Accentuate the Positive

A few weeks ago I wrote about how it’s very easy for me to complain about bad customer service, but I never take the time to talk about good service.  That day I sent a note to Staples commending two of their employees.  It felt good, and hopefully those two employees got a nice little note in their employee files. The incident made me think of a larger issue: why are we so quick to accentuate the negative instead of the positive?

I try to do a gratitude exercise every day, but I admit, when I sit down at night and brain dump, the negative things about my day usually pop into my head first.  I think about the irritating employee at the bakery, the guy who bumped into me spilling coffee on my favorite black converse, the fact that someone had already grabbed the “good” elliptical at the gym.  When I think back on my day bad overshadows good by a wide margin.  It often takes me awhile to think of a good moment, and I lead a relatively charmed life.  My days are normally filled with way more ups than downs.  Why don’t I remember the good as well as I remember the bad?

Am I hardwired to think that if something isn’t “perfect” then it is bad?  Do societal pressures make me feel that every moment of my life should be fairytale like, so that when something disrupts the fairytale I remember it?

Have I overthought this topic?

Well, yes and no.

I think in order to live a fulfilling life, one must find the good that is out there, find the positive that exists.  I don’t think a fulfilled life is one that is filled with riches or fame or any of those other grandiose things.  I think true fulfillment lies on the back of the small moments, and accepting that these small moments of joy carry a great deal of impact.  Finding joy in your morning cup of coffee, or a pleasant exchange with a stranger can bring you happiness every day.  We need to recognize this and nourish it.

Psychologically I don’t know why we harp on negative and eschew positive, but I know we do.  But, I think it’s possible to change out mindset.  It just requires work.  I think the effort will be rewarded.

I know some people are scared of happy.  I know some people don’t trust those that exude positivity and happiness.  Isn’t that sad?  When did happy become a thing to be mocked?  When did contentment become a joke?

I’m giving you homework tonight.  At the end of the evening, go back and reflect on your day.  Write the highs and the lows.  But the number of highs must equal the number of lows, or exceed them.  Some people might find it easy to do this: others will not.  But I think it’s worth a try.  Don’t you?

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Simply, Luxuriously, Minimal

Every January I get an urge to read self help books.  Now these self help tomes have a related theme:  they all revolve around living a simple yet elegant life.  I have a vision in my head of clean lines, clear surfaces and well chosen accent pieces.  Of a closet with a few thoughtfully chosen clothing.  Of a house that radiates refined elegance and calm. Of a mind that radiates elegance and calm.

So every January I read a few of these books.  I recently finished “Choosing the Simply Luxurious Life” by Shannon Ables.  I read through the wisdom of the author,  I find things I agree with, and things that I don’t.  But basically I try to find one or two  little tidbits of information that will make my life better.  The two tidbits I got out of this book were 1)the best way to lead a simple life is to be yourself, and get to know yourself, and 2) end each day with an exquisite chocolate truffle.   (Honestly don’t know how I never thought of number 2 before reading this book).  This assessment is not necessarily fair to the author- the book was quite good, but at this point I’m almost an expert on this subject.  She didn’t tell my anything I didn’t know.

So what are my issues?

How much time do you have?

I live in a small space.  We have things.  It’s hard to fit all the things in a very small space.  But the real question is, why do we need all the things.  So I am constantly on a quest to get rid of “things” in our home.  We adhere to a strict one in, one out rule, which just means we only buy something as a replacement, or if we need to have something, we need to get rid of something else.  I also make everyone donate/dump one item every week.  We are not a family that has a junk drawer with things we couldn’t list.  I could probably tell you the contents of every drawer and cabinet in the house.  We are not a house with pens that do not work- my family is well trained in throwing those out.  But we still have “stuff”.

And this stuff makes me agitated.  This stuff makes my not so calm self just a little bit crazier.

I have a strange battle with want vs need.  Do I need the cake stand where the top doesn’t affix to the bottom anymore?  No.  I do not need broken things  Yet why do I keep it? Well, in this case, it’s actually an expensive piece and I’m too lazy to sell it on ebay.  It was also a wedding present.  But yet it sits on display in my living room.  And it mocks me every time I look at it.

There are times I wish I could just throw everything out in my house and start fresh- buy items thoughtfully and individually based on what I actually needed and loved.  I did this with my wardrobe to a certain extent.  When I began using Stitchfix last fall, I basically got rid of every item of clothing in my wardrobe.  Other than athletic wear, I left myself with about 15 basic pieces that I either absolutely loved, or were perfect comfy writing clothes.  (yes- if I’m not in gym wear while writing I’m in the softest sweats and t shirt imaginable)

And it felt great.  It feels great.  It is nice to get dressed knowing that whatever I put on will make me feel great because I absolutely love it.  I like having very few items, because it makes my choices simple.  If I’m going on a date night with my Husband I have three outfits that I love- he doesn’t care if he’s seen me in them.  He’s happy that I feel great walking out the door.  Because that’s the point of clothing- to make you feel confident and beautiful.  No one wants to hang out with someone who doesn’t feel great.

I want the rest of my house to make me feel like I do about my closet/wardrobe.  I want to love every item.  I want to sit in my living room and find the peace and calm I need to combat my mind which is always on overdrive.

And every year I work on it a little bit more.  Every year I take a fresh look at the items that make up my space and decide if they are needed in the inventory of my life.  The statue my Father gave me for my 50th birthday?  I don’t really like it, but my Father never purchases things for me- this he went out and specifically bought for me.  i will keep this- because it’s special in other ways.  The vase I don’t even remember acquiring and I don’t really like?  Well, that gets ditched.  My Yurtle the Turtle book from when I was a child?  The one that made me a lifelong reader?  Hell no.  That’s not going anywhere.  But other books, well, unless they’re signed or written by my friends, they’re gone.  Pictures are a keep.  Bric a brac is a toss.

And every year my space gets a little closer to my ideal.   My desk is now perfect for me.  I spent the first two weeks of January making it my ideal space- it is a place I now look forward to going to every morning to write.  I’m sitting here now, and I look up and around me and my mind is at ease.  My mind is focused.  My mind is happy.  I am happy.

Every year I feel a little more peace in my mind.

Every year I feel a little bit better about myself.

Self help.

What a concept.

 

 

You’ve Got Style

I think you guys might know I’m sort of having a love affair with Stitchfix (for the record I am receiving no compensation from them, though given the amount of time I talk about them I probably should)  For the uninitiated, Stitchfix is the perfect solution to either someone who doesn’t like to shop, or someone who doesn’t really know how to make the most of their wardrobe.  You fill out a very detailed questionnaire, and then they send you five items of clothing/accessories whenever you schedule it.  I think it’s brilliant.

I have now done two boxes, and will get delivery of my next box sometime at the end of the month.  I have been extremely fortunate in that every thing the stylist has sent me has been something I really liked (or loved) and was a great piece for my wardrobe.  The fit has also been spot on.  This amazes me- how they could find me black jeans better than I have bought myself is shocking to me.

Here’s the catch.  I was brutally honest when I filled out the questionnaire.  I gave my actual weight and body type.  I explained the “flaws” and how I try to correct them.  (my fatal flaw is being short waisted.  My ribs end and my hips begin, so I can really look like I have no waist.  I choose things that elongate me, and give me the appearance of curves.  I also have nice legs and arms, so I tend to wear clothes that highlight one of these areas.  I like knowing my strengths and weaknesses, so to speak.

But, even though I don’t really know how to be stylish, I know what my style is.  I like classic clothes in neutral colors (who am I kidding- I wear black and grey, with sometimes white or pink). I like clothes with simple lines and not a great deal of fuss.  My favorite look this season has been black faux leather trimmed leggings, a long black tunic/t shirt and a knee length grey cardigan with either black suede sneakers or black booties.  Big necklace, big stud earrings.   I am not girly.  I am not boho.  I am not dramatic.  I am simple….I do like a fun accessory, funky necklace or shoe, and I am willing to try a trend.  (I went to a party the other night sporting a pale pink shimmery shirt with those little flutter like sleeves that are so popular now.  I felt a little fun and different)

Ok- I’ve given you details and description (i’m learning that my novel is lacking this, so, lucky you, I am practicing with you)

But where am I going?

One of my really close friends tried Stitchfix.  She HATED it.  Absolutely hated it.

Why?

Because she has absolutely no idea what her style is.  None at all.  She insists to me that she is like me, classic and simple.  I’ve know her for 25 years.  She is not classic and far from simple.  She loves color- her closet is a rainbow.  She loves florals and flowing tops.  She leans towards peasant, boho styles in whatever she chooses.  yet, if you ask her, she will tell you that the last thing she is is Bohemian.  She literally said that to me.  When I asked her what style she is, I gave her a list of choices, and the only clear thing she said was that she is NOT BOHO.

Why is this important?

Take a look at yourself in the mirror.  Accept who you are.  Who you actually are, not the person you are in your mind.  I think people get into problems when the outer you, the you that you represent to the world is not in sync with what’s really going on in your head.  The outer you and the inner you need to match.   Outer and Inner need to come to some sort of agreement.  If they are always battling, you, as a person, are never going to be happy.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.  Be who you are.  And don’t let a spouse, a friend or a parent sway you as to who you really are.  My Mother will often buy me clothes.  In theory this is nice.  In reality, she is buying things that she thinks I should wear, the style she thinks I should be.  I’m 53, and my Mother is still trying to dictate who I am.  Don’t get caught in this.  Be who you are. (FYI- who you are can change.  It is ok to be punk when you’re 30, and boho when you’re 35- that’s just evolving- nothing wrong with that at all as long as you are true to yourself and not trying to morph into someone else’s ideal)

So here’s the takeaway:

  1. I love having someone else pick out my clothes and curate my wardrobe for me
  2. I know who I am and am happy with who I am
  3. Figure out who you are and run with it.  you will be an awesome you!!