Are-you-ordinary-or-extraordinary

Total Gratitude Tuesday: Volume 44

 

So that’s how MY week has been…how about yours?

I went to Hoopla. What is Hoopla, you say?

hoopla spongebob

Nope – not that weird thing from Spongebob.

It’s KEEP Collective’s annual conference. This year it was in Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband went with me, and though we had a bit of a bumpy start to the trip (his car leaked oil the whoooooooole way to North Carolina and the whoooooole way back – tip: don’t deal with KIA dealerships in the Charlotte area), and I was incredibly anxious before we got started, I can honestly say that the four days I was there changed my entire outlook.

To start with, I finally got to meet some of the amazing women I’ve been Facebook friends with over the last 8 months that I’ve been with KEEP. And they’re even more amazing in person than they are online! I’ve always said that I’ve never met a more supportive, encouraging group of women than my KEEP sisters and I know now how right I was. Every single woman there was cheering everyone else on and that is a tremendous thing to see. It was 4 days of motivational speeches, rewards, encouragement, sharing, tears, laughter, dancing, hugs, and learning. And a little alcohol. haha

I learned so much, and most of it really wasn’t just about how to run a business or how to be rich. It was about how to stop doubting myself so much. How to see opportunity when it’s right there in front of me and realize it really isn’t just for someone else; it’s for me, too! It was all about how to learn to close my eyes and leap instead of clinging to the ledge and worrying myself into missing out. I learned that I have everything I need already, so there’s no need to wait. And I learned and had reinforced over and over and over again that I don’t need to listen to the naysayers (even when one of them is me) because I have thousands of people rooting for me every step of the way.

Most of all I was reminded of just how lucky I am. And I really am. I could list out a million reasons why I’m lucky (and I guess that’s kind of what I do here every week) but most of them come down to admitting that I have a really good life. I have a really good marriage to a guy that I LOVE being around, even after almost 30 years together! I have 3 extraordinary kids that I love with every bit of my soul and who never cease to amaze me with their kindness, humor and drive. I have an extended family of funny, down-to-earth, supportive, genuinely good people. I have an amazing best friend that supports me in every single thing that I do and loves me even when I’m a total pain in the ass. I have a wonderful “job” that allows me to meet strong, funny and caring women and help them bring their dreams to life and design beautiful things that show off what they’re most proud of.

And I am AMPED, y’all! Not just for new opportunities with KEEP, but for new changes in every aspect of my life. I’ve committed myself to some new habits not only with regard to the KEEP opportunity, but my health, my relationships, my marriage and even my mental health. There’s been a change brewing for awhile and I think that Hoopla was the spark that I needed to ignite the change. So while “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was our official Hoopla song, this one really shows how I’m feeling about life right now, so…

And now, I am headed to Cleveland with my son to see one of his favorite bands, Fifth Harmony. So I hope you have an absolutely extraordinary week or two! (I’m going to be in Quebec next Tuesday, so I won’t post because this is a strictly no-work vacation).

Much love. – Mama Bear

Daily Quotes

You Call It Luck, I Call It Hard Work

If you live a good life, you’re eventually going to run into someone who thinks it’s all just a matter of luck. The heavens have somehow blessed you in ways that they haven’t blessed someone else. And yes, I’ve heard it a lot. It used to really irritate me but now I realize it’s more a reflection on the other person than it is on me.

Because in reality, what they call luck is mostly just hard work.

From the outside, I’m sure it looks like I’m a lucky woman. I have an amazing husband, a good marriage, kids that I am crazy proud of, and I’m happy. So it’s gotta be luck, right?

WRONG. 

Nobody who has a happy marriage got where they are through luck. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and grow with your partner, among other things. And I didn’t luck into marrying my husband. I walked away from the bullshit and dysfunction in other relationships I’d been in and recognized a good thing when it was in front of me. But we haven’t always been as happy as we are now. There were plenty of long nights of tears and arguments and silence and slammed doors until we learned how to argue the right way (yep – that’s really a thing) and figured out that since neither of us was going anywhere, maybe we should try to work on figuring out how to make this whole thing better!

And my kids? That’s taken a lot of hard work, sacrifice and time and attention from both my husband and I. Don’t get me wrong; we sacrificed a lot but wouldn’t have it any other way. It meant decades of living on one income, long hours at work and at home, and giving up a lot of other outside interests to foster a deeper connection as a family. And homeschooling, which has been one of the best decisions we ever made as a family, has also meant that the schoolwork and learning never stopped. When it comes to our kids, my husband and I are all in. It’s not to say there haven’t been hard times. I’m pretty sure raising kids is never easy. But above all, we treated our kids with respect and tried to set good examples for them in the way that we treated them and one another.

And yes, I’m happy. That’s been the hardest part of the whole deal, believe it or not. It has taken a lot of hard work and time looking at the parts of me I really didn’t want to see and making a concerted effort to change them. I’ve had to get out of my own way and recognize the ways in which I was contributing to my own unhappiness. It’s meant picking at old wounds and opening them up again to finally deal with what caused them to begin with. It’s also meant learning to love the parts of myself that were pretty good, and working to stop giving a fuck about what other people think of me (still struggle with that sometimes). All the heartache and hard work paid off because I’m happier and stronger now than I’ve ever been. But I’d be lying if I said it was a straight path or that it was easy.

your life does not get better

So look – I get it. There are people that look like they fell bass-ackwards into everything they have. They got the cushy job because they know somebody. They were born gorgeous so life is just a series of open doors for them. I think most of us look at successful, happy people and think they must just have been in the right place at the right time. And  yeah, some people are born into wealth. Some people are born beautiful. And maybe you’re neither of those things. But the first thing you have to do is reset your definition of success. While you may never be a billionaire or a supermodel, you definitely will never be successful if you don’t go into everything with an attitude that success and happiness are at least possible for you. And if you chalk it all up to someone being lucky, you’re off the hook for ever having to put forth any effort to change your own life. It’s a cop out.

right place right time

Think of it this way – even the things that on the surface appear to be nothing but luck have at least a tiny element of effort to them. You can’t win the lottery if you don’t play, can you? So yeah, you’re lucky if you hit it, but if you don’t play, you’ve got zero chance of winning. (No, I’m not advocating blowing your paycheck on lottery tickets; I’m just using it as an example.) I caught some good-natured ribbing when I won a $600 Sephora gift card recently in an Instagram loop, but even that required some effort. I had to spend ten minutes liking and following about 30 different Instagram accounts and (the hard part for me) keep track of it all. Was that hard work? No. The lucky part was my name being drawn, but if I hadn’t taken the steps and followed the rules of the contest, I would’ve had no chance at all of winning.

Even when you look at reality show stars (not mentioning any names) who look like they just fell into their millions by being famous just for being famous, there’s some effort involved there. They have to constantly and consistently chase that attention and keep themselves in the public eye and invent new drama to keep the focus on them. I’m certainly not suggesting you go out and make a sex tape or get drunk and pull crazy shenanigans in public, but my point is, there is at least a small amount of effort involved. Not really sure that I’d call that lifestyle “lucky”, but I know plenty of people admire their success.

Everything of value in life requires effort. And sometimes it involves taking a good hard look at what you’re doing in your own life and shifting your priorities and behaviors a little bit. And that can be quite uncomfortable for us. It’s hard to admit that maybe you haven’t been putting 100% into your marriage, your family, your job. But letting go of the excuse that someone else is lucky in ways that you’re not opens you up to learning new ways of doing things and new ways of being successful. The biggest lesson is being open to the idea that you can be successful, realizing that you deserve it, and finding a path to get you there.

So yeah, call it luck if you want to, but I know the truth.

Much love. – Mama Bear

 

 

anxiety girl tall

When a Swift Kick in the Ass Is in Order

ultrasound 1 ultrasound 2

I’ve been looking at these two images for over a month, trying to decipher something, anything that might put me at ease. And I’ve been looking more intensely over the last week since my ob/gyn told me that what I’m looking at is a 9 cm by 5 cm complex ovarian cyst.

It all started with a trip to the urologist, followed by the ultrasound a month ago. We were trying to make sure my bladder and kidneys were okay because I’d been having some issues. I kind of suspected something was going on when the ultrasound tech seemed SUPER into my right side for whatever reason. It was like the paparazzi trying to get photos of Beyonce and Jay-Z – he was there for days, it seemed like. The urologist mentioned that I had a cyst but didn’t seem overly concerned when I told him I had a check-up with my ob-gyn scheduled for the end of October. But good news on the bladder and kidneys – just a couple of teensy kidney stones but everything else was okay.

The ob-gyn also didn’t seem overly concerned but when she told me how big it was, it freaked me out a bit. Then when she said we were going to wait a month before doing a follow-up ultrasound, I knew I was in trouble. She wanted to see if it would shrink on its own (they sometimes do) and then we’d figure out a plan (which might include surgery). That’s a full 32 days for my inner anxiety monkey to drive me full-on crazy. And I was right. Immediately it started in…

“What if the surgery goes wrong? What if she has to take your ovaries? What if it’s not just a cyst but something worse? Am I going to get slammed straight into menopause overnight? What if I have to have surgery during the holidays? How the hell am I going to get the Christmas shopping/decorating/cooking done with all that shit going on?” and on and on and on and on. And lucky for me, I had WebMD and internet message boards to fuel my anxiety bender.

anxiety girl tall

I talked to a couple of friends, my husband, my kids, my mother-in-law. I read up a lot about what complex cysts are and how they’re treated. Honestly, a lot of it was reassuring but that didn’t really help quiet my mind. You probably don’t know this about me, but jumping to conclusions is one of my superpowers. Jealous? Yeah, I’ve been playing my favorite fun time game – “Worst Case Scenario”. That’s what happens when you have a vivid imagination, a mind that never stops, anxiety and lots of free time. And facts and rational thinking don’t always help when you’re dealing with anxiety. If you tell me that only 1 out of every 10,000 planes crash, I can come up with 10 scenarios why MY flight will be that one. That’s how anxiety works. I didn’t really share too much of my thought process with anybody else because if it’s driving me crazy, I figure it’s not going to be a picnic for anyone else to listen to, either. To be fair to myself, I also tried to meditate and lurked in my Happy Tribe a bit, did some reading and tried to think positively. But still that monkey kept right on going.

Finally, it got to be too much for me. I was sitting here with that monkey going batshit in the cage and I actually said it out loud.

“ENOUGH.”

Enough. Holy hell, enough! Enough with the doomsday shit. Enough with the negativity. Enough with worrying and feeling sorry for myself and beating myself up for dismissing how I was feeling as just my hormones. Just enough already. I had just finally gotten fed up with myself. The happy quotes and reading and positive thinking weren’t what I needed right then. What I needed was a good swift kick in the ass. And so that’s what I did. You know it’s bad when you’re getting on your own damn nerves!

jump to conclusions mat

I’m self-aware enough to know that my mind really is like a wild monkey or an unattended toddler. If I leave it alone in a room for too long without something constructive to do, it’s going to make a god awful mess of things. So I made a few rules for myself:

  1. No more endless worry loops. I can fret for 15 minutes and then I need to move on to something else.
  2. No more researching symptoms/conditions/outcomes online. Period.
  3. Hit the to-do list. I now have a mile long list of stuff to do when I’m having trouble staying focused and have free time to spare. Activity is one of those things that helps me stay positive and makes me feel better.
  4. No more pity party. Yes, I physically feel like shit, but the doctor told me to take it easy and take care of myself, so that’s what I’m going to do. Good sleep, good foods, good energy. Wearing myself out further isn’t going to change the outcome and it’s also not going to help me deal with whatever lies ahead.
  5. If all else fails, talk to someone.

Like I said, activity is one of the things that helps me. And in this case, the activity I needed was a good swift kick in the ass. It’s helped remind me that I’m more powerful than I think  sometimes and that worrying isn’t going to change what happens; it’s just going to make me miserable until then. There’s a quote that I love – “Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.”

Besides, there must be something more important for me to obsess about, right? And then there’s the whole garage that needs cleaning…

Until next time, take care. – Mama Bear

if you're going through hell

If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going

if you're going through hell, keep going

I have that exact magnet on my refrigerator, and I’ll tell you why…

This weekend marks the sixth anniversary of the beginning of a period of dramatic change in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the beginning of one of the roughest periods of my life as well. It began when one of our pugs, Coco, who was only 5 years old, died suddenly in our home. Just four days later, my dad was involved in a DUI that was so bad that the EMTs and police were sure that it was a fatality when they arrived on the scene. I actually drove by the scene as they were cleaning it up but had no idea it was my dad until the following day when my husband heard through it through the grapevine and had to come home and let me know. I was fairly certain I was going to lose my mind at that point. I was so shaken up at the idea of nearly losing Dad and so angry with him for not letting the emergency workers contact me to let me know that he’d been hurt. He was so concerned with keeping the fact that he’d been drinking from me that he couldn’t understand why I was so hurt.

Then just two weeks later, I got a call letting me know that my beloved grandma Dorothy was dying. I’ve talked about her before – she was my heroine, my role model and really, the only mother I ever knew. Even though it scared me, I stayed there in the room with her and my other family members as she passed. I’ve since come to realize that it was a profound gift to be there with her when she left this world, even though the pain of losing her was almost unbearable.

Over the next year or so, I lost two more family members. I never felt like I healed from any of those wounds before the next blow came. Then in February 2011, I went in for surgery to repair herniated and blown disks in my neck. While I was healing from my surgery, I found out my mom, who was living in New Mexico at the time, was gravely ill. She’d suffered a stroke and some other health issues right before I went in for my surgery, but it seemed that she was healing, albeit slowly. Within a month, she was gone. Even when my brother came to my house to prepare me (he’d gotten a call letting him know that Mom wasn’t going to last the night), I kept thinking he’d come to tell me that she was improving. Up until we got that final call, I still didn’t believe it. Her funeral services are a blur to me – I had a friend ask me recently if she’d attended Mom’s viewing, and I honestly can’t remember for sure. Those days I could barely get out of bed and the only thing that kept me from absolutely breaking apart was my family and Xanax. A bunch of drama blew up after she passed, but at that point, I didn’t even care.

Then in May, my grandpa Chester passed away. He’d been fighting Alzheimer’s for years, following a series of strokes and heart attacks, but he always seemed so strong even in spite of all that. The shock of losing him never fully set in – I had become so numb from all the other loss I think my mind just shut down at that point.

Soon after all this, our two oldest children moved out on their own. I wasn’t prepared at all for how that would affect me. They only lived an hour away, but not seeing them every day was just one more loss I wasn’t prepared to deal with.

Things were quiet for awhile and then in April of 2012, we found out my father-in-law George had lung cancer. Within 7 short months, he was gone. Even when the nurses said he only had 3 weeks to live, I thought they were full of shit. This was a guy who should’ve been retired but could never sit still long enough to enjoy retirement. He was still working, still mowing grass, working on the house, helping all of us out with various projects around our houses. George was a do-er. He was a man of steel. Invincible. And then he was gone. I didn’t even know how to help my husband and children grieve his loss at that point. I remember seeing my dad at the viewing, shaking my husband’s hand, giving me a hug, not knowing what to say, feeling so helpless. I knew how he felt.

Three months later, Daddy was gone. It happened so suddenly, and the circumstances were just horrific. I still have no idea how I got through the week leading up to his funeral. My dad wasn’t married, so it fell to my brother and I to do all the funeral planning, which I think was actually a lifesaver. It kept me busy enough that I didn’t have to think too much or feel too much. The day of the funeral came and I remember feeling so angry. Angry that I’d lost him so soon, angry at all the stupid, pointless things people say in those kind of situations, angry with myself for being angry at people who were just trying to be nice, angry that I hadn’t had a chance to say good-bye, angry that I wasn’t there with him when he died. The funeral itself is a blur. I remember getting hysterical at one point when they handed me the flag from his casket, but I don’t remember much else.

Six months after Dad died, his brother Doug passed suddenly. It was like losing Dad all over again. I hadn’t even begun to start grieving my dad when I lost another family member. At that point, I was just pissed at the entire world. Sick of funerals, scared to death to answer my phone for fear it was bad news, and convinced that I was cursed somehow. I really felt that life was testing me – pushing me to see just how much it would take to finally break me. I was terrified that something would happen to my kids or my husband because I knew that would be the thing that would send me over the edge.

And every day I’d pass by that goddamn magnet. I’m pretty sure I nearly threw it away about a dozen times. I’m absolutely sure I flipped it the bird a time or twelve. “Keep going”?!? Like I had any other choice! I cried and ranted and raved and broke things so many times and yet I kept going. I didn’t know what else to do. Lucky for me I’m stubborn as all hell.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s not for sympathy. And it’s not to one up anyone who’s gone through their own hell. It’s to prove a point, and that is this: that stupid magnet is right. The only way to get through hell is just to keep going. If I’d stopped at any point and let all that shit catch up to me, I’m not sure I’d be here right now. If I’d allowed myself to climb into a beer bottle or a bottle of Xanax to cope, I’d be stuck right in that same hell. I had to keep going and I was determined not only was I going to keep going, I was going to somehow create a better life for myself out of all the wreckage. And I have. It’s been years of progress and setbacks, of soul-crushing depths and also moments of heartbreaking beauty. It’s been a dirty, nasty, knock-down-drag-out fight, but I survived it and I used it to make the life that I have now. And my life now is pretty damn good.

Does any of this make me an expert on depression or grief or recovery or any of that stuff? No, not at all. It just means when I talk about changing your life by changing your thinking, I know it can work. It means that I know that it’s not easy to overhaul your entire mindset with positive thinking and self-care, but I know it can be done and I know that it’s worth it. It means that I’ve been through hell and clawed my way out of it. I’m not saying this as someone who’s had a rough day here and there and decided I wanted to write a self-help blog full of perky quotes. I think that there’s a bigger “why” in all of this and I think I made it through not just so that I could finally have a peaceful, happy life, but so that I could share what I’ve been through and hopefully make others see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train! I’m not someone who’s necessarily comfortable with showing all my scars, but I don’t think that any of this matters unless I’m honest and open about why I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

So if you’re going through hell, keep going. And trust me when I say that it’s worth the fight. YOU’RE worth the fight.

Much love – Mama Bear

 

happy tribe small

Introducing The Happy Tribe!

I am absolutely thrilled to announce a new Facebook group – The Happy Tribe!

The Happy Tribe

The Happy Tribe is a project that is near and dear to my heart. It’s a Facebook group based on the idea that we all do better and are a lot happier, when we find our “tribe”. In this case, our tribe is made up of people who are devoted to the idea that positive thinking and whole living are vital components of a happy life. We’re devoted to acceptance and building one another up, in good times and bad, and celebrating one another’s successes – big or small. And we’re dedicated to lending each other an ear, a helping hand, or a shoulder to cry on when we’re having trouble finding our smile. We’re committed to educating ourselves and others about the best ways to deal with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. And we’re headed out into the big, wide world to spread the love and positivity in any way that we can.

And since you’re reading this blog, I’m betting you’re interested in at least some of those things, too. So how would you like to come be a part of our tribe? We’d love to have you. Just click on the photo above to be taken to our Facebook group (or any of the underlined purple links) and put a request in to join the group. I promise you’ll be happy you did!

Come on over and join The Happy Tribe!

Wishing you peace, love and a happy weekend! – Mama Bear

snoopy

Everything That Came Before “But” Isn’t True

So this happened to me today…

taye diggs is following me

Yep – out of the clear blue this wonderful, gorgeous, intelligent, centered, amazing actor who I have admired for two decades found me on Twitter and decided to follow me. And I was fucking ecstatic. There’s no other way to put it. I was seriously doing the Snoopy dance. I went over the moon yesterday because I got to 100 followers on Twitter. Not a big deal to everyone, but it was to me. And so I posted to Facebook how over the moon I was about it all, and a close friend shared it with her friends and then it happened.

The attempted buzzkill.

And it started with that passive aggressive “I’m not trying to be mean BUT…” thing that people use all the time when they really are being negative and judgmental but just want to add that disclaimer so they can backpedal later. It’s happened to all of us. But people need to understand this one fact:

Whatever came before the word “but” is a lie.

“I’m not racist but (followed by just about anything).”

“I’m not being sexist but why was she dressed like that?”

“I’m not trying to be mean, but someone built like that shouldn’t be wearing that swimsuit.”

“Not to be rude but those drapes are really tacky.”

If you have to quantify your statement in such a way, you might as well just not say anything that came before the word “but”. No one is going to hear any of that anyway. What they’re going to hear is “I am a racist. I am being sexist. I am being mean. I am being rude.” And it’s going to hurt their feelings or at the very least their opinion of you.

I’m not implying that people shouldn’t be honest. I value honesty as much as the next person. But there’s a time and a place for it. And usually, the way that I measure whether it’s the proper time or place is by asking myself this question: “Where is this coming from? Is it coming from a place of love? Jealousy? Self-righteousness? Or just a need to have my voice heard?” And if I’m not coming at it from a place of positivity or love, then there’s probably no reason to say anything at all. Whether I agree with what the person is saying or doing, it’s okay for me to keep quiet. If my thoughts aren’t going to help that person grow or feel good, I can keep my opinion to myself.

It’s not always easy and I get that. Often my kids and I don’t agree on music, as often happens with parents and kids. And sometimes I do get judgmental and share my opinion when I don’t need to. I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to adopt the attitude that if I don’t have something nice to say, then I don’t need to say anything at all. They’re entitled to their opinions as I am to mine, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is entitled to mine, too!

And when it comes to someone celebrating something in their life, no matter how small or how trivial it seems, then I’m all for celebrating it with them. I truly believe that a happy life is made up of small moments, small victories – not waiting for the big ones to celebrate. So yeah, I am celebrating the fact that in this great big world of 7 billion people, all of them constantly swarming round and round on social media, a celebrity that I greatly admire somehow found me – a middle-aged blogging mom from the Midwest with 100 followers – and decided to reach out just by following me. Two years ago, one comment, one attempted buzzkill would’ve knocked me off my temporary high onto my ass and back into reality. Depression had me feeling that fragile. And what would that person have gained? A momentary flash of self-satisfaction? Honestly, I don’t even think it was a conscious effort from this person to do anything at all. I just think that people are so programmed to instantly respond to anything they don’t understand or can’t share in with cynicism and derision that they don’t even think before they speak sometimes. But how sad is it that someone’s knee-jerk reaction to someone else’s moment of happiness is to try to somehow pick it apart?

snoopy

There’s a happy ending to all of this. Because I’ve been working so hard on being positive and coming at the world from a mindset of happiness and love, it only gave me a moment of pause. And then I was right back up to shaking it off and doing my Snoopy dance. Whether or not it’s a big deal to the rest of the world, having Taye Diggs follow me on Twitter IS a big deal to me. And I’m not going to apologize for my enthusiasm. I’m not going to make excuses for why I get excited over silly things. I am going to toot my own horn and enjoy the tribe of people I’ve surrounded myself with who are right there alongside me Snoopy-dancing and celebrating my small victories while I celebrate theirs. And we’re going to build a tribe so big and so bright and so happy that all the “buts” in the world can’t penetrate it.

And did I mention that Taye Diggs is following me on Twitter now?

Have a beautiful, sparkly, Teflon-coated, crazy happy week! Because I said so.

Love – Mama Bear

journey of thousand miles

It Ain’t Easy But It’s Worth It

Teddy Roosevelt

I use a lot of quotes in my writing. Actually, I use a lot of quotes in everyday life. They’re all over my social media accounts, stuck to my fridge, written on sticky notes all over my planner and calendar, written in journals…I’m a fan of quotes. I’ve found that they’re useful in getting my point across more eloquently than I’m able to sometimes. But even I find myself getting irritated at them sometimes. I find my inner cynic scoffing, “Oh yeah, because it’s really THAT easy. ‘To see the rainbow, you’ve gotta stand some rain.’ As if.”

You ever do that? I do. I don’t like to admit it, but I do. Okay yeah, sometimes the pop psychology, bumper sticker slogan positivity stuff can get to be a bit much, even for me. And when your Facebook feed and your Pinterest boards and your Twitter and Instagram are full of that kind of happy-go-lucky optimism, it can get to be too much. Because no, it really isn’t that easy. You don’t just go from miserable to happy overnight.

But here’s what we’re missing sometimes. Having a positive attitude and being positive in your day-to-day life doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the difficulties in life. It really doesn’t. I’m acutely aware of all the suffering in the world – I really am. I don’t live in some bubble where it’s all sunshine and rainbows all the time. I just choose not to dwell on those things. I know for a fact if I do that for very long, I’ll be right back in the clutches of depression, trying desperately to breathe and roll myself out of the quagmire. And I’ve made a conscious decision that I’m not going to live my life that way anymore.

Being happy is the ultimate goal in life, or at least it should be. And everyone has an equal chance at that goal. I’m not saying everyone is living in equal circumstances because that’s simply not true. But there are people living with far less opportunities than most of us have, who have lived through far more trauma than we have who are happy. They are that way because somewhere along the road, they made a conscious effort to do what it took to be happy. Was it difficult? I’m pretty certain it was. Thing is, you’re going to live on this planet for a set number of years. You’ve got a choice what you do with those years. You can spend them doing things that contribute to your happiness or you can do the opposite, but the first step is in realizing that the choice is yours. In my case, the decision to finally take action came after years and years of feeling miserable, not believing there was any other way to live my life. And finally coming to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew deep down there had to be another way.

The bottom line is this – happiness isn’t just for people who have had easy lives. A lot of them aren’t happy. You can have all the money in the world, be the most beautiful person on the outside, live in a luxurious home, have beautiful friends, lovers and children, have all the world at your feet and still be miserable. On the other hand, you can be living in poverty, without the proverbial pot to piss in nor window to throw it out of and be happy. Don’t believe me? Check out the documentary film, “Happy” . It’s absolutely true. But you have to want it. And you have to put in the blood, sweat and tears to get there. It’s not easy but it’s so worthwhile. The first step is realizing that it is a possibility. Don’t let the idea that it’s difficult put you off from starting the journey. You must be tough or you wouldn’t have made it this far, right?

Take that first step.  – Mama Bear

 journey of thousand miles

life shrinks or expands

Live (and Love) With Courage

Risk to Bloom

I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but today I feel compelled to share about a movie I just watched called “Hector and the Search for Happiness”. Now this blog really isn’t about product or movie reviews, but sometimes something just fits, and believe me, this movie does.

Here’s how the movie opens:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who had a very satisfactory life. His world was tidy, uncomplicated. And he liked it that way. He took great comfort in its predictable patterns. Patterns his girl friend Clara was happy to maintain.

Hector was like so many of us, going through the motions in our lives, safe in our cocoons, really afraid to take too many chances, to step out of our comfort zones. Let’s face it, doing things that make us uncomfortable, taking chances, thinking too hard or digging too deeply can lead to chaos. It can make life messy. And it’s scary. So we play it safe. And for a lot of us that’s especially true in our relationships. So we live life just skimming the surface.

And we wonder why we’re not happy. What are we doing wrong? Why can’t we be happy? There has to be an answer, right?

Well, maybe the answer is more money. More stuff. Another vacation. Moving to another city. More “friends” on social media. A better job. Another drink. Another pill. A different pill. Another kid. A dog. Or maybe a cat.

We spend so much of our lives in the pursuit of happiness. Or at least we think that’s what we’re doing. We think we’re running after happiness with both hands, but it always seems to be out of reach. So what is it we’re missing?

In my opinion it boils down to one simple concept: connection.

As it turns out, the people who wrote “Hector” agree with me. Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that without deep, meaningful, imperfect, soulful and sometimes chaotic connections to others, we’re missing the entire point of being here. And we’re never going to find happiness. And true and deep connection is what’s missing from so many of our lives.

Think of it this way – how many times in a week do we see absolutely horrifying statistics in the news? __ number of Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives. ___ people suffering during an outbreak of _____ . ____ dead or wounded in a mass shooting.  Or on the flip side, ____ dogs rescued from a puppy mill. A family of ___ rescued from a fire. And the statistics leave us momentarily shocked and saddened, or if they’re positive, give us a little bit of feelgood, but then we click on something else and go on about our day.

Then someone posts a photo of one child in a hospital bed, tubes and bandages all over, his mother sitting by his side and the story becomes real. This kid isn’t a statistic. This is a real person, with a name, with parents that care for him, whose pain we can see and on some level, understand. Some part of our souls connect with him or with his parents.

Or we are brought to tears by video of a group of people standing by the side of the road at the border in Hungary, waiting for hungry, terrified families from Syria to arrive. And suddenly those Syrians aren’t just a statistic anymore. They’re families – mothers and fathers and children trying to escape war and devastation and keep their families safe. We’ve connected to them on a spiritual, human level and it’s made a difference. Hopefully those kind of connections inspire us to take better care of one another but at the very least, they remind us of our humanity and that we’re more alike than we realize sometimes.

And what about in our personal relationships? So often we hold just a bit of ourselves back. Let’s face it, loving someone, connecting with them with our whole selves, can be so frightening. When we open up, when we expose the tenderest parts of ourselves, we also open ourselves up to hurt and abandonment and betrayal. But if we don’t?

Best case scenario? We end up like Hector. Living a comfy life, skimming the surface, never really risking anything or diving too deep. And then we’re gone. Worst case scenario? We end up in intensely unsatisfying, stale, loveless relationships. We might even end up in dysfunctional or abusive relationships.

We certainly don’t end up happy.

A lot of us talk about this in terms of putting up walls. And we convince ourselves that those walls are there for our protection. We want people to love us, but we make them jump through hoops and climb those walls to prove themselves. And if they can’t or won’t? Well then it all just became some sort of sick self-fulfilling prophecy, didn’t it? Our inner scaredy cat tells us that we were right all along – it’s not worth it. Nobody is going to stick around. No one can love us like that. It’s not worth it to take the risk or to open ourselves up.

I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely, positively, unequivocally worth the risk. We can’t truly live without connecting to others, without being open to the idea that making the leap, taking the chance is going to end in something truly wonderful and lasting. Does it mean you’ll never get hurt? No, it doesn’t. But what it means is, the connections you’ve made with others in your life will bring you the strength, the happiness, the connectedness to get you through. And it means that the lessons you learned by taking a chance will help you the next time. Not everyone will treat your open heart with kindness. But if you don’t try, you’ll never find someone that will.

life shrinks or expands

I tried for a really long time to convince myself that the walls that I built were for self-protection, and that they served a good purpose. They kept me from getting hurt when people left, or disappointed me in some way. But what it really did was keep me in relationships that weren’t healthy and make the people I loved most question why I was always hesitating, holding back. And I really don’t want to live that way anymore. But I won’t lie – it’s been scary trying to make these changes. People are perfectly within their rights to reject me or to be skeptical or suspicious of the change. And like I said, opening up means I risk rejection or hurt. But I’d much rather risk that than risk living my entire life feeling that I’ve only just skimmed the surface of what my life could’ve been.

I think Hector must’ve discovered the same thing:

Once upon a time, there was a young psychiatrist called Hector, who was very satisfied with his life. His world was complex, sometimes even chaotic. And he liked it that way. He took comfort in the rich, random patterns of his life.

So my challenge to you this week is simply this: Make a connection. Connect on a deeper level with just one person in your life. It can be your significant other, your child, a good friend. Don’t hold back. Wear your heart on your sleeve and let them in. Or if you aren’t quite ready for that, make a connection on another level. Join a group online for people that you have something in common with or maybe look through the newspaper for events in your area where you can connect with others. Or just go hang out at a coffee shop or library or a park and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Don’t be afraid. The more you open yourself up to connect with others, the better and bigger your life will be. I guarantee it.

And don’t just take it from me. Watch “Hector and the Search for Happiness” (it’s on Netflix) and you’ll see what I mean.

Have a beautiful, connected, heartfelt week, my lovelies. I’ll see you soon! – Mama Bear

 

dmsr mix

Total Gratitude Thursday (Inaugural Edition)

Hello again! It’s Thursday – almost the weekend and time for an exercise in gratitude.

Countless studies have shown that an integral part of a happy, peaceful life is being sure to take time to focus on gratitude and I’ve found that it’s very true. It’s hardest when you’re having a rough day, or you’re caught in the middle of a bout with depression but that’s also when you need it most. So, because I think that it’s such an important practice to engage in regularly, I’ve decided to do a weekly post called “Total Gratitude Thursday”. The #TBT hashtag has gotten so popular, I’d like to see if we can get #TGT to catch on! So every week, I’ll post some things that I’m grateful for. I encourage you to comment with your own list, and try to even make it a daily practice. Every day before your feet hit the floor, try to think of at least 3 things you’re grateful for. I promise you it will make a difference. Give it a try and comment below!

So here’s my first list of things I’m grateful for right now:

  1. Sleeping in – seriously is there anything better than not having to wake up to a blaring alarm clock? Answer: NO.
  2. My Pooh Bear-esque body. I’m finally coming to terms with my body and all its quirks. I really am built like Pooh – short legs and arms and round little belly. I’m probably never going to be skinny again, I’m definitely never going to be tall and I’m learning to be okay with that. My body isn’t perfect, but it’s strong and it’s healthy and it’s brought 3 amazing human beings into the world. I think that’s pretty rad.
  3. A glass of really, really good wine. Especially if it’s from France.
  4. Michael Franti and his music. I’ve been lucky enough to see Michael in concert twice and it was absolutely amazing! His music is so positive and powerful and that really affects the audience a lot. His music always puts me in a good mood and makes me want to dance – what a gift to give the world! Want to check him out? Start with “Say Hey (I Love You)” and dance your butt off!
  5. Blogging – just the simple act of writing this blog, connecting with readers and getting comments about what I’m writing has made such a profound change in my life – thank you!
  6. Pugs – I’m the proud mama of 2 Chinese pugs. They’re the funniest, sweetest, craziest most loving little dogs ever. You can’t help but smile with a pug around.
  7. The Dalai Lama – I don’t know how it’s possible for so much knowledge, goodness and light to reside in one human body, but he really is a blessing. I am so inspired by him.
  8. Positivity – yep, I’m grateful that I’ve discovered the difference that having a positive attitude can have in a person’s life. It’s affected every aspect of my life.
  9. Down comforters – oh, I’m completely and totally addicted. It’s like being in a fluffy nest of warmth and comfort. I love it!
  10. My husband and kids – they really are the best thing that’s ever happened to me. They’re a constant source of support and love and so much fun to be around. I’m one blessed mama bear.
  11. Glitter – I joke that I bleed glitter, but I’m not so sure it’s not at least a little bit true. I want glitter EVERYTHING!
  12. Sunshine – I think I’m part plant because I really do bloom in sunshine.

Okay, now it’s your turn – tell me what you’re grateful for! Be sure to share the blog with friends. Wishing you happy days ahead!  – Mama Bear

dmsr mix

The Importance of Taking Responsibility

Radical Self Love

This is the book I’m reading right now and I highly recommend it. It’s called “Radical Self Love” and it’s written by a blogger named Gala Darling. It’s out of print for the time being, but is being picked up by a big publishing company and will be back out in stores in February 2016. Put it on your wish list. You won’t be sorry. Until then, check out her website Gala Darling.

The reason I bring this book up is that I read an interesting excerpt from it last night. Here’s what she had to say:

“One of the major pieces of the puzzle when it comes to being happy is that you have to start taking responsibility for your life. 100% responsibility, in fact: radical responsibility. This is not up for debate!”

She’s absolutely right. And I’ll tell you why. Until you take responsibility for your own life, you’ll always be a victim of fate. And what’s worse, you’ll never be able to take full credit for your successes either.

We’ve all made this mistake from time to time. We make excuses for mistakes or bad decisions or just blame bad luck for the mishaps and missteps. And deep down, we know when we’re doing it that it’s wrong and it’s not helpful, but sometimes it’s easier to just blame someone or something else for what’s going wrong in our lives. Problem is, until we take responsibility for our lives and own up to our behaviors, we’re not going to change anything and we certainly aren’t going to make our lives better.

We all know someone that lives to play the victim. Nothing is their fault. It’s always someone else’s. They blame their spouses, their kids, their job, their parents, hell even the weather or traffic. Or they just chalk it all up to bad luck. And they’re usually the ones who will continually harp on how bad their life is and how everyone else has it better than they do and they just have shitty luck. That absolves them of any need to actually take action and try to improve their situation. It’s easier just to piss and moan than actually do something about it.

Now I’ll admit there are some adversities in life that you really can’t do much about. You can’t go back and fix a bad childhood. You can’t undo trauma. You can’t cure a disease or chronic health condition. But I guarantee you, there’s someone out there who’s been through the same thing, lived through the same pain and found a way to thrive. And that means that you can, too! That’s where a positive attitude and the right outlook can work miracles. Yes, you may have had a bad childhood and there’s nothing you can do about that. But what you CAN do is make a conscious choice to change your attitude about it. What does that look like?

The moment you take responsiblity

It means that instead of looking at yourself as a victim of your childhood circumstances, you can instead tell yourself: “Look, I had a bad childhood. It doesn’t mean I have to have a bad life. I can choose from now on to work to heal my life and forgive those who did me wrong. I can choose not to continue the same patterns in my life. I can choose how I interact with people, how I react to them and how much impact they have on my life. I have power now that I did not have as a child and I am going to use it to better myself.”

If you’re in a bad relationship, you can bitch about it till the cows come home or you can sit down and take a good hard look at yourself and decide if there’s something you can do to save it or if it no longer serves you in any healthy way. You need to be completely honest with yourself and own up to your own part in what’s going on and not take the easy way out.

If your emotions are out of control you can stop blaming everyone else for “making you feel angry/unhappy/depressed/sad/unwanted/unloved” and realize that you control how you react to any person or situation. They don’t “make” you feel anything. You can’t control their actions and they don’t control your reactions.

If you’re stuck in your career, again, take a good hard look at your life and try to figure out what you can do to make a change. Is it time to re-evaluate your career path? Do you need to look into going back to school? Or do you simply need to change your attitude about where you are? Again – people don’t generally stumble into success. They’re successful because they’re looking for opportunities, are smart enough to see them when they show up and brave enough to take chances. If you’re sitting in your cubicle griping about your boss and co-workers, you’re less likely to see opportunity if it does come knocking.

If you’re dealing with health issues, look into making simple choices that might help you deal with your illness or condition more effectively (always with the guidance of a medical professional). Ask questions. Find resources on treatment options or maybe even lifestyle changes that may help. Look to others who have similar conditions for support. Maybe even look on Youtube for videos of other people who have overcome physical obstacles and become successful. Find inspiration and empowerment wherever you can. Take responsibility for yourself and your health.

Every choice you make in life puts you closer to, or further away from, the life that you want for yourself. Maybe the best place to start is to look at one small area of your life that you want to improve. It can be something as simple as learning how to organize your home so that it’s more efficient and you spend less time looking for lost keys or trying to find a clean shirt. Find resources to help you be more organized. Talk to other people who are good at it and pick their brains for ideas.

eleanor roosevelt

You know what the upside is to all of this? It makes you feel powerful. When you sit down and realize that the Universe really isn’t out to get you just because you got a parking ticket (you just made a bad decision and parked where you shouldn’t have – own up to it!), it’s a lot easier to have hope that you can change things for the better. It means you’re not a total failure at being a grown-up if you’re late for work because next time, you can set the alarm for earlier, or set two alarms or whatever works for you. It means that maybe your relationship isn’t hopeless after all – you just need to find a different way of communicating to one another.

And as I said in the beginning, it also means that you can take credit for all of your successes. Because when you’re responsible for your life, that means not only do you have to own your mistakes, but you get to own your successes, too! It also means the sky’s the limit!

So what can you start taking responsibility for today? Feel free to share your insights

-Mama Bear