So happy for YOU

Eeyore is a Trademarked/Copywritten character of Disney. This image source: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/disney/images/1348371/title/eeyore-fanart

My three-year old nephew is in the stage where he’s learning to monitor his own behavior – namely self-control. After not getting his way at Grandma’s house the other afternoon, Cruz launched into an adorable, yet fairly familiar, “Eeyore” phase. He moped, he sighed, he pouted. Head down, lip out… there was no way this three-year old was going to budge from his gloomy disposition. My mother saw it as an opportunity. She knelt to the ground, looked at Cruz and said, “Now Cruz I know you’re upset, and that’s okay. But let me ask you something. Do you want to be a sad little boy or do you want to be a happy little boy?” He looked up at his Grandma and said, “Happy.” Mom replied, “Well then all you have to do is put a smile on your face and go be happy.” It was that simple. Instantly his frown changed to a grin, and he trotted away to go have fun again – a real life Christopher Robin.

Could it be that easy? Can we just decide to be happy? For the most part, I say yes. In the face of tremendous pain and discomfort, human beings find reasons to smile as surely as they need air to breathe. It is not that we are incapable of being happy. It’s just difficult to feel happy sometimes.

Often it is difficult for people to find joy within their lives, and it can be even harder to celebrate the happiness of others. When confronted with the good fortune of their friends and colleagues many people prefer to remain securely in their “Eeyore” phase, rather than give in to the good feelings resonating from their companions. After all, isn’t it safer to be in the dredges of their misery – a place safe and familiar? Why feel joy for someone else, when they feel none for themselves? If anything, they feel resentment, right? Won’t it just make them more acutely aware of their misfortunes by rejoicing in the goodness within others’ lives?

Not really.

In this economic climate, it is difficult for even the most seasoned professional to procure suitable professional employment. Most artists participate in a constant battle with their esteem and determination in their attempts to access better professional opportunities for themselves. It could be easy to become resentful of others’ successes. But what good would that do for any of us?

A colleague of mine just received a coveted position at an excellent educational institution in the Northeast: a two-year visiting professor position in art. Having received his MFA in 2010 at the same institution I received mine, his invitation to teach at this school was a beacon of light to those in our field. Surely there will be a few of his colleagues or acquaintances who secretly grumble with envy and resentment, but the majority of us met the news with great enthusiasm. A “win” for him is a “win” for all of us.

And for some of us (er… ahem… ME), it was like our own dreams had come true. When I heard the news, I could not stand still! I was like a child – clapping my hands, bounding through my apartment with unfettered exuberance. That night it didn’t matter that I still worked a mind-numbing data entry job. I didn’t feel an ounce of resentment or jealousy. I felt hope, because someone I knew had just received the kind of news we all dream of getting: a job in our field!

Like my little (nearly!) four-year old nephew, we have a choice. We can decide to be happy. We might not always get our way, but we always have control over our perspective.

Think of it as good karma. Think of it as good manners. Whatever works for you; be happy for others.

After all, when it’s your turn to share your good news you’ll want everyone to be happy for your good fortune too!

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Taxation and niceness

The lotto jackpot in New York reached 144 million last week. As my friend Michele and I drove past the huge billboard reading those unimaginable numbers one evening, Michele said, “I don’t even know what I would do if I won the jackpot.” I said, “I do!” I continued to tell her my plan of paying off my student loans and my immediate family’s mortgages and bills, because I said, “then it’s not a gift and they don’t have to pay taxes on it.” And Michele, financial pro that she is, says, “Actually, that is a gift. Sorry to ruin it for you.” Appalled, I asked, “Even if I didn’t give them the money, I just lightened their burden?!!” 

 “Yup,” she replied. Trying to find a way around the gift tax limitations, I said, “Well, I could put the mortgage in both our names, pay it off, and then sign it back over to them.” She said, “Nope, signing it over to them is a gift.” Ug. I mean, come on!!!  Michele then told me there are limits on personal gifting above which the government taxes you. It seems so unfair. I mean, I know I’ll never win the lottery–because I don’t play!– but just the idea that someone with good monetary fortune cannot help others without being penalized for it depresses me! I’m sure there was logic for the law (such as corporations finding ways to fiddle with their records under the guise of “charitable giving”), but this just seems preposterous!  Our government taxes being nice. I suppose I could live with it more if I knew the taxes I paid went to things I cared about and not things I didn’t approve of, but that is not how things work. 

So where’s the positive? What’s there to be happy about when, if you had money to share, there are rules and regulations that limit your generosity? I have decided I should be grateful I am not wealthy in my finances, because it would be a constant battle to be as “nice” as I would like if I were endowed with uber amounts of moolah.  The government doesn’t blink at the mediocre amounts I can afford to give charitably.

As soon as I realized how lucky I am to just have what I have and to give what I can without worrying about a penalty, I remembered the type of wealth that spans all income brackets. I am wealthy in love and friends and health, and that is such a blessing! My joy, my happiness, my positivity, my appreciation for these things: I can share all those things as much as I can muster! Like the India Arie song There’s Hope goes, “…It doesn’t cost a thing to smile, you don’t have to pay to laugh; you better thank God for that!”

Funny honey

Another piece of wedding advice I received from my aunts and grandmothers, which I think is one of the most important elements to a healthy marriage is this: 

When times are stressful, when times get difficult or tense, have a little humor. Make a joke, mention a funny memory, point out the oddity of the situation–the irony. Have a little fun with each other–something you can count on to lighten the mood. Humor can heal all sorts of wounds, hurts, and anxieties.

On a cautious note, do remember to whom you are speaking. You wouldn’t want to pull a Sex and the City moment, where Charlotte can’t conceive a baby and her husband buys her a cardboard baby cut out as a joke. Probably not the best idea. Sometimes a well-meant joke can be taken as an insult or a slap in the face and worsen the experience.

Know your situation, know your partner, and know what’s appropriate. But know that humor can diffuse many emotional bombs–so it’s always worth a try!

 

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

What you make it

My fiance and I are going through some growing pains right now. Here we are, newly graduated, newly unemployed, and both pretty stressed and scared. To help, my mom sent me a  prayer to St. Jude for employment, and I pray it every day. I asked Jake, do you ever pray it? He said he never got into the habit of praying. So then I asked, “Well, how do you view good fortune? If it isn’t a God-thing, is it luck, random good fortune, odds, knowing the right people, or hard work?” And I had to chuckle when he said, “Oh, I think it’s a combination of hard work and dumb luck.”  We have such divergent attitudes about luck (I view it as a life path, synchronicity, blessings, purpose and destiny), but we both have the same outlook: it will all be okay. As long as we have each other, and we’re healthy and happy, it will be okay.

When one faces a difficulty, an obstruction, or an impediment, it important to remember: the situation is going to be exactly what one makes it to be. This can be said about how we receive information, how we choose to react, how we present ourselves professionally or socially. When it comes down to it, our outcomes are often dictated by our outlook.

If times are hard (which they are for many people right now), remember to stay as positive as you can. Don’t succumb to negativity. It will do more harm than good. Positivity will carry you through. When you feel like you can’t do anything more, remember: you are stronger than that. You have persevered before and you can do it again. When it seems like a hopeless cause, spend some time with people who make you feel great for who you are and what you do. When you feel like no matter how hard you try you won’t get ahead, make a list of all the things you’ve done to try and then make a list of the things you can’t control. If you can’t control it, let it be. But if you can do something to make a difference, do it.

Everything is what you make it.

 

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

pessimism doesn’t = realism

I have heard plenty of people say, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m  a realist.”  This sentiment suggests to me that pessimistic or negative people validate their attitudes under the guise of being realistic. The truth is, they are probably being realistic, but with a negative spin on the whole situation.

People sometimes suggest that positive, upbeat attitudes indicate an uninformed perspective that is avoiding reality. Quite the contrary. I have found that I can be realistic and positive simultaneously. It actually helps me move through the crisis/situation toward a better outcome. 

The question is ultimately:  what motivates you?   If being a bummer motivates you to action, then fine. If being positive drives you forward, that’s good too. In this regard, both attitudes seem necessary–the positive and the negative–depending on one’s own proclivities. Each is a personal perspective (and choice) that hopefully moves one toward productive action.

But let us all remember: being realistic does not rationalize the decision to be a pessimist. We choose how we perceive information (or, reality), whether negatively or positively, independently of how clearly we are seeing our situation. So don’t make excuses. If you’re negative, you’re negative. Own your attitude. Otherwise you’re not being realistic with yourself.

 

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

Easy way to boost your day: form a smile and give it away!

I just returned from Los Angeles last week. First trip to California and it was great! We went to Rodeo Drive and Venice Beach among other places. Fully expecting to have the Pretty Woman experience on Rodeo Drive, I made sure to put my best face forward to test my possibly unfair assumption. To each person who greeted me, I turned to them with a truly genuine smile and asked them how they were that day. It was amazing how they warmed up to me. The young woman at the Coach store and I spoke for awhile about our respective origins (Tokyo and Iowa), two other women and I exchanged our delight in the beauty of a Jimmy Choo shoe. I wonder how many of those sales people are ignored every day even though they are expected to promote the fluffiest of natures to their clientele. I bet I may have cheered up at least one of their afternoons!

 

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

Happy Go Lucky? DON’T keep it to yourself!

Now, perhaps I’m a little biased, but I think that positive attitudes are worth spreading along, and negative ones are worth keeping to ourselves. That’s where this post is going….

In my last post, I wrote about how great my weekend was spent shopping and running around doing errands. Truthfully, that day when I shopped was so surprisingly great (since I dislike shopping so much), my enthusiasm was hard to contain. I found myself apologizing for my energetic happiness that afternoon, as if it would overwhelm those adjacent to my joyfulness.

Thinking on that today, I asked myself, “Why should anyone contain/restrain such a positive emotion?”  Should we have to worry that our happiness or our excitedness might offend someone? I’d say, absolutely not. If it offends someone else, there is something seriously wrong with that person, and possibly society. Positive emotions should be shared and demonstrated with abandon. It makes me think of the movie, “Happy Go Lucky”, about a woman who is so happy all the time, and subsequently must learn to deal with situations where others can’t stand her demeanor, or interact with others who aren’t happy themselves. [Sometimes I feel like that. I’ve been told by people my whole life that I am too much (too happy, too enthusiastic, too positive, etc.), and really I’ve come to the point where I think, why would that ever be a bad thing?]

So here’s to those people who are happy and positive and nice. If you’ve got it in you, share it with abandon and don’t feel bad about it. And if you’ve got meanness, negativity, or crankiness in you–keep it to yourself and try to bask in the sunny face next to you. Give in and be happy. You’ll enjoy it, I promise!

 

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