.

Paulo implies that we get accused of pride, incapacity or arrogance if we don’t stick with something. Harsh judgements. Who are the people who want you to stick with them? Scared people usually. Why should you stick with a job? To become an ‘expert’ and therefore be a ‘success’, but it’s not a success if you are miserable. Why would you stick with a course of study? To get a certificate you may never need to prove to the world.  Why would you stick with a partner?  If it’s for what the proverbial neighbours think, you are giving your power, freedom and happiness away unnecessarily.

 

Is there something you keep in your life, some door you are afraid to close because of guilt even though it leads you nowhere? I close doors with love. Love to go and do your own thing while I go do mine. I long ago learned the lesson that guilt serves absolutely no purpose ever. Who wants more bad feeling in the world that resolves nothing? Does it really make you do something different next time; be a better person?

 

If you have the courage of your convictions and walk away from a person, an exercise class, habit, group of people, or even way of thinking, it frees you up. I have so often heard that when one door closes a window opens. I think it’s supposed to mean that a door has closed against your will and the thought of something new coming along cheers you up. I believe that. But if you have closed that door yourself, you may be ostracised. What’s the difference?

 

This is where freedom and courage to make your own choices comes in; to truly be yourself. Those that love you understand why you are making these choices. They agree that you are free to make them. Those that don’t love you will never understand anyway. Those that call you these names are not free themselves; they are caught in the shoulds of life. Perhaps they wish to be free also.

 

Anyway thanks to Paulo for being a voice you don’t hear too often which says walk away when something no longer serves you. If we are truly strong inside we don’t need his permission either but it’s great to see it in writing. If we want to walk back later that is OK too, why should we have our ‘tail between our legs’? It is always our decision.

 

Building that Loving Relationship

Everything we explore and experience is an expression of our relationship with our primordial nature – Damon Gautama

http://becomingfullyhuman.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/it-can-be-helpful/

I take my inspiration from two of my favourite bloggers today Yaz Rooney and Damon Gautama who were both the vehicle for bringing me something I need at the moment. Thank you both. When I am down I can just go and read all the amazing posts from the bloggers I have discovered. I could just gobble you all up, I am so grateful.

Both messages are about love and relationship which, now I think about it is the number one, numero uno, the only thing worth having on this planet! Yep, back to sweeping statements. I think my Mojo must be returning! Confident to allow my ignorance to shine forth once again and not care how it’s received.

Damon points out that we have only one relationship and that’s with our primordial nature. To me that means with ourselves though I am sure he is also referring to the fact that we are all one in a sea of Quantum Energy. You could call it a relationship with the Universe or God if you like to use that word (which I am not comfortable using myself personally).

This relationship with yourself is based on faith and trust in yourself. Do you have trust that you will keep to your own (high?) standards? That you are being the ‘best’ you can be and won’t let yourself down, or judge that you are letting yourself down (same thing perhaps)? Do you have inner peace because you have faith and trust that as your life unfolds it will bring you what you want? How about what you need? If I open my eyes and look clearly once more I realise it certainly is bringing me what I need, if I have courage to see it. It takes courage to be happy. Courage to go ‘Oops I was wrong but it’s OK, I can learn from this’. I forgive myself. This week I wasn’t forgiving myself for being grumpy and unsettled. Damon responded to my comment about how I was feeling, that there is a big energy going through the world this week and I believe it because I want to believe that it’s not just me feeling this way. I have looked around for examples of other people feeling grumpy to solidify my opinion and gratify my ego. Easily done and pointless really. Seek and ye shall find. But of course it’s fine if I am the only one in the whole world feeling this way. I am allowed to. Anywhere in the world just now is someone overjoyed at having a baby or getting married or falling in love. And others are perhaps in mourning for something – a job, money, lover, identity which they thought they needed to go on being happy. Of course their journey is to process the loss or the gain, and hopefully come to the conclusion that it’s all OK. Everything is fine as it is. They are fine as they are. Outcomes are neither good nor bad.

Anyway I digress. Back to success and the success of loving who you are, what you do and how you do it. My ego loves that I can bounce back. My ego loves my job in customer service, problem solving and helping people. I get a kick out of feeling I have gone above and beyond to help them, even if they don’t see it. And I love how I do it – with enthusiasm, understanding attitude and tone of voice on the phone, putting my brain into gear to not only help them solve the actual problem but make them feel better. I defend the company I love if possible and apologise for our failings when all too necessary. It’s about connection, as is any job really. I am at an entry level job, probably unappreciated by society yet I am finally feeling like a success now that I see it the right way! I always thought I needed more but I just needed to see it right and I knew it. This quote clarifies it for me more and I am grateful.

So if our one relationship and possibly our happiness rests on how we judge our relationship with ourselves what can we do to improve it? For me it’s applauding my own successes in whatever form it takes (not buying the fattening honey roasted Macadamias in the supermarket yesterday) and forgiving my failures (buying the half price Toblerone and a bottle of Frangelico this week in hopes of making some amazing new cocktail I have the recipe for somewhere, using Christmas as an excuse).

Applaud and Forgive. It’s quite the opposite of the Beat Myself Up and Downplay Anything Good that I did, said, wore, felt.

I am back on track! Praise be to ….?????  

Chasing Butterflies

Defeat strips away false values and makes you realise what you really want. It stops you from chasing butterflies and puts you to work digging gold – William Moulton Marston

I have another confession. I think I let something silly get to me, unless it was the eclipse of the sun playing havoc on our collective consciousness 🙂 . From the high of enjoying rising blog views in the 50s or 60s, now for the last week I barely register over 25 per day and it’s slowly falling. Because I let the numbers bother me I will say I tasted defeat. I temporarily lost my exuberant self. Taking a day off blogging yesterday was perfect. I sat in the morning sun and watched the rainbow lorikeets. I let the slight breeze cool my coffee and the sun kiss my cheeks and I listened to all the bird noises. When I got back from work I didn’t rush to check my computer but picked up 3 books and read each of them for a while. I ‘felt’ my way through Fifty Shades Freed, started (waded through) A Course in Miracles and then moved on to Barbara Sher‘s ‘It’s only too late if you don’t start now‘ which seemed like light reading in comparison. And this is where I found this quote.

Just what I needed to hear! I was writing and digging for gold deep in the ground within me and then got distracted by butterflies – beautiful growing stats, a myriad of countries listed every day on WordPress, amazing new friends. I tried to rein myself in a couple of times and get back to basics, but along came another butterfly and off I’d go, thinking about them and not why I need to write. And so the shiny gold I was finding stopped appearing and the butterflies stopped being attracted because there was nothing left to catch their attention.

So my learning is advancing. Barbara is not saying in this book that you give up your dreams. She is saying that when you stop chasing butterflies – wealth, standing, admiration etc you rediscover who you were, what you really loved as a kid, who you still are, what nourishes your soul and you start digging again. And the results of your labour mean more to you than keeping up with the Joneses. The results may well be the things you strived for in the first place but they won’t come at a cost anymore, because your natural talents come easily. Because they are enjoyable you put in the fun hours and what you thought was a natural lack of discipline doesn’t come into the equation. Rewards come in all forms, internally and externally because you are more engaged, you give out a better energy (I am guessing) and you are authentic.

The authentic me laughs a lot and chokes up at many things including youtube videos, kids hugging, donating to charity, people saying hello and goodbye at the airport. The list is growing. My experience seems vivid compared to many people and the high energy levels grate with some who want me to be more level, calm. But I am calming on the inside and if anything the real me is getting more exuberant on the outside. An eccentric English lady. What a cliché.

1960s Costume 2009

Anyway I digress. My false values are hugging the numbers to myself, using them to tell others who have no interest in my blog, that up to 63 people in exactly 25 different countries have been interested in what I have to say! And what I really want? To finish writing each morning feeling like I have grown just a little and surprised myself with what I found inside. ‘To be more than I thought I could be’ to quote Whitney Houston.

How accurate is your measure?

Everyone is trying to accomplish something big, not realising that life is made up of little things – Frank A. Clark

I have a basket full of little things to choose from. Actually I have house full of activities I like to undertake. No, I have a lake full of water and in each drop are the ideas I have for making my life memorable. No, forget that. I have a universe of potential but it all comes down to my little basket from which things peek out at me and I choose to do them from time to time. Little things only.

What do I want to accomplish that’s big? Ideally I’d like to take every human being for whom depression can be cured by mind over matter and not those that really need drugs at this stage in their lives and inject them with clear thinking, faith that it’s all OK really. They are OK, the world is OK. Perhaps that means I want to be all powerful if I’d like to help everyone. Yikes. Actually I can’t cope with power as I don’t have the confidence to think I could keep up whatever got me there, day after day and I would therefore let people down and cause suffering. Fail.

So I can only do little things. I write every day on this subject when I could be writing about just about anything. Just point me at a subject, and I have something to write :). And that’s where my ‘problem’ lay in life until recently. I judged my myriad of little ‘accomplishments’ as worthless. There is no big thing you could say that I achieved. No career, no profession, no consistency. I felt bad. Because I have so many interests, I try to break each thing I love down into tiny parts to get at least a sample of it as much as possible. On top of working full time, I talk to the kids, run for 20 minutes each day, write my diet blog, read all the blog posts I subscribe to (there seems to be a lull at the moment and I am not getting so many posts – where is everyone?). I am also reading three books and about to start A Course in Miracles because I keep seeing quotes from it.

And then I remember what’s in the bottom of the basket. I remember how much music lifts me up and I think my life will be improved if I could just squeeze in 20 minutes a day of practising the piano, or listening to my favourite songs. Then I think my brain would be better off in the long run if I practised my other languages or my lousy juggling or did Sudoku more often.

So it appears that I cannot accomplish something big in any one direction. I will never be an expert at piano, languages, juggling, running, gardening and certainly not at my job. And what about the rest of the things I’d like to do?

But I realise that I have accomplished something big. If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one says Mother Teresa. Well I am feeding myself. I am happy. I fixed my depression with clear thinking. And that is big. Finding bloggers out there who gladden my soul with their posts – Yaz, Diane, Julien, Damon, Cristian, Richard, Evan, Seth the photographer, to name but a few is BIG. I don’t follow the news I confess. I would rather fill my time with ‘listening to’ people I admire, not hearing about the actions of people that I don’t admire. And this is real, current, now. I am finding bloggers who brighten my love for the world and fill my head with more love.

So now I can add up my little things and realise I am accomplishing something big. A life I can enjoy. I shouldn’t take it for granted. I take my happiness and silly attitude and inject it wherever I can. People smile and laugh. With me, at me I don’t care (have you seen the ugly pictures on my Joy Is Now Gravatar?). I kind of live life with the attitude ‘if you can’t set a good example, you’ll just have to be a horrible warning’. Only I enjoy not always getting it right. It’s funny.

I completely digressed and probably missed the whole point of Frank’s quote probably. I think he is saying that by doing little things you will eventually accomplish something big. I say you have to realise how far you’ve come and redefine what BIG is. Infinite little decisions in our day make us who we are and we are already big. Go ask the people who love you! Theirs are the only voices worth listening to.

 

Pretty Happy

 

 

This is lovely. I am glad Audrey said this. She was always beautiful and wise. It’s not the most important thing in the world to be pretty. It can open many doors, but it can also close them for you. And though many people might long to be pretty or handsome they would probably prefer to be happy.

As I get older I know I am trading my youthful looks for happiness and I wouldn’t want to go back. Where I find a photo of me that I dislike it’s always one where I am not smiling. I find myself examining flaws. In the photos where I am grinning from ear to ear, I see shining eyes and a lopsided smile but I can’t help react to the smile, even if it’s only on paper. We are preprogrammed to like smiles.

Someone at University once told me this truth also; the best beauty secret is a smile. I’ve seen it in reverse also, where I was feeling really down and went to a party. I might as well have had a sign on my forehead saying ‘Avoid this woman. Save yourself’. How many excuses are there to move away? I learned a few that night.

I have done a lot of online dating since my marriage broke up and when you sift through hundreds of faces looking to see who you might be attracted to, the smile is the most important factor. There can be three of four photos of someone who is not smiling and I wonder if they are ashamed of their teeth or if its their serious personality shining through.

So why are we attracted to the people who are smiling? Why do we find them ‘prettier’? If we are all looking for acceptance then someone smiling has either accepted themselves and are happy at this point so are more likely to accept you or they smile at you with instant acceptance, which is the nicest feeling. Smiling is universal – every race and culture on earth recognises a smile. If someone is smiling one can assume they are radiating good energy at that point, so that’s another reason to be attracted and find them prettier. It would draw you close.

I smile a lot and I mean a LOT. I am smiling now. I read a business book recently where a shoe company preferred to employ people like me and then described us as ‘Whack jobs’. Fantastic! I love that description. I’d rather be the crazy in the loony bin with the big smile. As Dudley Moore said in the movie Arthur, “sometimes I just think funny things”. I find life pretty funny if you look at it in a certain way. The things we do are funny. Comedians have endless fodder in the everyday.

At 16 I first learned this lesson. I met a girl who was unattractive by most rules. And yet she was fighting the boys off. It’s common knowledge that people will be attracted by looks but hang around only if there is personality to go with it. And sometimes the best looking ones don’t always have personality because they haven’t had to develop any in order to attract admirers. The truth is that personality really is the best attractor or the one that brings people together anyway.

So I will continue being a whack job. I will keep collecting those wrinkles and if I can throw in some laughter too all the better. Just find what you enjoy on YouTube (try this – thanks Yaz’s commenter http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBb8tx5S8x8) and use it like beauty treatment. We are all stunning!!

PS On TED.com I learned about an experiment where people had to hold a pencil in their mouths which simulated smiling by using the same muscles. By measuring their saliva they could tell that doing this fake smile lowered stress levels. Imagine what a real smile would do! Smiling yet?

 

Spoonfuls of Hope

Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed – Laurence Overmire

I woke up feeling flat to day; quieter, less smiley. But today my introspective mood was changed by a spoon. My teacher today was a spoon of all things. You just never know where there is a lesson for you do you?

I was unpacking the dishwasher into the cutlery drawer and dropped a dessert spoon. I was expecting it to clatter noisily to the floor but it fell completely silently. When I closed the drawer to look, I found it resting on my running shoe, carefully balanced there, face down. My expectation had been broken and it kind of woke me up. I started thinking about expectations. Despite feeling flat I have learned not to judge my day as ‘It’s going to be one of those days’! I don’t believe in that. A day is a day and I know that feelings and moods change in an instant if you accept and go with the flow.

Now that my kids are teenagers I look back on their childhood and wonder what I have could have done better with the magic of hindsight. And my conclusion is all about expectations. If I had expected to get no sleep, to be hormonal and weepy, to not be able to take a shower until lunchtime; if I had expected that they wouldn’t necessarily like the toys I had loved or that they would voluntarily put things away before the age of 16, or that teenage boys would stay in their room and reject all touch, it would have been a whole different ballgame and I would have enjoyed it all more. We perhaps would have been even closer if I had more realistic expectations and could have given them ultimate acceptance. On the other hand if I expected them to be far less capable and independent than I did then they might not have risen to the challenge and become the intelligent, independent kids that they are. All I know is that if I had had more information and had known exactly what to expect from each age, I could have saved myself some unnecessary suffering.

I realise how important it is for me to stop and look at my expectations from time to time in order to better understand where my moods are coming from. I have expectations and then I compare against them. Comparison is dangerous, as I have learned. There have been times in the past where I have gotten quite upset thinking I should have paid this much for a service and then been charged more. But if I had expected to pay more I might have been pleasantly surprised. What a dangerous thing to hook my wellbeing on. It is what it is.  Accept and move on.

Perhaps expectation is what Discount Retail Sales are based on. The shops tell us that we should be expect something to be this price but they are giving it to us for this much less so our expectations are exceeded and therefore we buy it and are happy. 

Anyway I digress. Have you ever exceeded your own expectations? Has some event or person or product exceeded your expectations? It’s a good feeling isn’t it?  Expectation has the ability to affect our moods. So there is another facet of our beliefs and mindstream to look more closely at. Examine your expectations of today, this minute, the people you know, upcoming events. What do you see?

Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed is too depressing for me actually. I don’t really live by that as I think it changes the energy of what’s around you. I like hope, love and good energy much better.

Hope for everything and make the most of whatever comes! – Emma Victoria Capell