SMILE, IT IS TAX DAY!

Today in the United States it is Federal Income Tax day. Generally, a somber day for most. After paying what seems like the bulk of your earnings out of your paycheck, you have the dubious honor of paying some more today. Even if after paying your required amount every check, you get a small portion back, you still face the prospect of filling out time-consuming paperwork that can often be very confusing. At the least, you are going to pay someone to do this for you or face penalties for not doing so. This time of year we are also supplied with many facts of the not so logical way our government chooses to spend our hard earned dollars. Not very inspiring or motivational.

Before I continue, allow me to let you know I do not work for the IRS, nor am I a fan of tax season. That being said, today I stopped and pondered all that our tax dollars give us. Yes, there is lots of waste and mismanagement when it comes to government spending, but let us focus on what does get done. As I write this mid April has brought my city freezing rain and snow. The roads are currently being plowed and salted. I cannot imagine what it would be like if that were left up to the public to do. We can look at the sidewalks for an example. Some people shovel and clean them off, some do not. Imagine if the roads were the same. How would we get around? How long would we have to wait? How about sanitation? Imagine having to deal with your garbage daily. Would you take it to the dump on your own? Would there even be a dump? How about the public library? Free education for anyone regardless of race, religion or social status.

For a lot of us, tax day will always be a painful experience. By focusing on what we do receive from the money that is unceremoniously taken from us each paycheck, we may ease the pain we feel. If we look hard enough, for every story of the government buying a $200 hammer, we will find one of a young woman who studied at the public library and went on to become a doctor who saved many lives.

Could and should the government do a lot better? Absolutely and we can and should keep voting to make sure they do. In the meantime, let us be grateful that we do not have to bury our trash in our own back yard or clear the snow of the street in front of our house. While we are at it let us rent a movie from our public library and enjoy some of the tax day deals that some companies are offering.

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.

STAY ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET, EVEN IN THE RAIN

This is a picture Margie took of me driving on my way to write. Selfies while driving can be dangerous.

As noted in an earlier post, I have been trying to find things to be grateful for, or things I love while driving. This has not only put me in a better mood, but alerted me to many things on my travel I may have missed. I’ve noticed sounds I love, scents I love. Green lights I’ve been grateful for.

Today on the way to the gym the sun was shinning bright and I was really grateful for that. As I was talking to myself about this (many people probably think I’m on the phone, but really just talking to myself) I noted how everything looks better when it is sunny out. Especially in the Wisconsin winter.

Then I had a strange revelation. The things I were looking at were the same, they were just in the sun. That in itself is not that impressive. As I continued my conversion with the charming author in the car, I realized how much this resembles life. If we bring a positive or sunny attitude you life things look a lot better than if we bring a gloomy or negative attitude. Even if life itself doesn’t change, the way we view it can make all of the difference.

From this point forward I’m going to do my best to stay on the sunny side of the street, even when it is raining.

HOW TO STAY HEALTHY THIS WINTER

This season there will be lots of focus on what to eat, wear and do to stay healthy. Winter(The season it is where I live) can be very cold with temperatures well below the freezing mark.

I recall as a young man my mother making sure I wore the warmest, and quite often the most ridiculous clothes I owned. This often called for what we can safely call a wardrobe adjustment before arriving at school.

I remember being fed chicken soup when I was feeling under the weather. I remember some of the great tasting children’s medicine I was given. How they think that tastes like bubble gum I’ll never know.

One area that was never mentioned was the importance of my thoughts and emotions on my health. We all know when we are stressed our physical body changes. When we are mad we breathe different, our blood pressure rises. When we are nervous our stomach can get quesy.

What we may not stop to consider is how this affects our immune system. The leading cause of both physical breakdown and aging in the body is stress. It also happens to be the leading cause of heart disease in the industrialized world.

This is why making sure we take care of ourselves and those we care about emotionally this holiday season is so important. It cannot only keep them from getting the cold or flu, but quite literally save their life. I can’t think of a better gift to give.

How can we make sure to help each other? Have patience when waiting on longer lines while shopping. Be extra nice to the person working at the store, especially if they seem extra stressed. Give relatives a call just to say hello and do everything in our power to spread the gift of joy and positivity during a season where it is most needed.

P.S. – my book A Happy Life for Busy People not only contains many tips for reducing stress during the holidays, it makes a great gift too!

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.