Conan is awesome

image source: http://ozonetv.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/conans-all-time-favorite/

Conan on Rolling Stone magazine. (image source: ozonetv.wordpress.com)

My husband and I couldn’t stay up late to watch the entire last episode of Conan on the Tonight Show Friday night. But luckily thanks to Hulu we watched it last night! I have always loved Conan and his sense of humor–I loved his show more than any of the other late night hosts’ shows. But on that last show, I was more impressed with him than ever before. At the end of the segment, Conan explained that he did indeed have the right to say anything he wanted about NBC. And out of all the words he could have spoken, Conan spent those moments thanking NBC for being so good to him for twenty-plus years. Yes, he acknowledged their differences, but then focused on the much more substantial positive experiences he has had with NBC for the two decades earlier. 

We can all take this attitude to heart: how many marriages get caught up in petty arguments, ignorant of 20 years of good times? How many employees grow with resentment or indifference with a job that at one time gave them challenges, excitement, meaning, and fulfillment? Conan’s speech reminds us that people change, our desires change, and this is all very natural. But we cannot turn a blind eye in our frustration to the goodness and growth we gained from our experiences, no matter how they may end up.

He closed his speech with a note about cynicism and being kind.  It was beautiful and something so many people need to hear every day. I have a great deal of respect for him for this particular part of his speech. Here is an excerpt:

[To my fans]…all I ask is one thing…. Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you are kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you! It’s just true! It’s true!…

Absolutely beautiful words. Couldn’t agree more!

Compassion and illness

I visited a friend of mine in the hospital the other day–she had elective surgery and had no one to visit her that afternoon. So I popped by with a girlfriend of mine and brought some flowers to cheer up the room. It sure made a difference to her too, she was smiling ear to ear.

Unfortunately, I have had a fair share of relatives and friends whose lives have been touched by illness–cancer to be specific. My grandma has loved and lost quite a few to this disease. I asked her once if there was anything I could do for someone we care dearly about who is fighting it. She said something very wise:

Visiting the sick is very important. It helps the person heal, or deal with their situation. But visiting can be tiring for the sick, too. It takes a lot of energy to chat with someone when so much of his/her strength is being used to fight an internal battle. Grandma suggested, when visiting someone,  that we try to provide a service as well. For example, bring a ready-made snack and clean up afterward. Insist on taking care of the dirty dishes. Pick up some groceries on your way over. Sweep up some crumbs. Take out the trash. Fold up the blankets. Weed the garden. Mow the yard. Fill the bird feeder. Offer to help out in a way that contributes without taking away the person’s pride and sense of independence. 

A lot of times, this might include helping the person’s caretaker/loved one. It is hard for the loved one to be strong all the time for the person who is ill. Sometimes they might need a break from the dishes or the cooking. Offering your help may be all they need to feel supported and loved. Suggesting something specific is often a surefire way of ensuring your contribution is taken seriously. Just make sure that when you offer it, you mean it.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Successes

 I lost 65 pounds about 4 years ago. Around ten or twelve of those pounds have crept back on, but I have continued to make lifestyle  improvements: now, I exercise and pay attention to emotional eating habits. But for some reason, despite all these awesome accomplishments, I stress out about those extra ten pounds. I give myself a pretty tough time about it too. It seems once I grow accustomed to my new accomplishment, I take for granted all the hard work it took to get there. I forget. I ignore my successes and instead obsess about my newly perceived “faults.” For most people, this kind of mindset does little good to motivate us to greater accomplishments. It can often send us spiraling backwards.

It’s hard to keep up with all the ways to be a “good” person: be green, give to charity, go to church, keep a clean house, eat healthy, exercise, be a good employee, be a good boss, be a good friend, be a good spouse/partner. Jeez. How could we feel good about ourselves with everything telling us to improve (this blog is no exception to that, and I know it).

So, what if we changed our mind frame?  I suggest that we keep a successes journal. You might not be eating perfect, but you said no to ice cream today. You cleaned off the dining room table. You had a great conversation with your neighbor and gave consolation when s/he needed it. You may not have finished the laundry, but you were there to talk to your friend with whom you’ve been playing “phone tag” for two months.

These things are successes. They create a more meaningful life. Instead of judging ourselves against an idea of perfection, or someone else’s idea of what is best and worst, why not judge ourselves based on what we find meaningful? Don’t know what you find meaningful? Find out. That could be your success every day.

After about five days, look back on your list. How good does it make you feel to see all the great things you did? Imagine how those small things make a positive difference in the bigger picture. At the end of our lives, people won’t remember that we binged on ice cream last Sunday or if we kept a clean house. They’ll remember that we lived a happy, healthy life.  They will remember our character. They will remember the meaningful things, not those self-criticisms that take  up our time and thinking.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice.(somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

What is this tube in my belly & where did my appendix go?

In “Thank You Dr. So-And-So,” I mentioned the importance of paying respect/courtesy to our medical professionals…..  After spending a large amount of time in and out of a hospital this last month interacting with doctors, I have to say that many, but not all, doctors need to return the favor.

I know they spend years studying and that many things are boring and old-hat to them, but to the patient the issues are serious and a tremendous concern. Disregarding questions and concerns with a shrug or an irritated look is not only rude and insensitive, it is irresponsible and disrespectful. Who knows what a doctor might learn if they gave the patient a chance to speak? If they didn’t treat the patient like they didn’t know anything?

Many patients like to know what the doctors outside the hospital room are saying to each other about the patient’s case when on their rounds. Why not give them that option? Why do patients have to ask over and over for test results, for answers, for basic post-op care instructions?  This can be a problem with “bedside manner” or this can be administrative and commuicative error.  Either way, it would make the world a nicer place with a little more patience and information.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Amicable Allegory #3: ER Experience

Nice people do make dubious days better.

My fiance and I were at the ER last Monday (the beginning of a long hospital stay and the second ER trip in four days), and after an hour wait, we were escorted to a bed in the hallway where we were to spend another four hours. 

As we waited for my fiance’s turn to be treated, a registration lady came around to take his information. Her name was Cynthia. I imagine many people in her position would have a lot of stressful days: working in an ER, talking with distraught people who may or may not have health insurance….  But Cynthia was just wonderful. As soon as I smiled at her, she was equally as delightful. We chatted and joked and had a great time while she took in my Fubby’s information. Even after she had finished helping us, we would exchange little jokes when she passed by. When I mentioned that I hadn’t eaten that day, she got me packs of graham crackers and a few cans of juice to tide me over until I could go to the cafeteria. This meant so much to me on a day that held a lot of surprises and unfortunate and unplanned events.

It’s people like Cynthia, who do thoughtful little things to help other people, that make a tremendous difference in a person’s day.

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Be Nice… to yourself

So, perhaps you’ve picked up on the fact that being nice doesn’t necessarily stop at social courtesy. Being nice usually entails one being compassionate, considerate, and outwardly aware. This is not always easy to do.

Most people are trying to improve the quality of their lives, and in many circumstances this means improving oneself.  Some people (like myself) are perfectionists about it, and the cycle of self-critique and outward-critique is never ending and often hinders the growth we are strivng for. Some people work so hard to achieve things that it wears on them to the point they get sick or their quality of life dwindles unnoticed.

And when these things happen, being nice to people can seem impossible. That’s when it’s time to be nice to yourself. Remember this:

1. No one is perfect. While it is commendable to try to be the best person you are capable of being, making allowances for the times you aren’t 100% nice/compassionate/considerate/focused/et cetera is a very important part of personal growth. This is self-forgiveness and self-compassion. This is self-awareness at its highest level. In the end, those that accept they are human while simultaneously reaching evermore toward effective self-improvement usually yield the most positive results in their lives (and the lives of others) overall.

2. Listen to your body and spirit. Don’t run yourself into the ground. Take an R & R day. Take 5 minutes to relax and clear your mind. Go spend a few bucks on your favorite smoothie or coffee. Take the time to cook a really exciting new meal for yourself. Be present to the moment you are currently in. Do things like these when you have reached your limit for the simple sake of self-preservation. And then you will likely have more energy to move on with your day and you will likely be more purposeful and genuine in all that you do.

3. It is all a balancing act. What is most important to you? What is next in line? What can slack off a bit? What can you do to make your day a little better? How can you make mundane tasks a little more enjoyable? How can you make a sad day brighter?

So when you go out and try to be courteous, but nothing seems to work; when you feel down and then feel guilty because you are such a drag to be around; when you snap at someone you love without meaning it; when you forget something important because of over-working yourself; when you just don’t have the energy to be 100%, be nice to yourself. You know you deserve it.  And once you’ve had enough of that, you’ll head out into the world refreshed, a little more capable, and ready to be more effective than if you had simply pushed through. 🙂

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.

Waiting… and waiting… and waiting

Most people have worked service jobs at one point in their lives. And so most of us know one thing: they stink.

My mother was a grocery store cashier for 23 years. She was great at her job in many ways, but one was that she made a point of being kind and courteous to each person that came through her line. As a little girl watching her carry that attitude with her everywhere she went, I learned a lot about how to treat others.

When we are behaving as customers, it is easy to be frustrated at any variety of things. Only one check-out line is open, someone is paying with all coins–no bills, the person behind the counter is new and doesn’t know how to run their register yet, the waiter is covering another person’s section and has full tables….  It is easy to forget how it feels to be the person who’s working.

When I go to the store, I make sure to ask the cashier how their day is going and make chit-chat with them (if they are responsive to it). I am sure to say “please” and “thank you” to my server, even if they are just refilling my water glass. I look past my frustrations at a long wait to the possible reasons for the situation: someone was mis-scheduled, someone called in sick, someone quit suddenly, someone hurt themselves in the kitchen and had to go to the ER. There are any number of reasons, and often-times when I ask, my instincts are right. This server isn’t a jerk or doing a “bad” job, they are just handling poor circumstances. So I try not to make their day worse by being another angry customer. In doing so, the wait feels more tolerable and worthwhile, because I am making that person’s day a little easier to handle. Who couldn’t feel good about that?

 

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.