The Night Shift

My friends, I need your help. It appears that Mr. Sandman is mad at me because I will no longer allow him to be an enabler. As I work on being an optimist, I am deciding to embrace each new day instead of wishing it was over. My pillow is a temporary comfort zone, not somewhere to bury my face.

I multi-task to the point of exhaustion, so the world at 3:00 am should be one I do not know. But, I know it too well. This world is quiet, it is lonely and it allows unnecessary worry to bleed through my walls.

Some say that when insomnia comes knocking, you should get up and make the most of your idle time. Unfortunately, for the distraction chaser, the dishes are already washed, the laundry is folded, the emails are answered. Most of you who can relate are probably anticipating plans that haven’t even happened yet. It is comforting to know that some of you also understand random and unexplained sadness.

Here is my commitment to you. I will count treasures instead of sheep, no matter how difficult that may be. In return, I ask you to do the same. Remember, the purpose of my words is to help us all make more time for happiness and appreciation, even if it happens to be in the middle of the night.

So, talk to me! Share with me the treasures you thought about to help escape from gloom. Share with me the positive thoughts that have helped you remember that….

YOU are a treasure!

The Bodyguard

I have bodyguards. Believe it or not, so do you. They are just not easily recognized because they don’t look like Hercules in a suit and sunglasses. Because we are not royalty or of celebrity status, we may not purposely seek protectors. But, we are worthy of them and, like the treasures I speak of so often, they are around us.

Indeed, the bodyguard that responds to the ad on Monster will most likely need to know how to throw a punch to qualify. But, we are made of more than skin and bones. We can be hurt without being hit. Harm’s way does not always lead to large crowds or dark alleys. For some of us, an idle mind is a scary predator.

I can throw some darn good pity parties, but I don’t subscribe to them. Instead, I seek out distractions. I call this treasure hunting. It has made red lights, pumping gas and long lines much easier to deal with.

These words are dedicated to some people who will probably never read them. This includes the woman who started a conversation with me at Wegmans, the co-worker who talked me through what was not a real crisis, the guy who broke out in random dance while waiting for his bus to arrive, and whoever posted the most recent adorable monkey video. For a few moments, you fought off worry, my worst enemy. You lifted some weight off my shoulders by just being you.

Thank you, strangers. Thank you, friends. Thank you, inventor of those tiny televisions at gas pumps. You sparkle like diamonds.

YOU are a treasure!

Lost and Found

Maturity has a lot to do with how we perceive our treasures. One day when I was young, my Grandpa gave me a five dollar bill for polishing his tools. It was the most money I ever had at one time. It represented pride and about ten Kit Kat bars…until I lost it soon after. I think that may have been when I learned what guilt felt like. I was young, but my pain was very real…until Grandpa replaced it. He never liked to see me cry.

The real treasure in my memory was not that five dollar bill. It was the hug that followed my “thank you.” It was the “I love you” he said in response. I think that may have been when I learned that it was ok to be imperfect.

To find the silver lining means to see hope under the gloom, the positive under the negative, the something to hang on to that is hidden beneath the layers of ugly and unpleasant. Sometimes these layers become lessons. In the case of my Grandpa, it took me years to realize just how special of a man he was. A long time ago, I lost a five dollar bill, but I found a man who made me feel secure. Last year, I lost what I thought was a friendship, but I found my self-respect. And soon, I will lose a child to the world of adulthood, but I know I will find a young man that I am proud of.

Peel back the ugly layers and if they are too heavy, ask for help. You may be pleasantly surprised at what is waiting for you. It is not easy. I struggle with this often. However, each moment we choose optimism over despair is a treasure in itself.

YOU are a treasure!

Hello, Dolly.

Imagine, if you will, a doll…any kind of doll. How do you see her? Is she on display with other still and delicate conversation starters? Or, is she an heirloom…an imperfect focal point whose value is in her journey, not her ribbons and lace? Is your doll a female or am I stereotyping? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As beholders, we want to protect our treasures. If we don’t, we become vulnerable. Just how vulnerable depends on how selfish we choose to be. You see, often times it is ourselves we are trying to protect. The fear of loss and the guilt of being irresponsible are unpleasant emotions, to say the least.

The right relationships are a multitude of irreplaceable treasures that mesh together over time. These are treasures in the form of good emotions such as support, forgiveness, appreciation and, most importantly, unconditional love. When your treasure is perfect, the fear of losing it can sling unrealistic scenarios at your mind and turn just about anything into catastrophe. The result of being too protective can lead to an unhappy treasure.

The porcelain Scarlett O’Hara cannot be admired without the risk of falling off the shelf. The durable Raggedy Ann cannot truly comfort without soaking in some snot and tears. Let your treasures do what they are meant to do. They, will then, treasure you in return.

YOU are a treasure!

Two More!

“No pain, no gain.” four words we’ve all thought or said to maintain motivation. But what kind of gain are we referring to? Think about it, people gain things all the time, often not on purpose. Just this past week I gained a new friend and the process was actually quite joyful. There was no pain involved at all. And last month I gained a cool cutting board. Before that, an extra hour of sleep. Am I the person I am today because of these? Of course not. What is needed to achieve progress that has real value? You guessed it…pain.

My fitness instructor reinforces that popular motto several times a day through words of her own. Just when I think I can’t possibly do another squat thrust, she predictably shouts “two more!” I’ve wanted to scream. I’ve wanted to cry. I’ve wanted to vomit. But, the result of countless “two more’s” has been less worry and fewer unexplained tears. That is a gain that means something.

So, what is your “two more?” Four years ago, mine was two more minutes without a negative thought. Pain takes more forms than just physical. There was pain involved in making my decision to fight after ignoring and denying for so long. I did not wake up one day and say “I’m going to work out.” I woke up one day and said “Enough is enough.” Before taking two more steps towards the studio (plug: Power Fitness Group Exercise), there were two more minutes spent researching a regimen that would work for me. And before that, there were two more affirmations reminding myself that I deserve to be a happy person.

You deserve to be a happy person. Start your journey with your own personal “two more,” whether that means steps towards your front door or miles on the treadmill. The end is value added gain.

YOU are a treasure!

In Memoriam

In reality, very few figures of the past actually buried their treasure. The tales of these notorious buccaneers evolved into a fantasy that there are random riches underground where “X” marks the spot. My friends, by now you should expect what is coming next. A treasure is not just a box of riches, not just a bag of loot. A treasure is anything that has value to someone. Sometimes a treasure is obvious and sometimes, like the myth, a treasure needs to be discovered beneath the dirt, the rubble, the unpleasant.

Devastation can show up unannounced and wash away satisfaction, progress and hope. But beneath the fallen branches, there will still be roots. Beneath the crumbled structures, there will still be foundations. Beneath the worst of the wreckage, there will still be treasures. Some may be as short as a two second smile. Some may be as small as a brief distraction. The light of hope that shines with each “little treasure” carries a power that is truly massive.

With the help of others, rebuilding is not impossible. The pieces of your future weigh less when others help carry them. Do not ignore your ability to help someone find their treasure when the “X” is nowhere in sight. Unselfish, genuine care in a time of need has the power to change a life. When one gives this, it is not work.

YOU are a treasure!

Happier, Part Two

All good things must come to an end. Says who? I saw my favorite band in concert last week. Being lost in the awesomeness of rock and roll indeed was a good thing, a good thing that came to an end after the amazing encore and toss of the drumsticks. But here I am reminiscing with you. And I am certain that there are many smiles to come as I recall the evening in days to come. You see, happy is the moment, happier is the memory. All good things come to an end only if you let them.

However, depression doesn’t care. It is in front of me with an arm out asking for the hall pass back. It knows there are ordinary days ahead to control. It is the bully I cannot see.

It will take more than fond memories to win this battle. Though I appreciate them so much, along with those who helped me dig my well, living in the past is not practical or motivating. I need to pick up my own shovel and prepare for the thirst of the future.

We all deserve a happier future, whether we are embraced or alone, confident or confused. Happy is telling yourself that. Happier is believing it. I will not let the bully win. Happier is my shield made of titanium.

YOU are a treasure!

Happier, Part One

Last week, a friend and co worker shared a quote that stayed with me longer than others have. It actually shaped the days that followed. By the end of the week, it had become a moral:

“Those who drink the water must remember those who dug the well.”

Celebrating another birthday left me pleasantly over quenched. Please do not allow the upcoming re cap to lead to misjudgment. I am not a bragger. I am not a hypocrite. I am not always happy. Each word I write I choose to share, but is ultimately meant for me as I strive to be happier.

The kick off was a visit from mom with expected gifts in hand. I am well aware that sounded selfish. You see, being an only child of a hard working single mother made me a self proclaimed receiver. I became the master of the guilt trip, making her absences only forgivable by means of toys and ice cream. I demanded and she accommodated. She just wanted me to be happy and each time she delivered, I certainly was.

Adolescence and adulthood turned the tables. Before we knew it, I was the one with the busy life. Discovering the beauty of true and unconditional relationships makes me wish I could take back some thoughts and actions of the past. My open heart and mature mind came together and put an end to the verbal demands. But mom never stopped listening.

This year, beneath the pink curly ribbon was a cutting board. I unwrapped the paper to find support of my healthy lifestyle. Mom never stops listening. Happy is the moment you receive. Happier is the moment you appreciate and you can appreciate any time you choose to.

As a spoiled child, not appreciating left me with nothing but bald barbie dolls and stomach aches. Thanks to my new attitude, each time I chop a vegetable, I will think of my mom. That, my friends is the extra that we all can bring into our lives. It is being happier.

YOU are a treasure!

Shine!

This North Eastern girl recently paid tribute to the adorable John Denver while welcoming the long awaited daylight savings time. Did you know that “Sunshine On My Shoulders” was actually written on a rainy day? It’s true. Look it up!

What this tells me is that on a day typically associated with gloom, Denver chose to look on the bright side, literally. The result was a moment of happiness that he chose to create. And out of that moment came a song that a lot of people enjoyed. Speaking of “Singing In The Rain,” let’s give a shout out to Gene Kelly who did just that because it “made him happy again.”

A friend sent me a message this week that read “obstacles are an opportunity to shine.” This “shine” that Angie speaks of comes when you earn instead of take, when you overcome instead of accept.

Let’s first remember that gloom does not always come in the form of raindrops. It can appear as physical pain, some bad news or in my case, nothing specific at all. We also do not have the right to judge another by how they measure and react to their personal version. Some gloom, especially in the tragic and unexpected form will warrant every one of the feelings we don’t like to have. There are people who suffer from mental illness that cannot control the unnecessary magnitude. We should not discount that. We should not assume that finding more happiness each day will come easy for all. However, we do have the power to help.The fact that you are reading these words is helping me!

I thank you for taking the time and leave you with this thought: A hurdle can be jumped over, a moment of anger can be dismissed, a rainy day can still have shine. Be like John Denver and sing. Be like Gene Kelly and dance. What have you got to loose…a few more minutes without joy?

Remember, YOU are a treasure!

 

Will you go treasure hunting with me?

I hope as I make these first key strokes that this is the start of something special. This is the moment that I am supposed to say something magical to capture and keep your attention. This is the moment that I am expected to present something powerful, something meaningful that will keep and grow my audience. Here it is: Be a Treasure. Make a Treasure. Find a Treasure.

My goal is to remind us of that, even on the days we feel the aforementioned is an impossible task. This is not because I claim to be an expert in happiness. I simply believe the world needs more of it. Take note that I am not saying kindness here. Kindness, to me, is more of an act than a feeling.  It involves effort that manifests from natural and internal joy. Have you ever pictured an angry person starting a random act or pay it forward chain?

So, why now this need to force myself to appreciate the small things? First, a very brief history lesson. “Treasures” was born as a simple poem when my children looked like they do on the cover. With nothing but ink and loose leaf, we created our own images of what a treasure was to us, from a shiny ring to a dirty blanket. As someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression for as long as she can remember, the moments with my children and our “treasures” were a much needed escape to the happiness I deserved. But quickly and without notice, the pressure of being the perfect wife, mother and employee re directed my focus. I began to overlook and take for granted when I should have been enjoying and appreciating. I will share in future posts details of the decision and journey that brought me to where I am today (still far from perfect.)  A step in that journey reminded me that it is okay to tell life’s pressures that they come second sometimes. I am not at all implying that we quit our jobs and re-enact Thelma and Louise. I am saying that your world will not end if you set aside some time to recognize things that you enjoy. When I began to do this, my life changed, but I am still far from perfect.

The resurrection of “Treasures” was supposed to be nothing more than a check off the bucket list. But, oh, how the responses made my thoughts evolve. I unexpectedly found myself reminding others that there are always treasures around us, we just have to prioritize, focus and find them. The message in my book does not need to fade each time the front and back covers meet.

Now, back to the question of why now this need to go public with my new desire to appreciate the small things? Because thoughts become habits. And I had a habit of being sad and fearful for way too long.  I believe that with your help, I can train my mind and heart to take just a piece of each day to be grateful for things that others may consider small. Each time I am able to do this, I am replacing anxiety and depression with happiness. Just five more minutes of happiness each day, to me, is a treasure.

On that note, I ask you, my friends to hold me accountable. Inspire me by sharing the little things you would have never realized you were thankful for before reading my words. Show me that car with the rust holes and those muddy paw prints on your floor.

What if each day one more person felt appreciation for just one more minute of each day. Eventually, could there be a happier world? Perhaps. If you want it, join me. I ask you…Will you go treasure hunting with me?