December 27th – “Decisions teach us about ourselves. Remember your priorities, and this will be easy.”

Life is nothing more than a composition of the decisions we make.

Decisions come in all shapes and forms. It can be as easy or as hard as turning down a glass of wine. We decide how to react to events in our lives, what paths we take, and how we see the world. Even the act of not taking action is a decision. We are deciding to let things play out and go along for the ride. The more conscious we are of our decisions, the more self-awareness we develop. I make decisions so frequently that it’s absurd that I ever considered myself indecisive! I officially declare indecision as a myth!!!

Just today, I decided to:

Wake up early
Get dressed
Feed the cats
Go to work
Do work
Ignore the news
Write
Ignore the box of chocolates on my desk
Ignore the boxes of cookies in the lunch room
Ignore the giant bakery section at the Whole Foods
Go jogging
Look at the slice of cake inside the refrigerator
Ignore the slice of cake inside the refrigerator
Look at the almond croissant on the kitchen table
Put the almond croissant in the freezer for another day
Eat dinner instead of the cake and croissants

There were already many tough decisions today, so I think I can handle another one!

I’m mulling over a few proposals I want to submit at the end of the week. Once again, I have too many ideas and have a hard time choosing which one to work on. When I consider my priorities, these applications are near the bottom of the list.

I want to have it all and do it all, but I can’t. In order to spend more energy on the things at the top of my list, I have to be less ambitious on everything else. It’s best to take the easy route on these applications and submit something I am already familiar with. There’s no sense in investing time to create something new and exciting when I have bigger goals to tackle. It’s like making fancy chocolate milk to go with a store bought gluten sugar free cardboard cookie. I’d much rather have a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie with no milk any day! I’ll save my creative juices for the important stuff.

So what did decision making teach me about myself today? I suffer from “Shiny Object Syndrome” and need to stop distracting myself! Shiny Object Syndrome is when one immediately gets attracted to the newest thing/idea and never finishes any project because one is too busy the next thing. It’s awful! Click here for a more detailed explanation. Last year, I was exploring options, but that time is over. Two weeks ago, I set myself a clear goal of completing my new project by June and I shouldn’t let any new ideas sidetrack me. It’s time to get to work.

Before I do that, I am choosing to have that slice of cake in the refrigerator. I know it’s not the best decision, but it’s sort of okay because I’m conscious of my bad decision, right?

December 26th – “Be the first one to bring up a taboo topic now.”

One of the worst places to have small talk with strangers are at hospitals, especially animals hospitals. Aside from the annual check-up, many pet owners take their pets to the vet only when there is something wrong.

Today, a woman came in with a little coughing dog. Another pet owner casually asked her what they were doing there and she responded matter of factly, “He has to be put to sleep.”

The room fell silent. The receptionist looked like she was going to start crying. I paid for my cat food and left quietly.

***

A few hours later, I learned that a friend passed away on social media. This is not the first time I’ve gotten news of people passing on Facebook, but it was the first one that actually mattered to me.

I last communicated with Robert in September when I started this blog. I considered him a good friend even though we didn’t spend very much time together. I could talk to him honestly without having to censor any part of myself. Robert was open, intelligent, and had integrity. He was a really nice guy. I knew that he was someone I could trust and rely on, even if we only talked to each other every few months.

We were strangers 9 winters ago until I started a conversation with him at my local coffee shop. I was working on a paper and needed a break. Aside from me, he was the only other colored person in the place, so I felt inclined to meet him. Little did I know that this stranger would become someone I would call a friend.

We spent many days at the coffee shops together in Boston, eating Malaysian food in New York, and even touring Beijing.  I didn’t have any bad days with him. Robert was a positive spirit who made me forget my pessimism. He listened without judgment and challenged me without criticizing. He accepted me for all the ways that I was different from him. Robert valued his time and I was honored that he thought that I was worthy of his friendship.

I hope that we can meet again in my next lifetime.

December 23rd – “Your friendship is the best gift of all.”

If you’re my friend and not receiving a gift from me (which none of you are!), I hope that you find my gift of friendship enough for the holidays.

Like any relationship, we all of our own definitions of what a good friendship is. Here is what I VALUE in a friendship:

  1. Fun! I think this is self-explanatory.
  2. Celebrating and Recognizing Accomplishments. Drinks are awesome and even better if there’s a good reason for them!
  3. Respect and Honesty. Most of us don’t like the truth, but if we first respect others, being honest comes easier. This doesn’t mean that you have to be honest about everything (i.e. I hate that shirt on you), just about things that the other person needs to know (i.e. I saw your significant other cheating on you). When I respect someone, I will do my best to be honest with them without trying to hurt the other person.
  4. Listening and Supporting. Support can often come in the form of listening. The best listening happens when I have no agenda and put own my thoughts and feelings second to the person I am listening to. Listening doesn’t mean giving your advice or opinion. It’s just listening. How often do we really take the advice of others when you ask for it? My theory is that sometimes we seek advice so that we can hear something that validates our own opinions.
  5. Accepting others for who they are. That means recognize other’s VALUES and FAULTS and being okay with it. If your friend values drinking everyone night and you can’t accept that, it’s time to call it quits! Nagging your friend about what you don’t value every time you see him/her does not make for a good relationship.
  6. Participating even when you don’t want to! That doesn’t mean saying “YES” every single time, but it’s important to occasionally show up for activities, especially for significant life events.
  7. Helping when asked as long as it’s within your capabilities and only if you can do so without harming yourself.
  8. Helping when not asked. Sometimes we don’t know that we need help or are too frazzled to ask for help! If I say “Yes, thank you so much!” then I want help. If I say “No”, and you keep insisting to help me, you’re no longer being helpful, you are now BOSSY!
  9. Respecting boundaries. No means no!
  10. Agree to Disagree. It’s fine that we have different opinions. That’s why I like you!
  11. Apologizing and forgiving/letting go. I personally don’t need verbal apologies, because let’s face it, there are so many ineffective apologies! Apologizes and forgiveness are often mistaken as something that has to be said. That’s not the case at all. What good is it if someone apologizes, but does the same thing over and over again? Do more apologies help? NO! What I do appreciate is someone who recognizes a wrong and takes action. That’s the best way move forward.
  12. Interdependency. When we are young, we are DEPENDENT on our family to take care of us. When we grow up and support ourselves, we are INDEPENDENT. Sometimes we don’t and still need others to support us (especially emotionally by relying on others to give ourselves value) and we are CODEPENDENT. INTERDEPENDENCY happens when all participating in the relationship can mutually benefit and exist independently. For example, an adult child moves back to his/her parent’s house. She/she pays rent which in turn helps to decrease the parent’s mortgage. The child isn’t reliant on the parents to provide housing, but makes a choice to. The parents financially benefit from the situation, but no longer dictate most aspects of the adult child’s life. The key difference between codependency and interdependency is the power dynamic. In codependent relationships, there is an imbalance of power, whereas one party has more control over the other. In interdependent relationships, all parties have about an equal amount of power. In short, if one party left an interdependent relationship, no one’s world would crumble. For more, check out this article.

As you can tell, I tell friendships seriously. Like many people do, I have different kinds of friendships. Sometimes they change and that’s okay.  It makes life interesting and opens up more possibilities for learning.

In the spirit of learning, I would love to hear what you think.  What do you value in friendships?

December 20th – “It’s time to let go of those things that you think you need to retain.”  

 

It’s easy to let go of my calendar when I don’t have much going on. I stopped using a calendar 3 years ago and haven’t missed it one bit!

I feel great saying “no” and committing to only a few activities a year. I have so much more time for things that I want to do, and sometimes what I want to do is nothing! That’s right, I’m not driving 2 hours each way to watch you watch your kid.

I’m sure my desire to be less busy has to do with a mix of my own personal preferences, and my natural aversion against blindly following what everyone else is doing. Year after year, I’ve noticed my friends and acquaintances getting busier and busier, and looking unhappier and unhappier. I have theories as to why this is happening, but I’ll save that for a future academic article I could write. This blog is not the place for it! For more reading, check out this article from the Washington Post. It talks about busyness as a marker of social status as well as a few other ideas.

Now that I’m interested in working hard again and putting in some real energy into something worthwhile, it’s a good time bring back the calendar. Coincidentally, my tarot reader just started making planners and she sent me one today! I’m taking this as a SURE SIGN that I should let go of my internal calendar and start penciling in my plans.

If you’re interested the astrology planner I have, you can get a Metaphysican’s Day Planner here.

The great thing about writing things down on a calendar is that I don’t have to retain any of those dates and times. Hopefully that will free up some mental space. The saying that, “if you don’t use it, you lose it” totally applies to me. I still have useless customer account numbers for work memorized, but I’ve lost a lot of my vocabulary! Just like your body loses muscle from not exercising, your brain can atrophy too! Ugh!

One of the words I still remember is anthropomorphic. I think it’s because I like anthropomorphic animals, especially cats!

What’s your favorite fun big word? I know you have one!

THANK YOU READERS!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. It’s been an interesting 3 months and I would not have done it without YOU! There are millions of cat videos, life hack lists, and cookie recipes to look at and you still took time to check my blog out. I think that’s pretty awesome!

To celebrate, I wanted to share some photos from my morning walk around town with you.

This is for all the cat lovers!

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This is for all the food lovers!

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This is for all the book lovers!

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This is for all the art lovers!

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This is for all the life lovers!

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Thank you!

December 16th – “Fill your pockets with jellybeans and chocolate kisses and pass them out to everyone you meet. It’s all about sharing the love.”  

 

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One of the perks of having an office job is that when the holidays come around,  we have lots of edible goodies that arrive by mail! Every year, we get boxes filled with chocolate, truffles, candy, fruit, cake, cookies, wine, cheese, and other wonderful treats.

Yesterday, I had a mini bundt cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and they were heavenly! It’s really one of the moistest cakes I’ve ever had. I’m sure that there are preservatives in it, but I couldn’t taste any of the weird artificial stuff most pastries have.

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I didn’t have pockets full of jellybeans or chocolate kisses to give to my friend, so I STOLE this treat from my office. Yup, not only do I lie, I also steal!

I could justify my actions by telling you that the cake was probably going to go into the trash at the end of the day because my coworkers don’t over indulge in desserts like I do, but it’s not necessary. I could also make an excuse that I’m simply trying to follow my horoscope, but that isn’t true either.

I wanted to bring joy into someone else’s day. I thought that the cake was so delicious that it would be a shame not to share it with my friend. That was good enough reason for me. I don’t think that stealing automatically makes me a bad or unethical.

My small act of theft reminded me of a documentary. Shanghai Ghetto is about Holocaust survivors who fled to Shanghai during WWII. One of the most poignant interviews came from a woman who recalled a Chinese kid stealing food from her family. At that time there were many Chinese locals who were even poorer than the Jewish immigrants. There was no judgment or anger about the situation. Her mother simply explained to her that that kid must have needed the food more than they did.  He wasn’t a bad kid.

While it’s easy to see the world in absolute rights and wrongs , or “shoulds” and “should nots” as I like to call them, there are many gray areas. We each use our experiences, judgments, and feelings to figure out how to interpret those gray areas.

Over the years, I’ve let go of a lot of shoulds and shoulds nots.  The less I see things in absolute terms, the better I feel. Don’t get me wrong, I still have strong beliefs about many things. I just don’t get hung up on the little things anymore. It frees up my time to tend to the important stuff.

In my book, stealing cake for a friend is small stuff. Bringing joy to someone’s day is the big stuff.

December 15th – “Your ability to listen is far sexier than others’ long monologues.”

Monologues are great if you’re the most interesting person in the room OR acting in a play. How often does that happen?

I’m definitely no Dottore (a person who talks incessantly and LOVES to hear the sound of his/her own voice) but I feel like I talk more than I listen. Is that really true?

According to a quick non-scholarly search, there are 10 (or 4 if you group them together) types of listening:

Types of Listening

Discriminative – identifying sounds to distinguish words

Comprehensive – listening to the content of the message

Critical/Evaluative – evaluating and judging a message

Biased – hearing what one wants to hear, interpreting messages to fit one’s own biases

Appreciative – listening for enjoyment

Sympathetic – showing concern for others

Empathetic –  understanding others (by putting yourself in their shoes)

Therapeutic – listening to support others

Dialogic – learning through the exchange of ideas

Relationship – listening to sustain a relationship and developing trust

 

Click here for original article

For more comprehensive reading, check out these articles:

http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/kline-listen/b10ch4.htm

http://seattlecentral.edu/faculty/baron/Winter_courses/ITP163/listening.htm

 

There are many moments where I do listen attentively. I’ve can listen for hours on end when appreciative listening is mixed with critical and dialogic listening. This happens when I’m attending a talk or lecture. The one that I can really work on it relationship listening.

Tonight, I’m staying with my sister. She’s a lot quieter than I am, so I often perform monologues when I’m around her. It’s amazing, probably to the point of ridiculousness, of how much I have to say in one breath! The last time I was there, I might have talked for 30 minutes straight. Perhaps I can learn to break this pattern of behavior by being the listener.

I know I won’t be able to cure my bad habit in one night, but it’s a good start. Wish me luck!

 

December 13th – “Utilize your imagination to solve a confusing problem.”

Without imagination, the world would be a very boring place. Imagination brings beauty, art, and magic into our everyday lives. Imagination allows us to travel to any past, present, or future we wish. It helps us see beyond what the concrete world offers us.

Lacking imagination is rare state for me. In fact, having too much imagination is my main problem! When I can see so many great ideas and so many choices that I can make, it becomes difficult to decide on one fantasy to live out.

I’ve been considering three types of writing I want to try out: fiction, non-fiction, and academic. Since logic can’t play a role in my decision making, I have to rely on my intuition. Working on any of these writing projects will yield no financial reward for me. It’s purely for the sake of doing it.

After thinking about this in my head for a couple of weeks, I have not felt any clearer about the situation. I decided that it would be a good time to really let my imagination take over. I went through each scenario in my head to see how these options would play out.

***

I imagined:

What would I write about?

Who was my audience? How did they look like?

What would my book cover look like?

How would my talks go? What weird questions would I be asked?

Where would I live? Would I be travelling a lot?

Will I have time for baking? What new almond croissant bakeries will I try?

How many more cats would be living with me? What are their names?

What new friends would I make along the way?

***

Fiction was the form that I most clearly saw myself doing. This is strange because it’s the thing that I have the least experience doing. Perhaps it’s the newness of the situation that I am drawn to. There are no strings attached to this option because I have no idea what I’m getting myself into! However, in this vision, I did see that I would still be doing academic writing. There’s a lot that can be expressed in fiction, but it doesn’t offer me all the tools I want to express myself.

Oddly, in all three of my visions, there was one thing that it all had in common. I didn’t want to do any publicity for my work. It’s not that I have a fear of public speaking. Okay, I still sort of do, but I’ve worked that one out already! No. What I feared was to be a public figure of any sort. I don’t want to be known. I’ve been hiding out and would like to remain that way. It seems that my imagination has helped me see what’s been holding me back. My indecisiveness wasn’t the problem at all.

Until I let go of this fear of being known, I won’t be able to move forward. When I approach things with fear, it stops me from fully investing in what I’m doing. That’s no way to live!  If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail BIG, knowing that I’ve tried my hardest!

It’s amazing what a little imagination can do. I never know where my imagination will take me and it has not disappointed me yet!

December 12th – “You might be so stuck in your head that you fail to notice early warning signs of a minor health problem that could interfere with work.”

Have you ever heard of “computer body”? It’s what your body turns into when you use the computer all day.  It is bad posture, neck and back aches, and weak muscles from not moving around!

This weekend, I spent hours on the couch reading and watching the new season of Fuller House, so not only do I have computer body, I also have couch body.

Now that I’m trying to take my new writing project more seriously, it means that I’m spending more hours hunched over my computer or a book. It helps that I have a standing desk both at work and at home, but that’s not enough.

Moving around and keeping circulation going is essential for everyday life!

At my desk, I did mini stretches and exercises. I have no shame and don’t care how I look in front of others. Isn’t my health more important?!

Here are some things I do that help me. I do all of these very slowly except for number 4.

  1. Shoulder rolls
  2. Neck rolls
  3. Half Windmills/Arm Rotations (Put your hands on your shoulder and make full rotations). This is great for people with shoulder injuries. Full rotations with your arms fully extended put extra weight and stress, so this is a better option. This is probably the BEST should/arm stretch that I do. The effects are immediate!
  4. “Raise the roof” motions. You might feel silly about this, but after a minute or two, your arms and should will warm up nicely!
  5. Plies
  6. Rond de Jambe
  7. Attitudes Only if you have space!

For anyone who spends too may hours at your desk, I highly recommend standing desks. It encourages you to move around and fixes some of the bad posture issues that come with sitting in chairs. The best part is that you don’t have to spend any money to get one!

I do have a fancy standing desk at work, but at home I have a make shift one by putting an old bench on top of my desk. Before that, I used a plastic storage bin and cardboard box! The options are endless!