Atomic Habits

Enter Here

July 19, 2019

Tank (right) experiencing perfect happiness

“Happiness is not about the achievement of pleasure (which is joy or satisfaction), but about the lack of desire It arrives when you have no urge to feel differently. Happiness is the state you enter when you no longer want to change your state.”
—James Clear, Atomic Habits

Interesting

That Was Interesting

July 15, 2019

Interesting perspective in this photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

I have a judgmental brain. Whenever something happens to me, I want to slot it away in either a “good” or “bad” mental filing cabinet. There are many problems with that, including that few things are entirely good or bad, and it’s often unclear what the long-term outcome of any one occurrence will be. Sometimes things that appear positive end up being negative, and vice versa. Good comes out of bad all the time…and yes, vice versa.

Much of that has to do with our own perspective, how we see things.

Instead of immediately jumping into judgment about the goodness or badness of something, I’m experimenting with the phrase, “That was interesting.” It’s a way to at least hit the pause button before judging—or most likely getting upset—to give myself time to think instead of simply react.

I’m not the only one with a judgmental brain. Our world is filled with hotheaded, all-or-nothing folks, who don’t allow for any sort of nuance. Who believe in “my way or the highway” and refuse to listen and learn from anyone else. If they (we) would respond with “That was interesting,” we might be able to understand others better, and even find common ground.

This is just something I’ve been thinking about lately. What do you think? Do you have any tools you use to avoid making snap judgments, or to stay calm in the face of the unexpected or unnerving? Please share!

Peg Duthie. Ease.

Making It Look Easy

July 12, 2019


Photo by Ana Tavares on Unsplash

Introduction by Ted Kooser: There’s nothing that can’t be a good subject for a poem. The hard part is to capture something in such a way that it becomes engaging and meaningful. Here's a poem from the Summer 2018 issue of Rattle, by Peg Duthie of Tennessee, in which two very different experiences are pushed up side by side. Her most recent book of poetry is Measured Extravagance, (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012).

Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis


The commentator’s rabbiting on and on
about how it’s so easy for Roger, resentment
thick as butter still in a box. Yet word
from those who've done their homework
is how the man loves to train—how much
he relishes putting in the hours
just as magicians shuffle card after card,
countless to mere humans
but carefully all accounted for.
At hearing “luck” again, I stop
until my hands relax their clutch
on the cone from which a dozen more
peonies are to materialize. I make it look easy
to grow a garden on top of a sheet
of fondant, and that’s how it should appear:
as natural and as meant-to-be
as the spin of a ball from the sweetest spot
of a racquet whisked through the air like a wand.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2018 by Peg Duthie, “Decorating a Cake While Listening to Tennis,” from Rattle, (Vol. 24, No. 2, 2018). Poem reprinted by permission of Peg Duthie and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2019 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Beach

Summer Rerun--A Gift for the Remembering Self

July 08, 2019

On Saturday, I drove by the place where I took Tank riding on the beach a few years ago, so I dug up this post from June of 2015 to share as a summer rerun. It was a lot of fun to remember this experience. I hope you’re giving your remembering self something happy to think about this summer! 

A few months ago, Laura Vanderkam used a term in a blog post that intrigued me: the remembering self. Vanderkam described riding the train to New York (from her home in Pennsylvania) on a Saturday night to hear a Christmas concert, even though she was pregnant, the weather was bad, she’d endured a difficult week, and so on. She wrote, “The remembering self deserves consideration in decisions too, not just the present self.”

This term resonated with me so much that I commented: “I love the phrase ‘the remembering self.’ It reminds me that often it’s the things we don’t do that we regret later in life.”  She responded: “I think it’s as much that the remembering self and the experiencing self [or the present self] value different things. The experiencing self is never 100% happy, because it occupies a corporal body that experiences little annoyances like an itchy nose, needing a bathroom before the concert starts, etc. The remembering self looks back on the wash of the experience and doesn’t see all of these details. It’s easy to over-value the experiencing self because it’s what we’re currently occupying, but the remembering self deserves some consideration in all this too.” (Read the entire post here.)

Sometimes I let my experiencing self run the show too much. If it’s hard, scary, or uncomfortable, my experiencing self doesn’t want any part of it. (She’s kind of a wimp.) If I let her dictate what I do, my poor remembering self has nothing of interest to reflect on! Remembering self is not impressed by excuses.

All this is on my mind because last week I checked off an item on my summer bucket list: I took Tank to the beach.

All photos taken by Gayle Bryan

I confess that though I wanted (in theory) to take my horse to the beach, I was anxious about actually doing it. I knew it would be very, very hot, I knew I’d be riding with a bareback pad and halter instead of a saddle and bridle, and I knew that my horse can get excited and strong (i.e., hard to control) when he goes to a new place. I knew the trip would take most of a day, and that I’d be good for almost nothing after spending so much time in the sun, thereby throwing off my weekly schedule. I knew I’d have to wake up earlier than normal and to come up with the money to pay for the trip. My “experiencing self” was full of worries and complaints. But I managed to shut her up for a little while so I could give my remembering self this gift.

And while my experiencing self did endure some uncomfortable moments, they’re becoming hazier by the day. My remembering self is already delighted to look back on the adventure and proud of herself for stepping out of her comfort zone. I know Tank enjoyed the change of scenery, but he was less than enamored with actually going in the water, even though all three of the other horses marched right in, and a couple of them went in deep enough to swim. Some of his expressed thoughts:

“This stuff moves. Is it really safe to walk in it?”

“There’s too much slimy green stuff along the edge, it looks like it might grab me.”

 “WHAT IS THAT BLACK THING ON THE SAND?!” (It was a discarded t-shirt.)

Despite his skepticism, he eventually relaxed and splashed through the water with everyone else, and when we were on the beach itself, I gave him his head so he could explore, which he loved. And he especially loved snacking on the patches of grass we found. Instead of merely walking on the beach, we trotted and cantered on the sand and it was totally awesome. Even experiencing self had to agree.

When you feel overwhelmed at the thought of something you really want to do, how can you help the experiencing self to relax so you can give your remembering self this gift? It helps me to learn all I can about the upcoming event/experience, to look for support from friends or family, and to ease into what I want to do in a way that feels comfortable to me. And even if it’s still scary, I know my memory of it will likely smooth over the fear and remember the joy. Some things will just be more fun to have done than to do.

What are some memories your remembering self especially enjoys?




Alexandra Stoddard

Reach for the Light

July 05, 2019


“To achieve high levels of happiness, reach for brightness in your daily life. Light and dark are integral to the natural cycle of life. We can accept darkness as we point toward the light. Become conscious of all your varied options for increasing cheerfulness of your immediate surroundings. We know firsthand that the sun does not perpetually shine down on us. Not only do we face darkness every evening but there are also many overcast, dark, and stormy days. It is up to us to bring light into our lives.”
—Alexandra Stoddard, Choosing Happiness


Look for my travel writing here