A Little Action

I stumbled across a cool blog today called Break the Twitch.

Every article I read, but particularly the video he posted in this clip, really resonated with me. He talks about the difference between saying you’re going to do something versus actually doing something. And, he points out that the difference between the two only needs to be a small, minuscule task.

I think this is a life lesson that many of us could really benefit from.

There are some other really cool posts, too. He recommends you start here. I particularly like his post, How We Spend Our Days

This reminder is exactly what I needed today:

Every day we have an opportunity to be present, truly think about what matters most to us, and live that reality. We can be the person that wakes up early to start the day with meditation, whether we were that person yesterday or not. Is it not amazing to know that we have the power to control the present and be whoever it is that we desire to be?

Anyway, in the spirit of taking a little action, this evening after supper, I spent three minutes making a drawer that started out like this:

  
…turn into this:

  
And, I’m pretty excited at the joy that drawer with less will bring me every time I open it. So, yay, me.

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A Life Too Short

Last night, I went to a memorial service for my spouse’s boss – a man who died too young after a short, fierce battle with cancer. I did not know this man well, only having met him a handful of times, but I was moved beyond words by what I witnessed.

The event itself was very non-traditional. As far as memorial services go, it was perfect in every way. The venue was intimate, non-religious and conducive to intimate chit chat and reminiscing among friends. There was a bar, there was food. The man’s wishes were for an event “no sadder than it has to be”. His loved ones definitely pulled it off.

It was immediately obvious that this man was held in high esteem by all who knew him. The lineup of people patiently waiting to enter and speak lovingly to his spouse, who personally greeted each person as they arrived, was beyond anything I had ever seen before.

A few his good friends and loved ones spoke about his life and the man he was. It was clear that, even though his life ended tragically, cut short by an awful disease, he lived life to the fullest in the time that he had. It seemed that everyone who was a part of that life felt grateful for the impact he had.

Behind the podium, on a large projection screen, photographs of the man in all his endeavours flashed across the screen. Just being in the room, feeling the love, was an experience unparalleled to any other in my entire life.

Already, typing these words, I feel frustrated because I don’t have the skill required to describe the atmosphere and intense emotion that filled the room.

I just know that, when it was over, I walked out of there feeling the strangest array of unexpected emotions. I felt inspired. I felt validated. I felt that this man lived the life that I have been trying to live, only he did it better, with more grace and humility and love. With more determination, flare and personality. I felt envious of the life he lived and of the people who obviously felt so fortunate to have been a part of it. I felt sad that someone with such tremendous spirit was taken too soon. I felt afraid that when my time comes, I will not have made a fraction of the impact on the people in my life that this man did.

I also came away with a renewed sense of gratitude. Gratitude that I still have today to work harder at being someone who deserves the kind of love and respect this man had in spades. I still have today to make my loved ones feel special the way his loved ones did. I still have today to live, to love, to travel, to experience, to be my best self.

The Power of Words

It’s amazing really – the impact that a few syllables strung together and directed at another human being can have. Whether written or spoken, once shared, words are in the universe forever. It’s cliché, but so true. Once you share them, you cannot take them back. And they will remain etched in someone’s memory, for better or worse.

The Good

Used wisely and with love, words have the ability to light up the world, one sentence at a time. The genuine compliment that you take the time to pay someone? Nothing compares to the good it does their soul. Validation and recognition are gifts so simply given, yet they have value beyond measure to the recipient.

Someone I have known in a professional capacity for a long time paid me a compliment yesterday. She took a moment out of her day to say something nice about one of my blog posts in a comment on Facebook. A number of people take time to say nice things and it lifts me up. I am so grateful for every comment.

But, this particular comment by this particular commenter reminded me of a time many years ago where she went out of her way to make a positive impact in my life with her words. It was simple, really. I was working in an entry-level position, fresh out of college and she (a successful executive) invited me into her office for a discussion. I forget exactly what the words were but, basically, she praised my hard work, intelligence and abilities and encouraged me to set goals and aim high, saying she felt that I could excel and that I need not plan on staying a receptionist forever. While, I’m pretty sure I’ve told her a time or two over the years, possibly after a few drinks, this affected me in monumental ways – ways in which, I’m sure, she cannot possibly imagine.

I was a (very) young mother who fought hard to get a college education while working at McDonald’s and caring for very young kids and who, out of pure luck, landed a government job. My situation at home was not good, and I was feeling a little like an imposter in this new, professional environment. Her words, quite literally, changed the course of not only my career, but my entire life. I knew from the moment I left her office that I was going do everything I could to live up to what she believed I was capable of. I walked out of that meeting with a blossoming sense of self worth and confidence. As dramatic as it sounds, that 1o or 15 minute meeting contributed to giving me the courage to grow into the person I am today. And, thanks to the time she gave me and the words she spoke to me, I am living a life I never would have thought possible back then.

Her comment yesterday was extremely timely. I’m facing a challenging time in my career right now and have been feeling stressed and edgy facing the unknown. Having her appearing in my virtual world was a reminder of all she taught me back then, in that meeting and as I watched her career successfully progress over the years: work hard, be your best self and, eventually, all will work out as it should. I’m so grateful for that reminder!

The Bad

Sadly, all too often, many of us walk through life too busy and distracted to provide positive feedback to the people we are surrounded by. We might notice a wonderful quality or strength in someone but, for any number of reasons, we never tell them how amazing we think they are. Or, worse, despite appreciating all the wonderful attributes in the people around us, we harp on the flaws. Or we snark. We go out of our way to point out the bad and, rarely, acknowledge the good.

Our Words, Our Legacy

Long after we’re gone, the people we love will remember the words we spoke that impacted them, good or bad. When we choose our words we, literally, choose our legacy and what we will be remembered for. Think about that.

The internet is full of quotes from famous people – you can’t open Facebook without seeing a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa. These people are remembered for the things that they said, because their words yielded power and affected change.

Albeit on a smaller scale, our words have the same power to those we are surrounded by. Even if the whole world is not listening to what we have to say, someone is. And, everything we say to one another has the power to impact someone’s path.

An “Off the Cuff” Remark

When I was nine or ten, I remember telling my dad I wanted to be a hair dresser when I grew up. My dad, who is now retired after 30 years as a milk man, knew what it meant to work hard every single day.

To this day, I remember how that discussion went. I remember him asking me, “Why a hair dresser?”…and I remember the obvious response was so that I could have nice hair! (Duh!) He told me that there was absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to be a hair dresser but that I should think about the “why”. I remember him saying that someone as smart as me could choose to be whatever in the world I wanted. And, I remember that I whole-heartedly believed him.

Now…it turns out that the very first decision I made as an 18-year-old “adult” was to become a mom, and I have no regrets, but his words have followed me throughout the rest of my life. And, I want to leave a legacy like that for the people I love, too. When they think of me, I don’t want the snark to be what instantly comes to mind. 🙂

What words have impacted your life?

Wake Up – Because Life is Short

Life is short. So damn short. So why do we keep living like tomorrow is guaranteed? It’s not. People die. Good people die. Good people die young…when they still have stuff to do.

We walk around assuming it’s not going to happen to us or, worse, to someone we love. We assume that we still have tomorrow to be the person we wish we were today.

But, it’s time to wake up and get real. Because that phone call could come any moment. That tragic, life-changing or life-ending incident could be just around the corner. The cancer, the car accident, the end.

If you knew today was your last day, would you have regrets? If you knew today would be the last day for someone you love, would you have regrets? I damn well would. But, I want to change that.

Why? Why are we not living the lives we want to be living? Why are we putting off being the people we want to be? Because we can do it later? No! Today is all we have. No excuses. No being a victim. No “life is hard”. This is it. Hard? Yes. But, it’s probably the only life we get. So make it special. This moment = life. Savour it. Live it. Be the real you.

Think of your loved ones. Picture their faces. Feel the love you have for them. Appreciate them. Be grateful for them. Love them. Today.

Think of your loved ones who have left this earth. Picture their faces. Regrets? Let the regrets go. Be grateful for the time you had with them. Let the lessons their life and death taught you wash over you. Let those lessons guide your life, today.

Who do you want to be? Think deeper than skinnier, more organized or “better”. I want to be kind, gentle, peaceful. I want to live a healthy life so I increase my chances of being here for my loved ones longer. I want to be present in this and every moment. I want to crank less and encourage more. I want to love.

I don’t want more things. I don’t want more money. I don’t want fame or fortune or recognition. I want a simple life. I want just enough. And, I want to share the extra because I recognize so many people don’t have enough. I want to give what I can and to take only what I need.

I hate that someone has to die to remind us that life is short. And, we have the same conversations every time. About how life is short. And, then, we forget. Again.

No more.

 

Gratitude – Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

So, my last post talked about exploring gratitude even in situations that are instantly and instinctively perceived as bad. I talked about how I am naturally a ‘silver lining’ kind of person and how I naturally see what is good in bad situations. And I am. I do.

Still, gratitude has been at the forefront of my mind since writing that last post. And, I’ve learned a little bit of something about my high and mighty, superior, grateful self.

I am a cranky hag.

Ok, fine. I knew that already. I’m a kind, generous and wonderful cranky hag who loves her family beyond measure, but a cranky, and sometimes sarcastic, hag nonetheless. I have no problem seeing the good in a really bad situation. But. I have a real problem with often seeing bad in a meh, it’s not really a big deal situation. I sometimes make mountains of mole hills.

Sometimes, instead of feeling grateful when I should, like when my husband is working with our seven-year-old on her science project, I feel, well, like a cranky hag. It’s bad. I recognize it instantly, yet seem powerless to stop it. Example: I am working hard to clean the house which is something I choose to do, because a clean house is important to me. Lesson I need to learn: the fact that I am cleaning does not give me the right to expect people to stop living in the house. But, someone takes out a bowl or even looks like they might hamper my martyr efforts and I turn into….the devil. Why do I do that?

Perfectionism is a bitch.

What do you think of when you hear the word perfectionism? Someone like me who has an absolute melt down when someone undoes my cleaning efforts? Sure. Guilty as charged. And super ashamed of it.

Perfectionism, though, is much more than that. I thought I had overcome perfectionism…or that, at the very least, I was a recovering perfectionist. Over the years, I have learned the damage that being a perfectionist causes and I’ve tried to adjust my behaviours and have succeeded in some areas.

Do you think you’re not possibly a perfectionist because your living space is a mess or because you’re disorganized? Think again. Your living space may be a mess because you’re a perfectionist. You don’t have the time or the energy to get it all done…so you don’t start. Procrastination is, in my opinion, the biggest and most damaging symptom of perfectionism.

Like, you can’t make the perfect decision…so you put. off. deciding. And, bam, nothing ever gets done. Because, newsflash, the perfect decision does NOT exist. Anyway…I’m really great at seeing these tendencies…and I thought I had personally overcome all or most of them…until I flipped my lid because someone might leave a trace of their presence in my newly-cleaned space. Clearly, I have more work to do.

Going back to gratitude.

So, here’s me putting my money where my mouth is. Both my spouse and I have tendencies in the perfectionist spectrum (I made that up, it might not be a thing). Different tendencies. And, I am aware that neither of us will ever be perfect. But, I am still grateful to have the most amazing partner a girl could ever ask for. So, here are just a few things that are great about having a perfectionist for a partner:

  1. I NEVER have to shovel snow. Or sort recyclables. Or take out the trash. He does it all. Perfectly. Every single time. He has the absolute highest work ethic of anyone I have ever met. He does not take short cuts. You know that if he does something, he does it right.
  2. I don’t have to research purchases. I just tell him what I am considering and he researches every possible angle. I have the highest confidence that I am purchasing wisely when I involve him. And, it doesn’t matter whether it’s his money or someone else’s. He will take the same amount of time and conduct the same amount of research to help make sure anyone he knows makes the right purchase.
  3. Science project for a seven-year-old? No stress required on my part. He takes pride in working with her. He encourages her to take pride in her work. All I have to do is sit back in awe at his dedication to the process.

So, Babe? I know I am a cranky hag. And, that I have given you grief over the things that I should be grateful for. That I have rolled my eyes, perplexed, at the time you dedicate to things that I unjustly deem unworthy. And, I know it’s wrong of me do that. Believe me when I say I’m working on gratitude. And, even if I forget to say it, I am so grateful to have you.

Reading this may just change your life.

So, last night this Weekend Reading List by Becoming Minimalist appeared in my Facebook news feed: Inspiring Simplicity. Weekend Reads.

I just read the first article How to Become a Luckier Person Overnight.

I am BEGGING everyone who is reading this to go, right now, and read this article. Yes, it’s long. Yes, it has lots of words in it but, please, humour me. I sincerely believe it has the ability to change your life. If you let it, it will show you how to be more like the person you’ve always wished you could be. If you don’t have time to read it now, then bookmark it and go back to it later when you have the time to really read it and pay attention.

The article talks about exploring gratitude in the most ridiculous circumstances. The author describes a situation where his storage locker was broken into and his bike was stolen. Damn, why are you still here? Just read it. My explanation will never do it justice. I was never any good at book reports. Just come back when you’re done, k? Pretty please?

Done? Ok. Here’s the thing. I’ve always often been a silver lining girl. I am lucky in that I usually naturally see what’s good about even the most (seemingly) awful of situations. But, frankly, it’s a trait that annoys a lot of people.

For whatever reason, people who are not naturally inclined to look for the positives and feel at least a little bit grateful are often offended by people like me. They roll their eyes at the silver lining having decided in an instant that a situation is bad, all bad and nothing but bad. And, (it seems) they think that by acknowledging the good, the bad is being viewed as unimportant. And that anyone who points out the good is being dismissive. But, that’s not it. Every single situation can be both bad and good at the same time. But, choosing to look for the good, and then feeling grateful for the good, is the difference between a successful, happy life and a life where you are a victim every single day.

The author of this article did an extraordinary job describing how to mindfully explore what might be good about a situation. No one is saying you’re mandated to feel great about losing your job or finding out your kid is sick or having a fight with your spouse or breaking up with the person you think is the love of your life. You’re just encouraged to think about whether or not any part of a “bad” situation is good. And, if you find something good about it, which you invariably will, you’re encouraged to take a second to feel gratitude.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right…?

A great blogger I’ve talked about before has explored The Difference Between Knowing the Path and Walking the Path. I challenge all of us to walk this path of gratitude and to see and feel the light it brings into our lives.

Try it out and tell me what you think. Tell me if it has an impact on any part of your day. And click the share button below if you think it has the potential to improve the outlook of someone you know.

Minimalism: 4 Things I Did Today and 10 Things I Must Do Going Forward

I’ve been a wannabe minimalist for a while now. Over a year ago, I came across Courtney Carver’s Project 333 and her website Be More With Less and it pretty much changed the way I look at life. And stuff. I got really inspired to declutter physically and mentally. And, since then, I’ve done a pretty decent job. My closet is always organized. I work (rather unsuccessfully) at keeping crap out of my house.

But, admittedly, it’s hard to live a clutter-free life when you live with others who don’t share that passion and drive to eliminate the unnecessary. I have to work harder at accepting that my priorities and their priorities don’t have to be the same.

In the spirit of advancing my journey, today, I did (and learned) a few little things that will help me along the way:

1. I took care of a simple task that I have been putting off for months. I don’t know why I was putting it off, but I was. It took all of ten minutes. It involved making a phone call to a mobile phone company. And, the result is saving $50/month.

2. I cancelled a monthly makeup (sample) subscription. I signed up for it right before I came across the idea of minimalism because I was seeing it all over social media and all my friends were doing it. Every month, the little pink bag comes in the mail and instead of excitement, I feel guilt. So, I logged into my account and clicked cancel. (Woah, that was hard, no wonder I didn’t do it sooner.) I’ve paid in advance so I’ll get a few more pink bags in the mail, but the guilt will be gone because I cancelled that damn subscription.

3. I started purging paper. This has been on my list for a long time. It’s kinda where I stalled. Because it’s boring. I thought. But, it actually feels good. And I’m pathetically looking forward to continuing tomorrow. And, when I’m done, I’m going to have a bonfire in the snow like Courtney Carver did with two years’ worth of journals.

4. I discovered The Minimalists and this post (which has really inspired me): http://www.theminimalists.com/deciding/

I think everyone needs to know how to make a damn decision (their words). I have always thought that I generally exude extra awesomeness in this area. But I really, really LOVE this approach. And, in the spirit of giving it my all, here is my Must List:

  • I must get rid of all my junk.
  • I must remember to be grateful for all the things I love (which are mostly people and not things).
  • I must not concern myself with other people’s junk.
  • I must eat healthier food.
  • I must drink more water.
  • I must get 10,000 steps every single day.
  • I must continue to write (because I love to write).
  • I must not care if people read/enjoy/comment on what I write.
  • I must stop judging others.
  • I must stop the snark.

So, there it is. I have successfully turned all some of the things I should do into things I must do. Because I’m pretty damn sick of feeling guilty about the things I should do. I could keep going. But this is an ambitious enough start.

What “shoulds” would you like to turn into “musts”???