Blue Corvette and Cowboy Boots

Blue Corvette and Cowboy Boots

Some people love their cars and some people don’t.

I drive a Honda Civic – a perfectly serviceable car. It hasn’t been washed for half a year – after all, there is water restriction in California, or so I tell myself. There is a dent in the back bumper from that time when I tried to parallel park and a post magically appeared behind my car. I haven’t bothered to fix that dent nor the scratches that the car got when I fearlessly drove through a felled tree on the road. It’s not that I don’t love my car. I just love its functionality more than its appearance.

Several years ago, as I was walking to my job at the hospital, I saw a colleague getting out of an electric blue Corvette. The car was beautiful – compact, sleek, sparkling in the sunlight. My colleague happens to be not only a very tall but also a somewhat heavy man, so he had some difficulty getting out of the car – the Corvette was not made for his body habitus. Nevertheless, he looked positively radiant. I asked him later, “Why did you spend so much money on an expensive car that is too small for you and does not have that much functionality?” (perhaps I haven’t mentioned that I am not a very polite person). His answer surprised me. “It makes me happy”, he said. “When I get up in the morning and think about facing the day in front of me, I know there is always a bright spot in the beginning – I get to drive my Corvette to work. And that makes me happy.”

I pondered this. There was no way any blue Corvette was going to make me happy. Even a bright orange Aston Martin couldn’t make me happy. And I like orange. But I had to admit that I could not judge my colleague or somehow downplay his joy over something I didn’t understand. People are different. Happiness is relative, and in the eyes of the perceiver.

Over the years, I have had many conversations with my patients about what makes them happy. I have started looking at it as part of the treatment for their heart disease. People who can name sources of their happiness are usually more motivated to take their medications and to follow the lifestyle advice. Additionally, there is a small secret that the physicians may not tell their patients – and I just exposed it in case any of my patients happen to read this blog – tying the lifestyle advice to the sources of happiness makes it more likely to work. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – more often than not happiness comes in small packages. It can be a father, now less short of breath, able to play catch with his son. It can be a chronically ill patient now able to take an airline trip to see a new grandbaby. It can be singing a solo in church, making a trip to the grocery store, walking around the block.

Just recently, a patient I had not seen for few months, literally skipped into the room for his clinic appointment. “Are you seeing this?” he asked triumphantly, a big smile on his face. Well. Sometimes patients forget that I see dozens of them every day, and expect me to remember everything that was said at their last visit. I searched my brain as I was looking at him. Ah. The cowboy boots. Mr Golnach was wearing beautiful patent-leather ornately decorated boots that might as well have walked down from an expensive store window display. This had been his dream – to get his leg swelling down so he can finally put his beloved cowboy boots on. Clearly now, between better diet and regular medications, his heart failure was compensated well enough where the boots had become a possibility. “Isn’t this great,” he sighed happily. “Now I can die”.

Self-care tip: Find sources of happiness in your life, small and big. Naming them will add quality to your life, and keep you motivated to live better.

Question: Tell us your story about an unexpected source of happiness. 

happiness and spirituality are related and separate

Father Time? (IMG_9736a)

Image by Alaskan Dude via Flickr

A couple of days ago, in blog-post What Must I Do To Be Happy, we asked the question,

Do you see happiness as something that reflects your condition of spirituality and/or your condition of brain health?

This is not a question we hear every day.

The relationship of happiness and spirituality is heavily weighted in our cultural awareness.  We hear about it all the time.  “They are connected,” is a reasonable statement.

The separateness of happiness and spirituality is culturally quiet.  How often do we think that happiness is about brain health and not our spiritual condition?  It may not be reasonable, culturally common or comfortable, but it is still true; they are separate.

Lola Snookers answered our question saying,

No, I do not see happiness and spirituality going hand in hand. Having faith does help me be stronger but no it doesn’t pull me out of sadness. I can be grateful and depressed at the same time. …to say having a closer connection to God will make you happy is crazy. It helps me hang on and push though, it blesses my heart & maybe someday I will look back think how happy I was to have Him in my life (and I am.) However, for me it doesn’t in itself make me happy.

Lola is telling us that happiness and spirituality are related and separate.  There is no reason they can’t be both …except for how we reason.  For example, I think of Father-Time who left office when the forth-dimension came into discussion.  Our reasoning changed and told us that Time is not what we thought.

There is great freedom in the understanding that emotions such as happiness are not always chosen.   There is great freedom knowing more about how we intersect with the seen and unseen forces.  Freedom in knowing how we connect seems paradoxical doesn’t it?  But it isn’t.

We’ve talked about how everything is connected and that knowledge is flat.  That includes happiness and spirituality.  However, we have also spoken about taking things apart to know their natures better.  Knowing how they are separate is knowing how they connect.

Soaking him in

Evening friends. Or morning. Spent the day today and will tomorrow being present with the father of my children. Can’t give what we don’t have and I’m thankful, humbly, to say that I have love for him. That’s currency of sorts I suppose. There have been sad times for us when I didn’t have bank.
What has being a friend to yourself invested in you? Do you find love there? You were made for it. Blessings! 🙂
Self-Care Tip # I can’t remember! – Give to yourself love and friendship and you will find love and friendship where it dwells.

What Must I Do To Be Happy?

Today, I can’t get my thoughts away from the frolic in temperament-land.

Teacher, what must I do to be happy? 

Who hasn’t asked this?  I remember Nicodemus who asked Jesus,

Teacher, what must I do to be saved? 

A Certified Fresh logo.

Image via Wikipedia

I bet he was wondering, too, about happiness.

I’m not equating happiness with salvation or morality.  I am saying this might have been a parcel of his question.  Happiness is an emotion per our language and cultural definition.  And we have enjoyed our path of discovery in seeing how emotions are tools we use to interpret the world around us.  They are not universal or constant between us.

After I read,

Individualism, a stronger predictor of well-being than wealth,

in R. Fischer, PhD’s Meta-Analysis of Well-Being, I followed my thoughts toward the Jungian Typology of Temperaments.  Remember our pasture and barn people?  The Jungian Typology of Temperaments is our playground where we have a wish-basket equipped with supplies to become any variation we might choose of what our design requests.  Read the article and you might follow a similar path of thought.  Or not.

In case you’re wondering, and per Dr. Q (who is a poor statistician so take this for what it’s worth,) a meta-analysis is a study of studies.  A meta-analysis brings together a number of studies that reflect a population of people and a methodology that is as objective as we can find.  We compare them and through the tools statistics and logic offer, we make a summary conclusion.

If you are familiar with the tomatometer on RottenTomatoes.com, you already have a sense of what a meta-analysis does.  (I love rottentomatoes.com.)  There is more power in the indexed findings of many studies than in just one study.  There is also more power in a fresh tomato than a rotten one.

Questions:

  1. Do you see happiness as something that reflects your condition of spirituality and/or your condition of brain health?  Why?
  2. What do you perceive brings you happiness?  Please tell me your story.

Take What is Yours

It doesn’t have to be that complicated.  “I only go two places.  The tattoo parlor to hang out with my buddies or the beach.”  He says he doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer.  I see him every week with his wife, doing what he can to support her as she teaches a class for my 3-year-old. He smiles and chortles and pokes with satire.  He has shown me his skin art several times and it is easy to see what these represent.  The people he loves and who love him.

In the film written and directed by Derrick Borte, “The Joneses,” we watch a pseudo-family move into a gorgeous home with intent to market their wares to the unsuspecting towns-folk.  As they are instruments in sales, they become infected with purchasing-power-fever.  As their own fantasies grow of being the perfect family unit, so does the definition of what it takes to be one.  Being happy individually as well as relationally equals easy access to riches and easy life.  The glitch is that they are not a family nor does the new this or that belong to any of them.  Like making a deal with Ursula the purple octopus-witch, they are ensnared.  It becomes a hard choice to regain the rights to their lives.  In the end, they barely escape with the understanding of what they can really claim as their own – love.

The other day when our dog was dyeing, at bedtime I was able to debrief with our daughter about her feelings.  “I know you love me Mommy but it felt like you loved Maggie more than me.  Even though I knew you loved me more, I didn’t feel it Mommy.”  For someone who can barely see around her Ego, that’s pretty amazing!  From her beautiful child-self, she told us that love is there even when we don’t feel it.

My husband was telling me his “Good News,” quite different from  rights of passage like a fraternity.  It is that God is already right here with each of us and unrelated to our performance.  We all have Love, regardless of lost opportunities, low-character, higher learning, or technology.

It’s not that complicated.

Self Care Tip #51 –  Take what is yours.  Be a friend to yourself.

Question:  Agree or disagree?  What do you think?  Please tell me your story.

Enjoy Life.

This morning my children have a wanting that seems to draw energy from lithium batteries.  They are creative in their persistence and for that I suppose I should congratulate someone.  When they are all petitioning, they find harmonics I never knew existed.  What to do?

It’s like stacking blocks.  All the blocks on top depend on their base.  Oh the lessons we can learn from our children’s toys!  There is the swing that pivots from the hinge.  The potential energy in a ball turned active only by the hand that throws it.  The, …well, we get it.  Our kids need us, parents and care-givers, in good working order, dependable, secure and safe.

Further, we show them by example.  It is not about getting more of what we want, but by pleasuring in what we have.  Such as 3 kids that scream a lot and demand for more, shouldn’t turn my subconscious into wanting a 4th fantasy child who looks like me but doesn’t holler as much.  Right?  Er…

So what do we do?  Take care of ourselves.  Appreciate what we have.  Live by example.  Get taught by circumstance.  Choose and then choose and keep on choosing what we chose to appreciate, live, and learn again.

The Gallup Organization has done many sociological studies on happiness.  In one Gallup World Poll more than 136,000 people in 132 countries were surveyed in 2005-2006.  To measure this, they used questions about emotions, perceived respect, family and friends to count on, and freedom to choose their daily activities, learn new things or do what they do best.  (By the way these are questions worth asking ourselves too.)

As Quoted in Bloomberg Businessweek about the results from this study,

The public always wonders: Does money make you happy? This study shows that it all depends on how you define happiness because, if you

look at life satisfaction, how you evaluate your life as a whole, you see a pretty strong correlation around the world between income and happiness… On the other hand, it’s pretty shocking how small the correlation is with positive feelings and enjoying yourself.

This was the first study to differentiate between life satisfaction and day-to-day positive or negative feelings that people experience.  Getting richer may not be the only thing we can do to enjoy life.

This prompts us to understand our own agendas. (A discussion for another blog-post.)

But how do we take care of ourselves?  Per the positive psychology movement, founded in part by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD – do things that build self-confidence, strengthen character and develop interpersonal skills.

Well that’s a lot to process for today folks ;).  I’ll shut it down for now.  But before you go…

Question!  What do you think?  Does any of this stand out for you in your life?

Self Care Tip #39 – Do things that build self-confidence, strengthen character and interpersonal skills.  Be a friend to yourself.