Those who seek balance are chasing a fleeting achievement. I’ve often described it as trying to relax on top of a ball. Once you are in balance, a mere breath will topple you.
If the world were balanced, there would be no ebb and flow. True balance allows for abundance and drought; a constant correction of direction. I spent years seeking unattainable balance in my life.
Then I began my quest for peace. Peace is attainable. It’s the calm of meditation. It’s the acceptance of imperfection. It’s the courage of authenticity.
Some people say peace is the same as happiness but I think it might be closer to harmony — The yin and the yang. Knowing there’s good in the hardships and downsides to every opportunity. And accepting them both in stillness and gratitude.
If balance is like sitting atop a ball, peace is like floating down a river. There will be rapids and quiet waters, but you can rest assured youre still in the water.
Our second date was a movie. When I asked him what we were going to see, he said, “There Will Be Blood.” I told him that was okay with me, but what was the name of the movie? I think he thought I was trying to be clever. I wish that were true.
Bubba is the entertainment manager in our house. He knows the director, the actors, and which ones are up for awards. He remembers story-lines and quotes for years.
I can’t tell you what I watched last night. Which is why I use the Netflix rating system. When asked, I can bring up the app, search for the movie and tell you what I thought of it.
Netflix has a 5-star rating system. At first, the five stars seemed limiting. However, once I attached meaning to the ratings, it was easy.
1 Star: I’m scarred for life.
2 Stars: Ninety minutes I will never get back.
3 Stars: I came. I watched. I was entertained.
4 Stars: I’d recommend it.
5 Stars: Changed my life.
I’m pretty sure Bubba’s looks like this:
1 Star: No chase. No nudity. No blood.
2 Stars: Not even the car chase can redeem it.
3 Stars: Eh. The actress was hot. Ending was predictable.
4 Stars: Explosions AND boobs within the first two minutes.
5 Stars: Great effects, heart-stopping stunts, 3D-worthy, awesome soundtrack. Ending practically gave him whiplash.
And what if we weren’t rating movies, but life? Is this what it means to “reach for the stars?” My rating system certainly looks different from Bubba’s, or yours, or Marilyn Monroe’s. Greatness is relative. We can no sooner rate someone else’s movie for them than they can ours. And by movie, I mean life. My three-star day is forgettable. A day in Katharine Hepburn’s 3-star shoes would definitely be 5-star worthy on my scale.
A 3-star film is the norm. It’s the average against which greater and lesser movies rate. So, too, is the 3-star day.
For instance, you know a 5-star day or film before it even begins. Unless you win the lottery, you’ve planned for it. It means something. People are talking about it. It will probably be the best thing that’s happened to you, but it has a huge disappointment potential. And for that reason, it is emotional. You get married. Your child is born. You begin the best job ever. Five stars. And I bet you can tell me the date.
I wouldn’t want every day to rate five stars. Think about it. They’re tiring! Most 5-star days take a week of recovery. And if every day were life-changing, my life would be in constant flux.
A 4-star day is probably where you aim most mornings. It’s attainable. In most cases, you probably have some control over achieving it, but it takes some planning and preparation.
Three-star days are where you are going to land most of the time. It’s the median, after all. You might have a 5-star breakfast and four minutes after leaving the house you’re caught in a 2-star traffic jam. At the end of the day, you came, you watched, you were entertained. Average.
No one plans a two-star day. I don’t think any director really plans on producing a two-star film, either. You just run out of resources — time, money, energy — to make it great. Sometimes it’s a lack of planning, or sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control that bring your rating down. Hopefully you learn from it, and your next movie will be better.
In a way, 1-star films are as memorable as 5-star. Again, it is easy to compare a 1-star movie to a 1-star day. They are usually worse than you imagined they were going to be. You will never be the same, and thankfully they are rare. The difference is that a 1-star film becomes a cult classic. A 1-star day hurts deep in your chest.
Sometimes it’s a matter of realizing your day is falling in the ratings, and to take action. For me, it’s a simple list. A walk. Drinks with a friend. Giving. A heart-to-heart with a loved one. Sometimes just a home repair or accomplishment. For you maybe it’s more complex, or intense. Bubba might like a heated debate over gun control or the who is the best Marvel Superhero.
While the list is simple, the action is harder. On bad days I hide behind my phone, both mentally and physically. Two-stars are not uncommon these days. As both director and protagonist, I play key roles.
The trick is to remember where my stars are . . . and then reach.
To answer the burning question “Have I found myself any happier?” Oh, of course! It is Autumn, and the air is crisp! If there are two things that lift my spirit, they are the longer days of spring and the cooler days of fall.
The goal for September was to energize by following four guidelines in my Blueprint of Happiness. Let’s take a look and see how it played out:
Get Outside – I found the fresh air and sunshine had the most positive impact on my attitude. Of course, the weather has been sunny and comfortable. Time will tell if I will find this as energizing in February. In addition to our weekly jaunts to the dog park, I found time to sit outside and enjoy my senses, meander through nature, and work on a few projects out in my own yard.
Music – In my opinion there is too much talk radio broadcast in the morning. I prefer to start my day with a song stuck in my head. Of course, the goal was not to just listen to music, but to find something that moves me. It really doesn’t matter how it moves me. I want to cry, to dance, to do a little head-banging, and sometimes just sing along and laugh my butt off! To feel emotion is to feel alive. To feel alive is to reap happiness.
Run an Errand – It came as no surprise that trying to think of one errand every day, no matter how small, became laborious. Within a week I had redefined the goal to “Complete Something.” I patched a section of lawn. I wrote a letter. I bought ingredients and baked cookies. I bought a light bulb for my oven. Something did indeed get accomplished every day, and I am the better for it.
15 minutes of Nothing – As predicted, this was the most difficult task to perform. I found it easiest when combined with my goal to get outside. Sitting with the sun on my face and watching the squirrels hop through the yards while doing nothing was lovely. It reminded me of times past when people used to sit on the front porch at the end of the day. It’s a perfect way to reconnect with your senses, which the world has become so adept at cutting off.
This month of October I have decided to connect with reality and truth. Not the kind of truth where I’m going to ask Bubba if my jeans make my butt look big. I will happily reside in that ignorance indefinitely. The truth I seek is that which comes from spending time mindfully. My daily intentions include:
The first day that I went through the four steps for creating a moment of truth, I found myself sobbing. It went like this:
Step 1: Start with your daily dose of nothing
As usual, I spent my fifteen minutes taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. I looked at the timer three times before it finally went off. While I enjoyed the break, I was ready for the alarm to sound so I could continue the tasks of the evening.
Step 2: Ask and answer these questions:
What am I feeling? I kind of wish I had spent those fifteen minutes accomplishing something.
What hurts? I hate that the days are so short that doing something for myself feels like a waste of time.
What is the painful story I’m telling? I’m wasting my life working for a paycheck, and just surviving from one day to the next.
Is my painful story working? Yes, I am tricking myself into thinking that my life is being used against my will.
Can I think of another story that might work better? The things I choose to do matter. Even if I am doing something I’m not thrilled about, I make other people happy by making them laugh, or treating them right. Look at what a good life Barney had while he was just hanging around with me. He was such a good dog, and I made sure he knew it every day he was with me . . . .
. . . and that’s when the sobbing started.
The exposure of this lie I had been telling myself — the truth — set me free. I may not be able to choose to stop working for a paycheck, but I can choose how I affect the people around me. And in liberating that reality, the grief for the recent loss of my dog surfaced unexpectedly.
Step 3: Offer compassion to your inner lying scumbag.
May you be well. May you be happy. May you find peace.
The thermometer is dropping and I have taken to wrapping myself in a scarf and blanket, and sitting on the front step with a cup of tea. Eventually I become awkwardly aware that a smile has settled on my face. I quite like it, and instead of setting the timer to make sure I fulfill my fifteen minute session, I now set it so that I don’t forget to stop.