Happiness is Overrated – How to Find Contentment

For me happiness comes in twinges — when Brett agrees to watch the Voice with me, when I’m laughing with a friend over a glass of wine, when I witness Codie lick a nursing home lady full in the face.

The first sighting of a robin back from its winter getaway, that moment when reading a novel and you’ve made it through the first 50 pages and suddenly it’s grabbed you, calling you to forget your to-do list and languish in its pages.

But these moments pass.

And in its place worry and uncertainty can creep in.  For we know all too well that life can change in an instant by a phone call jarring you awake in the middle of the night, or a lump discovered one morning where there was none the day before.

So how do we find contentment that supersedes life’s precious highs and inevitable lows?

The good news is that contentment can be learned. The not so good news is that we have to seek it, practice it, and own it.

The apostle Paul said,  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”  Paul turned to God and devoted his life to something bigger than himself.

The Dalai Lama says that contentment comes through the practice of simplicity and meditation.   “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Having a few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation.”

Most thinkers agree that contentment stems from a grateful heart.  And this we can choose to cultivate.

According to the site, Zen Habits,  we can —

“Take a moment to be grateful for something. What in your life is amazing? Even if everything seems to suck, there must be one good thing. It might simply be that you have beauty somewhere nearby, or that you are alive, or that your kids are healthy. Find something, and give thanks for that.”

We can call out the helpless victim within us, the glass-half-empty persona who makes generalizations about an annoying co-worker, a distracted driver, things not going our way.  We can talk back to this persona with a different story – the driver may have just heard from her doctor; the co-worker may be getting a divorce.

We can also adopt a practice that I have personally found helpful.

I write daily thank you cards to God.  I think back to the day before and look for blessings that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.  I did not get caught in traffic.  I arrived safely at my destinations.  I got an email from an old friend.  The grocery clerk and I shared smiles and wine recommendations. I didn’t get that cold that’s going around. Brett watched a rom-com with me.   Pretty soon, I am ready for the day ahead, alert to life’s blessings that are in the making.

Benjamin Franklin said,  “Contentment makes poor men rich;  discontent makes rich men poor.”  Let’s choose to be grateful, to be satisfied,

…to be rich.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Go for a walk without your earbuds.  Instead focus on the emerging buds of springtime, the miracle of winter ending!

-Spend time with a dog, a toddler, a great book that won’t let you go.

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

Riding The Wave

I guess it just means going with the flow!  Or in the words of Nike, “Just do it”

I am a futurizer, always have been.  I don’t know if I made up the word or I like to think of myself as making it up, but it’s me to a tee! 

I think about what life will be like when … it happens.  Part of my futurizing had been “When I’m retired …” Or, “When my children get married, when my children find jobs that they like (I could be waiting a long time for that one!), when I have enough money, when ………….

Human nature is just like that.  It’s hard to just live in the present and I’m not going there.  Promise.  Too much has been written about living in the moment.  I like the “Riding the Wave” imagery because I love water.  I must have been a sea creature in a past life, perhaps, a sea horse (they’re cute!).

I think it says it best. Once you’re on the wave, you don’t have a lot of choices.  You either ride it or you go under!

Maybe, the trick to life is to not think too much about what lies ahead (we know that death is closer for sure so why stress yourself out with those kind of thoughts?)

Of course, we want to be prudent, prepared, plan (PPP) so that we are not caught short in any way.  No will, no directives, not enough cash, not having said the things we want to say to our family, not repaired broken fences, etc.

So today’s post is short and sweet.  Ride the Wave and focus on the now.  It’s here and it’s all we know that is guaranteed.  Tomorrow is not.

Today’s Takeaway…

RIDE THE WAVE!  I’m in Mexico where it’s heating up so that wave looks pretty awesome!

Enjoy the ride.

x0x Barclay & Joy

ocean wave

I guess what this means is just gonPhoto by Simon Clayton on Pexels.com

Loving Yourself – Kicking the comparison habit once and for all!

“Suzy is so attractive.” My mother would remark.

She would then offer helpful suggestions as to how I could be more like poised and perfect Suzy, which we both knew was impossible.  I was a late bloomer who wore a superfluous training bra until the age of 19.

But that didn’t stop me from trying to be like Suzy.

I went on diets featuring grapefruit and popcorn. I tried to get a tan using sun reflectors – which is why I am on a first name basis with my dermatologist.  I even took a Dale Carnegie course to help me “win friends and influence people.”

I also became a comparison junkie.

My current Suzy’s include those who pray out loud more eloquently than I (even though I know God doesn’t care about such matters), those who have a better backhand, those who are more extroverted, better read, friendlier, funnier, braver, better at Suduko.  Etc etc.

Such wasted energy!  It’s time to get my mother’s voice out of my head.  I will never be Suzy and nor should I be.

Psychology Today offers some helpful suggestions to help us drop the comparison habit.

-Know what our triggers are and avoid them.  For instance, we may choose not to read  People magazine or watch Entertainment Tonight, or gaze at Facebook’s vacation  photos.

-Remind ourselves that what we see on the outside may not match what is really happening in people’s lives.  All of us like to project images suitable for social media.

-Use the comparison trap as motivation to improve on what is truly important.  Do we want to be as kind as Marguerite?  As generous as Donna?  As humble as Brett?  Look for those who are honest, fun, giving and emulate the qualities we admire.

The author,  Dr. Susan Biali Haas, ends the article with this —

“Imagine if you could elevate the comparison game to a useful art form. Stop falling prey to its dark underbelly, which does little more than increase feelings of misery and lack in your life. Use comparison, instead, to become a better person and maybe even make your little corner of the world a better place. ”

Great advice, I’d say.  For ALL we have is our little corner.  And the  responsibility to make it better — one constructive comparison at a time.  I may not be as attractive as that Suzy, but I can work on being more generous, kind, and loving.  To try to be better today than I was yesterday.  The only comparison that matters.

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Limit your scrolling through social media, especially if it tends to  trigger that comparison junkie in you.

-Take a walk instead.  Make a gratitude list.  Tidy up your corner.

 

And enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry, Marie Kondo…it’s a MEMORY!

 


close up of pink indoors
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The idea of decluttering your life is a good one in theory.  I get it.  I have saved way too much stuff over the years.

Photos in shoe boxes, albums on bookshelves, schoolwork in bins, projects made out of clay, papier-mache, plaster of Paris, mosaics, and naturally, a host of lanyards.  I am, after all, a Cancer. I can’t bear  to throw things away.

It’s a memory, as one of my daughters would say.  She too is a hoarder and carries receipts from restaurants, cleaners tickets, (not sure how she picks the stuff up!), match book covers, ticket stubs, etc.

My mother couldn’t have been more different.  Muriel was able to go through her UWS apt of 30 years and toss anything and everything in her path of destruction.  I’ve told the story to many people about my mother throwing away her wedding album.  Who does that?!!

My parents moved to Florida (South Florida.  Where else in those days?!) Muriel wanted to make a clean break and only take the clothes she would wear for the next 20 some odd years.  No personal effects, with the exception of some photos.  I couldn’t do this if I had a gun to my head.  I am a mush.  I am sentimental, nostalgic, attached.

MEMORIES.  I understand the concept of letting go of things that don’t bring you joy and Marie Kondo (so adorable!), but I’m not Asian and “austere” is not in my vocabulary.  Ask daughter #1 who has insisted I decorate with clean lines, simple, space, no tchotchkes!  (dust collectors, as my late mother in law would have called them.  She too was a person who could throw out her son’s Lionel train set and have no remorse-probably worth a fortune today!)

Luckily, when we moved from our home of 25 years in Westchester, New York, my husband had the strength and smarts to call the junk luggers when I was at work.  I never saw what they took.  And interestingly, I never missed it either.  So I guess in the end this method has its merits!  I couldn’t have done it myself.  Everything would have had tear stains and I would have a reason to hold onto the bust of Nick Carter, the first Nikes worn by daughter #2 , and a whole host of other precious possessions.

 

So, with apologies to Marie Kondo, let it be known that I may wish to be buried with those Nike shoes from daughter #2, a couple of lanyards from sleep away camp, maybe a few receipts, and of course photos galore!

All of them tear-stained!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Some call it clutter.  I call it Memories.  If a memory gives you joy, then be counter-cultural and hold on to it!

-Just draw the line when your souvenirs need a storage unit of their own. Marie does make a good point or two!

 

Bottom Line —  Enjoy the ride!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

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Do I need 12 pairs of jeans? A Decluttered Life is a Happier Life

Well, there’s the calf length jeans, the ankle pair, the boot legs, the ones with the tears at the knees (so current).  There’s the skinny jeans and the ones you wear when you’re snuggled on the sofa watching the 2 hour Bachelor finale.  Not to mention black jeans, washed jeans, and jeans with different waists.  (Mom jeans are coming back for sure…remember, even Barack was caught wearing them!)

Seriously, though, if your closet is overflowing with work clothes you won’t ever wear again, bikinis that you have no business  wearing, and jackets that were cute in 1975 but STILL have not returned to the runway, then your closet is not adding to your happiness.  It may even be robbing you of joy.

Decluttering expert Kathi Lipp says, “Clutter is a part of life, but when clutter stops your life, that’s when you need to make some changes.”

Ms. Lipp says that clutter is a “physical manifestation of overwhelm in our lives.” And the the root of clutter, she adds, can be traced to fear, guilt, and shame.

Fear What if I need this some day?  GuiltThis was a gift from my mother; how can I discard it?  ShameI spent money on this item and I shouldn’t have and so I will keep it for the rest of my life.  

She cites a fascinating statistic.  In the U.S. there are more storage units than there are McDonalds and Starbucks.  We are drowning in STUFF.  Think of what we Baby Boomers are leaving for our adult children to sort through??  (I rather doubt that Alex will want my comfy jeans…)

 

A few caveats though…

Stuff is not inherently bad.

And a lot depends on your season of life.  With little kids afoot, your house is taken over by Little Tykes toys.  As it should be.

But we Baby Boomers are in a season of paring down.  We know all too well we won’t be taking a darn thing with us at the end of the day.  And in the words of decluttering phenom, Marie Kondo, we should retain only that which sparks JOY.

So even though I’m certain mom jeans will be coming back to fashion (as attested by Barack Obama), I can say thank you and farewell to at least 9 pairs of jeans, leaving me the 3 that spark joy.

Ms. Kondo suggests that we start decluttering with our closets, taking EVERYTHING we own and tossing it ALL on a bed, in full view, where we can begin sorting.

If we are uncertain about a particular item, Ms. Lipp suggests we ask three questions.

 

Do I love it?    Do I use it?    Would I buy it again?

We love our jackets.  But we wear only 3 out of 10.  So bye-bye to padded shoulders and fringy leather.  If we haven’t taken up motorcycling by now, it likely won’t be happening.  And as for disco, it had its 15 minutes of fame.

 

Ms. Lipp’s website has a plan for decluttering FAST.

And Ms. Kondo offers a method that WORKS.  Here is a summary from Good Housekeeping.

6 Principles —

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Finish discarding first. Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy.

And five categories to tackle in order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (a.k.a. Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

 

 

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So,  don those comfy jeans, curl up on your couch, ignore the time-sucking Bachelor, and binge watch Marie Kondo’s viral Netflix show.  Joy awaits.

 

 

And speaking of Joy, my co-blogger will be continuing this topic for Wednesday.   Stay tuned!

 

 

Today’s Takeaway –

-Don’t forget to thank your stuff on its way out.  Those ribbed turtlenecks served you well.

-Do a little bit each day.  Decluttering is a way of life. Savor the process.

 

Enjoy the ride!   And get rid of the storage unit!

xox

Barclay and Joy

 

 

 

Oh My God, I Left My Baby on The Bus!!!!!!

Okay, seriously, I was and still am that person who forgets everything!!!

I like to think it’s because I am distracted easily and have many thoughts going through my brain at the same time. (We brilliant folks do!  It’s a cross we must bare!)  I probably have ADD, though I’ve never been tested, but ask my children or husband and they will say, without a doubt!

Last week I was carrying around my knapsack with me and didn’t realize I had left it somewhere until 2 days later. I was looking for something and remembered I had placed it in the knapsack.  Luckily, I could retrace my steps and fortunately, I didn’t have a wallet or passport inside it, but nevertheless, I had to return sheepishly to the doctor’s office my husband and I had been sitting in 2 days earlier.  The receptionist came out with the knapsack and said, “We didn’t know who it belonged to!”  It didn’t have my identification in it since there was no wallet.  Phew!

It is the worst feeling in the world to lose things.  I should know since I’ve been doing it all my life!

When my 1st child was born, my husband bought me a tee shirt that said “Oh My God, I Left My Baby on The Bus!”  This was amusing, to be sure, but could I actually do that, be so absent minded as to leave a living breathing person on public transportation and not realize it until I got off??!!  Thank God, it never happened.  Maybe, I didn’t take enough buses at the time!!  A story just appeared this morning though in Newsweek with a mom leaving her baby on the plane, so I am in good company!  Check it out!

I was the kid who came home from school without her books so that when it came time to do my homework, OOPS!  One time I left an entire duffel bag and had to explain to my teacher that I couldn’t do my homework because I didn’t have my assignment or my notebook!  Really, JOY!!!  REALLY!!   I guess once forgetful, always forgetful because I have carried this trait throughout life. My mother always said to me, “If your head wasn’t screwed onto your body, you’d forget that too!”  Thanks mom.

The good news is I never did lose the baby, not the 1st one or the 2nd one.  I remember my dog, my husband, and for the most part important things.  Keys, sunglasses, and a shopping bag are a whole different story!

Today’s Takeaway:

. Focus, concentrate, try your level best to be aware of what you are carrying.  If you are like me, (I pray you are not!) know your shortfall and be extra careful when something is in your possession.

. If that’s my worst flaw, so be it.  Learn to laugh off the small stuff.  Material possessions can always be replaced, humans a bit harder!!

 

Enjoy the Ride!

 

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

 

Will You Be My Friend? How to make friends when you’re out of the workforce

Hi.   My name is Joy and I am an extrovert.  (sounds like an AA chapter meeting!)

I wasn’t always.  My daughters find this hard to believe, but I used to be painfully shy.  I hid behind my mother’s apron strings (who wears an apron anymore?!!). I cringed at meeting new people;  my helpful mother went up to strange children on the beach to befriend them for me!!  Soo sad!  Hey, I had issues!

I decided that I didn’t like bashful Joy and I began to model my personality after a distant cousin I had met one Jewish holiday celebration.  What’s the worst thing that can happen? I thought to myself. Someone will not like me. Oh well…

It took a while to get comfortable in my new outgoing skin.  But it turns out, you can change who you are.  (I have told my one shy daughter this many times.  She remains skeptical.)  It’s an act at first, until you get used to this new person and then it becomes who you are.  I am proof positive that it’s achievable and doable.  You have to want it, just like anything else in life!   I like me and I wouldn’t change extroverted me to introverted me ever again.

If you’re not comfortable in this 6th decade of life, change it up.  The new people you meet don’t know the old you!  If nothing else, your epitaph will say, “She was friendly!”

 

Hi.   My name is Barclay and I am an introvert.

In elementary school I was the back-row student who tried to be invisible.

In 4th grade, my mother, like Joy’s, tried to secure a best-friend for me — which was quite humiliating.  (One wonders, did she offer money?)

As an adult student, I dreaded that inevitable first-class practice of going around the room to share your name and occupation and then on occasion, the hideous “something interesting about you.”  My heart would pound with such vigor that I was certain others could hear it.  I was concerned my own name would escape me.  Fainting was a possibility.

And public speaking?  Let’s just say I would sooner endure the stomach flu.

Making friends is not easy for an introvert.  In fact, Joy and I became friends because she approached me.  But opportunities are missed if one shies away from reaching out, at least offering a smile, an overture of friendship.

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Joy is right.  Growth is possible.  Maybe it’s high time we introverts show some vulnerability.  (Red wine is also adviseable.)

The LIFE blog by the Huffington Post offers tips to help us be intentional about making friends.

  • Realize that you want to make friends. And not just “kind of want.” “Kind of” doesn’t make things happen.
  • Think of places where you can find people with similar interests. You can find a potential friend in line at a grocery store or volunteering at the animal shelter.
  • The most important step in starting a new friendship is showing up. Start showing up to those places you came up with.
  • Make sure you factor in enough downtime before and after you get out there.
  • It’s OK if you’re anxious about going to new places and doing new things. It’s ok if you’re shy–it’s very common. But don’t let it control your life.
  • Show up with an open and nonjudgmental mind, with your only expectation being that you will meet people, not that you will make a friend.
  • Realize that for most people, friendships can take a while to form. Don’t push a possible friendship.
  • Be open to others. If someone smiles, smile back. Sometimes that’s the end of the interaction.  Sometimes the smile turns into a conversation, which eventually turns into a friendship. You’ll never know if you don’t smile back.
  • Learn to tolerate small talk. Conversations have to start somewhere, and most of the time it’s with small talk.
  • Don’t take rejection personally. Do you want to be friends with everyone? If you’re an introvert, I’m guessing the answer is a big No. The person you’re talking to may have too many friends as it is. Or, they may be totally disinterested in having any friends. You have no way of knowing, so it’s best not to take it personally.
  • Realize that hard things get easier the more you practice. Don’t give up.

 

Being an introvert is not a detriment. It just means we require downtime and preparation.

And a friend like Joy who isn’t afraid to reach out to us!

 

Today’s Takeaway –

 

  • We are who we are, but we can be who we want to be sometimes!  It just takes practice and practice and practice.
  • Accept those  who are different.  My daughters (Joy speaking) consider themselves introverts and my husband is one.  If everyone were the same, it would be a boring world!
  • So glad I went up to Barclay in that bus shelter. Who would I be writing this blog with if not her!?

 

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy