Ever since I was a kid, I loved making people happy. Mostly by giving them stuff or just talking to them. I talked to everyone when I was a kid. I also spent most of my allowance on things for other people, rather than myself. When on vacation, I used my money to buy souvenirs for others. Whenever I did anything crafty, it was usually to give away to a friend or family member. So what is my why? To make others happy? Pretty much. But it’s more than that. I don’t want to just hand someone a present and see them smile for a few seconds. I want to show someone the path they can take to overcome their demons and get to true, lasting happiness. I’ll even hold their hand while they do it, so they know they have someone supporting and rooting for them. I want to empower people to make that hard change that might be painful at first, but leads to life-long joy. I want to inspire people to take the leap and show them or equip them with everything they need to do it. And yes, if giving a homemade blanket to someone who is cold makes their life a little easier, even if it doesn’t help them achieve lasting happiness, I want to do that too. I want everyone to know that there are people like me who care. I want them to know that they’re not alone. That is my why. What is yours?
Everyone has a cause they care about and pursue. Everyone has a reason for at least some of their actions, purchases, and social media posts. If you don’t, I imagine you have a hard time getting out of bed. But even then, I know there’s something you care about, even if you’re not actively promoting it.
I care about helping others. If a clothing store tells me that their reason for being is to help others, and they do that in the way they obtain materials and provide training, jobs, and education to their local community members, I will buy their clothes even if they are typically out of my price range. Or pink. Or not exactly my style. I’ll buy them for someone else if it means I get to help a cause I believe in.
Likewise, if you care about animals, and a shoe store says that their company was started so the profits could be used to help local animal shelters, you’ll want to buy those shoes. We like to promote our causes by supporting companies that also believe in our causes.
It’s even better when you can get into a career that furthers your cause. My cause is helping others. I tried to do that with engineering. I wanted to innovate and use new designs and technology to make products that would really benefit the community. But that didn’t seem like it was going to happen. When I switched to teaching, it was like sliding a puzzle piece into place. I got to help others in a way that I did not imagine I wanted to. There were lots of reasons I didn’t want to be a teacher and only one reason that I did. My one reason for wanting to be a teacher was to further my cause.
What’s your cause? How do you pursue it?
I don’t know about you, but when I get sick I sleep. A lot. And while I’m awake, I rarely feel like doing more than watch TV. I’ll wish for a rainy day, so I don’t feel bad about sleeping in until noon and lounging on the couch the rest of the day watching tv and sleeping, but it’s always bright and sunny when I’m sick.
I don’t think I’m unique in that I like to be productive. Most of us do. That’s why most of the addictive games have “goals,” “achievements,” or “tasks” for us to do – which is what makes them so addictive to us. It feels like we are accomplishing something and being productive (at least in the game). We love that feeling. But it’s hard to get that feeling when you’re sick and have no energy to be productive. Not even to play the games that give you that feeling.
Needless to say, I’ve been sick. Today is my first productive day in what feels like a week but has really just been 3 days (2.5 really, I was a little productive yesterday afternoon). Fortunately, I have a partner that reminded me that it’s okay to take a break now and then, especially when sick. He reminded me that we had a long, productive, and tiring month with the kids (it was the day after we took them back to their mom that I got sick) and that we both deserved some rest anyway. We took all day Monday to sleep in and watch NCIS (he took the day off work), even though we were quickly running out of clean socks and there were more dirty dishes than clean ones in the kitchen.
Tuesday I was going to get back on it. I didn’t. I slept til noon and every time I tried to do a thing, I felt dizzy and weak and had to lie down. So I watched TV all day and snoozed a little in the afternoon. It really got me down. I felt like I needed to be productive. I felt like a lazy piece of poop because none of the dishes had gotten washed, none of the mess in the kids’ room or living room had gotten picked up, and I hadn’t had the mental capacity to even work on my classroom stuff.
It got me down and made it hard for me to feel motivated to be productive in the future. But finally his words got through to me. It is okay to take a break and take it easy occasionally. It’s okay to watch cartoons and NCIS all day after sleeping in until noon and go to bed at eight. It’s okay to be sick and just relax. It’s okay because that’s not who I am and I’m not going to do it every day. Only as long as I need it.
If you’re sick and feeling useless because dishes aren’t getting done, your hobbies aren’t progressing, and you’re ordering pizza instead of cooking, just remember that it’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to be sick. It’s okay to relax and enjoy doing nothing for a few days. You’ll get back on your feet and when you do it will be with renewed vigor. You are a badass. Don’t ever forget it.
The other day I was late with breakfast, we forgot socks to the bounce house and had to buy some, I ran my just-purchased car into a parked vehicle in the parking lot, and the oven got left on 425 degrees for 5 hours. It seemed like a lot of other little things happened too that wouldn’t have normally bothered me, but just added to the bad day vibe. The worst one was the car. I just bought this car and I did way more damage to my car than the vehicle I hit. Of course my insurance covered their’s and not mine. Why am I paying so much for insurance? I cried – a lot. I felt so stupid. And continued to feel so with every little mistake I made the rest of the day.
That evening, I finally took a deep breath. I realized that in the grand scheme of things, eating breakfast late, paying a few bucks for socks, dinging a new car, and leaving the oven on for 5 hours really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s not going to affect anything in the long run. Yes, our electric bill will be a little higher for one month. And yes, I will have to take money out of my emergency fund to fix my car. But neither of those things are going to affect my future. Neither of them are going to cause long-term pain or affect my long-term happiness. They don’t influence my job, my relationships, my family, or my life.
It’s easy to let small things like these affect our mood and stop us from being happy in the short-term. We have to remember to look at the big picture and realize that they aren’t part of it. They don’t show up in the big picture and they don’t mess up the future. Therefore, there’s no point in letting them ruin so much a day of your life if they’re not going to majorly influence the future. No use wasting time being upset when time could be spent feeling happy and having fun or being productive instead of moping around.
What happened the last time you had an off day? Were you able to turn it around? If so, how?
Image from lamebook.
If you want to test your patience get a child. Seriously. Why do people do this to themselves? Thank goodness they’re cute, or they would not survive long. Just getting them to eat a decent amount of good food and stay away from sugar is a nightmare. Who knew dinner time could be so stressful? Every parent who cares about their child’s health. That’s who.
Kids will definitely test your patience. Or break your patience. I haven’t decided yet. I feel like I used to have a lot more patience before we had the kids over for a month. Now every little thing seems to bother me. But it also seems like we have learned to let the small stuff go. We have learned a lot of things, actually. And we make a great team – even though we don’t plan on having any full-time children unless something happens and he gets full custody of his girls.
Lesson one from having the kids is communication. We have learned to communicate expectations, consequences, and rewards with each other BEFORE communicating them to the kids. Usually. We sometimes slip and have to deal with the outcome, but so far it’s only been on minor things. I think this has helped with communication in general. Since I’ve gotten used to discussing plans with the girls before talking to the girls about it, I’ve also been more communicative about my own plans and goals. It’s nice.
Lesson two is stick to your guns. Always. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you said no the first time, you have to say no the hundredth time – and they will ask 100 times if you let them. If you say there’s going to be a consequence for a thing, you better be ready to enforce that consequence. We almost had to enforce one that we didn’t particularly want to, but we said we would and we were prepared to do it. Ended up not having to, so that was nice. But we TALKED about it and decided that we were going to stick to it. This helps in life too, because if you don’t mean what you say, you’ll lose credibility with your friends and peers. Learning to really stick to what you say – always – helps build the reputation that you are reliable. And everyone likes reliability.
Lesson three is always side with your partner. This is especially important if you don’t agree with your partner about a particular thing. It ties back to the last lesson of stick to your guns. Whatever answer one partner gave, that’s the answer. Period. We will communicate about it after the fact when we can do it without the kids around and make a plan for future occurrences. This has helped us be closer and stronger together because we are always backing each other up, even when we don’t completely agree with it. It’s nice to learn to let go of whether you have the same view as your partner and just focus on supporting your partner. Whether it’s dealing with the kids, making a career change, or working through personal issues.
Lesson four is that children have stealthy ninja skills and they will use them to sneak up on you and scare the piss out of you while you’re sleeping or resting. Seriously. They’re lucky I haven’t accidentally hit either of them. It’s terrifying. They’re not even doing it on purpose. They just see you sleeping or resting, know they shouldn’t disturb you, but decide to do it anyway because they really want to tell you something. Or they have to pee (even though she can do it by herself – why are you telling me??). Or they want to get up now even though it’s 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday and they refuse to get up at 7:30 during the week to go to school! Patience tested and destroyed.
Less five, and probably the biggest one, is always think before you speak. Anything you say to a child can and will be held against you. Always. Anything mean, dumb, silly, or misinformation that comes out of your mouth will be remembered and commented upon, either immediately or later. It will be regretted. This is a great lesson because sometimes we fight with our friends, family, or partners and we say things we don’t mean because we get caught in the moment and don’t think our words through. When a kid wakes you up at 2:30 in the morning because the other kid wants to tell you something, but turns out that other kid is asleep – it’s really difficult to choose your words or just not say anything at all. With enough practice, you learn to think before you speak in difficult situations – saving you relationships that you’ve spent time and effort building up.
Overall, I suppose kids make us better. Still a pain in the butt and I don’t know why so many people want them, but to each their own. I do feel like I’ve grown over the past month and the kids have also benefited. I’ll end with a quote I have seen on the internet that really ring true.
“Raising a child is like taking care of someone who’s on way too many shrooms, while you yourself are on a moderate amount of shrooms. I am not confident in my decisions, but I know you should not be eating a mouse-pad.” – Ron Funches
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from interacting with children?
What is it about seeing others’ success that makes us want to be able to do the same thing? I always feel more motivated to work out after watching an action movie with a lot of skilled fighting than I do from reading about how exercise is good for me. I feel an urge to learn how to grind a pipe on my roller blades after watching someone else do it. I even feel more inspired to write after watching a TV show with a successful author than from daydreaming of a new story or poem idea. Nothing makes me want to study more than watching Bones or Big Bang Theory (when they actually talk about their research, anyway) so I can strive to be as smart as those characters. This also applies when I see friends or colleagues show off knowledge or a talent, such as doing a hand stand, describing how different chemicals react together, playing an instrument or singing, or explaining how something works. Often times when I wish I was better at something, it stems from me feeling a sense of awe as I watch someone else showcase a talent or knowledge. This makes it difficult to determine what hobbies I genially enjoy and what hobbies I just want to get good at in order to show off. Piano, for example, is something I used to care about getting good at to show off to others, but now I only play for myself, because of how much I love it. Jigsaw puzzles are also something I enjoy, although I do love showing off my skill at those. Knitting, while I enjoy making things and I enjoy the Zen in it, I believe is a talent that I enjoy showing off what I make more than actually making things. But that’s still something I am trying to figure out because I also do enjoy making things for other people. I am no good at drawing and gave that up years ago because I never felt like I would be good, even though I used to love to draw. Writing is always something I have loved, and certainly not something that I show off, although I do enjoy sharing my writing. I’ve never found a good enough reason to really get in shape and get strong. Anytime I want to, it’s to be able to show off, and I never stick with the work outs for more than a few months. I’ve just never found a good enough personal reason to stick with it. But I always get motivated after watching Black Widow kick butt in the Avenger movies. Or Bones, for that matter. She’s a much more realistic goal too. But back to the main question: why does feeling awe at someone else’s talent make us what to also possess that talent? (I’m assuming I’m not unique in this, although I recognize that probably not everyone feels this way.) I suppose it would have to do with what we personally hold value. I see the value in being able to fight, in case I was to be assaulted. Therefore, I’m impressed by awesome fighting skills. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe I’m impressed by a skill, so I decide it must have value. One way to get someone to like you more is to ask them to do a small favor for you. Social convention will oblige that person to say yes, and they will subconsciously justify doing you a favor by deciding that they must like you. So perhaps I am putting value into skills I see others do that impress me in order to justify being impressed by them. After all, what practical need would I have for doing a handstand or taking out 10 guys at once who all have on body armor? What need would I have for being able to pop a wheelie on a motor cycle or be phenomenal at Mario Cart? Both those talents impress me, but that doesn’t mean they are valuable or that I need to accomplish them (as much as I may day dream about accomplishing them). After all, I am impressed by doctors and dentist, but have zero desire to do either of those jobs. I suppose the trick is to consciously separate things that impress me and things in that I am genially interested. That way, I can stop day dreaming about fighting with the Avengers and start actually doing things that bring me joy and satisfaction.
There’s a reason Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins: it pins us against each other. It leads to judgment, disrespect, possibly hate, and even discrimination. And yet, pride is pushed in our society. “Be proud of who you are,” is a popular slogan, with alterations such as “be proud to be black,” “be proud to be educated,” and “be proud to be an American.” But being proud of who we are often means we look down on others for not being us. For example: If I’m something to be proud of, and you’re nothing like me, then you must not be something to be proud of, which means I judge and ridicule you for not being me. It sounds ridiculous when said that way, but it’s what happens. Even though that’s not what we are consciously thinking, that is the story we are really telling ourselves when we judge others based on their looks or actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing that. I would never do that.” “Why in the world does she think it’s okay to dress like that? I would never dress like that.” “I can’t believe how fat that person let himself get. I would never let myself get that fat.” “Ew, look at how buff her arms are. They’re huge. I would never let my arms get that big.”
We have a hard time understanding why someone would do something or look a certain way when it’s different from what we like or believe. It’s hard to understand why someone would want to go out to a noisy bar instead of curling up at home with a good book. It’s hard to understand why someone would stay at home and read a boring book when they could go out and have fun at a bar. It’s all about perspective. And pride. Since we’re proud of the way we do things, proud of the things we like, and proud of the way we look, we can’t fathom why someone would want to do, think, or look differently. We truly believe that if we don’t like doing something, we can judge others for enjoying it. We truly believe that if we don’t feel comfortable showing off our legs, we can judge others for showing off their legs.
Before I realized why I was doing it, it used to judge and look down on others a lot. Probably about the same amount as the average person, but it felt like all the time. Being fit and physically healthy is important to me, so I looked down on others who are obese. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let myself go like some people do (for now, ignoring the fact that some obese people really do have a serious medical condition). I was horrified at those that do let themselves get obese and wonder how they can even stand it. I thought of them as horrible people for letting themselves be that way. I looked down on them because I have PRIDE. In reality, we just have different values. Physical fitness and health isn’t a priority to them like it is to me. It’s a simple matter of lifestyle CHOICE and neither is better than the other. They are simply different.
Another example is that my sister enjoys going out to bars and clubs with her friends even though she doesn’t drink. The reason she doesn’t drink is because she has a drinking problem. She has been through rehab and attends AA meetings daily and is very involved in the AA community. However, she is a very social person and makes friends of all kinds. A lot of people might judge her for going to bars and clubs with her condition. Most people can’t fathom a bar or club being fun without alcohol and they wonder why she surrounds herself with that temptation. Well, from her perspective, alcohol is no longer tempting to her. Yes, sometimes she has bad days and it is tempting, but she doesn’t go to bars on those days; she spends extra time with her AA friends. From her perspective, she has a lot of fun at bars with her friends. Just because you or I don’t understand it, because we’re different people, doesn’t mean we have the right to judge her for it. It’s her life and she enjoys going out and being social. (I should also point out that she is in college, and most people go out to be social at bars and clubs at that age.)
If we are going to be unified (or just happy), we need to stop separating ourselves from one another by judging each other based on differences. The easiest way to do this is to let go of pride. By letting go of pride, you can more easily accept that it’s okay to have different views and lifestyles than your own. If you’re fit, it’s a lot easier to not hate someone for being fat. If you like to stay at home and read, it’s a lot easier to not isolate yourself from friends or family who prefer to go to bars and clubs. If you like to dress modestly, it’s a lot easier to not judge those who like to dress to show off their skin. By just letting go of pride and accepting the fact that other lifestyles are no worse or better than your own – simply different – then we can let go of hate we didn’t even know we had. We can bond with others more easily and more deeply because we have removed this invisible barrier that we weren’t even aware we had put up.
I used to have a hatred for those very different from me. It used to hate and be disgusted by obese people, girls who wore a lot of makeup and showed off their legs, and anyone who was very promiscuous with many partners. I wouldn’t have even classified myself as a very judgey person (I think most people don’t). I didn’t have any idea why I felt this hate or disgust towards certain people. I finally realized it was because I was proud. I was proud to be [somewhat] thin/fit. I was proud that I didn’t wear makeup. I was proud that I didn’t wear super short shorts or have sex with people I’d just met. I shouldn’t be proud of any of those things. Being proud of those things was leading me to judge and hate others for not being those things.
In order to let go of that silly hate, thus leading me to be a happier person overall, I am letting go of pride. It’s a work in progress. The most important thing to letting go of pride is to not let go of your self-esteem or self-worth. I don’t think I’m any prettier or uglier than girls who wear a lot of make up. I don’t think I’m a better or worse person for watching my weight. I don’t think I’m any smarter or dumber than people who want to spend there night at a bar instead of reading at home. I don’t think I’m any greater or lesser than those with a different skin color or different sex than me. I’m not “proud” to be a woman. I’m not “proud” to be white. I’m not “proud” to be an American. Because as soon as I am proud to be one of these things, I am isolating people that are not one of these things. Don’t get me wrong, I like being a woman, I like being an American, and I like my Irish heritage, but I’m not proud of any of those things. I think that is an important difference to recognize.
What are your thoughts about pride? What aspect about yourself are you proud of? Thinking back, have you realized any time when your pride in that aspect may have isolated someone you’ve seen or been in contact with? Has it ever made it hard to be really close friends with someone or accept someone they way they are?