A GREAT FEELING

Here is a picture I took at our local library. I happened to be searching for a few films to bring home when I decided to search for my own book. Imagine my joy when not one, but four copies came up! It gave me a great feeling to know that many people were interested in what I had written.

I do not share this out of conceit, but as a tool. A personal revelation is that I suffer from seasonal affective disorder. This time of year there are times when it is very hard for me to remain upbeat. The lack of sun and cold weather can really sap my energy and my spirit.

As an author, blog writer and speaker on all subjects positive this can leave me with an interesting challenge. I have recently written what I think is a very enlightening and helpful article for the January issue of See Beyond magazine. For today, I will share with you one of the tools I personally use to get me thorough this tough season.

Surrounding myself with reminders of positive aspects of my life good a long way to lift my spirits. Whether it is vacations, race medals or pictures of my book being available at the local library.

Reminders of what we have done right in life are always a good idea to keep on hand. What items do you use to remind yourself what a great person greets you in the mirror every morning?

BE ON PURPOSE

I did a YouTube video on this subject a while back titled Waking up in Neutral. You can find the link on the bottom of this blog post. It is a subject that bears repeating. In my daily work I see and hear people who leave their lives up to circumstance. Oh sure, they may not view it or certainly say it this way, but that is indeed what they are doing. I will hear such reasoning as “Did you see how much mail I have to deliver?” or “Can’t you see it is raining outside?” Quite often I have to stop myself from inquiring, “Let me get this straight, you are telling me the amount of work/sunshine will determine how happy you are going to be?”

What I want to remind all of us, including myself is that we are giving away one of the greatest powers we have – choice. When we put our feet on the ground first thing in the morning we have a choice. We can decide it is going to be a bad day, a good day or as most of us do, wait and see what kind of day it will be. As someone who suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder and lives in a state where the two seasons consist of 9 months of winter and 3 months of really bad sledding, I can fully understand some days are a little bit more of a struggle to smile in than others.

Some of us wake up in pain every single day. Some of us are facing life-long health challenges. Some of us are really going through some tough challenges. Understand in no way am I making light of your challenges. What I am telling you is even though it may not seem like it, you have a choice. Let us take the example of Helen Keller. She was both deaf and blind. More of a challenge than most of us face. Yet she wrote several books, became the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. Do you think she could have done all that by saying “I’ll be happy when I can see and hear again.”? Of course not. What did she have to say about life?

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

If someone facing that much of an obstacle can overcome their own feelings and accomplish great things, why can’t we? When you wake up first thing in the morning you can say to yourself or out loud would be even better, “Today will be a great day!” Why let you job, the weather, your health or anything else tell you what kind of day you are going to have? You decide. Say to yourself, “No matter what comes my way, I am going to have a great day.” You might feel down at times, you may get angry, you may cry, but do not let that stop you from having a great day. You boss may chew you out, don’t let them ruin your day. Your spouse may be in a bad mood, don’t let that ruin your day.

Easier said than done? You bet, but that is due in large part because we are out of practice. We have given away control over our own emotional well-being for so long it is almost hard for us to understand that we can have control over how we feel. I am going to give you 3 quick tips to help you along the way. Use these when the car breaks down, when you are asked to work overtime and you really just want to go home or any other such challenge comes up.

First and most important, begin each day with gratitude. This has been such a cliché these days you may be tempted to overlook it – don’t. Beginning your day saying to yourself, “At least I am still employed. I am have chance to earn some money.” starts you off in a far better mood than “Do I really have to go to work again?” The next two items can turn any day into a game of finding the way to succeed. When a challenge comes up I want you to do two things. First ask yourself, “Am I going to let this have control over MY day?” It is indeed your day. Why give your happiness, your well-being over to the boss, the spilled cup of coffee or whatever else is upsetting. Next I want you to ask yourself this question, “How can I use this?” The boss blaming you for something that isn’t your fault? How can you use that? Maybe practice your ability to stay calm and convey your opinions in a constructive manner. It is raining and you had a fun day at the ballpark planned. How can you use that? Stay home and work on that book you planned on writing.

If you look hard enough you can always find ways to use whatever life throws at you. If Helen Keller can use her blindness and deafness to her advantage, can’t we do the same with whatever struggle we are facing?

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

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.

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN

Fear not. This is not a picture of me. As I write this the temperature outside is a pleasant 60 degrees. Very warm for Wisconsin on the 4th of December. As you are reading this, however, the reading will be 30 degrees less. Yes a drop that big in the space of 24 hours. What is really challenging is the fact that the week ahead features high temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s. Those are average for this time of year and living here most of my life I should be used to that by now, but I am not.

As a person with Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood tends to dip with the temperature. Knowing this can fill me with a sense of tread as the days get closer to the end of the year, but it also gives me time to prepare. I know I am not likely to see a day like the one we are having today until the month of May. So what can I do for the next 5 months to avoid slipping to a further degree of insanity than my normal state? One cannot certainly change the weather. Closing my eyes and chanting “I think it’s warm” over and over again wouldn’t get me very far either.

If cursing mother nature doesn’t help, what does? When you are faced with challenges you cannot change, then the only option is to change yourself. I am going to begin to plan fun things with the love of my life. Being the budget of an aspiring world-famous author doesn’t include money for many tropical vacations, I plan to visit the local horticultural building here (called the Domes) where there are living plants all year around. There will be more movie nights indoors. Maybe a bundled up adventure in the woods. While this does not replace the joy of riding my bike in the sunshine, these activities will bring me great joy.

Another option is to plan for when the weather is warm in order to make the most of the nice weather. Trips we want to go on. Maybe a road trip when the snow and ice is off of the roads. Getting in shape so I can better enjoy the warm weather when in comes. I have a calendar that I actually mark each day I go to the gym. It will keep me motivated in the cold weather.

The point is this, even if you are faced with a challenge that seems to be insurmountable you can always find ways to adjust. Winter will never be my favorite season, but that does not mean I cannot find ways to discover happiness while it is here.

 

GATHERING POWER

This is a picture of me at my favorite place, Wisconsin State Fair, at one of my favorite stands, El Jefe corn stand. Normally I preach about living in the moment and savoring each and every second you can out of life. As a general rule taking pictures of everything or being on your phone takes away from that. Just like any rule, however, there are a few exceptions. The fair is an event that happens once a year for eleven days in August. I make the most of this by even taking vacation from my work and going every day for the last eleven years. Some people think I’m foolish, some people think I’m crazy, but I don’t really mind. If something makes you happy and doesn’t harm others or yourself than do it to the fullest.

The time of the fair seems fleeting to me because I do enjoy it so much. Combine that with the fact that the weather is usually the kind I enjoy, warm and sunny and one can understand that it is the perfect coming together of many things I enjoy. Nature, food, sun, warmth, music, more food, Rum, friends, and many other fabulous things.

Here is the trouble and where the exception to the rule comes into play. In Wisconsin our state fair lasts eleven days, and winter seems to last about eleven months. For someone with seasonal affective disorder who really dislikes cold that ratio can be tough. What can one do? I can’t extend the fair or shorten winter. This is where a lot of people would resign themselves with a “it is what it is” type mentality. Not me! Finding ways to capture the spirit of summer and the state fair is my goal. One way is certainly to be present and create the most wonderful memories possible. Another is to collect memories such as souvenirs, and photos.

I know there are a lot of people, like myself, not really keen on having pictures taken with themselves in them, but in this case it can be a powerful tool. When the snow is flying in December and a January I can look at this goofy picture of myself and reflect. Even just going there in my mind can help.

So, make sure you remain present and get every drop of joy and fun you can out of life, but also make sure to stop, if only occasionally, to take a little bit with you. Feel free to share your ideas for taking happiness with you.

FIND A FEW. ..

It is winter currently where I live . That is me in the picture above. Even though the holidays come around this time of year and there is lots of gathering of family and friends it can be stressful for a lot of people. For me, add the condition known as ‘seasonal affective disorder’ in which the lack of sun and general terrible weather seem to have quite an effect on my mood. This can be hard for others to understand as well. Sure we are all happier when it is sunny and pleasant, but winter here can really take a toll on a few of us.

The odd thing is, in general I am a really happy person. I love my life, my friends, my lady. I feel really quite grateful. These thoughts are harder to grasp it seems during this time of the year. Even if you do not have this condition, the stress of the holidays, driving in bad conditions and dealing with people who are less than cheery can be challenging at best.

So what to do? The answer is in this crazy picture above. Find things that make you laugh, smile or that bring you pleasure. In my case two of them are penguins and pizza. So much so that I almost capitalized both of those words. In periods you know you are going to be challenged, prepare ahead of time. Have a list of movies that put you in a good mood. I playlist of songs you enjoy. Also, surround yourself with images of things that make you smile. This picture was at a movie theater and my wonderful Margie pointed it out and insisted I take a picture by it knowing how much I enjoy both of those things. I couldn’t take the sign with me, but on a day like today that seems to be a bit challenging for me with all of the snow outside even seeing this picture cheered me up.

So if you know you are entering a challenging period, whether job, weather or anything else related, prepare by gathering up your ‘medicine’ of things that make you happy and laugh. Take it from me, it can be a lifesaver.