January 27, 2013
Life is a beautiful forest, and I see that most of the time. But when I’ve bumped my nose on a tree trunk, it’s easy to get wrapped up in thinking about “that stupid tree that’s always in my way.”
It goes like this:
Angry. Short of patience even though I don’t want to be. Frustrated. Tired. Very tired of the same things over and over. “Why does life have to be so hard!?!?” I think.
I know why life is hard in general: so we’ll learn—learn patience, self-control, love, endurance, humility, cooperation (with each other and with God), appreciation for better times, etc.
But why SO hard? Why so hard that I can’t seem to manage what I think I ought to be accomplishing?
Still the wrong question.
Would I really be content with life as it is if I had any clearer understanding of WHY life is as it is? No!
If life is hard so that we learn and grow, then we aren’t even supposed to be content exactly as is—we’re supposed to be growing and moving on, changing our thinking and our approach and our outcome to something better than what comes naturally.
Looking backwards at how we got to the state we are in is helpful, to see consequences of actions so we can make better choices as we go on. Looking backwards can also be helpful in seeing what all we’ve forgotten that we should be thankful for, so we realize that life isn’t as bad as it might seem when only focused on a small part.
But when one is angry and frustrated, then asking “why” life is as it is, is actually mostly looking to blame. Why did God put me in this lousy life? Why don’t other people make my life easier? Why am I so stupid I don’t do something completely different?
Blame breads bitterness, loneliness, and depression. When vented, angry blame only make a problem bigger.
Life is what it is—so far as the present moment. The future depends on our choices.
The right question is “What am I going to do to make things BETTER?”
As long as there’s a plan or an idea to move forward positively, there’s hope for goodness. And where there’s hope and action, there’s joy, and love, and progress toward all good things.
When positivity is radiated, improvement can grow and multiply.
So what are you going to do to make things better?
NOT “What are you going to do for revenge?” NOT “What are you going to do to get free of miserable responsibilities?”
What are YOU going to do to make things TRULY BETTER?
That is the right question. And the answer will make you joyful.
(Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, dan, & Stuart Miles, at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ )
December 19, 2012
My nine-year-old son and I both “booed” after finishing a short story which started with two children being left alone on an island, and ended with them still there, abandoned by their only visitor, and one of the children vowing to find a way off of the island some day. I tried to console my son by saying that when I experience a sad story that ends without an “ending,” it makes me resolve to get busy making something happen in real life. I asked him, “Do stories always have to have a happy ending?” I continued, “Real life doesn’t have happy endings—it just keeps going and going.” To which he instantly replied, “That’s why we turn to stories!”
I think he’s right.
Most adults are busy, and we can sometimes accept taking a piece of a story to ponder its points as we go on with our activities; but remember being a kid, when a year seemed like eternity? Adults may have been around enough to know a hard time will pass in a day, or week, or year; but it’s hard for a child to hold out for relief which might be so far away—so they turn to fantasy. Time goes so slowly for children that they can’t always grasp from their own real lives, the sense of hope and joy they need; but they can get it from a happy ending to a story.
We all want to know that things will be okay in the end—the end of a situation, the end of a season of life, or the absolute end of one’s earthly life. We need hope for the future in order to keep going through anything less than perfect. We fuel that hope with stories, real and fictional. Stories give us a rest from our reality, and ideas to take back into reality. Sure, we can draw positive thoughts from a story that stops sadly, but that’s work, not recreation. We all–adults and children–need happy endings to feel relaxed and happy.
Life does keep going and going, but with lots of little happy moments, if not “endings.” For those who say that kids should not be taught to expect happy endings in life, I’d say they should be allowed the uplifting pleasure of happy endings in stories, AND taught to both look for and create happy passages in real life.
It doesn’t matter so much that life isn’t “happy EVER after” ONE struggle. It does matter that we CAN get through a struggle, and be happy—and so then we must be able to get through another struggle, and another. A happy ending gives hope for multiple happy endings to multiple struggles.
So don’t feel guilty for filling your kid’s heads with happy endings. And do make happiness come true, even in difficult times.
December 7, 2012
Holiday gatherings, and the month of dread which comes beforehand, are some of the most frustrating and depressing times for many people. These are supposed to be celebrations and reunions, but one of the biggest contributing factors which makes these events problems, is that so many people are measuring themselves and others with the wrong measuring sticks.
Tradition is to compare and judge others’ lives against one’s own life, based primarily and superficially on physical accomplishments, because these are the easiest things to put into words and are most similar across humanity in western cultural terms.
Examples: awards and educational degrees earned; prestige or money from jobs and number of promotions; home size, toys, and cars; money spent on gifts; kids and their growth, involvements or accomplishments; fun activities and places visited; number or class of friends; club memberships; books read or written; childhood dreams realized; etc.
But you can HAPPILY look like a failure by all of those standards, IF you have gained (or know you are gaining) understanding of humanity and of God, your reason for existing, and what will outlast the fleeting years at hand. For if understanding a good chunk of those things is what you pour your time and resources into, you can feel confident in your abilities to be an honest benefit to fellow humans and to the entire universe.
Communicating a meaningful measurement of your life is often hard, because there’s so much value in the fleeting moments which are like little pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and just as hard to remember or explain their context.
Examples: the times you made someone smile, were kind to a clerk, gave a hug, answered someone’s nagging question, realized the answer to your own questions, forgave someone, lovingly sacrificed your own desires for someone else’s good. The times God’s Spirit embodied you and shined through to lighten and enlighten the world with love.
So gather with grace, confidence, compassion and love for everyone, wherever they measure up at the moment–or think they measure up–on any yardstick. Hope for meaningful progress.
(This information is not doctor-confirmed—it’s just my personal experience and opinion. Use your own judgement for your own health.)
Many websites list iron-deficiency symptoms such as tiredness, which I never really noticed. Yet it is my belief I was iron deficient.
I had a severe problem: I couldn’t move–not even roll over in bed–without feeling like my brain was spinning; and along with causing head discomfort, this kept me on the verge of nausea. This was extreme dizziness!
My doctor was on vacation. I don’t remember what prompted me to try iron supplements (I think it was an educated person’s suggestion), but a few hundred percent of the “recommended daily allowance” of iron, a few times per day, cured me gradually over I think about a day or two.
This does make sense, because iron is needed for red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body; and what happens when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen? Dizziness of course!
Here is a nice clear page about iron http://health.learninginfo.org/what-does-iron-do.htm But if you read that page, and many others around the web, you’ll see that tiredness is the symptom most often mentioned.
So why didn’t I feel tired or lacking in energy? Because I was a person who habitually did what I judged needed to be done, regardless of my energy level. In other words, I had long before forgotten what rested and energized felt like, living on adrenaline, willpower, and love for others. I was deaf to my body’s subtle signals.
I repeated the on-off “test” process a few times: I stopped taking iron for a while or maybe only a couple of times per month, had the dizziness come back; took more iron and felt fine. I repeated this cycle more than twice, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t coincidence. Iron really was what I needed. (BE WARNED: Too much iron can damage organs, so be careful and consider having your blood iron level tested.)
Then I had “another” problem: taking an iron supplement daily for a long time wasn’t enough. I cooked in iron skillets; took 100% US RDA of iron daily; I included in my diet lots of fresh broccoli and swiss chard, canned spinach, eggs, beans, prunes and raisins, and occasionally red meat (all iron-rich foods, but most are calcium too). Still I could feel the dizziness coming back (thankfully I’d learned to notice it before it got severe). Without blood tests I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I was worried.
I did another internet search to learn what interferes with iron absorption. I realized that I was usually consuming my iron-rich foods with calcium-rich foods and whole grains (both of which block iron absorption), and I was always taking my iron pill with my multi-vitamin-mineral pill which also contained calcium. These were not helpful habits.
See these pages for detail on what interferes with iron absorption, and how to increase absorption:
I also read in the book “the Four Hour Body” that the author, Timothy Ferris, did have his blood tested before and after adding orange juice to his somewhat strict diet. His test proved what one of those webpages says: citrus juice increases blood iron content (because, it is thought, of the Vitamin C content in the juice). This didn’t make Mr. Ferris happy (because, he says, men don’t lose blood monthly and so have no way to rid themselves of too much iron); but it’s some good news for anyone already low in iron. Orange Juice can help. ……….By the way, I’ve only read a part of his book, but found it has a lot of good information in it. Here’s a link to it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/4-Hour-Body-Uncommon-Incredible-Superhuman/dp/030746363X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342717373&sr=1-1&keywords=the+four+hour+body
So, I started taking my near-daily iron pill with vitamin C (which helps with iron absorption), AND when other nutrients can not interfere: in the middle of at least a 4-hour stretch between meals, or two hours after dinner if I won’t be having a late-night snack.
Before I figured out how to absorb enough iron, I had already committed to taking better care of myself, including getting enough hours of sleep. I noticed that even 8-9 or more hours didn’t feel like enough, and I blamed this on my dreams. I was always busy in my dreams trying to get things done, just like in my waking hours. I learned to turn off my mind when going to sleep, telling myself that everything can wait because now was the time to rest. This helped considerably with waking up energized. But after correcting my iron intake, I was surprised at how much better I felt! I still get 8-9 hours of sleep occasionally, but often only seven, and I have real energy—I don’t have to push myself like I did for years. (I still sometimes have to push myself to work on the right chores when I’d rather work on different ones, but that’s another issue.)
- Iron deficiency can cause tiredness; BUT, if you don’t notice that, it can go on to cause severe dizziness.
- It’s serious when your body doesn’t have enough oxygen flowing—not something to cure with will-power.
- To make sure more of the iron you consume is absorbed: A) try to eat some iron-rich foods at separate times from tea, coffee, bread, cereal, dairy, beans, tofu, etc., B) try to take any iron supplements on an empty stomach if you can, or with foods that don’t interfere.
- Take citrus juice or vitamin C with your iron foods or iron pills. (NOTE: Potatoes are rich in vitamin C too, if not over-processed.)
- Listen to your body and find out what it needs, so you can last longer to do more for others (and for yourself).
Now I feel great, and have more energy than I’ve had in a long time. Real energy.
September 10, 2011
If you are one of us ambitious types, with always too much to do, you’ve probably been through countless bouts of frustration and despair when you felt that you’ve had too many things going wrong and too many problems to deal with. You often feel like you deserve a break–a span of time when everything goes well, long enough for you to get caught up and even to get ahead before the next batch of trouble strikes. After all, you are working for the good of someone–your kids, your spouse, your boss, your customers, your country, the world; the universe should give you a break so you can do good things, right?
Well, maybe it doesn’t work that way. Maybe rather than resenting the relentless difficulties, we should plan on them–the way we plan on other facts of life in this human form on this strange planet. Businesses have to plan on employees taking sick-leave or missing work for various reasons, so why don’t we plan on it for ourselves? Why do we act like our lives should always run smoothly, as if difficulty isn’t part of a smooth plan?
Maybe dealing with problems coming at is like baseballs from a mechanical pitcher set on high speed, is as useful in the long run as having to work for a living, interact with other humans, sleep a third of our lives, and eat on a regular basis (all things God instituted).
Maybe we’d get farther if we accepted these unexpected troubles as character-enriching experiences (teaching us humility, patience, faith, respect) and planned time for them: expect the unexpected and greet it with grace.
We wouldn’t expect to keep a job without allotting time for personal grooming and the commute to work. Lets stop complaining and start allotting time for dealing with crashed computers, relatives with bad moods, incompetent people, sicknesses, lost items, mechanical breakdowns, etc.
Sure we should intelligently try to minimize or avoid problems, but we would suffer so much less stress and less-frequently inflict a hurtful attitude on others, if we would understand and accept that we are in an imperfect world, and other people are imperfect, as are we.
As illustrated in the poem “How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke, life isn’t about everything running perfectly; it’s about how we deal with everything, however it runs.
Lets plan X hours per week for unexpected trouble, and see how much happier we are–and how much happier we make those around us too.
© 2011 NPM
July 31, 2011
Decide how you WANT to feel, and ACT as if it were real.
Pretend that you don’t feel like smashing, hitting, yelling, crying yourself to sleep.
Give a hug, a kind word, a calm response; start a good topic.
Watch your mood really change, your heart soften, your self lighten, the air clear.
Watch those around you melt a little too; they may even apologize.
If they don’t, at least they may slowly follow your lead in peaceful positive directions.
And if not even that, then you’ll feel better for not joining them in hurtful behavior.
But hope for the best – act as if you expect them to join you in positivity; make space for them.
Everyone feels like fighting when pushed; so back off, offer a little metaphorical milk, and most folks will put their claws away.
Life will seem brighter and more lovely when you practice love.
Just like anyone determined to learn a skill, you’ll make mistakes; but keep practicing acts of kindness until you become kind.
For even faster and truer results, consult and seek love and guidance from the creator and source of love – God Himself.
Now, what’s your next move, your next word? Make it a good one, and enjoy the results.
Problems Shrink When We Outgrow Them, p.45**
Taming Impulses, p.50**
Every Detail Matters, p.52**
Taking His Hand, p.49**
A Prayer in Advance, p.61**
Expecting the Surprise Attack, p62**
He Works Every Day, p.67**
After the Rain, p.4**
**(from my book,
“Pebbles, Blisters, and Handfuls of Sunlight” Also available from your favorite online bookstore.)