HOW TO BE HAPPY FOR DUMMIES

If I was able to come up with a one-fit-all post/formula for happiness, I bet I would get a lot of traffic and maybe money. Alas! This dummy does not have that ability. I’m just barely scratching the surface of it for myself – like a frustrated old hen.

How does one define happiness anyways? Is it just the absence of sadness, a full belly, clothes on the back and a roof over the head? I have it all except maybe I’m a tad sad now and then. I have bouts of dissatisfaction, anger, disappointment, pain, mental anguish….I am not sure if there is an end to my list. Does this disqualify me from the happy crowd? Then there’s my childlessness and, of course, grandchildrenless. And lack of a husband most of my life. Not that I have one now. I have what is called a ‘companion.’ Somehow I feel I lack the legitimacy and respect of being a mother or wife.

There are so many things that could exclude me from the happiness club. But I feel oddly at ease and peace with myself today doing the mundane business of living amid the chaos of clutter, dog hair and a dog padding behind me wherever I went. I feel almost like I was happy. I AM happy, come to think of it. I enjoy the simpleness and slowness of my life. I have no one to answer to or impress –  except myself now that I am an adult, a senior citizen on a pension. Once upon a time, that alone commands respect.

  1. I guess the number one in my Happiness Manual would be to respect myself.
  2. Be responsible for myself. It’s not possible for someone else to make me feel ‘happy’ or unhappy. They could give me some help but I would only accept the help that lift me up. I would turn down the others.
  3. My favourite is from Regina Brett’s God Never Blinks. No matter how I feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  4. I have a Sheba/pet/plant/something living. I take good loving care of them.
  5. Bake bread, make soup, and maybe learn how to cook like Jamie Oliver. I haven’t got that kind of patience – yet.
  6. Make art, music, sew, knit, crochet…I continue to learn something new creatively.
  7. I joined an aerobics/exercise class. I do yoga and qigong sometimes.
  8. I learnt how to swim and ride a bicyle. I did both when I was well passed adulthood. I started in the Absolute Terrified swim class. Took me a whole summer to learn how to float. I was in a bad depression, too. The other morning I swam 10 lengths in 15 minutes and then went to my step aerobics class. I can ride a bike but I still need more practice to feel comfortable.
  9. Read crime thrillers and scary books. They calm me and take me out of myself into a different world.
  10. I could go on and on. There are so many ways for us dummies to be happy if we give it some thought. Above all else, we can always love ourselves more. We don’t have to go shopping or a spa to do it. I just hug myself and the fur baby.
  11. Oh, one more. I try always to speak in the first person singular. It’s all about me.

How does your manual read?

 

A Cowardly but Respectful Lion

Yesterday I talked about being brave. But I am still like Dorothy’s cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. I’m not quite up to snuff, not up to confrontations. Never have and maybe never will. There’s something not quite kosher with the word, ‘confront’. It does not sit well with me. It implies hostility. It’s not the way I want to interact or behave. The word itself already brings with it anger and other mean spirited feelings. It is the word I am eliminating from my vocabulary right now.

Call me cowardly if you will but I cannot behave contrary to the way I was raised. That is my rock and a hard place. I do not want to absorb all the negativity it generates into my being. It is really not good for my well being. With a little creativity, luck and serendipity, I’ve turned into an alchemist. All my angst, from whichever source and direction they came from are very good fodder. They’ve fuel my painting, sewing, crocheting, knitting and my tap, tap, tapping here. All the frustrations, disappointments, saddness and anger are good compost. They give rise to ideas and visions and hope for a better (my)self. Being a queen of self-help, I always aim for a better version of me. Sometimes I succeed. Lately I’ve been failing. I’m picking myself up, brushing off self pity and getting ready to rise above the dust.

Having tapped out these words, my heart feels lighter if not braver. I will not tiptoe around my own sacred garden/yard/the world. But neither will I stomp around in anger and malice. I will treat my boundary and hers as well with due respect as always. If my beans or other climbing vines climb over the fence, well they are trespressing in the technical term. It matters not that they are not invasive or harming nothing. She has a right to nip the trespasser in the bud. I’ve already informed the weed company she uses that we do not want any spray on our property. That is fair, respecting my property.

The day is almost gone. I’ve spent the afternoon and my excess angst cleaning out my car. All the rubber mats and carpets are taken out, washed and dusted. The insides are vacuumed and wiped down. What took me so long? Why have I been so neglectful? It’s the first time I’ve cleaned the inside since I bought the car in 2009. Sometimes you start one thing, it can lead to another. Life can be wonderful this way. I’m stuck between that rock and a hard place. I’m chipping my way out, throwing out the dirt and pebbles. Now there’s room for Sheba.

What better way to rid the dust after a hard day’s work than a swim. None that I could think of. Though I had only a short time, I made my way to the pool. Twenty minutes was exactly what the doctor had ordered. It was cheered considerably by a thoughtful young man who was the life guard. He still looked wet behind the ears but was wise as Solomon in human relationships. I left with a softer heart than when I came. Thank you ___ . He told me his name but of course, I’ve forgotten already.

 

 

SO MUCH FOR GOOD INTENTIONS

Some days I start out with such good intentions. There are so many spoilers and you know, dear reader, how accident prone I am. Well, I’m drinking a toast to them to show I harbour them no ill feelings. I’m swigging back a beer on this hot day in Saskatoon. But I see it’s only 24 degrees Celsius. Maybe it is just my internal furnace running overtime on high. Great big sigh and another swig of beer. Ah! Much better.

The dog and I had a trek in the park. Sheba got her feet wet. I sat on the bank under the shade of some branches and watched the river flow. It is difficult to understand why people, especially a neighbour would deliberately try to get under my skin. But then I am talking about a sociopath. I’m in what they call between a rock and a hard place. I lost my friggin’ mind again. There is no reasoning with such a person. There’s no asking for respect. I can only take a deep breath and let it go. It’s a tough one today as with each incidence. It’s only time that can move that rock and hard place. So I’m breathing and tapping. Time, for a change is not moving fast.

I’m not having qualms turning towards my comfort drink. Orange Pekoe tea is harmless. I might be making frequent trips to bathroom. It’ll be worth it. I’ll be peeing out the toxins caused by my inability to remain equanimous through all weather. I feel heartbroken and sad after each incident as if it was me who caused it. My stories are quite unbelievable unless you have had experience with a sociopath. I try not to tell those stories anymore. Sometimes I feel worse after my vents. Someone once told me she was glad that she doesn’t live next to me after one telling. All I could say was, I’m glad you don’t either. Then I felt I was really mean and nasty.

Now, I am okay with the feeling – mean spirited, guilt and all. I know I am not. I’m guilty of not being brave and having trust in my own judgement. It is really tough when I am in that space between a rock and a hard place. There is no where to go. There is no recourse to me. Whatever I do or say will be wrong. But I am a matured adult. I can bear whatever consequences my actions bring. I don’t have to look for Alice’s rabbit hole for escape.

I know that sleep will be elusive tonight. I will not torture myself trying. Instead, I will read a little more on Julie Yip-Williams’ cancer fighting journey. It will remind me how good it is to be alive. She had lost fight but she gave me such wonderful insights into life with her words. Thank you, Julie.

 

LATE NIGHT RANTINGS

I am feeling sad tonight having read someone ended a beloved pet’s suffering.  I have also learned today that an old friend has passed away.  His suffering has also ended.  It is hard, nevertheless, for those left on this side of life.  I am sure God will forgive me my tears. They are coming down in the dark of the night.

I am still wondering what is it all about, Alfie?  Will I find any answers?  Life has tricked me into believing that it gets easier with age.  I have not found it so.  It has been harder. Life has caught me unaware and unprepared – to grapple with all these complexities of modern, New Age living.

It was much easier when I was young.  I went to school.  I did my chores.  I obeyed my parents.  I respected my elders.  I respected my teachers.  I listened to their wisdom.  After all, they’ve lived longer than me.  They knew a few more things than I did.

Not so anymore.  Children can divorce their parents.  You dont always seldom get respect from the younger generation.  They have this sense of entitlement – they know better.   They are better and it is you who should listen to them.  Sometimes we tiptoe around them, afraid to lose their love.  They are the ME generation.  I am, of course, generalizing. I am making the mistake of putting them all in the same basket.

Experience has made it difficult not to generalize and take things personally.  It would take a better woman than me not to do so.  I am ranting my deficiencies in the silence of the night.   I am exhaling my poison.  I am also remembering those other youths.  I should not lump them altogether.  Some are wonderful, loving and knowing – more than we know.  They know the word respect.

Respect, saving face is of utmost importance to the Chinese.  I should know.  The teachings of respect is ingrained into my very fabric.  My mother has done a good job with me.  I am grateful for it.  What are we, without respect?  We all crave it and yet so many of us are so reluctant or unable to give it.  Pity!  Regardless, I do respect myself.

Forgive my late night ranting.  I am but momentarily disillusioned with this thing call life. I am sickened by the wrongs and woes of the world.  How can I not be when I hear news like Jian Gomeshi and stories like Rhtaeh Parson?  Then there are all the killings and wars. I could go on and go.  How can I keep my spirit up and my heart intact?  Down which road has humanity gone?

I am only a simple Asian woman in her middle years.  I have no answers nor solutions. Tonight I can only rant.  But tomorrow is another day.  Hope is just around the corner.

THE LINE OF RESPECT

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It is Saturday morning.  Breakfast and dishes are done.  I am sitting here with my second cup of tea.  Somewhere in downtown Saskatoon, there is a big rally on defending our climate, defend our communities.  I am not there.  There are too many things to defend.  You have to choose your battles, or I should say, defenses.

The world is running amok.  I have just finished watching Jon Stewart on YouTube.  He has a field day with President Obama and Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford.  The show is funny.  Jon Stewart is funny.  Maybe Obama deserves it.  Rob Ford certainly does. If it is true that Ford ran the city better while on cocaine, alcohol and what have yous, than the others, what does that say about the others?

While I liked and respected Jon Stewart, I had a distaste in my mouth after watching the show.  He was too gleeful.  I can understand that joy he displayed at another human being’s downfall.  I have felt that myself once or twice.  I tried not to put it on public display, remembering, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I”.

Closer to home, I still have difficulties with my neighbour, Teri.  After many unsuccessful attempts at ‘mending our fence’,  I decided to adopt a ‘let it be’ attitude.  If she wants to keep shoving her snow onto my yard through my Junipers, let her.  I will clear it away from the house in the spring.  If she wants to blare her music, it is okay.  It is winter.  My windows are closed.  I have learned to look at the problem in a different way,  thanks to Byron Katie’s tachings.  I now see her as a gift, a reminder to me that you cannot change a person.  Only they can change themselves.

What would you do, even after letting it be, that person still does not go away?  That was my dilemma yesterday.  Teri’s new man was trying to tear out our little fence, on our own property that we put up to keep her from driving into our trees.  She had expressed that it was ugly and for us to take it down.  She said that someone had told her to just rip it out.

Imagine my surprise when I saw her man doing that.  I was frozen momentarily.  Can I let it be?  Well, I could not.  I can let go, let be, but I cannot let someone disrepect me.  I ran down the stairs, Sheba on my heels.  I opened the door, being careful not to let Sheba run out the street.  I had not known what I was going to say or do.  I called out to him:  “Excuse me, what is your name?”

I could see that he had a pleasant kind face.  He looked uncertain as what to do.  I kept a big smile in my voice, “We’re neighbours so we should at least know each other’s names.”

“My name is Robert.”  He finally said.  “You will be seeing me around.”

“Please to meet you,”  I smiled.  “I would appreciate it if you do not touch our stuff “, pointing to the fence.

He said that he ran into it night before and was putting it back.  I did not contradict him, that we saw him pulling it out further.  I told him he should be careful as one of my shrubs had been ran over and flattened.  I did not tell him we already have plans of replacing it with more Junipers in the spring.

So far, so good.  No further attempts.  No words from Teri.  I have to respect and  stand up for myself.  I will not be at all surprised if our fence goes missing before spring.  BUT now, I can let it be.

DOG WITH A BONE

Sometimes I am like Sheba with a bone.  I hang onto to my ‘bad’ feelings with all my might, not letting go.  That is my perception.  That is how I feel inside.  When you live alone, life is much easier in a sense.  You don’t have to worry about these feelings bubbling through.  You are alone.  You have no witnesses and dogs can’t tattle on you.

There is always two sides to everything.  On the flip side, it is nice to have someone around to make you a cup of tea, to give you a hug, to do all those things you are not capable of in those moments.  He does not have to agree with you on everything or anything.  But acceptance and acknowledgement of  your feelings are necessary.  It is called respect.

I have the misfortune of being surrounded by ‘difficult’ neighbours in the last few years.  I do not feel that I have done anything to attract these people.  I think it is my lot in life to help these unfortunate people.  I am not happy about it , but it is where I am.  I might as well recognize and acknowledge it, unwilling as I am for the role.

It is winter again and we have had a couple of heavy snowfalls.  And my neighbour is happily shoveling ALL the snow off her driveway onto my yard, even after all the times I’ve asked her not to.  The first year she moved in, she was throwing the snow over the fence into my back yard.  What kind of person does that kind of thing?  This year she is saying that she is doing me a favour by watering my grass with her snow!  My grass is crappy, she says.  But I don’t want all the extra snow besides my own in my yard.  The spring melt causes moisture to seep through my foundation and I’ve had to replace rotten floor boards in my basement.

But how do you talk to a person like my neighbour, who insists that the snow will be gone in two days and she is doing me a favour?  It reminds me of times when one of my managers phoned to deny my request for vacation.  After she denies me, she proceeded to tell me that I have so much vacation time and that I need to use some.  But, but…..! And yet I had to take the vacations which I am denied.  Huh?

In the end, I yelled at my neighbour.  I called her a f’ing b___.  That was what she was…a user, putting on the ritz,  the wiggle and the tears when she wants something from you.   I told her that we will no longer be taking out her garbage and bringing it back when she is away.  She can no longer come to borrow things.  I reminded her that I’ve watched her house when she was away.  I had overlooked her past bad behaviour and had embraced her with loving kindness.  And she showed no respect for me.

Helping people does not mean you have to let them bully you.  That has been my mistake.  I do feel people’s pain and that is not always a good thing.  That is another one of my mistakes.  I have allowed people to make me feel that unless I do this or that, then I am not a good person, a kind person, a generous person…And who can do all those things without anger building, simmering and finally exploding?  So perhaps these neighbours are put here to help me recognize that I’ve been a doormat for people to clean their dirty shoes on.  Well, they better get their own doormats from now on.

So I’ve written to the City of Saskatoon to inquire what the bylaws are for snow removal and my rights.  I have attached photos of my neighbour’s driveway and her lawn and my lawn.  I have not asked them to do anything about the situation, just wanting to know my rights for the time being.  I am open and willing to accept positive changes without coercion.  I am willing still to extend loving kindness to this neighbour.  I am willing to let go and forgive.

But I will not be a doormat.