Archives for August, 2012
Good News for Eating Disorders Recovery's August edition is now available, and I wanted to share the message for this month here with you! Much more to come on the topic of loneliness in weeks to come....stay tuned! Your Loneliness is a Good Thing I know. Could I find anything weirder to say for an opening statement? Probably not. I specialize in weird. Plus, loneliness has been on my mind in a big way over the last several weeks -- I have been going through a big move, and being a real "nester" type personality, I have found myself clinging to anything that feels like home while I say goodbye to the old and hello to the brand new. In the midst of this process, one day I found myself talking with a friend about loneliness. I was wondering out loud - why do we traditionally view feeling lonely in a negative light? Why is loneliness regarded as a condition to solve, fill, run from, ignore, or shame ourselves for? After discussing this for awhile, we concluded that it is because of habit. We are quite simply habituated to blaming ourselves for the feeling of "lonely," as if it is some defect within ourselves that has installed this program instead of something else better that everybody else got.
One of my favorite books is called "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." This book chronicles the tale of a band of wild parrots and their unwitting biographer, a caretaker and one-time street musician and homelesss man named Mark Bittner. Since I too co-habitate with a parrot, albeit a smaller, largely flightless, and undeniably tame one, of course nothing makes me happier than to read stories of other humans and their birdie companions. But I have to say, in reading Mark's accounts of the parrot band over time, it shocked me at first how aggressive the parrots could be with one another sometimes. Especially if one got injured, or if another wanted to mate with a bird already paired with a rival suitor....look out. No tea, warm blankets and a pat on the head from this lot! Mark hypothesized about where the aggression might stem from -- especially when by and large the birds behaved in ways that were supportive and loving towards each another. One possibility Mark came up with stemmed from hunger -- the birds had to forage for food and as they depleted the food stores in one area, they had to fly on in search of others. So when they got hungrier their stress levels shot up and so did their tendency to attack. If I am being honest, this phenomenon sounds both plausible and all too familiar.
Now that we have concluded our two month study on one of my favorite articles, "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," I thought it would be helpful to put all the posts, along with the original article link, together in one place in case you want to just read through them one by one. In my experience, choosing to "be happy" looks different for each person, and is also one of those big ticket "lifetime choices" that we get to keep refining and re-examining all our lives. This can be really fun - in fact, the other day I heard a quote that said, "Make a wish and have FUN with it!" and that sounded like so much fun that I started wishing and wishing, dreaming as I did so about all the fun I was going to have with all those wonderful wishes! I think we can do the same thing with each of these. Because each set of opposites below, depending on how you like to interact with your inner and outer world, can be approached as a wish, a prayer, an intention - whatever works for you. The important thing is that we do approach them, examine where there are blocks to our personal happiness, and use our precious time here to unblock those areas so we have more happiness to feel and share. Here is The Purpose Fairy's original article again: "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently." And here are the 15 posts based on each topic from the article:
We have reached #15 in our list of "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently." Our final #15 deals with the source and use of personal power. In this I mean that happy people acknowledge the great power they have to take charge of their own lives, and they also learn well how to use it. Unhappy people, in contrast, tend to see themselves from a place of victimization - as in, "this is happening to me," "s/he did that to me." These things may actually be true, factual statements, but as we saw in #14, it is the feeling behind the reality that determines whether we head to the left or the right on the happy-unhappy spectrum. I really like this statement from "15 Powerful Things": "They [happy people] choose to keep their power and take responsibility for everything that happens to them." It seems like the ultimate irony that, in this power-hungry world we live in, few amongst us realize how many of us so freely give our share of the power away.
#14 in "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," addresses common differences between positive and negative folks - obvious differences, and also not so obvious differences. "Positive thinking" has become all the rage in these slightly more enlightened times, with the unfortunate side effect of concepts like the (well-named if poorly explained) "law of attraction" sometimes conveniently replacing the actual law of reality. The law of reality is that it is not what we say that matters, but what is behind what we say. We can repeat all day,"Abundant profits come to me," but if we feel negative and depressed as we say it, THAT is what we will reap. We see this so transparently with dogs. You can say to a dog "I love you sooooo much!" but if you sound grumpy the dog will slink away and hide under the couch. Conversely, you can say, "Come here you stupid, slobbering mutt" but if you say it with a sweet tone, the dog will wag its tail happily and come right over.
In "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," #13 addresses the slippery slope between staying present in the moment enough to be focused and effective in our work and life there, and still allowing our mind and heart and spirit to range on ahead to dream up new wonders we can feel excited and inspired by. In exploring the delicate balance between present and future, the article's authoress shares a complex-sounding (albeit wise) quote by Eckhart Tolle: “When you are present, you can allow the mind to be as it is without getting entangled in it. The mind in itself is a wonderful tool. Dysfunction sets in when you seek yourself in it and mistake it for who you are.” People like Eckhart Tolle can say things like this without getting confused by them because they have unwrapped their own minds, studied them, made friends with them, put boundaries around them, wrapped them back up, and put them back in their place. The rest of us are most likely left scratching our heads...."the mind in itself is a wonderful TOOL?" I will never forget the first moment I was confronted with the fact that I AM NOT MY MIND. I was like - huh? In the same way, I remember the first time I told one of my mentees that she is not her mind. I'm not sure she has figured that one out yet, actually.
In #12 of "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently," the authoress (sweetly named "The Purpose Fairy") tackles gratitude and its opposite. This is a particularly thorny pair of opposites in my opinion. In fact, just a little over a year ago I spent a week and a half with one of the most powerful mentors I've ever had the good fortune to work with, Byron Katie. We (by which I mean me and about 500 other folks, give or take a few hundred) gathered in Los Angeles, California, for nine straight days of intensive training in what Katie calls "Loving What Is." It took me at least half of those days just to figure out that "loving what is" (is = what is present in my life right now) does not equal being content with what is. Loving what is also does not mean tamping down on the desire to dream a future for myself or others that looks different. Rather, loving what is refers to acceptance.
Interestingly, there is a lot of "self" in #11 from "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently." As in (and I quote): "They [happy people] are kind to themselves and others and they understand the power of self-love, self-forgiveness and self-acceptance." I am not very kind to myself. Or at least that is what my mentor tells me. I am certainly kinder to me than I used to be, which is saying something, but I still have miles to go before I sleep. I don't know if this tendency towards self-critique is a "Type A personality" thing, a "former anorexic and bulimic" thing, a "former depressed and anxious person" thing, or just a "me thing." Or all of the above. Or perhaps none of the above. It is certainly partially a DNA thing - in one of my favorite books, "Quiet" by Susan Cain, the author points out that researchers have now identified personality as being made up of essentially equal parts DNA and environment. Translation: the 50 percent of me that is biologically unhappy is - how shall we say it - screwed. But the other half still has more than enough rope to hang herself....or pull herself up again.
I have never been very good at "being realistic," whatever that means. Obviously. As I examine #10 from the awesome article "15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently" it occurs to me that I actually don't even know what it means to "dream big" because dreams and reality don't seem different to me. This of course also explains why I am often so easily frustrated. In my world, there is little lead time between the birth of a dream and my expectation of it manifesting right in front of me. Those who work with me become acquainted with a certain, shall we say, lack of patience on my part in relatively short order. But this quality is also helpful in directing me towards those big things that actually require doing in my life, and I can tell which ones those are by the ones I cannot seem to help continuing to work on. I have dropped many all-too-realistic dreams, such as going back to graduate school (five times and counting where I turned in an application, even received my funding in one case and still never went), while clinging with a death grip to incredibly impractical dreams such as starting the world's first global online mentoring community. I accomplished dream #2, by the way. It took me several years, but that was one dream I wasn't going to let sneak away. So "realistic" to me equals "that thing you keep trying to do." And "dream" equals "that thing you are not yet certain you will keep trying to do."