Shake it off?

October 29, 2014

Taylor Swift’s new hit album 1989 has the hit song “Shake it off” on it and that song is currently all over the airwaves. Taylor is singing about “shaking off” the opinions or gossip of others, ostensibly about her, but in reality about all of her young fans – female and male. The underlying message is not to let the opinions of others get you down; just go on with your life as you are leading it.

Recent events in the sports world have certainly discredited the “shake it off” mentality, especially as itfootball player pertains to head injuries such as concussions. There are many other examples of athletes at all levels being told or encouraged to “shake it off” and “play through the pain.” None of that has proven to be good advice in the long run and we now have many,. many cases of former athletes who are now crippled or suffering dementia that was likely cause by trying to “shake it off” one time too many.

But, what about the emotional hits that we take in life? What about that rejection or that break-up or the loss of a loved one for whatever reason? Can we really shake them off? Is that good advice? I think not.

Just like we can and should seek medical help for a physical injury; an emotional blow is a shot to the head that needs attention and not something that you can just shake off by yourself. Physical blows caringmay leave marks or bruises on the body; but, emotional blows leave a bruise in our minds. There are many times consequences that go well beyond the body’s initial reaction to a physical injury, especially those involving the brain.

The same is true of emotional injuries, maybe even more so. Our minds are wondrous things that can take an initial emotional injury and blow it all out of proportions. Left to it’s own devices, our imagination can take what might have been a simple initial injury to our pride and ego and from that simple beginning  conjure up the worst, compound the initial injury and invents conspiracies to make it even worse. For some a snub or rejection, weather real or perceived, starts them out on the slippery slope towards depression.

So, what’s the answer for people who are reacting badly to an emotional bruise? I don’t think it’s found in the advice to “shake it off.” Perhaps that is the time to listen to this song by Wade Jacoby and then go find that friend. There have been any number of songs about friends being there when you need them. That’s what true friend are for – to be there when you need them.  So, don’t try to shake it off, athandshake least not alone. Find your friend. Have a wine, Go out dancing. Put the balm of happiness on your emotional wound. There is always tomorrow. There will always be a tomorrow; and, things will get better tomorrow. But, first you have to get there.

If you are the quiet and contemplative type who wants a slow peon to hope, listen to Michel Stipe of R.E. M. in their song “Everybody Hurts.”  However, if you are more of an energetic type and love a rousing call for hope and happiness try this song by Pharrell Williams – Happy.

The bottom line is not to try to just shake it off. Get help with it. Get with a friend and share. Have a good cry, then play the Happy song again and dig your way out of that hole. There’s no future in wallowing around down there.

Change is good?

October 25, 2014

“The main danger in this life are the people who want to change everything…or nothing.”  (Nancy Astor) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog

We live in a world of constant change, yet there are many things that we try to keep the same. Back at the end of September I wrote a post titled “Change is Good.” In that post I did opine that change just for change sake isn’t necessarily good. Today’s saying seems to point out that those who are overly change oriented or those who resist any change are both at the wrong ends of the spectrum. It is frustrating for those at those polar opposite positions if they happen to be members of the same organization – one side pulling for massive change and the other digging in in resistance to any change.

I suspect that even the most diehard advocate of staying the same would begrudgingly admit that change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same forever. The ravages of age and wear eventually dictate change, just to keep from falling apart. Those who advocate wholesale change will also have to admit that maintaining some connection with the past is necessary to maintain identity, to be able to measure afraidthe differences in where you are going and where you have been. Even if the link to the past and the way things were is just symbolic, there is value in remembering and perhaps honoring that heritage. There is an old saying about what happens if we forget about our past.

I think the thing that scares people into resisting change the most is fear of the unknown. As bad as it may be right now, whatever state your organization (or life) may be in, it is at least a known thing. You understand it. You can get your arms around it. You can commiserate about it. Who knows how that new thing that is being suggested by the change-mongers will work out? What if it doesn’t work? Will we be worse off? The second thing that causes resistance is the pace of change. Why do we have to change so much, so fast? Couldn’t we just make smaller, more incremental changes? Sometimes there are no half-steps available. Getting a puppy to see how parenting might work out for you isn’t the answer; though it might get you more used to cleaning up poop.

One key to successfully navigating change in your organization and your life might be knowledge – taking the time to understand or explain the suggested changes – how things would be different and how they would work under the change; along with a clear and understandable explanation about the proposed steps to achieve the change and the plans to deal with any risks involved. Given a clear butterflies into the unknownexplanation that the resistors can understand and discuss openly will alleviate much of the fear of the unknown. There may still be disagreement about the need for the change, but that should also be covered as part of the discussion about the change process. Hopefully you can explain how things will get better because of the change, not just be different.

Any discussion of change ultimately focuses back on self and one’s ability to change themselves. Most often that focus is internal, on the attitude or outlook on life that you bring to the process and how to change that. There are tons of great books and articles that you can read and posters that you can hang on your wall about changing your attitude and becoming more positive. Just Google quotes about change.  I think the key thought is summed up nicely in this quote –

“I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that.” – Gillian Anderson

So, have a great weekend or make the personal changes necessary to have one.

Fat, dumb; but, not happy…

October 24, 2014

There is an old saw in the vernacular – “fat, dumb and happy”. I doubt that “happy” should ever have been a part of that phrase and the dumb part would have been better served by the phrase “in elephant on scaledenial”.  I have been overweight (my preferred term for being obese, according to the scales used to measure these things) for a long time. So, in the vernacular I was fat, dumb and happy. In fact I was fat, in denial and unhappy.

About three months ago I finally decided to do something about my overweight state. I bought one of those diet drink plans, the ones where you substitute a diet supplement shake for 1 or 2 meals a day. I chose the Body by Vi supplement from Visalus, mainly because the lady who sells it is in the local Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce with me and it seemed to be as good as any. That helped get things started for me and works well.  I dropped some weight with it alone fairly quickly. I also reached a plateau fairly quickly and decided that I really needed to ad step two to the plan, which is adding exercise. So, a little over a month and a half ago, I joined the Anytime Fitness gym here in Milford. The lady who owns it is also in the Chamber with me and owns two other gyms on the east side of the area. She’s a great person to know and I felt really comfortable joining her gym.

I knew that I was out of shape, but how far out of shape was proven to me when Amy, one of the club fitness trainers, did my initial assessment on my first visit to the Anytime Fitness gym. Let’s just say that I had nowhere to go but up.  I have since been to the gym just about every day for about an hour. I probably need to do two-a-days for a while, but it’s a start and I’ve worked my way back to some level of fitness that is at least above the zombie-like level that I started at. I’m still huffing and puffing by the end of my workouts, but it takes longer to get to that state now. Every time I get too comfortable with the exercises on a machine I add an extras 5-10 pounds to the resistance to increase the workout intensity.

What I’ve also come to realize is that I’m way happier throughout the day, if I start it with a workout (likely due to the endorphins released during exercise). I have the luxury of having time in the mornings to go to the gym. It’s hardly ever crowded then and I can cycle through all of the machines at my own pace, with no waiting. That is one of the appeals of Anytime Fitness. I can also go there at any hour and I’ve discovered that there are times when it is literally empty, so I can get a quick workout in without any distractions or waiting for anything. They have those little alarm pendants that I could use to call for help if I ever needed it.

When I started this program I established several goals for myself. One is a weight goal, which I’m about half way to achieving. When I get to my weight goal, it will be the first time that I’ve been at that weight since John F. Kennedy was in the White House. For those too young to remember that, it was a long time ago – before I discovered beer in college and began working on turning my six-pack into a keg. The second, and likely more important goal, is to get off all of the medications that I’d been taking to deal with my type II diabetes. I can happily report that I’ve also achieved a part of that goal and my A1C blood sugar level has dropped 2 full points. I got to drop one of my meds at my last check-up and will likely get to drop the rest at the next visit.  I plan to keep at it until I get off all of the meds.
ugly mirrorOf course, the longer term goal is to keep the extra weight off and to maintain a healthier lifestyle, including regular exercise. I’m not in this for any ego driven desire to look like Adonis. I’m too old for that anyway. The real goal is to live as natural a life as possible, without lots of medications. Like many, when I was in my denial phase, I fooled myself to thinking that anything for which there was a pill was OK to live with. Not so! Things like Type II Diabetes lead to other things like high blood pressure, eye problems and many other health issues. None of those are things to be happy about, even with pills; or conditions with which one really has to live.

Every morning, when I hit the gym, there is another old dude (like me) there walking or exercise cycling away. He too is trying to work his way back into shape to avoid having any meds prescribed. We kind of lend encouragement to each other and I wish him well on his efforts. He was happy to hear that I got off one of my meds due to the work that I’ve been putting in. I hope he makes his goals, too. I’m sure he will because he is as dedicated to being there every day as I am. Anyway, I just thought that I’d share this little bit of my life. Now I can say that I’m slimming down, more intelligent about my health and definitely happier. I’m on a journey that beats that old saying all to hell.

Have a great and healthy day!

Are you a dreamer?

October 21, 2014

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer.”  (Harriet Tubman) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

You could easily extend today’s thought by also stating that “every great idea began as someone’s dream.”

Dreams allow us the freedom to explore the unknown, imagine things that don’t exist, solve intractable problems, achieve impossible goals, and accomplish the impossible. Dreams remove the barriers of logic. Sometimes that allow emotions to run wild, but most times they just feed off the imagination and then go beyond what can even be imagined.

women dreamingSome believe that dreams are a waste of time; but sometimes dreams are the only way to completely let go of the artificial barriers that conventional thinking or common knowledge have erected. Sometimes it takes a long time for dreams to be realized. Leonardo Da Vinci dreamed of men flying in machines that would allow them to be like birds centuries before the Wright brothers finally realized his dream. Sometimes a dream is more like a wish made when you are not awake. Whatever you dream is something that exists somewhere in the back of your mind and perhaps something that you will turn from a dream into a mission and finally into a reality. Don’t dismiss your dreams, embrace them. They are allowing you to escape from whatever limitations you have placed upon yourself.

What do you dream about? Places? Things? People? How do your dreams affect your life when you man daydreamingawaken? Are they quickly forgotten or do you pursue them? Do you feel a sense of loss or a sense of having not completed something or accomplished something in your life because you did not follow your dreams? It’s never too late. If you have a dream, follow it; do something about it. Maybe you’ve just dreamed up “the next big thing.” Maybe you’ve just dreamed about your next great vacation or meeting Mr/Ms. Right. See how easy that was; now go make it happen.

Are you a dreamer? Why not turn those dreams into a reality?

What songs get to you ?

October 20, 2014

“Science cannot tell us why an old song can move us to tears.”  (Erwin Schrödinger) – a quote seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

metal rockerWe all tend to have certain songs that can evoke strong emotional reactions – sometimes happy and sometimes very sad, but almost always involving someone else who immediately comes to mind. Many couples have what they call “our song”; some song that they associate with a special time in their relationship; maybe a first dance or their wedding dance or a first date. Many people also have very sad songs that cause long suppressed emotions of loss or a time in their life that they’d rather be able to put behind them. For me, the Paul McCartney song “Yesterday” is an especially strong emotional trigger that immediately takes me back to my college days – yes the song really is that old – and the loss of my first true love in college.

I am also fortunate to have many great songs that kick off the happy memories of meeting the eventual great love of my life (48 years of happy marriage this year), such as “Hang on Sloopy”, by the McCoys and “(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration”, by the Righteous Brothers. It was the Golden era of early rock and roll and we partied hearty in those days. There are many songs from that era that can make us both smile.

What songs move you? Which ones bring a smile and which cause tears to whelm up in your eyes? Science can’t explain why, but I’ll bet you have some good stories behind the reactions.

Some movies (whether big screen or made for TV) have the same impact. There are few, if any, men who can watch the made for TV movie Bryan’s Song without reaching for a tissue. The same is true of some movies that might have been thought to appeal to women only. Love Story, Ghost, and perhaps even Brokeback Mountain are great examples. There is just something about such movies that reaches into us and pulls at some strings in our hearts or dredges up long lost memories in our minds and causes our reactions.  Science can’t explain it, but I think we can. Those are reactions that are causes by memories of things on our own lives of great joy or great pain or sense of loss.  We aren’t really crying about what we see on the screen or hear on the radio; we’re reliving a similar moment in our own lives.

So long as we are able to have that quick cry and then move on, back in the present and not stuck in the past, we are OK. It’s good for us let it out every now and then; but only if we can then move on.

Work Hard – Play For Fun

October 18, 2014

Work Hard. Play Hard. – as seen at the gym

I joined our local Anytime Fitness of Milford Gym a couple of months ago and have been going practically every day to work out. It’s part of a programs that I’ve put myself on to lose weight and get off what meds I take. I enjoy going for my workouts each morning and the results are starting to show. The other morning I noticed today’s little saying in the signage that the gym has on the front of the building – Work Hard, Play Hard.

That seems too attuned to personality type “A” people. I’d rather Work Hard; But Play For Fun. Life is too short to turn everything into hard work. There certainly are professional athletes for whom
baseball playerplaying a game is their work. Our weekend TV is full of pro-sport programs of all sorts. Even things that one might not initially associate with professionalism and hard work, like skateboarding or ping pong have pro circuits and many have their own TV coverage as well. While the professional athletes may have to work hard at it, even they will occasionally say “It’s only a game”, during an overly serious interview. Most of the really great pro athletes will still tell you that they play the game for the love of the game and it is just icing on the cake that they are well paid to do so.

Back to my philosophy – Work Hard, But Play For Fun. I think it is really important that one have activities – sports, hobbies, whatever – that they do just for fun. These are things that they can relax and enjoy. They are also things in which the participants usually don’t get all hung up on winning or losing. Fishing might be a good example. You’re outdoors, enjoying nature and able to clear you mind from most other things as you mentally try to figure out where to cast your line and how to play it in to attract fish. If you get fish that doesn’t mean that you won and they lost, any more than if you comefishermen home empty handled. It’s more about your imagined skills as a good fisherman. Yes, I know that there are also professional fishermen and event they have TV shows; but, for most of us, fishing would be a relaxing and non-competitive sport.

The concept of Work Hard Play Hard, it seems to me, is counterproductive to the very reason that we turn to play to begin with – to relax from a hard day’s (week’s) work. If you cannot let go of that winner-loser, zero sum game mentality, then how can you relax? There are lots of sports that don’t necessarily involve direct competition, or at least they don’t require that. Many of them, such as golf, pit the player against the course. Of course, when you start playing those sports with others the fact that you do keep score makes the game immediately lady golfercompetitive, if you let it. When you play alone, the only person that you can get mad at is yourself, which could result in many broken clubs.

The alternative is to play at whatever you are doing for relaxation just for fun. That is difficult for most of us because we tend towards measuring ourselves against something; whether it be an established standard or the results that someone else achieved. We have this need to somehow measure and mark our progress in the game/sport/hobby. For many just keeping track of their personal best is enough. If the activity is too simple and we quickly master it we just and quickly lose interest in doing it. Imagine a game where getting to a score of 100 was the best that you could do and you got there after just a few rounds of playing at it. Would you continue to play that game?

Hobbies can provide the perfect outlet for our need to relax and have fun. One nice thing about most hobbies is that one can master the skills needed for the hobby, but the challenge always remains to use those skills to create something else, collect something else or observe something else. The wood workerchallenge is in the execution and not achieving some set goal. There is also always the challenge of developing new skills or perhaps taking the hobby in new and unexpected directions.

So there is worth in the activity continuing to pose a challenge for you to be better at it. Once you see that it has that challenge and figure out where you are in the scoring scale, I can almost guarantee that you’ll try to find someone else who engages in the same activity, so that you can compare yourself to them. It’s at that point where you have the choice to continue the activity because it is fun for you, or turn it into work because you “need” to be better at it than others. Choose wisely at that junction; otherwise your play will become hard work. I chose not to turn my fun into more hard work.

It’s a weekend and you’ve worked hard all week; so, play for fun and relax! I’ve got to run off to the gym now and see if I can top my personal best on some of the machines.

What makes you happy?

October 16, 2014

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”  (Wayne Dyer) What makes you happy?  In the movie, “The Jerk,” Steve Martin needs his dog to make him happy.  But the dog growls at him and runs away.  Sometimes the happiness we seek is not the happiness we need.

man with questionHappiness can be an elusive state in our lives, especially if we have wandered off into the weeds, in terms of how we define what makes us happy. So many of us get caught up in, and go along with, happiness being somehow defined based upon achievements and awards or perhaps possessions and pay scale. In truth, happiness has nothing to do with any of those things. Today’s quote by Wayne Dyer points to the correct place where happiness is achieved – in your mind and in your way of thinking.

There are people (even in America) who can be found sitting beside the road with absolutely nothing to their name – no big, showy possessions, no prestigious titles or awards, nothing – who are happy because the day was warm, they found enough empties to return to make money for dinner and they are watching a beautiful sunset. Are they crazy? No; they’re just happy.  Why? Because happiness is within them and they allow it to come out.

So; want separates us from that state of happiness?  It is all in our minds and in the conditioning that we have grown up with ibn our materialistic society. Who decided that you shouldn’t be happy until you have what “the Jones” have? They did. Who said that you can’t be happy unless you get that big promotion? They did. Who said that you won’t be happy unless yo marry the richest guy or the prettiest girl? They did. Who are they? Have you always assumed that they were the happy people that you were trying to be like? Do “they” really exist; or, are they just another figment of your imagination?

One begins to see the truth in life as one gets a bit older.  The bigger house didn’t really bring the level of happiness that was expected. The bigger, faster, fancier car was great, but it too failed to bring true happiness. After a while the realization sets on that true happiness is facing new dayfound within and in relationships with others and not in possessions or titles or prizes. Waking up in the morning makes you happy at some point in your life.  Making it through the day is cause for more happiness. And being surrounded by and being able to interact with those that you love makes you really happy. It is somehow ironic that only at the closing stages of live do you really appreciate life itself. Before that you take in for granted. Only when you begin to sense the end do you begin to appreciate the present and find happiness in just being a part of it.

What makes you happy? Do you think that getting that next possession is the key for you?
How about getting that bigger house or that new car? Are they you key to happiness? If you think so, go back to the top and re-read. Happiness is a state of mind that starts with being content with what you have, because you realize that having things is not nearly as important happy faceas having loved ones. So; start being happy today by refocusing on what is really important in life – the people you love and who love you.


Have a great day and be happy!

Traveling light helps in life, too…

October 13, 2014

Air travelers would probably be quick to tell you that traveling light, without a lot of baggage, is the best way to man with heavy bagget through the airports. The advice to travel light, without a bunch of baggage, also works well for life.

In today’s post at the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack posted a yard sign that he recently saw – “Forgive, forget and move on!”  (Front-yard sign)

Many of us tend to travel through life with way too much emotional baggage in tow.  We insist on carrying around remorse, anger, hate, envy, sadness, and more. No wonder it takes us forever to get though the security checkpoints of life.

lifes stormsThe weight of all of this baggage not only slows us down, it effects how others look at us and deal with us. That weight tends to curl your lips down, into a frown, or case such a pall over our faces that we constantly look mad or sad. Beyond just how we look, the weight of all of that negative baggage can lead to depression; and continuing down that path leads to no good.

So, what are we to do? The advice that Jack saw on the yard sign is as good start. Whatever the wrong that you feel was committed against you; forgive the person for whom you are currently carrying the baggage of anger, hate, envy or revenge. Put that baggage down, forget about it and move on. If you are carrying the baggage of remorse for something that you did, make it right or apologize or just file away the lesson learned and forget about it and move on.

The baggage of sadness is oft the hardest to put down, especially the sadness of a the loss of a loved one. One dreams
must try to replace that baggage with the lighter and easier to live with memories of the good times when that person was still here. It’s OK to keep those bags of good memories with you the rest of your life. In fact get them out from time to time when you need to put a smile on your face.

As you start out on another week of life’s journey, check your baggage to see what you are carrying with you. Make sure to leave the negative baggage behind. Start by forgiving, forgetting about it and then you can move on. I think that you’ll find that traveling lighter makes your life more fun. I’m pretty sure that others will better appreciate taking a seat next to you on the journey, if they see that you don’t have a ton of emotional baggage stuffed under your seat.

Max Lucado put it well when he said – “The burlap bag of worry. Cumbersome. Chunky. Unattractive. Scratchy. Hard to get a handle on. Irritating to carry and impossible to give away. No one wants bag with goodbyeyour worries.” In fact, no one other than you wants to share your emotional baggage; so get rid of it before you set out on this week’s journey.

Forgive, forget and have a great trip!

Use your mind’s eye to find your happy place…

October 10, 2014

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or even touched.  They must be felt within the heart.”  (Helen Keller) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Isn’t the imagery that we have created around parts of our bodies and how we “use” them in our everyday lives interesting? We say that we see things “in our mind’s eye.” We may make decisions based upon a feeling in our gut or perhaps in our heart. We may love people with all our heart.  We feel things with our heart. We try to “get our head around” things. We can be “touched” by others without physical contact.  We may say that the death of a loved one can make the heart ache; and, thinking of difficult things is sometimes said to make your head hurt.

We tend to use those to describe feelings that are deep and most of the time very emotional and we need a place brain mapto locate them within our physical existence, so we choose body parts.  I suppose that we are lucky that someone in antiquity choose the heart as the symbol for love and not our brains; otherwise, we might be delivering box of candy shaped like the brain. Of course modern science has been able to locate and map out the portions of our brains that are really involved in all of the emotions that we have and so far none of the maps have pointed to the heart or revealed a real eye in the brain.

But, let’s let go of science and accept things as we feel them. Helen Keller couldn’t see or hear, but she somehow came to understand the concept of beauty and could see them in her mind’s eye and feel them in her heart.  Even if you have normal eyesight there are things that you cannot see that you may have some feel for in your mind’s eye. Hypnotists sometimes help people find their “happy place”, somewhere that either they have been to in the past or a totally imaginary place that they can conjure up in their mind. With your eyes closed you can “see it” and feel the happiness that being there brings. Do you have a happy place that you go to when you need to? Usually they are quiet, comfortable and safe feeling places; many times they may even be places from your childhood memories. They cannot be touched or seen but they are felt in your heart and thus seen in your mind’s eye.

If you have never really tried to conjure up your “happy place”, I encourage you to do so. Having a refuge like that, which you can visit whenever you need to, can be a life changer (sometimes a life saver). Some people get Butterfliesto their happy place through a form of meditation; others may use prayer to get there. How you get there is less important that the fact that you can get there and that being there makes you feel better, more at peace and more able to cope. It’s not really so much about escaping whatever caused you to need to go there; it’s more about regaining control over the emotions of the situation, calming down, and getting back within yourself. While you are there, if you look around; you will likely also find the strength and the courage to persevere, once you have to return to your conscious life.

There also tend to be a lot of faith and hope to be found in your happy place. That gets back to getting back in control of your emotions. You can once again have hope, maybe based upon faith or maybe just based upon taking a calmer look at the situation.  Even if the situation is beyond hope, there is still faith; for it is faith that allows you to step off into the abyss that you can see knowing that you will not fall due to the power that you cannot see. It is so much easier to take the step of faith if you are already in your happy place and at peace.  women dreaming

So, get off by yourself this weekend; maybe with a little soft music in the background and a nice glass of wine, perhaps sitting in front of a crackling fireplace, and find your personal happy place. Go there. See it in your mind. Remember it and how to get there; then use it whenever life starts to overwhelm you or when emotions overtake you. It’s a beautiful place that you will feel in your heart.

Have a great weekend! I’ll see you next week. I’m off to my happy place for the weekend.