Clearing the Happiness Fog

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In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin accurately describes the way I’m feeling these days taking care of a defiant toddler and newborn baby – extremely happy, yet in a fog. It’s something she calls “fog happiness,” described as being the kind of happiness resulting from activities that, at the time, don’t seem enjoyable.  Instead, feelings of happiness are delayed and appear once the fog clears. For example, hosting a party may bring happiness, but it’s not usually until after the party that we realize it.

This is exactly the way I feel about parenting; enjoying every single moment, yet not realizing much of the happiness until about 11 p.m. each night when the house has settled down. After watching and listening to coffee shop patrons, I found I am not alone. My favorite example of this concept was the exchange between a father and son one morning.

The man rushed in the front door, wearing a flannel shirt and stained jeans. His hair was fluffy and uncombed. At his side was his son, a toddler with curly blonde hair. The boy was fidgety and impatient until his Dad brought him a scone to eat. As most toddlers do, he wanted to eat the treat at his own pace, his own way.

The Dad, noticeably impatient, began helping the young boy.

“It’s OK if it’s broken; you’re only going to eat one piece at a time,” he said softly.

The boy didn’t seem to care and wasn’t ready to take the advice and instead continued taking his time.

“Eat it, throw it away, or put it in a bag to take with you,” the Dad said before picking the boy up and carrying him out of the building as if resembling a human airplane.

While the Dad might not have thought so at the time, I found his words to be helpful and applicable to parenting experiences. Accept them, get rid of them, or take them with you to look at once the fog clears.

 

 

Commencement speech from a twenty-something

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It’s unlikely I will be speaking to a stadium full of eager students preparing to graduate anytime soon. But, as ceremonies near and party planning ensues, I can’t help but think about what advice I might share with the next generation if given the chance. What would I talk about?

What experiences could I possibly have had this early in life that would lend a hand to those about to enter the next step in their lives?

To the class of 2012:

In 2009, the late Steve Jobs told students at Stanford the only way to be truly satisfied in life is to do great work. President John F. Kennedy shared the importance of attitude during his speech during a graduation ceremony at American University in 1962 and in 2007; Oprah Winfrey used her own story to encourage students at Howard University to dream big.

I certainly don’t have the experiences of these prominent figures. Nor, do I have their influence. But, what I do have are my own lessons, and if choosing the most important learned since high school, it would be the ability to value change.

Most of you have probably experienced change in your lifetime in one way or another. You may have moved schools; you can now drive; you changed jobs – I did too. But, what I didn’t do was appreciate the change. After leaving the comfort zone you call high school, there will be times you feel awkward or uncomfortable. That’s OK. Embrace it.

If attending college, you will likely change your major, your living space, your wardrobe and hopefully your bed sheets. Change a diaper while you’re at it; you will thank me later for having that experience.

And, if you decide to move out of your parent’s house, your taste buds will change, too. Peanut butter and jelly on hamburger buns will become a staple food in your life in effort to save a few extra pennies.

Throughout the years, you will be surprised at the number of times you change your mind; becoming in touch with the person you never knew you were. Old friends may become distant memories and simple schedule may seem like an oxymoron.

But, while you’re riding the rollercoaster of life, remember who you are at the core and never let that change.

Because with change comes growth and as you learn more about yourself, it will become clearer how you can change the world.

Congratulations.

10 Awesome Things – Coffee Shop Edition

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You might have heard the old cliché “stop and smell the roses”.

No?

How about “appreciate the small things in life”? Or, “enjoy every day as if it’s your last”?

They’re all sharing the same message: live a fulfilled life – every day, appreciating every moment.

I recently learned of 1000 Awesome Things, a daily blog pointing out the common joys in life we all share. Among them: getting grass stains, fat baseball players, illegal naps, sleeping in new bed sheets, snow days, high fiving babies.
After reading, smiling and relating to the list I began to wonder: what makes these moments so awesome? How is it we can all be in different stages of life, work in various professions, live in different parts of the world, and yet still have these common threads of enjoyment?

This led me to research and find out more about the 1000 Awesome Things project – how it got started, who was behind it and the impact it’s had. As it turns out, Neil Pasricha started the personal blog in 2008 after experiencing a number of unfortunate life events in a short period of time, amid an economic downturn. The blog was created in an effort to help him consciously recognize and appreciate the small joys in life rather than focusing on the negative.

Fast forward to 2012 and the blog now has over 43 million views, inspired a TED Talk presentation and resulted in the publication of three bestselling books.

As I learned more about this project and its origin, I began to think about how coffee shops follow a similar theme, gathering individuals from all walks of life and various backgrounds to enjoy a simple, yet satisfying treat – coffee. So, I decided to make my own list and share what makes this meeting place so awesome.

1. Abnormally loud laughs – this happens when the coffee grinder stops suddenly and the rest of the customers are greeted with a chuckle from the back corner of the building
2. A barista who knows your name and, sometimes, even your drink order
3. Coffee shop friends – others who frequent the same places at the same time you do, creating a friendship by default
4. A decaffeinated customer – usually found slouched in a leather chair, head back, mouth wide open and enjoying a few minutes of shut eye
5. Stocky men ordering skinny lattes
6. The only seat left near an outlet
7. Coffee served in mugs
8. Chalkboard menus
9. Display cases
10. Free Wi-fi

Awesome.