The Sky is Always Blue

Although I have what I would call “a health fear” of flying,” I still love to get in a plane and soar above the clouds. There is just something quite calming when we finally reach the cruising altitude where the clouds are beneath us like fluffy cotton balls drifting off into the sun. I don’t know why, but I often stare out at the clouds and contemplate life. The combination of the beauty, the strange idea that I have no control if the plane decides to stop working, and the awesome technology that is planes makes every problem seem literally and figuratively small. At the end, I always arrive at the same conclusion about life: beyond the darkest clouds and the roughest turbulence usual lies beauty and peace; it is just a matter of perspective.

When I was a teenager, I listened to a sermon entitled “The Sky is Always Blue.” Lies, I said. Lies! I sat there trying to anticipate where the minister was going with this lie. How could that be true? I sat there thinking about the many rainy days I’ve lived through and wondered if maybe he lived in a place like California where there was always blue skies and sun. But, it didn’t matter where he lived because the rainy days in my neck of the woods meant his statement should not include the word “always.” After thinking back to a flight earlier that year, I concluded that maybe he actually was not lying to me. I remembered the rain beating on the windows and the wind shaking the plane like the earth needed salt and pepper. I remembered the turbulence shaking every secret ounce of pray out of my heart as I tried to remain calm and “trust God” with my life. “Please remain in your seats. We are experiencing a little turbulence,” said the pilot. A little? Good one Captain, good one. Despite the rough ride, the pilot kept taking us higher and higher until eventually we reached an altitude above the storm. Boom! And there it was! Nothing but blue skies, a bright sun, and shades of pink and orange as the sun was beginning to set. So the minister was right – beyond the clouds, the sky is actually always blue.

Thinking back to this moment makes me wonder if some of the solutions to my problems are simply a matter of my ability to change my perspective about what’s in front of me. What if in some cases, the success I seek is just a few more steps past what seems like nothing. Whatever the circumstance looks like, there is always hope and blue skies on the other side, if I can just soar above it. Yes, there are challenges that may come with “soaring above” but that conversation is for another post for another day. So for now, just focus on trying not to get stuck in the turbulence of life by keeping those wings flapping. Until next time, flap on!

 

What I Learned About Myself From My Response to Weather

As I sat at my computer, with strong winds and rain in the background determined to burst through my window, I thought about all the people that were likely very angry that it was rainy and cold in Boston (in April) after such a beautiful summer-like spring day. Little did they know, but Mother Nature was to serve up two inches of snow the next morning followed by clear blue skies and a cool spring-like day… and then another cold winter day after that. This is the yo-yo weather of New England.

[Comments in winter …] “If it snows one more day… I am so sick of the cold.”

[Comments in Spring when it doesn’t feel like it…]“Thanks Mother Nature for ruining my day with the rain… Isn’t it supposed to be spring? You could have fooled me… I cannot deal with this weather…I wish it were warmer… hotter…”

[Comment(s) when Mother Nature grants us summer…] “It is too hot.”

[Comment(s) when summer moves into Fall…] “I miss summer.”

Mother Nature is never good enough and can never seem to please everyone. Those that love winter find discomfort in the summer, and those that love summer find discomfort in winter, fall, and spring. She is simply damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.

From time to time, I too have been guilty of complaining about the weather. Then one day, I realized that I was complaining and commentating on something that I can in no way, shape, or form control – even if I wanted to. I started to notice that my response to the weather was great insight into the attitude in which I was responding to life. Although I would have never considered myself to be a person who complained for the sake of complaining, I was noticing that I was negatively commentating and spending too much energy on areas of life that I could not control, rather than putting that same energy into areas that I could. It was the principle of the matter. Why complain, comment, or exert too many emotions on things that I cannot control?

I am not suggesting that you should not comment or express your feelings about the weather. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a particular season and looking forward to it with great anticipation simply because you love summer, spring, winter, or fall. Saying, “I am so sick of ____ ” every now and then is not a bad thing. However, if we find ourselves complaining too much, it might be useful to see if there are parallels to our attitude in other areas of life. If we cannot control the past, why continue to complain about it? If we cannot control chronic ailments, failure, physical features, temporary circumstances, or other people for that matter, why spend more energy on it than on what we can change?

However, we are human and we will have those moments where we simply cannot stand the weather or our life circumstances, and we will want to comment on it with passion; and in those situations, you should get those feelings out. But, when it moves toward becoming a pattern of negative thought, and you are questioning Mother Nature/life more than you are simply stating facts about your feelings, you have crossed into the potentially dangerous territory of complaining about that which you cannot control.

In the grand scheme of life, there will be more days in which we cannot control or anticipate the weather than days in which we can control our attitude about life. I am trying to transition my attitude more toward understanding that the world either needs whatever weather exist or maybe we are causing global warming and have ourselves to blame for the inconsistent weather. Either way, it makes more sense to check the weather, dress accordingly, adjust, and move forward. And the same for life – control what you can and limit the energy you spend on what you cannot.

As the Serenity Prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Time: Quality over Quantity

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.)

This quote has cost me hours of silent questioning, and sometimes doubt, over the course of my life. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard of time as an equalizing factor among people. Hypocritically, I have also preached the essence of this quote to others during many of my inspirational convulsions. Most times, I was simply restating what I had been told and aspired to do while subconsciously wishing that practice makes perfect, or in this case “words have power,” might transform my words into ways. At the end of some days I am left asking myself…

  1. Why didn’t I accomplish more?
  2. What is wrong with me?
  3. I did many things, but did I accomplish enough?

From the Nelson Mandela’s and Einstein’s to the Steve Jobs’ and Jefferson’s, most of the people to which we compare our 24 hours of time are those that have in some ways had great impact on the world or those that we deem to be more productive, successful, or more well-known than ourselves.  Some days the greatest impact that I feel like I have is changing my clothes, exercising, laughing, having a solid work performance, and on a great day, maybe inspiring a person or leaving a footprint in someone’s life. And after a day, I then, in the back of my mind, compare my daily feat to that of others both dead and alive and question whether my time was really spent doing anything that really matters, because then again, I didn’t change the world like everyone in the quote. Why are passing days not more like the Michaelangelo’s of the world? Better yet, am I even supposed to be like the Michaelangelo’s and Mandela’s? In reality, the only question I probably should be asking myself is if I am using time to the best of my ability to produce the greatest version of myself. Maybe my hard work is changing the world in different yet just as meaningful and memorable ways as that of the “great ones.” But, of course I am human so the societal pressure to be a superhero or die forgotten overtakes my over-analytic mind.

On the pendulum of emotions, feeling like Mother Theresa one day and an ant the next, I think I’ve discovered something about this quote on time that might grant me some mental peace and freedom from comparison to the “heroes” of the world. It is impossible to do all things in one day, even if you never sleep. It is true that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, however, everyone does not have the same life, purpose, skills, resources, attitudes, health or goals. Since these factors prevail, it is therefore impossible and foolish to continue to toss this concept of time around as a reason that everyone in the world should and can achieve what looks like the same greatness.

But seriously, how are “they” able in one day to exercise, cook, clean, study, read, respond to all emails, stay informed, plan, work, pray, take care of family, talk to friends, start and finish a new project, maintain and build intimate relationships, change the world, and make a list for how to do it all over again before I have even finished half of that! The truth is that most of them do not complete all of that in one day. They prioritize, organize, take small steps, take huge steps, fail some days, and succeed in others more than we care to notice. We tend to look at the picture without acknowledging the pieces of that picture. It is most likely because we are human and do not enjoy the process of success, but I digress.

I think will try to stop condemning myself for not producing a masterpiece at the end of a every day and start spending more time examining if my time was spent purposefully and productively for my given goals, dreams, and life’s work. Instead of expecting to do the same amount as others, I think it better to analyze if I spent my time as meaningfully. In this case, meaning is sometimes found in quality over quantity. After weighing your personal differences and goals, make sure each day is filled with things that will productively allow you to die having few regrets. And when looking at the moguls, heroes, and highly successful, examine how they find ways to complete tasks more efficiently and steal (or borrow) that idea/practice and then consistently give the same dedication and discipline as they did/do. That my friend is a good use of time.

An Easy Solution: Put a Lid On It

For a long time, I used to simply blow out candles when I felt that they had fulfilled their purpose for the day. However, the burnt smell that it left behind really annoyed me. No, really. I’m semi-serious! I lit the candle to fill the room with the fragrance of choice, not to make the room smell like matches and smoke once it was blown out. Granted, it only lasts for a little while, but it’s still annoying – I like tropical breeze and roses, not burnt breeze roses.

Slightly annoyed, I pranced into a Bath & Body Works inquiring about their oil warmers and plug-in fragrances to solve my burnt smell issue and to find something that would allow the fragrance to last all day and night. The salesperson naturally suggested candles to which I informed her of my silly little issue. Do you know what she told me to do? Put the lid on it.

DUH! As you can imagine, I felt like the slowest person on the planet for not remembering that the purpose of the lid that comes with candles is to put out the darn flame!  She reminded me that fire needs oxygen to survive. So, if you cut off the oxygen supply, you kill the flame. It was a simple solution and a simple exchange in front of a candle wall that changed my approach to dealing with negative people, and even more important, the negative thoughts that float around in my head. Don’t “feed” it! Put a lid on it and eventually it/they will die.

Sometimes the most complex problems have the simplest solutions. Go figure…

You Are What You Mentally Eat

Lately, I’ve found myself wondering why I struggle with certain thoughts and feelings. They keep knocking and asking me to come out and play the negativity game. I’ve always considered myself to be quite a strong, independent, and positive person, so I reply “NO,” close the invisible door, and proceed to play the game with myself (Haha, what an idiot).

I start playing around with trying to understand why I can’t “stay the course,” be fearless, banish negative feelings, and “just do it.”  To make matters worse and more foolish, I start down the dangerous path of questioning why my cards don’t look like the cards’ of others. “What’s wrong with me that I can’t seem to do what [insert the many names here] does? What makes me different from [insert many more names here]. Oh yes, I torture myself for a few minutes with that self-inflicted emotional abuse. And then, I start to uncover the answer to my self-harming questions. Simply put, I ate it. 

I started to accept the fact that as much I’ve been trying to use my Iron-Man-like armor to deflect the negative ideas, thoughts, and words expressed TO and AROUND me throughout my life, in some way, I’ve allowed some of them to permeate my impenetrable armor. I ate the fear, unbelief, negativity, stereotypes, and social limitations fed to me by the world, society, family, friends, media, and strangers, and please don’t ask me how it happened. Trust me, admitting this has activated the Hulk in me, because I’d like to believe that I’ve taking enough steps throughout my life to rid myself of negative ideas and limitations that were either fed to me or that I willing ate.

Here’s what I know. My current struggles and fears are by-products of the fears, thoughts, ideas, and lifestyles of some of the various types of people within my life growing up. From family and friends to strangers and entertainers, their thoughts, actions, and lifestyles taught me what to dream, what to fear, and how to live. Many people have been able to completely take the great things from their environment, denounce the bad, and achieve magnificent success. So, there still is hope that my life’s movie will end like a Marvel comic film – the main character experiences challenge, is able to identify the flaw in or kryptonite to their super-powers, and then regroups to whip the ass-paragus of the antagonist.

It is alright. I have eaten some kryptonite along the way, failed to account for the flaws in my armor, but just as Iron man would, I am identifying who, when, what, and where I’ve eaten poison along the way and rebuilding my armor to be stronger and more efficient. Future steps equal watching out for eating the negativity around me and continuing to live life with a clearer, more positive, more determined mind. I may have eaten it, but I don’t have to keep eating it.

You are what you eat, so maybe it’s time for some reflective mental detox.  

5 Things to Do When They ANNOY You

It is destined to happen. You live in a world filled with people you must interact with. So, you will absolutely be annoyed from time to time.

Here are 5 Things you can when they ANNOY you:

1. Anticipate that people will annoy you and don’t be surprise when they do. Most of the annoyance and frustration comes from the fact that you are slightly caught off guard by their actions. Expect the annoyance, but continue to think the best of them. I don’t want you to become a pessimist now.

2. Start seeing them in a different light. YES, you might have to view them as incapable of behaving differently. Whether you agree with their actions or not, it might be the only way they know how to behave. However, try to maintain a positive outlook about their ability to change, but accept their behavior as a possible result of their experiences and personality.

3. Loosen up. Maybe they are actually not doing anything wrong. It might be your experiences and personality that causes you to be more annoyed by particular things more than others. Accept it. Change it. Don’t put that responsibility on the other person. YOU might have to look inward in order to be less annoyed by people.

4. You have to “wwoooosahhh” and start talking to yourself. Seriously, you have to tell yourself (in your head of course) “I will remain calm at all times and keep all negative thoughts that I would like to verbally express to this lovely person at this moment inside the vehicle.”

5. Finally, sometimes the only way to minimize letting people’s annoyance get to you is to let them annoy you and then quickly get over it. I know, it sounds backwards and contradictory to this post. But, sometimes there are times you cannot avoid the annoyance. Be annoyed and carry on to more important, funny, and enjoyable experiences.

Cheers to the weekend! Don’t let anyone ruin your Friday!

10 Steps to Finding Happiness

It’s raining outside today. It rained yesterday and it is forecast to rain for the  rest of the week. Before all this rain, there were blue skies, sunshine, and the warm sun on our skin. In New England, the weather changes rapidly, and the seasons change just when you are starting to settle into one.

Such is life and HAPPINESS.  If circumstances change rapidly, how then can we be HAPPY for an extended period of time? Most people strive for happiness, yet discover that once they find “happiness” it fades, is redefined, or disappears momentarily. HAPPINESS is defined as a state of well-being or contentment, an emotion felt when experiencing something pleasurable or satisfying. So then, maybe HAPPINESS is learning to accept and be content in all experiences, both positive and negative. You will be H.A.P.P.Y when you learn to Hurtle A Problem Presented Yesterday.

Here are 10 steps to finding HAPPINESS:

1.  Understand that what makes you happy is different from what makes others happy. Step one is to STOP defining your happiness by someone else’s happiness or standard.

2. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling. Feelings change, emotions vacillate. It’s normal. It’s reality. Don’t beat yourself up. Move on.

3. Happiness is something you DECIDE TO BE more than something you wait to “FEEL.”

4. If you are solely waiting for someone else to make you happy, you might be waiting forever.

5. Learn to laugh. Happiness always follows a good laugh. Surrounding yourself with people that love to laugh may be a good start.

6. Learn to ignore or overlook things that aggravate or anger you, if you always give it your attention, you will likely be angry more than you will ever be happy.

7. Learn to sometimes care about people, but not carry their burdens as your own.

8. Understand and accept that not everyone wants to see you happy. Keep calm and skip-to-my-lou ON.

9. EVERY career has it’s unhappy side. Don’t get overly disappointed about it. Choose one that has less unhappy “triggers.” Don’t feel bad it you can’t get rid of them all. If you work for yourself, clients might be the problem. And Lord knows, if you work with people, you are almost guaranteed to be thrown off the HAPPY WAGON once or twice. It is OK.

10. Happiness requires a small measure of faith and hope in order to accept that TODAY may not be a happy one, but TOMORROW just might be.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Negative Feelings? Own It. Process It. Release It.

It is impossible to be happy, positive, inspired, and fully productive for every moment of every day without significant effort. Even the most positive people on the planet have their moments of disappointment, discouragement, hurt, or emotional response to a challenge.

For a significant portion of my life, I secretly had this warped thought that if I felt sad, discouraged, faint, uninterested in being positive, tired, fearful, anxious, hurt, or insecure that I was not an overall positive, motivated, determined, strong, spiritual, confident individual. Somehow I came to believe that possessing those feelings for more than a “moment” meant that I was an artificial version of a successful person, and therefore needed to hid those feelings from other people behind smiles, laughs, and conversation. If you dared insinuate that I was sad, hurt, insecure about something, fearful, anxious, or pessimistic, I would charismatically become defensive, deny it, or denounce any affiliation with such corrupt ideas or feelings, fully convinced that my actions would make them disappear.

One day as I randomly watched ‘behind the scenes’ footage of a famous singer, I found my freedom. She said that she allows herself a day to be sad, cry, or “bum” around when she feels negative, disappointed, hurt, or is experiencing other “foreign” feelings. After which, she tells herself “it’s time to move on.”

I am not telling you that every feeling deserves time to be “processed.” Some feelings you just need to immediately correct. However, for mental health purposes, there is a time and place to embrace your honest emotions. For one reason or another, many of us are not taught how to deal with these emotions. Or worse, we are taught that having them are signs of weakness or a lack of emotional, mental, or spiritual maturity. Life has taught me the exact opposite. The inability to control the emotion’s influence on you for an extended period of time is the sign of immaturity, not simply feeling them.

Today I grant you the freedom to be openly realistic about your feelings. They may not always be the “right” feelings to have, but the truth is, you have them and they are real to you. So, in those moments…

Own It. Be honest with yourself and the people around you. “Yes, I feel this way right now. But, I’ll let it go tomorrow.”

Process It. Determine a short amount of time to allow yourself to “feel” whatever you feel. Then, take some time, in your own way, to work through those emotions. Take a bath, listen to sad music, exercise, watch a movie, write in a journal, cry, turn off your phone, go to bed early, or just stare at the wall. Whatever it is, think though the emotions and always let positive logic prevail.

Release It. After you’ve taken your time to process, it’s time to let it go…or better said, let it’s influence on you go…