Monday, April 25, 2011


I've had a helluva few weeks. Two really, really busy shows back-to-back, long days augmented with long evenings with several friends I haven't seen in months, came home to roommate date night, girls' night, an annual Easter Sunday bash-- WHEW! I have enjoyed every moment of my wonderful friends, but come about 9pm last night I was so oversocialized I thought I was going to rip my hair out. At our last stop last night I made a runner-- literally walked into the bar and left without sitting down or ordering a drink. I ran pell-mell for the train (and made it with about 30 seconds to spare), went straight to my glorious, empty house and was into the shower, fat pants, and a cup of hot tea within 30 minutes of being home. And this morning I did a marvelous thing.

I turned off my phone.

Just, turned it right off! This morning I had my coffee, watched a movie, read a book, ran some errands, took a long walk-- sans phone, sans headphones-- did my laundry, went to the market, and am now listening to music and making myself a lovely dinner. I didn't even take offense to the butcher who asked me if I was making a "lonely dinner" when I ordered from him. I was all, "heck no! I can't wait!!!"

I know tomorrow I'll be very pleased to see a couple of friends for an afternoon movie and dinner, respectively, but today I really needed this.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

the power of positive communicating

So, even though this week I've been focusing on my "health" chapter, I've also been working on the general happiness. Since I'm not at work this week the radius has been small, starting around the house and in my social networking.

Example: for whatever reason, it drives my roommate CRAZY when I leave my coffee cup in the sink. I don't know why. To me it makes perfect sense to put water in it and leave it until I have breakfast later and wash all the dishes at once (we don't have a dishwasher). But he has his reasons, like we all do for little things like that; it drives him crazy and I respect that. I've just started washing it. It takes me 30 seconds and then he doesn't get frustrated and then I don't roll my eyes when I notice he's frustrated. See? Easy. Everyone's happier.

Another: it drives me crazy when he doesn't use the compost bin. He's just not comfortable with it. I understand; it's new and kind of gross. But it still bothers me that he won't use it, so I've started cleaning out his coffee pot at night before bed (yes, we have separate coffee pots). That way the grounds go in the bin where I want them and he doesn't have to deal with it. Another 30-second task and everyone wins. (On the flip side, he always sets up my coffee for me at night so all I have to do is hit the button in the AM. Very thoughtful!! Our coffee system is so positive!!!)

One of the other things that is huge... HUGE to me, as silly as it sounds, is people's negativity on Facebook. I mean, it's a social network, after all. Social. I think of it as a big group of friends talking to one another, in front of other friends. I guess people find it easier to say things behind the wall of a computer monitor than they would in person? But A) no one wants to read your status update if all you do is whine all the time, and B) picking a fight on Facebook is lame and unproductive. An example from my friend Jeff's wall (sorry it's so small, click to enlarge):

I left Jeff's name intact because he was both initially positive and gracious in his response (I hope he doesn't mind). If this was my wall my first reaction would have been to bite back.

But why, WHY do people find it necessary to respond in this manner? First of all, it was just a link that Jeff found inspirational and he shared it. If you don't like it, move on. No one is making you read it. Second of all, I'll never understand why omnivores find it somehow... offensive when people choose to not eat meat. This is not specific to omnivores vs. vegetarians; it is also religious, political, environmental, etc. But honestly, why does he care? He has to have meat at every meal? Don't eat at Cafe Gratitude. Who cares? I mean, I personally don't understand why someone would choose to say, spend $80K on an automobile, but it's not hurting me. I would never respond on someone's Facebook wall and be all "oh, that's so irresponsible with your funds and bad for the environment and plus it's really ugly and hard to park." Because in that instance, my opinion really doesn't matter, and all I would be doing is throwing negativity out into the interwebs. Probably sparking someone to retort, thus and furthering the negativity. It's just not worth it.

Happy is as happy does. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, "for the love of God and my sisters (so charitable towards me) I take care to appear happy and especially to be so."

What will you do to be positive today?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

early to bed, early to rise

....make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. That's the old adage, no? I'll give them the "healthy" part for sure.

So it's Day 2 of the HEALTH portion of my happiness project. It sounds mundane, but we're all happier when we feel better, right? I've outlined some objectives and goals for myself, hopefully realistic ones that push me a little bit without setting me up for failure. After all, this project is all about changing my life without changing my life.

People spend more time and money on losing weight than on purchasing new cars. I just made that up. But it sounds about right. But why? We want to lose weight because we think it will make us happier. And while I'm not immune to thinking that those last 5 lbs are the answer to all my problems, there are many other "healthy" things I need to be doing as well.

Step 1: sleep longer.

I know, a no-brainer, right? I, along with everyone in the world, feel like the busiest person on the planet. If I stay up just a little bit longer, I can finish my book, clean something, make hard-boiled eggs, dust, etc, etc. But forcing myself out of bed with my grumpy face on doesn't make those things worth it. I recently read a study about geniuses and violin players, and the one thing they all had in common was 8-9 hours of sleep a night. Your brain just works better. Granted, it's a lot easier when I'm home than when I'm on the road, but I figure I can get myself in the habit this week for when I go back to work next week. 11pm bedtime this week. Even if I lie down and read, not necessarily sleep right away, the goal is to be IN BED by 11pm. I like to wake up between 7:30-8 so this is a nice, vacation-amount of sleep.

Step 2: eat better.

I like food too much to be some sort of crash-dieter. Luckily for me, I like healthy food a LOT, it's just getting in the habit of eating it. This week I'm taking baby steps to better choices. I am the sort of person that eats whatever is in the house, so I filled my pantry and refrigerator with beans and vegetables and fruit and unflavored yogurt, etc. No meat or desserts or cheese for me this week. I am a HUGE fan of comfort food, but I can get that same carb-related warm fuzzy feeling from mujardara (with brown rice, lentils, and sticky, caramelized onions) as I can from a box of macaroni & cheese. I like cauliflower soup just as much as pototo. As with the sleep, it's vastly easier to do at home than it is on the road, but I can use this week to get in some better habits.

Step 3: drink less.

Now, it's almost embarrassing to talk about this, but here we are. If you're reading this you probably know me pretty well, and thus know I am not a drunk. My problem is, for whatever reason, that I have such a ridiculously high tolerance for alcohol that I tuck away WAY too many calories in liquid form. Most scientists say one drink a day is good for you, but more than that is bad for you, so I just want to cut down. First of all, no alcohol in the house. I find it terribly easy, and with absolutely no amount of tipsyness OR hangover, to polish off a bottle of wine in an evening at home. A glass while I'm cooking, a glass with dinner, a glass while I'm cleaning up, a glass while I'm watching TV. The end. What? Crazy. So no more at the house. Secondly, I'm trying to identify drinks that I SIP, rather than GULP. For example, a super-dry red wine as opposed to a fruity white one, or a vodka martini with olives as opposed to a vodka-soda. Thirdly, one glass of water between every drink. All relatively easy steps to a healthier liver (and waistline).

Step 4: excercise more.

Once again, something that is vastly easier at home than on the road. When I'm on showsite I work 12-14 hours a day. It's really hard to push myself into the gym after that, or to wake up an hour earlier to run on the treadmill. But I need to move around more. I need to force myself, at the very least, to do my 8-minute arm workout before my shower in the morning. I need to walk to work instead of taking a cab, and volunteer to "run out on the floor" more often. Sitting on my ass for 3/4 of my waking hours is not good for me. This week, at home, I have been walking, doing my arms, AND going to yoga. (side note, I am so sore I want to cry, but it's a good hurt, right?)

Step 5: floss.

No, really. My dentist is always on me for it, and it's just not that hard. Or time-consuming. Just do it, Jamie. To quote Sam Seaborn, "your teeth are the best friends you've got."

So there you have it. My really boring albeit totally necessary steps to a happier and healthier Jamie. Sleep longer, eat better, drink less, exercise more, floss. Think I can do it? Anyone have any tried-and-true tips to share with the class?

(Special thanks goes out to Candice, who patiently and faithfully listens to "what I ate yesterday" practically every morning. I feel better knowing she holds me accountable, and I don't do much that I find too embarrassing to relate.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Life is a song.

So, as most of you know, I am always trying to be happier. I resolve, and I strive, and I talk, and I write about it. As my old pal Scotticus would say, I'm a human DO-ING as opposed to a human be-ing.

Yesterday I started out my morning a little disgruntled that I had a 3-hour flight, a 3-hour layover (which eventually grew into a 5-hour layover), and another 3-hour flight. Especially since some dude spilled coffee on my clean jeans mere MOMENTS before I walked out of the hotel, and then I got saddled with a chatty taxi-driver (one of life's greatest pet peeves). Anyway, once I checked in, I checked myself, and remembered how much I love to read, and that I hardly ever get to, and that 2 flights are the PERFECT opportunity to read without interruption, in fact, pretty much, without even stretching my legs. So I stopped at the airport bookstore to buy "The Help," which I have been wanting to read forever (and so far, is wonderful). While I was there I noticed a brightly colored non-fiction book called The Happiness Project.

I mean, honestly. This woman practically wrote this book for me. I ADORE projects!! She took a year (much like AJ Jacobs, Julie Powell, and Barbara Kingsolver) and determined how to make her life happier. She made an important distinction that she was not unhappy. She was not moving away from depression. She just wanted to make sure that life wasn't slipping by unnoticed. She wanted to make sure she was gleaning every ounce of joy out of the time she has been given. After all, not everyone can overcome ennui with a year of eating/praying/loving. Some of us just need to focus on the happy a little more. It shouldn't take an epic event to change your outlook on life.

She uses a lot of quotes and statistics-- I mean, really a girl after my own heart-- and one of them was Friedrich Nietzsche: The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either.

To me, that translates to LIFE IS A SONG. Some parts are better-- the catchy chorus you like to sing over and over. Some parts are tricky, that bit in the 2nd verse where you can never remember the words, or that one high note you can't JUST HIT. But it's a journey, and it ain't over till it's over, and I'm going to enjoy the hell of it while I'm here.

She focused on one area a month, and gave herself mini-objectives with each goal. She urges you to make your own goals, as everyone is different. I've picked 12 as well, but that was sort of a coincidence. I'm not putting time constraints on myself like she did, but that's OK. It's my project now. I'll go through them as I go through them. Here are my darling dozen:

  • health
  • wealth
  • home
  • friends
  • family
  • love
  • wisdom
  • knowledge
  • career
  • hobbies
  • beauty
  • positivity
I found the book to be very motivating, and full of good tips that can actually be followed, not just clouds of inspiration like "put positivity out in the universe and you will get it back." I mean, I believe that, in a way, but... HOW? Her tips range from the obvious (get more sleep), to the should-be-obvious (identify the problem), to the brilliant (never, ever put off a task that will take you less than 60 seconds; it will nag at you much longer than that), to seemingly sensible but not really pertinent to my life at the moment (don't use NO words with your kids; answer "can I go play?" with "yes, once you've finished all your chores" rather than "no! you haven't done any of your chores yet!").

I will be starting with the most very basic level-- health, and I'll be starting it on Tuesday morning when I get home from this trip. I hope you lovely readers enjoy my journey, and will all still be reading when I get to friends, which clearly include those of you who for all intents and purposes live inside my computer.