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Happiness And Success

13 Jul

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Oprah recently had a podcast with the author Sarah Ban Breathnach.

Sarah is known for the bestselling self-help book in the 1990s called Simple Abundance where she talked about how gratitude can transform your life.

The book transformed Sarah’s.

It sold over 7 million copies and soon Sarah was buying Manolo Blahnik shoes, employing nine assistants, and renovating the home in the English Countryside that Isaac Newton once owned.

She had it all. Money. Adoring fans. A wildly successful career.

(Newton’s Chapel.)

Years later, Sarah showed up at her sister’s house with only a suitcase. She had no money. Nowhere to live. A deeply broken heart.

Sarah’s story is the age-old story that I know, I KNOW I know, and yet it’s a reminder.

Sarah lost her money through a series of bad investments, a costly (and awful) divorce, and being ill-prepared for fame, wealth and all that comes along with it. She learned the very hard way the thing that we all learn the very hard way. No amount of

money

followers

books sold

can make your husband kind.

No amount of

success

awards

designer shoes

lead to inner peace. Good decisions. Love.

It just doesn’t.

We all know about Princeton’s study on money and happiness by now.

I don’t need to recap it fully, but I do think about it a lot.

Basically, the study found that after a certain point ($75K), no matter how much more money you make, you aren’t any happier.

Of course, money makes a difference when you can’t pay the bills. When you desperately need it.When the lights don’t turn on.

It’s a privilege of mine to not be speaking from that place.

But I never forget about that 75K.

It’s baffling!

Give me a few million dollars and I’ll SHOW YOU how much happier I am!

Gimme the house in Santa Barbara and free me of the student loan anxiety and I’ll TELL YOU in no uncertain terms your study is wrong!

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that it’s right.

Lauren Graham, in her graduation-speech-turned-book In Conclusion Don’t Worry About It said this:

The fun of doing the daily crossword puzzle with my TV children between shots on the set of Parenthood rivaled any awards show I’ve ever attended. The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences. This is true whether you’re an actor or a teacher or a waitress. I know this because I’ve been all three.

It’s always about the looking good to others part isn’t it?

It comes back to wanting to be seen. Wanting to know you’re worthwhile.

The Fault in Our Stars tackles this beautifully.

Augustus is worried about death because he hasn’t done anything “big” in his life. He’s only 16. The world doesn’t know him.

His girlfriend tells him

I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one. You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.

That’s it, isn’t it?

I know about you.

I do the crossword with you.

I’ll take you in when you have nowhere to go.

It’s the reminder I need fairly often. The reminder when I’m wishing I had more

money

acclaim

books sold (any books sold!)

That that won’t be the answer.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote about living in small-town Idaho while her husband went to grad school. She hated her job, her pet was sick, they had very little money, and she was trying and failing to get pregnant.

She was miserable.

Eventually they left Idaho for New York where she finally had that baby she had so long desired. Her life changed. She was out of it!

And then.

Her husband took a job back at that same University back in that same small-town.

This time she had the baby. They had money to buy groceries. They had no sick pets.

And yet.

She puts it this way

I am here again, mis-er-able, with none of those ingredients in my kitchen, and yet I am STILL baking that miserable cake!? AND YET!???!!

And yet.

I am quite the gourmet baker of miserable cakes with none of the same ingredients.

Open me a bakery, I’ve got this on lock!

I’m so very good at picking something in my life that will finally make me happy and pinning all my hopes and dreams on it!

When my parents moved after I gradudated high school it was their return that would do it.

(They moved back. I’m so glad they did. It didn’t do it.)

For a long time it was about a romantic relationship that was fairly awful. If that was fixed, then I’d be OK!

I now have a kind, wonderful husband. (I’m so glad I do. And it didn’t do it.)

If I quit this job, or move to this place, or or or.

It’s never done it.

I think I’ve learned this lesson and then I realize that I’m doing it all over again.

That I’m doing it now.

Today, on some level, I believe if my writing career were where I want it to be, if I was publishing bestselling, acclaimed novels, if I was known and regarded and loved for my writing…

That would do it!

(It won’t.)

(It never will.)

Interestingly, Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote a follow up book about her experiences post Simple Abundance success.

She called it Peace and Plenty: Finding your path to financial serenity.

On the podcast, Oprah said something like, “Well, it’s not about the money.”

And Sarah kept insisting it was about the money.

They went back and forth a little and I thought wow.

After all this.

Wow.

I think, perhaps, the answer lies in Lauren Graham’s original quote. She says

The “success” parts of life look good to others, but the best parts are actually the simple, daily experiences.

I am conflating success with best. Best with success.

Anyone can have simple, daily experiences. I should be different and special and successful!

Success = best, hello!

 

Except.

Big sigh.

Big breath.

I know that she’s right.

 

Letters From Grace

24 May

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Once upon a time, my therapist suggested I start writing letters to myself from grace.

It makes sense.

I am a words person. A words of affirmation person. A words-are-the-best-thing-in-life person.

It makes sense I should be writing to myself.

Grace is a very new second language to me. It is unnatural and uncomfortable and sometimes I forget I ever started to learn it in the first place.

And so I practice with words.

April 20th

Hey there.

Wow.

OK.

You know that was beyond you, right?

Like, that was a tsunami. An earthquake.

And you are human. You were swallowed whole.

Be gentle with yourself in the aftermath. Treat yourself like a friend who survived something tough.

What do you need?

What can you give yourself right now?

Even some kind words like

I still like you

or

I still love you, too

You’re doing WAY better than you think you are.

xo

Grace

I don’t know how to transition this part of the blog post.

I’ve tried.

Again and again and again.

I’ve tried so hard that I started to wonder what grace would say about it. Would it tell me to just publish the mess and give myself grace?

Or would it tell me to set it aside and that itself is an act of grace?

Both are potentially right answers.

Both sound like grace.

April 22nd

Hi there. Me again.

Yes, you need me twice this week.

I’ll let you in on a secret:

You actually need me FAR more often than that.

And guess what? That’s totally normal. Totally human.

This sensitivity you have isn’t a curse or a weakness, it’s a wonder.

You’re a wonder.

It’s true!

That whole list you have, of everything wrong, everything so far away from where you’d like it–your health, bank account, career–there’s also another list. The other side of things, the things you do have — health, bank account, career (LOVE).

You’ve got this.

xo

Grace

The creators of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text are doing a Little Women & Writing as a Sacred Practice retreat.

It’s the sort of thing I would go to immediately if money weren’t an object.

The description of the event says:

We will spend three days asking ourselves one key question; what role do we want writing to play in our lives?

We will ask this question of ourselves, of each other, and of Louisa May Alcott’s classic work of genius, Little Women.

The thesis of this trip is that writing can be a form of prayer. This trip is not about writing for publication, but writing as spiritual technology that we can use to live full, actualized, joyful lives.

I’ve read and reread that description a few times, feeling myself shift through the words alone. Grow a little more solid.

Writing as a sacred practice

These letters from grace are exactly that.

A form of prayer.

To myself. To the universe. To a God.

Let it be so.

Let me treat myself better.

Please, let there be grace.

A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I got a text from my friend Bailey.

It said this:

Hey Jillo,

SUP?

Hey gurl guess what? Today’s a free day.

I mean, I know you have to work, but beyond that free day!

What does that mean? It means you can have all the cups of tea you want. Until you start to shake then maybe step it back and switch to fizzy water.

AND THEN! You get to go home and see Dolly and Robby! <3

And then it’s weekend time. Even if you have responsibilities this weekend, let’s not think about that right now. Let’s just be like, “Hey it’s Friday. Not Monday, not Wednesday. Friday. Almost Saturday. Holla.”

OK I gotta make sure your fellow sisters and brothers are showing themselves grace, so off I go. Call if you need me.

Love,

Grace

(It spread.

My letters from grace spread.)

It’s Thursday night.

Maybe write yourself a note from grace?

Maybe start it out with something like

You’re doing way better than you think you are

or

I like you

and

I love you

Maybe start wherever you are?

That’s always a nice place to start.

A few breaths for transition?

xoxo

Jill

I Am Not Exempt From Life

11 May

IMG_2827Rob Bell talked about The Rock’s Rolling Stone interview on his podcast.

Apparently, at the beginning of the interview, The Rock recounted a story. How he finished work at 2AM and was exhausted. How there was a strange noise coming from his hotel room. How no one could identify it and after an hour of trying everything (including earplugs) he had to move rooms at 3AM.

“It was a whole thing,” Dwayne said.

Rob laughed as he recounted it.

No one is exempt from life.

No one is exempt from life. From those 3AM inconveniences, those mystery noises. You can be The Rock, the highest paid movie star in the world, and you still have to do life.

No one is exempt.

The past few days I’ve had annoying life problems pop up. Paperwork. Unexpected bills. You know.

You really know.

And for the past few days I’ve had a bad attitude about them. An “Are you kidding me?” “What a nightmare!” “Why me?” attitude.

Today I was able to take a deep breath. Begin what will likely be a long process of figuring them out.

Take a step.

Today I was able to say, this is life. I’m not exempt.

Rob Bell continued. He said that, to him, people who are successful generally are people who

Keep going

Pay attention

Are open

I like that.

It’s not completely on topic, but it’s not off either, really, is it?

I am not exempt from life.

Keep going.

It’s going to be a whole thing.

Instead (A Post About Depression)

26 Apr

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I wanted this to be a slightly smug, self-congratulatory post.

Hello everyone. Have you gotten your physical recently?

I did, and let me tell you what. It changed my life. It solved all my problems.

I wanted it to solve all my problems.

Instead.

Well, instead.

I got a physical a few months ago. My therapist suggested it, as I’ve been struggling with fatigue and she wanted to make sure there was no physical component to it.

I doubted there was. I have depression. Depression and fatigue go hand-in-hand.

But I went to the doctor.

Several tests, several strange results later I ended up in a specialist’s office. From everything I’d read about this highly unusual condition I had, fatigue was a large component. All I needed to do was get the thing removed, a quick surgery here, a quick medication there, and bing, bang, boom.

New lease on life.

New woman.

Problems solved.

Instead.

Well, instead.

The specialist told me that I was totally fine.

Yay! My friends said.

That’s great news, my family said.

Oh no, I said.

You see, somewhere in those few months I had let myself hope. Let myself hope that maybe there was something bigger at play here. There was a reason! something tangible! for the way I was (am). There was an easy fix. Soon I would be accomplishing things with the best of them.

With the “normal” people.

Instead.

Well, instead I’m here. Writing the opposite of a smug post.

It turns out that this condition I have, this depression and fatigue I live with every day, yeah, it’s exactly what I thought it was.

That can be incredibly daunting.

Depression, for me at least, doesn’t have an end date. I can medicate it, but I can’t eradicate it. I can put things in place, set my life up to manage it, and yet, it can breeze into town and destroy everything without thought.

In my lowest moments I wonder how I’m going to do it. How I’m going to live day-in and day-out with this darkness, this pressure, this sadness.

It’s overwhelming.

There’s not a lot of light or hope in it.

I wanted the easy out.

The easy out felt so good.

Instead.

Well, instead.

Two Ways To Talk To Yourself

9 Apr

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ONE OPTION:

  1. You’re on spring break
  2. You’re surrounded by people who love you
  3. You should not be upset about anything right now, cut it out

 

ANOTHER OPTION:

In the past month:

  1. Your grandfather unexpectedly passed away
  2. Your family dynamics shifted (and keep shifting)
  3. You don’t live by your family and feel unable to help. But you really want to help!
  4. You got strange medical news
  5. You defended your thesis
  6. You presented at a church conference
  7. You had a sad conversation you’re still thinking about
  8. Your feelings are totally valid, of course you’re stressed. This is a crazy time and it won’t always be this crazy. Give yourself a break. Seek help if you need it.

Sounds During My Evening Meditation

29 Jan

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The Celtics game two rooms over

Cheers, male voices, sneakers?

Chicken sizzling on the stove

My own breath, struggling through a stuffy nose

A siren

Cars

General breeze things

A bird?

Running water

The garbage disposal

The opening of a trashcan

More cheers

A sneeze

Chopping on the cutting board

That garbage can again

A Diet Coke next to me, lazily going flat

Andy Puddicombe’s soothing voice, urging me forward

My stomach, growling, ready for what’s next

 

 PS: When I started meditationa year into meditation, and how I use meditation