Tag Archives: joy

Stop and Smell The Roses

28 Jun

older blogI would say one of my favourite things in life is connecting with others.  Meeting new people, engaging in great conversation, learning things about them, having a laugh and sharing common bits. I grew up in the country where one of our main time passers was visiting our neighbours and family members – on those visits conversation always flowed.  My father always hammered into my head – ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.  So as a girl who had a natural draw to others I got to practice my conversation and question asking skills all the time!  Those skills have brought me some of my best memories in life.

On my way to work today I was trotting along with the dogs when I heard someone running up behind me saying “Excuse me, excuse me!” I turned around thinking she was going to tell me that my dress was stuck in my underwear and that my butt was hanging out or that I had dropped something from my bag.  She said “My friend is across the street – the guy in the wheelchair.  He was in a serious accident and has been in the hospital for a month and he really misses his dog.  Would you mind letting him pet your dogs?”  “Would I mind, it would be my pleasure!”  So we made our way across the street.  It ends up that he fell asleep on his way to work and he is now paralyzed.  I always feel like the dogs know when someone is feeling vulnerable, so they add extra bits of affection.  Millie got right up on his lap and started licking his face and Jillie laid her head on his legs looking up at him with her sweet eyes.  He just kept saying over and over again ‘You’re such good dogs.  Jillie, you look so much like my dog.  I miss her so much.’  After a solid twenty minutes of this love fest and great conversation,  he said to me ‘Wow, I just realized that was the first time I had totally forgotten about being paralyzed since it happened.  Thank you so much for taking the time to stop.”  Oh boy.  I thanked him right back – his attitude towards his new norm was completely inspiring.

We all live in a busy world.  Lots to do.  Places to go.  Distracted by phones ringing.  Distracted by podcasts.  Distracted by music.  Distracted by texts.  Distracted by social media.  Distracted by finances.  Distracted by schedules.  Distracted by stress.  Distracted by life.  Divorce.  Urban life.  We need to slow down.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development spanned over 80 years; it is one of the longest studies in the world.  The study hoped to find clues into what predictors cause some people to lead healthy and long lives.  Guess what they found?  The quality of ones relationships with loved ones, friends and their community was singlehandedly the biggest predictor of health and happiness.  When you have strong relationships you are more likely to exercise, maintain a healthy weight, feel less depressed, enjoy your work, and use alcohol in moderation.  Close relationships, more than money or fame, bring you joy.  It is true folks – empathy, compassion, communication, connection, and a sense of community matter the most.

I have this bizarre notion that I am never going to die.  I just can’t imagine it.  I think I will be on the cover of The National Inquirer with the headline ‘The Canadian Woman Who Never Died’.  In case my notion is true – I am going to keep connecting, conversing and offering compassion whenever I can so that I can add as many days as possible to my life.  Meeting that guy today inspired me to stop and smell the roses for even longer than I usually do.

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Choose Happy

13 Jan

cow

Over the Christmas break I was having a very funny conversation with my parents about someone who is particularly difficult to deal with – historically and present day.  I said to my Dad ‘how can that person not recognize how off-putting and polarizing their behavior is?’  Dad said ‘I think a lot of it is genetic and it isn’t going to change in this instance.’  He said ‘just like intelligence, some people are smart and some people are negative.’  I’ve always been adverse to such ways, but with age I have become even more turned off by it.  As in, I literally find myself tuning out of conversations where the outlook is negative or critical of others.  As I get ready for my day I listen to podcasts.  I start off my day  listening to inspiring talks with inspiring people.  Today it was Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations and she was talking to Gretchen Rubin who wrote The Happiness Project.   It was 32 minutes of I TOTALLY AGREE WITH THAT content.  She stated that happiness is actually 50% genetic, so it seems that my Pa was correct!  It got me thinking about happiness and how it is such a prevalent topic.  How do you find it?  How do you stay happy?  Why are some people more happy than others even though they have less or have more challenges?  Why are some people never happy?

I’ve always been a naturally ‘happy’ person.  I generally see the positive side of things and I always remain optimistic.  I guess we can say that is 50% because of my genetics, but what about the other 50%?   Or let’s say 40% because no one is 100% happy or positive (and anyone who acts like every single thing is amazing is covering something up).   Believe me, there are times when I feel like giving the finger, I’ve done my fair share of gossiping (and complaining) and I’ve been in a relationship that definitely brought me down.  And I am now 37 and single – not what I envisioned when I was younger.  Some days the inner cynic in me comes out, but I genuinely try to kick those shitty thoughts to the curb.

To exemplify what I am talking about, I will give you a little window into my world.  When I wake up in the morning I send a few girlfriends (who need a little pump up) positive thoughts, videos or quotes for the day.  It is therapeutic for me too.  Millie (my dog) and I head out for the day – I never used to listen to music when I walk, but now I do.  As I trot along I often find myself singing out loud to the songs I am listening to.  The music puts a little more bounce in my step and it has been a great addition to my morning.   We walk to my brothers house where we scoop their Golden Retriever (who is always pumped to see us).  Along the way to the office we talk to many people who love dogs.  In particular, there is a guy who asks for money on Spring Garden Road and we walk by him most days.  The dogs LOVE him, and so most mornings we stop to chat with him.  The dogs lean into him, lick him and just give him a big dose of love.  Earlier this week he told me that he watches for us every morning and that seeing the dogs is the best part of his day.   (Heart warmer!!)   I am sure he is invisible to most people, but the dogs treat him like he is the best thing since sliced bread.  After that we make our way my way to the office to start the day.    This past Wednesday it was super icy.  Black ice everywhere along the way.   When I got to my office I changed from my sensible winter walking shoes to my ‘not so sensible for the winter booties’ (they are leopard so that should indicate their level of their uselessness in winter).  Shortly after arriving I had to pop out for a meeting which was only a block from my office.  Forgetting about the black ice I stepped off my office steps with great vigor (at the same time two guys were walking by).  My front foot hit the ice and slid forward while my back foot was still on the step.  I literally did a full Nadia Comeneci style splits.  I popped back up (in my dress) in record time to the boys saying “Oh wow, ahhhhh, are you okay?” to which I said “Oh yes, I am fine!’  I took one step forward and BAM I went down again.  This time a face plant type of fall.  I again popped right back up and one guy said to the other ‘Take her hand man’.  I said laughing ‘No, no, I got it.  I am going to walk gingerly now.  I didn’t even rip my tights and I gave you guys your story for the day!’  We all had a solid laugh and I made my way to my meeting.  My hands were burning from hitting the pavement and my legs were wet.  The meeting was with a mom who recently lost her 43 year old daughter to ovarian cancer over Christmas.  Talk about a way to snap back out of your own shit and be grateful for everything you have.

What I am getting at – the other 40% is within you.   It is how you choose to use your time, control your thoughts, perceptions and reactions to life.   I dated someone who made lots of money and he was one of the most negative creatures I’ve ever met.  Happiness doesn’t come from money.  I’ve met people who are married and they complain endlessly about their partner.  Happiness doesn’t come from having a partner (or how they behave).  I’ve met people who have great jobs, but they are miserable.  Happiness doesn’t come from your job.  I know people who are beautiful and thin, but they are insecure and self critical.  Happiness doesn’t come from being beautiful or skinny.  I’ve met people who have all of the nicest things (big house, cars, clothes, travel) their heart could desire, but they aren’t happy.  Happiness doesn’t come from things.

As my very wise brother told me once upon a time – life is mostly made up of choices.  Most of the parts of your life are choices you made:  the big house (that you might have to work your ass off to pay for), the job (that you are spending too much time at to pay for the house), the partner, the kids, the commitments and the list goes on. Now don’t get me wrong folks – there is nothing wrong with a nice house, a busy job, wanting to climb the ladder or having nice things.   I am talking about your attitude towards it.  How do you treat other people, do you complain, do you feel stressed, do you feel joy?   Life is going to throw curveballs at us – lots of shitty things happen that we can’t control.  If you’re already off balance when those things happen it is going to be a real challenge.  One of my dearest friends lost her Dad unexpectedly on Christmas Day.  The support she has received from others is amazing because she is awesome and always goes out of her way to help others.  You get out what you put in.

Everyone’s idea of what makes you happy is different.  I dare you to do a few things that make you feel happy – it will make your day better and anyone who you come in contact with too.  As one of my favorite quotes states: Awesome things will happen today if you choose not to be a miserable cow.