Comparisons

“If God had not made brown honey, men would think figs far sweeter than they do.”   ~Xenophanes

It is in our nature to compare, we use the technique often to make judgements and decisions.  We compare prices when we shop, we compare the features of a car or appliance to decide which one will be the best for our use.  Because it is an habitual way of thinking, it is often applied to people as well.  The problem lies in the myriad of “features” that come with each person, and to weigh one against another is opening oneself to the risk of overlooking traits absent in one or another.

The measure of comparing a human is against one’s own moral beliefs, tastes, interests and peccadilloes.  To hold one person up against the other we may develop mis-information, but to evaluate  whether a person is an asset to our lives we must observe how they fit one’s way of being.  It demands of us that we look more deeply and carefully than we would if we were to say, “he is kinder, she is more generous”.  It is the whole and not the sum of the parts of a person that we must come to know.

Being judgemental has the connotation of being unfair, yet relying on judgement to make choices and to discern the value and importance of each factor is vital in making good choices for one’s best interest.  Weighing instead against life experience rather than another person, we gain the essence of someone, and the way they might fit with us or that in fact, there are critical elements missing that we recognize we cannot do without.

Remaining mindful that comparisons have their place, and taking care to use them only when necessary, we avoid the distressing and happiness stripping habit of holding up unlike things against each other.  To be fully in the moment requires letting go of the past moments and choosing to savor whatever this one has to offer.  Developing the ability to stay present, using judgement to make good choices, and comparison for buying a new washing machine, gives us the tools to be kind to ourselves and find our way to the people and moments that will enrich our lives.

Too Much

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries”  Theodore Isaac Rubin

I have been told by others from time to time that I am too much.  Too intense, too demanding, too something.  We all may have an overabundence of a particular trait that we frame in the negative.  As we go about the business of choosing what our life will look like, would we really choose to diminish ourselves?

Embracing who we are in all of our extremes is a challenge at times; humor helps I think.  When I find myself running off at the mouth, I inwardly laugh and think,  “there I go again”.  It is a harmless acknowledgement of the otherwise negative,” I talk too much”.  People with large personalities are a vital ingredient in the soup of life.  The flamboyant, the enthusiastic, the highly charged, highly motivated introduce big ideas, inspire us to loftier thought and action if we do not allow ourselves to be intimidated and overwhelmed by their very presence.  And if we are one of the bigger than life personae in one manner or topic, we owe it to ourselves and the grand mix not to scale back, tone it down, shut it off at the source.

It is not the “fool in me” that needs love, it is the message of too much that we need to reframe.  If we are not one who loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, laughs and cries; are we fully human?  We are not fools to have a full range of emotion, the ability to err and fail, we are merely the less than perfect beings among an entire sea of beings all imperfect in their own ways.  There is joy to be found in embracing our quirks, laughing at our foibles, loving all the ingredients that make us unique; accepting our humanness.

Picking up the Ball

Going back through all of my posts has had an unexpected side effect…a severe case of “when did I lose track of that?”.  Although going through the ninety posts is slow going; I find I need to re-read each one to pick words that are somewhat reflective of the topic to use as tags.  I covered the first twenty or so and I know it will take longer as I go, the posts grew in length over time as well.

The first topic I lost track of was the “spin”.  Taking the negative or gloomy perspective and finding the positive, upbeat view.  Everything  from finding joy in a long gray day to finding the humor in an awkward encounter seems to have slipped away a bit.

Specific resolutions like Creativity Day and getting the filing under control – the work table for creative projects is now buried under all of that filing!  Some resolutions were kept and the one I hang on to as proof I can do this is writing daily.  So I will give myself a gold star on that one and pick one resolution to add in for the next ninety days. (Hey, I’m a slow reinforcer, most people it’s a month to six weeks, me, far more.)  So I will deal with my pigeon of discontent (as opposed to the Bluebird of Happiness, thanks G. Rubin), which is the filing.  It is not simply a stack of papers that need to go in folders, it is an entire shift of past years to boxes (need to buy one), make new files and purge the old, then put it all away.  But, once done, I am resolving to put the paper in the folder without it ever hitting the “to be filed” pile.  When I look at what has prevented me from doing this I realize, beyond it being a less than “fun” task, my perfectionist streak gets in the way as well.  The folder “needs labels” is the fattest, because I like printed labels, not hand written.  I will accept that it is important to me and make the time to print labels as needed, rather than “later”.

So here I am again circling back to mindfulness; paying attention to what is really happening or keeping me from attacking a project or task.  One of the huge benefits of putting things in writing is being able to look back as a check-up, to remind oneself where we were, where we thought we wanted to go, and hold that up against one’s current location.  There will always be some slipping, life happens, and all of our good intentions may lose some of their priority, but the good news is, with reminders, we can pick up the ball again.

It’s A Riot

Of birdsong that is!

Last spring I was so lost in the gray days that seemed to stretch on forever that I would just look outside in the morning, sigh, and prepare for another nothing day.  But choosing happiness, I look out at the gray day, step outside and tune in to the natural world.  The birds are returning at a furious rate and the songs have gone from a symphony to a battle of the bands.  Stepping out on the deck I breathe in the cool mountain air, laugh at the cacophony and allow myself to feel the world around me reawakening.

A benefit of blogging is being able to compose on the computer, rather than in notebooks, which has been my customary practice.  I still keep a journal at hand when I am reading just to jot down quotes or ideas that strike me, but I am able to move to the computer and do the real work here.  As a result I am continuing to refine my workspace and bring together the items that allow my creativity to flow on to paper.  This has been such a fun and exciting process, it keeps me focused on my goals and I look forward to the time I can spend on my projects.

Today is my WordPress class at the library, hopefully I can get some tips on making this blog more interesting and connected with the rest of the blogosphere.  If not, I will run home and sign up for the adult education classes offered this spring.

Words to focus on today: mindfulness, joy, learning

Creativity Day

Yesterday was a day I wanted to devote solely  to creative pursuits.  Sunday seems like such a good day for that; generally a slower day anyway, and doing something fun that gets my creative juices flowing is a great way to prepare for the week ahead.  Since organizing my space is a must for me, I created a new space in a bedroom under a south-facing window.  I hauled an incredibly heavy table from the garage and set it up.  I located all of my various tubs of craft supplies, paints, glue guns, drafting supplies, on and on.  For once, I did not go out and buy a single thing before I got started using it. I painted my coffee canisters, repaired small broken items, and laid out some ideas for decorating my Adventure Box – (sounds even better than activity box, I think).  It was so focused and relaxing at the same time.

Resolution:  Spend Sunday on creative projects and laying out future projects

Monday however, is my administrative day.  It seems at the end of the day when I think about what is coming up, on Sunday I always come up with things that I have to do on a weekday, such as calling businesses for appointments and such.  Before I went to sleep I made a list of calls, five, to get me started this morning.  I am so excited, this week’s calendar is busier with planned events, a class on WordPress tomorrow, Wednesday a presentation on a trip to Ireland, and Saturday a Celtic dinner dance to round out the focus on St. Patrick’s day. I am especially excited about the WordPress class as I look at other blogs and am inspired to do more.

My first personal Commandment for my Happiness Project:

Do not let others define you – be you from the inside out

Nature note:  Snow last night, maybe a 1/4″ but fully covered everything, so from looking like spring yesterday, this morning it is a winter wonderland again.  It will get above freezing later, then back to early spring, which in Montana is a bit more like “sprinter” a little of each, the forecast for the rest of the week is just about the same.  Being fully present in the moment, with concrete daily goals, makes this transitional season something to celebrate rather than tolerate.  Spring forward!

Daylight Savings Time

We are not really saving any daylight, right?  So why this artificial clock changing routine twice a year?  Worse yet, now I have several devices that change automatically and several that do not; the funny thing is even the auto setters can’t seem to agree on the exact time, each has a different minute setting.  I feel like the March Hare racing around trying to set clocks close to the same time as the others.  I imagine in some not too distant future my “smart” home will synchronize all the devices.  Until then I believe it is somewhere between 8:30 and 8:40 AM.  I do go by the earliest by the way.

Yesterday was successful on three fronts:

  • Overcoming fear to use a new tool and carry out a much-needed task – air compressor and tire inflation
  • Hard physical labor, reward – visual sense of accomplishment and physical exhaustion
  • Continuing routines that are healthy – food diary combined with healthful eating and  exercise/meditation

Today I am committing to a creativity day.  I’m bringing a large table up from the garage and will work on a couple of crafts projects and my Activity Box.  I realized that I have collected clippings and such for a variety of activities and then they go in a folder in the file cabinet and are instantly forgotten.  So I decided to decorate a plain file container that is fun and enticing and add these folders today and more I’m sure, as I go along:

  • Hikes
  • Gardening
  • Classes
  • Events

I hope a cheerful looking box sitting out where I can see it will remind me that I have loads of fun right at my fingertips!

Nature note: the Juncos are back!  I mistook their small bobbing black heads with tiny bright yellow beaks furiously bobbing up and down on the ground for butterflies last year when I first spotted them.  They arrive in big flocks and only stay a short while before heading higher into the mountains for the summer; but their sweet peeping and flurry of activity are a joy on an almost spring morning.

Excavation

Sometimes in the course of trying to find happiness, one stumbles upon a deep unhappiness that should be unearthed, dusted off, and given a good look.  Even though we can choose our conscious state of happiness, at times our sub-conscious is just not ready to let go of a particular unhappiness.  For many, that unhappiness appears in dreams that can leave one troubled upon waking.  It is by its nature not a pleasant undertaking to really examine an unhappiness, but in the end, if one can come to some sort of peace or at least a truce, there is greater room for true happiness to reside in the sub-conscious as well.

Since today is a day of tackling nagging tasks, I might as well add examining the unhappiness.  To balance my day and not tip it into the rather depressing exercise it could become, I will spend time outside doing physical work on this bright, sunny still day.  With balance, I hope to put my unhappiness items in perspective and look at them in a way that leads me back to my chosen path. After all, how can I not look out on this bright sunny morning and not feel joy?

Loose Ends

I realized last night that in my enthusiasm to do new things, and find my happiness in everything, I have started more projects than I have the time to devote to them.  Today I will wrap up a few loose ends to allow myself more time to devote to the things that truly make me happy – happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy. Today will be a day of less fun tasks that will lead to greater happiness in the long run.

  • Finish vacuuming the rest of the house with my new vacuüm – that means the baseboard, the window sills, everything!
  • File or throw away every computer related CD & instructions – just do it!
  • Create order for my books in progress – too many
  • If I stumble upon something that I can wrap up in fifteen minutes or less I will do it now.

 I know that spring in western Montana is a little of this and a little of that but it may be on its way!  Last night we had rain, such a soothing sound that I slept with my window open enough to hear it.  This morning there was a dusting of snow but the sun is out and it has melted in the sunny spots already.  Another beautiful day in the neighborhood!

On mindfulness, I bought a little notebook to track all of my food and beverage consumption, which I will decorate to make the un-fun a little more so.  I need to pay more attention to what goes in my mouth, and knowing I have to commit it in writing may slow me down some.  I found an acronym from someone  who had been in rehab; I think it is  a healthy tool to use to bring oneself back to mindfulness in the present.  Ask myself:

  • H – Hungry?
  • A – Angry?
  • L – Lonely?
  • T – Tired?

And then use a mindfulness technique to become fully present while sitting quietly with eyes closed:

  • S – sense – what do I feel in my body? Cold, eyes tired, back hurts, blister…
  • I – image – what do I see with my eyes closed?
  • F – feeling – what emotions am I feeling right now?
  • T – thinking – what am I thinking?

By the time I go through HALT and SIFT I may have lost the urge to mindlessly graze – one can hope!  Time to start my terrific Tuesday – I can hardly wait to see how much I can finish today.

Grabbing Joy

Sunday I planned to spend the day shopping, one of my less favorite activities.  But we had our first day of the year of temperatures in the 50’s and it seemed too fine a day to spend in a car or a big box store.  Instead I enjoyed my morning coffee watching the sunrise and the day warm as the birds made their presence known, sounding as joyous as I felt.  I was able to wander around the property looking to see what the melting snow had uncovered and feeling the soil soften under my feet.

Just before dusk as I was heading in I heard a rustle in the grass and turned to find the biggest flock of wild turkeys I had seen so far.  My best estimate, counting turkeys on the move being what it is, was at least sixty.  Although they are a less attractive bird from a distance, up close their feathers are iridescent and catch the sun as they scurry along.  Another sight I would have missed.

Seeking out moments of joy, even if it means a change of plans to soak up an unexpected opportunity can not only offer the immediate pleasure, but a happiness boost (now that is something they need to offer at Jamba Juice!), every time that I  recall the experience.  Just now thinking about turning around to see the flock come trooping out of the trees makes me smile.

Today I will turn my mindfulness to finding a sight or sound I can savor, even as I am shopping for the mundane.