What's Your Excuse?

Whatever your excuse is, it's time to stop believing it.
~ Someone

My mom hates my to-do list.
I wish I hated my to-do-list as much as she does.
Maybe then, I would actually do something.

I am an excuse-maker.
There, I said it.

I write out these long, never-ending lists, and regularly chip away at mundane tasks instead of doing more important things. The things my heart really wants to do.

Like writing.
Like photographing.
Like growing a garden.
And cooking.
And singing.
And dancing.
And really living.

My list is full of so many dumb items, I should actually just call it what it is:
My Excuse List.

I will find any excuse not to do any of the things that are important to me, and will instead find every reason to do all of the little things that don't matter.

I will forego writing my next epic poem so that I can go to the store and "Run An Errand" that needs to be done absolutely immediately. I will skip out on writing my next great blog post so that I can scroll through facebook searching for the next Really-Important-Status-Update-I-Couldn't-Care-Less-About.

Basically, if there were a PhD in Avoidance and Procrastination, I wouldn't have it because it would involve doing something to get it!

Don't pretend like I'm alone in this.
You do it, too.

We all have this grand dream of The Things We Want To Do In Life. The things we don't need to write down on some endless list because we will never forget them. These are the things that are innate to us. They are our calling.

And they're calling.
But we have mastered the art of not listening.

I am a poet. And yet, in the past few years, I have cultivated an entire life of excuses as to why I'm not writing poetry anymore.

I don't have time.
I'm not inspired.
I have writer's block.
I don't have anything to write about.
I have to figure some stuff out before I start.  
I need to do [insert excuse here] first.

But the truth is, I just refuse to do it. I choose not to.
I refuse to commit to the most important thing in my life. 

And every day, every hour, every minute I choose not to do the thing I love is a day, hour, or minute that I fail myself.

And I am tired.

So this morning, I made a to-do list of things that will nourish me. Things that I want to do. Things that are calling out to me. And today, I'm making the choice to focus just on those.

And when that little voice started up with the list of reasons I shouldn't pursue my dream, I told her to shut up and write a poem about it. And then read it to someone who cares.

I'm done believing her excuses.

No, YOU change!

Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you'll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.
~ Jacob M. Braude

It was 11:15am, and we were sitting in our car in a much-longer-than-anticipated line at the border. My train was at 12:05pm. We hadn't factored border traffic into our travel time.

It was tense.

I was anxious, but silent. I tried to label my emotion and let it be and eventually move through me, but the longer we waited in that line, the more my stomach churned.

The two people in the car with me were also worried I would miss my train, and kept making comments about the whole affair. I was getting frustrated that they wouldn't stop talking about it, when my inner voice was complaining just as much as them. This was making my brain and mouth tell them things like, "It's ok. Whatever was meant to be will be. There's no point worrying about something we can't change." and all those logical and enlightening comments that were only adding to the noise (even though they were true!).

And though I was saying these things to them, I think I was also trying to say them to myself.

That's when I realized I was trying to change their reaction.

I was feeling just as nervous as everyone else in the car, but I was silent about it and trying to deal with it all internally. They were expressing their emotions and trying to deal with them externally.

There was no right or wrong way of handling the situation. But I became so focussed on their complaints, consumed by their comments, caught up in their moment, and trying to change them that I wasn't even paying a nudge of attention to me.

I think that happens to a lot of us in a lot of situations.  We try to change someone else's thoughts or actions instead of taking a good, hard look at our own. We look to others to adjust their ways, without even thinking to look at ourselves.

So I finally decided to let them deal with the event in their own way, and focus on contemplating my own feelings about it, instead.

And I had a nice long train ride to do just that.

I can do it if I twy

I can do it if I twy. I can do it if I twy. I can do it, do it, do it if I twyyyyy.
~ Reya Amel Davis


And so can you.

Believing In Magic Again

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
~ Albert Einstein

I recently watched an online video of a magician doing an amazing show with cards. It was great. One part of me was in awe the whole time - amazed by his skill and the wonder of it all. But there was another little part of me who kept saying, "It's all sleight of hand," and looking for the loopholes so I could uncover his secret.

I wanted to smack that part of me and tell her to shut up so I could enjoy the magic show.

Adults kind of suck.

We see magic, and we know we're being duped (albeit in an entertaining way), so our critical mind kicks in and we try to figure out how it all works, where the cards are coming from, and we search for the secret compartment.

Children, however, are awed by everything. You tell them it's magic and they think it's incredible. They don't feel the need to understand how or why. They're happy to be in awe. They watch the show and feel like there are mystical things in the world that they may never understand or be able to explain and that's the amazing part of life.

Because there are.
And that is.

As adults, we don't just let the magic happen anymore. We don't appreciate the awe.

I have watched my nieces and nephews grow up. I remember when they were younger and I would show them a trick and they would eat it up and believe that there was something called magic in this world and it was inexplicable and amazing.

Now, when I show them a trick, they look into my eyes with that desire to believe - with that "could it be?" glint in their eyes. But there is a difference. They have been taught that magic doesn't exist, but they still think it might. They still want to believe it does. Like maybe there is some secret community of magicians who know the truth about magic - and the fact that it is, indeed, real. And they look at me hoping  I will confirm what they truly believe: that magic and miracles are real. That beautiful, inexplicable, unbelievable things still do exist.

(Because they do.)

So I smile at them with that sly look that says, "You'll never know."

And a part of me hopes they don't - that they don't ever find that secret compartment, that they never figure out the sleight of hand, the flick of the wrist.

When I look at my older nieces and nephews, I don't see that shine in their eyes, that belief in something awe-inspiring anymore. And I don't know when the shift happened.

But it did.

I wish I could give them back their sense of disbelief. I wish I could make their awe last. I wish I could explain to them that there is so much time to be cynical. That they will spend the better part of their lives like that. But that there is such beauty in believing. And they should hold on to that for as long as they can.

When my husband and I travelled around the world last year, we rediscovered that awe. We started believing in magic and miracles and beauty and the universe again. Because the world is full of it. We have just trained our eyes to look past it all.

And sometimes, when I find that awe in myself again, I hope with all my might that it will stick around. Even if it's just in the background.


So I want to start living as if everything is a miracle again. Because if you think about it:

Everything is.

The Out-Thanking Game

If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. 
~ Maya Angelou

Yesterday, I was on the train to Montreal, and this little old couple was sitting behind me. I couldn't help but hear their conversation from time to time, as the man pointed out the lily pads in the water as we passed by them, and the herr that was flying next to our train, and the yellow dock flowers he so loved that were growing wild on the way. The woman would softly respond and they would talk about whatever he was pointing out. It was very sweet. I intermittently fell asleep during their conversation, but I am so glad I was awake for what they did next.

It started slow. He thanked her for accompanying him on this trip. She thanked him for carrying a bag. He thanked her because he said he couldn't have done the journey without her. She thanked him for something else. He thanked her for something. And they just continued like this - thanking each other for each of the little things they could think of.

Out-thanking each other, over and over again.

And it wasn't a game. They were genuinely grateful for each thing they mentioned. You could feel it in their voice.

This made me think about how our lives could change if we engaged in gratitude like that all the time with the people we love. Instead of complaining about the little things, the annoyances, the everyday quibbles to everyone, what if we appreciated every little thing about those in our life?

I already told you the story about my gratitude journal and how it changed my perspective. And in my Awakening Joy course, one of the first main lessons was for us to try to cultivate gratitude daily. To just notice and give attention to the things we are thankful for. Gratitude seems to be an essential ingredient in so many uplifting and life-changing practices.

So when I was lugging my heavy suitcase up the subway steps - step by painful step - and two guys, on separate occasions, helped me take it to the top - I was so grateful for their help. And when the guy in the subway station stood up and gave my sister his seat instead, I was so appreciative of his kindness. And when the girl in the train gave me her seat because I couldn't fit my bag anywhere else, I was so thankful for her considerate gesture.

It's the little things.

And noticing them makes me smile.
And then remembering them later on makes me smile again.
And there can't be anything wrong with that. 

But it's not just the little things that strangers do - we should appreciate all the little things our family and friends do for us, too.

We often give our best face to the public. Scowling at home but then stepping out into the world and being particularly pleasant and nice to the people who cross our path. Yes, we are more comfortable at home and don't have to put up a facade, but if we try to be our best us with our favourite people, maybe our joyful facade would become truth. And then maybe we would no longer need a facade because we would be truly happy and grateful. And then, maybe we could change the world in our small little way. And then maybe the world would be at peace.

(Ok, ok, I'm getting ahead of myself.)
But you get the point.

So my goal is to start being happier and more grateful with those closest to me, not just to strangers. Because if I give my lone smile to the ones I love, I think I'll find I have a well of smiles to draw from for everyone else who crosses my path. Including myself. 

And hopefully, I can start a ripple effect of out-thankfulness in my own life.

So I'll start here:
Thank you. I really appreciate that you took time out of your day to read my words. It is humbling, and truly makes a difference to me.

Ok, your turn.