Just Be

I take Sundays seriously at my house. It’s my chance to do everything that  I’ve been wanting to do all week, which is eat good food, read books, and watch television.

Yesterday, I was bouncing in between all three of these activities when I realized I wasn’t hungry anymore, I didn’t want to read, and I didn’t want to watch TV.

So what was I supposed to do? I played on my phone for awhile but even that got boring. I sat in silence for a few minutes and then a calm washed over me. In my haste to do something, I had forgotten how to just be.

If time allows, if your family allows, and if you allow, try to just be for 15-20 minutes a day.

It does wonders for the mind and body. And remember, we are human BEings not human doings.

(I know, cheesy, but I’m right.)

Love,

Bailey

 

Destination: Happiness

Happiness is always a moment away.

I'll be happy on Friday, when it's the weekend.
I'll be happy when I finally lose those 10 pounds.
I'll be happy when this is all over.

Happiness is hard to attain when you can't really ever reach it. It keeps getting pushed back. It's a destination, not a journey.

But what if happiness is right here? Right now? How differently would you function if happiness was a state that you could be in now?

Well, the answer is you can. Try it. Be happy. It's okay. I give you permission to drop anything that doesn't make you feel good. Smile into yourself.

See? Isn't it better now?

Let yourself be happy now. Don't wait.

Calm/Chaos

You know how people say it’s not the situation, it’s the way that you react to it that matters? Well, put simply, I’ve been like a human cat for most of my life. I run away from loud noises or bite people when forced into social interactions. “Conflict resolution” isn’t really in my vocabulary, and if it is, it’s me talking about how I’m not good at it.

But lately, I’ve been reacting to situations that are more tense than a bomb squad like the Dalai Lama.

The other day I had a lot on my mind and I was swelled up with stress like an angry bullfrog. And instead of blaming the situation itself like I normally do, instead of blaming anyone else (including but not limited to, the Starbucks barista or the guy who is walking way too slow in front of me) I said to myself, I need to do something about all the stress I’ve been experiencing because I can’t get this frustrated when something happens every day.

What?! I mean, really, where do I cash in my tickets for my adult points? I looked at my life and took responsibility for my own actions. I realized that my reactions needed to change, not the situation. (A trick that only took a quarter of a century to learn!) It felt uncomfortable and good to do this, all at the same time, like wearing your favorite sweater that’s way warm but so itchy.

And this made me really think about how we communicate with our world. As much as I wouldn’t prefer to be numb, we really do need a thicker skin to get through life. Because when we let in the chaos from the outside world, we can’t distinguish between the two. And if we form a core of calm, we can float above it all, like when you hold your breath in a swimming pool and let your body rise to the top.

In the end, chaos is only chaos when you give yourself over to it, when you don’t pay attention to how you’re reacting to a situation. And being calm is only calm when it starts inside yourself and radiates out. And everything in between? That’s life. And you’ve got to keep it balanced.

 

Don’t Say Anything

How to deal with an emotional problem in two steps:

1. Find a kind and willing (half-willing will also work) friend.

2. Let yourself rant, rage, and cry for as long as possible. In general, let it all out.

How do I deal with emotional problems?

Let all of my feelings swirl and twirl inside me and come together in a dangerous cocktail that then flows into my blood, poisons me (but I recover), and is then deposited in a black hole near my heart that just continues to grow and consume everything around it, and that will most likely be cancer in 10-12 years.

At least, this is what I think happens. And in my completely unprofessional opinion, I don’t think I’m wrong. Which is why I try to override my instincts as much as possible. Because maybe it’s our oversharing culture, but I feel like the first way, the letting it all out way, is really healthy. The crying, the deep breaths, the talking to someone: it’s cathartic. I feel like if I keep things in, they’ll just fester, like scenario B.

Well, not always.

Usually, as any person who works at a job knows (or really, anyone who is just going about their day in which they meet other humans), they feel a lot of emotions. Frustration, embarrassment, glee, weariness. And so, when they come home to their loved ones, they talk about those feelings, sometimes rather expressively.

But what they don’t realize is that this puts a lot of burden on those same loved ones. Because they feel our happiness but they also feel our stress. So, really, we may be siphoning off our feelings just to overwhelm the buckets of others.

For example, the other day, when I was really frustrated by a number of things, I felt like I was ready to explode…on someone. And I just wasn’t sure who it was going to be.

But before I did that, I lit a candle I love and put on some music, and puttered around a bit. Then, I watched television and laughed a little. But I could still feel my day bubbling up in my chest.

However, I didn’t need it to spill over. After a few hours of this, I felt resolved enough without saying anything about my day at all.

So, what is the solution? For the times when you need comfort, speak. But more often than not, what your soul needs is simply some peace and quiet.

Settle Down

Guess what?

I started a new job, got engaged to my long-term boyfriend, and Friday is my birthday.

Guess I’m getting my life in order, huh? Looks like I’m settling in and settling down. Adulthood, and everything.

Right?

More like “yeah right.”

I haven’t been busier or more worried about the future. There’s so much to consider, and everything is in flux. I have calls to make and flowers to arrange. I have birthday cake and wedding cake to taste. I’m looking forward to the weekend at the same time that I don’t want to grow older.

So, I tell myself, It’ll calm down. And then I can start figuring things out. Things will settle down, and then so will I. 

Which is what I told my mom last night when we started talking about arrangements. And she classically rebutted, “But it won’t ever settle down.”

And I opened my mouth and then promptly shut it. Because she’s right. I’ve been saying this same thing for weeks upon weeks upon weeks: when this weekend is over, I’ll be able to take some time for myself. And I don’t have to tell you what happens when that weekend ends and another one begins.

So, the point tonight is really incredibly simple: you are not going to settle down to settle down. You have to go with the flow, even when the flow is really going. And if you think you should wait until you’re ready to do anything in life, then you’ll be waiting your whole life.

L’esprit de l’escalier

Surprise!! Here I am blogging on a Friday night. While you, on the other hand, are probably out partying and enjoying your life, and not going to see this until tomorrow. But it will be here when you return! Just like me…

Of course, the other people who are sitting all alone tonight are doing what I’m doing: trying to decompress from the week. It takes awhile, and it isn’t a pretty process. (Mostly because I wear pants with ducks on them and repeatedly rub my eyes until they are bloodshot.) De-stressing can take even longer when you are finally laying in bed at night, moving over the details of the day, cringing at every embarrassing moment, chuckling at every sarcastic thought. All of those unspoken words. All of those moments that passed without a second glance. All of those missed opportunities. The pain is suddenly physical when you think of what you should have said to your boss, partner, friend, etc. and what you only muttered in your mind.

The French call it L’esprit de l’escalier or “elevator wit.”  It describes the feeling you have when you leave a situation and think of the perfect comeback or the most succinct line. Of course, the rest of the world is a bit more uncouth and imprecise when it comes to this emotion. We call it regret. Our lives are full of it, moments that we wish we could take back, do over, and replay in our minds.

Except, life isn’t a movie or a filmstrip. You can’t cut it into pieces and edit it together the way you want it. You aren’t delivering lines from a script. You’re speaking. And while it feels good to tell someone what’s on your mind, sometimes it has real consequences. For example, instead of sashaying away with a renewed confidence after telling off your ex (like every romantic comedy ever), you might find that you feel just as empty inside as the day he or she left. Only worse because you just verbally abused someone who once cared about you.

Or what about telling your boss exactly what you think of your job? Sure, it is momentarily satisfying. Until you get in the elevator by yourself. And you replay all of that “wit” you had only moments ago. And you realize that you have to return to face your problems all over again tomorrow. No “exit stage left” like on the big screen. (However, the crying into a tub of ice cream is very, very real.)

The point is, nothing is perfect the first time. That’s why they call it a second chance. You’re allowed, and encouraged, to try again. So, if you’re having a bad case of l’esprit de l’escalier at night, and you can’t sleep because what you didn’t say is tormenting you, write it down for later. You may find that your snarky comeback will finally have a time and a place someday. Or you may find that it never really applied to the situation at all. Deciding which course of action to take is called wisdom. And that translates in every language.

Don’t “Let it Go.”

Frozen was a well-calculated Disney formula, full of frosty fun, sisterhood, and, of course, hit songs to listen to until your ears bleed. And the entire franchise has not been so invasive (although their merchandise is even in drug stores, an obvious link) as their mega popular, tour de force, ridiculously catchy melody, “Let it Go.”

But if you aren’t singing Elsa’s solo because you have children and its their favorite, you may be humming it under your breath due to the simple fact that it is a common, calming phrase. How many times have you told yourself to simply “Let it Go,” when you’re angry or upset? And now, how many times do you sing the song after trying to soothe yourself? I thought so. Unfortunately, Disney is the inventor of “ear worms,” and it’s not a coincidence that “Let it Go” is such a popular phrase in our lexicon.

For me, while I love the movie, I see the song as cheapening a lesson that more people need to embrace in a non-Disney environment and on their own time (and in their own pitch).

So, I think we all need a new catchphrase for when things don’t go our way. Instead of letting it go, I try not to pick up anything at all. One of my favorite mantras is to “resist nothing.” Even though I didn’t make it up, I still think it’s the bees knees.

Think about it: any change in your life, any opportunity you are given, any challenge you may face, you simply don’t need to resist it. Just let it happen, instead of trying to “let it go” after you’ve already become upset or anxious about it. Try to take things as they come, one at a time, and be comfortable in the knowledge that you don’t need to be afraid of any of it. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s because you are letting yourself feel overwhelmed.

Now, if only Elsa could have taken a bit of this advice. (But I guess “resist nothing” simply wasn’t as catchy?) Luckily, you can. And you can free yourself from having to perform a musical number every time you need to recenter yourself. I think we should all try “letting go” from “let it go.” Believe me, your mind (and ears) will thank you.

Believing in Belief

Every holiday season, the “b” word starts to form on a lot of people’s lips.

No, not that “b” word. (Although I am sure you could find some use for other “b” words in your vocabulary.) I’m talking about the other “b” word. As in, “believe.”

Suddenly, around this time of year, we are asked to believe in miracles, in Santa, in people. The holidays seem to be formed around belief.

But what about believing the rest of the year? Does belief take its own holiday? (Looking at religious institutions, I am sure that many religious leaders will tell you that it does.)

But why? Why do we only emphasize belief once a year?

Well, I say we should do something about it. We should start inviting belief in out of the cold before the holidays. We need to start believing in belief all year round.

Because belief changes everything. When you believe in yourself, you own the room. When you believe in a higher power, you feel secure and loved. When you believe that people are terrible and capable of nothing, well, you know what to expect when bad things happen, now don’t you? Belief will keep you young at heart, no matter how old you get.

And belief costs nothing. It does not expire. And just because someone may have a different belief than you does not mean that yours will be lessened.

Of course, I understand why people don’t. Belief in anything, not just religious faith, makes us vulnerable. It suggests that we have a weakness. It gives our enemies the rope to make a noose. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we allowed ourselves to have beliefs, then we could then tolerate them in others.

So, this holiday season you should give more. You should smile more. And of course, you should believe more. But after the holidays are done, you should keep belief around. For those resolutions that you rarely, ah, resolve and beyond. Make belief as real a part of your life as the stress is, and you will be able to balance it all out. Believe me.