Archive for November, 2011

Play it Forward

November 30, 2011

Yikes!  By now, everyone has heard about the strange and disturbing events of Black Friday.  A woman pepper spraying other shoppers in order to get to a video game, riots breaking out over $2.00 waffle irons and people stepping over each other when they fell…all in the name of “competitive shopping.”  I don’t know about you but I’m afraid to go into a store for fear I’ll be conked on the head with a toaster or strangled with an appliance cord! Tis the season to be jolly….and there will be blood!

Obviously, these are tense economic times but some people are really losing it! I think part of the problem is that we are becoming a panic driven society; we are saturated with bad news and impending doom…and we have forgotten how to play nicely with others!

Remember the movie, “Pay it Forward?” the concept was to do a needed favor for three people and ask nothing in return except for those people to do the same for three others. It was the idea of an 11-year-old boy with the hope of making the world a better place.  I think we could use some of that right now and I’d like to adapt it a little and suggest that we “PLAY” it forward, as well.

What if each of us were to make a commitment to laugh with three people every day…or at least smile with one person? What if, instead of leaving our houses every morning expecting to run into problems in traffic or at work, we adopted an attitude of altitude and decided to rise above annoyances and be determined to find some joy in the day? Maybe it would catch on and courtesy, patience and friendliness could make guest appearances!

It makes sense to me that if we were to try very hard to avoid walking in fearstorms and try equally as hard to add some fun and play to our lives, we might be better off, but it’s not always easy! It is difficult to find humor in stressful situations, especially when we’re constantly faced with what’s wrong in the world. People are losing jobs, worrying about money, fearful of their futures and consequently, they are clobbering each other with waffle irons while Holiday shopping during the “most wonderful time of the year!”

To maintain a healthy balance and prevent road rage, shopping rage and general “snarkiness” to others, I think it’s imperative to occasionally shift mental gears and readjust our thinking patterns to include more playing….good, old fashioned silly playing that is accompanied by lots of laughter.  It begins with a daily attitude shift; a personal vow to choose your battles, keep your cool and refuse to be sucked into negativity.   And if you feel like adding some stress-breaking toys into the mix…so much the better! Each of us measures the success of a day in our own way; some by how many battles we win and some by how many people with whom we’ve shared a smile.  If we play it forward and share some fun with others; maybe they’ll be inspired to do the same. Then, maybe we’ll have less people snarling and more people smiling. It’s worth a try and it sure can’t hurt! And if you anger someone because you smiled at them, and they conk you with a toaster….at least you’ll go down with a smile on your face!

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Embrace the Detours

November 17, 2011

Sometimes we get on a path and we think we know where we’re going. We have it all planned….the route we’re going to take and how long it will take us to get there. Then, all of the sudden…WHAMMO! Something happens; a road block or a detour. We’re suddenly thrown into a tailspin as we realize that we have to go a different way and change our carefully laid plans.  This is true in driving and it is also true about life in general.   People don’t like change.  We don’t accept it readily and we fight it.  While driving, I have actually seen people get out of their cars and argue with orange cones.  The cones don’t care…they are cones of silence.  Now that I think of it….I, myself, have thrown out some harsh words at detour signs. It never does me any good because it doesn’t change anything, I can do nothing about it and I still have to take the detour.  And sometimes, I find that the different route takes me to places that I never would have seen otherwise, and I actually enjoy the scenery.  I guess I owe some of those signs an apology.

The same goes for detours in life.  There are many quotes about the uncertainty of life; like “Life is what happens while you are busy planning other things.” and “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”   I’m not really sure exactly what that one means, but I guess people and rodents often get stuck in mazes and have to find their way out. All of nature is subject to unforeseen influences and “stuff happens.”  We experience roadblocks and detours along the way and they can either make us or break us. It depends on how flexible we are and how willing we are to go with the flow.  When life throws us a curve, we can either emulate Rumplestiltskin or throw a tantrum or we can put on our big girl pants and look at the situation as an opportunity to grow.

I once drove on the highway behind a van full of children. After driving behind them for a few hours, I noticed that they were busily working on something. In a few minutes, a sign appeared in the back windshield. It was lettered in crayon and in a childish scrawl. It read “Help us please. We have to pee and daddy won’t stop.”  I guess Daddy was determined to reach his destination and didn’t want to make a detour.  Too bad….because he probably missed some nice scenery.

Living Life on a Bungee Cord

November 16, 2011

Living on a Bungee Cord

I don’t care for bungee cords, unless they are the little ones that are used to tie down trunks and secure things so they don’t move around. The big ones; the ones that people attach to themselves before jumping off of high places, do not appeal to me. This may be because at this point in my life, if I ever allowed my body to plummet, only to be jerked back up and then bounced back down again, I would never be able to get my parts back in their upright and locked position! I have too much loose skin and many things aren’t where they were originally, so I can’t afford to shake them up.

Can you imagine living on a bungee cord? You’d be bouncing up and down and up and down and never find a resting place for very long. Many of us do live metaphorical bungee cord existences. We’re either flying high or feeling lower than a snake’s belly.  We all know that life is full of highs and lows, and that’s to be expected. The problem comes when we allow ourselves to fall prey to severe attitude shifts because we lack any stabilizing anchors. Usually, this happens when we aren’t centered and focused on our priorities and we look to others to define our worth.

In my life, every time I have compromised my standards and lost my sense of authentic self because I was trying to be something that I’m not, I’ve found myself flailing and bouncing like I was on a bungee. When I’ve listened to someone else’s negative assessment of my ideas or capabilities and allowed it to derail me, I’ve metaphorically jumped off of that cliff and headed downward until someone else praised me and I was pulled back up again….only to stay there until I heard another negative comment….and so on.  To depend on other people’s opinions of your value is just asking for an emotional elevator ride!

How do you go about breaking an addiction to approval?  I think you have to get fed up! You have to reach a point of saturation at which there is no more room for judgments and criticism to define your happiness. You have to decide whether it would feel better to spend the rest of your life as a victim or would you rather be a victor? You need to look around and really think about why you consider the opinions of others to be more valuable than yours and accept the fact that you have allowed this to happen.

Then begins the process of “unlearning” harmful thinking patterns and replacing them with habits which will enrich and encourage you.  I use affirmations which I write on sticky tabs and I plaster them on my mirror and in my car so I am constantly reminded that I am perfectly capable of finding confidence within myself.

I had to go deep into memories and think about the patterns that were established somewhere in my past and make a conscious choice about whether I wanted to stay with them or make a change. I had to accept and even embrace my values and decide whether they represented the authentic me. If they did…then I stuck with them. If they were someone else’s values, I let them go.

If you feel like there is turbulence in your life and you’re bouncing up and down like a small plane in a storm, check to see if there is a bungee cord fastened to your ankle. That bungee isn’t a life line…it’s not an umbilical cord, and it’s not sustaining you; so cut it, bite it or rip it off!

If you are a thrill seeker and wish to bungee bounce for fun and recreation, go for it! But bungee emotions are NOT fun or recreational….they just leave you feeling helpless and dangling in the wind.

Asbestos Gelos

November 2, 2011

I love the Greek phrase, asbestos gelos. I just recently found it while rereading Homer’s Iliad and it became my “phrase du jour” for many jours!  When I mentioned it to friends, there were several speculative comments about what it might mean. Even though these were good guesses, I must tell you that it does not translate into “jello made from asbestos,” it is not a Christmas carol, although someone pointed out that it can indeed be sung to the tune of Adeste Fidelis, and it is definitely not a curse or a spell cast by Harry Potter.

Asbestos Gelos (as-bes-tos yay-los) literally means “fireproof laughter.” I like that. Homer used it in reference to the laughter of the gods; it was unquenchable laughter…laughter in the face of fear and adversity.  How cool is that? It has long been said that he who laughs…lasts, and I believe that is true! I like to think of fireproof laughter as a spirit of joy and hope that transcends hardship and woe and offers promise in times of tribulation. It isn’t about being goofy and laughing in inappropriate situations, but to me, it’s about refusing to be robbed of joy and not allowing other people or a set of circumstances to suck the hope out of your soul!

When I think back on the missed opportunities in my life, they usually happened during one of my “fearstorms.”  I always refer to interFEARance as being the cause of many of our problems. It happens when we lose confidence, joy, hope and our footing….then we fall. I like to think of asbestos gelos as happening when our fear and joy collide and we decide to choose hope instead of despair.

I am a worrier, so I have taken to calling upon asbestos gelos when I feel myself begin to slide down Negativity Hill. When I say the phrase, my mind conjures up a super shero character with AG on her chest, head thrown back in laughter, shaking a fist at a cloud of doom and shouting “I laugh at you!”  Sounds silly, but it makes me giggle and it shifts my brain gears.

I don’t believe that we were meant to live with a spirit of fear and timidity…we are supposed to access joy and laughter at every opportunity. So I challenge you to make “asbestos gelos” part of your vocabulary. And try saying it with an accent…it sounds even better!