Category Archives: .03 Happiness

Damaging My Defenses

When I was writing my upcoming email workshop (launching later this month), I asked my sister to be my lab-rat. She agreed and ran through the lessons and exercises, discovering a way to turn her negativity about her job into passion for a long-term blogging plan. Before she’d even finished the workshop, she’d launched Urban Panther (quickly joined by the Urbane Lion).

And being the sort of person my sister is, she researched what needed doing and set up a plan to do it. As a result, she’s just a few months into blogging, has become very popular, and surpasses me in regular comments (and likely daily readers).

I’m extremely proud of and happy for her (especially since she discovered the passion through my workshop). There is, however, more than a smidgen of envy and even a touch of highly negative jealousy. Yes, that’s right, Self-Pity-Alex managed to sneak back into the personality zoo and started running about yelling, "It’s not fair! She’s only been at it for a few months! I’ve been blogging for two years!"

Wise to Self-Pity-Alex’s tricks, Realist-Alex pointed out that the Urban Panther went into blogging with a plan. I dove in two years ago without thinking, and other than (more or less) regular posts along consistent themes, I’ve been just mucking about.

Lazy-Alex stepped in to defend Self-Pity-Alex with some mutterings about how much work it is and shouldn’t my writing skills be enough? That drew the rest of the personalities into the fray, causing a near meltdown in the shower this morning.

Fortunately, Realist-Alex called everyone’s attention to the hole in the confidence fence that surrounds the zoo. "But what caused the hole?" they all asked, some of the more dramatic personalities fearing asteroid impacts or dinosaurs. "It’s simple," replied Willpower-Alex, "We’ve fallen off the no sugar/no wheat wagon at high velocity and knocked a self-pity sized hole in the defenses during the landing.

Don’t worry though, Realist-Alex has frogmarched Self-Pity Alex out of the personality zoo and Willpower-Alex has committed to repairing the breach and standing guard in the meantime.

Someday Lessons:

  • Growth never goes in a straight line – expect a few hairpin turns that seemingly take you in the wrong direction.
  • Don’t let surface thoughts control you – examine them (on several levels) to find out the root cause of negativity.

Expanding Tastes

As a child, I hated seafood. Put anything fishy in front of me and I would gag, flail my arms about and fall out of my chair in my efforts to get away from the atrocity placed before me. To this day, the memory of my mother’s salmon cakes with undiluted Campbell’s Tomato Soup sauce fills me with dread. Frozen fishsticks were bearable, but they were always ruined by the accompanying frozen peas and plain rice.

In my teens, I discovered jumbo shrimp sautéed in butter and garlic and baby shrimp on a fresh French stick with bechamel sauce and swiss cheese under the broiler. At university I added tuna melts and the occasional white fish in cream sauce. Lobster also became tolerable but only in small doses.

I never gave up trying to like more, however. Periodically I’d sample something fishy (like calamari or caviar) and give it a thumbs up (calamari) or thumbs down (caviar). With any thumbs down, I’d wait a year or so and try it again.

In France, I found out that I like most fish and almost all seafood (it’s still a no for the caviar). The one thing I just could not do, however, was salmon. The fish oils in salmon would coat the inside of my mouth and stay there influencing the taste of everything else for days, despite repeated tooth-brushings and mouthwash rinses.

Imagine my trepidation, therefore, when Raul bought salmon steaks this past weekend. "Muy rico a la plancha," he promised me and Saturday night we plugged in the indoor grill and threw the salmon steaks on the sizzling hot surface. Immediately our small kitchen/living room filled with the most intense fish smell.

"Oh god!" I thought. "How the hell am I going to be able to eat this? I can barely breathe!"

So, did I eat it? Or did I gag up several euros’ worth of high quality salmon? Come back tomorrow to find out…

Someday Lessons:

  • Just because you don’t like something today, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever like it.
  • Nothing is absolute – stay open to change.

Vacation Notice

My friend Cate visits this week for my 39th birthday (this coming Sunday). We’re starting in Madrid today, then returning to San Sebastian on Friday.

I’ll be back blogging mid-next week.

In the meantime, feel free to browse the archives and review some previous Someday Lessons.

The Return of the Victim

Poor Raul. He’s had to put up with so much during my Someday Journey, and he hasn’t even been aware of most of it.

Remember how last week I thrust Raul into the role of master to my butler? (Get your minds out of the gutter people!) That prompted me to think about what other roles I’ve been making the poor man play unwittingly.

For those who’ve been around since the beginning of this blog, you might remember Victim-Alex and Self-Pity-Alex. While I was looking the other way they’ve managed to unite and slip in unnoticed. How long they’ve been there, I don’t know, but today I gave them the boot.

Most of my life I played the victim and felt put-upon, but with Raul I have no reason to. Habits of a lifetime are hard to change, however, and I realized this week that over the past little while, I’d pushed him into the role of aggressor without meaning to or really wanting to.

How did I do that? By feeling…

Insulted: When Raul states an opinion I see it as an attack. He’s not the only one I do this to. My friend Cate once said to me "Shorts on men are ugly." I love wearing shorts (and think a fine pair of calves are super-sexy), so thought she meant that I was ugly. It doesn’t matter though what she (or anyone) thinks about shorts. I like them and that’s enough.

Resentful: I’ve talked about this one already. I spend more time at home than Raul does. He works a job that he really doesn’t enjoy and that exhausts him. I end up doing more of the day to day stuff around the house. It just makes sense. And yet I end up having "discussions" with him in my head when he’s not here about how I do things. I get all fierce in my internal dialogues telling him that if he doesn’t like it, he can forget about me ever doing anything ever again. When he comes home and thanks me for whatever I’ve done, I’m already irritated and put-out so all I think is: "You better be, mister!"

Jealous: Raul adores me. I adore him. I trust him with my life. And yet if he talks about a new friend, or mentions that someone is hot, I get all insecure, sure that he’ll wake up soon and realize how little he does adore me and go running off with some guy who speaks Spanish and is so much more together than I am…

Waah, waah, waah!

When reading over the blog recently I noticed that some of this self-victimizing had leaked into the blog, but I’ve figured out their game now and have expelled Self-Pity-Alex and Victim-Alex from the personality zoo. I can act like a normal human being again. Unfortunately given their knowledge of the inner workings of the zoo, I don’t think they’re gone for good.

Someday Lessons:

  • We may think we’ve changed our ways, but old habits die hard and we have to stay vigilant against the return of unwanted behaviours.
  • Negative emotions are insidious and often we don’t notice them until they start causing problems.

Chaos and Drama-Alex

Yesterday Unclutterer talked about chaos and creativity, mentioning how chaos can block creativity but at the same time creativity creates more chaos. I’m definitely one of those who enjoy chaos, especially in the creative environment, but I enjoy it because I create order and find patterns in the chaos.

In fact, I will often let my life go chaotic simply so that I can create order again. Living in order on a day to day basis bores me. I need excitement and a bit of drama in my life. Dishes and clothes strewn all over the house, followed by a frenzied organizing session is a much healthier way, I think, of creating that drama than say picking a fight with Raul (I’m sure he thinks so as well!). Conquering the chaos again and again also gives me boosts of confidence and satisfaction that a constant state of order does not.

Yesterday I indulged in another form of chaos-to-order excitement; I helped a friend reclaim a portion of his garden that had been neglected for 30 years. This type of excitement is based on the makeover madness of lifestyle television. Before and after! Big reveal! Pain and suffering during the process! (And in this case pain and suffering after due to gardening muscles I haven’t used in a year.)

Someday Lessons:

  • Not all chaos is bad – as long as you know how to harness it.
  • If (like me) you enjoy extremes in life, find healthy (and productive) ways to express yourself.

Before (that’s a mock-orange filled with ivy, bramble, jasmine and grass):

(who knew there was a shed and a fence hiding under all that?):

Self-Induced Anger

Saturday night started with a glass of light port on ice then we toasted our anniversary with a glass of Cava Rosada and just before we left to go dancing, we threw back a shot of peach whiskey. A recipe for a fun night, surely.

Not quite so. My mood started out great. After all we were celebrating our one year anniversary and going to San Sebastian’s Pride Party (where we met last year). A good friend and his new boyfriend had come over to celebrate with us. As we sat down to eat, however, I felt that Raul’s attitude had changed. He had started to make little digs at me – insulting my lack of Spanish, ordering me about and getting snarky when I pushed back at his orders.

Arriving at the party, I decided all I wanted to do was dance. Otherwise I wanted to be left alone. As much as I knew Raul wanted to be affectionate, I could barely tolerate his touch – it forced me out of my private dancing world. Also, as people moved about the dance floor, they kept banging into me, jarring me further out of my world and disrespecting my right to dance uninterrupted!

I tried to ignore them, tried to have fun shaking my booty to the beat, but as person after person pushed past me, my shoulders cramped and my spine creaked like an unoiled bike chain. How dare they bother me! I was here to have fun, not to get pushed around by a bunch of drunken idiots with no respect for personal space!

At the point just before I retreated to a corner where the walls would have protected at least two sides of me, I realized that it wasn’t the party-goers nor was it Raul. It was me. I was in a FOUL mood which fortunately was beginning to fade, letting sanity return.

I grabbed Raul, gave him a huge kiss and said (in Spanish of course): "I don’t like alcohol. It puts me in a bad mood." I then spent the rest of the night overcoming this chemically produced anger through sheer willpower.

Someday Lessons:

  • If the entire world seems lined up against you, check your attitude – maybe it’s just a case of a twisted perception.
  • Being self-aware doesn’t just mean aware of your mind – it includes your body too.

Someday I’ll Be Rich

In a fit of procrastination (this being Tuesday), I wrote down my "Somedays." I included only things about which I was passionate and came up with ten. In looking at them more carefully, I discovered that I had repeated myself five times. Of the five that remained, numbers two and three were a subset of number one, giving me in reality only three "Somedays" that I have not yet realized.

My relationships are awesome (romantic, family and friends – including a one year anniversary with Raul as of yesterday). I love where I live (even if it’s only 225sq ft) and although my health isn’t perfect, I know how to manage it and am content with that. "Someday" number two (learning Spanish and Basque) is well underway and number three is very personal but also moving forward. I don’t have to actively pursue these – they will happen with patience and time.

"Someday" number one, however, is totally up in the air – and it’s one many people worry/dream about: money. Someday my fiction and non-fiction writing will create enough income to support me at my chosen level of lifestyle through retirement. I work on this "Someday" daily, but I have little or no guarantee that anything will come from the effort I put in.

I can only continue to plug away at it, learn all that I can about writing and the publishing world, and maintain patience and perseverance.

Someday Lessons:

  • How many areas of your life (relationships, finance, romance and health) have "Somedays" hanging over them?
  • What are you doing to actively remove the word Someday from these areas of your life?