Lessons Learned: Summertime Blues

It’s hard to believe that summer is near the end. I used to say that summer was the only time that flew by, but now I think pretty much all months disappear within a blink of an eye—no matter the season. I think the reason why summer ending has more of an effect on me today is because I know that the sunny days, warm air, sandals, light clothes, and camping will soon be saying goodbye.

I’m not a big fan of having to bundle up in a coat, gloves, scarf, and heavy boots in the winter months. I don’t like having to leave 15-20 minutes early to go to work because of ice and snow on the roads. I always think twice about leaving the house because it’s too dark or too cold to go out. Not to mention how much fun it is to shiver in your car when you’re waiting for it to warm up. And the freedom of interacting with the outdoors is limited. I’ll open the door every once in a while in the winter time to let the fresh air in, but it’s not too often.

So with summer leaving, I have to embrace winter and expect what’s coming. I know once the colder weather is here, I’ll embrace it. Still, I get to have my heavy sighs now. I get dibs on one day for the summertime blues.

Lessons Learned: Never Expect

One thing I learned later in life is that you can’t let expectations rule your life. I have found that every time I had expected an event to happen exactly as I’d pictured it in my head, it never turns out that way. The same is said when I’ve expected a person to behave a certain way or to follow through on their promises. I’ve usually been disappointed. I’ve learned that I can control the outcome by not expecting. And now, my daughter has had to learn the same.

A good example occurred this weekend when my daughter had her bachelorette party. The person who hosted the party had set the theme for the party, had many fun ideas on what they were going to do, and how she was going to invite all these people to attend. My daughter was super excited. As it turned out, the invites weren’t sent out until three days before the event (so many couldn’t go), there was no time listed on the invitation as to when it started (which caused confusion), and not everyone received the invite. As my daughter started questioning what was going on, she found out that the theme had fizzled and the fun events had never been set up. Instead, the host had no plan. They would meet at her house and then go out to the bars. My daughter was pretty upset, and I don’t blame her. This was her night to get out and shine.

I gave her my talk about expectations. I told her that she would have to start the evening with a different mindset. If she stayed upset, she wouldn’t have a good time. Instead, she had to go with the flow and enjoy herself. The night could be fun in a different way. I think my daughter learned a few lessons that night. She did have some fun with the four that did show up. One of them was her stepsister who she doesn’t get to hang out with very often. For that, the evening was worth it. I think my daughter handled the evening well. She also learned that she had to let go of being upset with the host. My daughter knew that changing her mindset was better than letting it boil inside her.

There’s nothing wrong with being excited for an event. You should expect to have fun. Go with the flow, talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to, or dance your heart away. Some of my best memories are ones that I didn’t have any expectations on how the night would play out or expect how people would behave. One included dancing on a coffee table with music blaring on the stereo at a small get-together. Another, more recent, was watching my grandson on Friday afternoon. I had expected to get many of my chores done that afternoon until I found out my daughter was arriving early and needed me to watch him. Instead of being upset or worked up about getting my chores done, I changed my mindset. And, I enjoyed every minute of being with my grandson.

Lessons Learned: Perfect Timing

I was late getting out of work today due to an issue that needed attention. My husband was waiting for me in his car and in a no park zone (we carpool together). I rushed out and got in the car. I could tell he was pissed. Mainly because security was out patrolling the area and he thought he was going to get a ticket. I kept quiet, knowing that he was steaming as he sped off. And then, when we were at the light to turn, we both saw the bumper sticker on the car in front of us. It read: #mellowthefukout.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Luckily, my husband did too.

Lessons Learned: Being Happy

I decided to look up the word “happy” when hearing a few people say how unhappy they are in life. So what is the best way to being happy? Merriam-Webster, http://www.merriam-webster.com, defines “Happy” in three ways:

Being pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.
This is the easiest to achieve. Little moments can bring definite joy in life. It can be an indirect feeling or sheer elation. Some moments of happiness are upfront and in your face, while others need to be drawn out. If you always let negative feelings come in, it’s harder to see the positive ones. Each night, think about what made you happy that day. If you weren’t happy, was it because of your attitude? Or, were you happy just being miserable? Hint: Acceptance is the first stage to recovery!

Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment
This one is achievable but still requires work. Showing or causing feelings of pleasure and enjoyment can be a simple gesture that can go a long way for you and your recipient. But how can you make someone else feel happy if you’re not? What if you try to do your best but it comes out wrong?

My suggestion is don’t think about it so hard. Just do it. If you know that your mom likes flowers then surprise her with a colorful bouquet. Watch her face light up. If your neighbor’s wife is suffering an illness, bring them over a meal. Leave gratitude out of the picture. Do it because it makes you happy to help them out. A bonus is they’ll be happy because they have such a great neighbor.

Smiling can go a long way too. I love smiling at my grandson when he’s been crying or when he just wakes up from a nap. Seeing his mood lift and his face turn bright always makes me happy.

The pleasure and enjoyment because of your life situation
I believe this is where most people rate their happiness, and the one that is misinterpreted the most. I don’t believe there is a cut and dry “happiness” but more of a general, inside feeling.

If you are unhappy, think about your life-long efforts or situation. How did you get there? Did you or someone else weigh you down with too much responsibility? Are you letting peer pressure or ego get in the way so you’re blind to what true happiness is?

Just remember that sometimes the harder stuff, the life situation happiness, really isn’t so hard. Your happiness may be within you but is waiting to be pulled out. Take a moment to give yourself time to see and feel it. Define your happiness. Consider all three situations listed above, apply them all, and let that be your path.

Lessons Learned: Story Structure and Being Clever

Mike and I watched All is Lost, a movie written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The only star is Robert Redford, and the movie theme is about man versus nature. If you intend to watch the movie and don’t want to know the ending, here’s my spoiler alert. You may not want to read the last part of my blog.

All is Lost

For me, I was intrigued how the movie had little dialog. Only two scenes had dialog: the narrator (Mr. Redford) spoke in the beginning of the movie and then when calling for help. I thought it clever to film the story without words, and I was drawn to how the story structure unfolded. I think my husband nailed it when he said that it was like reading a book in scenery form. Books are all about detail to help form the story and setting. This story had both.

The first turning point of the movie begins when the man wakes to find that his sailboat is taking on water. His boat has hit and is stuck to a shipping container that’s floating in the middle of the sea. Who would have thought of that!! The container has left a huge hole in his boat. We watch as he painstakingly detaches from the cargo container, patches the hole, pumps out the water from inside the boat, and dries everything off. This includes watching him fix his radio that briefly works again.

The change of plans or the second turning point arrives with a rainstorm. The good news is the patchwork holds up. The bad news is the antenna on top of the mast gets disconnected. When the storm is over, the man climbs up the mast to reconnect it and sees another storm heading in his direction. This storm is a knockout. His sailboat capsizes and manages to upright itself with him inside the boat. It capsizes again when he’s out on the deck. Back on the boat, he now inflates the life raft, jumps aboard, and rides out the storm. When the storm breaks and he wakes, there is little left of the sailboat—the point of no return.

After taking food and water from the sailboat, he now has to survive on his raft. The elements are harsh as the days go by. The emotion is raw when the man sees two ships pass by and neither one, even with flares, stops to rescue him. The last turning point of the movie, the major setback, is when the man builds a fire out of pages from a book to draw attention to another ship off in the distance. The fire gets out of control and the raft burns to nothing. The aftermath or spoiler alert is when the man floats in the ocean with nothing left for his survival. As his body sinks into the sea, he looks up and sees a rescue boat and a light searching the water. The man swims up and reaches for the rescuer’s hand.

I liked how the ending was left to the imagination. The viewer could either believe that the man was actually rescued (the happy ending) or he was being drawn to the light in death. I’m not sure if that was the original intent of J.C. Chandor, but I thought it was clever.

My lesson learned is how you can take a simple story, one that’s been told before, and make it unique. Be a little creative, be clever, and you’ll have a story that pulls the reader/viewer in. This movie was good. We had to fast forward in a few places, but it’s still one that I’ll remember.

Lesson Learned: Getting Rid of the Dark Place

I was in a pretty dark place last week. I was withdrawing from those around me after having some health issues, and I knew that I had to snap out of it. I couldn’t let fear or anxiety direct my mood or life and I was letting it happen.

A couple ways that helped me get out of that dark place included:

Talking It Out
I let those close to me know what was going on. They shared my concern and gave me the support that I needed to make me feel better.

A Bike Ride
I went on a 17-mile bike ride on the Gandy Dancer Trail. Being with family, enjoying the outdoors, and exercising helped clear my mind. The scenery was beautiful, the light conversation was fun, and my thighs loved the workout. My darkness lifted almost immediately.

A Night Away
We spent the night at the “Osgood Campground.” It was a spur of the moment decision to stay at Denise’s place, and I’m glad we did. We made dinner and then sat around the campfire. The S’mores helped too!

Even though there are things that you can’t control, you can change how you react to them. When it’s bad or worrisome, you can go out and find something positive to do. Find family or friends who you can talk to. Go to an event or go for a walk. When the darkness lifts, you’ll feel better and think clearer. A positive attitude and a better outlook go a long way. Who needs or wants to be down and out? Not me.

Lessons Learned: Stillness

My husband and I went RV’ing this weekend with the intention of spending time at the campground to relax instead of going into town, sightseeing, or hiking. Usually we’re always on the move. We’ll spend a few hours here and there to chill or a few minutes in the day to unwind. But an entire day of stillness? Did I make it? Somewhat.

I did slow down and let myself come back to the present. In the morning we took a little walk around the campground and by the river. We couldn’t stay at the river too long because the mosquitoes were nasty. I had ten blood bombers on one leg, and they weren’t giving it up. Back at our site we chilled, talked, read, and watched the other campers. We plugged in a fan to an outside outlet to blow the bugs away which made it comfortable. In the afternoon we went swimming to cool off and then to the bar (the campground had a bar and grill) to have a couple drinks and view our emails. This is where the somewhat comes in to play. I hadn’t gone through my emails for a while and needed to make sure that there wasn’t anything that I needed to immediately respond to since we had limited cell phone service if there were an emergency. I know I was bad, but it was less than an hour.

My take away from the day is that I was able to enjoy the moments where I sat and watched the clouds roll by. Where I watched a fox dart back into the woods from the road. Where I admired a red-headed woodpecker in a nearby tree, a Monarch butterfly flutter near the ground, and a swarm of gnats hover in the air.

Sometimes they say that it’s not until a crisis or an emotional crash occurs before we take these moments. I can relate to that. I remember when my mom had her stroke and time seemed to stand still when we had to make the decision of letting her live or letting her go. You’re only there for that moment. I’d rather take the time to make the choice for one of our camping days to relax and be in the moment than when in crisis.

I know I’ve written about this before in other blogs, and I believe that it’s worth repeating every so often to remind people to take time to feel the stillness.