Monday, February 28, 2011

Love and Courage

We must replace fear and chauvinism, hate, timidity and apathy, which flow in our national spinal column, with courage, sensitivity, perseverance, and, I even dare say, "love." And by "love" I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage. It is said that courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can't practice any other virtue with consistency. 

--Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonely

I read the news a lot, and I try to keep up on what's happening in the world. Sometimes this is a pretty depressing thing to do--in fact, as a teenager, that was my reason for refusing to read or watch the news. So much of what goes on in the world seems to be motivated by hate, and it can be hard to hear about.

But I have learned that most often, what looks like hate is actually fear or insecurity. No person is born bad, and people do not become "bad" without having a lot of painful things happen to them. In fact, pretty much no one goes through life without having painful things happen to them; where people make a mistake is in taking out their pain on others. 

In many ways our society is a comparatively enlightened one, but we have a lot of failings as well. One of these is our tendency to discriminate based on all kinds of things--race, gender, wealth, physical appearance, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, age, religion--and I think discrimination is the single most obvious example of a hateful behavior that stems from fear. Discrimination is often lashing out against people who are different because we are afraid of them, or because deep down we are unsure of ourselves. When we discriminate against others, we take out our fears on people who have done nothing to hurt us, people who have fears and pain of their own, and who deserve to live their lives without antagonism from others who are different.

Life is too precious to spend our time dwelling in negativity. Instead of letting fear and insecurity control our actions, we need to learn to respond to people with sensitivity and love--and with the courage and perseverance to continue even when it would be easier to stop.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's gonna take patience and time...

Maybe I just wrote that title so you would all get this song stuck in your head:

I'm evil, but that's a good song so I don't feel too bad.

Now on to business.

Remember how I wrote about improvement? That's my theme of the year. I'm going to take what I have and I'm going to improve. But, you know what? That is going to require patience and time...two things I don't feel I have a lot of right now. Of course, improving on the time part is easy - I just have to "prioritize" and "make" time for the things I should be doing. That doesn't mean I want to do that. What I want to do is catch up on my Hulu and Netflix queues.

The patience part is what I'm really struggling with. How do you stay motivated when it seems to take so long to see results? This is with everything in my life right now...finances, work, dieting, my social life (or lack thereof), even in my relationships with friends and family. All those things that I want to improve on are some of the most difficult things to improve on because I am not a patient woman. I need feedback to keep me going! Validate me!

So, I reiterate my question and hope to get answers from you...How do YOU stay motivated when you really feel a little insane for even trying in the first place?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Guest Post, Lis: No Quick Fixes

Another lovely guest post from Miri's sister-in-law, Lis:

We made a goal a couple weeks ago (I made it and my husband went along with it) to have a home-cooked meal every night and to exercise at least three times that week. We actually do this quite frequently, but strangely enough, it was harder when I made a goal to do it than when we just do it.

It seems like a goal is harder to keep up with than a habit. It's starting to become a habit for me to go to the gym a couple times a week, and we were already cooking at home a lot; but when I forced myself to do it, I found that I kind of pushed back against myself.

I think goals are harder because they're a change from the normal, and people generally are very resistant to change and to having to do something new. When it's just a normal habit, it's a lot easier. When someone (even ourselves) makes us do something, we don't want to. We want to do things when we want to.

So I decided I need to be careful about my goals in the future--just decide I want to do them, but not set too specific boundaries. That way I won't be forcing myself against my own will and won't be disappointed if I don't accomplish the goal. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes for a much less stressful week.

I think the word "goal" is like the word "diet"--it now has a slightly negative connotation (as in people don't want to think about the stress of reaching their goals). We need to have a lifestyle change, not a one-time fix. The trick is getting from goal to habit. Thoughts are very powerful, and if I want to change, I need to think about it and decide to be the person I want to be, not just do the actions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.

War and Peace, 
Leo Tolstoy

Thursday, February 10, 2011


I rambled a bit about this subject on my personal blog and felt inspired to share a word or two here as well.

A lot has changed in my life over the past few months, mostly (thank goodness) for the better (it was about time). For the last two years, things had basically shut down. I didn't have a job, I didn't have money, I was not happy, I was stressed all the time and, when I wasn't looking for a job or doing whatever I could to earn some money, I loafed. My mind and my soul were overloaded with stress and fear and doubt and worry; there was no room for progression or forward thinking. I lived in the moment, day by day, doing the best I could.

But now that's different. That was how I coped so I could keep on keeping on and it worked when it needed to work, but now I get to cope with good things. The stress and worry are still there to some extent (I have a lot of bills to catch up on, people, those never go away), but I am so much happier. Not only was I lucky enough to find a job, it's a job I actually like and I'm good at it and I work with people I like and choose to spend time with outside of work. That's a huge deal. My finances, social life and career all took a turn for the better with one little job.

So. This time last year, I was telling myself that "everything is going to be alright" and now that things are alright (or headed that way), I'm focused on improvement. It's time to start progressing! Onward and upward! Keep moving forward! *Insert your favorite catchy, motivating slogan here*!

I'm choosing to go to the gym and diet (because it's about time). I've never been one to go to the gym (sweat. ugh.), but it's never too late to start. Since I'm going to the gym and dieting, I am also going to be saving the money I would spend on new clothes and eating out (and also pretty books and frivolous things) to pay off some of the debt one tends to acquire while unemployed. Once my credit cards are cleaner and my waist line is smaller, then I can shop (because hopefully I will NEED to shop for pants that don't fall off). So the library and the gym will be my new best friends.

These are lofty goals, I know, but it feels so good to have made them. I'm not a resolution kind of girl, but mostly because I think the term is equated with failure (who EVER keeps a New Years resolution? Who?!), so these will be my improvements for the year. I don't expect to be a size 2 with zero debt by Christmas 2011, but I do expect to see some improvement from month to month and I know it will relieve some of the stress and worry in my life.

So what will you be improving on this year?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What the World Needs Now...

I read a lovely little story the other day. It's in Hillary Rodham Clinton's biography, Living History, and she quotes her husband giving the eulogy at her father's funeral.

"In 1974 when I made my first political race," he said, "I ran in a congressional district where there were a lot of Republicans from the Middle West. And my future father-in-law came down in a Cadillac with an Illinois license plate; never told a living soul I was in love with his daughter, just went up to people and said, 'I know that you're a Republican and so am I. I think Democrats are just one step short of communism, but this kid's all right.' "

This warmed my heart, and I don't think it happened because of anything special about Bill Clinton; I believe it was something special about Hugh Rodham. His daughter described him as a staunch Republican who "started out in life inheriting every prejudice imaginable in his working-class, Protestant family--against Democrats, Catholics, Jews, and blacks--and anyone else considered outside the tribe."

The truth is that most of our negative ideas about people who are different from us aren't really true, and deep down, I think most of us already know that. But it takes incredible maturity and humility to be able to overcome long-standing, deep-seated prejudices; to realize that what you believe, maybe even what your parents and grandparents believed, just isn't true; to understand that a person can be a truly good person and still have beliefs, traditions, and a culture that are completely opposite of yours. 

Human beings are infinitely complex creatures, and yet for some reason we like to try and simplify each other. The fact is that you can't know someone based on their religious affiliation, their political convictions, their hobbies, their race, their job, where they live, or the emails they forward. These are all external factors, motivated by something deeper (or sometimes just circumstantial), and we can't know what that motivation is without getting to know a lot more about the person.

I wonder if there any differences that couldn't be overcome if we could learn to treat everyone like a member of our family whom we have to love, even if we disagree with them. As a very lovely man said, "Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people or bridge the chasms of bitterness." It takes a lot of strength to become this kind of person--but imagine what the world would be like if we all tried.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it." 

--Mahatma Gandhi