I have taken a long time to write this blog. Every time I sat down to write something I couldn’t seem to think of a topic or what to say. I mean what do you say that hasn’t already been Facebooked or tweeted or Instagrammed? How many videos can you watch or sayings can you read to make this pandemic go away? We are social animals who thrive on physical and emotional connection, so this social distancing is really hard.
It has only been about 5 weeks since I’ve been quarantined and I have it much easier than others because my son is grown and on his own and so I only have myself to take care of. I had all kinds of plans to finish projects that I had been putting off for, well, years and then I tore a ligament in my ankle. I had to put my foot up and stay put. I mean stationary. For someone who never stops moving that is torture but when you are in the middle of a pandemic it’s definitely a sign from upstairs.
So what was I going to do besides read? I have many books and get the newspaper every day but that doesn’t last all day. Or let’s face it I couldn’t do that all day. Then I came across an online course called The Science of Well Being offered by Yale University. It has become the most popular course in Psychology taught at Yale by a Harvard Ph.D professor. It deals with the scientific study of human behavior and what it takes to make humans happy. That would be scientific. And free of charge.
It includes all of the things that come to mind with happiness such as meditation, savoring, gratitude, kindness, social connection and on and on. I know these things and I tell myself I should make this a daily routine all the time. But then life gets in the way and I start to doubt how all of this will really make me feel. Not mentally but emotionally. Really get in there. I’m good for a while but I have to say I start to forget what my priorities are. I have issues from the past and know it’s not enough to talk about dealing with them. I have to rid myself of the demons that sneak in when I least expect it.
Taking the time to practice especially when I have all the time and opportunities now to put those studies to work gives me no excuse. I have seen so much kindness since this horrible virus has taken over our lives. From my neighbors checking in to the acts of kindness I’ve seen on the news every day. I know I have to stay in a mindset that allows me to follow the path. Not only for kindness to others but kindness to myself. We are our worst critics. I know I am. I want to feel what it is to be happy. Not just talk about it. And that brings me to what this blog is really about.
Hope. That in whatever life throws at us there is always hope. This is our time to believe, desire and trust. The true definition of hope and happiness.
William James, the founder of psychology in the US, explains that most human feelings aren’t just in our heads. In his book “Principles of Psychology”, written in 1890, he says our emotions are “tightly bound” in our actions and bodies. Here we are in 2020 and not much has changed.
Depression seemed to embrace me in January more than usual. The first of the year always seems bright the first week and then old habits seem to sneak back in. I have notes everywhere of what I should do or feel about day to day living but never seemed to be able to carry it through.
I have to say I didn’t really feel like going out much or even getting off the couch. Work was slow and I felt my age for the first time. “The business retires you” kept going through my head and I must admit I seemed to think that was the truth. I was falling into what James writes we do… “sit all day in a moping posture, sigh, and reply to everything with a dismal voice, and your melancholy lingers.” But he’s telling us to “act differently. To do something even if it’s the last thing we want to do. Get the blood flowing. Inactivity is the enemy.”
I had not written my blog for quite a while and felt I had little to say. But in fact, I have a lot to say and refuse to let myself run off course. It is my responsibility to choose how I will let life go without having a say in it.
I leave you with this quote from William James. “We don’t laugh because we’re happy. We’re happy because we laugh. Actions do not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”
I wrote my first blog back in 2013 entitled Tribes. I talked about finding a group that you could hang with that would believe in you and inspire you to be the best version of yourself even when you didn’t believe you could. I can’t believe that it was written five years ago. So hard to believe the time has passed by so quickly. I thought then I would gather my tribe and would discover what I really was put here on this earth to do.
I have traveled and worked and searched and haven’t really found that group. Unfortunately, my work kept me away and disconnected from where I thought I wanted to be. I felt I was moving towards something that would give me the answer of where I wanted to be in my life. I now realize that I wasn’t ready to take the chance.
I recently listened to an interview with Simon Sinek who is one of my favorite thinkers and he has written a new book called The Infinite Game. I had written about him before and was so impressed by his way of looking at the world that when I saw he had written a new book I had to have it.
In it, he says our courage comes from being surrounded by people who believe in you even when you are filled with self-doubt. He says that when we work hard for something that we don’t want to do it’s called stress but when we work hard to do what we want to do it’s called passion. Ah, right you are Simon. It takes courage and strength to keep going even when you think you can’t.
I was so into my book and so ready to push forward until I asked for someone’s advice who I really respected. Their comments hit me hard but they were honest and right on the money. I needed to dig deeper. I got caught up in the story and not in the emotional reason why. I took the finite route. I took the direction of safe instead of the direction of passion. I realized now I wasn’t ready to go to that place. So I’m going back to the drawing board and write from my gut.
That’s what the infinite game is. It’s pushing for the truth and writing from that place where there is no filter. And I have my friend to thank for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself and encouraging me to write from my heart. I’m finally beginning to find my tribe.