Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Autumnal Equinox

I love new beginnings. I love when the media and calendars and books tell me it is time to set goals or refocus my energy. But I also love when nature does the coaxing. Mother earth has a cute way of delivering opportunities for us to start over. Each day the sun is kind enough to rise and remind us of the beauty around us. Each month the moon changes and shows us it's okay to be full and to disappear completely. And with each passing season we are reminded by the solstices and equinoxes that life changes and moves forward. The snow melts, the rains cease, and flowers return.

Today is the autumnal equinox. Day and night are nearly the same amount of time and summer is bidding us farewell. We will miss her vernal warmth and whimsy, but we know she'll be back next year. As fall has arrived many things will change. School has started, the air is cooler and each nights' twilight smells and looks different. But with all this change I'm excited. I'm excited for another season of opportunity. There are only so many Octobers in one's life, and only so many chances that we are given. Let this new season bring about greater love, bigger efforts, and more appreciation.

Maybe this November you will fall in love. Maybe this Halloween will change your life. Maybe this will be your last Thanksgiving with a loved one. So cherish what you have, and look forward to things you have never had or experienced. F.Scott Fitzgerald said that, "Life starts over again when it gets crisp in the fall." So don't wait for January 1st to make goals and start over. As the sun appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward, you too can head in a new direction and let your light shine where there was nothing but shadows and darkness before.

And waste not your time before the harsh cold comes. Take advantage of this brief season. And hark unto the words of Nathaniel Hawthorne who said, "I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house. So I have spent almost all the daylight hours in the open air."

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus 

Friday, September 18, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 10

Okay, this is it, I promise. This is the final portion of a ten part series on happiness. I did this as a sort of bloggy/literary experiment. I was also curious as to what I thought felicity was really all about. I thought I would finish this series a lot quicker, but it turns out it was more difficult to come up with 100 things that make you a little happier than one thinks. But I am glad I did it, and am certain that I learned a lot. Who knows if these past 10 posts have helped anyone, but if one suggestion helped one person for one moment somewhere, then it was all worth it. Here is the final piece. As with each passing post, I realized that some items are a bit redundant and others are annoyingly platitudinous, but that's okay. If you like one, or maybe several, try them out for size, and share them.

91. Don't look for shortcuts- Life allows us many ways to cheat the system, or cruise by with limited effort and calculated apathy. But the richness of life is not found in taking the easy way out or in climbing the least steep mountain. Search for ways to be efficient and economic with your time. But don't take shortcuts.

92. 10X your life- I stole this phrase from the best-selling author Grant Cardone. His book changed my life in a few wonderful days. The 10X rule is a transformational way of thinking and living that emphasizes the opportunities we have to multiply our efforts by 10 in every category of our life. It's not easy, but in increasing our efforts in our relationships, careers, finances, creative endeavors, et al, we will ultimately be happier human beings.

93. Don't watch pornography- Yep, I said it. Fewer things in this world are more addictive and destructive to our minds and lives. Unfortunately pornography is now a ubiquitous part of our lives.It is around every corner and entices all sorts of people with its appeal to fantasy and escapism. No matter the level of rationalization or secrecy, pornography will eat away at your soul and destroy your ability to correctly and fully love.

94. Don't be normal- There is no sense in being normal these days. Normal won't get you to the top, normal won't sustain happiness or success. You have to be better than the norm, you have to be more creative and weird than the norm.

95. Take massive action in your life- This nugget of wisdom is in direct conjunction with #92. And it's about success. If you spend your whole life taking little actions here and there, or worse, dreaming of big actions, nothing massive and overwhelmingly great will ever happen. You have to take massive actions to see massive results.

96. Avoid addictions of all kinds- No matter the substance, the pastime, or the misdeed, any addiction can reach a fatal level of toxicity. People think they need their morning caffeine fix, or their videogames to lower stress levels, but all they are really doing is willingly submitting themselves to slavery. We are slaves to the things we are addicted to, whether they are naughty movies, incessant exercising or Zoloft pills. But unlike real slavery, you have the choice to walk away from your masters whenever you please.

97. Read and learn about successful people- Everyone does it different, but there is no better way to be great, than to learn from the greats. Be diverse in your learning. Read about Ghandi, Steve Jobs, Mickey Mantle, Galileo, Thomas Hobbes. A writer doesn't just need to read about Hemingway and Shakespear. He can learn vital lessons from reading stories about Steffi Graf, Bill Gates, or Gianni Versace.

98. Leave places better than you found them- Maybe this just means picking up a piece of trash in a restaurant, or complimenting some stranger in the subway. But for me it also means leave people happier than when you found them. Go places with the purpose of bettering that place in some small way.

99. Decide to be happy- This doesn't mean you will be immune to sadness, anger, or depression. But like so much in life, happiness is partially a decision. Or at least decide you will try to be happy today, or this moment. No one will be happy 100% of the time, but try harder to be happy more often than you are.

100. Make the happy life- In grand summation I will leave you with a quote that is fond to me. Given to us by a man who has lived nearly 9 decades of life, Thomas S. Monson speaks eternal truth with the sentence, "Of this be sure: You don't find the happy life...You make it."

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Eleventh Day of September

I wanted to write down a few words in conjunction with the 14th anniversary of 9/11. But I had to work, and then drive two hours to visit my family. While in my hometown I was further distracted by nostalgia and the current book I was reading. But being back home reminded me of the feelings I felt that morning, a day that now marks the exact halfway point in my life. So here are a few words a few days late.

I was living with my grandparents in Richfield, UT, having just 4 weeks before moved from my life and friends in Phoenix. I was still emotionally akimbo. I was trying to be content with my new situation, but I longed for familiarity and a more certified belonging.

That morning my sisters and I arose early to get ready for school, and as usual the morning news was being watched by my Grandpa. But there was something different that cool morning, something was terribly wrong. I could tell something awful had happened before I saw the faces of adults in the room, or the contents of the television screen. I remember hushed crying and curious conversations. I saw the thick black smoke and knew that something terrifying had happened. But we had to go to school.

At school time seemed to slow down. We all remained in homeroom for what seemed like hours, glued to the small TV's affixed in the corners of the rooms. Among my peers, some of whom would become my best friends in the world, we watched reporters frantically announce that a fourth plane had crashed, United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

A few hours later I was in class and we were discussing potential political ramifications, and the fearful future of our country. As our bald teacher in his sixties opined on the consequences of the attacks, a girl suddenly and in a fit of tears and yelps realized her uncle worked in downtown Manhattan. Our teacher quickly gave her his cellphone and ushered her out of the room. She couldn't get through, and that hour-long class stretched on tortuously. She finally got word from her parents that he was fine. It seemed the whole world was in a sort of reverent panic.

Though I was 14 and interested in history and world events, it would take me a couple of years to really understand what happened that day. I recently got out the old journal page from that day. I was trying to make sense of the geopolitical side of things, writing down countries that could be guilty of this terror. One of them was written down as Palestinia. Clearly I was naive and uninformed in many ways, but I knew the world had been disrupted and changed forever.

Half a lifetime later, what can I say about this event? I have read dozens of books on terrorism and conflict in the Middle East, about foreign policy, and radical Islam. But I'm still at a loss, still in a stupor. I can't imagine what those who were more intimately involved feel. What I do know, is that moment in history brought people together. We realized the fragility of our times, and the repercussions of hate. We saw the devil incarnate that day, and we cannot forget. What I hope is that 14 years later this notion to "never forget" remains in our souls. The answers and solutions for ending worldwide terrorism are not at the door, and they are not simple or delightfully contrived. Some people are impelled to take up arms themselves, to join the forces and combat evil face to face. Others have chosen to get more involved in government. But if nothing else we can and should decide to love more, to work together more and hold on to the things we believe in. We should join hands when we can and embrace whenever possible. We should eliminate words of hate and delete any prejudice that we think is written within us. Of course we won't forget. But what have we learned?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

100 Things to Make You a Little Happier, Part 9

Who knows how many people have actually read all of my previous 8 posts on the matter, but here is the penultimate piece on happiness. Things have certainly twisted in ways I did not anticipate, and procuring item after item of useful counsel or suggestion has proved more difficult than I thought. But here we are. Bare with me for one more post, and I promise the subject matter will change.

81. Work harder than you think you should- No one is unfamiliar with the principle of hard work and its proven efficacy. However we are often lulled into thinking that our efforts are satisfactory and that we needn't work too hard. We erroneously think their is some ceiling or cap to success. That's hogwash. We can be famous. We can be rich. We can do whatever we want. But we have to work harder than we have ever imagined ourselves doing.

82. Remember people's names- Most people I know that don't have eidetic memories have claimed at one time or another, "I'm bad with names." I myself have said this exact line many times. Yet, when I meet an especially attractive girl I will certainly remember her name until I run into her again or can procure her profile on some social media outlet. The point is we forget people's names when we don't especially care all that much. Take a greater interest in remembering people's names. You never know when or in what circumstance you will see them again. A few year's ago I ate at a Chinese restaurant and inquired concerning our waitresses name. She said some Americanized name like Suzy in broken English. I called BS and asked what her real given name was. She told me it was Chenping. I wrote it in the notes section of my phone and years later I returned to the restaurant. When our waitress approached us I said, "Chenping, how you doing?" Her toothy grin and nervous giggle made it all worth it. "You have good memory" she said.

83. Surround yourself with doers- You don't have to run out and get new friends tomorrow, but if you want to be a happy, highly accomplished individual, you must rub shoulders with movers and shakers, with people that make you think outside the box and that motivate you to no end. Seek out creative types, people whose brains seem to operate on a different frequency than most.

84. Hold hands with someone- Maybe it is a lover, maybe it is a loving grandparent, or simply a small child. Hold hands. Holding hands is one of the most intimate things two human beings can do, it opens up a beautiful conduit of vulnerability between both persons. Don't be nervous. Grab that hand.

85. Write down your goals- I have touched on goals already, but writing them down is the most important part. If you never write them down they will crumble into forgotten and neglected bits that you can't easily put back together. Make small demotic goals, and make huge outrageous goals. But put them on paper where you can see them.

86. Familiarize yourself with other cultures- This quote by Mark Twain should suffice here, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime"

87. Identify your sadness triggers- A whole host of things can make us sad, and knowing the things that hit us hardest won't eradicate the sadness, but it will help hold them at bay. Look at your life and try to determine what your usual sources of sadness are, be it guilt, jealousy, loneliness, stress, self-esteem, or maybe some sort of combination.

88. Don't be so easily offended- This doesn't mean you shouldn't stand up for what you believe in and find important. But anytime you are offended it is your own decision. People already have their opinions, hearing some putatively offensive remark is simply understanding that something has been verbalized in front of you. It will not change your disposition and attitude unless you allow it to.

89. Laugh at yourself- Don't take your own existence so seriously that you can't laugh at yourself when you send a stupid text or when you put diesel fuel into your compact car. Getting angry at yourself will improve very little in your life. Look in the mirror, realize you aren't a machine, and giggle a bit.

90. Don't be too good for self-help- Some people see it as a sign of weakness to read self-help books or attend seminars or enlist life coaches. But we all do it in one way or another. Reading the Bible is self-help. Studying is self-help, watching inspiring YouTube videos is self-help. So don't think you are so highly developed as a human that you could not benefit from reading a self-help book, exploring new avenues of spirituality, or learning how to meditate.

Thanks for reading. Please share with someone who needs a smile or likes to read. If you have read to this point, you couldn't have hated it. So spread the joy. One more post left in the series. Stay tuned.