We have a really great cat named Rooster. He’s a scrappy little dude. Outdoors he’s alert; the cat I worry the least about becoming prey to a larger animal.
When he comes into the house he sheds the mantle of mighty warrior. He becomes soft and vulnerable. A friend observed, “It’s clear Rooster has never felt fear in this house. He comes in and his behavior and body language shows how secure he is in the knowledge that he is safe.”
I think that providing that sense of safety to other people should be one of our most important goals. But, I think it would be easy to find people who would say they are never unkind to a pet, that their pets know they have nothing to fear from them. Would as many people be able to say this is true about their relationships with other humans? I’m guessing, no. For some crazy reason people feel obliged or entitled to be harsh with one another.
If you cut people some slack, if you assume they are doing their best, if you realize that it is unlikely they are deciding their behavior based on whether it can screw you up, if you censor yourself and keep from saying the negative thought that crosses your mind, you’ll be less judgmental and people will have a greater sense of being safe in your presence.
Good grief, I know I appreciate people being nonjudgmental with me. There are people in my life who keep me on edge as I try not to draw their disdain. With them I feel unsafe. Then there are people who like me just the way I am. With these people I feel safe. And these are the people who are real friends.
And on the flip side, I want people to know that when they are with me they need not worry that I will judge them, criticize or scold them. I strive to choose my words, so that they do not do damage. I hope that through my behavior I send the message that they can be themselves around me, be vulnerable and yet feel safe.
As I thought about my friend’s comment about little Rooster’s aura of security, I committed myself to striving to make my home a place where others feel what the little furry guy feels. I set the goal for myself to try my best to be kind and to observe my behavior and my words, so I that might correct them when I have erred.
Smile. Be happy. And oh yeah, be kind.
A yellow Smiley Bush says, “Welcome to our home.”
I met an old friend for lunch today and had such a lovely time. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple years and I was a little worried it would be awkward. How silly of me. Within moments of saying hello we were laughing and carrying on like old times.
Important lesson there, huh? A friend is a friend, period. There was no need for recriminations or excuses about having not been better about keeping in touch. The reasons we were friends when our lives used to intersect more often, was the reason we could easily find our way back to the familiar, comfortable way we’d always enjoyed interacting.
And an even greater lesson, if life’s routines and commitments don’t have your paths crossing, make the effort to intersect!
Smile. Be happy. Call an old friend.
* Photo: Middle of the Road Smiley, so happy my road intersected with my friend Cheryl today!
Back when I was a kid, finding a penny was a big deal. With a penny you were well on your way to having enough for a Hershey bar. Not to mention, finding a penny was good luck.
When I was in college, the girl who lived right above me was studying to be an attorney. On the morning she went to take the Bar Exam she found dozens of pennies strewn along the path from her front door to her car door. I’d scattered them the night before and left a note on her windshield, of the old poem:
Find a penny,
pick it up,
and all day,
you’ll have good luck.
After having done this once, it became my standard surprise for friends heading off to an important endeavor. I’d left pennies on the doorsteps of many friends before it occurred to me that I should scatter a handful at my own. And so for the last 30 plus years my front steps have been adorned with pennies.
For 20 of those years I lived on a street that was well traveled by minivans full of kids heading off to school. It became common on Fridays (spelling test and math quiz day) for a car to pull up, a child to hop out, a lucky penny to be pocketed.
This led to realizing that the pennies that were handed to me as change were better tossed onto the sidewalk than put in my pocket. Over the years there have been dozens of times when I’ve heard a child announce with joy, that they’d found a penny, one that I’d just dropped. How easy it was to spread a little joy. How happy their joy made me.
It’s the little things, all righty!
Smile. Be Happy.
IMAGE: Lucky Pennies on the Bridge Smiley: For our wedding day, friends scattered pennies on the Golden Gate Bridge right at mid-span. Dave the groom walked from the S.F. end and I, the bride, walked from the Marin end. We met in the middle (there’s a good metaphor) to say our vows. On our anniversary we walk the bridge again every year. What a happy thing to look over the railing, to the beams below us, and see that pennies that had landed there in 2009 are still there, and by golly they’re forming a smile.
Here’s a credo to live by: Just say YES. Unless there is a compelling reason, like danger, disregard of others or it’s totally irresponsible, why not just say yes.
“Mom, can we make chocolate pudding in the bath tub?”
“Boss, if I come in an hour early and skip taking lunch, could I leave 2 hours early this one time?”
“Teacher, could I take the test a day early so my family can take a long weekend?”
“Yes.” “Yes.” “Yes.”
So often people in authority respond with a knee jerk, “No.” I’m not sure where that comes from, but it sure is prevalent. Saying, “No.” is surely easier because saying, “Yes.” Yes often leads to work.*
It was when my kids were young that I first adopted the Just Say Yes approach. And yes, they did make chocolate pudding in the tub. Why not?
As a teacher I still use it today. Why not a spontaneous, “Yes!” instead of a knee jerk, “No!”? The kids in my life know that if they propose something, they are very likely to get an enthusiastic, “Yes!” out of Teacher Ruth.
A couple of decades ago I answered my ringing phone and heard a little voice say, “Will you take me to the park?”It was the son of a friend. His mom had said no, so he gave me, the soft touch, a call. LOL, that warmed my heart.
It also opened his mom’s eyes. She told me later that in that moment she realized that the neighborhood kids saw me as the Yes Mom and her as the No Mom. She decided then and there to become a Yes Mom.
Here’s to more Yeses in all of our lives.
Smile. Be Happy.
* I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said “yes,” when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to someone else. – Fred Rogers
Can you think of 6 words to describe yourself? I first did this as an assignment when I gave my TED Talk. Speakers were introduce simply by their 6 words. This 6 word assignment, not too hard to do. So take a minute. Have some fun. I hope you come up with lots of positive adjectives! If not, practice a little self compassion and try again. Nobody gets to see the list so why not brag a little, about yourself to yourself. Take a minute to come up with words that tell about the best of you. An occasional pat on the back from yourself is a good thing.
Now here’s a trickier assignment: Can you think of 6 words you wished you could use to describe yourself? Trickier, but a fun challenge. Maybe some of the words you thought about putting on the first list, but in all honesty knew you hadn’t quite earned. Think of these 6 adjectives as your TO DO list. I thought of ways I could describe positive feelings I had and then turned those into goals. I have my 6 words and I’m starting right now!
I’m thinking this is a pretty cool exercise. Maybe try to do it once a month…then at month’s end check in with yourself to evaluate how you’re doing. Might some of the words still need to be on the next month’s list? Seems pretty likely that many of our goal words might take a lifetime to become the words others use to describe us. Merely by having the intention of trying to earn those adjectives we will grow in that direction.
You know I’m always writing about adults talking through the specifics of what it takes to have a happier life and to be a kinder person. We can’t just hope our kids turn out to be happy well adjusted adults. We have to give them to tools and help them practice until the lessons are learned and the behaviors come to them like second nature. So many kids are instructed about manners until the “thank yous” and the “yes, sirs” come reflexively. An equal focus should be made ,so that kindness is also automatic. Imagine having had the 6 adjective exercise as a part of your childhood. Imagine having talked to an adult about choosing the type of person you wanted to be. Imaging if that adult had helped and encouraged you as you consciously chose ways of behaving to reach your stated goal.
Whoa! It’s really interesting to think of the “self help” things we adults do, as possible curriculum for kids. But, why not? There’s no reason self help has to be confined to adults attempting to undo old hurts and unlearn bad habits. I think kids can start at a young age to learn behavior strategies to be spared the hurts and never develop the bad habits.
Back to the 6 adjectives assignment. Can we as adults lead our children through such an exercise? I think we can. I love the idea of talking to kids about the lovable people in their lives and figuring out why they are lovable. With a little help I can imagine the following:
I like Jared because he always shares his trains.
People who share are really great.
Let’s put: be a sharer, on your TO DO list.
I like Teacher Stacey because she’s always happy to see me.
People who remember to say a great big HELLO are really great.
Let’s put: smile and say HI to people you know and do not know, on your TO DO list.
I like grandma because she never gets mad or yells at me.
People who don’t get mad and yell are really great.
Let’s put: don’t get mad and don’t be a yeller, on your TO DO list.
I like Alan because he lets me hug him and he always hugs back.
People who let you give and get lots of hugs are really great.
Let’s put: be a hug giver and getter, on your TO DO list.
Here’s to a world of people (grown ups and kids) with TO DO lists that address the truly important work of our lives!
Smile. Be happy!
A couple of Train Smileys for this post
in salute to Jared who always shares his trains
AND to talking to yourself with that vice in your head about your 6 adjectives.: I think I can!
Stop trying so hard. Yep, that’s my advice – me the work driven, can’t stop, juggling a 1000 things, whirling dervish of a zillion projects for work, fun, garden, art, etc.
But, I’m not advocating not being productive. Productivity can be the source of great emotional highs. I’m just saying there is great comfort in accepting yourself as you are. If you do, you can free yourself of the impossible burden of being something you are not.
If you are engaged in a task where you are a beginner, be the beginner. So many people strut about with a false bravado trying to convince others that they are on top of every situation. I doubt they ever really convince anyone. Why not just fess up that you’re confused, lost, struggling, totally tanking. I think this act garners you much more respect than the act of pretending you’re on top of everything, when in truth you are not.
It’s such a relief to release the burden of trying to look more competent than you really are. In these situations, I often say, ”You can be the General and I’ll be the Private.”
Smile. Be happy!
Do your best, it’s the best you can do.
I hope you’ll look through your photos and join our collaborative effort. If you didn’t know, I am collecting photos for my child’s book of friendship. I need pics of friends being friends. Might you have a great shot of yourself with buddies or your kids with their BFF? All ages of friends. Friends being friendly and also friends maybe not being so friendly. Any that you have that illustrate friendship.
I specifically need: One where the person/people in the photo appear to be asking a question.
Email me the BIGGEST file you have to: uploads@SpontaneousSmiley.com. Photos must be ones you have taken so that you call give me permission to use them. They also have to be IN FOCUS! I really can’t use a blurry shot even if it’s the cutest thing in the whole world.
Smile. Be happy. Be happier!
BTW, I’ve been getting some great ones so far, making me so happy to have decided to illustrate it a collaboratively.
A couple days ago, I was driving home from good old Jazzercise at the Lafayette Community. The weather was hot. I was wet with sweat. I had my top down. No, no, not the naughty thought my hubby jokes about every time I say that! I had the top on my convertible down. Perfection. The hot sun was mitigated by the cooling breeze on my damp clothes.
Then yesterday same scenario, but way less pleasure. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice…just not perfect. Who am I? Goldilocks? Is it only good if it is “just right” ?
I had had this same thought over the last couple of weeks. One day I so so wanted to work out in the garden but it was too cold. Then as weather would have it (=wacky northern California/Bay Area weather), the next day I had the free time to be in the garden but it was too hot. Then came the day when it was just right and I had such a fun time working outside. But on that day when it was just right and I had had so much fun, I reminded myself that I would have also had fun on the too cold day and the too hot day, IF ONLY I HADN’T NIXED GOING OUT BECAUSE IT WASN’T PERFECT!
Sometime good enough really is pretty darned great! I do love the perfect moment. Love it and savor every bit of it. But I am truly against perfectionism! Both in the less than compassionate actions we take against ourselves for falling short, and now in this new way. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.
Notice. notice. NOTICE! So far today:
• Woke up naturally today; you know when your body gradually goes from a sleep state to an alert state and no jarring electronics were involved. Love sleeping in. Love how weekends allow me to spend a few minutes in bed experience the coziness of blankets and sheets against my skin. Noticed it. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more.
• Opened the window, noticed how great the fresh air felt and smelled. Noticed it. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more.
• Stepped into the hall and was created by 2 cats. And noticed how lovely it was to loved by them as they rubbed their little warm bodies against my ankles. Noticed the love. Noticed the soft warmth. Noticed it. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more.
• As I walked to the kitchen, I wondered, YIKES do we have any soy milk? Or is gonna be one of those days where I have to drink black coffee. Big sigh of relief when I saw the box in the fridge. Gratitude. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more.
• Thought I’d clean the litter box while I waited for the water to heat for my coffee, but when I went to check I saw that someone else had done it last night. Gratitude. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more.
• It was already getting warm, so I tossed some ice cubes into my coffee. Perfect. The cold cup felt great in my hand. The tinkle of the ice against the glass is truly beautiful. So beautiful that I took some pleasure in swirling and listening, and also in watching the pretty images of the ice floating in the milky coffee. Noticed it. Acknowledged it. Enjoyed it even more. I paused to think how luck I am to live a life with ice–so many people live their whole lives without. Gratitude.
I’d only been awake for a few minutes and was already noticing that life is great.