Monday, March 22, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

I recently spoke to a friend of mine. He was stressed. Tired. Overworked. Lots of bills, lots of taxes, and his only recourse is to work more hours. I totally understand that. He's a responsible father and husband and has a family to take care of. But it made me sad to hear him so discontent.

The next morning I was in my car, heading out for a 45 minute drive to my grandma's in Sun City. I popped in some good tunes and I danced in my seat as I zoomed down the 91.  The day was beautiful, traffic didn't faze me. It occurred to me that I used to just get in my car and drive. I'd drive to think, to relax and I loved spontaneous road-trips. Then marriage and kids happened, time bottle-necked and driving became a routine chore fraught with tight timelines and frustration. And cussing.

In my reflection on those times, I realized that at that very moment I was doing an act of happiness for myself. My mini-roadtrip to Grandma's was a throwback to peace, time and freedom. And I was in an amazing mood! It was such a profound a-ha that I wanted to share it with the world. Naturally, I texted my tired friend:

"Need to figure out what makes you happy then go DO it or GET it, big or small. Hope your coworkers are alive. Have a great day."

Then I thought, wow, how preachy am I?!?. So followed up with, "You know me, I speak my mind. If I ever overstep, just tell me to shut the hell up." Actually, I'd probably cry if he told me to shut the hell up. I'm sensitive.


His response was "Thanks, it's all good, thanks for thinking of me, have a good day."


Aw. He's so sweet. Then I realized, damn, he says that to me a lot. It was so non-committal that it took me a few minutes to decipher his diplomacy.  He had very nicely told me to shut the hell up. But he did it so well! And I didn't have to cry.


The whole thing got me thinking  hard about all the little things that make me happy that I can do or get for myself on a daily basis. It's easy to give my soul jolts of energy like espresso shots of joy in a demi-tasse cup.


I also realized it's not actually the possession of The Big Things, really, that will or do bring me happiness. It's perfectly fine and dandy to want and work for nice things, but I think lots of times I wake up and then go to bed and realize I didn't really laugh at all during the day, or spent the entire day tired and frustrated.  So what's the point of all that crap if I don't have time or energy to enjoy it anyway. 


And here is the really, really weird part. If I'm truly happy, I mean beyond a doubt, smiling, content happy...then the stuff won't matter. Weird. Simple and weird. Profound. Deep. If I'm happy for real, then bigger, better and more won't make a difference. Because I don't need it to fulfill me. I'm already fulfilled. Fact is, I can still garner happiness today in my old car, small condo and lots of times for free. Anything bigger, better and new is like icing on the cake.


So I asked myself: "Kris, what makes you happy? What experiences, sensations, actions or events bring a feeling of lightness to your soul, make your heart sing and carry your spirit to higher planes? Besides the headlights of an oncoming car, what lights up your face? What makes you smile so abruptly that it takes you a moment to realize you're smiling?


Then I turned that preachy text on myself: "Figure out what those things are – big AND small – and then GO DO THEM. GO GET THEM. And when you feel that level of joy...take a mental/spiritual snapshot of it. Savor it like you would your favorite food or drink. Absorb it so that the sensation of it gets stored in your brain for the very next time, perhaps sooner than you think, you're gonna be not so happy."


Because those not-so-happy days, hours or moments come whether I'm ready or not. I used to think I had to have things, people and specific situations – reasons to be happy. If I didn't have (fill in criterium), I wasn't happy. Today, I realize it's really all in my power to feel good or bad, happy or sad, depressed or upbeat. And, like just about everything else in life, there are tools I can use to promote those emotions.  


Before I get into the "what makes me happy" part of this spiel, I do have to say there's no certification, degree or diploma, no credentials that I have to tell anyone how to be happy. No, I think actually, it's my expertise in unhappiness that makes it easy for me to identify it in others. I spent so many years in angst, depression, anger and misery, that now, out of that negative frame of mind, I cringe when I see others having to go through tedium, frustration or unhappiness. 


Not to say bad days don't happen. I am – as are we all – human, and you know, crankiness is allowed here and there. And there's always a "good reason," right? Here's some icky facts: I have daily chronic back pain and get bad headaches, some migraine-level. I'm single and sometimes I feel quite lonely demmit; I miss the companionship of a man. I am going through a lot of financial difficulty, trying to save my condo, bankruptcy (which means daily phone calls from not-so-nice creditors).  Blah, Blah, blah. While bad days ARE allowed, wallowing in the mire needs to be avoided like the plague. 


What I need to remember is when these things give me pause to feel sorry for myself or worry, there are tools I have identified and can use. By simply giving myself a dose of joy, I can bring peace to my soul, pull out of depression (if only for a moment), ease my anger or put my worries into perspective. The great thing is, the more often I do this, the easier it is and it happens more often.Thankfully I'm learning how to create more happy days than unhappy days and here are some ways I do that:


Roadtrip!
Yep, a spontaneous trip to somewhere I haven't seen in awhile, if at all, is always fun. It's an adventure!


Enjoy What Nature Has To Offer
The wildflowers of Spring and the smell of rain in the Fall are intoxicating. I delight in rainbows, giggle at clouds and marvel at birds in trees. Right, laugh it up chuckles. I'm just saying, there's truth in that old adage "Stop and smell the roses."


Music
Music can enhance or change any mood I'm in almost instantly.


My Girls
My girls give me unending joy that outweighs the frustrations of single parenthood.


Quiet Time
Reading outside or inside by the fire, or simply sitting and meditating or writing is cathartic


The Great Outdoors
What's around the corner is exhilarating. How am I gonna find out what it is if I'm constantly sitting on my couch, behind a desk or computer? I make a point to be outdoors whenever I get a chance. Even if it's a 15 minute walk or eating a quick dinner at an outside cafe.


A Sense of Humor
It's hard when you're depressed or angry, but if I find something to joke about even sarcastically, then I can pull out of my bad mood. Watching a funny movie or show or listening to comedy on my iPod helps too. Even in my writing, if I find that I'm getting angry and negative, I try to twist it up with humor. 


Make a Gratitude List!

It's difficult to worry or be depressed or stay angry when I make a conscious effort to be grateful for what I have. Writing a "gratitude list" can change my perspective fast. My gratitude lists often consist of items like: Family, healthy children, money, a car that runs, chocolate, Starbucks, air, music and sexy shoes! Seriously...don't limit yourself to what you think you SHOULD be grateful for. Hey, I've written "vacuum" on my list before, because I was so happy to have a nice, clean carpet that day. 


Positive Thinking Resources
I enjoy gleaning certain bits of wisdom from sites like www.tut.com; I listen to Mike Dooley audiobooks; I get positive-thinking "Notes from the Universe." A also have a friend who is a motivational speaker and I enjoy reading his blogs for new insights or "oh yeah, THAT!" reminders (Chris Rausch, Achieve Your Dreams at    http://www.facebook.com/mastermotivators). 

So, what makes you happy? Then GO DO IT for pete's sake (Oh, that's another good song I like to listen to...by the Monkees!) Besides, if the Founding Fathers of our great nation considered happiness an inalienable human right, far be it from me to argue with them.

Rock on.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is That An Open Book You're Reading?

I recently read an article in one of my girly magazines about people who post way too much information on Facebook. They broke down the kind of “status updaters” and yeah, I saw myself in a few of the categories. But one thing that really sunk was the statement that it’s usually the shy folk who feel emboldened by the anonymity of Facebook (huh??), that they can say things online that they wouldn’t normally say in person. As if putting it out there to an “invisible” audience is a lot easier than putting it out there to someone staring you in the face. Yeah, I can see the reality there…you CAN say things on MySpace or Facebook because, unless you get direct feedback (via comments), you can believe your statement is accepted by anyone reading it in the exact connotation in which you wrote it. If you think it’s a bon mot, everyone else does too, right? Yeah, unless they comment otherwise. Then there’s that whole thing about no comments, or negative comments…ugh. What’s worse?

Then I thought about my own Facebook profile. I have 20 photo albums. Each photo album has 20 - 100 images. You look at my photos, you get to see me all through the years, what kind of guys I like, what my daughters got for Christmas…the freaky relatives I had a hundred years ago. The things that I find funny. My friends. My activities.  It’s an intimidating wallet photo flip-out thingy. You old people know what I’m talking about. Before iPhones, iPods, and Facebook, we had wallet photo flip-out thingies where the photo got stuck to the plastic if it was in there too long and THEN what were you gonna do? Get a new plastic flip-out wallet thingy.

My interests page is overflowing with things I love to do. Short of saying “I’m into kinky sex” (am I? you may never know…) or my deepest, darkest secrets or fears, I pretty much list everything that spins my bottle.

My flair board exemplifies my beliefs, my humor, my desires, my interests. There is everything from culture to spirituality to shoes to sex to sarcasm to literary quotes to Gerard Butler.

My wall posts open me up to the world…what I’m saying to my friends, why I’m happy or not happy because my horoscope says so, what kind of little virtual feel-good gifts I like to send and receive.

I have music and book tabs on Facebook telling anyone who cares to know exactly what type of music moves my soul and how; you can see just about every book I’ve read from childhood on, and the books I want to read…you can see the nourishment I have provided my mind and spirit for decades…what has shaped me or will shape me.

…it’s ALL right there for everyone to see. My coworkers, my parents, my friends, associates. The only reason some Sherpa in Tibet doesn’t know anything about me is because of my privacy settings. I do at least contain my narcissistic enthusiasm to those who have actually said they want to by my FB friends.

My blog here is just another outlet for WYSIWYG…What You See Is What You Get. When I say these are random notes from my mind, I mean that seriously. There is no formula for these blogs. They are literally based on what I feel like sharing at the moment. Whether profound or sublime, this is the shit going on in my head. And I clearly have no problem sharing it with the world.

The ironic part of all of this is that, while anyone who does care enough to really delve into my Facebook profile or read and think about my blogs could actually get to understand me as a person, I’m sure that I’m pretty much the only one who peruses said spaces that intently. I put it all out there in case you want to know…but who ARE you? YOU are a fantasy, an unknown – unless you post a comment. YOU are anyone and no one. YOU are me. I have a standing joke that “I’m 98% My Readership.” I completely get that. I AM the 79 out of 90 profile views on this blog. It’s not lost on me.

And, yet, here I am again, ready to spill more beans, in the hopes of what? That someone out there cares? Actually enjoys reading this? Is actually interested enough in me as a human being to take the time and look at snapshots of my life, think about the words broiling in my mind? First and foremost, I write and post and create for me. I amuse myself. I’ll never quite be without laughter in my life because I’ll always be nearby to fling a good joke. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy being an “open book,” I have no qualms about letting ANYONE know about WHO I AM.  I like me. You might too if you give me a chance. That’s what this is all about really, isn’t it? Searching for acceptance. I like being open because it doesn’t leave a lot of surprises. I’m seriously flawed. And seriously wonderful. Most of that comes out here in cyberspace. More intimate details, good and bad, are saved for real human interaction, as even I believe in some level of restraint and caution.


And, believe it or not, another reason I put all this stuff out here...good and bad...is because if what I have to say, what I've experienced or what I feel makes just one person smile, feel not-so-alone or a little less crazy...that's what this is all about for me. If it helps even one person, I'm happy.  Yes, even if that one person is me. 

So, let’s just do a random thing here…I’m going to just start typing a bunch of truths about myself and see what comes out:

  1. Most of the people on my Facebook page from school scared the shit out of me back then. They were the popular crowd, I was the angsty loner. I friend-requested a lot of people from back then just to see what would happen.  Some never accepted the friend request. Others did. What happened is I found out a few of them actually like me. I was surprised when I posted something and ­ – wait for it – they posted something NICE back. I found out they were just as fucked up and scared in school as I was. That they were and are flawed and imperfect too. In a nutshell, they were no better than me then, and they’re no better than me now. We all have our scars…some physical, some emotional. I spent a lot of years scared to death to ever face these people…I avoided my 20th high school reunion because I cared too much that they still wouldn’t accept me. I finally came to realize it’s not so much that they didn’t accept me then…it’s just that I didn’t allow myself to be accepted. So, here I am, all grown up, friends with some of the very people I thought didn’t know I even existed.
  2. One thing you don’t see a lot of on FB or here for that matter is that I can rage with the best of em. It’s the Irish Redhead in me. And the fact that I grew up in a dysfunctional family (who the hell didn’t) where the only line of communication was yelling doesn’t help. It’s a cycle I strive every day to break. And, yep, I go to counseling to try to fix all the little broken parts that I grew up believing were unfixable.
  3. I walk into a room, even with people who know me, and I STILL worry that I don’t look right, people don’t like me, I’m going to say something stupid, I’m not smart enough, not pretty enough, blah blah blah. But I do it anyway. I walk right in, sit down and realize that it’s impossible for 100% of the world’s population to like me, that the few who do aren’t crazy, that I’m gonna piss some people off most of the time, and I’m gonna make most people smile some of the time. Part of me is always surprised when someone says something nice about me and another part of me is like, “Yeah? DUH!” Oh, yeah, I also realize that when I walk into a room, most of the people don’t even notice, let alone give a crap. They’re too worried about their own self-doubts, problems and fears.
  4. It’s really hard for me to not cuss while driving. (Well, let's face it...it's really hard for me to not cuss anywhere). People are just STUPID in cars. Me included. That’s when I have to apologize to God about back-talking his other kids but they annoy me anyway so I stick out my tongue and then say sorry again. Grr. It’s especially not good if I forget the kids are in the car. Oops. Mommy words, not little girl words. * sigh *
  5. I am in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate and every day I have to let him go. That's just the way it is.
  6. I love sunflowers and daisies. Roses are overrated.
  7. I’ve never been proposed to. Married twice. Never proposed to. Odd, that.
  8. Kiss my neck and I will do anything you want. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.
  9. I conversely love and hate my body. It’s WAY not perfect, but ­ maybe it’s because I’m almost 42 and I realize nature takes it’s course ­ I am pretty ok with what I’m looking like. I work out, eat fairly healthy, don’t drink (cuz, let’s face it…if I drink, I’m not only going to gain weight, I’m going to die. Let’s just leave it at that). I am not thrilled but not disgusted either. I have worked hard to get into the acceptable shape I’m in, and I like it. I like not being twenty-something and TOTALLY body-conscious. It’s like being in my 40’s kind of gives me a bit of a break…not that I’m saying because I’m 41 it’s ok to go to hell in a hand-basket, but I’m finally just loving being in my own skin. Cellulite, wrinkles and all. I’m not smokin’ hot – hey, I don’t like my c-section mommy tummy much, my thighs have ALWAYS been big, and, let’s face it, my butt will NEVER be small, but it’s all ok. Because I LOVE my feminine curves. I’ve got a great set of boobs that don’t droop (AND they’re real even)… a small waist.. .and hips made for dancing to latin rhythms. And I can count on my hands and feet and maybe yours the number of guys I know who like ‘em too. A lot.
  10. I do hate my nose. I’m looking more and more like Gloria Estefan every day. What the hell? Not that Gloria’s not nice looking, but I don’t like her nose. Or mine.
  11. I told my ex-husband for three years…maybe more…to just leave…go get a girlfriend and realize I’m not the only bitch in the world. He finally did. And then I was surprised that, for once in our relationship, he actually did something I asked? Why couldn’t he have been that ambitious when the house needed to be painted?
  12. I’m ashamed of my car. It’s embarrassing. It’s falling apart, literally. The visors fall off when I turn corners, the paint looks like my car belongs in a leper colony…my radio was stolen 4 years ago and I never replaced it because I didn’t feel like donating to the Thievery Fund again, my key won’t open the trunk and there are pieces of my car that I discover missing on a regular basis. Who needs weather-stripping anyway. Oh, yeah…ME!! My trunk is manky because it leaked during the last rainstorms. I feel inadequate – less than – when I drive around. Hey, I live in Orange County, CA . 10th graders drive Mercedes around here. * sigh * It’s times like this when I have to be grateful it RUNS. Especially when I drive next to some guy standing on the corner begging for money. Then I love my little car. 
  13. Why is it that I can simultaneously feel like the world is coming to an end and that life is perfect? All at the same time. Sometimes I feel downright schizophrenic.
  14. I’m going through financial shit that scares the crap out of me. I am scared to open my mail. Bankruptcy here I come. But at least my house is (almost) saved from the chopping block. That’s GOOD.  My mortgage got paid, my car has gasoline, my kids have food and clothing and guess what…I just went through a divorce and a bunch of life-altering crap that put me in this financial mess. And I’m ok. I’m here. I’m alive. I SURVIVED IT. And, oh yeah…the hard times WON’T last forever. I feel like there’s light at the end of this tunnel…and this isn’t actually a tunnel…it’s just life and shit happens and then good times happen. It’s the way life rolls.
  15. I believe that you can have more than one soulmate in your lifetime. And that there are different types of soulmates. And that just because you might be soulmates doesn’t automatically mean you can be together. Ohhhh, there’s that kooky caveat, the little bastard. I’ve also discovered that sometimes those people leave, and sometimes they come back. And if they do, it might still not be in the capacity you believed it to be. But they’re in your life nonetheless.
  16. I’m a better mother for having a full-time job. There. I said it.
  17. Music is my lifeblood. I still make compilations for people ­ like in high school, I used to make tapes for my boyfriend of all the songs that made me think of him. But now I’ve expanded to friends and family…songs that inspire me and I want to share with people, etc. My iLike music on Facebook is populated with those types of playlists.  To me, it’s an easy way to tell someone how you feel. It’s just sometimes the emotion of combined melody and lyrics created by someone else put your feelings into perspective a lot better than the crap that falls out of your mouth.
  18. Speaking of communication, I communicate best through writing. I stumble over my words when I try to talk. Kind of like what I talked about above in #3 and #17. Besides, when you say something, you can’t take it back. At least when you write you have a chance to edit before committing. Of course, there’s that whole legal ramification of the written word. So I think and write carefully. Anything you see here in this blog passed my own internal inspection test. That may surprise some people, I know. Writing is also a tool for me to work stuff out that is jumbled in my head. I write to make sense of things, to put things in order. To help me speak the words when the time comes...
  19. I do like hot, passionate, adventurous sex that makes me sweat. Then again, who doesn’t.  On the flipside, I don’t do casual sex. Been there, done that and today I choose wisely. Call me old-fashioned and laugh at me. I have my reasons. One of them being that I just prefer to share that with someone who cares about me, not just someone who wants to bang the hell out of me and move on. Wow, I do believe that’s called self-respect. And, before you say to yourself, “She says that because she can’t get any” slap yourself for being judgmental AND stupid. Like I said, I have my reasons. None of them include “because no one wants to fuck her.”
  20. I believe in the magic of the universe, that God has a plan for me…that when I rely on God, life runs smoothly, but that I also have the power to create in my life the things I want (or don’t want). It’s a fine line between God and self…finding balance is finding happiness.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    March Is Here...One Month To Go

    Well, it's March 1st. I'm sure there's exciting stuff going on this month...let's see...My daughter Samantha turns 7 on the 5th...GAH!  Oh, and St. Patrick's day is coming up....wonder what I'll be wearing on that day? Hmmm.... Oh, and, apparently, on the 8th it's Commonwealth Day in Canada. Go Canucks. 

    Passover is coming, Palm Sunday is coming...

    But enough of that crap (well, my daughter's birthday IS a big deal...). Let's talk about ME and my trip to Ireland. Cmon!! I'm a LEO! It's always about me. So...my first trip abroad...my dream trip to Ireland....it's finally happening.

    No, it's not happening in March. But it's close enough. I take off April 18. Fly to Kennedy Airport and switch planes, hop the pond. Ugh...it's times like this I wish I could knock myself out...I hate flying. No, let me clarify that. I LOVE taking off, and I LOVE landing. And the concept of flying is fine. It's the whole physics thingy of how a big tin-can stays in the air and what happens when it breaks and I hurtle to the Earth at 50-million miles a second smashing into granular bits of nothingness because my body will explode into, well, granular bits of NOTHINGNESS on impact...you know, terror, fire, pain. THAT'S what makes me uncomfortable. That and air-turbulence. Oh, and extra large men sitting next to me, sweating and breathing through their mouths. *sigh*

    Regardless....I WILL arrive in one piece and fairly dry on Monday 19 April in my beloved Dublin.

    I've attempted to read The Dubliners and Ulysses in preparation, but there's just not enough time. I'll have to settle for re-watching Michael Collins and High Spirits (I'm just kidding about the High Spirits flick...don't get your knickers in a pinch).

    So, I'm staying at the Arlington Temple Bar Hotel. Apparently it's in the center of Dublin's fun zone. As a girl who prefers peace, quiet and ambiance, I'd just as soon stay away from the fun zone, but considering I'll be walking a lot and the concert I'm going to is up the street, I think, for this trip, I chose wisely. Next trip I'll hit up on the romantic getaway feel...

    So, the Arlington Temple Bar Hotel used to be The Parliament Hotel. Does that mean anything to you? I have no idea. I just know it looks cool. And, so they say, the St. Patrick's Day parade passes right under the windows of the hotel. Yep...I'll be missing that fun by a smidge. That's one month for all you literal people.

    The hotel apparently has a doorstep upon which Dublin Castle (above), Christchurch, St. Patricks Cathedral, and Trinity College (below) sit. That's what it says on the website. And, as we all know, if it's on the internet, it's God's Truth. Point is, all this brilliant architecture and historic landmark stuff will be right in front of me, erm, the hotel...and in my book, that's even better than a parade. I'm preparing my camera and my sandals-with-socks as I type, shivering with anticipation. Tho I must say, perhaps I'm shivering because the the thought of wearing socks with sandals gives me the willies.


    My biggest desires for this trip? Noooooo, I am not hoping to be swept off my feet by a wildly romantic and insanely handsome, sexy Irishman, a la PS I Love You. Haha. Nope. Not in my brain at all. Nooooo. Have I fooled you yet? Because I have almost but not quite convinced myself that's true.

    Back to reality: my biggest "to do's" are (and, by the way, thanks to my friend Clio who has so graciously offered some first-hand advice on sights to visit, including the Irish Film Institute...and, no, Clio, I won't admit to owning High Spirits on DVD when I'm there. I don't want them to kick me out): 

    TRINITY COLLEGE/BOOK OF KELLS
    Gotta see the Book of Kells at Trinity College...as a Graphic Designer this book is much more than a holy relic to me...And, of course, being in the Library of Trinity College may just send me to Hermione Granger heaven...
     

    Thunk. That's my jaw dropping. AGAIN. Could you, maybe, help me pick it up? Yep, there it is...down there...right next to my pocket protector. And protractor. Just kidding. I don't carry protractors. Math scares me. Saved from nerdom but a smidge. (that's a pinch to all you...you know. Don't make me say it again.)

    NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND
    Then I want to visit the National Museum of Ireland...see the likes of the Tara Brooch...an intricate silver-gilt, gold and bejeweled pin created around 700 AD. Typically these types of clasps were created to hold clothing, but this is believed to be solely for decorative purposes, probably for a wealthy individual. It was found in a box by a peasant woman in 1850. Ok, wow.



    DROPKICK MURPHYS
    Of course, my main purpose of the entire trip is seeing The Dropkick Murphys play the Olympia Theatre on 22 April. I'm so flippin' excited I can't sit still. The irony that I've booked a trip half-way around the world to see an American band play Irish punk rock in Ireland is not lost on me. Not at all. 



    OLYMPIA THEATRE
    I don't know much about the theatre...just that it's one of the "hot" venues for music and shows in Dublin. I will be sure to give you my first-hand experience on that at a later date. Is it just me, or does this facade look like it belongs on Main Street in Disneyland? *ouch, I just heard a million Irish people scream bloody murder. Ok...not that many people read this demmed blog. Maybe one or two Irish people yelped. I KNOW I'm 98% my readership* And YES! I understand this facade has been around longer than Disneyland and it's a travesty to compare anything historical to anything in an over-priced, over-commercialized amusement park. Hey...we have our sightseeing tourist traps...you have yours...let's squash this and move on.



    PARKS/SQUARES and SUCH
    Of course...I have to visit Grafton Street, St. Stephen's Green, and go sit under the colorful statue of Oscar Wilde lounging in Merrion Square... So weird...I get that look so often. Huh. Weird.



    THE DUBLIN GHOST BUS TOUR
    But, I must say, no matter what I do or where I go, I just wouldn't be me if I missed out on the ghostly tour of Dublin with the Ghost Bus...



    With that, I take my leave. I am looking forward to posting my thoughts from the streets of Dublin...6 glorious days in Dublintown. March better hurry up and finish...