Being happy doing nothing

As you know, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted (5 weeks, 6 weeks?). I have no good “excuse” really. I simply wasn’t inclined to write. I have spent lots of time with friends, made art intermittently and for one whole glorious weekend, gone for long walks in the woods with my husband, went shopping but bought nothing, exercised irregularly in the mornings, slept well… but I have done nothing earth-shattering. I’m starting to really like it.

But I am inclined to feel guilty. I have usually operated as if any moment spent should not be wasted, because in my odd sense of reality I am constantly reminded any moment may be my last. Perhaps it is time to redefine what types of moments are a “waste.” I have also operated in the “make everyone else happy first” mindset, and only in my “impulsive” moments do I manage to do what it right for me in that dilemma. It went sort of like this: “If you are capable of doing it, you should do it and do it well, and if you don’t do it you are a worthless sack of sh!t.” In my old perspective, how I’ve spent this summer would be considered a “waste” and would imply that I am a “bad” person. I didn’t bust my butt showing my art or even finishing a single art work. I haven’t dedicated myself solely to one cause or any cause. I haven’t beaten myself up for not being excellent at whatever I’ve set out to do. Instead I’ve gone through my days experiencing life, and enjoying my time without my lists. I’ve done what needed to be done and that’s it. I’ve accomplished things, but I haven’t expected the impossible (which usually only results in making me stressed, anxious, irritable, and resentful).

I’ve taken a different approach this summer. I call it being a “normal person.” Which is not a real concept, but an operational principal of my day-to-day plans. Historically I have tried to do great at everything I attempt. I set huge goals that are typically insurmountable and feel worthless when I don’t reach them. But these last four months, I’ve just been what I am. It’s been nice.

My friend Heather took this picture on a walk out in nature one evening. It’s serene days like these I enjoy most. Being out with friends, just enjoying each others’ company. This has been my best summer I can remember.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have set goals. They go like this:

  1. Do something every day to feel good in my body. This could be anything from exercising, to intimacy, to eating a cupcake.
  2. Focus on doing well at my job. I started a new job (love it!) earlier this year. I am putting my best energy there, making sure I learn the job as quickly and thoroughly as possible. It has paid off.
  3. Be more realistic. I’m tired of setting myself up for failure by expecting myself to do everything extremely. For example, it has never been “I’m going to try to be more active.” It’s always been, “I’m going to exercise for XX minutes XX times a week, doing XX exercises on varying days to tone XX muscles to lose XX pounds by XX date and here is my chart that I’ve spent hours making to do this very thing!” Seriously. I’d make the chart, do it for a week, life would get in the way, and I would abandon the plan feeling like a failure in the process. So now my efforts sound more like goal #1 – general guidelines, effort, and awareness. More fluidity. More living with the moment.
  4. Stop spending time on activities I don’t enjoy because I feel like I should or people expect me to do it. Yes, I still pay my bills and do house work. But my time on other non-essential activities has been reduced to something I can feel good about rather than dread.
  5. Focus on making art instead of showing it. My portfolio needs new work. Trying to show my work is time consuming. I am putting that on the back burner so I can make new work I am excited to show.

And I’ve done things, too. Rebuilt my art website, made headway on a piece and planned a few others, planned a baby shower, been a friend, made exercising a rough part of my routine, explored parks and cooking, volunteered, curated a show, organized my studio, visited relatives…. But only things I wanted to do. Nothing more. Nothing less.

And that is kind of my point for this post. What are you doing that you don’t enjoy? Can you exclude it from your life? Obviously there are things each of us don’t enjoy that we do because of what it brings us in the long run. You might not love disciplining your kids when they misbehave, but it makes them more respectable as adults. I don’t love paying bills or cleaning, but in the long run they ensure a comfortable lifestyle.

How can you streamline your life to be most full of things that make your day-to-day better (without hurting others unnecessarily – always this caveat…)? How can you make room for what really matters? I suggest stop looking at others’ lives and look only at your own. (Ever heard of “keeping up with the Jones-es?” It’s a load of crap.) For years the competitor in me had something to prove. I would see what others were doing and think, “I can do that.” I would try to do it, and sometimes I might succeed. But what that created was a list of “to do’s” that only fulfilled a quota of comparative self-worth, rather than a self-guided assessment of purpose and value. It didn’t bring me happiness. It just crossed something off a never-ending checklist (there’s always someone or something to live up to in this mode of operating).

I don’t know where this new mindset is taking me. I know I don’t want it to lead me to a life of couch-potato-dom, or to mindless consumerism and apathy. I’d like it to bring new energy to my heartfelt interests. We’ll see what happens, but I like the way this road feels. Pretty great. So great, it is almost scary!

Help distribute Be Nice!

Hi all! I would like to share my new project with you. Up to this point, the Be Nice. project has depended on the reach of my personal connections and your willingness to generously spread the word. The print-runs of the pamphlets and postcards have all been self-funded–and due to my financial limitations, their reach has also been stunted. I would like to change that and get the new Guide to Farting and Pooping into the hands of as many people as possible! After all, who doesn’t love (or need) to talk about poo? No one, right?! To this end I have created a Kickstarter project. For those of you unfamiliar to Kickstarter, here’s the gist:

Kickstarter is a platform for creative projects to be “backed” by people all over the world. Ideas that may never have come to fruition otherwise are successfully achieved due to this website. People can pledge any amount of dollars to the project, and for that gift they are given a reward. The pledges are only dispensed to the project owner if the project achieves its funding goal within the allotted time frame. If it doesn’t reach its goal, no money is delivered. Basically, it’s all or nothing.

I have chosen a duration of 90 days to raise $300. That 300 bucks will cover 2/3 the cost to print 1000 pamphlets and the mailing and distribution of the rewards. I would love your support in any form, whether it be emailing this post to your friends, donating your Facebook status and Twitter updates with a link to the page, or even a little pledge! Simply by sharing this project with your friends, you are making it more successful regardless of the outcome of the Kickstarter project!

Click HERE to go to the Kickstarter page. There you can find social widgets and links that you can post to your blogs, websites, and social networks to promote the page. You can also see a video of me talking about the project and read more about why I’m doing it and what the rewards are!

Thank you so very much for your support, your comments, and your emails! They mean a great deal to me.

Farting and Pooping

Finally! I’m done! Five months of planning, sewing, photographing, and I am done! My newest completed Be Nice. project piece is ready to be reproduced into a brochure (8.5 x 14 inches, with four panels, double-sided. It will fold like an accordion.), and I am so excited!

The piece is about one of my favorite subjects: bathroom-related etiquette. It is a never-ending fascination to me how people behave in the public restrooms, and what they decide to leave behind (why, oh why do they leave anything behind?!). Even more surprising is what people do with their loved ones in private, and what some do in public! I am amazed how something everyone does on such a regular basis is so taboo (I daresay more so than sex), especially when one considers how poo can tell us the quality of our overall health. I just couldn’t resist–I had to make a piece on the subject! Talking about poo was one reason that contributed to my 65 pound weight loss in 2005, and it is even the reason I made one of my best friendships here in New York (yes, talking about poo gained me a friends)!

I present to you: the Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping!

Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping (outside panel; left section is the back cover; right section is the front cover)

Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping (inside panel--this is the entire inside section)

The images are small, and may appear a bit fuzzy, but if you click them they will open slightly larger and more readable!

Once I print them, I am going to have distribution in the works. If you know a place that would be perfect for it, pass it along by emailing me! This project is completely self-funded so in the near future I am planning a Kickstarter campaign to aid the publication costs. If you have any ideas/suggestions, please pass them along!

I sincerely hope you get a chuckle out of this piece! Thanks as always for reading and supporting this project!

(And if you like this topic, you might enjoy the fabulously funny book What is your poo telling you? by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth, M.D. They have a website here.)

Fear and hookworms

from Wikimedia commons and

Did I tell you I work a boring job? It’s good, don’t get me wrong. Benefits, decent pay for a recession. But it’s dull. Data entry. Is that all I have to say? I think so.  While I’m staring into my computer for those 40 weekly hours, I listen to my IPod and try not to think about the irreparable damage I’m doing to my eardrums. Recently I’ve become a huge fan of podcasts, and today listened for the first time to WNYC – Radiolab. On September 25, 2009 they did a segment on parasites (link to their page is here). I didn’t think I would like the subject, but ended up totally fascinated. Particularly I was interested in the story of Jasper Lawrence who suffered from ridiculous allergies which progressively worsened. Jasper tried everything it seemed, until he learned about the beneficial effects hookworms could have on illnesses like his. Determined to alleviate his pain, Jasper exposed his body to quite possibly the most disgusting environment imaginable so he could contract a healthy dose of hookworms. I won’t go into further detail–you can listen to the (free) podcast if you want to hear it! But within less than a year, Jasper went from allergy-attack victim (to the point of hospitalization), to nearly allergy-free!

The theory behind this “Helminthic Therapy” is that these little critters evolved with us, living in our digestive tracts where they could sustain themselves, and in turn offer us a little balance down there. But then we went and got all clean. You know: sanitation systems, clean water, bathing more than once every few weeks; and we ended our relationship with the sweet little parasite. Of course, back then it wasn’t so sweet–too much of them caused anemia, fatigue, malnourishment, and other issues. But what scientists have found is that these tiny guys may be the answer, or a very very effective treatment, to many disorders including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies, asthma, IBS, lupus, and MS to name a few. The podcast asks, “Why aren’t people knocking down the doors of these treatment organizations to get some help?!” and one of the many reasons is the very old, but ever-new: fear.

And that’s what I’m writing about here. How many times has “fear” been the reason we haven’t done something? Something that would make us happy, make us feel better, solve a problem. I’m not just talking about infecting ourselves with hookworms either. Was there ever a person you were attracted to that you didn’t ask out on a date, for fear of being shot down? Or a job you didn’t apply for, because you didn’t know what you would do if you actually got it? There are so many reasons we generate for why we shouldn’t do something, and so few we acknowledge for why we should. And often, when we let fear rule our lives, we continue living in unhappy circumstances, being something we’re not, or being suppressed by some sort of liability (like Jasper’s allergies).

A good way to decide how to respond to fear is to ask yourself:

1. Are these fears based in anything tangible and logical? Do they have validity?

2. What are the odds that the “fear” would actually occur?

3. Is it a “safe” risk?

4. Will your actions hurt anyone in the process of being achieved?

5. What is worse: staying where you are now, or taking a risk and going for what makes you afraid?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may be in a good position to make that move that causes you so much anxiety. Sometimes, however, the option isn’t worth the risk. But if I had an immune disorder, I think I’d take the hookworms.

Be Nice Twice

exercise equipment

There is a very easy, simple and thoughtful way for any person to be nice… twice!  It occurred to me when I realized how un-nice I was being and didn’t realize it. See, when I work out at the gym, I usually warm-up on the treadmill for 10 minutes and then pop down to the mats to do strengthening and stretching exercises, after which I do more cardio and wipe down my machine afterward. But what I was not doing was wiping down my treadmill the first time I used it. I rationalized my inaction by the fact that I touched the buttons only 4-5 times when I used the machine and didn’t sweat. But touching buttons is touching buttons. Who knows what germs I may have spread by not wiping down the machine. Not to mention, if it were the other way around, I bet I’d be writing about whosoever was inconsiderate and didn’t wipe down their machine! Shame on me!

So, that’s how easy it is to be nice–twice: first, be nice to your body by working out in the first place. Exercise has a number of benefits that I will have to share another time. And second, thoroughly wipe down your equipment and your mat.  I’m sure we would all like the same done for us. If we all thought the way I did before today, those machines would be pretty dirty! And no one wants to exercise on top of someone else’s sweat and germs.

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (, 2008-2010