Happiness

Grateful

by MomGrind

thank youFor my health. Because mom is right: Health is the most important thing. With ill health, it’s very difficult to enjoy life and to focus on anything other than one’s ill health.

For my husband, who is also my best friend and biggest supporter. I’m still at awe whenever I think of how we met, narrowly escaping never meeting at all. Fate? Perhaps. Luck? For sure. I’m the luckiest woman in the world to share this journey with you.

For my children, who bring me immense joy (and also angst, let’s be honest) every single day and certainly keep me on my toes and keep life interesting.

For my wonderful mother and father, who are also huge supporters. Your unconditional love and constant support have been extremely helpful. I love you.

For having a clean, safe, comfortable place I can call “home.”

For being able to afford keeping this place warm when it’s so chilly outside. My heart goes out to the homeless people I see on the streets this time of year. I am grateful for the wonderful organizations that support them and help them get back on their feet.

For all this food, glorious food surrounding me. For being able to purchase my food in a clean, modern supermarket. For having access to clean, safe water, and to all the food – basic or otherwise – I could ever wish to have. For having the knowledge that enables me to cook delicious, healthy recipes for my family and for myself.

For having easy access to modern medical services. Even if the price tag gets higher by the minute, I am still grateful to have highly qualified doctors and modern medical facilities nearby.

For everything that modern life offers me, even the things I usually take for granted such as plumbing and running water, electricity, modern roads, cars, not to mention the more recent wonders of computers, Internet and high technology.

To you, who are reading these words, especially my regular readers who have stuck with me for a long time now (I started blogging almost four years ago), you who keep coming back even though I can sometimes be mind-numbingly boring, even when I refuse to get personal, get too personal, self-promote, close comments, complain and whine and just desperately seek attention and validation, as all writers do.

Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving!

happy womanEver since I can remember, I was trying to figure out if I am happy. It’s stupid, really – this insistence on determining if I am happy in general, as opposed to experiencing moments of happiness.

The older I grew, the less I preoccupied myself with the “Happiness” question, simply because I became way too busy.

Yesterday I met with a dear friend, and thanks to him, I now have the best gauge I have ever had for answering the Happiness question. That friend is unhappy with his life and feels that he needs to make changes.

As he was trying to explain how he feels, he said something that made his misery very clear. He told me, “When I look at my life now, and I try to imagine myself living the same life forever, day after day, until I die, I shudder. I can’t handle the thought that this is it – that this is as good as it gets.”

After he had left, I started thinking about my own life. I asked myself the same question that he had taught me to ask: “If this is my life from now on, if this is my reality for the rest of my life, how do I feel about it?”

My answer? I WISH this could go on forever. I’m afraid it won’t, because of aging and illness and the kids growing and detaching and leaving. But if I could somehow make a deal with someone and freeze my current life and make it last until the day I die – I would make that deal in a heartbeat.

So at least according to this “test,” I am happy.

Do you agree that this is a good way to measure happiness? Or is it simply fear of the unknown and a desire to stick with what I know?

How do you feel about the “Happiness” question? Do you think about it often? Are you too busy? Do you think it’s a waste of time and energy, or is it an important question to ask ourselves?

Why Do You Like Me?

by MomGrind

friendshipA few weeks ago, one of the people I enjoy the most on the Internet, Wesley Smith, posted a message on his Facebook Wall saying: “If you ‘like’ this status, I’ll post on your wall something that I like about you.”

And he did! He got 13 “likes” and while I’m not sure what he wrote on other people’s walls, I know what he wrote on mine: “I absolutely love your writing style, and I love that you think about things and live your life actively rather than passively. I also love that you care a lot about your kids.”

Despite thinking about myself as a little cynical, not very emotional, a person who prefers thinking to feeling, I not only blushed profusely upon reading his words, but also felt all warm and fuzzy inside – in a very, very good way.

It got me thinking, that we really don’t do this often enough – say something nice to another person – and really, when I think about it, you can find something that you like about most people, certainly about the people in your social network. Wesley obviously felt confident that he would be able to find something – at least one thing – that he likes about anyone who would “like” his post. And really, why not?

Now, this is not the type of blog that does a lot of “inspirational” stuff. I actually don’t feel very comfortable with too much warm and fuzzy, but that evening, reading Wesley’s words, I liked the warm and fuzzy, and I want more people to feel it.

Will you play a little game with me? How about each of you pick one person from your online network – a blogger, someone on Twitter or on Facebook etc., and say one thing that you like about them? Here in the comments, or on your own blog if you have a blog, or on your favorite social network if you prefer – but then come back and tell us about it. I want to read all the nice things that we have to say about each other.

I’ll start. The obvious choice would have been for me to say something nice about Wesley, but I already did that via Facebook. So I’m going to pick Jannie, and I’m going to say this:

Jannie, you are one of the warmest, most genuine people I have met online. I love that you are so real and down to earth. I love your sense of humor and the way you don’t take yourself too seriously. I also love your kindness and generosity – I still can’t believe you were willing to work so hard to improve that photo of mine.

Your turn.

Come on, people, you know you want to. 😉

Photo credit: Gunna

Work-Life Balance

by MomGrind

I found this Twitter account today when searching for accounts to follow for a client. Loved it. What a smart guy.

work life balance

 

New_Years_2010

Did you know that the top New Year’s resolution for most people in the U.S, year after year, is “lose weight?”

Some people make New Year’s resolutions, other laugh at them. If you search online, you can find lots of jokes about New Year’s resolutions. But I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making them.

Critics say they’re empty and useless – that most people make them, but never follow through, which ultimately makes them feel even worse than before.

I disagree. I think that New Year’s resolutions CAN be useless and often are. I also think that when New Year’s resolutions are done in a meaningful way, they can be a wonderful self-improvement tool.

To make New Year’s resolutions that stick, I usually try to make just one resolution each year, then break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and follow up every couple of months to see how I’m doing. So, if my goal is to complain less, I might start with “limit my nagging and complaining to no more than once a day,” then once I accomplish that goal, move on to the next of, say, whining just once a week! (My husband must be feeling hopeful right now).

Back to the most popular New Year’s resolution of losing weight. Of course people don’t stick with it! It’s far too vague. By breaking it down into smaller chunks and focusing on just this resolution instead of on five others, you stand a much better chance of accomplishing your goal.

You could start by specifying how much exactly you want to lose (2 pounds per month or 24 pounds in 2010); decide on specific monthly goals such as limiting your soda intake or taking the stairs at work. Whatever you do, by breaking it down and focusing on just this one goal, you’re seriously increasing your chances of making it a reality.

I’m not a self-development expert and usually stay away from self-help-type posts. But this is something that has worked for me over the past few years. I hope it will work for you too.

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Do you keep them?

Loved this Comment: “I think the key to sticky resolutions is having a compelling ‘why’ and an effective ‘how’ to go along with the ‘what.'” J.D. Meier, Sources of Insight.

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Photo credit: ekai

This is a guest post by Dan Miller, a real-life friend of mine who writes about philosophy, religion, physics, artificial intelligence and virtual worlds in his blog Artiphys. In this post, Dan is responding to my recent post on Ageism. Dan thinks “aging gracefully” backfires in today’s culture and argues that there’s nothing wrong with using the tools available to us to slow down the natural aging process.

The sense I get from your post, and from the majority of responses, is that it is somehow unseemly for someone to fight the visual process of ageing using surgery, or techniques such as Botox. Instead, we should gracefully accept God’s chosen aesthetics of age, and admire our craggy faces and sagging skin with the delicate acquired tastes of an aficionado.

Of course, we don’t live in that world. Instead, we live in a world that idolizes youth and youthfulness, and physical beauty as some sort of special achievement, and worthy of exceptional praise. In such a world, looking old is not just an issue of looking “bad” — it’s also a label. If you’re old, you are not only not beautiful and desirable, you’re also uncool, over the hill, washed up, and should do the polite thing by just fading away to Florida or a long cruise, or some other acceptable playground for the unfortunately aged.

 

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Photo credit: notinponce

But what if you don’t think that way about yourself? Surely we’ve all seen the spectrum of attitudes to age — from the mid-40’s balding overweight fellow who is already counting the years to retirement, to the spry, energetic grandmom who loves to play with the kids, does watercolors, blogs incessantly, and generally enjoys life with the enthusiasm of a 12-yr old.

Now suppose you’re one of those forever-young types, but you happen to live in Hollywood, and your profession is tied mercilessly to your looks and the perception people have of your appearance. You are photographed constantly, in high-def, and examined for signs of decrepitude. Is it so terrible in that situation for you to choose to do what many others (your competition in some sense) do, and improve your appearance using the available tools? Or do you have an obligation to take yourself out of the race and let the young turks have a chance at the brass ring?

We don’t disparage people for getting hip replacements just so they can ski or play tennis a few years more. What if you’re approaching 60, but you still feel frisky, and want to be able to appear in a way that makes it easier for you to integrate with people whose perception of age is so deeply marked by society’s expectations? If it’s OK to take the risk of surgery to do athletics, why is it off-limits to have surgery to expand your options in terms of relationships?

I see this issue as something like trans-gender. If someone feels like they’re a woman trapped in a man’s body, and they will be happier looking like a woman (not usually a particularly attractive woman, as we all probably realize) — I say, that’s fine. That’s self-realization. And I see using surgery or Botox to look youthful as something along the same lines. Of course it can go too far (Joan Rivers, Michael Jackson) — but so can anything.

 

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Jocelyn Wildenstein, the “cat woman”, took self improvement through plastic surgery to the extreme. Photo credit: feastoffools

There’s a big difference between a tasteful, subtle chin lift and the stretched-rubber-skin look of someone who just doesn’t know when to quit. I just don’t see the philosophical justification for saying it’s all terrible and hypocritical, and anyone who makes that choice is somehow guilty of some moral or ethical transgression.

I for one have little respect for nature’s (or God’s, if you prefer) idea of ‘graceful ageing’. Besides the looks part, the last year or two of life for most people I’ve known who didn’t die suddenly is nothing but a disgusting, shameful form of degradation and loss of dignity. That drives my feelings about euthanasia, but that’s for a different post. The basic point is, why take our nature as given, and refuse to improve upon it, if improvement is actually possible? We generally accept things like tattoos, body piercing, high heels, makeup and so on — is this really that different?

Much of what we do regarding our appearance is far from healthy (and I confess this goes more for women, but that seems to be a given in our society). I don’t care all that much about my appearance, and perhaps that’s because I’m a guy, but I’m sure going to use whatever I can get my hands on to prolong my quality of life and vitality. I think there’s an argument that one’s appearance is part of that equation.


Over to you now. What do you think? Are you in favor of “aging gracefully,” or do you agree with Dan that there’s no reason to accept nature’s aging process if we have the tools at our disposal to fight it?

career-womanThe nine to five grind has been good to us.

I almost feel like I’m betraying my online friends by saying that. So many talented writers are resisting the idea of a “real” job. So many of us have been miserable doing the nine to five grind. For many, a “real” job means a death sentence to our creativity, to our dreams.

People who choose to carve their own path in life

Just a few of the fabulous, fierce, non-compromising  people I have had the pleasure of meeting online in recent months:

Evyan of Apricot Tea is uncomfortable with people’s reactions when she tells them she’s not working, but she knows in her heart that staying home is right for her and that a “real job” would make her miserable.

Layoffs at Hunter Nuttall’s workplace have finally enabled him to become a professional blogger.

Jonathan Mead bravely insists on living without a template, even when it means “embarrassment, humiliation and flat out rejection.”

Tim Brownson of The Discomfort Zone refused to remain a well-paid but miserable sales person. He is having the time of his life working as a self-employed life coach.

But for some, a real job can be a good thing

While I completely respect my friends’ choice to become self-employed, and accept that for many creative types nine to five jobs ARE in fact a death sentence, I wanted to talk a bit about the other side. To remind everyone that some people are truly happy with “real” jobs and “real” careers.

It has been my experience, and especially my husband’s since I did make a career change and then took a long break from my career when my kids were born, that a real job can be very rewarding. The “get a degree, get a job and be damn good at what you do” path can and does work.

If you choose the right career for you, then keep at it long enough and are successful enough, you have freedoms that are usually associated with being your own boss. You can get to a point where you can take long vacations, decide how long to work each day, when to start your day, and whether to work from your home or from the office.

When you not only follow the path of a degree and a career but also remember to save and invest a significant chunk of your earnings each year, and especially if you start to invest in your early twenties, the magic of compound interest means that in your late thirties and during your forties you also have the financial freedom to take risks and chances and make career changes, because you can get by without a salary for many months.

So in a way, if you “give” those 15 years to the system, you get to take back – and you’re even young enough to enjoy it.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we were just lucky to be in the Silicon Valley during the exciting dot com boom. Maybe most careers ARE miserable. After all, our jobs were never the real, mundane, boring “nine to five” ones. A Silicon Valley start-up is hardly a boring place. So that could explain why we’re not as frustrated as others are. Or maybe we’re just a couple of boring, mundane, conformists. That’s a possibility too, especially since we are both firstborns and I seem to recall reading somewhere that firstborns tend to conform rather than rebel.

Being your own boss can make you work too hard

people always talk about the “nine to five grind”, but working for yourself can create an even worse grind. Monika Mundell was unable to work for several weeks after contracting an illness that she attributes to working too hard and stressing her body too much.

She says, “I have been going at my business flat out for nearly 18 months now of which I have been fully booked for the last 10 months. I am a sucker for not saying no enough and therefore ended up taking all the work offered to me. But as it happens, I can’t go on like this and need to find a balance between my writing work, my niche sites and me. Not to mention my husband and my darling birds. The days are just not long enough to get it all done. You probably know that anyway.”

A major risk when you’re self-employed is not knowing when to stop and rest. This is a serious health risk, and the argument “it’s OK to work nonstop as long as you love what you do” is simply not true. Working in front of the computer 14 hours each day, rarely going outside, never exercising and eating junk WILL HARM YOUR HEALTH sooner or later, even if you love every minute of it.

The Bottom Line

While a nine to five job isn’t for everyone, it’s not necessarily evil. It depends a lot on the job, on the employer and on how your career advances over the years, but it IS possible to be an employee, have a fabulous career, make good money and be very happy. I suspect many of you will disagree. I’m looking forward to your comments.

Photo credit: jcoldironjr2003