Tag: choices

Anything Is Possible In A “How-To” World

Pretty sure we live in the “How To” era. It’s a virtual world of self-help everywhere we turn. How to feel – sleep – eat better, live longer, save money, fight fat – depression – chronic pain, change our DNA, our life, become happy, aware, creative, organized, joyful…or the biggy –  find peace.

Is it working? Maybe. Maybe not.

My kindred-spirited good friend told me she will never find that zen-like state of peace no matter how hard she tries. Why? Because of what she calls a History of Horribleness.

Yea, I get that. Kind of hard to feel the zen when we’ve endured a lot of crazy and it sometimes still surrounds us. Oh she’s happy, but the undercurrent of inner peace? Forget it.

And it’s not just dealing with whatever is going on inside our own life – family, job, health, finances – all our personal “stuff.” There’s crazy stuff happening in the world right outside our front door. Anybody else notice that the outside world is the same, pretty much every day?

We get so caught up in it – all of it. Why do they do this. What are they thinking. Why are they acting like this. What are they doing. When will they fill in the blank. Doesn’t matter who “they” even is.

Life’s intensity can often define the parameters, and it impacts us. We try to explain, understand, make excuses, deal with whatever is happening – from the world-view all the way down to our bird’s-eye view. But sometimes we can’t figure things out. Or know what is really going on. Or worse, change or fix it.

We can’t always choose the parameters. So, Zen is easily thwarted.

But life itself seems to be paradoxical. It’s the ultimate bliss and torture, beauty and heinousness. And we’re supposed to somehow both manage and accept the paradoxes to obtain a sense of peace. How do we choose the parameters?

From the unlimited supply of “how to’s.” And thank goodness there are plenty to choose from. Key word? Choose.

We can choose to see things differently, feel differently and act accordingly no matter who around us doesn’t. We can choose to flow through it all as if the horribleness is just part of it. We can choose to infuse moments of sucky reality with acceptance. We can stay focused on our personal intentions, hopes and dreams in spite of “them” or “it.”

We can “create” with whatever we “choose.” It takes some serious commitment, especially after a history of horribleness. But it’s true. Choosing changes everything. 

Loving that How To.

Who Decides Whose Choice It Is? I Do!

good-dayIt’s a good thing I opted to blog weekly instead of daily – some days can certainly prove challenging. We get up, we go about our business, we’re thinking good or not so good depending on our point of reference, then boom. Something happens and our day can totally change.

While I was reveling in an all-good zone last week, I got an emergency call that my mother experienced a life-threatening blip with her serious health issues. Naturally our world came to a roaring halt. From the doctors and nurses on the ICU team, to her family and friends, the seriousness of her situation left a lot of people perplexed. Each person had their own choices to make about how to address her care, and there were plenty of opinions going on.

chill-its-only-chaosDealing with all that entailed wasn’t a choice, but it highlighted the concept of choice itself. I started to wonder if everything in life is a choice. Everything – from choosing how to save a life, to who we vote for in this election, to whether we get cable TV, to where we live, what we wear, drive, eat, focus on, do, work, go, watch, use, think…is everything a choice? Do we really have control over our choices?

Although at different ages we think differently about our ability to choose, I recently realized that I grew up believing my choices were dictated by the world around me, and were out of some kind of obligation to others before self. For my millennial kids of course the reverse is true. Historically, choices were not always a matter of choice, but in each generation the concept of choice seems to subtly shift.

The trend now is toward each of us having authority over our own life, taking care of ourselves. The “put your oxygen mask on first” rule on airplanes now also applies on the take-care-of-yourselfground. We have to help ourselves before we can help anyone else. But I have always been so selfless, I usually run out of air.

Self-care first was a foreign concept to me until this recent universal shift – memes popping up, wisdom gurus all over the Internet and TV, books, conventions, society opening the door for transformation on the concept of choices. From the food we put in our mouths to the way we think – apparently we can make decisions that impact all aspects of our life.

The problem is the emotions that go with choices are complicated and the choice isn’t always clear. We can make any decision we want but then decisions can be laden with guilt or frustration, worry, wonder or fear. Not to mention consequences. If we can learn to manage the emotions, we may be better able to choose.

Interestingly my mother either in spite of or because of her health issues, has nailed the ability to confidently make choices that are best for her. And she miraculously did it again last week when she pulled through her latest blip.

I still haven’t learned where to draw the line when it comes to who comes first. But maybe I’m overthinking it, because the choice I’ve learned is mine.




When It Comes To Obligation, The Choice Is Always Ours

On this unofficial last weekend of summer I had plenty of opportunity for mental respite. But did I take it? Not so much. Instead I found myself caught between obligation and choice. When does obligation become a choice?

don't look backWe spent some quality time with Mr. Ex and his Mrs. this weekend, and some may wonder why. We have certainly had our ups and downs. And let’s be real, Mr. Ex and I divorced for a reason, so why make the effort to engage? I think the question really is, why not. There’s no need to get hung up on technicalities or history, although letting go of the past can feel tough to do. When they invited us for a barbecue we opted in. Obligation or choice?

This might be said for any family situation – functional or not. Are we obligated to participate just because we are related? Or even when we’re not?

Mr. Ex’s Mrs. graciously friended my mother on Facebook, which seemed like a big deal to me. We are not related to her, although she is my children’s step mother. But she didn’t bat an eye when it came up in conversation, picked up her iPad and looked for my mother’s profile and within minutes they were friends. Choice or obligation?

no obligationI never realized until now, I’m a perpetual obligator. Whatever seems obligatory, I do it, for  everything. If we are invited somewhere I never go empty handed. Birthday acknowledgments, special occasion commemoration, thank you’s, volunteering, if someone makes any effort to do something for me or my family, I oblige with reciprocation. I usually can’t say no when someone asks something of me, no matter how much I want to – I feel guilty if I don’t say yes. If I get up the courage to say no, I share plenty of legitimate excuses, and hope to receive understanding. Seems a little ridiculous. Why do I feel so obligated?

choiceWhen we recently moved in to our new condo and a neighbor found out I’m unemployed, she offered to help me find work. I was quite grateful but equally surprised when the next thing I knew, opportunities to interview literally dropped in my lap. So I did, in spite of my circumstances that may not allow for these types of jobs. Why? Because I felt obligated. She worked hard to help me, so of course I will follow through. On the off chance I am offered a job, I would obviously have to take it. Wouldn’t I?

no more excusesIt’s not easy to be a perpetual obligator. I know at some point there must be a choice. Is it possible to just say no — and more importantly without excuses or guilt? Mr. Ex said there is always a choice. Period. No matter what. I have a friend who said I never have to make excuses. Ever. Instead I just politely decline. Is the bottom line that our responsibility to ourself comes before anyone else?

Maybe it’s nothing but emotional semantics. Obligation – the word itself feels layered, heavy, negative, restrictive. But choice is a word that feels free. Wow! The mental respite is there all the time, we just have to decide to choose.


doing my own thing

Not A Care In The World Is The Goal

“Take your time, I’ve got all the time in the world,” the bakery gal said to me as I was trying to decide which muffin to order with my coffee. It was mid-day, so I missed the morning rush, but the pressure was on. There were a couple of people behind me, and I sort-of didn’t believe her that she had “all the time in the world.” That phrase actually perplexes me. Time isn’t infinite by my calculation, I’m pretty sure we have a finite amount of time to work with, and we don’t even know what it is.

Which got me thinking. Maybe life is too short to care in such great detail about every little thing – like whether I want a blueberry or bran or opt out and go for the scone. Sure life is too short not to enjoy what you want, but to care is a whole different matter.

“I actually don’t care,” I told her, but I did. I was hurried and couldn’t decide. I’d love to be one of those laid back, “not a care in the world” kind of people, but I’m not sure how that’s even possible.

We spend so much time investing in so much stuff that in the great scheme of things may not matter. Even when it’s stuff that we think matters, is it possible we’re so focused on a desired outcome, that we forget the big picture? Time is running out after all.

There is gobs of information out there about how to proceed in life, how to find our purpose, expand our soul, process, push, succeed, achieve, win. What if the actual win is not really caring about the win, but just enjoying the life that we have as we’re living it?dalai lama

A recent Facebook post from the Dalai Lama – by the way it’s a hoot that he’s on Facebook – said he often asks himself, “what is the purpose of our lives?” and he concludes that it is to be happy.


So plain old happiness is the bigger picture. And in order to have it, I’m guessing we better take some time to stop caring so much about all the things that get in the way of it. I don’t mean feeling pressure to pick a muffin, although that too.

I mean bigger things, like worrying about what people think, or what we should be doing, or how we’re doing it, or what we are supposed to be learning or saying or believing. It’s so easy to wrap ourselves up in caring about everything – from a process to a goal to results or an outcome – that we forget about the bigger picture.

And then there’s the people-pleasing issue. We don’t want to let anyone down, hurt anyone’s feelings, alter the dynamic, neglect our roles and responsibilities. There are always obligations to others. Not to mention we are taught to control how we feel, to do the right thing and to put our energy where we are supposed to.

But since time is of the essence, shouldn’t we take the time to prioritize our happiness? What if we gave ourselves permission to not care about things that don’t make us happy, and focus more on the things that do. It sounds freeing, and may bring some relief.

There is a fine line between caring and not caring and a discerning ability to do so. Maybe it’s through not caring so much that happiness is truly achievable. Not a care in the world? That is definitely worth caring about. Oh, I went with the pumpkin chocolate-chip.

choose happy

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