Monday, December 23, 2013

A Time for Reflection

Sounds of Sunshine at Michael Franti concert

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post called #triggerhappiness  For years after suffering through numerous medical challenges with my family, i had to navigate a field of emotional triggers that could turn a happy day on its head in just a matter of minutes.  Since triggers could turn a good day bad, what if I thought we could trigger the opposite, make a bad day good, or simply surround ourselves with so many happy triggers that they popped up when you least expect them.  And so I have spent the last year, doing just that, learning to #triggerhappiness deliberately, and consciously, one day at a time.  I suggest you try it, see where it takes you.  The end of another year offers great opportunity for reflection, use it to eliminate the negative, emphasize the positive.  This is easier than you think.

Dr. Bill Magee, me and Mat at the 2013 Operation Smile Gala
Look around carefully at all the negative minefields out there and begin to cut them off or limit your exposure  This photo was taken with my husband Mat and Dr. Bill Magee, the founder of Operation Smile.  Bill is an inspirational, modest man who will stop at nothing to further his and his family's good works.  I expected to respect Bill when I met him, I didn't expect to like him and and his wife Kathy so much.  Spending time with his family, inspired the many changes in my life over the last year not just because he is a so called do gooder.  I've met plenty of those in my time.  It's because of the dignity with which he treats people, the way he interacts with his family, the relationships he has built and yes, all that time he spends do-gooding while so many of us are caught up in other things. My husband is a lot like Bill, genuinely nice to everyone he interacts with, patient and generous.   He has encouraged me to do so many things in my life and this year's changes were no exception.  These are two people that inspired me.  Find your inspiration, people or pursuits that enhance your life. Perhaps this blog will inspire you.

These are the five areas I have chosen to focus on to #triggerhappiness, pick your list and see if it doesn't make a world of difference:

#1.  Media.

I am a media junkie, I fully admit it, I am a publicist by trade after all.  But the media is my friend and my enemy and you don't have to be a publicist to suffer from too much media just like me.   Whether it is the local tv news, which can be all about doom and gloom, or the seductiveness of non stop social media, sometimes, it just needs to be turned off.   Shut it off so that your head and heart can have a break.  Think about how much time you are wasting watching the computer with your friends posting their latest political rant or how glum you feel after you hear about that shooting. Media is a great way to stay informed but too much media is not a good thing and this is coming from a former publicist.  So take a break (finish reading my blog first, of course!) and crack open a book, listen to music.  Books and music offer intellectual stimulation like no other, I try to read every night before bed if even for 10 minutes.  Music can be anything you want, calming, stimulating, reflecting but what makes music different than other mediums is that you will never catch anyone listening to music they hate, it is purely for pleasure…when I think of Melody Gardot, Jon McLaughlin, Van Morrison, Dinah Washington, I smile, happiness.

#2.  Friendship

Friendship has always been a priority for me and is especially important for women, as most people are aware but this year, I put in a real effort to look at my friendships in a new way.  I prioritized my friendships, yes, that's right prioritized.  I reconnected with old friends who I missed.  High school friends and college friends, work colleagues that I spent so much of my early career with.  These are the people I came of age with and had more than a few laughs and cries with.  It was completely and totally reenergizing.  Reminded me of who I was, a blessing.  I wheened myself of friends who only seem to come calling when they need a favor, friends who are no where to be found when you are celebrating or suffering through a life event.  Better yet, hang out with people who lift you up, one of the benefits of aging is you start to see that some people are positive their whole lives no matter the ups and downs, some are quite the contrary.  The negative neurotics will lead you to believe that life isn't fair, everyone is trying to screw them over and there is a grand conspiracy around every corner.  It's easy to get sucked in by these people because it seems smarter to be cynical.  Guess what, totally, completely unnecessary.   Don't need to do it. Hang out with them, that is.  Sure life can be unfair but there is a huge difference between helping a friend through a rough patch and the person who never sees the cup half full.  The musician Michael Franti is a half cup full kind of guy times 100, yes, he is a wonderful artist but read his interviews,  listen to his music, visit his website and you will see he is positive personified.  Imagine 5 Michael Franti's in your life, go to his concert and see what I mean.

I am so happy to be friends with girls I have known my whole life.  #girlpower
Old friends carry your memories, a little part of your soul with them.

My friend Alisyn Camerota is a friend, mother and professional I both admire and respect.

#3. Well Being

Well being for me means good food and exercise.  In fact, it is my therapy.  Every time in my life I am starting to feel down and overwhelmed, I can absolutely track it to bad eating and living.  I'm not talking about feeling bad from hearing bad news like my father's passing, i'm talking about dealing with any combination of difficult circumstances on a day to day basis whether it is your career, kids or marriage.  If you look around you will see that most health focused people are positive, it's just true.  I know if I eat well, exercise, I'm going to release those happy endorphins, sleep better, feel slimmer and have more energy.  Problem is, like anyone else I can eat too much sugar, drink too much wine and skip the gym.  So I set goals, exercise 4 days a week no matter what, sign up for a race, tell my kids my goals so I stick to it (kids don't let you off easy), turn off the tv, reconnect with friends.  Well being is living well.  In 2012, I ran my first half marathon with a group of friends.  It was a big accomplishment for me.  This year I wanted to do it again but my other friends did not.  I contemplated not doing it.  I did it again anyway.  It made me happy once I figured, let's do it again.  I need goals.  I wish I hadn't accomplished my goals said no one ever.

My first half marathon was on my bucket list and now I want to make it an annual event to kick off summer.
I recently met with a woman who had attended a speech I gave, she started a company called after she discovered she was gluten intolerant.  Freed Goods is a gluten free brownie company, Stephanie decided just because she had to eliminate gluten didn't mean she had to eliminate pleasure, pleasure is good.  Stephanie is also a lawyer and started a group called to encourage the empowerment of women after reading the book Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof.  What's amazing about Stephanie is that she is busy but not bothered, she is busy pursuing things that she loves.  She was calm and centered and a problem solver.  She is living well and it shows.  I don't know if I can be gluten free but I am going to try to go half way because I believe in the health benefits.  Stephanie inspired me.  There are so many women who inspire me professionally and personally, the important part is to make them a part of your daily life, they will inspire you when you least expect it.

#4  Monotony

One of the plagues of modern society is the structure of everyday life, being confined by a job, school or specific regiment.  It's romantic to think that you can live a life without responsibility but it's not realistic and sometimes, even dangerous.  Parenthood and marriage go hand in hand with responsibility but those can require such focus and attention that people try to rebel against it in ways big and small.  Eat too much, drink too much, obsess too much, gossip too much etc…as a mom, sometimes I think I'm so sick of what I call driving in circles, I never want to drive and pick up again.

Volunteering with my son, my friend Kathy and my husband bonds us for life.

It is possible to break up that routine so this year I made some big changes.  The first thing to do is to make your life wish list and pick something to do that have always wanted to but have made every excuse not to.  Face your fears head first.  For me, I shut down my PR firm after 13 years.  It seemed crazy to walk away from a 25 year PR career but truthfully, it just didn't work with my lifestyle anymore, going out several nights a week, being at the beck and call of clients and employees 24 hours a day and a mother to three young boys was  making me a nervous wreck.  What did I want to do?  If you went back and asked me at 22, I would have told you an actress and a writer.  And so I am embarking on both of those goals.   At 48, I am determined to be a writer and write that first book.  I will never be a screen actress, I'm pretty sure that ship has sailed but I have been giving speeches and intend to become an inspirational speaker which involves stage presence.

I'm not sure what lies ahead but I am invigorated by the possibilities and it consumes my thoughts.  It is difficult not to be happy when you have something to conquer.  Something to aspire to.

#5 check back soon for #5 , time to turn of the computer. #triggerhappiness

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