OOC

When I was in college a friend of mine used the phrase “OOC” all the time (out of control for anyone needing interpretation as I usually do). This was before texting and social media, mind you. Of course, the context usually referred to someone’s behavior as in, “You’re OOC!” I know it sounds ridiculous, really, but I’ve been thinking about this phrase a lot these last few weeks. Do you ever feel like life is OOC? I certainly do.

I’m in the process of a renovation at my house. It isn’t a huge project, but it has meant moving things around and clearing out closets which has meant chaos in rooms that were once relatively orderly. It has also meant staying away while stuff is being done, which is a challenge for someone who works from home. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the progress and the chance to do the reno in the first place, but it has definitely meant that things feel out. of. control.

It’s interesting how we tend to believe that we can control so many things. Most of us can convince ourselves we have some control in our lives – until we don’t… Someone dies. You lose your job. Your roof leaks. You get rear-ended. Something or some things happen that are completely out of your control. Then what?

The problem is, when situations feel out of my control, I often resort to old habits and poor coping mechanisms (like binge eating Cheetos and ice cream). I have to remind myself that control is just an illusion to begin with. If I can remember this, then it’s less jarring in situations like the one in which I currently find myself. Why do I feel like I need so much control anyway? Yes, I am a little bit of a control freak. I like things orderly and in their place. I like to know what’s coming so I can attempt to prepare for it. I like to load my dishwasher a particular way. I appreciate controlled environments. Most of the time. Ok, so I appreciate controlled environments when I’m the one controlling them.

So, my challenge to myself during these days (and always really) is to trust the process. There is some amount of order in the happenings around me even if I can’t always see it. And, I’m not doing myself any favors by giving in to the stress of what feels out of control. The opposite, in fact, is true – I am doing harm to myself by allowing negative habits and coping practices to creep in. While that pint of Ben & Jerry’s might taste good going down, it won’t feel so good next time I have to step on the scale at the doctor’s office.

It definitely seems easier said than done – trusting the process – particularly when one’s world feels completely out of control. But, I do believe it’s better than the alternative (having to purchase an entirely new wardrobe all thanks to Ben and Jerry). So, I set my intention each day: Trust the Process. And, I remind myself throughout that it’s going to be ok, that I don’t have to control everything, that I CAN’T control everything, that this too shall pass. And one day I’ll have a beautiful new bathroom and order will be restored to my little sanctuary and the ice cream scoop will be returned to its drawer and life will be ok again. Until it isn’t…

Trust the process – even when, no, especially when – things feel completely OOC.

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Are You Happy?

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I was visiting with a friend the other day who was expressing some concern about her not very motivated kid. She said, “I can’t tell if he’s happy or not.” It got me to thinking about what it means to be happy and whether we have the courage to examine our own happiness. I know, I know. Happiness is fleeting and all that jazz… But, come on, you’re either happy or you’re not.

I remember growing up in a very conservative church world, the message was pretty clear that happiness was not important. Nobody promised us happy lives. We were to take up our crosses and be miserable, suffering for our faith. Joy, the more “spiritually correct” feeling, was appropriate and sought, but not so much happiness which was thought to be tied mostly to materialism.

Well, I take issue with this. I think happiness is important too. Sure, I acknowledge that we can’t be happy all the time. Sometimes life stinks and happiness seems like a foreign concept. But, I think our happiness is an important measure of how aligned our lives are with our values. I think our happiness (or, perhaps more often lack of happiness) can serve as an important indicator for the need for change.

Now, before anyone gets all upset with me, let me acknowledge that I do believe we can experience joy without being happy. Our joy is tied to our gratitude, and we always have something for which to be grateful – even in the worst circumstances. I believe a daily practice of gratitude is vital and is the birthplace of joy.

But, what I’m talking about here is giving attention to our general state of being. For example, on paper, my life might look to some like a bit of a mess. It isn’t all neat and wrapped up in a pretty package like one might expect of a highly educated almost 41 year old. However, in my heart, I can tell you that even on my worst days, I’m really happy. I’m really happy with my life right now. A few years ago, I was very not happy. In fact, I was pretty miserable, and I needed to make some changes. So, I did. Not all at once. And, not always in the most successful ways. I made some mistakes. I chose poorly on occasion. But, I began to work towards a happier life. And, in many ways, it’s the most important work I’ve ever done.

When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself, Am I happy? Am I really happy? And, if you’re not – why? Why aren’t you happy? Perhaps a shift in perspective is all you really need, but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Maybe it’s time to explore other opportunities or to step out and be brave. What are the values you hold most important? How does where you spend your time and precious resources reflect those values? What small, or maybe big, changes could you make to align your life with your values? What would a happy life look like for you?

See where I’m going here? I believe we’re meant to be happy. I believe we’re called beyond mediocrity and mere existence to full, wholehearted, happy lives. And, I know that perpetual unhappiness has something to tell us.

So, let me ask you a question, Are you happy?

Comparison is the Thief of Happiness

TRUTH, y’all! I don’t know about you, but I can be going along just fine, feeling pretty good about where I am and what I’ve accomplished when WHAM – something comes across my news feed, or I get a phone call or read an article about how someone else has done it better or has accomplished more. Ugh. Instant deflation.

Brené Brown quotes her friend, Laura Williams, in The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s the first time I remember hearing or reading, “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” I guess I never really gave it much thought. I realized, though, recently that we have ramped up the comparison culture just by the very nature of social media. Facebook is one of the worst. (sorry Facebook…) It’s where people put their stuff out there – their trophies, their beautiful lives, their skinny bodies, their successful businesses, their perfect children. And, even though I know most of us are super selective about what we choose to post, attempting to display our brightest and best, I STILL compare my “best” to others’.

I know I talk a lot about scarcity messages (not enough messages), and the truth is, they tend to pop up in all number of circumstances. But, I think they can be especially prevalent when we find ourselves in situations where we’re comparing ourselves, our work, our accomplishments to others’. The “I’m not as (smart, successful, attractive, whatever) as she/he is” messages are super powerful.

Comparison can suck the joy right out of our efforts and send us on a trail of self-doubt and criticism. “There goes that diet or new exercise regimen. What’s the point? I’ll never be as fit as ___.” Or, “why bother marketing a program somebody else has already done better?” Or, it can be as sly as messages that make life seem easier for some than for others. “___ always falls into the best situations/opportunities.” You get the point.

I’m working on a couple of projects right now that are testing both my commitment and my self-worth. I have moments where I feel totally motivated and in a groove, propelled forward and confident. Then I read or hear something that calls all of that into question. I feel the wheels start to loosen and my confidence get shaky. I look at what someone else has been able to do, something that feels more powerful and more productive than what I’ve accomplished, and I completely lose ground.

So, here’s the thing. I’m aware that I have to let go of comparison. My life is my life. Your life if yours. We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, and while opportunity does sometimes strike more readily for some than for others, comparing how that happens or when it happens or trying to figure out why it happens is pointless. Comparing does nothing but trap us in a pattern of dissatisfaction and resentment. It really does steal the happiness right from us.

So, for me, one of the best antidotes for comparison is gratitude. When I find myself comparing my accomplishments to someone else’s, I have to stop and name something I’ve been able to accomplish and express gratitude for it. When I’m harsh on my body because I’ve seen one too many images of “perfection,” I have to stop and express gratitude to my imperfect yet supportive body. There’s something to be said for owning where and who we are and acknowledging with gratitude that which is ours alone, without holding it up against anyone or anything else. Therein lies our freedom – to create, to live, to work, to parent, to be – gratitude.

So, next time you’re tempted to compare yourself or your work or your parenting or whatever to that of someone else, remember to stop, and be grateful. Gratitude, I believe, is the pathway to joy and happiness.