This last week or so has been crazily busy. Wow. Thursday night, I was lucky enough to visit with the un-nephew and niece. These babies like me so far, and I’m hoping once they’re old enough to have some sense … Continue reading
As children, my sister and I learned never to say the phrase, “Mom, I’m bored.” Why? Because being “bored” and complaining about being bored led Mom to pull out the “Bored Bag.” An ingenious invention in parenting, the Bored Bag hung menacingly in the pantry, and was full of slips of paper. If Mom pulled out the Bored Bag, it meant you had to draw a slip of paper and do whatever undesirable chore Mom had written inside. Needless to say, Sister and I quickly learned to entertain ourselves, as to never have to receive a boredom-killer from Mom’s “Bored Bag.”
While at the time I believed this was simply to keep us from complaining, and I think that was probably Mom’s intent (we had way too many toys to be “bored”), I think the dreaded Bored Bag served another purpose. We learned at an early age that we were responsible for our own entertainment. While Mom of course enjoyed spending time with us, our boredom – or conversely, our entertainment, – was something we had control over. We could choose to be happy doing nothing or to be “bored” doing nothing, and to put that in Mom’s hands was not only a little bothersome to her, but painful to us when we found ourselves scrubbing baseboards or sweeping floors.
I bring up the Bored Bag for the reason that I think I – and others – could still use the lesson, long after the Bored Bag has become obsolete.
Like our entertainment, It’s easy to outsource our happiness to those around us. It’s easy to put the burden of cheerfulness on our friends, family, or significant other. If I’m having a bad day, it seems almost automatic to go to a friend with my grievances, expecting to hear a word of encouragement or a funny story to cheer me up. And when she does, great. My mood has improved and life is good. But when she doesn’t, I almost feel gypped. “What the heck?” I think. “Why weren’t you super sun-shiney? Tell me I’m pretty! Remind me of how awesome I am! Do you REALLY expect me to cheer myself up?”
Yes, Taylor. It is your job to cheer yourself up. Oh, right. I’m an adult with responsibility over my own feelings.
It’s easy to forget that we each have our own things going on, our own sets of feelings, mishaps, joys, and thoughts. Some days, things match up. I’m sad, my friend is happy, and he’s able to bring me up. But other days, I’m sad, my friend is sad, my family is stressed, and none of us have the mental capacity to be smiles and sunshine for the other. And that is when I see the unfortunate reality that I myself am responsible for how I feel. It’s not my boyfriend’s job, not my family’s job, not my friends’ job to know when I’m upset and to throw everything aside and ask the right questions and make the right comments to quell my anger/sadness/other icky emotion.
When it comes down to it, we are all responsible for how we choose to interpret the events that happen in our lives and concurrently, the emotions that they give us. Even if it’s subconscious, making someone in our lives responsible for our emotions not only gives that person a heavy, unmanageable burden, but causes us disappointment and frustration when they don’t deliver. It also strains our relationships. It’s hard to keep the peace when you’re expecting them to deliver the world all day, every day, and they can’t possibly keep up.
So while I no longer require or receive the treatment of the “Bored Bag,” I think I could still use the “Sad Bag” or the “Angry Bag or the “Had a Bad Day Bag.” Those would be quite similar to the Bored Bag of old, except for all of the slips of paper would read the same: You’re responsible. And while this at first might seem as bad as scrubbing baseboards, I think it’s a message we all need to hear.
Yesterday’s WordPress blog prompt was to talk about one of your best friends and what they’ve taught you. I knew I had to write about this when I immediately knew who I’d write about and what I’d write.
In junior high, I met B through a mutual friend, and we’ve been friends ever since. My last couple of years in high school, we became really close. Being friends with her has been an absolute blessing, and as she is currently far, far away, serving a mission for her church, I’ve started really thinking about how her friendship has affected me.
She is a walking example of something I think we all believe is impossible: B is always happy, always grateful, always glad.
It’s so easy to get caught in the minutia of life and become frustrated, bogged down, and unhappy. It’s easy to make mountains out of molehills. It’s easy to make the excuse of “I’m just having a bad day.” But B has taught me that those things don’t have to – and shouldn’t – stop you for being a light to those around you.
Every time I see B, she is in a cheerful mood. Even if she’s had the worst day ever, she can vent for five minutes about it and then put a smile on her face and put the whole thing in perspective. She is the kind of person who can laugh through tears, and who can find reasons to be happy where none seem obvious. She is able to see sunshine in the places that others cannot. She puts excitement into everything that she does, and her enthusiasm is contagious.
B has always been an amazing friend to me, even when she’s had her own tough times. She is never too short on time for an encouraging word or a funny story. Never artificially happy, she is always finding something to be grateful for.
Being friends with her has taught me that the impact of perpetually looking on the bright side is immeasurable. Happiness is always found somewhere, and the difference between those that are always happy and those are not is in how hard you look for it. There are times where it will seem nearly impossible to be happy. And sometimes, that’s true. But where happiness does not wish to grow, the seeds of optimism and gratitude lie.
I’m certainly far from following her example, but I’d like to try. Because one thing the world needs is not more things to be happy about, but for more people to make an active effort to be happy.
Other blog posts following the same prompt:
- Friends | The Magic Black Book
- You want to see best friends against the world? | From One Crazy Life To Another
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Journeyman
- Voices | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
- A Speck Of Green – Part 1(Looking for Dad) | The Jittery Goat
- Kith and kin | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
- things to learn | y
- Learning the lesson of love… Daily Prompt | alienorajt
- DP Daily Prompt: BFFS | Sabethville
- Daily Prompt – Lesson Learned: A Haiku; Tuesday, January 28, 2014 | LisaRosier.com
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | laura-in-china
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Under the Monkey Tree
- The lady with the plasters | Kate Murray
- Friends Trust Each Other Prayers and Promises
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | The Wandering Poet
- Defy the Diet | Daily Prompt: BFFs | likereadingontrains
- Seriously? | My Author-itis
- Friends | trifectumblog
- The one who spoke | dandelionsinwind
- Learning from each other | Geek Ergo Sum
- Those I Adore | Writing and Works
- Mans best friend | From One Crazy Life To Another
- A BFF Haiku | Lisa’s Kansa Muse
- I’ll Be There For You (When the Rain Starts to Fall) | thanks for letting me autograph your cat
- Special Purpose or Special Man | marjanitalarosa
- The Strength of Family | A mom’s blog
- Lessons Learned « One Crazy Mom
- Get Back Up | Wanderlein
- Because I knew you, I have been changed for good. | Amoeba Kat Musings
- S. Thomas Summers: Writing with some Ink and a Hammer | Me and the Outlaw Jesse James
- Daily prompt: BFFs | ferwam
- Never Letting Go | Pretty ToThinkSo…
- A Poem: A Bit of Friendly Advice | I Hope You’re Taking Notes
- Smoke Flares Must Taste Delicious | Exploratorius | Photo Hack & Curious Wanderer
- BFFs! | Eyes Through The Glass – A Blog About Asperger’s
- My Best Sisfur… | Haiku By Ku
- Daily Post: BFF aka A girl called Gigi | Willow Blackbird
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Wordz on a Page
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | No Apologies
- Daily Prompt: Let Your Hair Down! | birgerbird
- Inspirational words from a friend | Processing the life
- Friends You Can Trust | Flowers and Breezes
- Alles Geben | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
- The Urban Family | londonlately
- Ode to Spam | Farfetched Friends
- BFF Lessons | The Nameless One
- BFFs?? Sure! | LenzExperiments
- Best Friends Forever | Eyes to Heart
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
- Thanking God for Others | meanderedwanderings
- DP: Friends | As I See It
- Beauty is transcendental | My Floating Musings
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Before it flickers away
- Things I’ve Learned by Being a BFF and Having a BFF | The Gilded Lotus
- Things You Can Learn From a Ledcat
- An Ode to My Bestest | The Best Life
- When a Polaroid Was Instant Gratification | Pairings :: Art + What Goes With It
- Friends: I Am a Friend of God | The Christian Gazette
- BFFs | Rima Hassan
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | anniethinksabout
- Telling it like it is | Emotional Fitness
- Red: Heaven in Hell’s despaire | The Seminary of Praying Mantis
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | A Room of One’s Own
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Tigglesworth
- Daily Prompt: What My Best Friend Taught Me | readingwithafeather
- Grace | Reinvention of Mama
- Daily Prompt : BFFs / Friends | simplyvegetarian777
- I shoulda got a MacBook Air! [Sheri #3] | Rob’s Surf Report
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Poetry
- BFF World – Passionately Bored
- Love thy bestie… | bagofbuttons
- Life sends us Tests, Challenges and Temptations… for our Ego… | An Upturned Soul
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | thoughts and entanglements
- Of All The Many Lessons | Call Me Incorrigible
- Daily Prompt: Being Friends! | All Things Cute and Beautiful
- Friends: Daily Post | Destino
- Lessons of Love | Tale of Two Tomatoes
- Best Friends Forever | Willow’s Corner
- The Video Game Club? | Nodus Tollens
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | The honey sandwich symbiosis | theberningblog
- Daily Prompt: BFFs | Holoholo Girls
- My Best Butt | Lenora Howard
- How to Beat Cancer Like it Stole Something « A Buick in the Land of Lexus
- Describe myself?… I guess… This is it | sunny side dreamers
- Day 28: Ode To A Playground | THE BLACK SPAGHETTI CHRONICLES
- Friends | Scribbled Posts
- BFF’s… A Message to Teens | The Abuse Expose’ with Secret Angel
- Luna | 52 Miles per Month
- My most important lesson I’ve learned from my wife | My Strong Medicine
- Sometimes Nothing Equals Something | Overcoming Bloglessness
- Daily Prompt: Friends | Occasional Stuff
- BFFs 4-Ever & Ever ‘Till The End! | A.C. Melody
- BFF’s, What Have They Done for You Lately? | 365 Days of Thank You
- It’s Okay To Go A Little Crazy | The Dragon Weyr
- Not one, but five #BFFs | Twenty-Four Problems
- The Most Important Lesson | Blessed Zyra
- Cohort of Awesome | VernetteOutLoud
- Daily Prompt: BFFs…Sugar and Spice | heysugarsugar
Thanksgiving: It’s a time for way too much pie and too little working out, for football and for family, and most importantly, for giving thanks. Heading toward this important (translation: food-related) holiday, I’ve been thinking about what it means to give thanks.
For many of us, I think giving thanks is a process of solitary reflection. Though these utterances of gratitude might be verbalized around the Thanksgiving dinner table, they might not make it much further than that.
I think that there is a lot of value in reflection upon our blessings. It makes us happier, more satisfied, and more willing to accept the negatives of life because we know that for every negative, there are so many more things that make life undeniably fulfilling.
One challenge I issue to you for this Thanksgiving season (and beyond!) is to start writing in a gratitude journal daily. I recently started writing in a gratitude journal, and I’m amazed at how much I’ve begun to see the effects I just mentioned. Every day, I take time to reflect and write down five things that I am grateful for.
On particularly good days, I’ve had no problem coming up with five. Those days are in themselves something to be grateful for, but I’ve found a lot more value in those days that have been less pleasant. The days that I’ve sat down, thinking there was no way I could fill those five lines, have been an eye-opener. They’ve made me realize that there is always something to be grateful for. It depends on how willing you are to open your eyes and see it.
What is in front of us might be ominous and seemingly insurmountable, but what is in our periphery – friends, family, even the peace found in sitting down with a cup of tea for ten minutes and reading for pleasure – makes it possible for us to handle that which is trying.
While I think that daily gratefulness is so important for our own well-being, I would like to issue you a second challenge for this Thanksgiving season: take your thanks-giving to those you’re giving thanks for!
Giving thanks in tangible ways directly to those people that we are thankful can be immeasurably powerful. In eighth grade, a teacher asked our class to write a letter to someone who we were thankful for, and we got extra credit if we actually gave it to the person. I wrote one to my Sunday school teacher, who was so very important in shaping my faith, and whose impact on my life is still real for me today, and sent it to him.
Not only did he tell me the letter had so much affected him that it reduced him to tears, but even years later he told me he still had the letter, and referred to it in times of self-doubt. Gratitude is powerful in action.
This personal expression of gratitude doesn’t just have to be for those close to us. I know around our Thanksgiving dinner table, we all mention how thankful we are for our troops. I know we aren’t the only family who feels that way, and I can’t imagine how powerful it would be if even 1% of Americans made that gratitude actionable. A letter to a soldier or a few hours spent volunteering in a veterans’ residence is a beautiful expression of thanks that can even be life-altering for the recipient.
(This gratitude in action does not just affect the recipient in profound ways. It also can permanently increase our happiness. Studies have shown that the “gratitude letter” exercise increases our happiness levels even months after we have delivered the letter. Making others happy by giving thanks for them making us happy makes us more happy. Can’t beat that!)
Whether you’re with friends or family (or both!), home or far away, I hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving I’ll be at home, watching football, spending time with family, and thinking of valid excuses for living on pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. Oh, and giving thanks, of course!