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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.

Sometimes, it takes something exceptionally sad for us to sit up and take notice of the happiness around us. And for me, something like that happened today. Today, Mr. Robin Williams, incredible actor, Oscar winner, hilarious stand up comic, generous philanthropist, husband, father, and (in my opinion) theatrical visionary, passed away. His loss is one that will be felt across our world, I’m certain, in a variety of ways. But for me, it’s one that I feel very deeply, and it has given me pause on this 11th day of August, 2014.

Mr. Williams was ‘one of those people’, whose station in life some of us contemplate and even yearn after. From the outside, an uneducated bystander such as myself would have believed that he had it all. Fame, fortune, family, and the respect of his peers and his industry – and yet, in a swift turn of fate on a single and otherwise unremarkable day, he is believed to have taken his own life when his life simply became too much for him to bear. How very tragic. How completely incomprehensible. And how firm of a reminder this should be to us all.

How many of us have ever said “I’ll be happy when…” and filled in those blanks with musings about our perfect job, our perfect mate, or our perfect bank account. And yet here is someone who seemingly had many if not all of those things, and yet it was not enough. In his darkest hour, it was still not enough. 

If Mr. Williams’ passing can be seen as a good thing in any light, let it be seen as a reminder to all of us all not to wait on being happy and not to expect that happiness is tied to anything or anyone other than ourselves. 

Be happy now. With what you have, where you are.
And cherish your life, where it is, for what it is.
Because one life is all any of us will get.
It should be enough.
It needs to be enough. 

Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams, and may God bless your family in this tragic time.

As I was listening to some music the other day, I got to thinking. Many of us have special songs that remind us of events, or other people, in our lives. Songs with our spouses or partners. First dances in junior high school songs. Graduation songs. Wedding songs. But what about our own lives? What about a song that defines who we are? Who we aspire to be? Songs that just make us want to smile, sing along, or get up and dance like no one is watching? Do we have our own songs?

I wasn’t sure I did, and the more I thought about it, the more that troubled me. I love music – for me, it’s a release. It gives me a sense of peace; of happiness; of calm. It is my go-to when things are more turbulent than they should be. So as I sat down to write this post, I began to flip through my music and without realizing it, put on the same album that I usually go to when I’m feeling a bit unsettled. All of a sudden, I realized: I do have a song. The song is titled ‘Chasing the Sun’, by Sara Bareilles. For those of you who don’t know it, here is an excerpt:

You said, remember that life is
Not meant to be wasted
We can always be chasing the sun!
So fill up your lungs and just run
But always be chasing the sun!

All we can do is try
And live like we’re still alive

To me, this song has a very pure melody, with beautiful notes and lovely lyrics. And the way I choose to interpret the song gives it a big meaning. Chase the sun, literally and figuratively, each and every day. Never quit. Never stop. Remember that life is a gift. Always keep reaching for dreams, for the sun. Enjoy every minute – make every day count.

This song makes me smile no matter what is going on around me. I can be sitting on my couch having tea; I can be riding a crowded train car; I can be waiting for a delayed flight at an airport at the end of a long business trip. The song makes me feel warm and energized. It reminds me to be me.

Ask yourself – what is your song? If you don’t have one, I challenge you to find one and to keep it close by. Whenever you hear it, allow it to give you a little jolt, like warm socks on a cold day.

It’s your song!

Re-Frame Your Diet

For many people (myself included) a new year ushers in hopes and dreams of things to come, typically including a renewed approach to a healthy lifestyle. And today, I watched an excellent documentary titled Hungry for Change that helped me re-think how I approach food and eating.

The message in the film that really hit me was that I need to re-frame how I think about food. And while I knew that (and continue to know it, regardless of what my affection towards Doritos might tell you about me), some of the language used in this film really hit home for me.

In particular, there was a comment about changing how we view a ‘diet’. For most of us, the word diet means to stop eating or to change our eating habits, often requiring that we eat less of something (usually foods we have been conditioned to enjoy, like those pesky Doritos). But as soon as our brain starts to think “I want but CANNOT have”, we immediately start to feel deprived. Eating losing its joy, other foods lose their taste. All we want is what we cannot have. We must have the food that is now forbidden. But we cannot. But we must! We want it! We need it! But we cannot! Do you see the vicious cycle, here? If you do, welcome to diet hell.

But what if we change our definition of the word diet? What if, just like how we should do with our food, we go back to the source? Back to the meaning of the word in its purest form?

The word diet truly means “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats”. It does not relate to deprivation, starvation, or any of the other ‘ations‘ that are associated with forbidden food. So what if our diets could include whatever food we wanted? What if we wanted healthy food? Clean food? Natural food? Food with ingredients that we can pronounce? What if we change our thoughts from “I want but cannot have” to “I CAN have but DO NOT WANT”? Just saying this makes me feel less like I need my next hit of nacho cheese. Because it’s there. I am allowed. If I wanted, I could get in my car and drive to a store and eat the entire shelf-load of nacho-cheesy-goodness! There is nothing stopping me.

So if I allow myself some credit as an intelligent person, and if I take the time to form some logical thoughts, I can easily understand that although I CAN eat whatever I want, what I really want to eat are things that I can pronounce. Things that weren’t created in a lab. Things that my body can use as fuel to perform the way it should. When I think about it, I don’t actually want a bag full of simulated-orange-colored cardboard-like chip products.

And voilà – a successful diet.

Re-frame your brain. Re-frame your life. Re-frame your diet.

Well, then. Here we sit – another year over. As I look back over my blogs for the past year, I realize that my Harperness Project is now ‘technically’ over, and it’s time to review. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve covered subjects along the way including health, attitude, perspective, acceptance, energy boosting, marriage, balance, easy outs, home, celebration, and focus. I had many successes both great and small, and I’d have to say, about the same amount of failures.

Some of my failures are easy to explain away and cover with life got too busy excuses. Some are simply me admitting that I found areas in which I am lacking, and realized that a month simply won’t do it to turn my ship around – I need to keep working at some of life’s larger challenges (for me, this includes things like health, perspective, and easy outs).

My successes came in all shapes and sizes. Some months were huge wins for me; and looking back, they are easy to identify because I remember those months clearly and I can even remember how I felt for much of those months. Some successes were smaller or more camouflaged – for example, just the fact that I did this project for 12 months solid to me, is a success. There were times along the way when I thought that I was too far off track, or I’d missed too much of a month to bother, or any number of other reasons why I wanted to stop. But I didn’t. I finished. So, yay me.

I also learned a lot about myself. I learned about where I need to keep working on my Harperness Project; in particular, where I need to keep growing as a person. I also learned what things I’m quite good at – and these things will be things I can fall back on when times get tough and I feel like I’ve lost myself somewhere along this crazy ride of life.

A big thank you goes out to those of you who came along with me on my journey, and to those of you who undertook a similar journey of your own. I hope you’ve identified and faced your challenges, taken some time to enjoy your successes, and I hope that you have also learned that you, too, have more good about you than you think.

Here’s to whatever 2014 will bring, for all of us. Happy New Year, everyone.

Cheers!

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.

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.