Day 15: An Unexpected Turn of Events

9 Jan

Day 15 already- what?? I can’t believe there are less than 6 days left! Okay that’s enough patting myself on the back…

 Three Sources of Gratitude AND Meditation/Reflection:

  • This Blog: I don’t mean my blog! I mean For Sarah, For All of Us by Kelsey from the blog Happyyolks. My friend sent this to me and I fell in love! I think my most favorite quote is: “You must. Remember too, though, that you don’t need to fling yourself across the globe to shift your perspective. A new place doesn’t change your life. You change your life. You will, at every moment of the next year, have the extraordinary gift of choice to redirect your sails.” I love when Kelsey describes how she came to the decision of “taking the responsibility, FINALLY holding herself accountable, and deciding that she wanted things to be different in her life.” And it she who gave herself that. It came from inside. This definition of adulthood– taking responsibility, holding ourselves accountable for our own future is not a way of dismissing the impacts of our environment and what we’ve been given. Rather it means that on top of what life has given you there is hard work and responsibility. It’s bearably heavy. These 21 Days of Compassion are my way of acknowledging and committing to my duty.
  • Turning Ideas on Their Head: My Unc and I were talking about life stuff when he gave me a piece of advice, “Figure out what makes you angry.” I interpreted his words to mean that I needed anger-management therapy. So I asked,  “Why?” His response totally caught me off-guard: “Because anger is what’s going to fuel you to work harder and give more than you ever expected.” It’s not very Zen advice, but there is a funny logic to it. Rather than viewing all forms of anger as bad, take those issues that most anger you (human slavery, recidivism rates , illiteracy, wealth inequity) and channel that anger into your career, your life’s purpose. Anger and fear are not bad things (as I’ve been treating them to be), I just need to let them make me strong.
  • Fear & Anger: On that note I think I should take the time to acknowledge and be grateful for my fear and anger. I often demonize these qualities in me as being signs of immaturity and impulse. Instead I should think of them as an opportunity. Brother David Steindl-Rast did a wonderful Ted Talk entitled “Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful.” I first listened to it last week and then re-watched it a few days ago. After I started this 21 Days of Compassion project, I found myself wondering, what in fact is gratitude? I feared that my list of gratitudes was indistinguishable from a list “awesome things” or “things I appreciate.” And my gut tells me there is a difference. Steindl-Rast says that gratitude is when (1) something is given to us freely (not bought, earned but a real gift) and (2) it’s valuable to us. He further suggests that there are both grateful experiences, which we all have, but the truly happy are those who practice grateful living. Grateful living is when live as if each moment is a gift, and the way to practice this is by viewing each moment as an opportunity. Some experiences are terrible full of pain and suffering. We don’t have to be grateful for those experiences but we can be grateful for the opportunity encompassed in it. At least this is how I’ve interpreted the Steindl-Rast’s words. And it’s worked! When getting upsetting at others or berating my own self for not working hard enough, I think “OPPORTUNITY! What is the opportunity in this moment?” and my mind shifts from the pain or the feeling of misery to problem-solving mode. All this is to say that my anger and fear encompass some wild opportunities, for which I’m grateful.

One Positive Experience: I made a new friend today! I went to a coffee shop to wait for my friend and the gentleman next to me asked if I’d watch his computer while he went to the restroom. I said of course and proceeded to eagerly read Half The Sky. He got back and struck up a conversation, and I, remembering my new year’s resolution to talk to strangers more, struck back! My new friend is getting his masters in South Asian Studies and was on his way to teach a class at a local church. I’m very excited to attend his next class but couldn’t at the time because I was heading to yoga. I’m super glad he said hello. Yay for making new friends! Yay for expanding bubbles! That’s already two new friends since I started my 21 Days of Compassion! Okay enough exclamation marks.

Exercise: Yoga Class followed by a meal of Rava Dosa all with my friend E. Best combination ever. But man was the yoga class hard. It’s been over a month since my last class. I thought to myself “I’ve been exercising regularly for the past two weeks, why is this so hard?” But then I caught myself, “Not all forms of activity are equal. You can be an overall active person and still find certain workouts or exercises difficult.” Phew, for a moment I was thinking that I was a major failure and the past 14 days had all been for naught! Self-beratement avoided!

Intentional Act of Kindness: I’ve decided I need to start calling my e-mails what they really are, intentional (not random) acts of kindness. And my e-mail goes, for the first time, to an unknown entity: Kelsey the author of the wonderful blog.

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Day 14: Rocky Rollercoaster

8 Jan

Working on the 21 days of gratitude has been significantly harder since going back to work. Yesterday, for example, I managed to check all the boxes but failed to blog about. Likewise, I’m finding it hard to really cover my full day because I don’t feel as comfortable discussing the tribulations and triumphs at work. I don’t think I can blog honestly by excluding 10 hours of my day, but I’m still toying with the format itself…

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Those moments you’re dreading doing a task because it’s been a while ad you don’t rmeember exactly what you’re trying to do ONLY then you realize that you took kick ass notes and everything is already organized- basically I love when I actually use foresight/am not lazy and it does pay off later: I think the title covered it all…
  • Happy Hours (i.e. excuses to leave work & go see your friends): I could focus on the fact that it’s terrible I feel that I need an excuse to leave work. OR I could be excited that there are just so many worthy excuses such as happy hours. My friend J set this one up today and it was just lovely to see everyone and laugh about silly things (like my friend’s tea tasting story which I didn’t understand at all and had to ask 50 follow-up questions to) or my other friend’s  awkward encounters with a massage giving co-workers. Twas happy times.
  • The Word Endearing: I don’t think I ever use this word. I’m quite sure I never use this word, but my friend J does and it always makes me giggle a little. There is something a little bit old, a little bit hokey, and little bit sweet about the word endearing. I immediately think of grandmas and apple pies. More than this word itself, I like words that throw you off guard, in a good way. That “Someone still uses this word?” Moment when the chap you’re talking to busts out with a “doohickey” in the middle of his sentence. (This might also be a good time to mention that I’ve really glad for spell check

Exercise AND Meditation/Reflection: I went for a one hour walk today. I realized I needed a way to exercise but not get stuck in my head. So I walked and called my friend E. I had had a semi discouraging day at work today. Without going into the details, I’m continuing to question my current trajectory. Is it really the one for me? Does it embody my identity, interests, and values? I am learning. I am being pushed. And the work is interesting. It kind of feels like when you’ve dawned on a new dress in the fitting room and it fits great, hides your lumpy parts, doesn’t make you seem squatter than you are, but still something isn’t right…so you discard the article of clothing and chalk it up to one of those vague excuses: “just not your style” or “but I wouldn’t never wear it” or “it’s just not me.”  Well while I can afford to be arbitrary in what I wear, vagueries are not nearly as palatable when contemplating larger life decisions. But E got me thinking more positive. She encouraged me to not make the problem so big and contemplated. I can make some changes without changing everything. I have always been more comfortable with the slow and steady route.

One Positive Experience: Today I asked for help. I e-mailed a trusted adviser about the swarm of nagging thoughts in my head to see some feedback. And likewise today a friend sent an e-mail to me, seeking some solace, in his way also asking for some help. I like that circle. I love being part of a network of dependencies. I don’t know if there are any analogies that correctly exemplify how this type of network of dependencies actually makes you more, not less, robust as an individual. Maybe like a woven tapestry, each thread is making you stronger? Oh that was bad. I’ll stop now.

Random Act of Kindness: Half The Sky has got me thinking global. But I also realized I don’t have that strong relations to people who live or work abroad besides my family. It would be interesting to cultivate a more diverse international network (future project). In the meantime, I’m going to send a note to my host family from when I studied abroad in Iceland. It was a beautiful summer, one of the most adventurous things I had done up until that point.  And my host family was kind and generous. I still have some small gifts that two little kids made for me and my study abroad companion. Having the experience to travel and live abroad for months at time has been pivotal in how my ideas have been shaped. I want to thank those who helped make the experience happen.

Day 13: Back to Basics

7 Jan

Oh soooo tired. I can’t any frills to tonight’s post. But the essentials are there.

Note: I actually typed the above sentence like that and didn’t even catch! I’m going to leave it as a testament to just how tired I was when I wrote this blog and to remind myself if I want to sound articulate I can’t write when I’m semi-conscious.

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • Good Health: I read recently in my book that health is one of those things that we only appreciate when we don’t have it or things are going badly. As I’ve been working on this challenge, some of my objectives have more clearly formulated. One is to appreciate the day more; live more in the moment and use this gratitude to feel more light, positive, and joyful. Another goal is to not have regrets. If I were to pass early, I want to make sure that my friends and family know how much I loved them. I want to feel that I’ve put the effort to mend and grow those relationships which are weaker or have suffered. And as part of not having regrets, I want to express my appreciation for life. Having good health, being able to go for a jog or play racquetball or do a dance class, is at its core a respect for life. Life might not have innate value, but it does hold possibility– for joy, laughter, wonder, achievement, love, and even sorrow and sadness.  These possibilities are all the more plentiful when coupled with good health. So today I am going to try and remind myself of that when I walk and move and sit and stand, how mobility itself is a gift.
  • Warmth: It’s cold! I woke up today in the dark and didn’t want to get out of bed because of how cold it was. But when I did eventually scurry out, I turned the heater on in my room and then jumped into the shower where I took a hot shower. By the time I was done, my room was nice and toasty for me to change clothes and get ready. I surveyed my jacket collection and layered up, and then got into my car, where again, I put the heater on. And now I’m sitting at a friends house on an electric blanket typing this blog. In Chicago if you stay out for more than 5 minutes you risk getting frost bite right now. Throughout the country it is cold. And I’m fortunate to have shelter and warmth to shield me from the elements. Not everyone is, but I hope they’ve found at least some way to stay safe and warm this winter season.
  • Sunrises: It was early when I left the house this morning, but on the bright side there was a beautiful, red sunrise peeping up over the mountains. I wish I’d snapped a picture but I didn’t so you’ll just have to take my word for it– it was one hell of a sunrise.

Exercise: I not only managed to get 45 minutes of cycling in but also get 6% through my newest book– Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. It is good, really good. Poignant and emotionally compelling. I can’t wait to keep reading.

One Positive Experience: Today I grabbed lunch with a couple of my friends and it was lovely. We walked to our favorite food truck and then decided to NOT eat our desks! It was a good way to start the week.

Meditation/Reflection: Today was Monday Night Magic– we’re back in 2014! We caught up and talked about careers and how to stay positive. Something I have realized about myself, for example, is that personally I’m very glass half empty even though I’m quite optimistic and confident in other people: The classic great at the pep talk to others but not so great at giving them to myself. Voicing this tendency has helped me catch it in myself. I think, when interpreting other people’s words, I’m especially negative. I’ve practice saying them in my own voice as if I was saying the same words to someone I cared about. BAM! The difference is magnificent. I assume the worst when people are trying to comfort me (judgmental, nagging or false) but if I were comforting others, it’s soothing and encouraging. The common denominator is the value of the recipient of the news. My glass half empty internal perspective assumes that everything coming my way is also negative (along the lines that I don’t deserve it or good things someone say about me can’t possibly be true). This mini exercise is definitely helping me catch myself when I do it because I’m repeating the same exact words as if I were speaking to someone who I think did deserve the encouragement.

Random Act of Kindness: Today I give a shout out to my high school debate coaches. Debate defined my high school experience and shaped who I was as a person. I loved the learning, competition, and the way I pushed myself and grew because of it. And I loved the community. I still talk to so many of those guys and gals– we were a little family that had so much fun. None of it would have been possible without my coaches guidance, spirit and commitment to this wonderful event.

Day 12: Can we make it a 48 hour day?

6 Jan

I’m going to use some creative license and fuse Friday and Saturday into one giant 48 hour day. Pretty sure this is covered by definition #3 on Urban Dictionary for Creative License. Friday was another travel day, which threw off my schedule, but even today I’m realizing that I’m going to have to make some change to my lifestyle, now that I’m back home, in order to prioritize the 21 Days of Compassion. A few barriers are

  1. The nagging feeling that I have to do errands, chores, cooking or other tasks else I’m living “irresponsibly.” I spent several hours today cleaning and de-cluttering my room, even though  my room was pretty clean already and it wasn’t one of the goals I’d set out for myself today. Sometimes I get caught up in the idea of what I should be doing or have done as an adult of 26 versus staying true to what really matters to me personally given the limited hours in a day.
  2. My internal social butterfly gets the better of me. I commit too much, over plan and overbook. The fact that I’m a good 15-20 minute drive from most of my friends also means I usually am the one commuting for social engagements. Last night I left my house at 5:30pm and didn’t get home until midnight. Not that I didn’t enjoy the company of my friends (in fact I’m the one that suggested dinner!) but dinner turned into drinks and drinks turned into a late night chat at a friend’s apartment and then I gave a friend a ride home. I have to remind myself that the 21 Days of Compassion is not just a hobby but actual something I’m pursuing to help heal and recover. It’s self prescribed medication to being a more whole, well and happy being. I wonder, if I can engage my friends here and integrate them into the activities, similar to what I did with my family back home.

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • A Sense of Home: A friend once told me that you know you’ve made a home based on the feeling you get when you’re on the flight back. I remember when Seattle became home. I was flying back from Dallas and it was a rare sunny day. The lush greenery came into sight as I landed and my heart filled with pride. Maybe it’s because I’m a Texan, but I very much feel home is  place you’re proud to be from. You want to show it off and share it with everyone.Years ago I read a Nathaniel Hawthorn quote about new places: “Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth.” The part that is left off is making every unaccustomed earth home. My friend J once told me he doesn’t understand why people use stuff to make a place “homey;” for him, home is in the heart. Pride captures the external factors that pull you into a place but heart captures the part where you dive in and help create your community. You need both to make a home. Unlike my friend J, though, I love decorating every new apartment I move into. Having some warm colors on the wall and quirky furniture is how I express what’s in my heart. And this in turn helps me share myself with my community.
  • Uncharted Territories: I was looking out the window on the plane and staring at the beautiful Rockies covered in snow, looking simultaneously menacing and serene. Much of that land must be entirely uninhabited, possibly never visited by a human. I think some people like uncharted territory because of their sense of adventure; new lands to visit and elements to conquer. I like uncharted territory for the stories. The idea of bears and mountain goats and bison and other beasts living their years in nature and their stories has this mystical beauty for me. We’ll never know them but know that they exist; the stories of the wild.
  • Oral Traditions, Legends, Folk Lore & Stories from the Past: I love old stories. As a kid I devoured aesop fables so I think my favorite were the Akbar Birbal stories. Birbal was a trusted adviser to the Mughal emperor Akbar. The stories are short and witty; I used to read them in comic book format. I like passing history on via small stories- joyful little nuggets that make you feel interconnected as well. It’s also such a enjoyable way to learn about different cultures an customs.

Exercise: I went for a quick run and felt really good about it, but man was it hard to get myself out the door. The best part was that my roomie was walking to her hair appointment I ran into her twice as I circled back!

Journaling One Positive Experience: I had some really wonderful conversations in these two days. I chatted with a woman on the airplane who was sitting next to me about her visit to Seattle. She has lived all over the world: Japan, South Korea, and Turkey for the Red Cross working with the US Military. I had never previously met someone in her line of work, didn’t even know that type of military support function existed. It was pretty cool expanding my bubble that way. I also caught up with a very old friend of mine who I had somewhat lost touch with. I think it’s going to take us some time to really get back to our previous level of intimacy but it’s nice to get the ball rolling. I spoke with an old biking buddy of mine in a half work half fun type of conversation. And at my roomies’ birthday dinner I had a really nice conversation with our friend J. Turns out, on his own, he had been making a daily gratitude list as well for the past few months. He felt it really has helped him be more appreciative, which is good inspiration!

Random Act of Kindness: Today’s letter goes to W. Since it’s her birthday, it’s only appropriate. I’ve gotten to know her over the past year and I most love her sense of self and the unabashed way she asserts her individuality and interests. She knows what’s important to her– friends & family, working out, eating well, and also enjoying your work. And she does all of these things– really taking each day and living it to the max. I love that about her, very inspirational.

Day 11: The Kill Shot

3 Jan

Three Sources of Gratitude:

  • One on One Parent Time: Sometimes it’s nice having rituals just with one parent. When you have a sibling, I think rivalry is inevitable. And even without a sibling, I believe dedicated attention from a parent is always desirable and fun. Today I got quality time with both my mom and my dad. Perfect way to end a lovely ten day vacation.
  • Small Purchases You Never Get Tired Of: I was thinking today of in what ways I’ve “bought happiness.” One reason, I believe, materialism is considered to be bad is that items fade in value. Splurge purchases produce only momentary joy and are quickly forgotten. So I started to think about those items that never lost their value. Some that are on the list include the shoes that J bought for me. They weren’t too expensive, look wonderful, feel incredibly comfortable, and I have the pleasant memory of receiving a gift from someone I really care about. Every time I put them on I get a little smile on my face. My phone case is another item. I have this awesome purple Ottorbox, which protects my phone like a beast (I haven’t had a phone last more than 1 year, ever…) AND it’s purple AND it matches my purple backpack. I LOVE PURPLE. I get such joy in pointing out how I unintentionally bought a case that perfectly matches my backpack. I have no clue why this makes me so happy but it really does. My Kindle and books– buying books is an investment but I get such joy flipping through them again or sharing them. These are just a few of the items that are on my list. But I’m curious to see what kind of trends there are between the items that I did get tired of vs. the ones I haven’t yet.
  • Good Credit: In the modern economy, having good credit is very important to what types of opportunities are available. I’m grateful that my parents knew this and have been able to guide me as I ‘struck it on my own.’ I’m not sure that I would have been able to figure it out on my own or have had the discipline to pay my bills on time if it wasn’t second nature. And I know I will benefit from this in my future if I decide to buy a house or go to graduate school. So maybe what I’m really grateful for are the opportunities and peace of mind that comes with having good credit.

Exercise AND Meditation/ReflectionI crushed my dad at racquetball today! Okay that’s a mild exaggeration…technically he beat me in all three games BUT I made him earn each one of those points! The old man had to hustle and the games lasted a long while with some good volleys. I even got an intentional kill shot in like so….

I’m dedicating time this weekend to find some local leagues back home. I think what really allowed me to play so well today was my focus. I was focused on the ball and where it was going and how I was going to respond to it. My mind was closed to chatter- it felt very meditative. In addition, I was reaching and swinging, never giving up and not being afraid to hit the ball before the bounce (this increases the pace of the game). I’m actually reminded of some advice that a co-worker gave me about owning the pace of the conversation when someone is being less than pleasant. I also noticed that when people were observing (they were waiting for their court to open up), I became nervous and that translated into my game. So both my mind and body got a good workout today.

Journaling One Positive Experience: The Moms and I were hanging out at Kohl’s (mother-daughter ritual). I had already successfully secured a new belt (mind broke about 1.5 years ago) and some nice ankle boots. So we were warmed up, ready to take on the women’s clothing section. I spotted this awesome black blazer, thinking how great it looked and wondering if I should give blazers another chance. I love the look but I have had bad luck finding one that fits. I fell in love with the cut of this one as soon as I put it on. The Mom’s thought I needed  size bigger, siting the bunchiness in the arms. I replied by simply putting an arm up showing the ease of the movement. She said, “What about both arms.” I smiled, “But why would I ever need to put both of my arms up? I’m not going to be jumping jacks in the blazer.” Well this got a chuckle from the kind gentleman sitting outside the dressing room. We exchanged some words and laughter with him, settled on the right size of the blazer and went off to the next shopping destination- Costco. [Insert Dramatic Music Here]. The Mom’s had finally decided to exchange her Sam’s Club membership for Costco– big move! As we made our way through the produce aisle, who should I run into but the same man from Kohl’s! Serendipity– what were the odds that not only I would have chatted with a guy at Kohl’s but also we traveled to Costco and ran into each other in that giant behemoth of a store.  Check and Check for talking to strangers and the funny moments it can create.

Random Act of Kindness: J and R are more than family…I don’t know what is “more than family” but these guys fall in that bucket. I’ve grown up with them, spent countless Christmases and birthdays with them. They don’t live close by anymore and I miss it. I miss being a party of 6 and always having weekend plans. I miss having a surrogate, ultra cool mom. And the laughter- boy did we laugh! The morning kitchen table routine originally started with J and R. Their support came in the form of unconditional love and laughter. I have always felt safe with them and oh so loved. I’m a lucky gal.

Day 10: A Splendid New Year’s Day

2 Jan

So I started this blog last night and fell asleep typing it…I decided to leaves the tenses as they were just to keep things interesting.

Ooof- I’m not feeling particularly inspired today. Maybe it’s because it’s been a slower day or perhaps because I’ve already blogged once today. But either way I want to get this out there! I want to catch up on my blogs so I can stay on track for my commitments. And I also want to practice my resolution of “finding what’s interesting in everything I do.” So here goes!

Three Sources of Gratitude: 

  • Soap: This might be a weird thing to be grateful for, especially because I’m far from a clean freak. But I’m reminded today of the movie Hysteria which I rank highly for entertainment value but questionable for historical accuracy. There is a scene where the great Maggie Gyllenhaal discusses germ theory and the novel idea that basic hygiene such as washing our hands with soap can prevent significant spread of disease. Pretty crazy to see just how far the human health and longevity has come due to soap and basic hygiene, which once upon a time were theories held by the minority.
  • PostSecrets.com: I’ve been a fan of the PostSecrets blog since high school. I almost instantaneously fell in love with Frank Warren’s idea– sharing secrets anonymously and artistically so we didn’t have to feel so alone. Over time the role of the blog in my life shifted from reducing my personal sense of alienation to igniting my internal empathy. This blog has so simply, elegantly, and powerfully created a community.
  • Lazy Mornings: Friday I fly home and with it I must dawn my coat of responsibility. Everyday I’ve been at home I wake up whenever my body tells me it’s time, proceed to write a little bit, read a little bit and just do as I please. Wonderful Lazy Mornings, I shall miss you. xoxo

Exercise: Today I did something a little different. I found my mom’s Special K cereal box pedometer (free=best!) and out of instinct put it on. Then I promptly forgot about it. Turns out I’m a pretty active person– so far I’ve logged 10,605 steps and 4.94 miles! Quickie research suggests that walking is goof for weight control and endurance but not as beneficial for strengthening and balance. Overall I’m pleased with my level of physical activity but I think I should limit the “walking” exercise to 1-2 times per week max. So I’m maxed out for this week already!

Journaling One Positive Experience: WARNING: This one sound nearly as funny if you weren’t there. Yesterday my parents and I went to this outdoor shopping center because the weather was so nice here (70s!!). My Pops popped a squat outside of the S-bucks to people watch. My Moms and I ended up wandering across the street and went to the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. At that point she called my Pops asking him to bring the car over to our side of the street to pick us up…now this is where things break down. My Dad completely forgot where the car was, which is comical on it’s own because he was only sitting four blocks from it’s location. Then when my Dad asks for direction my mom says “Go left. It’s in a Parking Lot,” which is also comically ambiguous. Well my Dad goes “right” and ends up lost in front of the Apple Store. The whole thing was making me laugh so hard I was letting my ice cream melt. Oh parents, they’re so weird.

Meditation/Reflection: The three areas of gratitude are really helping me learn more about myself. I for example, had thought that my interests in cultures was low relative to say my dad or sister because I don’t enjoy traveling as much. I think, in reality, I love cultures but specifically enjoy learning about them from people of that culture. I’m not a passive learned that can take tours or read books about cultures and gain insight from them. I think I actually need to be submerged and talking to people. The talking to people part is key I believe. I learn via discussion.

Random Acts of Kindness: NYE’s note was to A, who served as mentor to me. So feel NY Day should go to D, a professor and mentor to me in college. He is that professor that I think everyone dreams of having– takes a special interest in young souls and developing people. He’s the guy who got into it for the teaching and for the shaping minds parts. His words still resonate with me and help guide me. I owe this man a lot for his help and encouragement throughout the years.

Day 9: A Splendid New Year’s Eve

1 Jan

So this post is coming to you all a little late because I didn’t get home until 5am! But it’s all about NYE- the 31st!

Exercise: I went on a walk with my moms today. We got our bodies moving, took advantage of the weather AND had some quality mother/daughter time. We actually talked about some personal topics pertaining to mine and my sister’s dating lives. It wasn’t always the case that my parents and I got personal– I used to keep them at arms length from anything remotely vulnerable. But I’ve been actively working on this by realizing I need to take ownership and start the hard conversations and also be mentally in a place of calm to handle them when it gets difficult. ALSO my friends will note I have at tendency to walk crooked….basically if I’m walking next to you I’ll eventually end up walking into you and run you off the sidewalk. My mom totally does this!! She was in denial but she kept running into me! GENETICS.

Journaling One Positive Experience & Three Sources of Gratitude: Does the whole night count? So many great things happened today, I’m going to focus on my top 3 in chronological order…

  • First, I fixed my parents universal remote and got it up and running! This made me feel so good because they have five separate remotes…my cousin bought it but it was acting glitchy so I spent a few hours and got it all good to go. It’s nice to actually check items off their “I need your help with X” list since usually I’m only here for the weekend and too tired/lazy to scratch anything off.
  • Second, I went to this amazing Russian Family New Years celebration. I have one really good Ukranian Russian friend, but have never been immersed into Russian culture to the extent I was tonight. The music, the dancing, the clothes, the food, the warmth and joy– it was incredible. To set the scene, I tagged along with my friend J who was invited to his friend D’s house (D and his family are all Russian). We arrive a bit later than planned around 10pm and enter to a full fledged skit in production for the children. There were props and beautiful costumes, and even audience participation as we shouted Snegurochka. The Russian Santa, Ded Moroz and his granddaughter, Snegurochka, visit children and deliver presents on Dec 31/Jan 1. All of this has to do with the different calendar systems. The Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar which has Christmas falling on Jan 7th and New Years on Jan 14th. Overtime the Gregorian Calendar’s “New” New Year of Jan 1st has become, for many Russians, the start of the holiday season. It seems that the Soviet Empire’s ban on public celebration of Christmas also helped shift many of the traditions and importance to New Years. But the long and short of it is– New Years is a big, welcoming celebration in Russian culture. And I had no idea! Well the family members were also kind and boisterous and it seemed like every round of shots was preceded by a lovely toast honoring family and new friends and old friends. I felt so welcomed and loved by complete strangers. It just warmed the sould.
  • My third favorite moment was making a new friend. O is a visiting professor from South Korea. His discipline, MIS, actually crosses over in some of the analytical work that I do and some of the User Experience work that my friend J does. We had such a nice conversation and O and J even exchanged e-mails since they both work at the university. It was interesting hearing his perspective on America vs. South Korea. South Korea’s New Years, I learned, falls in January/February time frame. And there are a lot of traditions involving the family and going and showing respect for your elders. O has also fallen in love with Mexico 🙂 The diversity of ages, cultures, languages warmed my soul.

So I think the above stories have highlighted some of the wonderful elements of life I’m grateful for

  1. Diversity: This probably sounds really weird but I love diversity: ethnic diversity, age diversity, vocational diversity..all of it. I really love that people from all different backgrounds can come together and share joyous moments. I think it might be the most beautiful thing about humanity.
  2. Cultural Immersion:  I don’t really like traveling because of the logistics, but I do really enjoy learning about other people’s cultures particularly over a conversation or a rich new meal or looking at traditional clothing. This night had all of those things!
  3. Sharing Your Family and Traditions: This is incidentally on my resolution list of 2014– sharing my family and Indian culture with my non-Indian friends. The evening’s hosting family has 5 children and each of the children and parents had their own friend group in attendance. It occurred to me that the youngest, who might have been in high school or college, could easily have chosen to spend the night with his friends (same could be said for all of the siblings) as is I believe tradition. The idea that young kids want to rebel and “be with their friends.” Instead each of kids combined the two. Why should family and friends be separate circles, after all? I used to think they had to be because my friends wouldn’t get my family and my family wouldn’t get my friends. Language and culture seemed like insurmountable barriers or more effort than it was worth. I’m  mistaken though, because there is a huge payoff in compassion and understanding. In particular I can share myself fully with those that I love because by background is part of who I am. And my friends are so important to me. Two and half years ago my biking buddies and I all pit stopped for the night at my house and had dinner hosted by my parents and family friend community. This was a wonderful night and my friends enjoyed it immensely. They loved the food and the warmth that my family showed. I shouldn’t underestimate my parents and friends, these circles most definitely can merge.

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Meditation/Reflection: So I’m thinking I might start a variation of Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project. Haven’t figured out the full details yet but I have written down 12 resolutions that I’d like to guide myself by. I’d like to log my progress in each area somehow but not create too aggressive expectations. Maybe I’ll try to practice at least one these each days? Haven’t figured it out yet. If you have suggestions I welcome them!

  1. Think before you speak
  2. Talk to strangers
  3. Find what’s interesting in everything you do
  4. Do what you think is interesting
  5. Tell people you love them and why
  6. Write. Write. Write. It does you good
  7. Practice compassion for yourself: Learn to forgive yourself, you have a good soul.
  8. Practice compassion for others: Treat people with the compassion you want them to have for you.
  9. Focus on the moment.
  10. Don’t be afraid.
  11. He is only human.
  12. Share your culture, share your family, share yourself. Open up more.

Random Acts of Kindness: Today I’m going to e-mail my Uncle A. I’ve been dragging my feet on this one a little bit because I care a lot about what he thinks (he’s in my inner ring) and I was letting my perfectionism self get to me. But seeing as #10 on my list of resolutions is “Don’t be afraid” I’m going to jump in feet first. A has be instrumental in my development and values– he used to give me reading lists as a kid. He is the reason I read The Wave, which is probably the single most influential book I’ve ever read. From this one story I learned to always challenge ideas, don’t just go with the flow, scrutinize and draw my own conclusions. Pivotal.