The Waste of a Perfectly Good Little Old Lady

If I make it to the age of 72, if I’m in relatively good health and if I have the good fortune to be able to retire, I hope I’m doing something with that amazing extra time. I hope I’m using myself as a force for good. I hope I’m volunteering for a few hours a week, and/or keeping up with my little free library and/or mentoring someone and/or cultivating a healthy organic garden. Something positive, no matter how small.

I believe that everyone makes some type of impact on this world. Only you can decide what kind of an impact you will make. There’s a wide spectrum that can range somewhere between dedicating every waking hour to some form of service, or, at the opposite extreme, being a completely toxic waste of space that everyone secretly wishes would hurry up and die already. (Harsh, but true.) I’d like to fall on the more positive end of that spectrum, but I doubt I’ll be too radical. I’m not Mother Teresa. Even in my 50’s I do cherish my spare time and my naps. But I hope that if I’m capable of acting at all, I’m able to be an asset, not act like a despicable liability.

Here’s what I will not do, under any circumstances. I will not cause my neighbors to fear for their lives, as Jan Myers, 72, of Shoreline, Washington has done. According to this article, she has been charged with one count of malicious harassment, but in essence she has made the life of one of her Vietnamese-American neighbors a living hell.

Apparently this toxic woman has been hurling racial slurs at her neighbor for years, but recently it escalated into actual threats. She started driving her car up and down the road, yelling for her neighbor to come out, calling her names, and saying that she (the neighbor) wasn’t going to live very long. Myers, of course, is denying everything, but that contradicts the multiple cell phone videos that her neighbor showed the police.

I feel so sorry for her neighbor. No one should be made to feel unsafe in one’s own home. It should be a sanctuary. It should be the one place where you can count on feeling secure, unjudged, and completely yourself.

I wish I knew who that neighbor was so that I could go over and befriend her, take her flowers or cookies or something, and let her know that not everyone feels the way Myers does. I’d exchange contact information with her, and tell her that if that evil old bat threatens her again, just call me and I’ll come over and stand by her side, and that my home would always be a safe place to come to as well. I hope that if her other neighbors see what is going on, they have done so. We all need to take care of one another.

If you haven’t learned how to be a decent human being by age 72, you are wasting your gift of longevity. If all you can do is hate, and make the people around you be afraid and miserable, you are doing nothing but taking up space in this world and making it a much worse place. Is that really the hill you want to die on? I wouldn’t want that to be my legacy at any time in life, but especially not in my later years. I want to make those years golden, not sh** brown.

Just sayin’.

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Gratitude, Not Optimism

I happen to love someone who is the most positive person I have ever met. It’s a delight to be around most of the time, but it’s also a hard yardstick to be measured by. Anyone standing next to this guy will automatically look like Eeyore by comparison.

Fortunately, I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m not, in fact, Eeyore, because I used to live with an Eeyore. An Eeyore can suck the life out of any room he enters. An Eeyore is convinced that the world is out to get him.

My Eeyore refused to smile in photographs because he thinks it’s unnatural. Because of that, everyone assumes he is constantly miserable. I think he wears this like some kind a suit of armor. Then he accessorizes this suit of armor with every negative experience he has ever had in his life. He glues those things to his exterior like some twisted decorator crab. All this stuff weighs him down. This makes people avoid him, which, in turn, makes him more miserable.

An Eeyore likes to insult himself out loud, and is under the mistaken impression that others will find this funny or charming. In fact, it makes people extremely uncomfortable. It also makes them feel sorry for him. It’s very hard to like someone whom you feel sorry for, at least for long stretches of time. It’s exhausting.

When I tried to address this negativity in my Eeyore, he would get very defensive, and accuse me of trying to force him to put a plastic smile on his face. I could never understand that. I was trying to say that your attitude, the lens through which you view the world, impacts your emotions. Attitude is everything.

But now I realize he extrapolated a false conclusion from that. He believed that I was trying to force him toward optimism, which is nearly impossible to achieve if you don’t come by it naturally (speaking from personal experience).

Actually, that was not my intention at all. Optimism is about expectations for the future. I don’t think you can predict the future, and therefore optimism kind of feels like magical thinking to me. I hope for the best, yes, but no one knows what will happen down the road. As we’ve learned from all the false election fraud claims, wishing doesn’t make it so.

Instead of optimism, what I was trying to get across, rather ham-handedly, it seems, is the notion of gratitude. Gratitude focuses on the present. It’s about appreciating the good you currently have in life, rather than focusing on the negative aspects. This is more realistic, but it also seems a bit magical in the best sense of the word, because when you give more energy to the good that is around you now, somehow more of your future tends to become positive as a result.

I wish I had tried harder to get this point across to my Eeyore. But in retrospect I realize that he was too heavily invested in his own unhappiness to hear me. I’m sure he’s still unhappy to this day, and that makes me sad to contemplate.

To hell with optimism, frankly. But gratitude is an extremely valuable commodity. It might take some practice, but it’s a state of mind that is available to all of us. I may not always be Little Mary Sunshine, but I am grateful for so many things that it has been known to bring tears of joy to my eyes. That’s a gift I keep being given.

Gratitude, like negativity, tends to perpetuate itself. And gratitude allows you to smile in photographs. Which is another thing to be grateful for. See how that works?

This may be great camouflage, but in the end, you’re having
to carry a bunch of crap everywhere you go.

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The Silver Lining of This Pandemic

I heard a scary statistic regarding this pandemic recently. One American is dying from it every 80 seconds. That’s no joke. And my heart breaks for every loved one who has had to experience that type of grief. If we had managed this crisis a little better, if our leaders took science seriously and we all wore our masks as we should, there would be a lot less to mourn in this country right now. What’s happening is nothing short of criminal negligence.

Having said all that, I have thought of a few silver linings to this scary, scary clown… er… cloud. I have done so not because I’m trying to diminish the seriousness of all this death and economic destruction, but simply because if I don’t find something to appreciate in all of this, I may just lose my mind.

So here’s my short list of COVID positives:

  • My commute has been a lot less congested. At least at it was at first. And I love what that has done for the planet.

  • If I do have the urge to eat at my favorite restaurant, odds are that I won’t have to make reservations. In fact, I’ll most likely have the place to myself. And I kind of feel that it’s my duty to patronize these businesses in these trying times.

  • I haven’t really seen as much political advertising, and definitely haven’t been subjected to the number of rallies that would be normal while building up to this presidential election. And I don’t miss them. Not even a little bit.

  • I’m no longer being made to feel guilty for my introversion. People expect me to keep myself to myself right now. It’s a shame that I need an excuse to do so, but since I’ve got one, I’m definitely taking advantage of it.

  • It’s easier to weed out the fools around me than it once was. They’re the ones refusing to wear a mask, or the ones who wear their masks with their noses sticking out. I don’t even have to speak to them to know. Less energy expelled by me that way.

  • And for those of us who do wear a mask, we have a whole new way to express our individuality.

  • Oddly enough, I’m getting to attend church a lot more. I work on Sunday, so physically attending church has been a rare treat for me. But now my church does services on zoom, so I can attend from work. I hope they continue to have a zoom aspect to their services when this pandemic finally runs its course, because it’s a real benefit to shut ins, and to people like me who just can’t be there.

  • Despite the politicizing of masks, I genuinely believe this pandemic unites us more than it divides us. Because the only way we’re going to get through this is together, and through our mutual losses and all the related stressors, I think we’re beginning to realize that we have more in common than we thought.

All these things count for something, I suppose. At this point, I’ll take what I can get. Stay safe, everyone.

Masks

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Reclaiming the Day

Have you ever had one of those days? A day of traffic snarls, annoying errands, clerical stupidity, unwanted expenditures, stupid people and disappointing friends. I was tired, hungry, I had to pee, and I was annoyed at the world. That’s never a good feeling. Even while it’s happening, I realize that that is not a headspace for making major life decisions.

When I’m in that state of mind, I have awful thoughts. People suck. Why on earth did I move out here? I don’t belong in Seattle. I don’t understand people out here. Nobody likes me. They don’t give a sh** about me. I hated Florida with its horrible politics and its oppressive heat, but at least there things made sense, and people could be counted on. There are too many people here. I feel like I’m suffocating. I want to go home.

I felt like crying.

Instead, I text-vented to a good friend in Florida, who had the sense to just listen and not try to talk me out of it. He knew I already knew I needed to pee, eat, and be around the one person I can count on out here: dear husband.

And sure enough, Hubby was on his way. And he had some idea what he was driving into. Storm clouds on my horizon.

There’s a reason I chose Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as his ring tone. That man could put a positive slant on the four horses of the apocalypse. And he does it in such a charming and sincere way that you can’t even get annoyed. He also does that “I’m a guy, so I’m supposed to solve stuff” thing. Which must be upsetting from his perspective, because not everything can be solved.

But in this case, he handled my mood with aplomb. He drove up, wearing a bright, sunny, yellow shirt, and had my favorite Jason Mraz album playing on the radio. “Hey there, Sunshine!” He said. “Let’s find you a bathroom.”

After accomplishing that mission, he took me out for seafood. He made me feel special. He made me feel heard.

I could see what an effort he was making to be positive, and that naturally made me want to be positive, too. So I started saying things like, “What lovely weather we’re having,” and “Look at those beautiful flowers.” All while grumbling inside. But I was trying.

Your attitude impacts your outlook. If I had continued in “people suck” mode, the evening would have gone completely down the drain. Instead, I decided to follow his positive lead, rather than make his day as awful as mine had been up to his arrival.

After that, we went to see Wings Over Washington, which was so much fun it got a blog post of its own. And then we went home, watched Handmaid’s Tale, hugged the dogs, and went to sleep smiling.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we resurrected the day. And that made me realize that looking at days as a solid unit can be a mistake. A day doesn’t have to be all bad, from beginning to end. It’s possible to live in the moment. It’s possible to turn things around.

I hope I remember that. If I don’t, I have someone walking beside me who will remind me by example. And that’s pretty darned amazing.

Moon Phoenix

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Vandalism

Barely a day goes by without some young fool putting graffiti on my drawbridge. I’ve also noticed that if something is breakable and it’s accessible to the public, it will be broken. Signs are defaced. Stickers appear everywhere. Human beings seem to love to trash things.

I’ve never understood this instinct to demolish and destroy. It makes me angry. I don’t see the point of it.

When discussing it with a wise friend of mine recently, he said that he thought it was people’s way of making their mark. Everyone wants to be able to say, “I was here.” “I existed.”

Okay, I can understand having that instinct. It’s why I blog. It’s why people have children. It’s why we create art. Everyone wants to have a legacy. We want to have something to show for having lived on this planet.

When it comes to youth, I suspect they feel as though they will never have an impact, and therefore this petty destruction is their only outlet. They don’t realize that they’ll grow up. They don’t comprehend that there will be other opportunities, but that some of those opportunities will take hard work and sacrifice. Graffiti, on the other hand, happens right here, right now.

I think it’s really important that we teach young people to be positively creative. We should give them projects and outlets for their energy. They should be taught to build their communities. They need to learn to problem solve, not problem create. And dare I say it? The worst, absolute worst educational trend is that of defunding art and music programs in schools.

Producing beauty is essential for everyone who wants to make a mark on this world. Otherwise, ugliness will prevail.

vandalism

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Support vs. Supremacy

Do you feel like an outcast? Do you feel abnormal? Do you have social anxiety? Are you lonely? Misunderstood? Having trouble fitting in? Do you have a health issue, or a fetish or an addiction? Can’t get a job? In a toxic relationship? Do you want help?

Odds are quite good that there’s a support group out there for you. Thank God for support groups. I highly recommend them. Having the camaraderie of like-minded people, who are working together toward self-improvement, is priceless.

A good support group will discuss the issue at hand. It will help individuals talk about their struggles with said issue, and also allow them to brainstorm possible solutions. It will celebrate triumphs and parse failures to redirect people toward a more positive path. The ultimate goal is to get you into a better headspace, and help you build a better life for yourself.

Self-improvement isn’t easy. It takes work. It requires commitment. There are no shortcuts.

Unfortunately, in this era of social media, it’s easy to think that there are shortcuts. For every support group out there, there’s an online forum for people who want to stay right in their toxic place. Want to remain an anorexic? There are plenty of people just like you who will be more than willing to encourage your march toward death. Don’t want to face your fear? You can simply hide in your house and interact with a wide network of people who are doing the exact same thing. Do you prefer to blame others rather than make changes yourself? You will always be able to find people who will join you in casting blame, spewing hatred, and inciting violence.

But how’s that working for you? Being allowed to vent your bile with people who agree with you might feel good at first, but has it solved your issue? Are you happier, healthier, more functional now than you were before? Or are you simply more angry?

Let’s take, for example, your basic Incel group. There are many reasons why one might be involuntarily celibate. If your self-esteem is poor, if you feel ugly or awkward or socially-inept, if you’re isolated or depressed, you could benefit from a group of others who are going through the same thing. You could learn from each other’s mistakes and successes. You could learn that you’re maybe a lot more normal than you first realized, and that would do wonders for your self-image. A group like that, with the goal of helping you find ways to form a healthy romantic relationship, would be ideal. Unfortunately that’s not what on-line Incel groups do.

Incel groups place the blame on others. It’s the fault of women that you’re not getting laid. Yeah. You’re just fine the way you are. Its them. They are shallow and only go for muscular, gorgeous men. Because of that, you are not getting the sex you’re entitled to. That attitude rapidly devolves into misogyny, and then you get people encouraging violence. They celebrate mass killers. They encourage rape and spousal abuse. They say they’d feel soooo much better if someone threw acid into women’s faces.

But the thing is, how does that solve your problem? Do you think that attitude or behavior is going to bring you love? Because I’m here to tell you that you could be the most gorgeous man on the planet, but I’m not going to find you attractive if you want to throw acid in my face. And I’m fairly certain I’m in the majority, there.

Incel groups are also based on a lot of false premises. Most women aren’t looking specifically for muscular men. In fact, a lot of us find extreme muscles kinda gross. We all have different tastes. The fact that many men, who are fat or not well endowed or deformed or have scars, still manage to find love, will tell you that most women aren’t as shallow as these Incel groups would like you to believe. We are looking for love, too. (In fact, the way these groups insult the physical attributes of women, and only prize the “gorgeous”,  “unattainable” ones, show that the members are the shallow ones, not the women.)

And, uh, by the way, no one is “entitled” to sex. Healthy sex is a mutually given gift that is shared between people who respect, admire, and love one another. Love. Not hate. Equality. Not superiority or entitlement.

Incel groups are not about support. They’re about male supremacy. That gets you nowhere. Believing others are inferior isn’t going to render you more popular with them.

If you really want to improve your life, look at the people you associate with. Are they trying to help you improve? Are they a positive force, or are they toxic? Are they encouraging anger or violence? That isn’t going to do you any good.

To be clear: groups that marinate in negativity become extremists, gangs, and/or terrorists. You can do better than that. Everyone has felt like an outcast at some point. I guarantee it. But I know there’s awesomeness within you. You just have to nurture it to make it grow.

Hate is the wrong path. Take the high road. It may take some effort to get up there, but in the end, you’ll be all the better for it. Onward and upward!

https _2.bp.blogspot.com_-hDlp3Ou1Iuw_UQz1dYGU57I_AAAAAAAALwQ_ulE8WKTtjgE_s1600_Divorced+Praying+Mantis+Support+Group
The right group for you is out there. I promise.

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Much Better than a Cult

As strange as it may seem, it took me years to figure out that I should only surround myself with kind, loving, and decent people. No one ever told me that. I think deep down, had the concept even occurred to the younger me, I wouldn’t have really believed I deserved it.

So I wasted a lot of time desperately trying to gain approval from people who were way too busy pumping toxic waste into my life to ever grant said approval. What a shame.

But slowly, ever so slowly, the number of amazing humans in my world started to outnumber the bad apples. That made that rotten fruit seem increasingly unpalatable to me. I’ve come to realize that it’s okay to expect quality in all my relationships. What a notion.

It’s so wonderful to know so many outstanding people now. It’s a gift. It’s priceless. Sometimes it brings tears of joy to my eyes.

But recently I’ve come to see what it would have been like if I had kept my emotional garden free of weeds and decay all along. My boyfriend seems to have done an excellent job of doing so, and the results have been profoundly positive. There is so much good in his world. It’s one of the many things I admire about him. He is a lodestone for kindness.

Recently we announced our engagement, and the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. In the best possible way. This is all new to me. I keep telling him I feel like I’m being love bombed. He reassures me that I’m not joining a cult. Receiving this kind of encouragement is just as it should be.

Well, alrighty then! I’ll take it. Please and thank you!

In case no one ever told you, dear reader: Look for the good in the world. Accept nothing less. You’ll be amazed at how much it multiplies. Proof positive that love conquers all.

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Shaping Your Life

Until very recently, I thought of my life as being linear. Birth, growth, death… aren’t we all on that inevitable path? But that makes life sound way too much like a treadmill. (All you’d have to do is look at me once and you’d know that I hate treadmills.)

Now I think of life as being three dimensional. That allows room for a lot more options. It more accurately reflects the diversity of the thousands of lives being lived on this planet. We each shape our lives. We are architects. We are sculptors.

We can be smooth and calm and uniform. We can be rigid and boxy and rough. We can zig and zag and branch off in wild directions. We can embrace. We can repel. We can circle back upon ourselves, or we can shoot forward like an arrow. We can take inspiration from others, or we can set out on our own. We can be steady and solid, or we can wobble unpredictably.

Don’t restrict yourself to a linear life, unless that’s what you truly want in your heart of hearts. Create something beautiful. Only allow others to influence that creation if you can look upon them and see the beauty within. (And don’t forget to thank those who help you shape your life in a positive way.)

When all is said and done, your life will be what you make of it. So make it special.

geometric

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Clicking Your Way to a Better World

I must admit that I spend entirely too much time on the internet. You do, too. Don’t believe me? What are you doing right now? Tiptoeing through the tulips? I think not.

(Not that I’m not happy to see you. I’d miss you if you weren’t here. I really would.)

Sometimes I think I really should make a permanent, all-encompassing change in my life and reduce my screen time to, say, an hour a day. But gimme a break. I’m as likely to do that as I am to give up pizza, and I have the thighs to prove it.

I do try to do the next best thing, though. There are quite a few sites out there that allow you to have a positive impact on the world simply by clicking a button. That’s amazing. I can save the world while staying comfortably potatoed on my couch. (Yup. Potato is now a verb. Because I say so.)

What follows are some of my favorite “positive click” sites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Ecosia. This is a search engine, similar to Google, with an important difference. For every 45 searches you do on Ecosia, they will plant a tree. They’ve planted more than 20 million trees so far. That makes me incredibly happy. So Ecosia is now my default search engine.

  • Free Rice. This is a fun site. You can feed the world while learning things. Basically, you choose a topic, such as English Vocabulary, or World Landmarks, or Language Learning, or SAT Test Preparation, or Human Anatomy, and you’ll then be asked a series of questions. For every question you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program. 10 grains of rice doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly. So learn stuff and feed people. It’s the ultimate win/win situation!

  • The GreaterGood. I cannot say enough about this site. Everything you do there will have a positive impact. They have various categories, such as Hunger, Breast Cancer, Animals, and Veterans, and if you go to those sections of the site once a day and click, you will be helping these causes, and it won’t cost you a penny. But beware. They also have a store, and it has the coolest clothes and shoes and jewelry that you have ever seen in your life. And when you buy an item, more donations kick in. For example, I bought an awesome jacket, and because of that, they donated 50 bowls of dogfood to an animal shelter. I think about that every time I wear that jacket, and it makes me feel even warmer.

There are all kinds of websites out there that have positive side effects. You just have to look. If you can suggest any other sites of this type, by all means, include them in the comments section, below! And keep on clicking!

make a difference

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On Having an Impact

On the day I wrote this, I was told by one friend that he learned about Kiva.org because of me, and that he and his daughter have been making microloans through them ever since. Another friend chimed in and said it was the same for her. This gave me a lump in my throat, because it means that I played a small part in improving the lives of people in other parts of the world without even realizing it. And some day those people whose lives have improved will go on to improve other people’s lives, and so on, and so on. In its own quiet way, it’s immortality. We are all so interconnected in ways we don’t even realize. It’s miraculous when you think about it. What a gift!

And then, less than an hour later, I was contacted by Mariah, one of my favorite readers, who told me that not only has she read my book, but she also printed out the blog post that I wrote about her several months back, and it hangs on her wall. Okay. Happy tears. Somewhere in South Carolina hangs one of my blog posts. Wow. Just… wow.

Learning that I’ve had an impact on people means so much to me. It’s more precious than gold. It tells me that my life is worth living, and that all the challenges and all the potholes in my path have been worthwhile. It’s validation. It’s uplifting.

If someone in your life has had a positive impact on you, dear reader, I strongly encourage you to tell them so. They may not realize it. And hearing it, I guarantee, will have a positive impact upon them.

See? It’s easier than you think.

impact

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