"If you are filled with anger, you create more suffering for yourself than for the other person...So you try to bring peace within yourself first. When you are calm, when you are lucid, you will see that the other person is a victim of confusion, of hate, of violence transmitted by society, by parents, by friends, by the environment. When you are able to see that, your anger is no longer there..." ~Thich Nhat Hanh
The email sat in my inbox for weeks. Read. Unanswered.
Rare for me. My favorite hack is handling emails when they arrive. Responding, acting, deleting.
Yet I let this one go. The deadline passed - and then they extended it – as if questioning the unsteady boundary I’d erected.
What was the email about? Happiness. A request to create a video with our definition of happiness.
It’s been an exhausting summer. I’ve been dealing with changes - which feel like losses - and they're:
So, I’m not really in the mood to create a happiness video - and am kinda resentful of the request.
Why is this bothering me so much? Is it really the video? Or anger around the loss / change I am dealing with?
I must confess something - I watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I could give a lot of defensive reasons why – but at the end of the day – it’s a guilty pleasure.
This season Lisa Rinna has been navigating grief around the death of her mother. And has been angry over another cast member’s public denouncement of her and her husband not thanking her for tickets to a widely celebrated charity event. The anger stems partly from her husband Harry Hamlin being named in this – she is very protective of him.
The other cast member has apologized repeatedly for her behavior. But Rinna can’t let it go. And has been filmed having rage spirals about it – which were aired as they make for good TV.
She has been uncomfortable with her behavior (and other things she has done on social media) and ties it to grief over her mother’s death. I would suggest it is grief anger, and the requirement of the show that she continue to film and be with people who don’t have her best interests at heart. She needs a safe community right now, not those looking for more airtime.
Which brings me back to my anger over the happiness question. Even though I know happiness is something that can be pursued – I’m not ready to embrace it. Much less record a video about it.
And pretending to be happy or normal when we aren’t is a horrible thing. It can lead to numbing with alcohol, drugs, and peanut M&Ms. It feeds the anger that we already have around our world falling apart. Around this thing shouldn’t have happened to us.
It's important to recognize the anger and resentment that comes with grief. Because even though it can cause collateral damage to others, it hurts us most of all. Especially if we live in it too long. Better to feel it, express it healthily (writing works BTW), and move on.
Let the universe and Karma take the reins. What's happening (no matter how painful) is supposed to happen - to help us evolve and grow (if we can only get out of the way long enough for that to happen).
Is happiness the opposite of grief? Is it something to aspire to?
But there’s stress in trying to be joyful. My grief hack for this is to try to be a little happier each day - to find the calm that Thich Nhat Hanh refers to above.
Mario Sirois calls it 3% happier. Which can be walking with my dog (shown above). Or reading a little Natalie Goldberg each morning. (Or watching a group of Beverly Hills women work through their issues).
That feels doable when the idea of happiness feels overwhelming. Insurmountable.
Walking Jake the Wonderdog? Possible.
I never did turn in that Happiness video. But I did walk Jake every day this month.
And I’m okay with that.
Hope this is helpful.
P.S. If you're looking for a peaceful getaway, tools to manage change, and a community of seekers doing the same, please join us for the Managing Change With Grace retreat - October 2-4, 2022 at Kripalu.
Hope to see you there.
As mentioned last month, I'm going through something.
And since my book “We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This” was published, I’ve been asked repeatedly how I got through the difficulties I described? How did I keep going?
I think of these times as being on the razor’s edge. The brink between normalcy and chaos.
Sane - and less sane.
The time when we are at the brink and need to soften when we really want to jump, run, scream.
It's a place where our skin comes off. Our blinders too. We see and feel things clearly, viscerally - and our ability to express gracefully or guardedly is lowered.
During times like these, I fall back into a list of learned habits and self-care mechanisms.
In other words, as the well-worn mug above suggests, I "trust the process."
One of my favorite process tips: Don't lean into the drama. Even though past trauma and conditioning can make it feel familiar. Comfortable. But toying or engaging with negative energy can cause a figurative (or actual) hangover. And disrupt healing.
Recently I attended an outdoor concert. I looked forward to it all week. And it had all the right elements. The weather was cool and breezy. The band upbeat. The WaWa panini delicious. And to top it off – a spontaneous dancing love train broke out.
But in the middle of the event, a person came over and made an offhand comment to me.
It had to do with my appearance – my weight. I'm sure it wasn't meant to sting, but it did.
A reviewer of my book complained that I didn’t go far enough into my weight battle. That I tiptoed on the edge of it but didn’t share that pain. And she was right. Those pages fell onto the cutting room floor. There was so much else to fit into those 299 pages that my tango with 200+ girth felt superfluous.
And I'm not going to go into it here beyond the fact that I am healthier than I've been in years largely because I've finally befriended my body (because of yoga teacher and therapy training) and gotten off the sugar roller coaster by becoming sober. That said - I will likely always be a Large or double-digit size - and I'm okay with that most of the time.
So, let’s get back to the comment.
When the words landed my eyes widened and my face grew warm. I looked around to see if anyone else heard, but they were caught up in other conversations. And as happens with people who are clumsy with their words, the commenter was on to a new subject before I could say anything.
So I remained silent. Nothing I said was going to change anything. Eventually, the band launched into a familiar song and the commenter danced away.
Since I noticed my uncomfortable feelings, I didn't do what I sometimes do afterward - binge on sugar or salty snacks - or drink away my upset. Instead, I watched some Real Housewives (living vicariously from their witty retorts), meditated with Reiki (to release the energy) before bed, and woke up hangover free (which gave me the time and awakeness to work on this piece).
The takeaway? When you’re going through dukkha - and someone throws more at you – duck. Don’t make everything worse by responding in kind or letting it sabotage your self-care. We just regret it afterward (and the incident probably won’t matter that much in a week, month or year).
We cannot change people. They have their own worries and will behave and speak from them. We can only control our actions – and inaction (which is sometimes the best option when the grievance is relatively harmless).
Hope this is helpful.
Will be back next month with more insights from the razor’s edge.
May they be of benefit.
I've had a terrible week (and please note this was written before Friday's Roe v Wade news).
Sometimes I think the universe is testing me. Hey - you want to lead a workshop on Managing Change With Grace? Well, let's see how you handle this mess. Does your approach still work? Can you still keep it together?
Do I still want to wallow? Yes.
Have I been significantly less patient with stupidness? Hell yes.
Am I sitting most of the time unshowered in my workout clothes and a Gino's baseball cap watching HGTV? Of course.
But I didn't drink wine (for over 480 days now) or have one of my famous late-night junk food binges.
Self-care and leaning on others.
Within minutes of the event that derailed everything, I was reaching out to my support network. And later when action was no longer necessary, I walked three miles, took a bath, ordered salmon for dinner (omegas are amazing), and went to bed early. And every day since, no matter what, I've done something for myself (and spent most days working in the garden - which looks amazing btw).
When in crisis, we have to take care of ourselves first so we can make the next best move. And keep applying self-care so we can do the next best thing. And the next.
What does self-care look like? It is unique for everyone. For me it is eating regularly, limiting caffeine, sleeping, taking a walk, listening to happy music, creating, playing or singing music, mulching a flower bed, or whatever keeps me busy so I don't wallow.
Because even though wallowing feels good - it's not helpful. Things will get better. Largely because we eventually accept what is happening - and set up healthy boundaries.
You know this - but here it is again - we cannot change what others do we can only change ourselves.
We have to set up limits. Take a pause or exit from people who do not support us, stop trying to control situations, and stop pursuing addictive behaviors which only make things worse / last longer (including drinking, taking illegal drugs, eating cheese puffs, and social media).
Instead, as Pema Chodron says, we need to make ourselves stronger - by eating healthy, sleeping, and feeding our souls with light.
Then we will be able to do the next best thing for ourselves, those we love, and the universe.
It's not easy - but we can do it.
Hope this is helpful.