Monday, August 17, 2015

If you're bored...

...You know what I'm going to say.  I can feel the eye rolls.  But just give me a minute to expound.  For those of you who are not either Angus or Violet and have not heard me spout this one a thousand times here it is:  "If you're bored you're not paying attention."

Life is amazing.  It is easy to remember this when you are somewhere beautiful, like Lime Kilns, right?  But it doesn't cease to be amazing because you are waiting at the doctor's office or the DMV (don't worry, Ang, in three years or so you will understand).  So, if you are bored, it is not the world's fault - nothing out there has changed - the change happened inside your brain.  If you are bored it is that you have stopped looking around, stopped paying attention to your surroundings, stopped being curious.

Just for a moment, let's contemplate life. What is life?  It is everything around us.  It is all the pretty things like flowers, or a lovely sunset, or otters - and stuff we can't see but can feel and stuff we can't even feel but exists anyway.  But it is also people.  Yes, I am advocating people watching.  We are arguably some of the most fascinating creatures on earth and for free, albeit surreptitiously particularly in the doctor's office, you can observe them in their natural habitat.  Looking at stuff, watching people - that is the most obvious cure for boredom.

But wait!  There's more!

Curiosity, like boredom, is cultivated.  It doesn't just happen to you.  I'm sure you know people who in your science classes have acted as if science is the most tedious thing in the world all the while you are fascinated by what you are learning.  It is not because that person's brain is different or that they are experiencing a different moment than you are, but they are experiencing it with with a lack of curiosity, a lack of wonder.  Curiosity is just that - wonder.  "I wonder where that squirrel goes to sleep", "I wonder what an atom looks like if you could see it".  Like that, you wonder about stuff.  The more you do it, the more you want to do it, because your brain is being trained to think about stuff in a different way than that which is being bombarded at you.   It is sort of like driving somewhere and only looking out one window.  You are only going to see what is zipping past your eyeballs and nothing more.  If you wonder what might be on the other side, voila! you have just opened up 100% more to look at!  What you often do you get good at.

But wait! There's more!

There is one more point I want to make about boredom.  That it is an amazing opportunity.  You guys may not fully realize or be able to conceptualize this but when I was a kid, and all the kids before me, there was less to do.  NO video games, no good TV on the weekends and during the day in summers (only adult stuff, soap operas and the Phil Donohue show), no cell phones, or even that many games to play.  And sometimes, if you were on your own or your sibling wouldn't play with you, you'd be at lose ends with nothing to do.  And when you got done looking at stuff in a different way you'd find a spot to sit and let your mind wander.  Usually the wandering was prompted by some question you asked yourself, like "how many ladybugs live in the grass and do they have names."  So you would be faced with a choice, either invent a way to answer these questions, or just let your mind lose, uncontrolled, to wander.

While that may seem as if you are not 'doing' anything in actuality you are doing a whole lot.  Someday the ability to let your mind wander will be invaluable to society.  When robots can do everything we humans will still be the only ones who will be able to imagine.  Letting your mind wander is very healthy too (ooo, yuck, healthy) or maybe I should say relaxing.  It's fun. When your brain has no agenda it is really entertaining if you let it be.  In those mind wandering moments are when the best things in the world that you like the most were started in somebody's brain.  If you only cultivate boredom what you are never going to be able to get to is your imagination.

And, by the way, the imagination are where all the good jokes come from, just sayin'.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Don't (Choose) Worry, Be (Choose) Happy!

I used to be a pinball.

Now I choose to be happy.

Once upon a time, I was at the whim of whatever feelings wafted their way through my heart.  This meant that if someone was mean to me or cut me off on the freeway I'd have a 'bad day'.  If I spent a day with my friends and we had a good time I'd have a 'good day'.  It all depended on how the universe was aligned, how much attention was paid to me or not, what the weather was like... and it was horrible.  I learned way too late in life that this is no way to live.

Until I had you guys.  Then it occurred to me that if I was being a Gloomy Gus too often you might get the impression that this was a viable way to be an adult.  Conversely, if I chose happy, upbeat, optimistic then maybe you would grow up to be such an adult.  Life is just better when you are upbeat, no matter what is going on around you. 

I am not saying this is all that easy.  But I would guess a far sight easier if you start now than when you are well into adulthood.  Misery is a well worn groove and once you get stuck in it, getting out takes tremendous effort.  There is a physiological reason for this - whatever thoughts are running around in your brain, your brain will seek to make true.  So, if you start with a thought "This is going to be a lousy day" your brain will filter out anything that might make the day good and focus instead on things that will make it lousy.  Because your brain wants to be right.  This is where fights come from.  It's really difficult to admit that what you thought was wrong, even to yourself.

I wish that someone had pointed this all out to me, that I made my mind up, that no one else did, and that I got to choose what that looked like.  I had to go searching for that understanding and it took years, which was a bummer because, and here is why being happy is important, you just get way more done when you are happy than when you are down.  And people take advantage of you when you're down.  That is a hard truth we will talk about at some other time, but being down, being depressed, sad - looks like uncertainty and weakness.  And all the predators out there are looking for people just like that. 

Not that happiness is the panacea for all of life's ills, not at all.  But it is a position of strength.  And, frankly, life is just better.  So, every day my loves, decide that you are going to be happy, that life is good, and that you want to be fully in it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Violet

I thought I would start to lay down some things you need to know.  I know, I know, I'm going to live to be 135... but that being so... Anyway, the one advantages of having an old mom is that she knows things, more things than a young and pretty mom.  And I know we talk all the time about all kinds of stuff, but you guys are Digital Natives and maybe someday you'll want something to look back on, to search through for that thing I said once about that thing we were talking about.

So, Happy Birthday! My, now 11 year old, girlie!

Wow, can it be so?  Time does indeed go fast, and life is long, etc. etc.  But what I want to talk about today is you.

Now that you are entering the tween stage there is one most important thing you should know.

Love yourself.

I know this is important because I, myself, have not always loved myself and it has led to some really hard lessons I would rather have avoided.

Protect this love you have for yourself at all costs.  Look, its coming, you and I both know boys will get cuter and cuter and your heart will flutter when you see them, and although a discussion about boys will come some day soon, what is important here and now to know is that you should feel as strongly about your own self as you do about anyone else.  No one on this earth is worth sacrificing your own self worth (including and especially your mother!). 

So, while this may sound esoteric now I just want you to repeat after me, over and over, "I love myself".  This love for self is where all good things in life spring from.  When you make love for yourself the most important thing then somehow every decision you are ever faced with seems clearer.  Not easier, clearer.  There will be hard decisions for sure.  But knowing what is the right thing for you is always easier when you have a healthy portion of self love every day.

And this doesn't mean selfish either. Ironically, the more you love and support your own self and life, the easier it is to give of yourself.

Right now, I know you think you love me more than you love yourself, and I am the most important person in the world to you, but I honestly look forward to the day when you can say YOU are the most important person to you.  And I will cherish the memory of how much you love me now.
And Angus, this goes for you too young man!