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Posts Tagged ‘musings’

A Ticket to Gratitude

Several weeks ago, my husband and I were at a family gathering in a residential neighbourhood. We parked our vehicle along the side of the road between two driveways, hopped out and waved to some family who had arrived at the same time as us, and went inside to enjoy a great get together.

A little over an hour later, we came out to our car to head home. And as we climbed into our vehicle, we realized that we had a ticket on our windshield. I got out, grabbed the ticket, and jumped back into the car. I unfolded the paper and giggled a little as I realized it was a parking ticket. Seriously?

My husband and I both laughed – we thought at first that it must be a prank. But as we read it a second and third time, we realized that it was in fact the real deal. The City had issued us a ticket. The ticket said that we had ‘blocked in’ a residential driveway.

I hopped out of our vehicle, feeling terrible that we had parked someone in! I needed to figure out which house deserved an apology. As I walked around our vehicle, slowly looking at the ground to see either footprints or tire tracks as a clue to whom we had ‘blocked in’ (it had been snowing that night, so it was easy to see who had come and who had gone while we had been inside) I slowly realized – there were no tire tracks or footprints leading to or from either driveway.

In other words – no one had tried to come or go; we had not blocked anyone in or out. But on this random Saturday night, we had annoyed a complete stranger enough for it to cost us almost $100.

As my husband and I drove away, uttering all the usual ‘this is ……’ expressions, I stopped to think. While I fully admit that we had been illegally parked within the letter of the law (we were not 1.5 meters away from the edge of each of the driveways that we had parked between), I realized that it must have really taken someone a lot of effort to be irritated enough to call the city on a Saturday night, and get a parking official out to their neighborhood to write us a ticket.

And the more I thought about this, the more I felt sad and sorry.

I felt sad for whoever it was who had such a terribly bad day that their only way to feel better was to punish total strangers who had done nothing wrong.

I felt sorry for whoever it was that had no other way to feel happiness or validation in their own life than to pick on the general world around them.

And then and there, I made a choice. Instead of continuing to feel wronged and to perpetuate the cycle of anger and irritation, I consciously chose instead to think a positive thought. A positive thought for the person who had ‘hurt’ my husband and I that night – that they would someday find a way to stop hurting others and start feeling happy in their own skin.

Today’s world is full of people who hurt, and who don’t know how to channel their hurt other than to hurt those around them. They feel so wronged by everything and everyone that the only way they can feel better is to purposefully punish the world right back.

Those of us who can stop this cycle need to do so – we need to afford these people our grace and our gratitude.

So the next time you get cut off in traffic even though you’ve had your turn signal on for blocks, or the next time you get shoved on the train by a stranger who is yelling loudly into their cell phone and doesn’t even give you a second look, be graceful. Remind yourself that you are the lucky one – you are the one whose life is going right and who doesn’t feel the need to wrong those around you to make it through your day.

And if someday, you get some sort of ticket like my husband and I did – use it a way to a place of grace in your own life – and be grateful that your life is your own.

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I’ll Be Happy When…

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.

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What’s Your Song?

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!

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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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Today was a great day. A day spent eating leftover turkey and stuffing, enjoying some beautiful fall weather, and both reflecting on and vocalizing all the reasons that I’m grateful.

All of this got me thinking. Why is it that we need a special day, once a year, to reflect on how grateful we are for the lives we enjoy? Is it that we only vocalize our gratefulness on this day through Facebook, Twitter, and to friends and family? Or is it that we really only reflect, once a year in the middle of October, how grateful we are to be us?

Perhaps it’s a bit of both. But in the spirit of October being my Harperness month of celebration, I thought it was a good chance for me to reinforce how important I think it is to make every day Thanksgiving. And not because of the food – my wasitline couldn’t survive it. But because every day should be a day to wake up, count our blessings, and be grateful for all that we have and for those who share our lives with us.

I’m grateful for so much. This year, and every year. I’m grateful for the love of a great man, the loyalty of a beautiful cat, and the undying support of incredible friends. I’m grateful that my family is my family; I’m thankful for everything about every single one of them. I’m grateful that every morning I am lucky/blessed/fortunate enough to wake up in a safe, warm place. I’m grateful that I have a job to go to, each and every day. I’m grateful that I have my health, and that I have food on my table and water in my cup. And I’m grateful that I have enough hope, every single day, to believe that I will have another chance to be grateful all over again.

Isn’t it always true – it could always be worse. And I think of one of my prior posts where I spoke about not saying ‘I have to’ but choosing to say ‘I get to’. This ties exactly into that sentiment – it’s important that I remember how grateful I am that things are not worse; that things are the way they are. I need to remind myself that I’m even grateful for the challenges I have – they represent opportunities to keep growing, moving forward, learning new things, and accomplishing victories on my road of life.

So today, on this special day once a year in October, I’m thankful that I’ve been reminded once again how important it is to make each and every day a day of giving thanks; a day of both reflection and vocalization of how grateful I am for what I have, who I know, and where I spend my time.

We never know which day might be our last – so every day should be Thanksgiving.

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Let me begin by saying this was published on March 6th. But something happened (thank you, Internet gremlins) and it disappeared. So I’ve re-written this post… As luck would have it, I think I like this one better and it’s an interesting example of how perspectives can change. However, no need to read on if you read the original.

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Well, I have no idea where February went. This ‘missing time’ is becoming a recurring theme for me! However, I do know that it’s gone, and with it, goes another month of my Harper-ness project. So it’s time for an update.

February was all about Attitude. And I’m sorry to say that for much of the month, I didn’t have a very good one. I struggled in February; I encountered a lot of challenges and found myself often reaching for the familiar blanket of poor me instead of for my reformed outfit of gratitude, mindfulness, blessings, and forgiveness. It seemed as though every day I would re-charge and say that today was the day, but by the end of that day, I’d been knocked over yet again. These things happen. I will keep on working towards these new outlooks as I forward.

Luckily for me, my Harper-ness project doesn’t end here. And although March is a new month with a new focus, I will continue to work on both my Health (January) and my Attitude (February) as I move into my new month.

Let’s go to it. Here comes March, in all it’s glory. My focus for March is: PERSPECTIVE.

march

 

This is another challenge for me.

 

I’m easily drawn into a black hole or a bolt of excitement, and everything else pales in the review mirror as I throw myself into a particular situation.

So my challenge for March is to get better at taking one giant step back and saying – where does this fit in with my big picture life? 

 

 

 

I remember once hearing a statement that was suggested to me as a way to try to keep perspective:

When something happens to you that you feel either over (or under) the moon about; take it in for what it’s worth and then ask yourself: will this matter in five years?

Your answer will help you shape your perspective on the event.

Another key point to perspective is always working on seeing both sides. One of the best comments my husband and I received on one of our wedding cards eight years ago was always look at both sides”.

 

perspective

 

Like it or not, there are always two sides to every story and every situation. And if I forget to keep my perspective firmly in place and hear (and appreciate) both sides of the situation, my judgement will be biased and my perspective will be skewed.

So in March, I’ll be all about taking deep breaths, looking at my five year life path before leaping to conclusions, and looking at things from both sides.

Here we go.

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