Month 2 – Gratitude


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For the second thirty day chunk of happiness, I’ve chosen to focus on gratitude. It’s so easy for me to forget that I intentionally chose to have another desk job in order to save up for teacher training. Instead I get stuck in the whole, “Blah, having a job sucks” spiral, when in reality, I could be flipping my attitude around and feeling grateful for the fact that I have a means to fund my dream.

I’m still going to yoga every day, but I decided to add daily gratitude as my next 30-day “layer” of happiness, so to speak. I took some blank pieces of paper, stapled them together, and created a little Gratitude Booklet.

Since I love doing things incrementally, I started the first day by picking one thing I was grateful for (I picked Green). I then went through and added one number on each page, the final page is numbered 1 through 60. Even though I’m only spending thirty days “focusing” on gratitude, I want to keep in incorporated in my daily routine, just like the yoga. So, like the yoga, I opted for 60 days, adding one thing each day. After that, I plan to put together another Gratitude Booklet where I list sixty things a day. My hope is that it will keep me busy the whole day, so that I am constantly seeing things and thinking, “Oh, I’m grateful for that! How lucky I am that this is in my life!”, and writing it down.

I’m halfway through, on day fifteen, today. (Which means, if you’re keeping track and I explained well enough, that I had to list fifteen things.) I’m trying to list different things each day to push myself to really realize just how much I actually have.

For some reason, this exercise is harder than it has been in the past when I’ve done it. Usually, it instantly pulls me into the present moment and turns my focus on abundance rather than lack, and I can list things forever. Right now, however, it seems like a struggle to come up with my lists each day. I don’t know why this is. On days when I am excited about something, it’s easy. For example, when I went to see the Hooping Life in Austin (which was FANTASTIC and well worth the wait, by the way), I filled the page with ease.

I’m finding that I have a mental block that’s keeping me from viewing work favorably. It’s almost as if something in me doesn’t WANT to be grateful for work. Like admitting that work is a good thing will somehow be admitting defeat, or joining the dark side or something.

Logically, I know that’s not the case, and that it would be much better for me emotionally to look at work from a place of acceptance rather than resistance, and I’m hoping my gratitude lists will help with that. And if they don’t, at least I’ll be reminded on a daily basis that I have plenty to be grateful for, and I also have ten more months after this to get to that place.

I hope you are having a wonderful day!

The Happiness Project


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I recently finished reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. The book was my reward to myself for not quitting my job in January. It didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting. I certainly liked the CONCEPT of the book (taking a year to explore happiness and what that means to the individual, and how to create more of it), but I really didn’t like the author and the things she chose to work on for her happiness project. I read the whole thing (despite wanting to give up because it was making me more upset than happy at times), and while I enjoyed the chapter where she focused on writing and books (clearly her passion, so it made for the most interesting reading), and some of her conclusions at the end of the project, I didn’t enjoy her overall tone and default attitude about things. Particularly the way she acted as if it were such a huge task to not yell at her husband all the time. *shakes head*

Regardless, the project is a good idea, and like Gretchen says repeatedly in the book, “Everyone’s happiness project is unique.” That is very true. I am definitely NOT Gretchen Rubin (I probably wouldn’t even be friends with her), but I do know what makes me happy.

I also know that recently, due in large part to working behind a desk, something I swore I’d never again do, I haven’t been the happiest person in the world. I haven’t been the happiest me I can be, and I know, because I have experienced real happiness, and this ain’t it.

I’m working behind a desk in an effort to save up for the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training I’ve wanted to attend so badly for so many years. I’m working behind a desk in an attempt to earn a job that will help me keep my promise to myself to never work behind a desk again.

In an ironic twist of fate, I am sitting in a chair (which is horrible for your body) eight hours a day, answering phones and directing calls for the healthcare system. A system I myself constantly buck in favor of doing yoga and eating healthy.

The job has made me so miserable that I hadn’t been going to yoga, I’ve barely touched veggies, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gained at least fifteen pounds since being here. (They said I would, too. With an almost bizarre sense of pride, while showing off their fitness equipment, even, they laughed as they mentioned that we new hires would likely gain the “company fifteen”.)

In other words, I’m in danger of succumbing to the system I’m working for but otherwise carefully avoid. It’s a battle with my conscience on a daily basis, that’s for sure.

I keep telling myself that if I can just stick it out, the reward will be so wonderful and I will be so proud, but the cost is a year of misery.

Reading The Happiness Project reminded me of something I already knew: That I could not settle for a year of misery, I had to figure out how to get and STAY happy during this time. I can’t just wait for happiness until I get to teacher training. I have to BE happy when I get there. Or else it won’t make me happy, either.

I had started a new 60 day yoga challenge on January 11th, and I realized I’d inadvertantly started my own happiness project. I’ll be approaching mine differently from Gretchen. Instead of picking a whole bunch of things to focus on each month, I’m picking one. One thing, for thirty days. The goal is to have each thing carry over into the next month, so that by the end of the year, I’ll be more in tune with my own happiness. And instead of doing it each month, I’ll do each thing in thirty day chunks.

Included in this happiness project is blogging, because I’ve realized just how much I gain by blogging, even if no one reads it. Whether I like it or not, there is a writer living in my head that won’t leave me be. When I was a kid, it would narrate everything I was doing for a future novel. These days, it narrates everything I think for a future blog post.

Blog posts I’m not writing.

Hopefully blogging again will help clear up some of the mental clutter I’ve gathered since having this job, and also inspire me to think thoughts that would inspire (in turn inspiring me) others rather than depress them (or myself). Blogging regularly, though, is not on the schedule until May. Before that, I’ll be working on some other projects (and blogging when I can make myself).

My happiness project is as follows:

Jan 11th – Feb 9th: Yoga – Go to yoga every day. (completed)

Feb 10th – March 10th: Gratitude – Write down things I am grateful for in my life as it is every day, to remind myself how lucky I am and that everything is perfect as it is. (in progress)

March 11th – April 9th: Food – Re-introduce veggies and juicing into my eating habits.

April 10th – May 9th: Hooping – Hoop every day, and post videos at least once a week.

May 10th – June 9th: Blogging – Blog daily.

June 10th – July 8th: Meditation – Meditate for fifteen minutes daily.

July 9th – Aug 7th: Hug Nation – Watch back episodes of Hug Nation daily, download Halcyon’s Morning Meditation and listen to it in the morning.

Aug 8th – Sept 6th: Creativity – Start and work on This is Not a Book daily.

Sept 7th – Oct 6th: Friends/Socializing – Go to Open Stage every week, make efforts to attend other social gatherings.

Oct 7th – Nov 5th: Writing – Write every day, participate in LJ Idol.

Nov 6th – Dec 5th: Knitting – Start a new sweater, and/or work on the Masters Knitting Program from the Knitting Guild Association.

Dec 6th – Jan 4th: Singing – Sing every day. Possibly in front of people.

What’s Your TRUE Percent? (OR: Why I’m Having a Tough Time Deciding What Side of the Occupy Fence I’m On)


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My income from my new job, where I’m making a whopping $13.72 an hour, more than I’ve ever made at any job in my whole life, puts me in the richest 8% of the world. Even when I was making a paltry $5.75 an hour at my first real job, working a grand total of 15 hours a week for a yearly salary (if I’d stuck it out a whole year) of $4,485.00, that only moved me down to the top 14.5%.

Am I still the 99%? Sure, but I’m a hell of a lot closer to the 1% than a lot of that number. Chances are, if you’re reading this on a computer connected to the Internet, you are too. Take a moment to see what your real percent is, and then get back to me.

http://www.globalrichlist.com/

This exercise isn’t really to prove any sort of sweeping point, it’s mostly just food for thought. It’s true that many people don’t make nearly enough to easily support themselves or their families. It’s true that I am lucky enough to have made it to 27 years old and not had any kids along the way, to be in good health, and to not have tens of thousands of dollars racked up in debt. I’ve been lucky enough to have family and friends that have helped me out at times when my finances were not quite where they needed to be for the way I was living.

I understand that not everyone is so lucky. I understand there are people that genuinely have it rough.

But this post isn’t really about the people that have it worse off than I do, it’s about my conflicting feelings about the Occupy movement.

I can’t fully oppose the Occupy movement.

I agree with the fact that it’s dangerous to have major decisions made by people who can make any decision they want provided they throw enough money at it. I agree that it seems counterproductive to bail out huge companies that failed when the country’s citizens are failing as well without much (if any) money handed out to them. I agree that police brutality against a peaceful protest is horrible and uncalled for.

And yet, I can’t fully support the movement, either.

When I was in high school, I very much longed to be a hippie in the 60’s. I wished, god knows why, that there were some sort of devastating war going on, some kind of horrible social offense that I could get out in the streets and protest. Show just how dang mad I was. Because, I don’t know, that was the thing to do. It showed you cared, it showed you were paying attention.

Now, however, I’ve grown out of that protesting for protesting’s sake mentality. I have never been to a protest, and I don’t have any great desire to. I think the main reason protests don’t appeal to me anymore is because, from my point of view anyway, they automatically put the protesters in the role of the victim. The people holding the signs are telling someone else, “I am aware that you have power over me. If you didn’t have power over me, there would be no need for me to hold this sign.”

Which brings me back to our true percentages. I spent a long time living with someone who felt that they had been dealt a raw deal, income-wise. We lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. We both had cars. We both had computers. We both had jobs. And yet, all he could see was how poor we were. How it must be THEIR fault that we were so poor. How, if those people with billions and billions of dollars would just give us some of their billions of billions of dollars, everything would be okay, their wealth would be justified and we could, I don’t know, buy a horse or something.

I’ve lived in houses. I’ve lived in apartments of various sizes, from fairly large to most-people-would-feel-cramped tiny. I’ve lived on friend’s couches. I’ve lived out of my car. I’ve lugged most of the possessions I’d acquired from my 99% income to a storage shed that I ended up not being able to pay for, so everything in it was sold. It came as a relief.

What I’m trying to say here, and I’ve said it before, is that we choose what we do with our money. We choose how wealthy we feel or don’t feel. We make the choice to compare ourselves to the people that appear to have more than we do. Meanwhile, how many more people are out there wishing they had as MUCH as we do?

It’s a crap or cone sort of idea. You can feel like it’s all big government’s fault that you are only making $15,000 a year. Or you can look at the fact that if you’re making $15,000 a year, you’re doing better financially than 90% of the rest of the world. You can believe that your rights are being taken away, that the people in charge are squashing you like a tiny bug under their enormous, expensive shoe.

Or you can make your own rights. You can live your own freedom. You can choose to not be the victim to any self-imposed power. You can choose to put down the sign and be your own strong economy.

That’s just what I believe, anyway.

In Search of the Right Combination

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A lot of people are constantly in search of the right combination of medication. Which prescription will keep them level? What can they take that will help them be the people they want to be?

I’m not a fan of medication of any kind, you don’t have to know me for very long to learn that. I will admit that a fear of mine is discovering some ailment I might have that would require me to join in the search for the best medication combination.

I realized something the other day, however. I am already searching for the best combination for me. I just choose a different form of medication. Right now, my combination consists of Bikram Yoga, hooping, and reading books and blog posts to better understand myself.

I tweak my combination regularly, because it never seems quite right. I also occasionally add running, counting calories, and eating less sugar, all of which are helpful, yet I keep searching. With my current combination, I can get almost to where I need to be, but I always feel just on the other side of that “healthy” fence. The most recent form of healing I’m seeking is called Rolfing.

Rolfing is also called Structural Integration. It’s similar to massage, however, the focus of Rolfing is to realign your body in relation to gravity by manipulating deep facial tissue.

I LOVE massages, professional and amateur alike. But what I’ve always wanted out of a massage is to find out what is causing the tension. I’ve known for a while that just because my shoulders are tight, it doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is in my shoulders. I’ve gotten massages from a few people who are able to track and locate the actual root of the issue, but those people are very hard to find. Finding the root of the issue is the central focus of Rolfing.

I also believe that emotions are stored in our muscles, and I’m hopeful that Rolfing will help me access emotions I have difficulty accessing on my own. So far, my journey to self-help has largely been without professional assistance. I’m interested to see what comes up when I involve someone trained to notice the things I take for granted and therefore may have never worked on independently.

My goal in combining these different “medications” is bringing my whole body into alignment with my mind, so that the two do not conflict. I think everybody, regardless of whether or not they are seeing a professional or doing their own personal research, is looking for the right combination to help them on their way to their own personal goals. What do you think your combination involves?

In other news, a quick update on what I’ve been up to since falling off the face of the earth: I got a new job, I got interviews from some awesome people, and I got engaged. All of which I’ll discuss in the coming weeks!

Ask For Help, Part II

Click here for Part I


“I’ll give you all I can…”
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Before I get to far into this, I feel it’s important to say just how stressful it can be for me to ask for help. Somewhere deep down, I don’t feel like I deserve help to get myself out of my own messes. I mean, things wouldn’t be quite so bad if I’d just sucked up my pride and kept my job. Or looked for a new one with more gusto. What right did I have to ask anyone for anything when I clearly couldn’t help myself?

(I should mention that Green had also quit his job, and for a span of at least a month and a half if not more, both of us were unemployed.)

I continued struggling through each day, determined to be solely responsible for digging us out of this mess, too embarrassed by my own foibles to even fully reveal the details of our situation to anyone.

I’d been reading a lot, and one of the books I’d been picking up for a few pages a night was Live the Life You Love by Barbara Sher.

In the book, Sher lays out ten steps to take toward putting your life in the direction you actually want it to go. In lesson seven, “The Idea Bank”, Sher writes:

“This is probably the simplest and most effective way of getting great ideas that I know of. All it requires is that you tell as many people as possible – friends, colleagues, people on the bus – what your wish is and what obstacle you face.”

She goes on to say that the reason this works is because when people hear someone talking about their wishes and their obstacles, they immediately go into problem-solving mode and try to come up with ways to help. Even if that person can’t help directly, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.


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I read this and thought about a group I’d recently joined on Facebook called DFW Bartering Artists. The group encouraged artists in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to connect with one another, asking for things they needed in exchange for their artistic skill, or whatever they could provide. The only rule: No monetary exchanges. Bartering only.

The creator of the group set it up because she wanted a haircut. Within one week it had 500 members.

I’d spent the week of the group’s inception scouring the page looking for barters I could help with. I didn’t find any, but I did know people who might be able to help with some, and I pointed those people in the direction of the group. Watching everyone trading with one another so willingly really touched me, and reminded me just how good humanity can be.

So when I read Sher’s description of asking for ideas, I realized that I’d just watched that very concept in action.

It occurred to me that I didn’t have to ask anyone for money, or to fix my situation for me. But I could definitely ask for help with ideas, for nudges in the right direction. I began to compile a list in my head of the things that would help me out the most: a job, tubing to fill some hoop orders, but more than anything else, I needed a morale boost. I needed help remembering that the world is on my side.

I wrote up an open letter and posted it to Facebook, describing my issues with asking for help and how I could really use some good vibes and help coming up with ideas. I addressed the letter to friends, family and the Universe. I felt that if nothing else, putting it out into the world that I was finally open to help could shift things up a lot.

It did.

Within minutes, I got comments from friends sending their well-wishes, which reminded me that no matter how bad things got, I had people who cared about me. I had people tell me about places I could try applying. I had people offer to donate rolls of tubing in exchange for their own hoops or payment when I could afford it.


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But the thing that made the whole endeavor worth it for me came in the form of comments from people who related to what I said about being too embarrassed or afraid to ask for help. I had people I’d never met before tell me they were inspired by my note, that they saw themselves in it and felt they could have written it themselves.

In other words, my asking for help directly helped others.

The note signified more than just a request for help, it was a declaration of upward momentum. From that point on, I would look at what I had, the things I was grateful for, and watch things get better.

A couple of days after I posted the note, I got a call back from the interview I thought I had bombed. The next day, I received an e-mail inviting me to interview at the company my friends had told me about. I got hired on at both jobs. I went from feeling convinced I may never work again to having to choose between two excellent job offers. There is no doubt in my mind that the abundance came as a direct result of changing my attitude about my situation and opening myself up to aid from the outside. They may have come otherwise, but would I have been in the right frame of mind to receive them? Would I have gone into the interviews in a bad mood and continued my unemployment streak? Very probably.

I’m now working at a company I am EXCITED about. A company that rewards its employees for a job well done, that shows its workers in innumerable ways how it values them as human beings, not numbers. It’s helping me change my attitude about employment, as well. Soon I’ll begin receiving paychecks, which will continue the upward momentum as I begin putting things back in order.

The moral of this story is: If you feel like you are stuck and you can’t get out, think about the things that you need and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is a second step that might be even more important: Don’t be afraid to be open to receiving help. It’s the openness that allows opportunity to flow into your life. Getting rid of the resistance that’s keeping you from asking opens more doors than you might expect.

Try it. You’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Ask For Help, Part I


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Yesterday marked the first day at my new job.

If you know me, you know that work and Jess do not mix. As a general rule, I spend most of my time trying to figure out how to avoid having a job.

It’s not that I dislike working. I actually spend the first several months of my new jobs enjoying the work, trying my hardest, and making an effort to impress my bosses. When it becomes apparent, however, that my best efforts receive very little in the way of praise or acknowledgement of my value, my morale begins to drop. When, the first time I try to call in sick, I hear terseness and disapproval on the other end of the phone, I begin to realize just how much my employers actually value me and my health. Read: Very little. When the icy weather comes, the stuff that I am on occasion unwilling to drive through, and I call to ask whether I can stay home, the voice on the other line tells me they’d really prefer I try to make it in, which shows me that they do not care about my fears or concerns, or that they even acknowledge the increased risk involved in coming in to work on that day.

In short, the longer I work for a company, the less important I feel as a human being, and thus, the less effort I am willing to put into my work. It gets so bad that waking up every morning becomes a momentous task, and the drive to work and subsequent eight hours behind a desk feel like handing over my soul for the right to have a roof over my head.

There have been times when I’ve happily traded that roof for my soul again.


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For a long time, I’ve thought that perhaps there’s something wrong with me. I mean, so many people do this every day for their entire lives, until they’ve earned enough to retire and live their own lives. Was I wrong to think there had to be a better option? That people deserve more than to chain their hearts to a grey cubicle for half of their lives?

I ranted quite a bit about this on my LiveJournal, frequently and with much the same anguish over the years. I’m pretty sure people became aggravated with me, especially those who viewed hating your job as one of the facts of life, those who told me I should consider myself lucky to even have a job. I began to feel guilty about my opinions on work, but it didn’t stop me from looking for something better.

In May, I tried quitting cold turkey. Again. That decision cost me my annual trek to North Carolina for the Hoop Path Retreat, but it’s hard for me to regret it because of how much I enjoyed having my life to myself. Still, the money ran out and eventually I knew I needed to get a new job.

The search seemed more awful this time around than it ever had. It felt like any job I could possibly find would be a means to a paycheck and nothing more. I didn’t want to do it again, and thus my motivation flagged. Severely.

Things got bad. And then things started to feel bad. And then, when each day seemed like it would be spent wondering, “What’s going to go wrong today?”, I decided I had to get serious about looking.

It’s not easy to find work when the last thing you want to do is actively seek out the thing you willingly traded in for poverty, but I did my best. I received a nice kick in the pants from a friend who told me her office was hiring, so I forced myself out of bed for a 9 AM interview (quite the feat considering I’d been waking up at 1 PM).

If you’d like to know how to fail an interview entirely, just ask me about that particular morning. When you’re battling extreme exhaustion from only two and a half hours of sleep, and you’re not even entirely sure you want this job in the first place, answering questions from a well-meaning interviewer becomes about as easy as picking up anvils with your teeth.


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I knew I had blown it. I knew there was no way they would call me back.

I spent some time later with friends, telling them about my botched interview and listening to them talk about their new jobs. They told me about how the company they worked for put the morale and well-being of their employees above everything else, and my ears perked up.

“Are they still hiring?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re about to start a new training session, actually.”

I printed out my resume right there and asked them to take it in.

But when I didn’t hear back from them either, I began to fear that perhaps I’d waited too long this time, perhaps I’d quit one job too many, and that I might have become un-hirable.

When our home situation grew all the more desperate, I knew something had to give.

 

I asked for help.

 

A Batch of Deliciously Flavored Hoops!

I got to make a whole bunch of fun custom hoops this past week, I will try to keep the chit chat short and get STRAIGHT TO THE PICTURES since I know that’s what you’re really here for. 🙂

We’re not in an apartment with a balcony anymore, and by the time I took these pictures it was dark outside anyway, so instead of being beautifully highlighted by the natural light of the setting sun, they are accented by glowing fluorescents on the stunning backdrop of our refrigerator.

HOOP THE FIRST: Delicious Orange Chicken THE SECOND.

When I first made the delicious orange chicken hoop, I made it as a way to play with some of the metallic bronze tape I had a huge roll of, and I thought no one would really dig the results. Turns out I was SO INCORRECT. It sold almost immediately. When I was recently approached by a new hooper-to-be, she had already perused my Etsy store. I asked her what she wanted in a hoop, and she said, “Orange chicken!!!” with great enthusiasm. So I guess there is a special place in this world for hoops that look sort of like mushy brown Chinese food dishes. 🙂

HOOP THE SECOND: Under the Sea!

I feel like I should come up with a special name for the people who own or will soon own my hoops. This will make them feel special, like they are in an awesome club. But I can’t think of anything.

Anyway, a future hoop-owner approached me and said she wanted a hoop in “sea colors”. I sent her a picture of all the sea-colored tapes I had, and she picked her favorites but said she didn’t mind some surprise thrown in. I am quite pleased with the results!

HOOP THE THIRD: The Donatello Hoop!

This hoop came to be out of a haphazard collection of exchanged text messages back and forth over a series of days between myself and a future hoop-owner. She wanted green and purple, and I only had thin green and purple grip tape. So I layered it over ninja-turtle colored shiny tape, for a hoop that reminds me quite a bit of the weird-mini-Poseidon-esque-weapon wielding turtle. I know those weapons have a name but I never bothered to learn them because I was a Michelangelo girl and Donatello bored me.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like this hoop. I think it’s quite awesome and I kind of want to do an entire TMNT themed hoop set. WE’LL SEE.

HOOP THE FOURTH: The Slytherin Hoop!

Melissa, my good friend who has probably bought more hoops from me than anyone else, wanted to get a hoop for her friend as a SURPRISE. (Hoops DO make great gifts! Just sayin’.) She informed me that her friend was a Slytherin and would like a hoop with a Slytherin theme. I couldn’t bring myself to just make a green and silver hoop, so I added a special little secret surprise to the hoop: A snake head and tail where the ends of the green grip tape met. I love it so much I’ve been thinking of doing an entire Hogwarts house themed hoop set. WE’LL SEE.

HOOP THE FIFTH: The Gypsy Hoop!

This one was made very, very special for my friend Gypsy. I went a little nuts with it because I wanted it to be unique and special, because she played quite a big role in my hooping journey. So I made it like a crack hoop on crack, and I added a bit of fabric wrap to it, just for a bit of extra Gypsy-ness.

Some detail shots:


Metallic tones


Jewel tones


Fabric wrap and Autumn tones


Bits o’crack