Happiness begins with a good morning

You’ve got to wake up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.   -George Lorimer stock-photo-33581722-cloudy-sunset-over-field-with-sunflowers

An extraordinary life is all about daily, continuous improvements in the areas that matter most.  –Robin Sharma

Remember, the moment you accept total responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you claim the power to change anything in your life. –Hal Elrod, author of the Miracle Morning

stock-photo-26537865-footpath-in-the-mountain-plateauMorning sets the tone for the rest of the day and habits affect every area of our lives. I am pretty attached to my own morning routine, and interested in the making and breaking of habits. Periodically, I get a little bit obsessed over how routines can be improved upon to help us reach our goals or just to feel more fulfilled in general.

So when a book called “the Miracle Morning” caught my eye, I couldn’t resist reading it. I’m glad I did. The author, Hal Elrod shares my enthusiasm for the power of a good morning routine and he pours his thoughts and knowledge into this easy read. Better still, he shares his website where you can access a sample of the book.

If you go to miraclemorning.com you can sign up to instantly have the first two chapters of his book, a video and audio program sent to your email address. In addition, he includes the link to the Miracle Morning inspired Facebook community. So if your interest is piqued, here is his link. Enjoy! http://miraclemorning.com/

The NFL never promised us a rose garden

Don’t hate me because I hate football. I never gave it a chance, really. In junior high, I sold hotdogs and soda in the concession stand while my father coached his football team. I never once felt compelled to watch the game. At home, I strolled past the droning of the Sunday game on television that my parents watched faithfully, sprawled out in the living room. I could only escape the sound if I went to my room where I preferred to write poetry and daydream. And when I dated a football player, I never once thought to ask ‘how was your game?’

No one really attempted to engage my interest and who knows if it would have made a difference.  My indifference was solid, and drawing me in probably would’ve have required a personality change or some other unlikely feat.

I played field hockey because my parents told me to and I was a decent player, kind of fast, and I liked to win as much as the next girl. The enjoyment of competition and sports is not lost to me and so I gave my daughters a fair shake at all sports available to them.

Collectively, they tried basketball, soccer and softball. Individually, they happily left all those sports behind well before they even reached puberty. My middle daughter set the record for shortest time spent in a sport. During her first soccer game in kindergarten, she was taken aback by the excitability of the players and coaches over the ball. It made her feel anxious and annoyed. She was just six years old. Maybe I introduced her to the sport too soon, but the order of the day was the earlier they start the better.  Who knows?

My youngest daughter got a stomach ache every Saturday before basketball practice. Finally, I called her coach and said she was quitting. She was elated, relieved. I had tried encouraging and cajoling each of them to stay with the sport long enough to give it a fair try. But when they were done, they were done. I think sticking things out that make you utterly miserable is pointless. If being a quitter means orchestrating a life you want to participate in, and leaving something behind that is not suited to you, then by all means, be a quitter.

The arts were something my kids all enjoyed. Literature, music and dance. Painting and crafts. The arts can help us turn down the volume of an over wired, fast paced life. They help us remember how to pay attention for more than a few seconds, to wonder and to  just be. They remind us of the interconnection of things, of each other. They touch our spirits. In an environment of scarcity, the arts can make us rich with shared humanity.

Often for too-little pay, an artist manages to intuitively take a universal idea, or one of life’s mysteries, and churn out beauty, and creative meaning, for us to contemplate and enjoy. This is something society needs more than ever, yet it is something we collectively do not seem to value.

We are entertainment junkies, an easily distracted, attention deficit society. And we LOVE the distraction of the NFL . It is easy and fun to rant about the injustices of allowing a felon to get paid millions of dollars to play a game for our entertainment while we keep supporting it. It feels much more righteous to go on about the unfairness of letting someone we deem unworthy and abusive to appear on our large screen televisions than it does to acknowledge any poor treatment in our own lives, our families, our neighborhoods, our schools.  While being entertained (and simultaneously supporting the entire NFL industry with our hyper interest), we don’t have to change a damn thing.

While obsessing over ‘the stars’, we don’t have time to be the stars of our own play before the curtain is drawn, the whistle is blown. What do we want to do with our lives, our time? What do we want to give, to create, and to be? It is hard to do all that while obsessing over the larger than life NFL. I am doing it too. I am writing about it right now. On a blog about simplicity, I’m writing about goddamn football. It bleeds into my day and I kind of resent that. I’m still that girl who doesn’t want to turn my head toward the football field because it bores me to death. But now I have and I don’t like that.

Maybe it’s because I have a an adult child in the arts who pores her heart and soul into a project, a dance or a painting, and then barely profits enough to purchase the next set of paints. Yet she would no more stop doing it than stop breathing. Maybe it’s because my husband is not a football fan either and so I’ve been able to remain mostly unsympathetic to the obsession. Maybe this and more is why I’ve not given a rat’s ass about the goings on of the NFL. At least until now.   But now it has grabbed my attention and spills out onto the page. Now I too breathe life into it.

Yes, there is abuse and terrible injury and huge injustices and sleazy, profit driven decisions within the NFL. Just like there are actors who can have horrendous personal lives and still make their livelihoods on the big screen because they entertain us. There will probably always be footballs players who are dangerous, unhealthy, brain damaged and in desperate need of rehabilitation. And we keep feeding the drama because it gives us yet another thing to focus on. It turns our heads and steals our attention.

13165306503_8752c90da5_sWhat do we expect? The NFL never promised us a rose garden. But it promised us entertainment, and it delivers. We’ve got to admit, this is partly a reflection of our values as a society. We can rant and argue, protest and debate over the deflated balls versus the other wrong doings of the players, but it’s everything we have asked for, everything we have supported, paid for and focused on. We are not victims here.

I am sick to death of the NFL talk. It consists of a sport where grown men are headbutting each other into oblivion. Brain damage. Obscene amounts of money. Entitlement. But it’s also fun for the fans, I know. It’s American. It’s entertaining and can be uniting. It’s friendly competition and games and chicken wings and parties and family and friends. But I really don’t care who plays and who doesn’t and what’s being done to the balls. Just like I don’t care what Miley Cyrus is wearing. Have you seen what you own daughter is wearing? Now there’s something to focus on.

The ills of the NFL simply shine a spotlight on some of the ills of society. And now we’re trying to blow the whistle. We want to have a say in who must take their ball and go home and who gets to stay. But it doesn’t work that way. The game isn’t about morality. It’s about profit and entertainment. We’re the spectators and the NFL is serving up what we ordered. What we pay for. What we value. We’re players in this NFL game. And when we’ve had enough? Well, I support the quitters.

A Vision Quest in Suburbia

sunset-962331-mSeveral years ago, I found myself at a mini vision quest in an upscale neighborhood in suburbia on a Friday night with seven other women. Actually, I didn’t find myself there. I put myself there. On purpose. For a writing assignment.

I had written a couple other pieces for this particular magazine. I liked them, they had been receptive to my ideas and they payed well and promptly. They also included good stories from other authors on yoga and meditation, compassion, religion and caring for the planet. Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, wrote for them regularly.

So when I saw an advertisement for a women’s one- night vision quest, I  contacted this magazine to ask if they’d be interested in such a story.  I’d go on this mini spiritual retreat, a sort of casual vision quest, and write about my experience afterwards. They’d have another engaging, publishable new story from me. I’d be on a roll!

They said yes. Sure! Go on the quest. Send us your story.

Truth be told, I had my doubts from the start because vision quests are supposed to happen outside, in the woods. Alone. And typically for several days and nights and without food.  Profound spiritual insight into one’s purpose was the intended result and the one I would need to write about.  The kind of insight you get when you spend several days outside. Alone. In the woods.

This one was going to take place in a five bedroom home with a hot tub on the deck.  Did I mention in suburbia? Only in suburbia do we call a gathering with eight women who have payed ‘the experts’ to come and coach us through our night of seeking, a vision quest.

But there were rules at least. We had to fast the entire day before going to the home where this would take place. So by the time we all arrived, at 7pm, we were hungry. And the first thing I noticed was one of the women eating a banana. And it kind of ticked me off.

Why did she get a banana?  I thought we were in this together, following the rules to ready ourselves for the big night. The instructions specifically said no food.

I let it go. We had some introductions. We were told that The Experts, a couple who were traveling from the next state to lead this vision quest, were running late. They might be there in the next hour or two. Maybe later.

And now I was getting discouraged. I needed to write a real story about a real vision quest. Okay, not  a real one. Obviously it wouldn’t be a traditional Native American vision quest. Far from it. But I needed insights. I needed to convene with fundamental forces. I needed something to happen.

And what happened next was the hot tub. The banana eating lady was the first to get in, followed by two of her friends, and then one more.

They didn’t tell us we’d be going in a hot tub.  I hadn’t brought my bathing suit. Apparently,  neither had anyone else. They just went in the hot tub naked.

Is this how they compensated for not being out in the wild, like on a real  vision quest? Strip down and pretend it’s a hot spring? I did not want to do the naked hot tub thing. I barely knew most of these women. But even if I did, I wouldn’t do the naked hot tub thing.

This had less to do with modesty than the fact that I think it’s kind of gross. I wouldn’t share my bath water with them, so why would I share this big tub with them? The water was hot, things could incubate in there. No thanks.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the vision quest leaders arrived, a husband and wife team. Alas, it was time to go to bed on the finished basement floor, where we wouldn’t actually sleep. We would stay awake all night long by playing loud, screechy, horrible music that contained the occasional  chanting.

The leaders talked a bit, of what I cannot recall. Throughout the night they would occasionally walk around and move our arms around or our heads or feet.

This went on for six  hours. I wrapped a blanket around my ears trying to tune out the music. If only the music would Just. Shut. Up. I just wanted to fall asleep so it would become morning and I could leave. Like a lonely child at a sleepover, I wanted to go home.  I missed my husband. I missed our bed. I missed my kids and our house that is quiet at night.

I remembered the magazine. I thought about how, occasionally, I throw myself into a situation because it is challenging, or interesting. How I don’t let myself think about it too hard because I don’t want fear to ruin it. I remind myself that I have never died from failure or rejection or newness.

But I wonder if I might die from hunger. And I’m really getting kind of pissed off about the banana again. And  about the leaders coming late and then not doing much except playing awful music and moving my arms around in a circular motion.

And I think well of course I can’t experience any profound internal shift or insight while in a  group. I’m not made that way. I can’t possibly experience my own destiny or hear the call of my spirit while someone beside me is breathing loudly and the leaders are starting to chant a bit and it is distracting and annoying and really taking me outside of myself.  Hell, this is why I don’t go to church.

Morning comes!  We are encouraged to share the great things that happened to us during the night.  Some people named some decisions they had come to or insights they had. None of them were memorable. And I added nothing. Speechless. Mute.

Get me the hell out of here.

A breakfast buffet was set up in the kitchen. It was a lovely buffet. I was no longer hungry. I ate a few strawberries with a scoop of yogurt and then I went home.

For the rest of the weekend I sweated over the story I would write.

What would I write?  I had to follow through on a story.

I got my challenge alright. Make a story out of a non-story. Make something profound from invalid banana eating and naked hot tubs and screeching and questionable, do-nothing vision quest leaders.

I was struggling, digging deep to find anything. But I managed. I wrote the truth, minus the fact that we were in someone’s house. That just sounded so un-questy. So vision-less. So I just didn’t name the location, exactly.

After scraping up whatever meaning this experience held for me, (sometimes I have bad ideas? something good always come of them?) and putting it into words that someone might actually want to read, I sent it off to the editor.

I knew it wasn’t my best work. I was disappointed and figured they probably would be too. They might even reject it.  I braced myself.

The reply was probably the best I could hope for. “Thank you. This will do!”

The exclamation gave me some relief. He wasn’t thrilled. He didn’t say “I love it!”. He didn’t even say “I like it”.

But he said “this will do!”  And the check came.  I never did look to see when the article appeared.  I couldn’t bear to revisit that night in print.