Nov 26

Gratitude: Quotes for Thanksgiving; Brene Brown Links to Joy

Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse. Henry Van Dyke

“The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have. If you get what you expect, you will not be grateful for getting it.” Dennis Prager

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust

“I am thankful for all difficult people in my life, they have shown me exactly who I do not want to be. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

“Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.” Anne Lamott

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.” Randy Pausch 

“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“If you can’t be content with what you have received, be thankful for what you have escaped.” Author unknown

“Happiness is not what makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

Twelve years of research led to Brené Browns own conclusion, echoing the above, that people who describe their lives as joyous are those who practice gratitude actively:

Jan 10

Finding Your Own Identity: Lizzie Velasquez, Plus

Finding your own identity is the theme of  24-year-old author and motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez in her inspirational TED talk. Her point? You don’t have to be what others perceive about you or how they want to define you. Finding your own identity can be significantly challenging, but it’s a process worth undertaking.

Lizzie knows of what she speaks, having lived with an extremely rare kind of disorder all her life that prevents weight gain and has blinded her in one eye. It’s believed that what she may have is Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome, “a condition that causes accelerated aging and fat loss from the face and body” (The Huffington Post).

Because of how she’s been perceived, Lizzie has been the victim of widespread bullying—she was once called “The World’s Ugliest Woman” in a YouTube video watched by millions.

Lizzie, however, has risen above. One major and positive factor in her development has been her parents, who’ve always given her full support—indeed, to the point that she didn’t know when she first started school why others reacted to her so differently.

Below, Lizzie’s recent TED talk:

How does one actually become oneself? Sounds easy, but usually it’s not at all. Writer Anne Lamott has some advice and words of wisdom in her article called “How to Find Out Who You Really Are.”

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

Other Selected Quotes On Finding Your Own Identity

Harvey Fierstein: “Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Choke: “We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.”

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: “Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

Oct 03

“Desiderata”: The Middle Part of Max Ehrmann’s Prose Poem

Picking up from yesterday’s post, here’s Desiderata: The Middle Part…

VI. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Psychology Today“Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. As a result, we are constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of domains (for example, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success). Most of us have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet but our true feelings may come out in subtle ways.”

Steve Furtick“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

VII. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

 VIII. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Seeking everyday heroes? Not hard. Here are just a few websites of note:

IX. Be yourself.

A common enough sentiment among writings in addition to Desiderata: The Middle Part.

Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

Bernard Baruch: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Leo Buscaglia: “The easiest thing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.”

Harvey Fierstein: “Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Jo Coudert: “For you cannot live in someone else. You cannot find yourself in someone else. You cannot be given a life by someone else. Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose.”

X. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Erica Jong“Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it…It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.”

Douglas Yates“People who are sensible about love are incapable of it.”

The final part of this blog series on Desiderata will be here tomorrow…

Jan 27

Perfectionism, Oppression, and Faith: Anne Lamott

The highly popular book by Anne LamottBird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, addresses the issue of perfectionism so well that she has helped both writers and non-writers the world over lower our unreasonable expectations of ourselves. And she does this with these three little words: “Shitty first drafts.”

Lamott states that just about all writers, even the very successful, first have to face a “shitty first draft” before it becomes something better through the process of revision. Usually there’s a second, a third, a fourth draft, and so on—whatever it takes until you feel ready to put it out there.

But if you’re not aware of this and you in fact imagine that everyone else is capable of whipping off a highly polished, i.e., “perfect,” specimen right from the get-go, you’ll probably agonize over taking the necessary first steps of your project—and probably never get anywhere. Lamott’s words: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

Perfectionism. Except for that “ism” part, you might think it would be a good thing—I mean, come on, it’s perfection. But, as Anne Lamott points out, there’s something oppressive involved.

In addition to writing this applies to many other things we try to accomplish in life—maybe those pesky New Year’s goals, for example. Could be an addiction you’re trying to kick. Lamott herself is in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol abuse. As heard in 12-step programs, it’s all about “Progress, not perfection.”

Lamott’s interpretation of the origins of perfectionism:

 I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

For Lamott, a big part of getting beyond perfectionism involves her faith. Not to worry—she conveys even her spiritual beliefs with her usual humorous irreverence.

Jan 17

“Bird By Bird”: All-Around Great Advice From Anne Lamott

One of my all-time favorite books is prolific author Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1995). Called “hilarious, helpful, provocative” by the New York Times, it’s filled with great tips for writers that apply to many aspects of life as well.

The concept she describes is a vivid example of the “one step at a time” philosophy. Below is an excerpt from her book’s introduction:

E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard…
…(T)hirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’

Three additional quotes from the book that are pertinent:

I go back to trying to breathe, slowly and calmly, and I finally notice the one-inch picture frame that I put on my desk to remind me of short assignments. It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft—you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft—you fix it up.

What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.

Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too.

Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.