10 Signs It’s Time to Hit The Reset Button

Life is a marathon, a journey that will inevitably bring many ups and downs. And, if you’ve been on this journey for any amount of time, you know that there are times when you just need to hit the reset button so that you can keep moving forward with strength, focus, stamina, and even passion in your life. 

For a long time, the thought of voluntarily hitting the reset button in my life was a little terrifying to embrace. Any time I had heard someone talk about needing a reset in their life, it was connected to something negative—a failure, burnout, a breakup or divorce, or related to a physical or mental health concern.

Continue reading “10 Signs It’s Time to Hit The Reset Button”

Why It Is So Hard to Focus in Life

Do you want to know why it’s so hard to focus on your own life and stay on your own zen wavelength? Well, I re-discovered the answer today. Wait for it…

It’s because everyone around you is so DARN LOUD!

The Setting

I am writing this post during a fit of frustration on a plane to what I hope is a rejuvenating vacation. While attempting to enjoy my book, I find myself amidst the cackles of inebriated passengers on a mission to win the who can talk the loudest competition. It is extremely hard to focus on my book.

The Story:

I am all for freedom of friendliness and libations but why do these people have to be so LOUD on this plane? Then again, this is a country that has freedom of speech, so who am I to tell the newfound besties to sacrifice their hyperactivity for my peace. I mentally rummage through the safety manual to see if there is some rule they were breaking. However, there is just information about oxygen masks, life vests, and “in the event of an emergency” situations. There is nothing about being courteous to your neighbors.

But wait, isn’t this an emergency? I am being forced to sacrifice my page-turning enjoyment to listen to the loudest passengers on this plane. Doesn’t that warrant some kind of rescue? With no way to politely ask them to pipe down, I might as well find a lesson in this experience.

I take a deep breath and hope for some annoyed passenger to ask the noisy neighbors to quiet down. More and more frustrated by each screech and shout, I think about the moments in my life when I’ve felt trapped, frustrated, limited, and a victim of other people inserting noise into my life. Right now, I would do anything to turn up the selective attention dial to “I can’t hear you” mode, but nothing is a match for these voices of Godzilla.

The lesson

I had a plan for this plane ride that included me, God, reflection, and a book. It did not include writing a blog post about my frustration with this noise. Typically, I would be oblivious to the loudmouths around me as I drown them out with my music or a movie. However, I forgot my headphones this time!

I keep asking myself over and over, “Why is it so hard to focus? Is it really that hard to tune them out?” As I wait for the answer from the universe, I realize a similarity between my ability to focus in life and other people’s voices in my head. These noises are the external opinions and beliefs we allow in our heads that make it hard to focus on our own life and journey.

Some noises are louder than others—fears, other people’s opinions, societal and family expectations, and our internal self-talk. At times, it is so loud, confusing, overwhelming, and tiring to combat.

Today, I have learned a few things:

  1. I understand why people invest in quality noise-canceling headphones
  2. It’s hard to focus in life when our fears, other people’s opinions, and negative self-talk drown out own our inner voice.
  3. It’s necessary to clear your head of the noise in order to find your inner voice.

The good news is that my neighbors are now quietly resting. Maybe now I can get back to focusing on my book and the amazing view in peace and quiet.

20 Questions for When You Feel Frustrated With Life

Feeling frustrated with life bullseye

Do you ever feel frustrated with life and/or yourself because you think you should be doing more in life? Do you feel like life keeps throwing up obstacles at you when you feel like you’re getting a few steps ahead?  

When the reality of life, work, responsibilities, stress, and our personal goals collide, they can often compete for our time and attention. If we’re not careful, these can cause frustration and throw us into a cycle of negative talk, and trigger poor physical, emotional, and mental habits. 

Two months ago I wrote a blog post about having faith in yourself. It was a great reminder that we have to rethink the mental and emotional limits we place on ourselves. Yes, it is true that sometimes the world, circumstances, and people can feel like they are working against us; but, it is also true that the person staring right back at you in the mirror has control over how they respond to that frustration.

Perspective and peace are crucial in life, especially when you feel frustrated. 

It is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing so much on the big picture that we overlook our past and present victories. Yes, life is frustrating right now, but this too can and shall pass. Sometimes we need to slow down, count the blessings, weigh the good versus the bad, and appreciate the accomplishments and victories written in our life’s story.

When I start feeling like life is not moving at my pace, or like things are not going as planned, I try to take some time to evaluate whether my frustrations are warranted, healthy, logical, or accurate. Listen, this little brain of ours is POWERFUL! If we let it, it will control our mood and energy—for better or for worse.

When things are starting to feel overly frustrating, I try to process using some of these questions: 

  1. What is within my locus of control that I can change right now?
  2. Where can I spend more energy on the things I can control?
  3. Am I extending enough grace to myself in this situation?
  4. How am I contributing to this ongoing frustration?
  5. Is this situation more frustrating for me because there are things I still need to heal within myself? 
  6. Do I feel frustrated because I am out of balance in important areas of my life?
  7. Has this frustration the result of comparing myself to other people’s timelines and successes?
  8. What can I learn from this moment in life? How can I readjust, reset, and rest?
  9. Do I just need to adjust my attitude?
  10. Have I contribute to this frustration by not monitoring my time and energy? 
  11. Am I taking enough time to take care of my mental health or just push forward in life?
  12. Who and what do I need to take a break from in order to regroup? 
  13. Am I in misalignment with my deepest and truest self? 
  14. Do I have a vision for my life or am I just winging it? Could this be adding to my frustration?
  15. Do I need to learn to be more flexible?
  16. Have I been getting enough sleep and taking care of my body? (Believe it or not, this does influence your mood!) 
  17. Am I taking responsibility for my life or waiting to blame my problems on other people?
  18. Am I projecting my frustration in this situation and avoiding addressing the root concern(s) in my life?
  19. How willing am I to take different actions to have a different outcome? Do I secretly enjoy the misery? 
  20. To what extent am I living in a box that is too small for me? Is it possible that this frustration is really a catalyst to grow?

Before or after processing these questions, I encourage you to spend some time also recording a few things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is the best thing you can do to start changing your attitude and mindset. It really is all that it’s hyped up to be. 

If we are willing to learn from our mistakes and successes in life, then we are growing and learning! The faster we learn the lessons, the less time we will waste repeating the same test(s). Life can change overnight (for the better or worse), so there is no point in staying stuck in a frustrated mindset.

We will inevitably get frustrated, but we can overcome it, move forward, and find greater balance than before. Remember, you are only stuck if you keep repeating the same mistakes. Life is full of frustrations, but we don’t have to let them become the overarching theme of our lives.

Let’s take back our control, power, and just take life one deep breath at a time. 

Compromise and Chemistry in Relationships

In Part I of this series, I explored the topic of racial equality. For Part II, we talked about another area of life: personal success. In this final post of the series, we are going to explore whether there is room for everyone in love by exploring compromise and chemistry in relationships.

CHEMISTRY in relationships

Organic chemistry: What everyone desires to have in a relationship and the class most biology majors dread taking in college.

I was 16 years old when I had my first “official” boyfriend and it was also the first time I learned that great relationships require more than just chemistry. There were three guys who wanted to date me at the time, but I was more afraid of heartbreak than love.

I grew up in church and I remember many of the church mothers saying boys only wanted one thing: sex. I don’t know if they were just trying to shield me from teen pregnancy or if they were speaking from personal experience. In either case, I was careful about dating because I didn’t want boys to crush my heart and innocence!

I was so confused about which I wanted to date. I figured I should go for the one that could be my husband somewhere down the line. That was very premature and rigid thinking. The only problem was I couldn’t see far enough into the future. How was I supposed to know which of these boys would make husband material at age sixteen?

I thought the answer was chemistry. Whichever I felt the most attraction, passion, and “love” for must be the one, right?

In desperate need of advice, I spoke to one of my mentors who I thought had a great marriage.

Me: “I am so confused. I like them all for different reasons and I think I have a lot of chemistry with at least two, but it’s different with each one.”

Mentor: “Listen, girl, don’t be confused and swept away by having chemistry with someone. Do you think you are only going to have chemistry with one person in your lifetime? We are human! You may have “chemistry” with a lot of different people in this world. But, don’t confuse having chemistry in relationships with meaning you are supposed to date that person, much less spend the rest of your life with them. 

A great relationship needs strong organic chemistry, but it must be built on much more than that. A lot of people might want to have a relationship with you throughout your lifetime. Don’t be fooled. Chemistry is biological and emotional. A strong partnership includes real love and true commitment, which is something much deeper than chemistry.”

With that advice in hand, I picked the guy I thought was the best choice for me. Guess what? It lasted six months! He was a certified player. Let’s just say I learned a lot after that and internalized what my mentor said.

Through experience, I understand exactly what true love and commitment are and also what it is not. There is a noticeable difference when you find a relationship that works on more levels than just organic chemistry.

Chemistry in relationships is important, but it is not everything.

There are five different kinds of chemistry: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. Sometimes, once you discover you have “chemistry” with another person, you are tempted to jump into a relationship without considering the other factors that make a person a good life partner. It is easy to get excited or desperate (we have all been there) “in love” and allow good “chemistry” to:

  • make you believe the relationship is “meant to be”
  • try to force it because the chemistry “is so strong it must be meant to be.”

Do NOT do the things above simply because you feel you have “good chemistry” with another person.

Good chemistry is lovely and necessary, but it should not translate into anyone staying in a relationship that causes them to compromise their happiness, morals, or character. Choosing a life partner should include thinking about how the person fits into your life, whether you are both confident in your own identity, and how willing you both are to compromise as each individual grows and changes.

So, in terms of “chemistry,” there is NOT room in your heart for everyone you have “chemistry” with. 

Let’s talk about COMPROMISE

Is there room for the both of us to be happy?

Sometimes relationships are not all honeymoon phases and rose petals. If you have experience in any kind of romantic relationship, then you know that hard times can make you question whether there is enough room for both of you to be happy. Even in the best relationships, it will not always be good times. But, a good partner helps us grow.

Sidenote: There is a definitive line between understanding that no relationship is perfect and settling for foolishness. Sometimes that line is very obvious: cases of physical and verbal abuse or clear incompatibility. In other situations, the line is blurry. If you are questioning whether you are in the right relationship, speak honestly and openly with someone you can trust (and who has experience or evidence of success in a relationship). Consider whether it is time to move on, if you can repair or improve the relationship, or if you are manifesting other issues and insecurities.

Creating space in a relationship for both people to feel loved, happy, and safe requires both people to be willing to make that a priority!

Healthy relationships require two whole people. I can say from experience—both personal and observed—it takes two whole individuals to create a great relationship. Both people must actively work on becoming the best version of themselves.

Making “room” in the relationship requires both parties. It looks and sounds something like this: “I lay down some of my baggage to make room to love you more, as you lay down an equal amount of yours to make room for me. Love is about two people deciding to share their love with each other.

It is possible to have a great relationship with great chemistry with someone else who knows how to make room for both of you through healthy compromise. When you find that person, you know exactly how refreshing and awesome it feels! If you haven’t yet, just know that it is possible.

So, in terms of relationships, there IS room for everyone (the two of you) if both people are committed to healthy compromise.

There Is Room For Everyone: Racial Equality

Nicki Minaj’s feud with Taylor Swift over the nominations for Best Music Video of the Year makes me wonder whether there is room for everyone.

According to Minaj, who was not nominated, “If your video celebrates women with slim bodies, you will be nominated for Video of the Year… when the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination.”

In her subsequent tweets, Minaj presents her confusion over not being nominated for the award. In a reply to a follower, she says “I’m not always confident. Just tired. Black women influence pop culture so much but are rarely rewarded for it.”

Whether she was throwing “shade” or not, we can all admit that her comments resonate with other discussions of racial equality happening all over social media and news outlets right now. Are all races equal? Where do we go? Who is to blame? Who is responsible for fixing the problem? These are just some of the questions that people are attempting to answer.

There is room for everyone.

Racial differences, social tensions, and everything in between are topics of conversation. The debates about musical accolades, whether “All Lives Matter” or “Black Lives Matter,” controversy over the recent Supreme court decision on equal marriage rights, and the never-ending daily personal, relational, career competition all make me wonder whether there truly is room for everyone.

Throughout history, humans decided to pursue what they thought was best for survival and success. Unfortunately, this repeatedly meant the exploitation of one group for another group’s gain. Our history is filled with competition, domination, conquest, class wars, enslavement, subjugation, racism, ethnocentrism, and sexism. The bad and good news: We create and perpetuate it which means we have the power to change them.

We are all responsible for these issues in our society. There was a time when equality was illegal, and that still exists today. Differences are despised and buried beneath the voice and power of the more influential, the more armed, or the majority. But, our history gives us valuable information about what NOT to do to create a more peaceful society.

We need to learn to love and embrace the commonalities among all humans and accept there is room for everyone.

Our hearts don’t have a limit on love. If someone of a particular race, group, or class has slighted you, please don’t assume that there is nothing left inside of you to love other people of that same group. You just have to be willing to do it. We all need each other to move society forward for the benefit of all humanity.

We need more of “your culture, identity, customs, and language are just as equal and cool as mine” and “you being on the same level doesn’t take anyway from my awesomeness.” What I have to offer this world is just as important as what you have to offer this world.

It is from these connections and encounters among ideas and cultures that we make great progress. Maybe viewing each other as human beings, becoming more empathic, embracing all races and racial identities, and actively supporting and promoting equality for everyone are the important steps we need to break down the walls of hatred and prejudice lurking in us all.

Creating room for everyone does not mean we should be “colorblind” to race and racial identity. Colorblindness means that you don’t see cultural differences which is the very beauty and power of humanity. We need to adopt color appreciation and advocacy. Appreciation is to actively notice the differences in others and to embrace them as equally beautiful. Advocacy is to actively support and champion the freedom of every group and the opportunity to achieve success without discrimination.

Everyone regardless of race should have the opportunity to attain any position and live out any dream they want to within our society. The only way all these will ever happen is if we conclude that we all need every group to play an active and equal role in our society.

In my opinion, all lives matter, black lives matter, and [insert your group here] matters too. Straight hair is just as beautiful as curly hair. Big bodies are just as cool as smaller ones. One artist can be just as awesome as another artist. One religion has the right to believe what they want, just as another has the right to as well. Your career is just as important as mine. Your talent is just as unique and cool as mine.

I really want to know, do you think there is room for everyone?

Read Part II: There Room for Everyone: Success and Competition

Read Part III: There is Room for Everyone: Compromise and Chemistry in Relationships

The Conundrum: Being Strong

After breaking my silence about a personal life event, I know there are a lot of people that suddenly have a lot of questions. My original post was intended to shed more light on an issue in our society than a whirlwind of questions about me. However, I accept the questions and curiosity as a part of the journey. In the initial aftermath, I noticed that there was one reoccurring message among conversations with people that personally know me– they have always viewed me as strong and smart. It is so sweet and wonderful for so many people to say this. To be honest it is oddly reassuring, yet in it also lies one of the descriptors that has caused unnecessary emotional turmoil throughout my life– STRONG. I have always aspired to be a women of great strength so I am happy that this trait is visible to others. However, for a long time my desire to be “strong” caused me great distress because I had no clue about what “being strong” really meant in practice. In my opinion, being strong and feeling strong are two different things and there is no great lesson in school that teaches us the differences between the two. For me, it is something I had to figure out over time.

Somehow I developed the misconception that being strong and smart meant that I always had to feel and act strong and smart. I had this idea that I couldn’t let people see my greatest weaknesses or else they might question my strength. In reality I was probably more terrified that if I acknowledged those weaknesses to myself it would disapprove what I believed about myself– I am strong. So when people kept saying how strong and smart they always viewed me to be, I started to wonder if this somehow meant they no longer believed it as much as they once did. The old way of thinking tried to sneak its little way back into my mind. After the comments, concerns, shock, and testimonies started rolling in, I started worrying about how this news would affect people’s image of me as a person. Would they think that the strength, drive, smile, laughs, ambition, and positivity we shared was all a lie? I mean, I worked so hard to overcome this adversity and serve as an inspiration for others so the last thing that I want is for people to treat me differently or question the many good times and happy days that we shared together. Yes, this little mind of mine was trying to test me! But, rest assured everyone; I passed the test in the end. Of course, without a doubt I know I am strong. How could I have overcome this secret adversity if I wasn’t? Yes, I may have scars, but I am still me.

In our society, people look up to the “strong.” Every Marvel comic superhero has his/her weakness, yet even though they often come close to demise in every movie, we still wish we could take a special daily multi-vitamin to gain some of their superpowers. We admire people that seem to endure adversity and subsequently emerge as victors. Well, as a young girl I had no clue about the complexities of strength, of how I even attained that label, or how to understand what it really internally feels like in a complicated world. Before the assault, I was strong. So after the assault, and when I felt I was over it (if that is ever really possible), I felt that I needed to continue being what I knew myself to be– strong. I thought feeling strong meant feeling confident, powerful, and happy. So, in my mind it should work in reverse order– being strong must mean being confident, being happy, and being powerful. Clearly, it takes more than a few years of life to develop confidence, happiness, and unwavering strength, yet I was certain that when I was not doing these things or feeling like this, I was not strong.

While my secret was significant and traumatic, I had a life, dreams, and other issues outside of it that I wanted to focus on as much as I could. In my adolescent ignorance, and in the face of a world that seems to enjoy playing dodgeball with human life, I set out to (1) feel, look, and embody my strength and (2) to fulfill my dreams. WHAM! Doubt. WHAM! Insecurity. WHAM! Failure. Mistakes. Fear. Acceptance. WHAM! WHAM! Loss. WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Ball after ball, life was starting to put my strength to the test and I felt that the whole world was watching to see how strong I really was. In reality everyone was probably worried about their own issues, but I told myself that letting other people see my pain would mean that I wasn’t strong. Where did I even come up with this crap? It is kind of funny; we really believe some warped ideas at times. Think about it. When an elite athlete is interviewed on TV immediately after a game, are they not breathing pretty hard? Aren’t they usually tired, sore, and possibly on the brink of exhaustion? Exactly! So, why would I ever think that exhaustion signaled the lack of strength?  This is real strength, not the silly mentally I had. Strength says, “I ran the race and finished. I tripped, fell, am tired, and sore, but I did not and will not give up. I will be back.”

After living life a little more, one the greatest discoveries I made was to realize and understand true strength through the lens of fitness and sports. In my athletic heyday, I could lift a pretty hefty amount of weight in the weight room. I was a young female athlete on a mission to sprint faster and run longer. I was am proud of my strength at that time. But I have to tell you, I was usually physically sore most of the time during the season! Eventually, I accepted soreness as a necessary component of building strength and after a while I got used to it. It was natural. “No pain, no gain,” right?  Overtime, I was less sore and very strong. In the beginning, I would say to myself, “Get it together girl. You are stronger than this. You are supposed to be strong.” In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” In my mind feeling strong once meant feeling confident, happy, and powerful. Well, on the journey to building strength one does not often feel confident and happy about difficult training and subsequent soreness. I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling. From that point on, I learned to stop questioning my strength whenever I discovered another area of weakness. I was as strong as I believed I was and as strong as everyone says I am. Looking at strength this way has given me freedom in times when the weight of trauma, loss, failure, and disappointment are at an all time high. I was free to show the world that my physical and emotional “soreness” by no means was a sign of weakness, rather a sign of great strength.

In the end, I began to understand that I am “not stronger than this” but rather “I am strong because of this.” […] I finally started to see that strength is more a behavior than it is a feeling.

In most areas of success, business, or fitness, it is imperative to analyze areas of weakness in order to make the necessary adjustments to improve performance. It is no different for “strong” people. Anyone who is willing to reflective, notice their weaknesses, and take action toward improving themselves is strong. Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them. Everyone displays emotions differently and everyone deals with things differently. If someone who is viewed as “strong” displays their emotions in a different way, it in no way indicates that their hurt is easier, lighter, or their character stronger or better. It just means that everyone is different and yet everyone is the same– human.

Strength is never an indication that a person is not carrying a heavy weight; it just means that they are choosing to never let it overtake them.

As we weave through the characters and complex world around us, remember that everyone has a story. They may never tell you the story or act it out before you eyes, but that doesn’t mean that their pages are not filled with complicated stories like everyone else. Never think that a “strong” person has never experienced great emotional challenges. Most likely, it is their journey through those challenges that makes them who they are! Chances are you are one heck of a strong person too; maybe even more than you know. And yes, life will play dodgeball against you too! Listen, you grab life by the balls and start fighting back with all you’ve got! You might feel a WHAM or a dozen along the way, but that’s OK. When you take the hit, you regroup and knock those challenges right back on its _ _ _ ( ← clue: another word for butt)! What? Strong people don’t swear… 😉

Lesson from Stuart Scott: Live.

I am not going to lie. My first reaction to Stuart Scott’s passing was “he didn’t deserve to die.” I didn’t venture far enough to blame God, but I was initially baffled. “But he fought so hard with such fortitude and faith, if anyone deserved to beat cancer didn’t he?” I thought about his ESPN ESPY Award acceptance speech and the two beautiful daughters that he leaves behind. It would have made the ultimate fairytale story – father beats cancer three times to live to hear his grandchildren say “Boo-yah” (one of this infamous commentating expressions). For me, it called human mortality into question: What’s the rhyme and reason to all of this anyway? How and whom decides who lives and who dies? In the first minute after hearing of the passing of someone that appears so full of faith, so full of life, so full of legacy, promise, and love, all of these thoughts went through my mind.

Then, in the next minute I started reflecting on the graceful way that Stuart lived after his cancer diagnosis. I thought about how he kept exercising, working, loving, traveling in a time in which I probably would have been on my knees begging for life, mercy, and healing from God. Or, I would have been in total denial about death and probably became some radical zealot that spent my entire waking time believing that God had already healed me. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t have handled it like that, but I am not sure I would have been as strong as Stuart; I want to believe I am that strong, but I really don’t know how I would handle being faced with death in that manner.

Then in the third minute, it suddenly all made sense. The feeling of defeat went away and I started to feel a sense of victory and honor. It was exactly what Stuart said: “When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live. So live. Live. Fight like hell.” Yes Stuart! You freaking lived man. You WON. Period. End of story. Guys, he won! Despite the trials of life (in his case, cancer), his outlook remained one in which he used every last moment to live, love, laugh, learn, and leave a legacy! What an honor. How many people can say that they made a positive difference in this world? How many people can say that their legacy is meaningful? I don’t know about you, but that’s something I think about sometimes – what will my legacy be when I die? Will I have touched people’s lives in a meaningful way? Will I have accomplished what I was created to do? I am not God, so I cannot judge how Stuart lived or if he fulfilled his purpose, but goodness gracious he sure set the bar high!

In my mind he died too young (age 49). I still have that underlying belief that people are supposed to live to see old age. However within that I ask, what is life if we live to be old and still accomplish nothing or very little? I am not sure but I still desire to live to be very old. Despite it all, death never seemed fair to me, yet the more I live and grow is the more I see that death is actually one of the only fair parts about life. Everyone dies. Everyone. The rich, poor, kind, mean, healthy and diseased, we all have a moment waiting when we will pass on. Yes, “pass on” because “death” seems too harsh, too finite. Since we probably live a life after earth (my hope), then death is just passing to another world where our loved ones are waiting to say “what the heck took you so long? It’s freaking awesome over here.”

I am not happy that Stuart’s journey on earth has ended, but I am happy that he lived such an amazing life. As of this point in my life, I cannot say that I understand the concept of life and death. If lacking the full comprehension of such a simple matter is not confusing enough, losing three students within the last year to tragic accidents (as recent as four days ago) has left me even more stunned about death. I am quite certain that if I were to ask each of those students how long they thought they might live, they would have said pass the age of 18 or 30 years old. After these losses, I have pondered a new question — for which I do not have the complete answer — what is more important, the quality of life or the quantity of life? I do not know, however, I believe that the two ideas are not completely separable.

In it all, there is one thing I know: how we live seems to be central to the concept of a fulfilled life. If we can make each moment matter and find meaning in each moment — even the good and the bad are lessons that lead us toward mastering and conquering life — maybe we too can win. Still alive? Then there is still time to live the life you were created to live. Haven’t been living? Then there’s no better time than the present, right?  In the words of Stuart Scott, “have a great rest of your night and have a great rest of your life.” In my words, Stuart Scott, I think you might have just beat the game of life without a game guide or a cheat code. This is what I call “Life Me.”

Picture Perfect Puzzle Pieces: A Story

“Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness you’ve accumulated.” – Jo Oz @ozlifeadvice

I posted this quote a few weeks ago, but I had to revisit it because it presents such a different perspective on happiness as we know it. Let me begin by stating that I do believe that things and people have the ability to create happiness, or to at least encourage happiness. We would all be liars if we said this is not somewhat true. My family, friends, my wonderful future husband, and having a few extra bucks in my pocket makes me very happy. And to be perfectly honest, I look forward to and hope for more love and more money. Really, who wouldn’t? But when I look at society and within myself there seems to be this insatiable desire to chase happiness at all cost. We chase and chase even more without ever looking internally to examine the thoughts and areas of our past that may be preventing us from finding or sustaining happiness. Some of us still carry negative thoughts, defensive walls, warped perceptions, shallow vision, and sabotaging behaviors that often cause us to overlook and destroy the happiness right in front of us.

Story time: Imagine with me for a moment that you are sitting on the floor in the middle of a medium-sized room. On the walls around you are bright colorful pieces of art neatly arranged against white walls. Scattered in the spaces among these paintings are large framed quotes of what you later realize are successful people of our time. As you put your hand down to begin standing up you hear a crunching noise and the feeling of something small and sturdy beneath you. Around you are about 100 puzzle pieces randomly piled in all directions. Fascinated by the paintings and quotes, you begin walking across the room with your eye fixed on a frame entitled “Keys to Happiness.” As you get closer you notice the quotation is by [insert the name of a person whose success you admire and dream to have]. Eager to see more, you examine every piece arranged around the room noting every signature on the paintings and each name quoted in a frame. They are all from people you admire. Naturally, you begin examining your life and plot out what you might need to do to achieve the level of happiness expressed through every piece. How did they create such beautiful pieces? How did they create such beautiful lives? As you ponder on each piece, you begin to notice that the puzzle pieces scattered across the floor have a seemingly consistent color scheme. You see the shades of blues, greens, browns, whites, and yellows and realize that they might connect to create a larger image. Confused as to why they are randomly in the middle of the room, you begin looking around for a box or someone to explain the odd occurrence. Across the room you spot an intercom and are about ready to push the button when you notice something strange about one of the paintings. Now less then 12 inches away from it, you discover that the painting is actually made up of tiny puzzle pieces! Astonished, you look toward the floor, drop to your knees, and begin trying to assemble the puzzle. After five minutes of intense focus you pick up a few puzzle pieces and find a note: “If you can assemble this beautiful masterpiece, it is all yours.” Determined to own a piece of art, you painstakingly find each proper piece one at a time. While assembling the pieces, you notice that they do indeed fit together but are damaged thanks to you walking all over them. Nonetheless, you carry on building your masterpiece. Halfway through your impromptu art project you make a startling discovery – you are a part of the puzzle. Somewhat disappointed that you might not be building a “masterpiece” if you are in it, you still continue on curious to see what the entire image will reveal. Finally finished, you take three giant steps back to see an image of you with/in [insert the people, things, or places that you envision as your ultimate image of happiness]. In awe, you realize the beauty in front of you but also all the dents and rips you created as you crushed your own picture in pursuit of everyone else’s in the room. As you look around again, you now notice that every beautiful image and success quote in the room is made up of tiny puzzle pieces. Overwhelmed by the experience, you slowly sit back on the floor. While staring at your partially self-inflicted damaged image of happiness, you realize that your beautiful masterpiece could have been as beautiful as the collection in the room if only you had not been so quick to reach for the keys to happiness in someone else’s dream.

The moral of the story: Find happiness in the small puzzle pieces life has given you, because from them will come your image of true happiness. Borrowing pieces from someone else’s puzzle will never quite fit yours perfectly. However, what you can take from their puzzles are (1) the steps they took to learn how to love the puzzle pieces they were given and (2) how they used the small piece to create a beautiful personal masterpiece.

Jo Oz’s quote reminds me to not overlook the light that is inside of me. We have the potential to create the same bright happiness we see in others, but we have filled ourselves with so much “darkness” that we believe that our light is not bright enough to create anything similar. If we were to get rid of some of the “darkness,” I am almost positive that we would see the happiness in the small things, in the people around us, in the present situation, and in ourselves. We would move from chasing happiness to becoming happiness; having become happier, we will attract more happiness; and as we attract more happiness, we will look up one day and see that we are overwhelmed with happiness only to then realize that we never had to chase something that we already had. It gives new meaning to the phrase “I AM happy.”