Archives for April 2010

The Power of Chance


Kris Radish wrote a compelling piece on chance in The Huffington Post this week. The odd chance we have in meeting someone important or significant in our life while stranded at an airport is the stuff of great chick flicks. It’s why we read novels and watch television. We love the idea that life is bigger than us, that our tiny footprint is nothing in the great cosmic scheme of life. It’s why we subscribe to the notion that there is one great love. One great career. One great purpose. And all of our life is merely a path leading us right to this very moment. Trapped in an airport. Broken down on the side of a road. It is calming and reassuring to believe that there is a master plan. That everything does, in fact, happen for a reason. The great love of our life that we meet in the hospital while tending to a sick relative. The best friend who enters our life in a particularly horrible drivers ed course. It is this balance that keeps us moving forward. It is this opportunity for chance that only happens if you keep moving forward.

Happiness is all about faith and perspective. You must have the faith to hold on, knowing you could be one minute away from the miracle. And you have to have the perspective to understand that in the scheme of things, everything does happen for a reason.

I am a curious soul. I am always trying to better understand the world around me as well as my reaction to it. I find that this search for understanding helps me deal with the heavy blows and appreciate the sweetness when it rushes into my life. As I have quoted before about the “unexamined life,” I think it is never more evident than when we read about miracles that occur on a random, inconsequential afternoon. It is the belief that anything is possible that fuels us. That any day can turn on a dime. We must keep a certain degree of faith in our heart that love is everywhere, and fate will lead us straight into its’ path.

It’s Saturday Night Live…


I was asked to present an award at my alma mater this weekend. Unfortunately, I have a business-related event the same night. I contemplated double booking and seeing if I could make it across the city in record time, but had visions of Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses and thought better of it. For those who haven’t seen the movie, rent it!

I was explaining my dilemma to my sister while my niece played quietly in the corner. (Side note: she was practicing for Minute to Win It by trying to carry M&M’s across the room using only a straw. If you haven’t ever seen the show, I’ve probably lost you. And she wasn’t actually that quiet…but I’m trying to paint a picture here.)

ME: So they want me to present on Saturday night.

Sister: But you can’t. You’re already going to the conference.

ME: I know. Boo! (yes, I really use the word “boo” in common, every day conversations).

Sister: So just tell them you can’t present on Saturday night because you’re busy.

Niece: Jocey! (This is what she calls me.) You HAVE to do it! ((slamming her tiny fists down on the carpeting)).

ME: But I can’t. I already have plans.

Niece: But Jocey…((little fists keep slamming)) It’s Saturday Night…you have to do it.

ME: (confused as to why my niece is so concerned with my plans on a Saturday night) But I can’t…I have plans and don’t want to be rude.

Niece: (eyebrows furrowing in a very intense stare) You would rather do your plans then host Saturday Night Live! Come on!

God bless this child who thinks her aunt is cool enough to host Saturday Night Live. Is it possible for me to remain a rock star in her eyes for the rest of my life?  In order to do this, I may have to actually host SNL some day.

End Note:

“Come on!” has become one of my nieces latest catchphrases. That and “In my mind I said…” which is her way of saying, “I thought to myself…”

Sleep On It


There was a fascinating study reported on in Tara Parker Pope’s NYTimes Well column about the helping power of dreaming. Apparently, people who take their problems to bed can end up dreaming their way to a solution. As someone who has the bad tendency to stress about all of my problems, issues, obstacles right before bed, this is something I had typically tried to avoid. I try to put all questions out of my mind, clear it of the clutter, and sleep peacefully. Now I am wondering if I should allow these questions to ruminate. Let them stir and swirl inside my head as I prepare for sleep. Maybe these questions will be answered in my sleep. Maybe the answers will come to me in my dreams. Maybe I will be able to see the obstacles from a different perspective and begin to understand the choices that make the most sense for me and my life. Could our dreams really help us untangle the knots in our lives? It’s worth giving it a chance.

Have you ever found an answer in your dreams?

Do you think about all of your problems before going to sleep?

Have you ever followed the guidance of a dream?

Is Great Love Luck or Work?


Meredith from one of my new favorite blogs, Penelope Loves Lists, makes an interesting observation on her site. She writes:

My marriage to J is my second, and I know now that happy marriage isn’t luck, or sex, or even just promises of forever. It’s daily maintenance. Not “work”, because I don’t think marriage should feel like work, but maintenance. It’s paying attention and clearing a path for your partner through every day life.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that the reality is far more complicated than the fairy tale. We have these set “ideas” about how a relationship is supposed to look. What our partner is supposed to do and say and how they should act to keep us happy and content. We want to stay confident in our decision that this person is the right person for us. But we are all human. We make mistakes. We choose the wrong people, we overlook the right people. We can be overly critical or not critical enough. We need to understand and accept (that’s the hardest part) that no one is perfect, including ourselves. No one really wants to compromise. Most people want things to go exactly how they see fit. And a relationship is work. It’s a get-your-hands-messy kind of work. It’s tears and red-faced anger that sends you running to your friends and family kind of work.  But it’s also happiness. It’s laughter. It’s safety. This up and down happens to everyone and in every relationship. No one is immune. But the times when you aren’t working, when you are just sitting in the stillness together, when you can put the troubles, the “issues,” the questions out of your mind, if you are a happy in these moments, then the relationship is working, so you don’t have to.

The Power of the Mind


No, I am not going to go into details about the power of “The Secret.” What I am going to talk about is something that has been haunting my thoughts for a few days. First, I read about The Work of Byron Katie. Katie’s overall process and theory is that you can identify and question the thoughts that cause all of your suffering. Then ask yourself, “Is it true?” Most of the time, we are just haunted and harassed by our own thoughts. The things we fear. The actions we dread. The relationships we fail. The people we question. Everything we see and feel is determined by our thoughts.

I started to get overwhelmed with this thinking and put it out of my mind. But the mind has a way of not letting you put anything “out.” This theory kept coming back to me. Am I a slave to my own thoughts? Are my thoughts my own worst enemy?

Then I visited my favorite blogger, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, and she posted about this very topic today! She was recapping her event with Marie Forleo who said that “You have a mind, but you are not your mind.” Aidan detailed Marie’s talk and quoted a particularly poignant statement by Marie:

You have a mind, but you are not your mind. You are also not the conversation you have with yourself in your mind. You may be thinking, “What conversation? What is she talking about?” That one!

…Your mind … is a past/future fear-based machine that is primarily concerned with survival. It’s always comparing, analyzing, scheming, and talking to you about what you need to do in order to become better, prettier, more successful, or more attractive. The mind is usually not supportive of your irresistibility. It likes to talk about your mistakes and how bad, unattractive, stupid, or unworthy you are. (By the way, none of those things your mind talks to you about are actually true, but unless you become aware that you are not your mind, you believe them to be true.)

Take a look at all of the things that cause you anxiety or stress on a daily basis. Are they actual events, or are they the way you perceive those events?Are people causing you stress or is it the baggage from previous issues with those people that is causing you stress?

Does your mind play tricks on you?

Does most of your stress and anxiety come from your own thoughts?

What would happen if you eliminated these stressful thoughts? And is it possible to eliminate these stressful thoughts?

Find Yourself…and Stick with It

4 Leaf Clover

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
— Lao-Tzu

It sounds so simple. Be yourself. Yet this might be one of the most difficult tasks we ever attempt. I remember a quote from my childhood that went along the lines of, “the cause of almost all of our unhappiness is the result of comparing ourselves to others.” Who hasn’t compared themselves to a friend, a relative, or a co-worker? With the advent of Facebook, comparisons are almost completely unavoidable.  Comparisons typically don’t lead to boosts in self-esteem. You can always find ways in which your peers are succeeding in the elements of life where you perceive yourself to be failing.  We have a tendency to focus on our flaws instead of embracing what makes us different or unique. We are all authentic beings and we need to revel in this fact.

The other day my niece was telling me a story about how she and a classmate have decided they are twins because they look so much alike. I told her how lucky she was. How I always wished there was someone who looked like me growing up. But no such luck. My hair was dark and wildly curly and I was swimming in a sea of blondes.

“You’re lucky, P.” I said. “No one looked like me when I was your age. No one had my curly hair.”

She paused and looked out the window. I expected her to update me on Dora the Explorer or Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. Put in a request for a peanut butter and jelly.

“But your curly hair makes you unique. And being unique is pretty great.”

Now if only we could all learn to be as confident and accepting as a 7-year old. We are all unique and that makes us all “pretty great.”

Looking for Color


I stumbled on a blog by a young woman in Brooklyn named Katie Sokoler. Her photographs are beautiful and her creative use of color is captivating, but what really grabbed me was the overall message she portrays with her work. She is, literally, looking for the bright spots in life. She is actively seeking the color.

At some point in our lives, we stop looking for happiness. We expect it to just be there and if it isn’t, we accept that. We accept what is instead of seeking what could be. What we deserve. What will bring us happiness.

We wake up one morning and we are complacent. Our lives revolve around a set schedule and we are more than okay with that. We take things for granted. We expect certain things and ignore others. We begin to see dreams as just that, figments of our imagination. Not reality. Not something attainable.

The people who make a difference in life, the people who are truly successful and truly happy, are the ones who go looking for it. The people who live their lives like an anthropologist seeking answers. Always being curious. Always trying to understand the ebb and flow of life. Aware and alive at every minute, letting no feeling go by unrecognized and appreciated for what it can teach or give.

Curiosity is what keeps us inspired. Happiness is what sustains us through the darker patches in life. Look for the color everywhere. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I plan on examining every path I travel and finding spots of color along the way.

Do you have any strategies for finding the color in life?

What makes you happy?

Can you go looking for happiness?



I tivo episodes of Oprah to watch while I am on the treadmill. Last night, I watched a particularly interesting (and frightening) episode about domestic violence and abuse. The expert, Gavin de Becker, wrote a book (The Gift of Fear) over ten years ago and it is still used today for risk management and assessment. One of the most important skills de Becker emphasizes is our own intuition. If your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t. We tend to ignore our gut reactions, our intuition, because we don’t want to seem like a hypochondriac. However, it is this intuition that is often the denominator that survivors have in common. Another key factor is our ability to recognize and predict dangerous behavior. If the person you are with is controlling, that is a major red flag warning sign. Gavin made two very important points.

1. Anyone who doesn’t take “No” for an answer and continues to be persistent is abusing you, emotionally.

2. When a man says no it is the end of the conversation. When a woman says no it is the beginning of a negotiation.

These warning signs are not necessarily sexual in nature. They can be found in all aspects of your relationship. If you don’t feel like doing something or going somewhere and say “No,” some men will take that as the beginning of a negotiation process. They feel they can wear you down and ultimately “win.” This is never a sign of a healthy relationship. There should be no delineation between winners and losers in a strong and healthy relationship. Oftentimes women feel that if a man is controlling or persistent, it just means he loves her. This is not a sign of love, it is abuse.

The concept of control extends beyond romantic relationships into friendships, family relations and professional dynamics. It is something to be recognizes at the first warning signs and dealt with immediately.

Have you ever been in a controlling relationship? When did you first recognize the controlling behavior? What did you do to rectify the situation?



The writer Koa Beck posted an interesting criticism in today’s Huffington Post. It was on the writer Elizabeth Gilbert and her most recent memoir, Committed. The piece by Beck can be seen as a feminist rant on what she considers to be Gilbert’s self-absorption. Beck takes aim at women’s fiction by comparing Gilbert’s work to the sea of pink covers at your local bookstore chain.

The neurotic female protagonist perpetually on the hunt for a man and who finds solace in an array of Gucci purses has always been safely contained by the chick-lit genre, a shelf that can be ignored in a bookstore and clicked past in Amazon.

Beck goes on to say that Gilbert’s phenomenally successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love,  reads like “one long Seventeen magazine spread, the appropriate title perhaps being, ‘How I Traveled for an Entire Year and Still Managed to Only Obsess About Myself and My Problems.'”

I am all for literary criticism and this is not the first time I have heard criticism of Gilbert’s work reminiscent in tone and content. However, I wonder if Beck believes that women coming to terms with their own identity and spending time on self-reflection is a negative endeavor.  I visited Beck’s site and her writing is extremely strong.  However, as a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I met a few months ago and is as cool in person as she appears on page, and women’s fiction in general, I take issue with her quick dismissive attitude towards entertaining books that offer glimpses into the lives of women.  Yes, not all women’s fiction succeeds in telling succinct, interesting stories, but then again, not all literary fiction succeeds either. I have found that a large portion of literary fiction titles leave me feeling depressed and hopeless, not exactly the ideal reaction to art and creativity. What’s wrong with being entertained? And to be entertained while looking at your own life choices, even better! Can’t you enjoy literary and commercial fiction without having to choose on over the other?

Another question Beck’s post raised for me is about the issue of self-absorption. Is it wrong to be self-absorbed? Isn’t it smart to fully understand your motivation and actions? Aren’t we always being told that the strongest relationship you ever build should be with yourself? I have said before that I tend to put others first and that I need to start putting some quality “me” time into my daily routine. So self-absorption is not a problem I face. However, I don’t think it is an action that should be condemned. Yes, if you are ignoring everyone else for the sake of your own wants and needs, that could lead to a detrimental problem. But we all could stand to be more connected to our inner guides, our thoughts and feelings, and overall individual comprehension and appreciation of life.

Is self-absorption a bad thing?

Is self-reflection the same thing as being self absorbed?

People Pleasing


Yes, I have been called a people pleaser. I strive to keep everyone in my life happy and content. I aim to please. It all boils down to a deep seated desire to have everyone like me. Ugh. I hate even typing that out. Please don’t hate me for writing that. (Gotcha! See, I’m always trying to keep you liking me.)

It’s true. I want everyone to like me. If you have ever tried to make “everyone” like them, you know the truth. It’s impossible. It’s absolutely a mission destined towards failure. Because guess what? No matter how hard you try and how much you put other people first, there are always going to be people out there who don’t like you. There are going to be many people that you disappoint. You are going to “drop the ball.” You are going to fail. There is absolutely no way around it.

While writing this post I looked up the word combination “people pleaser” on Google. I found a wikipedia entry for it (because Google really is the best). It is frightening how well their description fits my life.

Do you habitually give in to other people because you just can’t stand the thought of upsetting them? Yes!

Do you put your needs to one side because you get a buzz from someone else’s happiness, only to find that he or she is not a bit grateful? Yes!

If so, you are a classic “people pleaser,” and you are, in all probability, not getting what you want out of life. It’s time to shift the focus from others to yourself and stop being a martyr. Ouch!

There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests. Your task is to be true, not popular.

The entry goes on to list the ways “people pleasers” can put an end to this ultimately unhealthy way of living. Of course, there are worse ways to live your life and being a selfless, caring and considerate person isn’t necessarily an evil. However, one of the most important life lessons to learn is to love and respect yourself. This will never happen if you are basing your own happiness on the happiness of others. There is too much pressure on both parties involved.

One of the tips provided in the Wiki post is to list five times where you have done something that did not truly reflect your wants and needs, in order to please someone else. It then advises you to write down ways you would have handled it differently and then ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could have happened?”

The Wiki post then advises you to write down your worst fears. Because, truly, this desire to keep people happy is rooted in fear. Fear of losing people, letting them down, being alone and disliked. I don’t know how to stop this fear. If I did, I wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep people happy. And I certainly wouldn’t be Googling “people pleaser” at 11:07 on a Wednesday night. But maybe the fact that I have recognized this issue,  put it down in print and made it real and tangible is a start. I am holding myself accountable.  Now I can begin working on myself, being more present in the decisions I make. I can print out my little Wiki post and take tiny steps towards reclaiming my happiness, even if it means upsetting some people. If they really love me, asserting my independence is not going to stop that love. And if they leave, feeling let down and disappointed, then maybe I am better off without them.

Is anyone else out there a people pleaser?

Do you have trouble saying no to the demands of others?

Do you put yourself first?



Do you ever stumble on a blog and just instantly connect? It’s like suddenly seeing a tiny flower sprout up in your front yard. You’ve been looking at that same yard all winter and suddenly, everything changes. This morning while blindly surfing the internet, I discovered a new writer/blogger, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, who brings me immense joy and fully entertains. Reading her beautiful and brilliant writing comes about as close to talking to a good friend as you can get. Without actually talking to a friend. She is introspective and honest and fills her posts with questions about life.

She exemplifies one of the most important exercises we can do as writers and creative thinkers (heck, even stock brokers, real estate agents and dentists should do this on a daily basis). BE CURIOUS! Search for answers. Seek them out. Ask yourself the hard hitting questions. Try to understand something that seems confusing, overwhelming or impossible. You don’t have to find the answers, just ask the questions.

Personally, I am always trying to understand the concept of happiness. To define it.  I want to understand the ebb and flow of our emotions. How we can feel on top of the world at one minute and in the depths of despair the next. Does thinking about our own happiness, looking for it and trying to understand where it comes from, make it sneak back into its’ own shell like a timid mollusk? (Side note: Do NOT google mollusk images…there are some freaky looking things swimming around the ocean.)  Personally, I think it’s important to weigh those areas in your life that bring you happiness and find out where they are coming from.

In an interview for her site, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin interviewed Amy Wilson. Wilson quotes Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, and I think it so beautifully encapsulates what we all are trying and striving to do on a daily basis.

Julia Cameron put it something like this: The only screenplay that definitely won’t get made into a movie — is the one that is never written at all. We are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, and what we can find along the way is that the effort itself — regardless of the outcome — can bring great happiness.

I want to do more than I think I can. I want to write, read, review, work. I want to fill my life with the things that interest me and I want to inspire others to follow their passion, throw caution to the wind and dive in, head first, into this crazy, unpredictable life. Defining happiness is impossible. It is just something we feel. We know it the minute we experience that instant rush of excitement, of pure joy manifesting itself through a wildly beating heart, flushed skin and a quickened breath. But the only way to find this joy is to experience as much of life as possible. You never know where that moment of joy is going to be found. One thing I am learning is that all of your happiness cannot be found in one place. It has to be spread out, disseminated among many different outlets and venues. A large garden of happiness as opposed to one beautiful flower. Give yourself as many opportunities for happiness as you are physically capable of experiencing. And then stop and smell the roses.

Yoga Journey


Sunday morning I did something completely out of character. I woke up hours before I typically rise, I got dressed hours before “real” clothes find their way to my body and I left the house with a specific destination in mind. A yoga class!

Now this might not seem like a big deal to most blog readers. According to Yoga Journal, nearly 15 million Americans practice yoga. I am not one of those 15 million people because I have, never,  NEVER practiced yoga. But for some unknown reason (if I was already way into yoga I would probably credit the universe) I woke up at an ungodly hour and made my way to a local yoga class.

It was perfect! The lights were low and people were stretching out on their mats. There was zen-like music playing quietly in the background but I could still hear the slightly muffled sounds of Rihanna and Jay-Z coming from the gym a few doors down. It was the perfect mix of east and west. Just enough yoga to not feel like I have abandoned my beloved treadmill.  I came to the realization that I could really get into this yoga thing! (Yes, I’m late jumping on the bandwagon.)

But then I did something drastic. The following day, yesterday, I signed up for a very, VERY advanced yoga class in a yoga school. This wasn’t my gym that offered yoga along with Zumba and pilates and step aerobics. This was strictly for yoga lovers. There were bamboo floors and incense burning in the entry way, the lights were turned out completely and the temperature was at a solid 90 degrees. I sweat so much that I couldn’t keep my hands firmly planted on the mat, hands that were purportedly supporting all of my weight. I was put into positions I never imagined possible. A back bend? Me? And I did it! So there was that glimmer of hope and happiness, a sense of accomplishment and pride. But I got the same feeling of pride from the gym yoga without the fear. Yoga should not be a fearful endeavor, it is all about finding your center and meditating for peace. It should not be about praying to remain injury-free.

So I think I’m sticking with my gym membership and taking the simple, straightforward (and yet still challenging) yoga classes that come with my membership. I’m glad I took a detour onto the wild side and who knows, maybe when my yoga skills progress I will venture to the candlelit side once again. But for now I’m content with my mainstream yoga.


The Roller Coaster Ride of Life


Is life a balance of bitter and sweet? A series of highs and lows?

David Brooks wrote an Op-Ed piece in last week’s New York Times called “The Sandra Bullock Trade.” In his article he asks the philosophical question, “Would you exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow?”

First of all, the professional success is quite an accomplishment and as Brooks points out, it may even cause her to live longer. “Research by Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheldon M. Singh has found that, on average, Oscar winners live nearly four years longer than nominees that don’t win.” But how is your health negatively affected by betrayal, public humiliation and depression? The health gain may actually turn out to be a wash.

Would Sandra give up her Oscar for a healthy and successful marriage? That may sound like a completely unfair choice but it is one that many people have to make. Careers can get in the way of relationships and the stress of a relationship can get in the way of personal success. Critics have even questioned whether it was Sandra’s success that pushed Jesse into the arms of other women. If that is the case, she should consider his exit from her life as a personal success. However, our lives are so intertwined that there is often difficulty in determining where one part of your life ends and the other begins. Instead it is just one continuous stream of thoughts, emotions, events and moments.

David writes, “Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled.”

Is life really a series of ups and downs? When we are on top of the world are we heading for a fall? Should we anticipate that?  Isn’t this a pessimistic and fruitless way to live?

Life is a roller coaster. The grandmother on Parenthood was on to something when she said there were two choices in life, the merry-go-round and the roller coaster. Gil, Steve Martin’s character, is complaining about his complicated life when the grandmother wanders in and says that when she was younger her husband took her on the roller coaster. “Up and down, up and down. Oh what a ride!” she exclaims. “I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Yes, life is unpredictable. It is filled with choices. No one knows which path is the “right” one to take or which direction will prove more successful. Worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through. Ultimately, we have to follow our gut, put one foot in front of the other and strap ourselves into the seat of the roller coaster. We will experience more highs and lows than we can count but hopefully, in the end, we will enjoy the ride and get as much out of it as possible. Maybe even learn a thing or two along the way.


Recently someone picked on me for making sweeping proclamations in writing…maybe even in a blog like this one. I had posted something like, “Here me now! I am going to write a novel!” or “I am going to run every single day of my life!” or “I will read a book a week for the rest of my days on earth!” What can I say, I live with gusto. Honestly, I think that is the best way to live. It is certainly the only way I know how to live. I say, go big or go home. Life can get pretty boring if you quietly go about your every day life without throwing some challenges in your path, without making the most of the small space you were allotted. Life is nothing if not lived with enthusiasm. But guess what? I’m not perfect. My “great plan” is going to lose steam in a day or two. I’m going to change my mind. One day I am going to be happy and excited for my little challenges (reading, writing, running) and other days I am going to feel like I have a tiny rain cloud following me around, bothering no one else but me. Ups and downs. That’s life. Make plans. Break plans. But at least have fun doing it.