Happiness, Human, Life, Peace, Poetry from The Well, Time

Happiness Forecasted

Diets, mantras, bedtimes,

doses, meditations —

happiness has been forecasted.

A million rules later

one unruly mind, one quarrelsome heart

refuse to be coaxed from orbit.

After all,

what can overpower their chemical dance?

Well, a sunny day, a groaning violin,

or a tender smile.A million rules laterand I’m still on trackto surrender to the twisting winds.Happiness Forecasted



Yesterday I had a powerful realization. It was one of those moments when a thought flutters down and settles into place and everything makes sense. Sometimes it feels like we learn and relearn the same lessons over and over. Where have all those magic moments of peace gone – the moments when everything felt right in the world? They come and go.

My magic moment yesterday was about having choices. The idea that everything in my life I have chosen. My job, my commute, my friends, the place I’m living, the outfits I’m wearing, the length of my hair, and the giant piece of cake I ate a few hours ago. It sounds silly, but I’m not sure that I have ever felt with such raw certainty that I am in fact steering my own life.

The past several months have been tough. I’ve had a bad bout of anxiety and I’m on the cusp of making several big changes. Being in an anxious state can really dull any real sense of power or control over your life. Also, I believe the more rigid your daily routine is, the harder it is to remember that you have the ability to choose. I could take a different route to work. I could have scrambled eggs for breakfast for a change.

I could even CHOOSE to relax, instead of worry! It sure is hard to relax. But I am choosing to try. I just read Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life – a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While I could write a whole book about my reactions to her book (heh), I think the part that stuck with me most is an exercise called “Letting Go.” When I read it, holding the book in my hands, dead tired after a long day, I realized how freaking tense my body and mind were, while believing that I had been relaxing before bed.

While it’s not as simple as deciding: I choose to banish my anxiety forever! Be gone, cursed feelings of doom and paranoia! maybe it can be as simple as focusing on smaller decisions, such as: I choose to relax my muscles and mind tonight, and sink into bed and let go.

Here’s an excerpt from the exercise. Maybe it will help you relax, too! I’ll let you choose whether or not to read Louise Hay’s book. 🙂

“As you read this, take a deep breath and, as you exhale, allow all the tension to leave your body. Let your scalp and your forehead and your face relax. Your head does not need to be tense in order for you to read. Let your tongue and your throat and your shoulders relax. You can hold a book with relaxed arms and hands. Do that now. Let your back and your abdomen and your pelvis relax. Let your breathing be at peace as you relax your legs and feet.

Is there a big change in your body since you began the previous paragraph? Notice how much you hold on. If you are doing it with your body, you are doing it with your mind.”



What I’ve learned (so far) from saying no and trying to be assertive

Whether or not it’s true, I like to think that I am becoming more assertive. I know it’s only been one week since I started taking anxiety medication, but I swear my badass factor has already ticked up several notches.

I’m learning to see patterns in my behavior that are the manifestation of my people-pleasing mentality. Things such as saying yes when my mind and body are howling nooooooo, letting people drain me of time and energy, and not spending enough time doing what’s important to me.


Decisions that made me miserable (or rather, make me – because this journey is not nearly over!) were motivated by fear. Fear of being judged negatively is a big, sort of all-encompassing one; more specifically, fear of being seen as not nice, selfish, or stupid. Fear of losing friends is another. Fear of being the person who “caused” a problem or conflict, or worse – me being the problem itself!

I’ve spent a lot of life unwilling to accept that things could possibly be the fault of other people or factors that have nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with how “good” or “bad” of a person I am.

As a result, I have had, like many other passive sensitive people, an unfortunate tendency to attract narcissistic and downright irritating people into my life. More generally, I’ve tended to let things go rather than confront anyone after I’ve been offended or hurt. In fact, my conflict style is really easy to explain: I generally don’t get in conflicts at all! Because I keep quiet about how I feel!

Through noticing habits of mine that allow people to shape the way I spend my time or energy, I’ve started to make some progress in maintaining stronger boundaries and sticking up for myself. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. The worst part about saying no is the dread you feel before you say no. Then you’ve said it and the ball’s in their field, and you feel better for making a choice that was good for you.

2. No one hates you when you ask them to be more considerate, or turn down their offers, or ask to reschedule things now and then. People understand, and doing what’s best for you only makes you a more desirable person.*

*People who DO decide they hate you or “punish” you with the cold shoulder or other passive aggressive behavior should raise red flags. One explanation of these types of people is that they’re emotionally stunted. This is something for another blog post. . .

3. The more time you devote to doing what you actually WANT to do or enjoy doing, the happier you’ll be.

4. When you decide to dictate more of your own schedule and preserve your time for things and people that matter, it becomes a lot clearer who really does matter, and who helps you enjoy a better quality life.

5. Finally, it becomes easier to see that it isn’t worth much to quantify parts of your life. You will think less along the lines of: I managed to see three friends this week, and get to the gym four times, and eat a home cooked meal three nights, etc. You can be happy whether you see five friends in a week or none, or whether you go for a run every day or every other day.

What matters is doing what you want to do when you want to do it. If that’s spending two hours every day alone reading, and it makes you happy, then that’s what you should do.

Within reason, of course. I understand there are things in life we just have to put up with. Ahem, like jobs. And sometimes commutes. And distant relatives. These are long-term problems to work out.

But we have a lot of power over little things. Life’s made up of little things. I’ve learned that taking the reins over the day-to-day stuff, the little stuff, makes you feel bigger – a badass, if you will.




ImageYou know it’s bad when you’re in denial of being in denial.

It’s a handsome word – vocation. It tumbles off the tongue at its own pace. It summons the view of a white steeple on Sunday morning, or of a curved back blocking the view of a paint-speckled hand before a canvass. It’s never been clear whether one’s vocation is a fatalistic sentence, clear and static as a thumbprint, or whether it’s something you find after years of despair in career trial-and-error. Indeed, are we all blessed with our very own vocation?

Fortunately it’s okay to be unsure about what you’re going to do, before and during college that is. It’s normal. The options are endless. As graduation dances closer, you drink another glass of wine and wonder why you have yet to walk into an arch of dusky sunlight and mutter “Ah, yes. I’m supposed to be a – !” A what? A who?

Beware of loans. Get your graduate degree first. It’s worth the money. Get your graduate degree later. And don’t go unless you’re sure. Work first. Save up. Take risks. Follow your heart. (If possible, become a doctor. It would be really great to have a doctor in the family.)

What if the vocation that I think is my vocation is an imposter? What if I harbor a prodigious untapped talent in sculpture? What if I have two callings – or worse – my mission necessitates living somewhere other than New York City, San Francisco, or Seattle?

Maybe we construct our vocations in the same way that we construct knowledge and construct meaning and construct social constructs? Can I get a Ph.D. in Social Construction? You know, I’ve always wanted to work with my hands. After all these years tapping this keyboard my fingers are cramped. Therein lives true authenticity, real connection with one’s work. Marx was on to something. Is there a Neo-Marxist Association of America, and are they hiring? College has taught me to think critically. Critical thinking is absolutely critical in this day and age.

Jenny is lucky because she is working her dream job, which maybe translates into: she is actualizing her vocation. Jenny is fortunate in that her vocation pays her to peruse Facebook and look at puppies on Craig’s List for much of the day.

Am I in denial of my vocation, or is it in denial of me? Perhaps my vocation was hoping to reside in the soul of someone more charming.

One thing’s for sure, and that’s that the CIA is in denial of my usefulness as a secret agent. I envision my application somewhere in the “Not a Chance” shred pile, and I expect that’s because the CIA is expert at sniffing out secret agent vocational wannabes.

They say that those who can – do, and those who can’t – teach. What about those of us who can’t do anything about the fact that we can’t teach? Where’s our idiom?

Maybe I’m in denial that my vocation is hiding somewhere between my Motivation to Avoid Failure and my bills from Sallie Mae. She’s somewhere close all right, sighing and rolling her eyes.