Let’s Get Happy!

 

I wish I hadn’t run out of time Sunday while giving a lesson on finding joy. There are so many other things I wanted to share, things that could make a definite difference in the happiness or misery a person feels. And all are practical and easy to incorporate into one’s life.

I’ve often said that the combination of religion and psychology has saved my life many times. Plus, there is often an overlap between what psychologists have learned about being happy and what the scriptures say. The former state that there’s a correlation between mental and physical health, and Proverbs 17:22 says pretty much the same thing: “A merry heart does good like a medicine: but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Today there’s a movement in positive psychology that studies health, happiness, well-being, self-esteem, and a host of other issues. Its emphasis on growth and optimism rather than gloom, stagnation, and pessimism offers hope to millions, including you—and me too. Positive psychologists don’t profess to have a panacea for suffering, but they do think it’s possible to experience moments of joy and happiness regardless of the situation.

Sunday we talked about the importance of prayer, faith, hope, scripture study, and “pressing on.” We didn’t, however, talk very much about being grateful. Having an attitude of gratitude is so helpful! I recall a song whose lyrics went something like, “Standing knee-deep in a river and dying of thirst.” On my walk this morning, one of the songs I listened to was “Desperado,” and this line spoke to me: “It seems to me a lot of fine things have been placed upon your table, but you only want the ones that you can’t have.”

Speaking of my morning walk, my husband often kids me about my lack of athletic ability. When I remind him of my marathons and half-marathons (all a combination of jogging and walking), he usually says, “Anybody can walk.” My answer is, “No Dear, they can’t.” But I can, and I’m grateful that my legs, lungs, and heart work together to allow it to happen.

One of the topics of the lesson was that happiness must be earned from day to day. Just like we need to eat and rest to keep our physical selves up and running, we need to do and think certain things to keep our mental selves in good order. There are dozens of suggestions I could offer, but I’m narrowing them down to something all women can identify with: Jewelry.

Yep. That might sound strange, but I purposely wear jewelry that boosts my mood by reminding me of something or someone.

  • I wore pearls Sunday, and you can guess why—the whole sand and oyster and friction process. Just like pearls, we can use the “refiner’s fire” to make us more beautiful and whole.
  • I also wore a Lokai bracelet given to me by one of my daughters-in-law. From the website: “Each lokai is infused with elements from the highest and lowest points on Earth. The bracelet’s white bead carries water from Mt. Everest, and its black bead contains mud from the Dead Sea. These extreme elements are a reminder to the wearer to live a balanced life – staying humble during life’s peaks and hopeful during its lows.”
  • I also wear a CTR ring (Choose the Right) to remind me to make good choices. That includes not being easily offended, being kinder than necessary, refraining from gossiping, and so forth. I mention those behaviors because they’re the ones that give me the biggest challenge.

Oops, I’ve already gone over my 500-word limit. It’s not a WordPress limit, just one I’ve attempted to practice since most people don’t want to read more than that.

Must ask: What are some things you do to stay happy?

Like a Moth to a Flame

Teaching at two of South Carolina’s technical/community lessons taught me lots of lessons and shaped much of my behavior. I learned to multi-task, prioritize, manage stress, work with a variety of different people, and change with the times. Because of the experiences of those decades, I know which battles to fight, how to form alliances, and how to sidestep negative energy. And that was even before stepping into a classroom! I learned those lessons in the hallways, offices, and off-campus when struggling with different issues.

Sometimes I wonder if my experiences honed me or whether it was just a good person/environment fit from Day One. Over the years, I saw many people come and go, and sometimes it was clearly because they didn’t understand the magnitude of the task at hand. I don’t think magnitude is too powerful a word here. As someone near and dear to me recently said, “Teaching is hard.” He was right. It is hard, and it’s not for everyone

For about a dozen years I served as department chair for the social sciences and humanities department, and one fall semester I hired an adjunct faculty member to teach economics. He looked so promising! Poised, confident, and knowledgeable, he appeared to be the part-time teacher sent from above.

All was well for the first week. Monday of the next week, however, he was a no-show.  One little class did him in. All those students (25), all that preparation, so many details like financial aid forms to sign, attendance to keep up with, names to learn, questions to answer. He had misjudged the nature of the work involved, and I truly feel confident in saying that he has never taught in any academic setting again.

I took to the profession like a moth to a flame. Sorry about the cliché (sort of). I had to work like the dickens (oops, another one), but I thoroughly enjoyed most of the experiences I had and the people I met. Most of my co-workers were fine people whose hearts and minds and energy were directed towards helping their students. As in any profession, there were a few who were arrogant and dismissive (to students), but they didn’t last long.

Time to bring this to an end and get on with my day. I’ll have to mull over the person/environment fit a little more. I do think it’s incredibly important in career choice. I also think that the profession and all that it entails continue to hone and shape the person.

I’m not complaining one iota. I am saying that even in “semi-retirement” I still have a hard time relaxing. I still prioritize, multi-task, rub shoulders with fascinating people, and sidestep negative energy whenever possible.

Comments from anyone about teaching or about the person/environment fit and its importance? Any advice or experiences to share about your profession?

 

 

Hospital for Sinners

I’m looking forward to going to church today. Boy, do I need it! Whoever said it was a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints nailed it. I go, not because I’m a Miss Goody Two Shoes, but because I need help remembering and applying all the things I need to do to feel peace…and to live a happy and effective life. There’s often a difference between what He says for us to do and what I actually do, and attending church with like-minded individuals helps me to try a little harder.

He says to love one another. We love those who are most like us, those of a similar social class, religious affiliation, race, and ethnicity. If someone is a Hindu, Jew, or Greek Orthodox, and we are Christians, well, you know what I’m saying. Woe unto those people for being so ill informed and heathen. I seriously do not have a problem with this one, but I have seen it over and over and over again in other Christians. If anyone reading this ever sees me demonstrating (by word or deed) intolerance or prejudice, please call me out on it.

And about that love thing, we often find it easier to love those who love us. If someone ignores us, hurts our feelings, or fails to appreciate us, then that person must have a problem! He or she is therefore unworthy of our love. To take that a step further, some people are so busy loving one another outside of their own homes that they have very little left to offer their own families. I’ve been guilty of this.

He also says to forgive one another. Seventy times seven and all that. But that’s hard to do. In fact, it’s evidently so hard that a member of our bishopric in Camden gave a talk about it last Sunday. Brother Adams reminded us to be humble, meek, and lowly of heart, and among several other scriptures, read Matthew 6: 14-15:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

That’s scary stuff! If we don’t forgive, then neither will He.

And how can anyone who knows anything at all about Christ remember His betrayal in the garden and his words from the cross? “Father forgive them.” If I had been in His position, I definitely would not have been so benevolent. But I’m trying. Just about anyone who knows me has heard me say that the combination of religion and psychology have saved my life (figuratively) many times.

I’m reminded of David A. Bednar’s statement that we choose to be offended. It’s a personal choice. As a person who loves cognitive psychology, I can see the truth in that. For my own mental and emotional health, I choose to turn the other cheek, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and not to take things personally. Not doing so is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die. Crazy, huh? And yet, I’ve been there, done that. It’s no fun.

I’m wondering how many stories there are in the scriptures about love and forgiveness. Christ and his mistreatment and suffering top the list. Then there are the prodigal son, Joseph and his brothers, and Jacob and Esau. And yet, sometimes we look right over these and other stories and think they are for OTHER PEOPLE. As most intro psychology students can tell you, we just don’t see ourselves the way we really are. It’s a protective mechanism.

No rat poison for this gal. I refuse to be offended and plan to look for the good in everyone I meet–and to try to love them in the best way I can. That doesn’t mean taking them in to raise. It means “in the best way I can.”

 

 

Child Brides and Monkey Pox

Last week a couple of good friends and I went to a Women of Vision exhibit at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, and we had a great time.

Wait. It was great, but it was also consciousness-raising and thought-provoking. Although I have a copy of the book by the same name, seeing the enlarged photographs up close and personal was a sobering experience. Reading more about the stories behind the images and hearing the photographers discuss them have haunted me all week.

We saw a child with Monkey pox, a virus caused by eating contaminated meat. In this case, the child had eaten Gambian rat, the only choice in town so to speak. Starve or eat rat? That’s what psychologists call an avoidance/avoidance situation, one in which neither alternative is good.

 My friends and I had just dined at Chicago Dog across the street, a diner with lots of atmosphere and several delicious food choices. Our conflicts were of the approach/approach variety since all options were attractive.

We saw a frail-looking 5-year-old bride posing with her 25-year-old husband and another child bride howling with fear and as she rode with her family to her wedding. We also looked into the eyes of an 11-year-old who had attempted to commit suicide by catching herself on fire rather than succumb to a life of sexual and physical abuse.

 On the way to Charlotte we had talked about gender issues, including the incidence of cohabitation, the elaborate venues of today’s weddings in America, and the quest for romantic love.

We also saw girls in Mumbai standing in front of their cages. They were prostitutes with no education and few choices.

Here in the United States, education is a right and responsibly for all of its citizens…including the females.

After viewing the exhibit, I was a feeling a bit melancholy, not for myself but all of the injustice and unfairness in the world. How and why did I get so lucky?

Something else that niggled me was the oft-quoted reminder that no one gets to heaven without a belief in Christ. And yet I was 99.9 percent sure that none of the above people had heard of Him. Did the child in the Congo with Monkeypox go to hell? And what about his mother who sat weeping beside his bed day after day, week after week?

 I could not/will not believe that something so unfair can happen.

A couple of days later, I read a Face Book comment by one of my nephews that sent me to Mere Christianity, one of C.S. Lewis’s most profound and popular books. Although I had read it many times (especially some chapters), on this day I opened the book right to the following sentence:

But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangement about the other people are.

It’s not that Lewis knows the answer to all mysteries, but he’s certainly further along the path of understanding than I. For the moment, I feel better about the child brides, the Monkey pox victims, the starving children, and the prostitutes. God has not told us about His arrangements.

Have you ever had similar thoughts and feelings? How did you deal with them? 

The Band at Warbird Park

You should have seen me and the other walkers and joggers at the back of the pack as we exited what used to be the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base last Saturday morning. We were juking and jiving to the sounds of “Kansas City” that came from a band set up at Warbird Park. One of the advantages of being in the rear is that since you don’t have to worry about time, you can relax and enjoy the journey. I’d be willing to bet that many of the speedsters ahead of us didn’t even notice the band, much less let it affect their pace.

This is absolutely my last post about Saturday’s half-marathon in Myrtle Beach. If I had allowed my qualms about finishing get to me, I never would have experienced that sight or those sounds. Those guys were really into their music!

For some reason, I always get anxious and uptight before any kind of event such as this one. Tossing and turning, I often move from one bed to another, sometimes ending up on a couch. Friday night and the wee hours of Saturday morning were no exception. Desperate for a few hours of shut-eye, I even succumbed to biting off half of a Tylenol PM.

At some point during the night, I decided that I just wasn’t going to do it. Nope. That was all there was to it. I could not and would not embarrass myself by going out and walking 13.1 miles on such a sleep deficit. When it began to rain, that cemented the deal. I finally dozed off, and when I awoke at 4:30 a.m., my first thought was, “Let’s do this thing!”

Because of that decision I saw and heard and experienced things that I’d have missed otherwise.  Here are a few of them:

  • The excitement and energy of the crowd as we stood in the rain under the streetlights on Bob Grissom Parkway near Broadway at the Beach. It was especially cool to share some of those moments with one of my brothers.
  • A man running barefoot. Ouch.
  • A woman dressed in yellow from head to toe including her yellow headdress that was supposed to represent the sun.
  • The man in the orange t-shirt that I used to pace myself. Although I passed him from time to time, he proved to be my nemesis and crossed the finish line several minutes before I did.
  • The man holding the American flag aloft as he ran.
  • The man holding up his left hand in a gesture of peace.
  • More colorful and zany outfits than I have time to describe.
  • The strong headwind that just about did us in.
  • The sun coming up over the ocean.
  • The light in the steeple at First Baptist Church
  • The woman from Delaware that I crossed the finish line with. She had left 60 inches of snow the day before to travel to SC.
  • The experience of Facetiming with my son and his daughter as I strolled down Ocean Boulevard.
  • The enthusiastic cheers of Coastal Carolina students who offered water and Gatorade.

I’m glad I got out there and made some good memories. If anyone out there in Blogland has some half marathon or marathon memories to share, I’d sure like to hear them. Mike? Elaine?

Along the Waccamaw

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We were sitting in the Trestle enjoying lunch when my husband called. Although I rarely take calls while in the company of others, especially during a meal, I decided to answer this one. I figured it must have been important since I’d already talked to him once that day.

He has the  “find my phone” app and knows where I am 24/7.

“Hey! I see you’re already on the way home.”

“No, I’m in Conway having lunch with Carrie and the California crowd,” I said as I smiled at Emma who was devouring her chicken strips with great gusto.

“Oh.” And then after a pause, “Well, are you leaving from there?”

“No, I actually have to go back to the beach before I leave.”

“That’s crazy! Why are you doing that?”

“Because there are 11 of us, and we couldn’t all fit in one car.  I’m a driver today and have been pointing out some of the sights of the area to Rich’s mom and sisters.”

“Well, when are you leaving Conway? Right after lunch?”

I was beginning to get un poco annoyed. It was hard to explain the desire/need  to spend every possible moment with the people around the table to someone who lives within a 30 mile radius of everyone he loves.  “Uh, well, we’re doing the whole River Walk thing first.”

Silence. Then, “Let me know when you leave.”

I promised to be home by dark and hung up the phone just as Brook asked if I’d share my sour dough bread with her. The Trestle in Conway has the best sour dough bread in SC, and Brooke, my 8-year-old granddaughter, apparently felt the same way.

We laughed and talked and had several photo ops. I bought a huge piece of chocolate pound cake to share with everyone, but my plans came to naught since 4-year-old Colton apparently thought I had bought it especially for him. After getting impatient with sharing the fork, he dug into it with his tiny fingers and pushed a savory bite into his mouth.

When we got down to the last bite, I offered to split it and share it with him. Keep in mind that I had only enjoyed two measly bites.

“Okay,” he said. “But how about I get the big bite?”

Bills paid and tips left, we took off for a stroll along the River Walk, and what a great time was had by all.  With temperatures in the low 70’s and the sun shining down through the majestic trees, the weather was beautiful. Old Man River just kept on gliding along, and we felt ourselves relaxing to its rhythms. Boats and at least one kayak slid by on the calm surface of the Waccamaw, and dozens of people sat on benches or sauntered along taking in the beauty of the scene. It didn’t take much imagination to think that this could have been an October afternoon in 1713 instead of 2013.

While the need to head for home and responsibilities nagged at my consciousness, I refused to succumb to “duty demands” and was determined to relish every moment of the afternoon. The children picked flowers for Aunt Heidi’s hair, and she was a good sport about it. Later I noticed three of the little ones surrounding Heather on a bench overlooking the Waccamaw. They were caught up in conversation with her, and I loved seeing the interaction between them. Glancing at the scene, I noticed for the first time just how much Brooke looked like her aunts, her father’s twin sisters.

There are many scenes tucked away in my memory bank from that special afternoon, too many to recount. Still, I’m listing one from each of the people I shared the hours with.

  • Carrie snapping pictures right and left. At one point, Colton jumped on her as she squatted down to capture just the perfect picture of Seth. Seth decided to get in on the fun, and it was fun to see her immobilized by the two tiny people.
  • Emma picking up acorns and placing them in strategic places for the squirrels to find.
  • Colton picking up what he perceived to be a unique rock and asking me to hold it for him. (I still have it)
  • Braden gleefully fun photo bombing his aunts’ pictures.
  • Seth sleeping peacefully throughout the hustle and bustle around him throughout lunch.
  • The interaction between my grandchildren and their California grandmother and aunts. Love abounded, and it touched my heart.

It was an awesome afternoon with lots of laughter and special moments. Maybe someone else who was there beside the Waccamaw that day will chime in with a memory. Or maybe someone out there in Cyberspace will share a memory of a time when he or she snatched a few hours from the daily round to make some memories.

Rainy Day Thoughts

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Years and years and years ago, my brother Mike and I went for a walk around the block in the rain. Why we decided to do such a thing, I don’t know. Neither of us were particularly into fitness in those days, mainly because we were young and thin and healthy. Our mother was a stickler for the major food groups. We never even tasted pizza until we were in high school, not because our parents didn’t approve of it but rather because there were no places to buy it in Camden until the 1960s.

But I digress. Yesterday morning I put on a hat, opened my bright orange IKEA umbrella, and headed out the front door for a walk in the rain. “Enough is enough,” I thought. “I’m not going to be held captive indoors by this rainy weather another moment.” Undaunted by the steady drizzle, out I went for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. It was delightful! With temps in the 60’s, the plunk-plunk of water splashing into puddles, and the cool rain hitting my calves, I was glad that I had decided to brave the elements.

Here’s what I noticed right away, the circles in the puddles. Puddles were everywhere, and the steady dripping of rain made some interesting circular designs. Some circles were big and some were small, and just about every single one of them overlapped or intersected with another, sometimes several others. Plus, ALL of them rippled out into ever widening concentric circles.

The puddle patterns made me think of my brother and our walk that day decades ago and of our parents and their love and care for us (not just the two of us, but all four children). All six of our lives intersected and overlapped, then and now. Today even the grandchildren and great grandchildren are affected by that original family of six and the experiences, choices, and interaction that we all had. Plus, none of the family members live a cloistered life. All are involved, even the young ones, in some type of work, church, play, or community activity, thus giving them the opportunity to intersect with even more lives.

Here is my point (at last). The choices we make and the things we do have a ripple effect, and some of them affect others with whom our lives are entwined and connected. Right now I’m getting ready to go on another walk around the neighborhood. Like Mike said, “I keep moving so I can keep moving.” I know exactly what he’s talking about. After my walk, I’ll get gussied up (sort of) for church. I know for a fact about the ripple effects of that experience. If I didn’t go, well, we don’t even want to think about how beastly I might feel and act.

I could go a lot deeper into the above, but if I do, then I’ll lose the time for walking and worshipping. Can’t do that. The ripple effects of exercise are far reaching. Plus, the interlacing of lives, just like puddles, will be made more pleasant for my family and friends after I spend a couple of hours in church.

What about you? What are some ripple effects of your actions? How are some ways that your life and the decisions you make affect others?