Keep Your Peace

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Adorable little photo, isn’t it?!  I laughed out loud when I saw it, thinking about the many times I have said this to myself. Last week, at work and at home, my nerves were tested by people with odd requests and unique issues that created more work for me.

But as irritated as I was, and feeling stress as I do, with pressure in my chest and a headache in my temples, I realized I can put myself at risk physically by allowing myself to be so irritated.

Annoyance based upon what others say or do just hurts me. And it does seem to come down to what I allow. Continue reading

Attention

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I have a story, or a bit of a rant, perhaps…

On my way to work every day, I drive a side-street, two lanes in each direction, to get to the main highway. A street light stands at this very busy intersection where the two-lane street meets the highway. Traffic backs up for a few blocks as people wait to either turn left onto the highway, go straight through the intersection, or turn right onto the highway. I turn right.

In the few blocks leading up to the busy intersection, there are other small streets and parking lots which intersect. Cars need to turn off the two-lane street onto the small streets and into the lots. But, often, other cars are blocking the way. People have not paid attention to where they are or what they are blocking. They know they need to stop due to the traffic waiting for the street light. And they stop right behind the car in front of them. Like sheep.

I pat myself on the back for always leaving space for cars to get through; I do not want to block an intersection, cause a back-up, or increase congestion. And when I drive past those who have blocked an intersection, I yell, (inside my car with the windows shut… no one can hear me, and I don’t have road rage) “You idiot! You’re blocking the street!”

It seriously bugs me that people do not seem to pay attention to what they are doing and they cause problems for other drivers.

I assume these street-blocking drivers are engrossed in the radio, talking on the phone, texting, or just deep in thought. Some may be jerks who don’t care they are blocking others; but most, I am sure, do it by accident. They are not paying attention to all of their surroundings.

We benefit from paying attention to what we are doing when we’re doing it. Multitasking, although meant to make us more productive, actually reduces productivity. Doing two different things that require different kinds of attention reduces our ability to do either one well. Some say it is the sure way to do both jobs poorly. I think our culture and modern lifestyle makes a lot of demands on our attention, and sometimes the schedule and constant demands take over.

But I believe we can be in charge of our schedule and demands. We can be intentional with our thoughts and attention. Entire industries involving meditation and yoga have sprung from our culture’s desire to slow down, to take a break from the demands of modern-day life. They help shut out the clutter and help us focus.

I don’t know if you struggle with this–multitasking or not paying attention to what you’re doing. But if you do, I encourage you to try an experiment. Consciously think about, attend to, the task at hand. Try to finish the email you are working on before looking at the one that just came in. Avoid answering the phone if you are engrossed in a project. Put your cell phone in your pocket or purse while at work rather than letting it pull your attention away each time it dings or vibrates.

If you do this experiment, intentionally focus your attention, I believe you will find three positive results:

  • You will enjoy the task or event rather than simply checking it off the list, onto the next thing.
  • The project or work will be done, touched once and finished, rather than drug out through distraction.
  • You will accomplish more in your day than you do when you let the demands of multitasking control you.

Make it a great week!

 

Curb Appeal

I love this time of year, Springtime. People seem peppier, a little brighter and happier, although sometimes sneezier due to allergies. Trees are budding, and green is popping out of the ground as new plants and flowers grow.

The other day I was cleaning up and pruning the landscape in our front yard. Last fall I left the flowers and greenery on small bushes for “visual interest.” Someone told me it looks nice to have some height in the landscaping over the winter, and it helps with curb appeal. I gave it a try, and it did look nice over the winter. But there really was nothing to those flowers or bushes. They were dead.

These are last year's flowers I cut out of the new, growing plant.

Last year’s flowers that I cut out of the new, growing plant.

As I cut off the dead flowers and pulled old leaves out of the bushes, the landscaping looked much better, cleaner, and healthier. It got me to thinking about spring cleaning, for my life in general. I wonder how much I do to maintain my visual interest or curb appeal–holding onto a façade throughout a season.

If you have a chronic illness, or have had a medical condition, addiction in your home, a significant loss, or perhaps a child making his own choices on what seems to be the wrong path, you probably know what I’m talking about. The façade we put on for other people, just for appearances, is like the bushes left for the winter for visual interest. It is just that, a façade.

What we say to others about ourselves is selective and, with Facebook and other social media spaces, it is easy to post the positive things in our lives–the good curb appeal. When asked how we’re doing, it is often easier to say, “I am doing fine,” than to really get into the truth of the pain we feel. Or, we try to show our best physical selves when we are holding onto unhealthy habits, or dysfunctional relationships.

This spring, in addition to pruning, weeding, and washing windows, I am thinking more about my life in general, and what needs to go. Perhaps the easiest person to fool is ourselves. But at some point, it becomes obvious that we need to be honest and make changes. What is the visual interest that you need to let go of? In what ways are you pretending, putting on a façade? Can you prune some of it away?

The little Autumn Joy Sedum bushes after pruning.

The little Autumn Joy Sedum bushes after pruning.

Buoyancy

The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.  ~  Nelson Mandela

Remember when you were a kid? When you played softball and struck out? When you played goalie on the soccer team and allowed the game-losing goal? When, as a top student, you bombed the final? When you didn’t get asked to the prom?

Okay, I’m not trying to bum you out. Failure feels really bad. Even after years have passed, we can still feel that pain in the pit of the stomach, reminding us of how that bad experience felt. But failure is one of those inconvenient and difficult facts of life.

Learning how to fail, accept and learn from it, is critical. We need to know we are okay and secure, even after a mistake. And we need to try again.

This is resiliency. Actually, I like the word buoyancy better because I see a visual image of a boat buoyantly moving on the water, floating easily with the waves, never covered for long by water, always reclaiming its place on the surface.

There are a few mistakes in my life that I remember vividly; the wrong words said in a relationship, an error at work with huge financial impact, mistakes from moving too quickly. It felt really bad each time, and I thought if time could be reversed, words retracted, then the world would be so much better!

But, with time, I can recall the lesson in each one. And I haven’t made those mistakes again. Likely never will.

I think the ability to absorb failure begins in childhood, and I wonder if it is taught rather than simply attained. If children see it is okay to strike out, to allow the goal, to get a bad grade, and are encouraged and supported through the difficulty, their sense of self will be bolstered to sustain some failure.

Mistakes and failure usually have higher stakes in adulthood than they do in childhood. But our reactions to them can mirror our reactions to our childhood mistakes. If we learn how to get up again after the failures as children, we will be better able to get up again as adults.

I wish no failure for you. But if you are going through a rough patch, or have made a mistake, I encourage you to get up and try again. It is just one stop on the path to success.

Make it a good week!

 

 

 

What’s Your Why?

imageYesterday I attended a writing conference and was inspired in many ways–to write consistently, to develop my online presence as a writer, and to believe in my writing. I’ve been working on my memoir for a few years off and on; lately I’m on, and have a deadline of May to give the second draft to a professional editor. Exciting!

One of the most powerful messages yesterday came in a memoir workshop led by Lee Blum, author of Table in the Darkness: A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder. Her moving story is about growing up in a family where she did not feel good enough, about her struggles with, and ultimate recovery from, anorexia. When beginning to write, she said yesterday, you must find your why. Why are you telling your story?

My why for my memoir, at first, was to tell people about having a strange heart attack when I was just 38. But I have figured out over time it really isn’t about that at all. My why is for those living with chronic health conditions, about living fully and completely, with faith and hope. If I can help one person with their process of healing, it will have been worth it.

Telling our stories to make money, or for the shock value, or to please others, will ring hollow. It won’t work. In life, as in writing, If we tell our stories for the wrong reasons, lack of authenticity will shine. I hope that my why for the memoir shows through in my life. I want to listen to people, and be empathetic to those going through difficult times. Perhaps one of the reasons why I live with a chronic health condition is to help others.

What is your why? Not just for writing or telling your story. But what motivates you as you go through your life? How has your why changed as you have aged, or as you have experienced new things?

The cute little white typewriter in the photo was a gift from my lovely aunt, Georgette. She said she thought of me when she saw it, and knew I needed it. I love this little typewriter and its simple but potent message. This post is my 50th since starting this blog a year and a half ago. Thank you for reading, for your feedback, and support!

Make it a good week!

 

Pause in Pursuit

I am reading a book called, “How To Be Rich” by Andy Stanley. The premise is that we, in the United States, or in Western culture more broadly, are generally rich. If you earn $37,000 or more annually, you are in the top 4% of wage earners in the world. If you earn $48,000 or more annually, you are in the top 1%. But most of us aren’t very good at being rich. Stanley’s goal is to show how we can be good at it.

Very few of us feel rich or believe we are rich. Rather, according to Stanley, we define rich as someone who makes roughly twice as much money as we do. It is always a moving target.

Stanley makes an interesting comparison with anorexia. People with anorexia are absorbed in the effort to get thin, so they do not recognize when they are thin. In the same way, the pursuit to earn more money in order to buy more neat stuff, and then spending most of what we earn, stops us from feeling rich. It is hard to notice what we have when we are always pursuing more.

I have written about the pursuit of excellence before and am very drawn to the concept of pursuit. I like to be motivated, to move forward in life, and to pursue new things. I want to learn more, write more, exercise more, and eat better. Sometimes the lack of progress toward something better is really disappointing. In all these efforts to become something more, I lose sight of who and what I actually am.

Sometimes it is important in the pursuit to stop and just be. The pursuit, even of positive things, can be a huge distraction from the beauty of where we actually are. I am rich, and by looking around and realizing that, I can be so much more satisfied.

Make it a good week!

Eggcellent Egg Burritos

Breakfast burritos are one of my favorite things. A warm tortilla wrapped around eggs, veggies and salsa is just a little slice of heaven. But the problem with breakfast burritos is that the eggs fall out.

Well, no more. Not with this cool and easy method I learned from my cousin, Scott. He cooked breakfast for Michael and I last December when we visited San Francisco.

This fabulous, eggcellent (cute, huh?!) egg burrito method has transformed the slice of heaven that is a breakfast burrito!

Ingredients:

Eggs, Tortillas, and whatever you like in a burrito: vegetables, meat, cheese, salsa, etc.

Method:

Start by cracking one or two eggs into a bowl. I prefer two. Don’t add water or anything. Stir.

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Turn on the stove to medium heat. Add a little cooking spray or butter to your frying pan. Pour the eggs into the pan after it is preheated. Try to use a pan about the size of your tortillas. Immediately lay a tortilla on top of the eggs. Let the eggs cook with tortilla on top for 2 – 3 minutes.

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Next, use a spatula or a fork to get under the tortilla, grab it with your fingers and flip it over. The cooked egg will stay attached to the tortilla. Gently slide the tortilla onto a plate. Then add your favorite ingredients on top of the egg, and roll it up.

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You can make several egg tortillas and stack them on a plate. They shouldn’t stick together, and will stay fairly warm for several minutes. Your eggs won’t fall out of the burrito. Enjoy!