Complicated Nonsense

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m shaking my head at myself today, and this week, wondering “why do I make things so complicated?!” I can’t be the only person who questions why things are the way they are, hopes to drastically change them, hems and haws over my choices, weighs the pros and cons, and then second guesses myself. Why do I do this?! Why do my friends and clients do this? What is it about human nature that complicates simple ideas? And then, once complication occurs, I become sad or frustrated, and can’t seem to remember how to simplify again.

Why am I obsessing over what happened earlier in the week? It can be a conversation, a failure, even a success, and I ruminate and get into spiral thinking lately, and have been waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety or dread and think all my same, fast, tumultuous, unproductive thoughts again. When I wake up, I’ve been feeling fatigued and cloudy.

Throughout the day, I work with clients, write this blog, try new recipes, study, exercise and things suddenly get all better. Is it because I’m busy? Am I distracted? No, the opposite. I think it’s because I’m focused. Why is that? I think back to my meditation class, my Gestalt teachers, my inner voice, and remember that I don’t have to do this to myself. I’m dragging myself down contemplating all this crap. And yes, it is crap! Nothing needs to be THIS complex, this complicated. I’m not sending someone into the stratosphere, rather, I’m simply trying to live my life on a Friday. This is not particle physics, it’s my easy, happy-go-lucky nut butter and coaching life in sunny Southern California. It would make sense if I were producing a solution to the Middle East intifada or the Baltimore riots, but I’m not.  (This may be a call to action to me, however, to start giving myself more time to think about these important issues rather than angst-y, rumination-oriented, cyclical thinking.) Instead, I’ve been thinking about love and my future and not wanting to “end up alone” and all the drama that women and men habitually get twisted up over.

When I actually talk it out, there’s not a problem. The complexity occurs when I’m stuck in my head. The same thing happens to my clients — when they allow themselves to revisit old patterns, their brains play the same games. So, how do I teach them, and myself, to STOP creating havoc and relax? How can I demonstrate simplicity?

Well, I start with my breath and focus on what really is. I look at the facts, not fiction, not how I want it to be, not how it should have been, but really what is in front of me and take that head on. Then, I breathe in and out again. I may notice five sounds, five red objects and ground myself to the present moment. Life gets complicated when I’m sad about the past and nervous about the future. When I’m here, now (aka the PRESENT) things are really a-okay.  I remind myself to listen to my own soft voice that is wise and honest. It’s never that hard! I make it so much more difficult than it has to be! Suddenly, as I write this, I’m once again shaking my head at myself and thinking, “oh yeah, I needed this.” I needed to read and write this as much for myself as for my clients and friends!

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Attitude of gratitude 

“To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.” — Albert Schweitzer

I’ve recently become hyper awareScreen Shot 2015-04-27 at 1.45.51 PMof the word ‘thank you’ and how infrequently it’s said. It seems to me that we have so much to be thankful for, from receiving compliments and gifts to having someone go above and beyond with favors and thoughtful gestures.

I think gratitude is as much an action and verbal acknowledgment as it is an attitude, or aura of being. I was raised to say thank you and to write thank you notes for everything. My family didn’t take for granted generous and small gestures, and my brother and I were reminded to thank everyone for everything. Back then, it felt somewhat annoying, but now I so appreciate that my parents and grandparents celebrated gratitude.

For me, when I say thank you, I automatically feel closer to the kindness of the giver. And I want the giver to know how appreciative I am.

Saying thank you is an excellent reminder of sincerity. I recently did a favor for a friend and drove her to a doctor’s appointment. She generously gave me a book to thank me for my offer. It meant so much that she considered my efforts. For me, the best thank you is one that comes from the heart and is said with full eye contact. When I receive a thank you that feels forced or even obligatory, it leaves me feeling empty.

Big surprise, kindness and gratitude go hand in hand. UMass Dartmouth reports that

  • People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have been found to exercise more regularly, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and feel more optimistic about their upcoming week as compared to those who keep journals recording the stressors or neutral events of their lives. 
  • Daily discussion of gratitude results in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and sleep duration and quality. Grateful people also report lower levels of depression and stress, although they do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. 
  • People who think about, talk about, or write about gratitude daily are more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support to another person. 
  • Those with a disposition towards gratitude are found to place less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge their own or others success in terms of possessions accumulated, are less envious of wealthy people, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.

These are some very simple ways to increase your experience and expression of gratitude. As Albert Schweitzer notes in his above quotation about gratitude, increasing our conscious awareness of gratitude may require that we train ourselves to think differently. This can be done by incorporating some simple exercises into our lives.

Graciousness is such an attractive quality in people. I’m always drawn to people who are humble and appreciative, rather than those who have a sense of entitlement or an attitude of expectation. Gratitude and thankfulness go so far in my book.

Yesterday a client and I took a walk during our session. He was amazed to notice how his sadness and overall blue attitude changed by expressing gratitude for the natural beauty of the neighborhood. He wrote an email to me after session commenting that simply walking with his eyes looking at the horizon made him see the world differently than when he walks with his eyes cast down.  He expressed thanks to me for reminding him that this small shift could change his day.  I felt touched to receive this message, and even happier that this suggestion had such an impact on his day.  

To you, I offer my thanks and a sincere appreciation for reading this today.

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Practice makes fun

    I got a lot of feedback that last week’s post (Missing you) was very sad. You’re right. It was, and I was sad, thoughtful and real. Well my week got more fun and I decided to lighten it up with a lighter topic.  My wonderful friend, Naz, just got home from a tango trip in Argentina. […]

Missing You

This post may be a little different from some of my others. If you’re reading this, it’s likely about you. 

I’ve been experiencing an emotion lately that I haven’t felt in years, decades even: I’m homesick. 

I miss my parents and grandma, my cousins, aunts and uncles, brother. I haven’t seen one cousin for seven years. I’ve never gotten to meet his wife or three kids because they live in a different country. I miss my camp sisters and brothers, some of whom I haven’t seen since camp!  I miss some dear high school friends, and seeing their status updates on facebook just isn’t the same. I miss my best college friends and roommates, strong, successful, smart people who all shaped my years at Penn. I miss my LA and Santa Monica friends, lovely people with whom I enjoy devoting all of my time. I miss my (old) gym and mostly the laughter, mental toughness, growth, and strong bonds that were formed there. I miss the ease and comfort of being with people who know me well and accept my idiosyncrasies. I miss my old neighbors and the bird, dogs, and kitties in the yard. I miss my yoga teachers. Even my Long Beach folks, I miss you. 

My heart aches for the familiarity of old jokes and laughter, not having to network or introduce myself, and being able to just be. 

I remember when my good friend and next door neighbor, Becca, moved to San Diego. I was so sad. I loved having her there. I didn’t take for granted that it wouldn’t always be like that. Rather, I accepted when she had to leave to further her relationship and grow. Same with Brad when he moved to San Francisco. And Erica when she went to business school in Chicago. And Anna who was only here for a year, but who made the nights I got to see her so special. And now I’m the one who left. 

Los Angeles has a special way of making me happy and exhausted all at once. I was driving in Westwood the other day and circled the block five times for a 20 minute meter. In my new town, parking is free and plentiful. Overall, I became tired of LA. But now four months after I left, I’m really sad and missing the comforts I’m used to.  

Here’s the other issue: where and what is home? Is it my childhood home in NM? Is it the dorm in the Quad? Is it one of nine residences in LA? Is it my new house where I have all of my stuff? Is it camp? Many of these physical residences have been my home, but right now, I’m missing the characters who populate my heart. 

My best friend, Brooke, has a one year old baby in Philadelphia and I’ve never met her. This, too, makes me so sad. My college friend and roommate, Tammy, is a pediatric surgeon and I hardly know about her life. Most of my housemates from college have children and I don’t know their names! I’d love to see pictures. And from what I’ve read on facebook, two of my Swedish friends got married. I always thought we’d stay super close. Stephanie, Marni, Jane, Shirley, Naz, Pili, Jennifer, Hilary, Erin  — all remarkable women with whom I love spending time and can pass hours laughing and connecting. 

I don’t mean to sound like a sad sack. I truly wish I had unlimited airline miles so I could travel around the country and world to visit my family and friends. I’m also fairly certain that if there was a giant event, like a wedding or depressingly, a funeral, I’d see more of my friends and family in one place (unless it was my funeral and then they’d all get together and I’d be left out. Sorry for the macabre humor).

I’ve always prided myself on being an excellent friend who keeps in touch well. Now, maybe too much time has passed and so much life. Maybe my friends with kids are too busy. Maybe I’m too busy or preoccupied with starting my businesses. Maybe we are no longer interested and have really moved on. 

Regardless of the reasons, I miss my friends. I wish you were here or I was there right now. I wish we had a plan to see each other. I wish I knew more about your life. Here’s a deal: please reach out and I promise to respond. 

Please visit my website at Coaching By Nina Rubin

Noticing My Growth

I sat with a client this week and had a thoughtful discussion on noticing our own growth. This particular client is a man in his early twenties who graduated from college almost two years ago.  He works in a corporate job and spends about 80-90 hours a week in the office due to his industry’s busy season.  Today we reflected on his growth over the past two years, and he could not recall much advancement. I reminded him of his success in graduating, turning an internship into a paid job, interviewing for and getting promoted at a different company, moving to various apartments (each one better than the previous), and making more friends. He was stunned to realize all of this had happened! He could not see these milestones through the tedium of daily life. 

This got me thinking, too. How do I recognize if I’ve grown?  I read my old emails, journals, and letters and occasionally think I’m in the same spot I was in right after college.  What a disconcerting, depressing thought. Have I really stayed in the same place, or worse, backtracked more than a decade later?  Can it possibly be that I’m thinking the same thoughts?  As I’m in my own tunnel, I see very minimal development.  I experience the daily grind and often can’t perceive growth because it’s so minute.  Yet, when I lean in and examine my life from a bigger point of view, I see improved relationships, clarity for the choices I’ve made, longer durations of happiness.

When I confront myself now in relation to ten years ago, I see a woman who knows who she is.  A decade ago, I was in a friendship that kept me stifled and I compared myself to this “superior” friend thinking I was less attractive, less funny, less likable. My physical strength was not nearly what it is today — and I am much more confident with the way I look and feel. I was considering so many careers, dating someone who rarely opened up, listening to any “guru” who had a magic wand to help me know myself. Forget trusting myself, I hardly listened to myself!  I felt the daily grind of a corporate life with little joy.  There were happy times, for sure, but my general life felt flat. 

So a decade later, how do I know I’ve grown?  I’m reminded each time I look in the mirror and see a gray hair! I can’t believe these strange rascals have started to sprout from my scalp. On the other hand, I run faster, lift heavier weights, write more, cook better, think more clearly, love deeper, am a thousand times less judgmental, am more compassionate to other people’s situations and feeling, and have come to realize that we’re all doing the best we can. Where I haven’t grown is that I can still be punitive, I still have set views on how certain things in my life “should” be, and am still overly sensitive.

I notice my growth with the way I think and feel.  I trust my heart now as much as my head.  Oh, back then, I hardly used my heart.  I considered it a vessel of anatomy and physiology.  Now, I think of my heart as a life-force and connector to people, ideas, and feelings.  There are still too many days when I under-value myself and settle for Plan B, or let things slide.  I’m still remarkably hard on myself, and get feedback that I’m being way too self-critical.     

However I’ve just realized that growth also comes from taking risks and stretching myself. My decision to move from my home base is a huge marker of growth. I see that I now speak up for myself and value myself more prominently than I did a decade ago. It even happened today! My therapist suggested something to me and I revealed that I’ll have to consider it first, before making a final decision. In the past I would have agreed to please him because he’s “wiser” than me. What BS! Of course he’s wise and so am I! I’m wise and curious and know myself much better than anyone else knows me. I see so many of my unique and special qualities — and this in and of itself is growth. I can finally recognize myself. Small victories like this show me growth. 

Readers, how do you notice your own growth? 

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin.

Photo credit: vectorstock

There or Here

I just learned that today is International Day of Happiness. A few blog posts ago, I talked about living a life of meaning rather than simply a life of happiness. To follow up on that, I don’t think I specifically mentioned that having a purposeful, meaningful life is often one with great joy and happiness. 

This brings me to a conversation I recently had with my dear friend and old roommate, Josh. Josh posits that we basically know in our hearts who we are and what we want but we often take the winding, twisted path to get there. So where is there? Josh worked as a TV writer for many years. He learned how to craft an excellent script in perfect formatting, but always found himself lacking interest and concentration in the final product. He found great affinity for stocks, business, baseball stats, music, and numbers. He moved slowly. At times, he would argue that his research kept him inert. I saw it: when we were roommates, he would kick and scream at the thought of writing something with his partner. Then, he’d eventually stay up all night and do it, produce something great, and feel unfulfilled. One day, something clicked for him. He had hoarded files of articles about films and TV shows, people, media companies, and saw that there wasn’t much synchronicity among all of these entities. He realized that there was a need in the marketplace for a new kind of product and it hit him! He would fulfill this lack!

So it’s now been a couple of years and Josh’s company is gaining momentum. Josh has taken hundreds of meetings, become a virtual statistician, and seems more satisfied than ever. Is he happy? I’d say that he seems fulfilled. He has frustrations and bad days, but on the whole, he seems to really care about what he’s doing. I love hearing the enthusiasm in his voice when he reflects about the entertainment industry from a business perspective! He’s much more animated now when talking about scripts from the business point of view rather than the entertainment side.

How did Josh get HERE? While hearing his story for the last 8 or so years, I wonder if he would have found true delight if he had not started his own company. He thinks he’d be continually searching for how to get THERE when the answer was to really be here. He slowed down to speed up. He took stock of what his true passions are, was sharp to current trends in the marketplace, and gave careful consideration to starting a business. Each day, he is HERE with a good eye on what’s THERE. 

His daily focus, attention, and intention is to make decisions that serve him and his company. He’s become excellent at taking stock at what actually is rather than how it “should” be or worse, how it “could” be. Josh is a true intellect, someone who reminds me to stay HERE rather than waiting until I’m THERE. F. Scott Fitzgerald says it best and describes Josh and his philosophy to a tee. 

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

So happy International Day of Happiness, Josh and my other readers. May today feel fulfilling as much as happy. 

To learn more about working with me, please visit Coaching by Nina Rubin