Life can be stressful. It can and does present challenges. It also brings pleasures and laughter, as well as sadness and tears. Life is an amalgam of all of the emotions and experiences available to us. Some of these experiences we accept with joy, others we want to run from and hide, others just plain aggravate us or bore us 'to death'.
Interesting expression "bored to death". Or how about someone being a "pain in the neck"? Or those people that "drive you crazy"?
We are so used to using and hearing these expressions that we may not even realize what we are really saying. That "pain in the neck" person or job that we keep referring to then translates into those tight aching shoulders, the recurrent headache, or that back pain. The person who "drives you crazy" shows up in the stress and tension in your face and life. Yet, who decides that the person is a "pain in the neck", or "drives you crazy" or that something is "boring us to death"? We do.
We See Things Through Our Perception
I remember as a child standing at the window at my home in Northern Canada during the cold winter days and repeating my "favorite saying" at the time: "It's boring here." Yet in retrospect, I see that it was only boring because I chose to stand at the window bemoaning my fate, rather than choose to do something else. The winter was simply being itself. I was the one who was choosing to have my life be boring by resisting the winter and not looking for ways to enjoy it.
In the same way, the person that we have "branded" a pain in the neck, is only being who they are. Yes, we may disagree with how they think. Yes, they may often be inconsiderate of others. Yes, they may be rude and obnoxious at times. But, we have a choice -- we can decide whether they are a "pain in the neck", or an "unhappy soul". We decide how we will see them. We can understand that they are the fruit (a sour one perhaps) of an unhappy dysfunctional family and thus are taking all their anger and fears out on the people around them. It doesn't make their behavior "right", but it makes our attitude become one of compassion rather than anger and blame.
Life Is About Choices
Our whole life is about choices. We get up in the morning. We choose whether we will be grumpy, quiet, joyful, energetic, etc. You might say you don't have a choice, you are tired all the time. Yet, how do we get tired? Perhaps by staying up late watching TV. Or perhaps we are working two jobs so we can afford yet another new car, new dress, new TV, new and improved whatever. Or perhaps we are tired because we are constantly complaining about our life and the people in it. All the choices we make every moment of the day add up to the way we are living our lives.
If you come to my house you will see that I am not a very "spic and span" housekeeper. That is because of my choices -- in the evening and on the weekends when I am not working, I often choose to relax rather than scrub floors. That is my choice. Other people, on the other hand, choose to have a spotless house, a spotless dog, a spotless life, and then complain about being tired and not having any time for themselves. It is all a choice.
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The most important choice we make every day is whether we'll be happy or disgruntled about the life we live. Whatever we do, we always have that choice. Even the person working for a minimum wage at some fast food place has a choice about whether to enjoy her work and treat customers with a smile and a joyful presentation, or to be grumpy and begrudge every moment spent at the low paying job. While the low paying job is a fact, the attitude we choose is a variable. We can choose to enjoy the moment -- while still looking forward to a "better" day and a better job -- and make the best of what we have at the moment.
Anytime we choose to be bitchy, grumpy, or moody, all we do is make matters worse -- as I did as a moody and bored child in front of the window. The more we say our life is terrible, the more we feel it is terrible, the more we act as if it is terrible, and the more it becomes terrible. The opposite is also true. The more we act as if we enjoy being alive, the more joy there comes into our life, and the more we enjoy being alive.
Focusing On What You Have, or What You Don't Have?
In our society, we seem to have shifted our focus from enjoying what we have, to focusing on what we don't have... and wanting more and more and more. Whether what we want is more "stuff", or more love, or more time, or more joy, or more beauty, or more health, we still are focusing on what we don't have.
Advertising messages encourage us, or should I say push us, in that direction. You "need" and must have that new car, that new vacuum cleaner, that new TV, that new whatever. Whatever it is you have now is passé, out of date, and definitely not as good as the new and improved version. Whatever it is you have now is not good enough and must be replaced by something else that will bring you more joy, more sex, more love, more money, more comfort, more success.
It's always about more... Except that we forget that all this behavior also brings into our lives more stress, more pressure, more debts, more "stuff" to take care of, more "stuff" to worry about.
Maybe it's time to stop wanting more of anything and simply start appreciating what we have. Have you heard the story about the man who bemoaned the fact he had no shoes until he met the man who had no feet? Perhaps we need to start looking at how blessed we are with what we have now. Perhaps we need to realize that we have more than enough, and start looking around at those who have less than enough. Perhaps we need to balance the scales and start giving from our opulence rather than wanting more and more.
Making Thanksgiving a Way of Life
Perhaps on Thanksgiving (and every day of our lives) we can focus on everything that we have, and be grateful and appreciative of what we have. So many people in the world don't have one tenth of what we have. We live in 3- and 4-bedroom houses. Others live ten people to a room. We eat three meals a day and plenty of snacks in between. Others don't have enough to keep their children from starvation. We have closets full and overflowing with clothes we don't wear -- others wear rags.
You might say, you have worked hard for all these things. This is true. But, many of us no longer enjoy our life, because we are so busy keeping up with our bills. Many of us forget to appreciate the sunshine and the birds singing because we are so stressed running from job to market to home. Many of us are so wrapped up in a "successful life" that we forget that personal success resides in inner peace, love for the people around us, and a feeling of security in our heart.
Perhaps as we become more "appreciative beings" instead of "wanting more" beings, we will find the peace and happiness that we have been searching for.
InnerSelf Recommended Book:
Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words
by Peace Pilgrim.
Peace Pilgrim walked and spoke continuously across America from 1953 until her death in 1981. "Walking until given shelter and fasting until given food," she carried a simple yet powerfully enduring message of peace. A few of her friends later gathered her writings and talks into this first-person account of her experiences and beliefs. Peace Pilgrim has become a spiritual classic, with over half a million copies in print in nine languages. Includes news clippings, questions and answers, photographs, index.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com