Deciding To Try

I didn’t want to do anything.

I cleaned my room. Well, I shoved most of my things into the closet. Out of sight out of mind right? I still didn’t feel better. I didn’t want to clean the kitchen because I didn’t make the mess. It would’ve taken me ten minutes, I could’ve listen to a podcast or a book and enjoyed it. I understand this but I just didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to edit anything. I didn’t want to call GoDaddy support. I didn’t want to live in the house that I do or write from a bed or the kitchen table. I knew I could do things to start feeling better but I didn’t want to.

Sometimes the hardest part about getting out of a certain state of mind is deciding to try. It’s never impossible. I, and probably you, just give up too easily (or don’t even try in the first place!). What’s the quickest fix to a bad mood? A quick jolt of exercise! Control your emotions with motion.

Start simple. Sit or stand up straight, take ten deep breaths. Didn’t work? Try twenty jump squats. Didn’t work? Try twenty jumping jacks. Didn’t work? Try twenty pushups. Didn’t work? Start again with jump squats and repeat. Eventually you’ll feel better or pass out, maybe even die. At least it will have worked!

Simpler yet, try writing “I fucking kick-ass” 42 times or repeat it in your head. Why 42? It’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. Counting will also steal brain power from feeling negative.

I find that the more random the thing you try, the more positive the outcome. Just keep trying things, don’t stop until you feel better. Don’t keep inflicting pain upon yourself.

The other day I ate what tasted like mouldy cheese mixed with baby vomit out of a container labeled “Plain Greek Yogurt.” Will I do that again? Of course not! When I go the theatre and end up hating the movie would I go see it again another day? Never! It wouldn’t feel good to do these things again. So why do we allow ourselves to feel bad by revisiting moments in our past that we regret? Or things right now that we might be missing out on? Or something in the future that hasn’t even happened yet! Most people will do some form of this everyday. I know I’m susceptible to it, are you?

Try things to get out of a bad state of mind and don’t give up until you are. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have no control over you emotions, you can have complete control. Like a child learning to walk, you might stumble around, lose your balance, maybe even fall over. Stand back up and try again. Eventually those wobbly steps turn into steady strides and before you know it you’re across the room and in your mother’s loving arms.

I forced myself to start writing. It was awful. I hated every minute of it, until eventually I didn’t.

I didn’t want to do anything but, fortunately, I did anyway.

Story and a Song

My eyes were beginning to feel sore from reading on an iPad Mini with a non retina display. I was finishing a chapter of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird when my phone began vibrating on my bedside table. I laid the iPad against my chest and turned my head in the direction of the buzzing. On the screen was the name of my brother, Klarke Braaten, and a goofy picture of him and his friend from high school.

I worry something tragic has happened when I receive unexpected phone calls from family and friends.

“Want to do me a favour?” he asks after I answer the call.

I ask him what it is. Chances are I could have agreed to but you never know what a favour may entail. What if he wanted me to drink toilet water? I wouldn’t want to do that for him.

“Give me a ride to school?”

He left a short while ago in his car like every morning so I couldn’t think of why else he would need a ride. His demeanour didn’t seem to indicate that he had just got in a car crash. I asked him what was up. He explains that he had taken his car in to get work done and was relying on the shop to provide him with a ride but there was no one available. I said I would meet him in 10 at a gas station across the street from where he was. I set my phone back down, placed the iPad beside me and rolled out of bed. I got dressed and was out the door.

Earlier I had received a text from my dad saying it was 8 degrees back home. Despite Saskatoon always being colder I was hoping it would feel similar here. The wind was chilly but bearable in my two jackets. I walked slowly to my car. I have to walk carefully because my Uggs provide little (no) grip but I wear them anyways because most days I can’t be bothered to put socks on.

I plugged my phone into the car stereo and put on Silversun Pickup’s sophomore album Swoon. I turned on my wipers, it was warm enough that the non-winter washer fluid wasn’t frozen. I decided I would take the slightly longer route as opposed to making an illegal left turn.

I recognized the man wearing the Kansas City Chiefs hoody standing at the corner of the intersection as my brother. I pulled into the gas station, put the car in park, turned the music down a tad, made sure the seat was all the way back and waited as he walked across the front of the vehicle and hopped in. It was a quiet drive.

He mentioned that a song that played was from a sports video game but he wasn’t sure which one. We use to be able to place most songs from EA games but now he plays too many and I don’t play enough of them to keep track.

We arrived at his school a short time later. He thanked me for the ride and I told him it wasn’t a problem. I turn the music back up as he closes the passenger door.

I spent most of the drive home contemplating picking up a cup of coffee but I decide I’d make my own.

Deck Wrecking Kitty

I grew up in Abbey, a rural community with a population that doesn’t reach triple digits. My parents still live there. I was speaking on the phone with my mom this morning. Eventually the conversation led to her wondering why a particular video game (a Christmas gift) on Amazon was so expensive. I took a look. They were sold out and displaying more expensive listings from other sellers. I told her it would the normal price in stores which doesn’t do her much good. I had sealed my fate, I would be going Christmas shopping.

The first store I went to didn’t have it. I asked my mom if she could call the nearby Walmart and see if it was in stock. Walmart tends to have everything. In the meantime I went and picked up groceries. I was making greek chicken that evening.

I felt my phone vibrate twice in my pocket as I was checking out. The message from my mom read “computer says no but guy I talked to said yes!? Let me know when you get it please.”

The guy was probably right. Everyone says not to believe everything you read on the Internet.

When I got to Walmart there was one copy left on the shelf. It was my lucky day. I grabbed it and went to the checkout. The man at the till was a stubby, younger looking man. His face spotted with patches of thin, blond facial hair. His smile revealed his mostly crooked teeth. He appeared more enthusiastic than most checkout operators.

“I just need the key to unlock this.” He says grabbing the game with one hand and fumbling around in his pocket with the other.

Just then I heard a girl’s voice from behind me, “Almost left with this.”

She extends her hand toward the guy behind the till and drops it into his, then walks away. Good timing I thought to myself. He pops the plastic casing off the game and scans it.

“I’m almost done too.” he tells me. “I’ll be going home to play with my kitty and rebuild my Magic The Gathering decks.”

This comment catches me off guard. I crack a smile and tell him that sounds like fun. I’m being nice. My brain is thinking “Wow. Walmart worker. Kitty lover. Magic The Gathering player. Probably no friends. This poor guy.”

“I just bought a bunch of new cards. The last time I tried rebuilding my decks with so many new cards it didn’t go well. I ended up just throwing it together last minute then got destroyed.” I can’t help but notice the joy in his voice.

“My kitty doesn’t help me either. She is always messing them up.” I’m amused that he uses the word kitty. “Just when I think I have a deck figured out she comes and wrecks it.”

He hands me the bag. I’m not sure how to conclude the conversation. “Good luck with your deck” I tell him as I begin to walk away. He thanks me and wishes me a good day.

Afterwards I felt guilty for judging him. Who was I to think my hobbies are any better than his? Or maybe I envied his lack of shame in discussing them with a complete stranger. All I knew for sure was I felt disappointed that my immediate reaction wasn’t to be happy for him.

Judgement often leads to suffering. It expresses dissatisfaction for the way things are. It adds unnecessary negativity to our lives which often leads us to bring down those who are arounds us. Judging focuses our energy on what is wrong and not how we can fix it. It slowly chokes contentment out of us and replaces it with jealousy, greed and envy. The energy that could be used to improve other peoples lives is instead being used to worsen them.

Judging is a behaviour that is deeply engrained in our society. Avoiding it is hard. Heck, before I could blink my brain thought a guy was a loser because he liked his kitty and a trading card game. The key to minimizing the judging of others is acceptance.

See the situation for what it is and accept it. Don’t apply any negativity to it. It is what it is. Try to catch yourself when you are judging someone. Accept that you did and try to move on. The sooner you can stop dwelling on it the better.

Try giving the person a story for his actions. Maybe the person who cut you off in traffic was just found out their nephew passed away? Just got fired? Most of the time people who inconvenience us aren’t trying to be an asshole. Coming up with a story for an individual takes your mind away from thinking spitefully. Accept the story you create and move on.

The trick is to accept the situation as quickly as possible and minimize the amount of negativity you generate. Afterwards you can evaluate if there is anything you can do to change it. Use your energy for action, not inaction.

Maybe you roll your eyes as you read this. There was a time when I would have. I would have blasted it. This author is a fucking idiot with his head in the clouds. I sometimes struggle to write it myself. There’s still a little part of me that tells me this is all nonsense. But then I remember that it works. It makes my day better all the time. Maybe it’ll help make your day better too. Who knows?

All I know is I’m going to read comic books after publishing this. Try not to judge me.

The Thought Doesn’t Count: 10 Gifts To Give Your Body

“It’s the thought that counts.”

I don’t know about you but as a child if my parents ever told me they thought about getting me a lot of Christmas presents but decided not to I’d have been signing myself up for adoption. Well, maybe not that far, but I’d have been pissed. Thoughts can only get you so far, eventually you have to execute. Value comes from successful execution, not thinking.

I ordered my first Christmas gift for someone today. I spent ten minutes choosing between two options. I wrote about why I chose the one I did and will include that with the gift. Hopefully the thought will count for something. I spend a lot of energy thinking about the gifts to give people. Probably too much. I use to spend hours thinking on ideas and find something wrong with each one. I’d get frustrated and sometimes just not get them anything.

When trying to figure out what to get everyone else it can be easy to forget about ourselves.  That’s why I came up with the follow gift guide for your body. These are some of the things I try to do every day. They will help better you so you can give more! (I’ve even included surprise gifts you can give your body too!)

6-8 hours! Studies show sleep can help fight weight gain, improve decision making, decrease anxiety, sleep refreshes the immune system, stabilize blood sugar, lower risk of disease. It basically does everything. I often think I don’t need that much sleep, that I have stuff I’d rather be doing than sleeping. It never works out though. I end up being bitchier, or tired, or some other problem that kicks my productivity right between the legs. Let’s aim for quality in our waking hours, not quantity.
Surprise your body: Go to bed 15-30 minutes earlier tonight.

Drink Water
8 cups per day! That might sound like a lot to you. It did for me once. My trick now is just to have 2-3 glasses after I drink something else (so if I have a cup of coffee I’ll drink a couples glasses of water before my next drink). Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids, control calories, energizes muscles, keeps skin looking good, water helps your kidneys, maintain normal bowel function. Ok, I’m tired of googling reasons why things are good for you. Just trust me, these things are all good for you. If you don’t believe me try it for yourself then write me if it made you feel shitty.
Surprise your body: Go have a glass of water right now.

Physical Exercise
It doesn’t have to be intense! Go for a walk, do a minute of jumping jacks, air squats, anything. Something is better than nothing. Ok, I said I wasn’t going to google anymore but this image is awesome:

Surprise your body: stand up, stretch, do two dozen air squats. In an office? Scared people will laugh at you? Get them to do it too! Tell them it’s national work like the Japanese day. Or just go do them in secret in the restroom.

Exercise for the mind. Escape to a new world. Learn something new. Learn from others. There is no shortage of things you can gain from reading. I read the other day that smart people learn from their mistakes and wise people learn from somebody else’s mistakes. Make yourself a little wiser today.
Surprise your body: You’re reading right now!

A kid laughs on average three hundred times per day. An adult? About five. That’s insane! Laughing makes me feel good, I bet it makes you feel good too. Watch a funny movie, read funny jokes. Even better try to make someone else laugh. It doesn’t matter if people are laughing at you or with you, by adding laughter to the world you’re making it a better feeling place.
Surprise your body: I laughed watching this today!

Exit Your Comfort Zone
Do something out of the ordinary. Next time you order coffee ask for 10% off, or a free one for your friend. “Hey, my friend is having a bad day, can she get a free coffee please or some sort of discount?” The worst thing that can happen is they’ll say no but you’d be surprised what some people will do to help others. You’ll make their day more memorable too.  Either way, the sun will shine a little brighter.
Surprise your body: Lay down for five minutes in a shopping mall and see what happens. (Disclaimer: I’ve never done this)

Wash away your negativity. Literally. Feel the water against your body, imagine all the negative energy puddling at your feet and being washed down the drain. If that’s too hippy for you, maybe just touch yourself?
Surprise your body: Take a hot shower this evening.

How would you feel if someone constantly told you that you aren’t good enough, aren’t thin enough, aren’t muscular enough, this is wrong with you or that is wrong with you? Probably pretty lousy. So why subject your body to this constant shaming?
Surprise your body: Stand in front of the mirror and say “hey you look good today.” Try to do it every time you look in a mirror.

When I’m feeling shitty if I put an effort into thinking of things I’m grateful for, no matter how trivial, eventually I’ll feel better. It’s magic! What are you grateful for? If you can’t think of anything start with easy ones. Being able to walk? Talk? Touch? Smell? Went to something else on the Internet before reading this far? There is no end to the things your body can do right now. Thank it for that.
Surprise your body: Thank your body for three things right now! Write them down.

Be still. Take a few minutes to just sit, observe your thoughts and let your mind relax. There is some proverb or something that states if you’re too busy to sit and meditate for ten minutes a day then you should sit for twenty. Your mind drives your body. What should you do when you are driving your car on the highway and get tired? Pull over and have a nap. Although rolling down the windows, turning up the music, and singing at the top of my lungs sometimes works for me.
Surprise your body: Close your eyes and think of a snowflake frozen in time. Analyze all of it’s intricacies. I don’t know, I’m getting tired and that’s the best I could come up with! Actually give it a try, I just did. Describing a snowflake is hard.

Hopefully that sparks a few ideas within you. Maybe try one of these things today, maybe another tomorrow. The more you give your body the more it’ll give back to you. As you give yourself more, the more you’ll be capable of giving others.

Remember, the thought doesn’t count for much. Your body doesn’t care if you think about giving it things. You need to execute. It wants the damn presents.