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I have seen an abundance of articles lately, that ask people to classify themselves as either cat people or dog people. It got me thinking, as I sit here surrounded by my very favourite furry friends who happen to be one cat and one dog, which one am I? How do I define myself?

The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got. In my opinion, these are two very different animals, who bring very different things to the table. Is this not like telling someone: “you can like either apples or bananas, but you CANNOT like both”.

Why not?

I love my cat for his quiet, wise companionship. He has an old soul; a wise soul. He sits with me, puring quietly and calmly, and doesn’t ask for anything in return except my company, near him. He just wants me, as I am, to be with him. It is very comforting, and very good to feel loved just for me, as me – no expectations or demands.

I love my dog for his unwavering, unconditional love and energy. He is a bundle of joy and laughter, at all hours of the day and night. He asks only that I love him, and in return, he loves me and shows me in a million and one ways that I am his whole world. It is an unbelievably fulfilling feeling of being not only wanted but truly needed by another living, breathing thing.

I love both of my animals, for who they are, and the joy they bring me in their own way. I would never expect my cat to run to the back door when I get home, to ask to go for a walk, or to act as though he hasn’t seen me in years when I step out of a five minute shower. I would never expect my dog to lie completely still, not needing any attention at all, just being present with me, in my moment, with a wise and calming sense of stillness, and of things being as they should in a singular place and time.

I would not give up even an ounce of either of their personalities, their needs, or what they bring to my life, for a second, just to be able to classify myself as a cat person ordog person. I am a love person; a pet person; a quadruped person… An animal person.

And that is just fine by me.

 

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My family and I were out for supper on Friday evening, in an older building that had been in existence back when buildings used to have publicly available phones. These phones used to hang innocently on building walls, waiting to help connect once person to another person.

As we walked by the wall where a telephone once had hung, I noticed what was hung there now – a hand sanitizer dispenser. In that moment, on that wall, I was struck by how different our world has become. What was once a home for a tool used to connect two people was now a resting place for a tool that effectively disconnects people, routinely eliminating traces of handshakes or high fives.

While I am the first to admit the value and usefulness of health care tools in society, I am also firmly onboard the train of thought that believes, for all our tools and connectivity, we are becoming a world of truly un-connected people. People sitting at restaurants, on their phones; no eye contract or conversation. Social media posts for birthdays; no cards or telephone calls.

Indeed. The irony of the telephone hole was not lost on me.

 

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Do you have any triggers that you watch yourself key on, time after time, and wonder “Why the heck does that bother me so much?!” I know that I certainly do! And they are what I call my irrational aggravators.

For example, when someone calls my home and asks me where I am, it makes me almost furious. I don’t know why; I love getting phone calls. It’s not as if the question is insulting, or rude, or insensitive. But time and time again, I find myself grinding my teeth as I cheerfully respond “Oh, just at home.” Think about it, caller: you called me at my home. Where do you think I am??

Eventually, after realizing that this situation was only making my own blood pressure go up, I decided to take a new approach. And instead of tooth grinding, my response became “At the neighbors” – just to see what people would say. Most people laugh – and as we all know, laughter is one of the best medicines.

Anyways. The point is that everyone has these triggers. Give yourself a break! And if you can flip ’em on their head, and let yourself laugh (at yourself) – you’ll be the better for it.

So the next time you find yourself going off the deep end about something that shouldn’t even make you blink, take a minute and flip it. What’s funny about the situation? What is funny about you, in the situation? Take a moment, step back, and laugh. Just let it out.

After all, it’s much healthier to have irrational laughter than it is to have irrational aggravation.

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As many of you know, I am a big fan of author Gretchen Rubin. I have read her books and even followed her approach by doing my own Harperness Project in 2013I also follow her on Twitter – and quite recently, she posted a wonderful quote:

Secret of Adulthood: Make sure that things you do to make yourself feel BETTER don’t really make you feel WORSE.

This statement truly gave me pause, and quite literally food for thought as I get ready to begin a new year. I have been asked quite a bit over the last few days, by several people, what my New Year’s Resolutions will be for 2014, and my answer so far was “nothing, because they don’t work and I won’t do them…”. But maybe, just maybe, I need to make a single resolution following the quote I posted above.

I am a fairly emotional person, by nature. While this is a part of my charm, as it means I often wear my heart on my sleeve, it also means that I have a tendency to get the mean reds. And when I do, I turn to bad food – junk food. In my mind, I know that it won’t help me feel better or solve whatever problem I might be facing. But no matter – in the moment, it’s what I’ve convinced myself will make me feel better. And by the end of the night, I often do feel worse.

So…

  • How do I break the cycle? 
  • How do I stop this from happening? 
  • How do I stop myself from doing things to make myself feel better and end up feeling worse?

I need to learn different ways of coping; like doing yoga, or having a warm cup of tea. I can hug my cat, or sit down with a warm blanket and a favorite book. I can listen to a favorite piece of music, or have a run while watching a clever sitcom. I know that all of these things will make me feel better – and will actually make me feel better in the long run. 

So here is my New Year’s Resolution for 2014: I will m

I will print this mantra off, and put it up in my usual ‘glance’ spots – places where I tend to go, or to look, when the mean reds start to set in. And I’ll keep my eye out for self-sabotage.

In 2014, I’ll ask myself: What am I really doing? And I’ll make sure it’s always for better, and not for worse.

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I was really inspired the other day when I read Seth Godin’s latest blog post about Resting Smiley Faces. His post asks the question about who you are as a person when you think no one is looking. Are you just as plesant, easy going, and kind as you are when the whole world is looking? Or do you reserve your best behaviour only for those times when the spotlight is on and the cameras are rolling?

I think most of us are different, to varying degrees, when we think no one is watching. It’s easier. We don’t feel as though we have to be on when no one is watching. We can be ourselves. Relax. Take things easy.

But here is the catch. There is always someone looking. Especially in today’s world filled with social media and instant updates, there is always someone, somewhere, observing our every move. Just when we think it’s safe to give out a dirty look because things didn’t pan out as we’d hoped, someone somewhere saw us and is now forming an opinion of us that we’d rather not have.

I think it says more about a person, and their character, if what they do when no one is watching is exactly the same as all the other times, if not better! The world deserves to be more full of authentic selves.

Besides, it gets exhausting trying to be multiple people all the time.

So give yourself a break. And just be yourself. Because like it or not, someone is always watching.

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At this point, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I have missed November in terms of updating my Harperness blog. However, I did not miss the month for a new goal, I simply didn’t get around to posting.

First – let me review October. October was my month to work on celebrations. Truthfully, I didn’t do too well. I found that the celebration of many things got lost in the ‘time to start the next thing’ kerfuffle. But I did realize that not every little thing needs a big tada for a celebration – sometimes, something as simple as a good glass of wine or even an extra cozy hug will do. But thanks to those times when I ran straight ahead with a full head of steam right into the next challenge or to-do, I have become more acutely aware that I need to continue working on my ability to breathe.  Thank you, Tourism Alberta, for these brilliant short clips about doing just that (one of which I’ve shared here).

So… Out goes October, and in came November.

My focus for November is focus. Nope – you read that right, I did not simply repeat the word. My focus for November is focus, and being better at getting focus, keeping focus, and learning how to shift focus as necessary. I often find my focus wanders, changes, or is too fluid to do me or anyone else any good. I think that, in small part, I come by this honestly thanks to our ADD-like, information-overloaded society of 140 characters, status updates, and constant ‘on-ness’. However, the other part is all me – not actively recognizing that I could do better, be more productive, happier, etc, if I could just remember to focus.

So for what’s left of my second-to-last month in the Harperness Project, here I go!

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Don’t be a Roomba!

Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

After some brilliant conversations at work with a co-worker who also happens to be very insightful and hilarious, I now also think of this as being a Roomba. You know, those little vacuums that clean your floor on their own, but that when they get stuck in a corner, they just keep going ‘bump’, ‘bump’, ‘bump’. And they never stop. They are stuck in a loop of insanity.

Do you ever feel like a Roomba? I do. Whether it’s a work problem or a personal challenge, sometimes I get stuck in a corner just bump bump bumping against a ‘wall’, doing the same thing over and over and hoping that my ‘wall’ will get out of my way. Don’t get me wrong – I know that it won’t. It can’t. The solution is for me to get out of its way. But there I am, ‘bump’, ‘bump’, ‘bump’, all the same.

So how do you avoid being a stuck in a corner, facing a wall, doing the same thing over and over and over again? The answer is – you don’t. I certainly can’t. It happens, from time to time.

Instead – the real question is: How do you get out of the corner when you get stuck there?

It’s not easy. You have to be patient with yourself. Try new things, take risks, explore the unexplored. Do what is unexpected. Sometimes, allow yourself the time you need to be stuck in a corner – all be it a finite amount of time – but you may be surprised at the answers you find in the corners of your mind (the corners that never get dusted).

Sometimes, inspiration strikes me when I’m in my corner, going ‘bump’ ‘bump’ ‘bump’. Sometimes, I have to turn off my ‘batteries’, re-charge, and turn myself around 180 degrees before I see what I couldn’t before. And sometimes, just like the Roomba, I need a nudge back into the right direction. Whatever works.

Just don’t be a Roomba.

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