Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life Lesson from a Purple Scarf

I’m one of those people that make year’s resolutions every year.  This year I’ve been hard at work de-cluttering.  (I’m even working on a new book on how our environment – home/work space - effects our emotions).  One of the first projects was my closet.  I’m not a big shopper but I do love accessories.  I’m kind of like a crow – attracted to shiny things.  At one point I got frustrated with the number of scarves I had.  They’re a pain to either hang or fold, especially when you have way too many. 

About a week after my big closet clean out, my son and I did our monthly Mobile Loaves &Fishes volunteer activity.  (Mobile Loaves & Fishes has a truck they send out with food and donated clothes for the homeless).  It was an unusually cold night and by coincidence one of the things on the truck to distribute where scarves.  Evidently I wasn’t the only one who cleaned out closets and donated scarves. 
One of our stops was in a parking lot where some of the homeless panhandle.  One of the ladies there was so excited about the scarves.  She was running her hand through the soft fuzzy fabrics and admiring the pastel colors.  You’d think with the cold weather she’d be more concerned with gloves or heavy sweaters but she was totally focused on the scarves.  She reported people often mistake her for a man (short hair, baggy clothes).  With a big smile on her face she chose a purple fluffy scarf and said now everyone would know she was a girl.   See, the very same things that were a nuisance to me meant the world to her.  

I learned a couple of life lessons that night.  One, no matter what our circumstances, our self-identity is important.  We all want to physically express who we are.  For this young lady, creativity and self-identity was as important as her physical needs.   Two, the whole time I was cleaning out my closet, I could have had a spirit of appreciation and gratitude instead of annoyance.  I was frustrated at the chore of having so many things that I didn’t have enough space for them all.  Each of those scarves had served a purpose, kept me warm or dressed up an outfit.  It doesn’t mean I should have kept them, it just means my attitude about discarding them could have been better. 

So for this New Year, I wish you all a spirit of thankfulness and appreciation for the things you have as I continue to work on my attitude of gratitude.  Also, never underestimate the value of a good scarf!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lottery Curse or Curse of The Lottery?

As you may have heard, there is a huge Powerball lottery drawing (over a billion dollars) pending for Wednesday night.  (For fun I just bought two tickets, one for myself and one to put in a friend's birthday card).  There has been so much discussion about what people would do with that much money if they won.  Answers ranged from cursing out their boss and quitting their job to traveling the world (hopefully their boss wasn’t watching the interview).  The sad reality is that most lottery winners journeys don’t end that well.

I saw a TV special one-time about lottery winners and how their lives were changed.  Very few were positive.  Most had very sad stories of a life out of control, drug abuse, family estrangement and even suicide.  I have a theory about this.  Most of us at one time or another have thought “If only ____, then I’d be happy”.   I know I’ve fell into that trap.  Usually whatever obstacle the blank represents (paying off debt, getting a house, owning a car, not having to go to a job we don’t like, etc.)  can be fixed with a huge sum of money.  Once that blank is removed, we should be happy.  What happens when we’re not?  

I think that’s the dilemma of a lottery winner.   What do we do when we banked on this one thing making us happy and it doesn’t?  (Or worse, we buy into the idea this is the only thing that will make us happy, and it doesn’t happen).   I think we all need to remind ourselves that happiness can’t come from outside ourselves.  I know it sounds cliché to say “money doesn’t buy happiness” but the lottery is a great example of why this is true.   Mike Rowe (from the TV show Dirty Jobs) does a great Ted talk about how he discovered some of the happiest people he met were ones doing horrible jobs (we’re talking septic workers and jobs most of us would avoid).   He discovered it was the person’s attitude and outlook that made them content.  Their ability to find joy and meaning (even in dire circumstances) was a better indicator of happiness than their income or job status. 

So, if I win Wednesday I’ll have a great time spending it – probably lots of travel and birdwatching.   AustinPetsAlive – where my pups came from - would receive a big bonus.  But if I lose, that’s OK too – because I understand my happiness is not dependent on some outside circumstance I can’t control. Odds of winning are one in 280 million- not odds I want to bet my happiness on!  Good luck to all you lottery players but remember, your happiness is not dependent on the little colorful balls falling into place Wednesday night.  

Monday, January 4, 2016

I'm Back!

Happy New Year!  Rarely have I ever wanted a new year more than this year.  I want to apologize for my lack of writing.  I just looked at my blog and realized the last time I wrote was shortly before my health deteriorated.  As most of you know I have had to take some time off to recover from a very unexpected health challenge.  Since this whole purpose of this blog is to share my own struggles, I probably should (I hate the word should) have written during my struggle but instead focused my energy on my family, my clients, and my own recovery.  Writing just had a take a back seat.  BUT…..I’m back!

I’m not a huge terminator fan but I think we can all relate to his character is the movie.  He gets shot, blown up, ran over, amputated limbs, etc. and every time he comes back to life with the famous line “I’m back”.  While thankfully my health issues weren’t anything that extreme, when I started feeling more like myself I did think “okay, I’m back”.   I know a lot of you can relate, whether it’s a health issue like depression or anxiety or a situation that is overwhelming.  There comes a time at some point, sometimes dramatically sometimes subtly, when we realize we’ve overcome it. 

For me, boredom was catalyst to me realizing I was feeling more like myself.  When I was sick, I was never bored.  I could do very little work, sit around watching TV or reading (even napping – I’m not a napper) and never think of it as boring.  For me the transition back to myself was pretty dramatic (and recent).  All of the sudden I realized I was doing massive cleaning projects, changing the furniture around, cooking like I was feeding an army, etc.  At one point I had baked so much that things were going spoiled before we could eat it all….AND I was feeling bored.  That’s when I realized…..I’m back! 

Now, I know some of you are in the bad spot and are worried that you’re never going to feel like yourself again.  I want to encourage you.  Feelings are temporary, circumstances are temporary.  If you know you go through these cycles, remind yourself of the times you’ve come out on the other side.  If this is new to you, get help and get support.  I certainly did.  I often say it’s OK to go through bad times, just don’t park there.  Keep going. 

Lastly, a huge thank you to all of you for your support and encouragement.  I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.  In this new year, let’s all take advantage of having a new beginning.  A new start.   A new way of doing things.  Wishing you a Happy New Year!