What Went Right?

It is familiar territory, going over problems, talking about what went wrong. We are good at dissecting our failures, short-comings, how we could improve this or that. It can be a habit, a default setting. We take turns relating our recent set backs or screw-ups. We say things like, “You are not going to believe this awful mess I am in,” explaining in detail how we made a real hash of things. Or, “this really terrible thing happened,” and we launch into the telling of how we have been wronged. It is useful to go over mistakes or bad things that have happened to avoid repeats. However, it can add to feelings of anxiety and depression, especially if this is the primary way of processing events. It has to been done sometimes, this going over of what went wrong but, here is a thought about the counterbalance. The recalling of what went right.

In last week’s Brain Pickings, the book, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, by Dr Martin Seligman, is noted as a great source for simple exercises to increase happiness. One of which counteracts our nature to talk about the bad things of the day, by practicing paying attention to the good. Seligman calls it the What-Went-Well or Three Blessings exercise.

What-Went-Well: at the end of the day take ten minutes to write down three things that went well and why they went well. It doesn’t have to be a big momentous event. It could be simple things that felt positive but, it is important to note why. Here are some examples from Flourish.

“Next to each positive event, answer the question “Why did this happen?” For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write “because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes” or “because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.” Or if you wrote, “My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,” you might pick as the cause … “She did everything right during her pregnancy.”

Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier.”

It is similar to a gratitude list, though goes a step further in recognizing the why and how of what worked. Seligman assures we will be “less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.” So, here it goes…

What went well for me today: I had a great time with my friends, because I decided to reschedule my

Feeding the Birds

Feeding the Birds

week and go to the movies with them. I also woke up with out pain in my shoulder because I have been diligent about my physical therapy. And the birds at the feeder are reminding me of spring. My husband always keeps the feeder full of seed so that we can enjoy watching the birds. He is good like that.

I look forward to hearing what went well for you today.

Peace & Love,

Lisa

Winter is Hell But, I am Learning to Love it!

I’m really not a fan of winter. There I said it. I loathe being cold. I find walking on dry, flat ground can be challenging. So, walking on an icy, snow covered- lord knows what’s underneath there- surface is deeply unsettling for me. The clearing of the snow. The extra layers. It’s all a bunch of bullshit. I feel dull and sleepy and claustrophobic. I may go so far as to say I am grumpy. All attempts of cheerleading, cajoling, reminding me of the beauty will be for nothing. In fact, it will only send me closer to the knowledge that I live in a winter Hell. Because not only do I have to put up with all this cold, icy nonsense but, also a bunch of cheery snow-loving pollyannas. And nothing is more annoying than feeling a certain way and having loads of folks point out why you shouldn’t feel that way.

badasssnowflake

And people might say to me , “Why do you live there? If it makes you unhappy, why do you stay?”

There is no easy answer to that question. Maybe it’s like childbirth. Each winter is a difficult long journey with that wonderful surprise of spring at the end and the glorious summer which lulls you in and makes you forget. And before you know it, you are knocked up for number two, I mean in for another winter. Or maybe it’s that I have a family and a home and a life here. And picking up and moving, all of that because the weather is a bit inconvenient for me, part of the year seems like an over-reaction. And then there is the practical question of where would I go? If you live where the weather is comfortable in the winter months then you have bugs the size of birds, hot-hot summers, various poisonous spiders and snakes hiding in your shoes, hurricanes, tornados- that all sounds terrifying. So, for whatever reason, I remain here. And lots of folks will go through life and find themselves in a place where they are less than ecstatic some of the time. This is life. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always sunshine and beaches with cocktails that have garnishes of fruit and lemon verbena. The kicker is, how do I find joy? How do I find motivation and inspiration when things out of my control are getting me down? When each snowflake that falls makes me feel a little duller, a little more muffled- What do I do?

Notes to Lisa, so she can not waste her winter feeling miserable:

badasssnowflake1. Accept it, Own it: Winter is hard for you.  Don’t try to force yourself into being what you are not.

2. Be kind to yourself: You know this is a difficult time for you. So, treat yourself well. Stay warm. Stay hydrated. Move your body. Rest your body. And don’t spend a minute feeling bad because you feel bad. It will pass.

3. Find the Bright Side: Ok, you have a dislocated shoulder from shoveling and haven’t worn a pair of shoes without a polar bear logo in months. But, the heat is on in your cozy home. There is a cafe across the street serving hot, brown, liquid from heaven. The snow on the trees is impossibly beautiful. I think it helps if the Bright Side comes from within, rather than from others. So, dig deep and find something positive in your less than terrific situation.

4. Be grateful: Make a daily gratitude list. Today I am grateful for lip balm, wool socks, hot tea, my sweet family, shocking red cardinals against snowcapped evergreens and toast.

5. Be helpful: Nothing can snap you out of a funk faster than being of service to others.

6. Badass Snowflake: You’ve got this.

I am making peace with this season. I recognize that I retreat when the sun disappears, feel low on energy and struggle to find motivation. It seems a pretty natural reaction to the circumstances in which I find myself. The peace comes from not fighting my nature but, giving in to it- leaning in to it- as fellow blogger Kate, said to me last week. I am relishing the warm cup of tea in my hands and soft comforting scarf around my neck. The hazy sunshine poking through the cloud for just a minute or two before it fades back to grey reassures me that the sun will shine.  Winter may be bullshit but, without it, there is no spring. So, I’ll take the good with the bad and appreciate it all.

Peace & Love,

Lisa

Magic Glitter Snow

It is when I am not present in the moment that the trouble starts. Worrying about what is to come, fretting over what has been. This is no good. Nothing can be done to change it, so let it be. That is a good phrase, worth repeating, Let IT Be. Let what has been, BE. Let what will be, BE. And then I have what is left, NOW.  What a simple, yet massive challenge for a list-making planner and anxiety generating Worrywart like me. I ask a lot of myself to be present. It takes practice and discipline. It may even be hard work.  I think, it may just be worth the extra effort, though. The rewards are huge. And, it makes me feel a little giddy to think that it is really this simple. A lifetime of preparing and tweaking and refining and improving could melt away to this moment of breathing and being, alive and well in the here and now, filled with gratitude.

I walked out the door this morning to take June the cold-suspicious dog out for a very quick run. She has short hair with pink skin underneath and thinks the temperature should always remain above 30*. I tend to agree with her. So, we were reluctantly leaving the warmth of the house. I opened the door and the chill in the air took my breath away. It was that cold.

“Come on. Let’s do this.” I said over my shoulder to June. She looked at me reproachfully but, needs must and we went out into the Polar Vortex winter of a Michigan January. You pay attention when it is that cold. It snaps you into the moment.

“Damn it is cold.” I mutter, as my feet crunched the snow on the path and June ran off. Once I adjusted to the shock of being outdoors, I began to look around. The snow was sparkling and twinkling like diamonds and glitter.

“This is some Badass Snowflakery.” I said to the disappeared dog. It was magic. So pretty that I stood there in the 7* and took it in. The snow was magnificent and that was all there was to see. Amazing. It wasn’t difficult to be in the moment, then. In fact, it was impossible not to be. Mother Nature had dropped down some magic glitter snow and that shit can’t be ignored.

The practice for me, then becomes, how to stay in the moment when there isn’t a dramatic carpet of frozen ice crystals at your feet. Or, maybe the trick is to see the awesomeness in the seemingly mundane. But, come on, am I listening to myself? There is nothing mundane about being on this spinning orb of water, land and life in the middle of a limitless sky filled with stars and I don’t know what else. It is beyond wow. So, the practice for me, then becomes, open my eyes, open my ears, look around at the constant display of miracles presenting themselves to me all over the damn place. Be breathless with this, be awed by this gift of life.

I don’t know, perhaps the thing to being present is to simply appreciate the beauty and the abundance, feel gratitude for what is right here in front of me at this very moment. Even if the moment is a dark one. I can find some light. I can see the glitter snow.

Humans: Wonderful and Completely Annoying

I had planned to write a post about how wonderful and completely annoying humans are all at once. As a race, we do the most extraordinary things, act selflessly, create beauty and joy, climb mountains and then push one another off those mountains- this is the annoying bit about humans. We create and destroy. We love and hate. We get together to help a stranger and don’t use our turn signals- a maddening habit. But, that all seems too heavy for today. And I feared it might just end up in a rant about turn signals. I won’t go into the existential Rabbit Hole of being human today- of all days.

Because this is a day for over eating and lethargy. It’s like, my perfect holiday. Why spoil it trying to understand humans? Thanksgiving, a hiding place for binge eaters. On Thanksgiving, it is not only acceptable, but encouraged to eat to the point of discomfort. We start early in the day so that there is time to nap and have a second round of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pie, eating the turkey to be polite and get to the good stuff. The phrase ‘food coma’ is bandied about, ‘it’s all good, let em sleep it off’. I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it! And yet, I feel a little uneasy.

Maybe, I want to do things a little differently this year? I did resist the urge to eat the pizza rolls in the garbage, remember? I have taken steps toward changing my relationship to food. I might want to feel more energized, joyful and engaged today rather than uncomfortable, numb and sleepy. The challenge for me then: Can I be mindful? Can I fill up on gratitude and good company with one side of mashed potatoes? And not get drunk doing it? I think, if I remember the essence of the holiday, which is Gratitude, that I have a chance.  Here is a shortlist of what I am thankful for right now:

  1. BBC period dramas- Downton Abbey is fantastic.
  2. The Redheads Cafe- It’s like an episode of Cheers in there, love a small town cafe!
  3. The beautiful white snow covering all of the crap in my yard. I won’t be grateful for this come the New Year so, this is a big one for me.
  4. Videos of cats and humans doing things to cats on the internet. I am working with a group of artists on a new video in this genre, hold space for that. It’s going to be huge.
  5. Truth tellers, helpers and creators.
  6. Pumpkin pie: It’s pie. It’s a vegetable. Totally good for you.
  7. Humans who forget to use their turn signals. They keep me present, paying attention. I am not fully committed to this line of gratitude, wavering a bit but, I will leave it here, for now.
  8. YOU. Thanks for reading. Tell me what you are thanking the stars for today.

Happy Thanksgiving Y’all.