Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Act Like a Grown Up

Relationships Require Work

Handling Issues in a Mature Manner

Act Like a Grown Up
As I have said in earlier posts such as, Release Your Inner-Child and Child-Like Enthusiasm, I am most definitely an advocate of catering to the needs of your inner-child and behaving in a childish manner for the sake of fun. However, sometimes situations demand us to act like grown ups and behave in a mature manner. This past week has shown me that I can't always rely on the adult within me to handle issues appropriately, specifically with respect to a number of relationships in my life. For me, building connections has always been the easy part of relationships. It is the sustaining aspect that proves to be quite difficult. No matter the type of relationship- boyfriend, sibling, best friend, therapist- issues will always arise. Sometimes these issues are as mild as a simple disagreement or a miscommunication. However, often these problems come in the form of dramatic, blow out arguments. These complex and often personal issues test us as well as the relationship itself. 
Good relationships demand a level of maturity-
Are we willing to put forth the great amount of work required to mend the relationship? Are we able to handle issues in a mature manner in order to move forward with the relationship? Can we act like a grown up and face the problem head on or is it easier to just give up on the relationship and walk away?

"It isn't sufficient just to want- you've got to ask yourself what are you going to do to get the things you want."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I think that Roosevelt's words are perfect in answering the series of questions that I posed.
Friendships Require Work
Our willingness to work for relationships and resolve issues in a mature manner is truly dependent upon what we want. Our decision of whether or not to act like a grown up when grappling with the task of sustaining a relationship is directly connected to the amount that we value it. We deem some relationships less significant or important than others and often come to the conclusion that they are not worth the amount of work required in order to maintain them. In these cases we may let a small disagreement break apart the relationship because we just don't "want" it enough. We don't care to work in order to continue the friendship nor do we desire to display the effort that is needed when handling issues in a mature

manner. Instead, we choose to let the friendship go, and we move forward with our lives, feeling relatively unscathed. While we may have many relationships that we are not too afraid of losing, we also having a number of relationships that we ascribe value. These important relationships can come in the form of a best friend, a spouse, a sister, an aunt, etc. The relationship title is not what matters in this scenario. What is significant is the amount of care that we have for the relationship and the other person involved. These connections are what we "want" and wish to maintain and protect. But as Roosevelt says, it is not enough to simply want; we need to come up with a plan in order to achieve or obtain what it is that we desire. I feel that this quote can be applied to the want we feel with respect to sustaining our valuable personal relationships.
This past week it was necessary for me to figure out what it was that I needed to do in order to protect two separate relationships, both of which I regard as important to both me as well as my life. My life circumstances have changed the way I think about friendship, and has forced me to reconstruct my view of best friends or close friends. I have about five, maybe six, friends who I refer to as my best friends. They range in age from 17-40 and they live all over North America, from Montreal to Los Angeles to New Jersey. I don't get to see most of them a lot of the time. We can go over a year without seeing one another, but, that doesn't change the fact that we are good friends. Time and distance does not matter when you truly connect to and love a person. Time and distance may not threaten our friendships but other factors can. Last weekend my best friend from New York was supposed to visit me in Philadelphia. We hadn't seen each other in 8 months and I could not wait for her to arrive. I prepared everything with pain staking attention- cleaning my apartment, stocking my refrigerator with wine and diet soda, stashing a bottle of Grey Goose in the freezer, and carefully
"I prepared everything..."
wrapping a number of little gifts for her to open upon her arrival. However her arrival date continued to get postponed for a variety of reasons, none of which were my fault. The final straw came when she chose to stay in the city and party instead of boarding the bus to come and visit me. I was absolutely heart broken and angry. Maybe it would have been easier or even wiser for me to simply say forget it and toss the friendship away. But, I couldn't do that. Throwing away the relationship would not have been the
mature way to handle the issue. Not to mention that I didn't want to lose the friendship, because despite the disappointment and anger that I felt, I still loved and cared about her. This is one of those special and valuable relationships. This is a friendship that I want. So, after collecting myself and gathering my thoughts, I needed to decide what I had to do in order to sustain the friendship i.e. "get what I want." My friend did ultimately arrive that following Monday, and although I was beyond ecstatic to see her, I knew that I needed to act like a grown up and address what had transpired in a mature manner. 
Time to handle the issue in a mature manner-
It wasn't an easy or fun conversation for either one of us. It would have been nice to be able to set it aside and just forget, avoiding any potential discomfort or tension that could result from the discussion. But real relationships require work, even though it is not enjoyable, in order to sustain and substantiate them. Although the conversation was not pleasant, it was necessary to have so that we could move forward and feel as if we were both understood. Needless to say, after our discussion we ended up having a wildly fabulous time together, as we always do. The work that we put into the friendship has strengthened it and will hopefully prevent similar issues from arising in the future.
"...I ended up having a blow out fight..."
Later that week I ended up having a blow out fight with a second of my dear friends. (This was a very odd week for me considering I rarely find myself in altercations with my friends.) Our outrageous and alcohol fueled argument resulted in hurtful words on both our halves and I ended up kicking my friend out of my apartment in the middle of the night. All in all it was a tumultuous evening and I found myself wondering if the situation could ever be truly remedied. We were both angry, hurt, frustrated, vulnerable, and sad. I was truly irritated and outraged because I had felt that my apartment, my safe space, my home, had been violated or tainted. My usually calm and peaceful space had been filled with negative and harmful energy. Even my own demeanor and behavior were unrecognizable to me. How could I forgive this person who hurt me and damaged my sense of safety in such a significant way? I awoke the next morning to a series of texts from my friend and I decided that I owed it to both of us to act like a grown up and at least try to work through the problems that we had been encountering. I spend a great deal of time with this friend and we have become exceptionally close in a very short period of time. She stays at my apartment nearly five days a week and I have become accustomed to talking, relaxing, eating, and going out with her. We have a deep level of trust and understanding. It would not have been fair to either one of us for me to simply write her off after this crazy fight. We both still wanted the friendship, but we needed to figure out "what [we] [were] going to do" in order to sustain
"What are [we] going to do?"
it. It was evident that we were both very willing to do the work that is required in order to maintain relationships. The concern was: could we manage to handle the issue in a mature manner and calmly and honestly discuss the problems at hand? We chose to meet for coffee (a very grown up behavior if I do say so myself) in order to talk about the argument, what prompted it, what we need to do moving forward in order to prevent future blow outs, and offer each other apologies. After our conversation I had no concerns regarding the status of our close friendship. We may hit more bumps along the way, but I am confident that we will be able to handle any issues maturely, and that we will continue to be good friends for the remainder of our lives. (As we always say, we will be adults together, sitting by the pool, drinking margaritas, and watching our kids play.)

A lot goes into our decision when we deem a relationship significant and/or valuable. Many elements relate to the other person such as, loyalty, kindness, honesty, generosity, fun, etc. Some aspects have more to do with the way the other person makes us feel. For example my friend from New York makes me feel that I am worth being loved. She helps me see that not only can I have fun but that I can be fun. But a lot of the factors that build the foundation of an important personal relationship are not about the individuals separately, but rather the individuals together, the relationship itself. For example my relationship with the second friend that I mentioned is open and honest, completely mutual, and fair. 
When we ascribe value to a relationship we are making a choice that this connection is something that we want. Like anything else in life that we want, maintaining meaningful relationships requires work, and demands that we plot a course in order to achieve our desired ends. When it comes to sustaining friendships the course is never easy nor is it ever the same. Each friend that we have is unique and subsequently the steps required for holding on to each friendship will be unique as well. However, I believe that there is a general rule to applied when working to maintain, protect, and salvage relationships: Act like a grown up. So you are probably wondering what exactly I mean by this? The following is a list of what I believe to be a few (but definitely not all) of the necessary actions involved when striving to behave as a mature adult in a relationship.

    Sometimes you don't have a choice-
  • Be honest about your feelings. A true friend will listen and try to understand your point of view. Holding back will only lead to hurt feelings and unintentional damage.
  • Listen to the other person. When I say listen I mean really listen. Don't just sit there while the other person is talking while your brain zooms off into outer space. Good friends give the other person in the friendship the opportunity to use their voice and share. A great friend actually listens to their words and responds thoughtfully and appropriately.
  • Give and receive. Relationships must be mutual in order for them to be successful. One-sided relationships usually lead to the giver feeling resentful and occasionally leaves the receiver feeling either guilty or overwhelmed. All relationships involve a give and take. If you find yourself constantly giving (as I often do) then maybe it is time to lay off for a bit and give your friend the opportunity to be the giver.
  • Fight fair. This is a concept that my Mother always tried to force upon during my childhood. So what exactly is fighting fairly? Well I think my Mother was trying to tell me that when we are engaged in an argument or disagreement we should not rely on nasty statements or cruel jabs in order to bring the other person down. Calling someone fat or a bitch may make you feel good in the moment, because you have successfully hurt the other person, but you will probably regret name calling of this sort later on. Additionally fighting fairly allows you to get down to the real problems at hand. It is constructive because it moves the relationship in a forward direction. You may be fighting but you are not wasting breath on words that hold no real value. Instead you can argue about what is actually bothering you, rather fighting over/in gibberish.
  • Face issues as they come. I think that this may be the most importantly guideline when it comes to friendships. Too many relationships dissolve because of grudges or because those involved chose to stew instead of addressing a problem in the moment. If we fail to face problems at the moment that they arise they tend to get thrown into a large pile of already existing issues. At some point the pile will get too large and everything will spill out. A bunch of little things suddenly become one massive thing and can result in the demise of a relationship. Don't let little things slide all the time. If something is bothering you than let your friend know in the moment. Doing so will prevent an emotional explosion later on down the road and could possibly save your friendship.

Can't help but indulge my inner-child !
Ok, so I have spent this entry advising you to act like a grown up and to be mature. I may sound like a complete hypocrite because I so frequently condone indulging your inner-child and even urge you to not take life so seriously, as I did in my recent post, Have Time for a Quicky? For fear of confusion and/or seeming inconsistent, I do want to assert that I believe a great deal of things and situations in our lives can be approached in a light-hearted way. I will still laugh at occurrences that others don't find funny. I will continue to poke fun at situations when others seem to be behaving overly staunch. And I will always buy Hello Kitty stickers when I see them in order to appease my inner-child. But I know that certain situations in my life require a level of maturity. When it comes to friendship, I take it very seriously. My friends are my family and my passion. They nourish my mind and my soul. My closest friends are the recipients of my strongest degree of love. For these reasons I have forced myself to weigh the pros and cons of choosing to act like a grown up. It seems to me that the only way to maintain a strong and true bond (despite time, age gaps, distance, socioeconomic status, etc.) with a good friend is to approach the relationship with a level of maturity. Yes, it is very hard for me to tell my inner-child to go away and let the adult in me reign supreme; but, I know that this is the only way that I will be able to sustain the friendships that I have created, and in my mind my dearest friends are worth that and so much more.

Hold your friends close (even when they are far away),

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Have Time for a Quicky?

Keeping it Short...

Levity and Brevity

Before I begin I want to apologize for my extreme neglect to my blog recently. These past few weeks have just been absolutely crazy in terms of work and even now I don't have that much time to write. Composing an entry can take me up to 2-3 hours and for this reason I have decided to really try and keep it short today. I also am considering attempting to write briefer entries because of a suggestion I recently received. My mother brought to my attention that not only does it take me a long amount of time to write my entries but to read one in its entirety demands a lot of time on the part of my readers. With these thoughts in mind I am going to work toward sticking to my goal of brevity. However, brevity and time are not the only things inspiring me to write today. Recently I have had some negative encounters with others because of the level of levity I take when thinking about and discussing my eating disorder. Of course I understand that anorexia nervosa is a serious and a potentially fatal illness (I have had over a decade of experience with it so it would be nearly impossible for me to not know these facts). But, my experience has also taught me that taking it too seriously and thinking about its risks all the time will only lead me down a road of hopelessness and depression. Similarly, working hard to actively fight it everyday- challenging eating disordered thoughts, drinking supplements and eating things I don't want, and gaining weight- will only cause me to be upset and unhappy. 
My approach may be off putting for some and even challenged by many (as I have learned recently via critical correspondence with friends and acquaintances) but quite frankly, it works for me and that's all that really matters. I may not be a "healthy" weight and I definitely don't eat as much as I should, but all in all, I am relatively happy and at the end of the day happiness is all I am seeking. I don't dwell on my illness and the negative impacts it has had on my life. It has caused too much sadness and pain in my past. Why would I want to think about and relive that agony on a daily basis? Likewise, choosing to actively fight in the hopes of achieving "recovery" (whatever that means...it seems that no one can really agree on a definition) is not one of my top priorities. I'd much rather go about my life, enjoying what I have now, and having fun, than putting forth intensive effort toward something I am not sure I really want. We all have challenges, sadness, and painful situations and experiences in our lives. Some of these situations are chronic- anorexia nervosa, diabetes, death of a loved one. These things are with us all of the time and have the potential to affect us every moment of every day. They can be all consuming and prevent us from living the lives we want. My approach to dealing with my chronic illness is by making light of and adding levity to the situation, because if I didn't I would be trapped in cage of misery and helplessness. Some people may think that incorporating levity is inappropriate and I will admit that sometimes it is (such as at the funeral of a loved one who just passed away.) But in general I believe that adding some humor to otherwise depressing circumstance is often the only way to cope and continue living your life.

"Life is too important to be taken seriously!"

- Oscar Wilde

I absolutely love this quote by Oscar Wilde. (In fact it is hanging on my refrigerator in my apartment.) Life is of the utmost importance because we only get one. It is our job to make the most of it for our own sakes. Of course some things in life do need to be taken seriously- work, paying bills, school, etc. But, in truth, so many of us opt to approach things in a serious way when in reality they don't need to be taken so "seriously."
This is my opinion about my illness. Yes, I am underweight. Yes, for all intensive purposes I restrict on a daily basis. And yes, ultimately I will need to change my ways if I hope to get married, have children, and live a long and prosperous life. But for the time being I don't find a need to think about my eating disorder in a serious manner. I am not in an acute medical state. I am not unable to fulfill obligations and perform my daily tasks. And I am not distraught or bothered by the way I am living my life right now. These reasons allow me to engage in levity when thinking and talking about my eating disorder.
 But perhaps more importantly, this levity helps me to cope with the reality of it, enables me to move forward with my life, and be happy! No matter the difficult situation- illness, arguments, loss- levity can act as a fabulous tool for dealing with hardship on a daily basis. Dwelling on it and taking it so seriously often makes the difficulty harder to deal with and manage. I hope you can take my approach, and add a degree of levity to your life, especially when facing upsetting or painful circumstances. I think you'll find that once you stop looking at the issues in an intense light that you will be able to better enjoy the important thing that we call life!

Don't worry be happy,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Do Not Disturb

It's Time for Bed

A Soothing Evening Affirmation

I have not posted an evening affirmation for quite a while. However, after a few tumultuous days, I am finding the need for a soothing affirmation in order to prepare myself for bed this evening. Today started off pretty well, I made it to my class and was able to complete a decent amount of work, but I soon found myself overwhelmed by unpleasant feelings and dark thoughts. The darkness of the night sky is seeming to only serve as a means of intensifying the gloom that overtook me earlier in the day. I am longing for something to alleviate these mental and emotional disturbances. I wish that telling my mind that it's time for bed was as simple as placing a do not disturb sign on the door knob of a hotel room; unfortunately, this is not the case. We need to work a little harder in order to notify our minds and bodies that it's time for bed.
I am hoping that the following soothing evening affirmation will serve the same purpose as the handy do not disturb signs that are provided to guests at hotels.

I soothe my nerves, welcoming peace into my being, by releasing all mental tensions.

"...welcoming peace into my being..."
This evening affirmation is the perfect fit for me this evening as my mind continues to twist and turn. If I am successful in embodying this affirmation than I have the ability to find peace and quiet by releasing the disturbing and painful thoughts and emotions that have been haunting me recently. I pray for the strength to let go of any tension that may disturb my ability to find peace, soothe myself, and prepare for bed. 
We all experience thoughts, situations, and feelings that can interfere with our ability to release mental tension. These things do not obey a do not disturb sign that we may hang on our hotel door. It is up to us to create a message to our mind that tells it that it's time for bed and that it is no longer permitted to disturb us with painful memories, upsetting thoughts, or negative emotions. Let us use this soothing affirmation in order to give notice to our minds and bodies that it's time for bed and we no longer entertain thoughts and emotions that prevent us from achieving a sense of peace. 
Let us repeat this affirmation like a mantra until we can fully absorb it. As I say these words aloud I envision my nerves slowly releasing any tension that has built up over the course of the day. I watch disturbing mental images and thoughts float away into the infinite beyond. 
"I look at peace, imaging it taking shape in the form of a white tulip..."
I look at peace, imagining it taking shape in the form of a white tulip, and it sits by my side, watching over me as I slowly enter the blissful dream land that sleep affords us. The white, purity of peace enters my mind and soul, and I manage to put aside the anger, frustration, and tension that has grown within me over the course of the last few days. I will continue to repeat this affirmation until I feel the full effects of its soothing powers. I encourage you to do the same. If we manage to absorb these words, and alert our minds that they are not to disturb us as we strive to achieve a peaceful sleep, than we will be able to awake tomorrow feeling truly rested and refreshed. 

It's time for bed, so goodnight friends, sleep well-

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Carry-On Luggage

Hooked on Happiness

Sustaining Good Feelings During Our Everyday Lives

"I wanted...to pack [the good feelings] in my carry-on luggage..."
I am back from vacation and currently sitting in the Saxbys on Penn's campus. The break proved to be exactly what I needed in order to be refueled and revived. I am bursting with good feelings that are stemming from the wonderful trip that I was able to take with my Mom. As I left the Cayman Islands I found that I had gained more than just a kick ass tan. I was departing with new feelings- calm, relaxed, hopeful, contented, energized, and happy. I was enjoying these feelings so much; I was truly hooked. I wanted to be able to bottle them up (in a 3.4 oz container of course) and somehow manage to pack them in my carry-on luggage and bring them back to Philadelphia with me. Of course I knew that was an impossibility because feelings and emotions are not tangible items that we can put away and store for later.
Hooked on Happiness
But still, I am so hooked on happiness that I need to figure out a way to sustain these good feelings so that they are able to positive influence me and my everyday life. After experiencing something pleasant- vacations, a good date, receiving praise, a reunion with an old friend- we are left with good feelings and happiness. But so often we fear the end of the happy event because we are concerned that once it is over- the trips ends, you have your goodnight kiss, your friend says farewell- that good feelings will cease to exist as well. Seeking and enjoying pleasantries is important; but it is probably more important that we learn a means of sustaining the resulting good feelings. 

Not all pleasures will make us jump for joy-
"Tranquil pleasures last the longest; we are not fitted to bear the burden of great joys."

- Christian Nestell Bovee

I chose to include Bovee's quote because I feel that it provides an explanation for why these moments, which bring us such overwhelming delight, must end. We are not meant to be overjoyed in all instances of our lives. If every moment or experience was a "great joy" they would start to lost their worth and meaning. It is the fact that these "great joys" are scarce that makes them so special and pleasurable. Perhaps it is the ability to maintain the good feelings, which accompany these moments of elation that allow us to achieve the longer lasting "tranquil pleasures."The "great joys" get us hooked on happiness.
It is this love of happiness and joy that leads us to pursue means of sustaining good feelings even during the monotony of our everyday lives. Just because happy experiences or "great joys" end does not mean that the positive emotions that they induce need to be fleeting. We can manage to hold on to these feelings- contentment, peace, happiness, etc.- so that they play a role in our everyday lives and provide us with the less demanding "tranquil pleasures." Although I was unable to literally pack up my positive emotions, tucking them away in my carry-on luggage somewhere between my dirty socks and the souvenir candle I purchased for a friend, I do believe that I have managed to bring these good feelings with me back to Philadelphia and as a result am continuing to experience the "pleasure" of which Bovee speaks. 
Sustaining Good Feelings
So, the question is: How is that I managed to metaphorically pack up my intangible emotions? Truthfully, I am not sure that I can offer an honest answer to this question because bring these good feelings back with me was truly an unconscious act. All I know is that they are here with me now. But I worry that once school gets back in full swing that I will somehow lose them while walking from one class to another. 
"It was easy to...maintain my good feelings...on vacation."
It was easy to experience and maintain my good feelings while I was away on vacation. I had no obligations. My only duty was to wake up in the morning, head to the beach, soak up the sun, read for pleasure, and drink margaritas. So obviously there was no concern that my happiness would cease because there was no outside force threatening it. Now that I am home and have somehow managed to bring these pleasant feelings along with me I am terrified of losing them. 
How can I continue feeling good?
How can we manage to sustain good feelings during our everyday lives, despite the many elements that could interfere with our abilities to do so? I would like us to consider two quotes as means of grappling with this question and potentially finding an answer to it. 

"Only one thing has to change for us to know happiness in our lives: where we focus our attention."

- Greg Anderson

This quote seems fitting with respect to the way in which I have managed to sustain the good feelings I experienced during my vacation. Of course Anderson's words could accompany a plethora of themes and notions; they can be applied to other situations in which we find ourselves. However, the idea of "focus" and its connection to "happiness in our lives" struck me. This thought can be applied in two ways. First, we can utilize focus in our everyday lives, especially in a moment of sadness of anguish, by remembering the things from our previous experiences that brought us happiness. 
"...the sunshine...always [brought] a smile to my face."
For example, the sunshine and the beautiful beach in Grand Cayman filled me with joy, always bringing a smile to my face. If I can hold onto these images, and choose to focus on them in mundane or unpleasant times, then I can elicit the sense of happiness that they provided me with while I was on vacation. I may not be on the beach, soaking up the sun, but I still have the memories and distinct images of the sun and sand ingrained in my mind. I can't physically find them as walk the streets of Philadelphia, but they exist within my head. I can tap into these mental pictures, focus on them, and allow them to bring me happiness and good feelings wherever I am. The second way in which we can apply Anderson's "focus" theory actually works well in conjunction with the following quote-

"Some pursue happiness, others create it."

- Author Unknown

Anderson suggests that we redirect our "attention" in order to have "happiness in our lives." I want to assert that we "focus" on the elements of our pleasant experiences that brought about good feelings within us. I was able to find happiness in a number of sources while I was away. I found joy in being able to read for pleasure. I loved having the opportunity to spend time with my Mother without any stressors or distractions. I had fun sitting in the hotel lobby or on the beach playing endless rounds of 500 Rummy. I couldn't help but feel pleased each time I took my first sip of a frozen peach margarita. And it was nice to take the time to get dressed up and go out to dinner. 
"...endless round of 500 Rummy."
Now that I have given "focus" to, and in doing so recognized, the different things and activities that brought me happiness while I was away, I can work to recreate them in my everyday life now that I am home. I may not be able to magically create 80 degree weather and white beaches, but I definitely have the power to incorporate some of the other aspects of my vacation into my routine. 
I certainly can't recreate this-
This is where Anderson's idea of "focus" and the above quotes assertion about "creat[ing] [happiness] are able to work together. Redirecting the "focus" of my "attention" helped me to determine what is was about vacation that evoked good feelings within me. Now I am equipped to "create [happiness]" in my everyday life by integrating these practices from my vacation. 
"I can plan activities to do with my Mom..."
I can easily make time to pick up a book and read a little bit each day. I can plan activities to do with my Mom that allow us to escape the pressures of reality, even if only for a short period. And I can arrange to have nice dinners with friends and family that require us to get dolled up. It is so simple for me to recreate these elements of my vacation even though I am now back in Philadelphia; it is all about choosing to take the time and effort that's required to incorporate these little things into my everyday life. If we are able to identify actions that bring us joy and are feasible to include into our routines then we have the capability of literally creating happiness for ourselves. Just because the "great joy" has passed does not mean that you need to slip back into the frustrating monotony that defines so many of our lives. Once we become hooked on happiness we do have the power to feed our fix. 
False advertising! Happiness requires a will and a want-
We must redirect our "attention" in order to summon pleasant memories and consequently good feelings is merely one way that we can sustain good feelings. We can also make the decision to  identify and focus the elements of our pleasant experiences that brought us joy, and then proceed to actively recreate these factors, in order to achieve happiness in our everyday lives
We may not be able to pack up our good feelings, shoving them into the confines of our carry-on bags, but with the right tools, we have the power to sustain them during our everyday lives and conjure up happiness no matter where we go! It's ok to be hooked on happiness once you've discovered your capacity to achieve it everywhere and anywhere!

Let the good times roll,

Lets work to sustain good feelings during our everday lives-

If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Soul

We hold the key to our own happiness-

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wish Upon a Star

Life Can Fulfill Your Wildest Dreams

Leaving Room for an Unexpected Change

Wish Upon a Star
So I know I recently wrote about surprises and how life can be shocking in my entry, Shh...It's a Surprise, but life has given me yet another unexpected pleasure that I feel the need to continue the discussion. As I mentioned before, I am currently on vacation with my Mother in the Cayman Islands. Our first two days were rainy and I was starting to feel a bit cheated. I hadn't gotten my fill of sun and my tan was not quite up to my personal standards. I expressed to my Mom how much I wished that we had just one more day here. But, of course, it was simply a wish and I had no reason to believe that it would ever come true. Finances, schedules, and personal obligations demanded that we return home the previously decided date. I had not left room for unexpected change nor did I take into account that life can surprise you and fulfill your wildest dreams. Less than 24 hours after I had expressed my longing to stay here an additional day life stepped in, in the form of a nor'easter heading towards Philadelphia, which consequentially interfered with our travel plans and forced us to push back our departure date. Perhaps my futile attempts at wishing weren't so futile after all. Maybe someone or something up in the heavens heard me. Maybe this wonderful, unexpected change is a result of good karma. Or perhaps it is just dumb luck. But, regardless of the reason, life has managed to shock me again and fulfill my wildest dream. 

"Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth."

- Martin H. Fischer

My luck recently has proven this quote to be true. I have been gifted some phenomenal surprises over the course of the past few weeks. These unexpected changes have truly made for a grand "show" and I am finding that my ticket was worth any cost I may have paid in order to obtain it. We often associate change and the unexpected with negative feelings, results, and things. We are warned to always leave room the unexpected so that we don't get our hopes up, so that we are prepared when things don't work out, and to reduce the potential for disappointment. We forget that sometimes leaving room for the unexpected can be about prepping for exciting surprises and positive outcomes. 

I think its time that we start thinking about unexpected changes in a new way. Instead of assuming that they are bad we need to start considering that perhaps they can be good, even more than good; they can be credited for fulfilling our wildest dreams, whatever they may be. In my current case leaving room for an unexpected change required that I reorganize my schedule, count my pairs of clean underwear, and permit myself to let go and go with the flow of our new plan. Leaving room for the unexpected means allowing yourself a level of flexibility so that you can adjust to the change. Although I wasn't initially prepared for this extra day of vacation I was able to work with this change and allow myself to enjoy this bonus day. Of course accounting for the unexpected and being flexible is easy when its involving an added day of vacation or a situation that fulfills a seemingly impossible wish. The real question is, how do we manage to go with the flow when the change is less than ideal? So, I guess I want to try and tackle two ideas in the remainder of this entry: altering the negative associations that we may have with the unexpected and change, and figuring out how to leave room for unexpected changes, regardless of whether the change brings about positive or negative results.
Life Can Fulfill Our Wildest Dreams
Lets first deal with the way we look at change and attempt to reduce its negative connotation. Lets try to figure out how we can see unexpected change as possibilities, as positive, even as having the potential to fulfill our wildest dreams. I am going to present two quotes that I would like for us to consider with respect to life and change.

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

- Lao Tzu

Tzu's quote is congruent with my statements regarding change as being unexpected and often surprising. He asserts that resisting change will only result in sorrow or unhappiness. This is another notion that I find to be true. The more we attempt to stop change from occurring, the stronger we hold on to the past or the way things once were, the more difficult it becomes to accept the new reality in which we live. Life does not stand still for anyone. Our time on earth is a truly a process and full of natural changes that come with the course of life- aging, having children, switching jobs, meeting new people, building friendships. We are constantly adding to our lives and likewise things are always being taken away, whether we like it or not. What we must focus on is acceptance and allowing life to progress in whatever way it chooses, because ultimately we have very little control over the "flow" of life.
"Don't resist [change]; that only creates sorrow."
Sometimes this flow works in our favor, like the nor'easter that has consequently extended my vacation. But often it works in ways which we don't appreciate, such as the loss of a loved one or the dissolution of a friendship. How can we learn to deal with life's "natural and spontaneous changes," learning to associate the unexpected with both the good as well as the bad? Well, this is where the second quote comes into play. This quote refers to the French concept of joie de vivre or joy of life, which I discussed at greater length in my recent post, C'est la Vie.

"Joie de vivre is about trusting that nothing happens without reason, and everything can turn out positive in the future."

- Jamie Cat Callan

Armed with these two quotes, I believe that we have the ability to alter the way we in which we think about life's changes and the unexpected. I think that we can learn to trust the natural flow of life and realize that even shifts that we initially regard as bad, can ultimately be seen as good. I'll admit that this is not an easy task. 
"I have spent the majority of my life avoiding change."
I have spent the majority of my life avoiding change. I have wasted many hours mourning the loss of relationships and wishing to return to earlier periods in my life. But, as Tzu said, resisting the change only brought about sadness. My feelings of nostalgia and sorrow may have been warranted by they truly were wasted. The change had happened, because that's the way life works, and no tears or anguish could stop the natural progression. It hasn't been until lately that I have learned that change does not equal bad. Unexpected does not mean unfortunate. In actuality both equate to not only progress but also possibilities. Life's unexpected changes have the potential to fulfill our wildest dreams if we remain open to the idea. If we are able to apply Callan's words to our everyday thinking than we are equipped to challenge our previous views of change, life's flow, and new realities. 
In Cayman taking advantage of this unexpected change-
Things happen because they are meant to be and not only that, everything has the chance to turn out positively. A cynic could look at this statement and scoff at its naivety or unsupported level of optimism. But for a moment lets try to remove the cynicism that so frequently taints our minds and thoughts. Lets think about these optimistic ideas with fresh eyes. Believing that "nothing happens without reason" allows us to provide an explanation, although not concrete, for each of life's twists and turns. I think there is a point in all of our lives when we find this notion to be true. We are running late for an appointment and as we are driving we see that a car accident has taken place just minutes earlier. Had we not been running late we easily could have been involved. The frustration of running late is diminished because in actuality it saved us from a larger problem. Or, during course registration, we are unable to get into a class that we had wanted. Later we hear friends complaining about how dull the professor is and the ridiculous amount of work that the class involves. The initial irritation we experienced because we couldn't get into the class disappears. Instead we are thankful that we managed to avoid a course that in reality is not as good as it appeared on paper. 
Things happen all the time that piss off, frustrate us, make us sad or angry, etc. But, so often, in hindsight, we are able to realize that we are better off for it. This concept feeds directly into the latter part of Callan's quote, "everything can turn out positive in the future." Events and experiences that at first we regard as bad or disappointing have the possibility to work out in our favor later on. At the beginning we may not understand or like life's natural flow. But, if we don't resist it, if we allow it to run its course, we may find that these "natural and spontaneous changes" bring us to exactly where we are supposed to be. Life's flow allows for things to work out, and sometimes it even fulfills our wildest dreams as long as we don't attempt to intercede of interfere. 
"Life's flow allows for things to work out..."
Now that I've attempted to alter our perceptions of change and the unexpected it is time that we deal with the issue of making room for unexpected changes. It's easy to be flexible and make room when the shift is overtly positive. The task becomes harder when the change, which so often was not anticipated, is seemingly bad or negative. I guess part of our willingness to be flexible and work with the shift comes from necessity. If we have lost our job or are forced to move for reasons that are beyond our control then we don't really have choice. In these cases unexpected change has been thrust upon us and consequently we have no choice but to adjust. But can we figure out a way to make the adjustment less painful and/or less forced? Can we incorporate a degree of flexibility into our lives and personalities so that newness and abrupt shifts don't jolt us so strongly? Is there a way that we can always leave room for an unexpected change in order to improve the way in which we respond to these shifts?

Flexibility in life is key-
"A guarantee in this life: Change! Flexibility is better than predictability!"

- Evinda Lapins

Just like Tzu, Lapins asserts that the only guarantee in life is that we will experience change. While her words seem typical and not exceptionally different from many other quotes, I chose her quote for a very specific reason. In my weird little mind, something about it alluded to an element of fun that comes with flexibility. Flexibility is preferable to predictability because predictability is boring and monotonous. Yes, change can be exhausting because it brings something new to the table; it demands that we make adjustments and learn to manage things that we hadn't needed to before. But, I am arguing that predictability, the same old routine, can be just as exhausting. Is it not tiring to do the same thing day after day, without the possibility that life may throw you something unexpected, something new and fun, a pleasurable experience that you hadn't anticipated, the chance that your wildest dreams may be met. Predictability is safe, but at the same time it is frustrating and dull. Could you imagine waking up every morning and knowing exactly how your day was going to progress, down to every minute detail? What is the point of getting up and living if you already know what is going to happen?

Flexibility and change can be fun !
Flexibility isn't just necessary but it is invigorating. It enables us to make room for unexpected changes and allows us  to embrace when life fulfills our wildest dreams, rather than responding to these unforeseen circumstances with stress and irritation. If we can approach life with a level of flexibility than our opportunities become infinite and we are able to truly enjoy pleasurable changes, on the off chance that our wish upon a star actually becomes a reality. 
"I am not forcing flexibility upon you."
I am not forcing flexibility upon you. You do have a choice. You can decide to live a life of predictability rather than one of flexibility. However, I must warn you that choosing predictability is not likely to work out in the long run, simply because it is not compatible with the nature of life. Life is ever changing, it flows in directions we never anticipated, and it takes us down roads we never could have imagined. If you choose to live a life of predictability than you will be poorly equipped to manage the constantly shifting nature of life. You are also opting to miss out on "the best show on earth." 
Sometimes we must resort to a new plan-
Life will shock and amaze us by tossing unexpected challenges and opportunities our way. If we pick predictability over flexibility than we are bound to miss out on life's ability to fulfill our wildest dreams. For these reasons, I strongly encourage you, as well as myself, to live a life of flexibility and fun. I understand how difficult this can be, (I am OCD and an incessant planner after all), but I firmly believe that refusing to be flexible will only serve to limit us and prevent us from enjoying the "show." If we can metaphorically throw our day planners out the window, (G-d forbid I ever do such a thing), and wrap our heads around the idea that things don't necessarily need to go according to plan in order to be great, than we have opened the door to accepting and making the most of every unexpected change that comes our way. 
Changes may not always appear to be good, often, at first glance, they can seem quite horrible. But, if we can learn to trust the "flow" of life, remind ourselves that everything happens for a reason, and incorporate flexibility into our lives, than we are sufficiently armed with the ability to not only accept change, but to recognize that it has the potential of fulfilling our wildest dreams.

Change happens so it's time that we learn to deal with it,


Walt Disney's Cinderella (1950) "...the dreams that you wish may come true."