A New Page

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“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” Rumi

Remember when you were a little kid, how you would get so excited about Christmas?  For weeks you would dream about that glorious day.  You imagined the lights and the presents and the food and SANTA and every other glorious thing about that day and the flutter of excitement in your belly would grow and grow until you just didn’t think you could stand it anymore.

Well nowadays I don’t feel that level of excitement for Christmas.  It’s a wonderful day and I really love the family time and all of the other stuff mentioned above, but that flicker of excitement just isn’t there anymore… for Christmas.

Nowadays I get that excitement and anticipation about New Years Day.  Now please don’t imagine that I am one to get all dressed up and head out to a fancy party on New Years Eve, dance and drink champagne etc., like the ending of When Harry Met Sally.  As a matter of fact I don’t remember the last time we went out to a party for New Years.  Last year we managed to hit pause on A Christmas Story in time to do the countdown, had a sip of champagne and a kiss, then went back to the movie. This year is bound to be very much the same story.

No, it’s not the New Years Eve thing that gets me all atwitter.  It is simply the New-ness of it all.  It is that fresh page, fresh start, NEW chance that I love.  For weeks I think about what will be my New Years intentions, and I ponder what I have been grateful for in the previous year.  On New Years Day, a new chapter starts.  Heck sometimes a whole new book begins and the possibilities are endless.  The best part is that I have finally realized that I get to write the stories in that fresh and shiny new book.  It’s like getting the keys to the magic kingdom!

Is it any wonder why I get so excited?

This year I have decided that one of the best ways that I can live in this new and shiny year is to try to treat each day as if it is the first day, all clean and sparkling with new possibilities.  2015, let the magic begin!

The Shepherd

Image by:  Rafael Ramos Fenoy
Image by: Rafael Ramos Fenoy

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.  Help someone’s soul heal.  Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”  Rumi

My much older brother (we’ll call him Clooney) owns a cabin in Montana on Duck Lake where we all just spent the weekend.  The quarters are large enough to comfortably hold the 8 family members and friends that had gathered, but small enough that there is little or no room for finding much alone time.    Clooney, being the intelligent guy that he is, has devised a method to give fair warning to the unsuspecting that a storm may be brewing.

If a person wakes up in the morning feeling less than sociable and maybe just a little bit grumpy, there is a specially designated signal to warn others.  It is a bright red coffee mug that can be seen from great distances and is meant to warn off unsuspecting cabin mates of a percolating foul mood.  If somebody is sipping from the mug, it is advisable to give them a wide berth until they find their happy place.

Brilliant use of form and function, Clooney.  Bravo.

Funny thing though, a person’s bad mood typically doesn’t need a red mug warning attached for others to recognize it.   Have you ever noticed that one person in a bad mood can join an otherwise pleasant group and pretty soon almost everybody is feeling owly and cross?  Maybe there is that one guy in the office who always has something to complain about.  Or that friend who shows up at a party and pretty soon everyone has found a reason to make an early exit.  You know who I am talking about… that Debbie Downer whose foul moods act as the anchor that pulls everyone under.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we all know that person whose presence will almost always raise the moods and attitudes in whatever group they join.  Could be a boring day at the office where everyone feels blah, then Susie Sunshine shows up and pretty soon everyone is energized, laughing, have a great time and wondering why they felt so down earlier.  Wherever she goes, her happiness radiates and warms up whatever space she is in.  We all love Susie and want her at every party we throw, because we know she will just make it better.

This phenomena has actually been put to scientific research and the findings are quite fascinating.  In a study back in 2010 at Harvard University, Alison Hill and her team of researchers concluded that happiness and sadness are indeed contagious and tend to spread in a model very similar to that of infectious diseases.  And it is much easier to spread the Sad germs than it is the Happy ones.  In their study Hill and her team found that groups subjected to sadness were infected about 50% of the time, but those subjected to happiness were only infected 11% of the time.  So in the grand scheme of things, Debbie Downer can take down Susie Sunshine almost any day of the week.

Somebody give Debbie the red mug.  This chick needs a warning label.

Armed with this information I intend to make a concerted effort to spread sunshine wherever I go.  Even on the days I would rather drink from the red mug, I will suck it up and produce a smile, a cheerful hello and keep my bad mood to myself.  And by faking it until I make it, maybe I will infect myself with those jumpy little happy germs along the way.

As the Buddha said, “Happiness never decreases by being shared”.   I say spread that shit around.  Maybe we can start a whole Happiness Pandemic.

The Happiness Pandemic

laughter

“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?”  Dennis and Wendy Mannering

My much older brother (we’ll call him Clooney) owns a cabin in Montana on Duck Lake where we all just spent the weekend.  The quarters are large enough to comfortably hold the 8 family members and friends that had gathered, but small enough that there is little or no room for finding much alone time.    Clooney, being the intelligent guy that he is, has devised a method to give fair warning to the unsuspecting that a storm may be brewing.

If a person wakes up in the morning feeling less than sociable and maybe just a little bit grumpy, there is a specially designated signal to warn others.  It is a bright red coffee mug that can be seen from great distances and is meant to warn off unsuspecting cabin mates of a percolating foul mood.  If somebody is sipping from the mug, it is advisable to give them a wide berth until they find their happy place.

Brilliant use of form and function, Clooney.  Bravo.

Funny thing though, a person’s bad mood typically doesn’t need a red mug warning attached for others to recognize it.   Have you ever noticed that one person in a bad mood can join an otherwise pleasant group and pretty soon almost everybody is feeling owly and cross?  Maybe there is that one guy in the office who always has something to complain about.  Or that friend who shows up at a party and pretty soon everyone has found a reason to make an early exit.  You know who I am talking about… that Debbie Downer whose foul moods act as the anchor that pulls everyone under.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we all know that person whose presence will almost always raise the moods and attitudes in whatever group they join.  Could be a boring day at the office where everyone feels blah, then Susie Sunshine shows up and pretty soon everyone is energized, laughing, have a great time and wondering why they felt so down earlier.  Wherever she goes, her happiness radiates and warms up whatever space she is in.  We all love Susie and want her at every party we throw, because we know she will just make it better.

This phenomena has actually been put to scientific research and the findings are quite fascinating.  In a study back in 2010 at Harvard University, Alison Hill and her team of researchers concluded that happiness and sadness are indeed contagious and tend to spread in a model very similar to that of infectious diseases.  And it is much easier to spread the Sad germs than it is the Happy ones.  In their study Hill and her team found that groups subjected to sadness were infected about 50% of the time, but those subjected to happiness were only infected 11% of the time.  So in the grand scheme of things, Debbie Downer can take down Susie Sunshine almost any day of the week.

Somebody give Debbie the red mug.  This chick needs a warning label.

Armed with this information I intend to make a concerted effort to spread sunshine wherever I go.  Even on the days I would rather drink from the red mug, I will suck it up and produce a smile, a cheerful hello and keep my bad mood to myself.  And by faking it until I make it, maybe I will infect myself with those jumpy little happy germs along the way.

As the Buddha said, “Happiness never decreases by being shared”.   I say spread that shit around.  Maybe we can start a whole Happiness Pandemic.

 

 

 

The Gilded Cage

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“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”  Henry David Thoreau

My niece, Tree Bunny (not her real name. My brother is not a hippy) has recently begun the minimalist 21 day experiment.   In the challenge a person packs up everything they own and sticks it in a room.  Then items are removed from that room only as needed.  Day one you may want to go get your toothbrush, and some clean underwear.  Perhaps a dish, some cutlery and a pot the next morning when you want to have oatmeal for breakfast.  And slowly you replace only the things you truly need and use into your daily life. 

 I have to admit that this paring life down to stark nothingness strangely appeals to me.

Tree Bunny is mostly through the challenge.  She has exactly one plate, one bowl, one fork, spoon and knife, one mug, one week’s worth of clothes, 2 books (omg that gives me palpitations… 2 books??) and just a few incidental items, like toiletries and towels.  Her groceries are purchased with absolutely no waste allowed.  If she knows she will eat 2 bananas and 1 apple, that is what she buys.  In her words, this experiment has blown her mind.  It is “so surprisingly freeing and feels soooo good.” She has kept two pictures for her walls because she loves them and they are pretty, but basically “everything else had to go”.  She can pack her entire life into one trunk and she is blissfully happy about that. 

I would wager big bucks that this bunny was a monk in a past life.  But I digress.   

The important things in life aren’t things.  I know this.  I try to live this, engendering a more “need” than “want” mentality when I shop.  Stuff can accumulate so easily.  This fact was never more apparent than in early April when we moved from Kelowna to Cranbrook.  My American Husband and I had made strides to simplify our lifestyle, or so we thought, but still we ended up with more boxes full of stuff than would fit in the biggest truck the moving company had to offer.  Where did it all come from?  Is that what happens when you leave two boxes alone in a dark room? 

So I have decided to take a page from Tree Bunny’s book (one of the two she kept).  I don’t necessarily feel the need to pare down so drastically, but pare down I must.  No more “This might come back in style” or “What if we need it one day?”  And really, will I fix that broken thing that has been collecting dust for 3 years?  It’s time to get busy.  It’s time to release everything that  I no longer need.  If I don’t use it, or love it, then I am getting rid of it.

Except my books.  Naturally.

The more stuff we accumulate the greater our obligation to store it, house it, clean it, pay for it, and protect it.  These things we desire become the pretty bars in the cage they create for us, shiny and gilded perhaps, but locking us in nonetheless.  Every morning we wake up too early, rush out of our big house, careful to lock the door to keep all of our stuff safe, then head off in the car we are still making payments on to sit in an office doing a job (that let’s be honest, we probably dislike) so that we can make the money to pay for the car and the house and the stuff that sit empty all day. 

What kind of madness have we created for ourselves?

When did the accumulation of things begin to outweigh the importance of free time, leisure, relaxation and family?  Did the money we spent to impress the neighbours bring us the satisfaction we presumed it would? Of course the neighbours we are trying to impress are so busy trying to impress us they barely notice.  In literature we call that “irony”.

Hand me the keys to this prison, I want out!  I have closets to clean and boxes to empty.  I have a whole wardrobe of outfits that hang there waiting patiently while day in and day out I wear about 10% of the clothes I own.  I have boxes in my basement that have made it through three moves without ever being unpacked.  Thank goodness the Matrix has a huge trunk space because things are about to get real. 

And my battle cry?

If I don’t love it, or use it…. hasta la vista baby.