#148 Read a book about History

The older you get, the more you realize that humans don’t change that dramatically from generation to generation – at least not from those things that make us human – behavior and intention.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#148

Read a book about History

Was History a class that you zoned out on in High School or College? Did you resist listening to the story about Christopher Columbus or Napoleon for the umpteenth time after awhile? Have you ever found yourself wishing you knew more about certain time periods now that you are an adult and perhaps more traveled?

Fiction or Non?

Learning about history can be accomplished in a variety of ways but reading a book that is either biographical in nature, a factual presentation of historical data, or a historical novel can offer a great perspective and tons of information you never knew you’d actually find interesting.

Outside of reading about Mary Todd Lincoln and fantasizing about being able to wear hoop skirts, my interest in historical information was minimal until I became an adult. Interestingly, it was my love of historical fiction and generational novels that enticed a wider interest in other time periods and I’m not sure I gave it much significance until Downton Abbey rekindled my interest in the fashions of the late 1800’s – shortly after hoops were removed from the skirts of ladies dresses.

Emotional Investment

Since then, and perhaps in tandem with a couple of visits to Europe in recent years, my interest in history has bloomed. I’ve enjoyed the fiction of Ken Follett and Edward Rutherford – both authors who create magical fictional characters against the backdrop of actual events. I am able to imagine the depth and breadth of those moments far better than a college history lecture when I am emotionally invested in the characters who are being invaded by the Nords, grieving a war loss, or losing their fortune in a market crash.

Biographies

Biographies are another way to establish an emotional connection to a character; one who is historical in their own right. These books are stories as well as factual (in most cases) accounts that are shared in the context of the person’s life – mostly historical. The need for environmental context is almost always present and so we are introduced to this person in relation to their historical surroundings, often giving us a front seat view of an event we read out in the paper or in a textbook at some point.

Politics

Maybe even more recently, I am intrigued by political history and as they say, “history repeats itself” (I know this to be true with firsthand experience in fashion and furniture design) so I search archived accounts of leaders who demonstrated attributes similar to our current president. I think I am looking for hope.

Perspective

History gives us perspective. The older you get, the more you realize that humans don’t change that dramatically from generation to generation – at least not from those things that make us human – behavior and intention. We may do different things but our motivation is often similar – allowing us to experience compassion and empathy when we look backwards. It can also promote deep gratitude; for the people who came before us – their struggle, efforts, and intent.

We can always be learning and growing. One of the ways to do that is to…

Read a book about history.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#201 Own Your Story

I believe it is important to honor the struggles, the mistakes, and the embarrassments so that we can stand tall today knowing that we made it through each of the storms that tried to take us down.

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#201

Own Your Story

Take a look around – a good look. Notice where you are, who is with you, and what is good about your life. It may not be everything but chances are, something in your life right now IS right. Maybe it’s your job or your relationship, your home or your kids. Maybe it’s your best friend or your bank account. It might not be any of those things but just a complete sense of peace upon your heart. Now, think about the road that brought you here – to this very place – right this minute.

Remember the journey

The path you’ve been walking may have been riddled with boulder sized problems. Some of it may have been underwater and you thought you might drown before you got to the other side. Some of it was easy-peasy… a long straight away without any curves or steep areas that wore you out. No matter the terrain – each and every step you took brought you here. To this place.

Looking back

Many of the people I talk to resent the journey, are ashamed of their journey, or avoid thinking of the energy that got them this far. I contest that it is critical to stop from time to time and look back at all the challenges. I believe it is important to honor the struggles, the mistakes, and the embarrassments so that we can stand tall today knowing that we made it through each of the storms that tried to take us down. No matter what they were, taking responsibility for them and acknowledging that they taught you something is an important part of personal growth and shame release.

Gratitude

Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of gratitude is looking back at those difficult times and finding the energy to be grateful that they happened. The reality is that walking that way – brought you here. Each turn that you took – even if it was a wrong one – led you to where you are right now and as we considered  a moment ago – there IS something great, positive, and wonderful about the here and now – at least one thing. Express gratitude for the road, the storms, the uphill struggle and every last detail of what they taught you. That’s the way to emotional freedom… to…

Own your story.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#261 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

We all have countless recollections of mishaps and momentary errors in judgment that are retrospectively funny or immensely satisfying. Sometimes…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#261

Remember when…

This recommendation might sound a bit like the idea of savoring that I presented earlier but it’s a bit different in its goal. The idea here is to recall random shared memories of minor debacles when you are with another person with whom you have some history. Ideally, you’re thinking of a time that you can laugh about now. A time when you had solved a problem, survived a hazard, or preserved through a challenge.

The goal is laughter or at the very least, an appreciation for the lesson learned. It’s an opportunity to review a moment in time from another perspective and share a sense of satisfaction of a previous experience.

‘Remember when we got that flat tire and…’

‘Remember when I left the cake in the oven for an hour…’

‘Remember when we took the wrong bus…’

We all have countless recollections of mishaps and momentary errors in judgment that are retrospectively funny or immensely satisfying. Sometimes, just recalling the collection of awkward moments we shared with another strengthens our appreciation of their role in our life. It’s another type of walk down memory lane that can have you rolling on the floor laughing or being grateful that it is over now.

Pick up the phone today and share a blast from the past with an old friend or randomly bring it up at the dinner table tonight… “Hey honey…”

Remember when…

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#283 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

With your mind’s eye… review the memory and all the specifics – noticing each element in great detail. Notice the colors, the sounds, the smells…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#283

Savor a memory

The science of ‘savoring’ is relatively new. It’s a component of Positive Psychology and it has received a fair amount of attention in recent years for its ability to increase feelings of well-being (happiness). The act of savoring is known to most of us. Just sit back and think of the last time you ate something that you exclaimed “was the best thing you’ve ever had!” or the last time you saw “the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen!”… Chances are you savored that moment.

You probably picked out a part of that experience that was pleasurable and focused on it with intensity. You may have completely absorbed yourself in the event, noticing each little pleasant detail with a feeling of delight and/or enjoyment. THAT was the act of savoring.

Now, to engage in this tip, I am suggesting that you choose a pleasant memory. Take yourself back to that time and space – in your mind, your thoughts. Take some time to imagine yourself reliving an experience that brought you peace, delight, or contentment. Breathe in.

With your mind’s eye… review the memory and all the specifics – noticing each element in great detail. Notice the colors, the sounds, the smells, and the textures. Remember the good feelings, try and recreate the way it felt in your body; the smile, the butterflies, the movement.

Remind yourself of the emotions experienced during this pleasant experience; joy, gratitude, love, appreciation, hope, or awe for example. Breathe in again, imagining that you are able to simply inhale emotion of it all again and again – whenever you wish. Take your time and feel it completely. As the sensation fades, recall another memory and begin the process again.

This process – savoring – is gaining popularity for improving symptoms of depression and has been indicated in the immediate improvement of stress responses when completely activated. It is frequently associated with mindfulness but they are different processes.

When you need a little boost or you’re in a pinch and need an immediate positive distraction …

Savor a memory.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#300 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Social etiquette used to dictate the distribution of appreciative notes so much that the proper way to do so was specifically taught in ‘finishing schools’ worldwide. Emily Post – the mother of modern manners…

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#300

Send thank you cards

When you receive a gift please consider bringing back the lost art of sending a ‘real’ card – not a message on Facebook or an e-card. A paper card inside an envelope with a stamp, mailed, and delivered by the good ‘ole United States Postal Service with a note of thanks for the gesture you were given.

Pouis Prang, an immigrant from Poland and known as the father of the American Christmas Card – it also credited with what we now think of when we think about ‘thank you cards’ although the practice of sending notes of appreciation to friends and family date back to the Egyptian era.

Social etiquette used to dictate the distribution of appreciative notes so much that the proper way to do so was specifically taught in ‘finishing schools’ worldwide. Emily Post – the mother of modern manners – was insistent its demonstration of good taste. So much so that her family has dedicated an entire chapter in the book Emily Post’s Etiquette, 19th Edition: Manners for Today to how cards should be inscribed, addressed, and sent.

Yes, there is a time and place for all that formality and yet I think the moms, aunts, and grandmoms in the world would be happy with something scribbled on the back of a napkin or paper plate… it’s the gesture of expressing appreciation that is most meaningful; especially in this digital age where most of us communicate via email and/or text messaging so frequently.

All said, as we approach graduation and wedding season where gift giving is common… take the traditional approach and hand write a few sentences of gratitude for someone’s presence and/or their presents! A few minutes of your time will honor the gift you received and more so – the giver when you…

 

Send thank you cards.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

Our Choices are Lessons

It would be really easy to blame my choices on the bad information that I was given.

“Never blame another person for your personal choices — you are still the one who must live out the consequences of your choices.”   Caroline Myss

I am touched by the number of people who have reached out to check in on me. It appears that my delinquency in writing has been noticed and I am writing today – in part – to let y’all know that I am great – just crazy, crazy busy. I’ve been thinking about choices lately and I have an unscheduled hour today so I am happy to share some thoughts…

The actuality is that I still write a little every day. I have a half dozen blog posts started about various topics. I’ve been diligently working on editing my book and I am scheduled to attend a writing workshop in April to learn more about self-publishing. I have an outline started for a fictional story and I think about those characters quite a bit.

In addition, it is tax time and when you own your own business, collecting the information necessary to complete a return can be challenging. Some people are fantastic at recordkeeping and organization. I am mediocre at best, which is generally fine except for every February when I start thinking about taxes. This year has been more intense because I’ve stepped in and helped Harlan get things together because he is thinking about retiring and we are organizing all the information needed to profile why his business would be a great investment for someone else.

Now that the girls have moved out semi-permanently (I assume that Em will be back for a bit next year after she graduates) I’ve been slowly cleaning out and organizing the upstairs spaces. Several weeks ago I thought it would be a good idea to get some estimates on updating the second floor bathroom which is covered in tile including decorative one inch squares that are forest green. I remember the popularity of that color in the 90’s and I respect that some people may still enjoy the tranquility it can promote but for me – it is too harsh. The bathroom in general reminded me of a 1950’s psychiatric hospital. It needed attention and I started obtaining quotes for a remodel.

One of the people who came by dropped a price that was irresistible and so we gave him the go-ahead to remodel; basic stuff – new fixtures, wainscoting, paint. In the meantime, my accountant called to let me know how much I owed the IRS and it was a number much – much – lower than I had anticipated. YAY!! Great News!! One of the first things I thought of was dang… that Gratitude thing really works!

It turned out that the man refreshing our bath was quite a handyman too so I went through the house and made a list of all the things that we had been placing on the back burner. Most were little things, broken this – malfunctioning that… I was happy!! In our household – Harlan worries about the big things. He focuses on making sure that our roof is in good shape and that the furnace is maintained. I worry about the little things and perhaps ‘worry’ is overstated but you know… if the color of the switch plate and the switch itself don’t match – I notice and every time I turn on the light – well… I notice. Certainly, changing a switch plate is a no-brainer but it was the switch that needed changed and I don’t do electricity.

Dan the Dude – as I call him – became my buddy as Harlan and I made lists of things for him to do. After a week, it was apparent that he knows what he was doing and Harlan was firmly on board with the idea of having Dan tackle the things that he no longer had the energy to do. It was exciting to feel such a strong and vibrant sense of accomplishment.

Things were getting done around the house; we had a number of doctor’s appointments who provided some encouragement about procedures that may offer pain relief for Harlan; I was making great headway compiling detailed information about Harlan’s business and creating a nice presentation for it; and my practice schedule started to explode. And then, I went to pick up my taxes.

As the accountant reviewed the prepared documents it was obvious that something was amiss… this was the first year in more than a dozen that I had opted to use professional help so I know a bit about how my return should look. When he gave me the information over the phone about how much I owed, I thought “Holy cow! Why did I wait so long to pay someone else to do this?” – thinking that he obviously had some knowledge about how to lower my tax obligation that I had been missing all these years. Well… nope, he didn’t. It seems that he simply wasn’t paying attention and failed to notice the income information I had provided – using only the 1099 that Square.Inc (my credit card processing company) had sent – missing over HALF of my income.

*deep breath*

As I warned myself no to have a heart attack and pointed out his error, he humbly apologized and entered the correct numbers. My amount due – more than When yWtripled  – which would have been ok if it had been in the hundreds, but… it was in the thousands. Suddenly, I realized that I was going to have to call Dan the Dude and put a halt to anything that he hadn’t already started. Bummer. I was having so much fun with that list!

And then I laughed. I had to laugh because I know better. I’ve been doing taxes long enough to know that I had estimated my need closely. And… I’ve lived long enough to know better than to count my chickens too soon! I knew better but I chose to ignore what I thought I knew. It was a choice.

That is why I am thinking about choices.

I could spend energy complaining about how I am a victim of the accountant’s mistake. I could lament about how crappy it is that now I can’t have Dan the Dude complete the things we want done. It would be really easy to blame my choices on the bad information that I was given. But that wouldn’t be honest.

I am responsible for the choices I make. In this case, I relied on someone else to provide particulars but I was the one who failed to verify the data; the one who jumped the gun. And that’s how it goes sometimes. I am able take responsibility for this error and chalk it up as a reminder. Leslyn… in the future, validate what you know.

Isn’t it funny how easy it is to believe what we ‘want’ to believe? How quickly we throw our knowledge aside to satisfy our ego? Our wants? For me, this wasn’t a *dangerous* lesson but it quickly could have turned into that if I didn’t have backup resources or other income opportunities.

And so, I am grateful for this lesson and its reminder.

When Darkness Knocks

He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” ― Steve Maraboli

In the beginning of the year I started a gratitude challenge on my Counseling Facebook page. Each day since then – except for two – I have listed three things I am grateful for that day. I’ve tried not to replicate anything, which has been hard because every morning when I am writing them I am always grateful for my coffee! Certainly, at first it was easy as there are many obvious pieces of my life that I am always thankful for … a roof over my head, a warm room, comfy pillows, enough food, etc.

I’ve noticed as the time goes by however that unless I begin duplicating items, I must stretch my awareness a bit and it has been interesting to extend my awareness beyond my immediate surroundings to include the sound of my wind chimes and birds chirping. I am so grateful for those things. Not only do they represent the fact that I can hear but they are pleasant sounds and by noticing them, I also notice how they resonate in my body – my spirit. They create a nice sensation; pleasure.

It promotes more consciousness of people smiling, friendly service, and kind hearts. It stimulates my recognition of generosity, helpfulness, and benevolence, which are all contributors to the experience of happiness. Indeed, I believe I’ve felt a little bit happier than usual despite the negativity that tries to inject itself into my life.

It’s one thing to be a mental health counselor and experience the sadness, frustration, and negative emotions of clients – that’s my job and I am sufficiently capable of keeping it away from my personal psyche. Along the way, I learned the art of allowing clients to dump their stuff in my office without feeling as though I needed to pick it up. I rarely experience a derogatory impact of my clients affect. Don’t get me wrong… if there is something deeply sad – a client who lost a child or someone so deep in their own pain that they are suicidal – I feel sad but I don’t hold it. I can walk out of my office and leave it there.

It’s a whole other thing to live in an environment that is frequently heavy. Our political climate is currently stressed – no matter one’s affiliation – every day there is some element of drama pumped into our consciousness and we are exposed to exhausting bickering, draining our enthusiasm and confidence.

I am still adjusting to the whole ‘empty nest’ experience. While I quite enjoy the clean and constantly straightened atmosphere of my home, there is an eerie silence here that highlights the absence of my family. I miss the anticipation of hearing the creaking steps as one of the girls would come home from work at midnight or the sound of the shower and blasting music in the morning as she prepared for her day. I am blessed that they stay in contact with me via Face time or regular phone calls but it’s entirely different from the smell of their perfume lingering in the air.

And then there is the reality of Harlan’s illness. Coping with fatigue is one thing but coping with pain is another entirely. Every day is filled with the blessing that he can still work and concurrently filled with the reality that he does it battling the effects of chemo and the relentless pain of bone lesions. I see him getting tired. He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

53b65c930000205a90fe98e8069d868d

I don’t like those feelings yet I know they are real and appropriate. They exist like fleas that jump on me when I walk in the door and every time I think I have fumigated their existence with my coping skills, they find another entrance or they are simply re-birthed into our experience. The early spring weather allowed me the opportunity to open the windows and replace the dark sad air with fresh spring hope and then it got cold again. I can feel the air thicken and so I walk outside where the sun is starting to stay longer and a bit brighter.

I live by the motto that there is something good in every single experience; not only on a global level but day by day. What is good about today? The gratitude challenge that I am conducting forces me to pay attention, to look beyond the obvious, to deny those damn fleas too much of my blood. It helps to push the pendulum back, to balance the scale, to make life tolerable.

When I am sad that he is hurting, I am grateful for his doctors. When I feel helpless to fix it, I am grateful to hold his hand. When I am disappointed that we aren’t bike riding, I am grateful to sit next to him on the couch. When I am frustrated that he goes to bed so early, I am grateful that his body heat warms the sheets on my side.

Please know that this is a ‘work in progress’ and I am – in no way – perfect in my efforts to find the silver lining every. single. time. But I keep trying. My daily expression of gratitude is one of the ways that I am working to create balance and a stronger sense of happiness in a time when darkness is constantly knocking on our door.

Won’t you join me? Hop on my HCC Facebook page and add your own three things. The more positive energy we can put forth in the world – the better.

 

If you liked what you read just now, please SHARE it with friends and family by using one of the buttons below (Facebook, Twitter, Email & LinkedIn) and know that I am grateful for your effort.

Also, I love to connect with my readers. Feel free to comment, follow my blog, or connect with me on social media.