Sunday, April 7, 2013

Frustration Will Not Win... I Will!

"You are not understanding what I am saying."  Frustration took over as I was trying to explain a situation to a friend.  "You are not listening." I tried to deliver my message in several different ways and my friend refused to understand my point.  I decided not to get angry and try to figure out what happened in the mix of our personalities, energy, or whatever  you want to call it that made it impossible to continue the conversation without getting angry.  I'm not a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor, so this is pure speculation based on my own observation.
  • My life experiences make me unique and even when I share an experience with you, we interpret it through our own lens and therefore, what can easily make me laugh will (and does) annoy others.  My husband and I had a conversation today about our diverse tastes in television shows.  He admittted that he was not a fan of my cooking shows (which I knew) and I am not a fan of his fascination with Tru TV's detective crime shows.  We share dour specific interests in the shows and I understand now why he loves to watch almost any cop show - reality or drama.
  • My anxieties and emotions of the day definitely impact another experience hours later, even days or months later.  While I try to leave the stress of either work or home in each place, I know that some days (maybe more than I would like to admit), I cannot.
  • My expectations (high or low) can change how you react, receive and learn from an event or experience in your life.  I try to be reasonable and practical when looking forward to a vacation, family event, or major milestone in our life.  This has been particularly interesting exercise and growth over the past year.  In February, when I was planning for my birthday, I only did what I wanted to do.  Rather than have a big party, I had a few very special dinners with friends and family.  Each dinner was a unique celebration, not because it was my birthday, but because of those I cherished around the table.  
As I learned from Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, I want to be in "growth" mindset as often as possible and stay out of "fixed" mindset.  This change to work and be with others (family, friends and colleagues) allows me to have more positive conversations, more productive meetings and definitely more fun exchanges with my friends.  When I listen carefully to what others are saying, manage both my emotions and my expectations, I am able to be clear about how to have a better and more joyful experience.

And my friend and I were able to come back together to hear each other.  And that makes me happy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Living in the Majority of Happiness

Finally I put my finger on it. In moments when I was in “neutral,” as when riding the subway, I was the same familiar Gretchen. The difference was that, although my nature was unchanged, I had more happiness in my life each day; my resolutions had added more sources of fun, engagement, and satisfaction and had also eliminated some significant sources of bad feelings, such as guilt and anger. Through my actions, I was successfully pushing myself to the high end of my inborn happiness range.  (Rubin, Gretchen (2009-12-16). The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (p. 111). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)

My motivation for buying this book was simply the title.  I had just completed my year of turning 50 and had learned a lot through my writing, meditation and study. What drew me to Gretchen's book is that while I did/do feel better, I wondered what it meant to be happier.  The book is divided by the months and in each month, Gretchen chooses issues in her life that she wants to address and by doing so, she believes she will be happier.  Having gotten to May, I know she is right on her way to a happier and fulfilling life.  In addition, her awareness to making others happy has grown.

What I find so moving about this quote from the book is how much I related to falling into the "same familiar Lori" when I am frustrated or when I become unfocused.  While on our mini-vacation this weekend, my family and I enjoyed 4 days away from home and I was so happy to have nothing to do, no worries about appointments or schedules and all I had to worry about was to make sure that we had enough sunscreen and books to read.  I read for 3 days straight, had beautiful and memorable conversations with my kids and my husband, and it was clear (again) that even 4 days away from our house allows us to reconnect and unwind.

And still in my joy of the few days, there are the tiniest voices that rise when I am not concentrating.  Comparing myself to others does not happen with the same frequency thanks to my own journey to happiness.  However, as I sat at the pool, I couldn't help but have those thoughts take over.  So hideous is my own negative voice, I won't even write it here.

When we arrived home today, my husband and I talked about it.  He is my best friend and I can share my most vulnerable thoughts with him.  We talked about how many things we do right, how together we run a household and raise two kids, and though we see things differently, we manage to still hold hands and laugh.

I may still have moments of insecurity and frustration, but who doesn't?  My life now is to focus on finding solutions and being productive.  Sometimes it is difficult, time-consuming and exhausting, but more than that my life is filled with accomplishment, gratitude, and love.  If it was a pie chart or percentage, the good in my life is way above 51%.  It wasn't/isn't always, but I am more confident now that ever that as I continue to learn from great writers and thinkers, I will live in the majority of happiness.