TIME TO ESCAPE

This was my view at about 7:30 this morning as I prepared to go for a bicycle ride. Only a small journey from where this picture is taken is a small clearing I like to go to and think, read or just relax. It not only provides me a nice walk in the park, but it gives me a place to recharge my soul.

In today’s busy world where we are constantly surrounded by people and technology, it can be hard to escape. That is why this weekend I recommend you have an escape. If you don’t have a special spot like mine, it may be a good time to start pondering where a good place for you might be. Ideally, this place should be a spot in nature. Losing all of the urban sounds that we experience daily will give you more peace than you can imagine. Even if you live in the heart of the city, find a park like I did where you may not be able to escape the sounds of the modern world entirely, but you can lose yourself by focusing on the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the trees, birds singing, maybe even a small brook or creek near by.

The other caveat about selecting a spot is it should be somewhere you can be alone. As you can see in the photo above, you might have some visitors from time to time. In a world filled with constant interaction, whether it be in person, or now even on social media when we are by ourselves, finding time to spend with the person in the mirror is far and few between. Isn’t it great to spend time with others? Of course it is, but without spending time alone with our thoughts we can end up feeling lost. What do I mean by this? That is a great question. Let me ask you something and you tell me if it rings true for you. Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed? Have you ever walked into a room and forgot if you were coming or going?

A lot of us are so focused on giving to others we forget to stop and think of what we may need or what our goals for our life is. We are focused on giving to our families, our job and our friends. There is nothing wrong with helping others and being a productive member of society. If we do that at the expense of ourselves we can end up feeling burnt out and unable to give anything to anyone.

Take time to escape this weekend. Spend at least 30 minutes alone and preferably in nature. If you are anything like me you will leave not only recharged, but with a sense of joy and inner peace you did not have when you arrived. Begin to think of your spot today and escape with yourself this weekend. I would love to hear how it affected you. Feel free to come back to this post on Monday and share in the comments below. Even though you will be by yourself, you never know who you will meet.

COFFEE WITH NEIGHBORS

I belong to a website called “Nextdoor”. It was designed to be a site you foster a feeling of being neighborly. In that spirit, I decided to share most of my tips for positivity I share on here with my neighbors. It was my hope that would lead to a neighborhood full of people who knew how to reduce stress, increase joy and become the best versions of themselves. In short, to a more positive and healthy neighborhood.

Sadly, there were a few jaded souls who did not enjoy seeing my daily offerings of positivity. These folks were so appalled by my free motivational and inspirational offerings they reported them and attempted to have them removed. It got so bad that I decided to leave the Nextdoor community.

It was with good fortune, however, I remained in contact with a few select individuals from that site. Specifically, one named Jon. Jon owns a local bar/restaurant called Johnny Hammers. He decided it would do a great deal of good to gather the people in the neighborhood who spoke online in a personal setting. So, he set up an afternoon gathering of coffee with the neighbors.

I had that great pleasure of attending my first one. There I met wonderful young ladies named Judy and Jesica. My neighbor Shane. Later we were joined by Kristin and her sons Chris as Tyler. Kristen is one of the leads on that Nextdoor site and was able to explain ways in which we could all use the site to more positively interact with each other.

In addition to this fine group of people we also met a couple who were reopening a local church in the area. They were kind enough to share their plans for the community.

Although I still have great misgivings about the cliquiness and malevolent behavior of some people on Nextdoor,I do see where it could be a great service to the community. I am also very grateful to Jon for setting up the in person meetings. I look forward to meeting more neighbors in the future. If you see such meetings in your neighborhood I would encourage you to attend them. If you don’t, I would encourage you to start one.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

DOING WHAT YOU LOVE WILL LEAD TO DOING WHO YOU LOVE

“When you are busy doing what you love, you will meet who you love.”

Neil Panosian

I am not sure if it is because I am blessed to have such an amazing relationship that we both work so hard in, because I am a self-improvement author or just because I am around so many people over the years working as a bartender and DJ, but a lot of people share their relationship struggles with me. I am very grateful for the knowledge and insight this provides me.

One of the most common stories I hear is this, “Neil, I keep thinking I found the right person but then it blows up in my face. Oh well, I guess I am going to have to look harder.” My advice? Stop! On a metaphysical level, by looking for something it tells the universe you do not have it. On a more practical level there are far better ways to find a partner that has long term potential. It may not be as quick, but the results are a lot better in the long term.

What is this secret formula? Do you. I am not talking about ways of satisfying your carnal desires until you find a partner, but they way you live your life as a whole. When you focus on doing things you enjoy, and how you enjoy them you set yourself up for the best possible results for meeting someone whom you have a lot in common with. Are you a morning person who enjoys breakfasts? Then combing the bars at 2 a.m. looking for the next partner to share your life with might not be the best option. Are you an active person who loves to cycle outdoors and go for long hikes in the woods? Then the chances are your future partner will not be found at the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. There are exceptions, however. Oddly enough, I enjoy both of those activities. This is not about ruling out someone completely, but increasing the odds of finding the right person.

Even if you have already found the love of your life, this formula works great for finding friends to add to your life. As adults sometimes it can seem more difficult to make deep bonds with others as we can in childhood. By surrounding yourself in a group of like minded people, you will have a great chance of developing friendships that will add the maximum joy to your life!

Often the urge to have companionship can override our patience in finding the right partner. Do yourself a favor and by holding out for what you deserve and not settling. In the meantime pursue that hobby or passion. Consider researching and joining like-minded groups in your area. Spend time in places you enjoy. Are you a reader? Spend some time in library or book store. Maybe take a book with you to your favorite coffee shop. If you enjoy the outdoors hike on a popular trail a few days a week and see who you meet. It may take a while, but eventually you will find someone who is right for you. As a bonus you will probably end up making some great friends along the way.

ARE YOU AN ANGEL?

When I first saw this picture I thought to myself, “An angel, really?” After a few moments of contemplation, my thoughts changed. How do we view angels? As an entity that looks over us from above, guiding our actions, encouraging us and keeping us safe. How do we define a great friend? Someone who stays by our side, giving us advice, encouraging us and looking out for us. Other than the geographical location they are very similar.

It has me taking a more venerable look at several of my friends. Unlike the ethereal beings to which I am drawing a comparison, friends make mistakes. Even the best friend can have a bad day. Perhaps they take their frustrations of the day out on us because they feel safe and comfortable in our presence? They may put their needs ahead of ours. They may treat us harshly or say something hurtful either by accident or because they have succumb to their emotions.

Does this mean friends are not human angels? Not at all. Through those lessons, if we truly love our friends, they can teach us how to be forgiving, understanding and compassionate. Something angels cannot do. Maybe angels use these ‘human angels’ to help teach us these lessons? I am not sure. What I am sure of is that I am blessed to have many friends who have looked out for me, tried to keep me safe and gave me an encouraging word when I needed one. To me that is a definition of a human angel.

This week let us approach this idea in two ways. First, take a look at some of our closest friends. Do they qualify as human angels? Chances are in some form or fashion they just might. I hear a lot of voices throughout the day. My stomach tells me pizza for dinner everyday is ok. There are the things my body tells me after the gym, but I do not think they are fit to type here. The closest things to an angelic voice that I hear is from someone I deeply care about telling me they feel the same. Let us, in our own way, recognize these human angels. It doesn’t have to be anything grand. In fact, if you are shy or nervous as to what they may think you don’t have to tell them at all. In my life all of my friends know I am crazy, so I am not worried. Even just taking a moment to yourself to think, “This person is a human angel.” That will be enough to cause a shift in how you see that person.

The second part is being a human angel. Again, this does not mean trying to be perfect or walking around in a toga playing a harp, but doing our best to treat others the best we can. With love, respect and compassion. Do you think anyone would describe you as a human angel?

WHY BOTHER?

Last post we investigated why it is important to give all of yourself when it comes to your relationship with the one you love. We learned that it allows them to give all of themselves to us, we learned that by not doing so we end up drawing into our lives the very circumstances that we are trying to prevent. That is certainly important when it comes to our romantic partners. Most of the time we are not only sharing our hearts and souls with each other, but also our homes. Not only is it very important to keep someone who lives in the same house with you happy, but they are probably thinking something very similar.

What about the other people in our lives? What about our friends? Why is important to put so much effort into our friendships? In case you didn’t read the last post let me refresh some of the points that apply equally to friendships as they do to romantic relationships. There are friends we might be afraid to trust completely because they might take advantage of our trust and hurt us. Unlike the romantic partner, there are less repercussions if they do. We do not have to go home to our friends. The connection is generally not as deep as our romantic relationships and therefore the ending of a friendship is usually less painful than a romantic relationship. Same with sharing ourselves with friends. The less we tell them, the less information they would have to use against us should they decide to do so.

To a lot of us this may seem very safe and logical. The less we give people the chance to hurt us, the less we will be hurt. Seems to make sense, right? Wrong. By doing this we are not only short-changing ourselves out of the deep, meaningful relationships we could be enjoying, but we are also hurting others and increasing the chances that we will be hurt in the future. Wait, what?

That’s right. So far we have been looking at this from only one side of the equation. Let us look at the other side for a second. If you feel that your friend views you as untrustworthy or at best does not trust you completely, how would that make you feel? Do you think you would feel like extending your trust to that person? You would probably end up feeling like they do not hold you in that high of regard. Now follow that up with them not completely sharing themselves with you. That could leave you feeling that they think you are either not worth knowing that information, or again cannot be trusted with it. Do you think you would share things about yourself with them? Probably not. This would leave us with very shallow and incomplete relationships at best. It also leaves the door open to upset or anger people even by accident. If you do not know what a person likes or dislikes, their opinions on certain matters or even their fears and joys you could say something you truly regret even not trying to do so.

We have exhausted why it is important not to not give ourselves to friendships. How it can end up increasing the chances we will get hurt instead of keeping us safe as we may think. What advantages, if any, can we gain by trusting and giving ourselves completely to our friendships? I give you exhibit A in the picture above. This is a story that is so exciting I can hardly wait to share it with you. While Margie and I were DJing at a local establishment on Sunday night, my good friend Cari messaged Margie and asked her what door we use when we come home as she had a surprise for me.

When we arrived home around 2 a.m., after what was a very busy evening I was exhausted. Currently, the date here is January 95th, or so it feels. We should be having highs in the mid 50’s but they had been barely above freezing with the sun so fed up with the long winter it decided to take a vacation. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, so prolonged cold weather minus the sunshine can be quite trying for me and those around me. At this point if you would like to light a candle for Margie it would not be a bad idea. Because I do indeed trust my friends with this information and share it with them as well, Cari was able to do something so thoughtful and amazing. I arrived home to see the above signs taped to my front door! They ranged from reminding me warm weather was coming, to the fact that the cold weather is what makes the tropics so special to me. She added the Wisconsin State Fair, which I love as well. She even encouraged me by reminding me how much my writing touches her and others.

That night I fell asleep with a heart filled with gratitude for the caring and loving friends I have. The reminders and motivation served their purpose, but so did the fact that I have such a great friend. Her efforts did more than she could possibly imagine and her timing could not have been more perfect!

My point is that this all would not have been possible if I did not open my heart to my good friend. It would not have happened if I did not trust her enough to share not only my joys, but also my struggles and fears. It is true that not many friends can be as awesome as Cari, but by trusting and sharing with your friends you give them the opportunity to be so.

THIS CHANGED MY LIFE

The above quote changed my life! I had found myself at a point in life when it seemed every area of my life was in turmoil. My job had cut my hours to next to nothing, there was a lot of turmoil in my personal life and I had just been informed I had a problem with my heart. My life seemed to be in a very dark place. It was then that I was introduced to this quote. Ironically it was on an envelope asking for money from a charity I have forgotten.

Dealing with all of the darkness I was in at the time and doing my fair share of cursing, I found myself asking how on earth I could light a candle of positivity. A question you may have asked, or maybe are even currently asking. It was then I began my life-long journey to find the answer to that question. A lot of those answers can be found both on this website and in my book.

It is now that I would like to point out what should obvious. No amount of cursing the darkness will make it any lighter. If you don’t believe me lock yourself in a room, turn off the light and begin yelling, “I hate the darkness!!” Do this over and over. It should be apparent this is not going to make the room any lighter. This may sound silly, but this is often the same approach many of us take to like. Cursing our problems, complaining about this and that will do little if anything to make our lives better.

What can we do? It is really as simple as the dark room example. We need to shed some light on our life. Here is another thing I have learned, when you shine a light in a dark room, it does not matter how long that room has been dark. Whether it has been dark a day or several years, when you shine a light the room will brighten. The same holds true for life. It makes little difference how long someone’s life has been full of darkness, when you bring light to it you will brighten it. Whether that life belongs to a friend, a complete stranger or even yourself.

Today let us begin to stop cursing our darkness. Let us bring light to our life and the lives of others. If you need suggestions on how to do that feel free to read other posts on this website, or even ask yourself what would brighten your own life and do that for others.

FRIENDS WITHOUT BORDERS

This here a picture of myself and my good friend Johnny on St. Patrick’s day. I was working as a DJ at a local club that night. The story I am about to tell you serves as an example of several things. First, how small indeed the world is today. Second, how foolish things like racism and prejudice are. Third and finally, the benefits of being nice and sociable.

The back story is as follows. Johnny is a good friend of my lady, Margie. He has been a regular performer at her shows for quite some time. Before I met Johnny, Margie told me, “I think you are really going to like this guy.” She was indeed correct. Before I had the chance to discover that, however, there was some waiting involved. The reason for this waiting was due to the fact that Johnny lives in Mexico and only comes to visit at most a few times a year.

Through the last couple of visits he has read a lot of my writing and has found some things he can relate to. In fact, recently he has shared my book with people in the great state of Texas as well as other places. He has offered some very insightful feedback that has caused my writing to develop in ways it may not have otherwise. We have had some great discussions including sitting down for breakfast recently. These conversations has given birth to some great ideas that have been on this blog site and in my next book.

Speaking of books, recently Johnny has informed me that he is working on a book himself. He shared the plot with me and I must confess it sounds like a great story. I’ll update details as the situation develops. We discussed writing styles, publishing ins and outs as well as other ideas. There is no doubt his book will be a success. It is in a totally different genre than I write, but we certainly had a lot to discuss as the process and struggles of writing are the same regardless of content.

Johnny’s creativity is not limited to being a potential best-selling author. He also has several CDs available on cdbaby.com just search ‘Johnny L’. The style of his music is also something I am a fan of, classic standards from Elvis to Frank Sinatra. If you are a fan of this music or just great talent in general, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

The point of this post is several fold. If I were to make a sweeping judgment about people from the great country of Mexico I might not have the great benefits that my friendship with Johnny provides. If both Margie and I were not outgoing and genuinely friendly to the people at our shows Johnny would not have spent the time to become friends with us either. If it wasn’t for technology communication between all of us would be limited to just those few times a year. Whether you are from Mexico, Jamaica or Fiji shouldn’t matter. It is how you treat people and what you can bring to their lives. Technology is not limited by borders or culture, neither should your friendship be.

TIME TO ADD!

One of the tenets of my philosophy has been adding positive to limit or eliminate negative. In my life this would translate to eating a salad to have a little less room for another slice of pizza. The premise here is that it is easier for the brain to add things verses subtracting them. It eliminates the feeling of depriving yourself and makes change easier and less painful. By doing so, your chances of success are greatly increased.

This does not always have to revolve around achieving a goal, or making a change in your life. Taking a few moments to stop and think of what you would like more of in your life can go a long way to giving you a life you really enjoy. That is the first thing I suggest we do today. Pick a time when you have a few minutes to yourself, it can even be fun to do this with your spouse or friend, as long as you both have your own list. Write down a handful of things you would like more of in your life. They can be things from the picture above, or things you just wish to do.

Here comes the part that a lot of you may find strange. Pull out your calendar, or put a reminder in your phone of days you would like to do these very events. Again, set yourself up to win by picking a day on which you can fairly depend. For example, Saturdays I work 2 jobs so there likely will not be much time to include new activities. Also, try to plan on the minimal side. What do I mean by this? Perhaps you would like to meditate 20 minutes every day? Start out by picking at least one or two days a week to do so. That way you can gain a feeling of momentum and success. Before long that momentum may carry you to every day. By contrast, if you pick every day and do not make it, it will give you a feeling of failure and that will go against having a more joyous life.

Why is this exercise so important? We schedule jobs, meetings and all sorts of obligations into our lives, it is vitally important we schedule some joy as well. If this seems like a foreign or crazy idea to you, consider how you feel as you are getting close to a planned vacation? Imagine that feeling, although perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, once a week? It will help return the passion and zest to life. Our lives, in addition to being of service to others, were meant to be enjoyed. If you are not loving your life a fair amount of time you are doing it all wrong. Sure, we all go through tough times, but having something to look forward to can even help with those.

Feel free to share with other readers some of the fun things you plan to add in 2018 in the comments below!

UNDERWEAR AND NICKLES

Here is one of those odd conversations you have. My friend Russ and I were recently having a telephone conversation. We try to catch up with each other about once a week if we can. Russ is like the brother I never had. We share philosophy, jokes, memories and on occasion a weird topic tends to pop up. Today was one of those days.

After the usual update on each other’s lives the topic of underwear came up. Not sure who brought it up, or exactly how and why two men in their early forties found this to begin discussing new styles of underwear we came across and how comfortable the were and how well they performed while working out. We discussed the fact that they cost a little more than we are used to spending, but how we planned to slowly replace all of our underwear with these new, comfortable and costly style.

Reading this as I type it the conversation still seems a little odd. That is who are, two odd gentleman with a panache for discussing off the wall topics. Noting that, I said to Russ, if I had a nickel for every time I had a discussion like this, I would have…a nickel. We both agreed that those extra nickels would be best spent on the products we had been discussing.

A day later I began to think how a younger me would find spending so much money on something nobody else would see might seem foolish. As we grow older, our priorities  change. Suddenly buying those expensive shoes for the brand name, becomes more about buying the most comfortable and durable shoes regardless of the brand. Spending your extra nickels on underwear that keep you comfortable not only makes sense, but should be a priority. After all, you wear underwear daily, it is close to your skin and can make a big difference in the quality of your day.

Stop and think of what you are spending your nickels on. Is it to impress others? Are you focused on things that will make the biggest difference even though nobody else may notice? If you have a friend to have a crazy conversation with, be grateful, you never know where it may take you.