Monthly Archives: July 2014

Five Things That are Wrong with the Sentence “I Just Want to be Happy”. And Fifteen Things I’d Rather Be.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those six little words lately. And what I have to say this week isn’t going to be popular and is probably nothing more than me indulging a pet peeve I’ve had as of late. But I think the great thing about a blog is that I get to have a place for my random thoughts … and yes – even my pet peeves that no one else may agree with. So here follows the five things I think is wrong with those six words “I just want to be happy”.

(1) First is the word “just”. The word “just” drives me around the bend and back. I think it should be stricken from the English language … at least stricken from being used in this way. I don’t want to be “just” anything. The word minimizes all else that comes after it. I hear it ALL the time when conversing with women, especially in context of motherhood. “I’m just a Mom”. I used to say it all the time when I stayed at home with the kids. Let’s drop the just already! And don’t say “I JUST want to be happy” If you want to be happy shout it from the rooftops! I WANT TO BE HAPPY! And if you aren’t a fan of rooftops please please please at least don’t crawl under a chair and say it. Because when you add the word ‘just’ that is exactly what you are doing. You are minimizing what you want. You don’t need to “justify” wanting to be happy. You really don’t.

(2) Second, to me when I hear those six little words what I really hear is someone apologizing for the fact that they want to be happy. Enough with the apologizing. Let’s ‘own’ our words. Let’s say what we mean and let’s do it with passion and purpose. Period. If you want to be happy try this on for size … how about “I’m going to create a life that makes me happy.” There’s certainly no apologizing or justifying in that phrase. In fact to me it sounds like someone who knows what they want and is going to do everything in their power to make it happen. I know it seems small … but sometimes the words we say and the way we say them mean a lot.

(3) Thirdly, the sentence –at least used in the context of a goal – “I just want to be happy” sets one up for failure. Happiness is an emotion. It is not a state of being or a consciousness. Emotions ebb and flow – they are not constant, and nor should we expect them to be. Life – even a great life – is not going to always be happy. It’s ludicrous to believe that. Our life goals should be grand and encompassing and something to work towards – yes! But even if they are far reaching they should still be attainable. I personally do not believe a constant state of happiness is realistic or attainable. And although I believe the best lessons come from failure, setting yourself up for failure is a whole different ball game.

(4) Fourthly, a number of years ago I learned a little trick when it came to consciously thinking about what I “want” out of life. I started ‘needing’ this little gem of a trick when I became a mother. I started ‘practicing’ it when my kiddos started getting out of those toddler years. And I have since ‘conditioned’ myself so well to it – and have begun to value myself enough now – that I find I no longer need to use it.

In relation to the sentence “I just want to be happy” it has to do with the words “I want”.

As women and as mothers we don’t give enough time and conscious thought to what it is we actually want for ourselves and from our lives. BUT when it comes time to answer that same question for our children we all of a sudden have endless answers for what we want for them and their lives. What they deserve and what we want for their futures.

So finally I started thinking about myself and my wants and my needs in the same context. As mothers most of us have an innate tendency to put our own needs on the back burner. “I just want to be happy” is a perfect example. Or “I don’t need anything – I’m happy. I’m happy taking care of the kids and raising them in the world and putting in my hours at work and coming home to clean and and and and …”.

So the next time you ask yourself “what do I want?”, if you are a parent, think about how much you want for your children – and then start applying it to yourself. I’m pretty sure you want more for them than to “Just be happy”. So if you want more for them … remember to want more for yourself too. “I just want to be happy” may “just” not be enough.

Which leads me to my final issue with this sentence …. and it’s a big one … one which many people will disagree with me about.

(5)  At what point did being happy become overrated? Because that’s what the concept is to me … over-rated. I just want to be happy. Really? That’s our goal in life? To be happy? I know the current “in” concept is supposed to be “keep it simple – happiness is key” but come on – we must all aspire to be more than just happy don’t we?

It seems we all walk around in life giving lip service to this all encompassing idea of being happy. And I guess if that satisfies your needs then that’s great. To each their own. But it doesn’t me.

If we are being honest I personally want sooo much MORE for myself than happiness. Happiness is but one emotion. One singular, somewhat mediocre, emotion, in such an array of emotions that I wish to experience and characteristics I want to aspire to.

What has happened to the English language? At what point did we succumb to being content with being so in descript. Happy? That’s the best we can do? If my goal in life is to be happy I am going to be very disappointed because I would be missing out on all of the other amazing feelings and characteristics that don’t always accompany happiness.

What about wanting to be Blissful, Peaceful, Passionate, Curious, Strong, Gregarious, Courageous, Contented, Bold, Purposeful, Hilarious, Thoughtful, Adventurous, Spirited, Loved?

Frankly, you can keep your happy.

Instead THESE are the adjectives, emotions and qualities I want to build my life around. THESE are the words I want to keep in the forefront of my mind when living my life – when setting my goals, when making my decisions about how I will spend my time. THESE are the rich, full, dimensional words I want to work towards. It may take me awhile to get there. Happy is an easy fall back – but I’m working on it … because I deserve, I want, and I aspire, for more from this life.

So I’ll ‘see’ your happy … and ‘raise’ you … a hell of a lot more.

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A Tisket A Tasket

Nearly two years ago I turned 40 … which makes me what society calls a middle aged woman.

During the year or two before this new decade of life, I was ofcourse confident that – on most days – I was not in fact “middle aged”. I scoffed at the ridiculous idea. Surely I was barely out of my 20s. But the year I turned 40 I somehow comfortably settled into the over used descriptive and have never looked back. I embraced it and have found that it fits me well. But that’s a conversation for another time.

I approached 40 at a time when there was a lot of talk about a concept called “bucket lists”. It was the buzz phrase of the year really. There was a successful movie released on the premise, talk shows dedicated to the subject, and water cooler talk was all a flitter with the “new” yet simple idea. That idea being this: put pen to paper and write down all the things you wanted to accomplish during the last half of your life. Then, ofcourse, go do them. Experts and underlings touted how making a bucket list would enhance ‘your time left on this earth’, give your life purpose, and encourage you to focus on the goals in your life.

To be honest I really liked the idea. I am very much a goal-orientated person. I tend to know what I want out of life in a very concrete way and go after it in a purposeful manner. Sure I’m not always successful, but creating goals for myself is something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. It’s a part of me. It’s like saying I have hazel eyes. My over organizing drives people crazy sometimes, but you see, I believe a great life doesn’t just happen. You go out and grab what you want from it. And for me, in order to know what I want, I need to think about a goal.

So when I turned 40 it seemed very natural for me to partake in this new ‘bucket list ritual’. A list of all the things I wanted to accomplish before I died. Yes … sure … the whole “before I die” part seemed a little depressing, but the concept in and of itself was very “me”. This was a logical next step on a bigger and broader level.

But as my birthday approached I realized something. There was no part of me – not a single little desire – that wanted to look at all the things I HAD YET to accomplish. Instead I felt this: a visceral need to put in writing all of the things that I had ALREADY accomplished. All of the things that I had been, had tried, had experienced, and had survived in my FIRST 40 years on this earth.

I wanted to celebrate the woman I had been and had become. I wanted to shout from the rooftops “look at all the amazing things that have made me this middle aged female living in this crazy world!! Look at all I have to celebrate!! Look at my life! It’s been so wonderful and hard and rewarding and fulfilling!! I’m still vertical and breathing and alive!! And I’m only 40!!”

(You’ll find I do a lot of shouting from rooftops … it’s kind of my thing … sigh …)

So. I gathered up my female friends and we went out to a winery to celebrate my last night of being in my 30s. I was surrounded by so many incredible women. There were 15 of us in total. It was one of the very best nights of my life. One I will never forget. As I sat there surrounded by them I shared my thoughts of having not created this seeming “right of passage” they were calling a bucket list. But told them instead of the list I had in my pocket of so many things I was proud to have ALREADY accomplished. I gave them each pieces of inconsequential pretty paper and a gel pen to take home to make their own list if they wanted. They smiled and nodded. If you could see cartoon air bubbles over their heads I’m sure they would have said “She’s soooo touchy-feely”. But the greatest thing is that those air bubbles would also have said “But we love her so much anyway!” I really do have the greatest friends and family! I don’t know if any of them ever went home and made their own list. Life is so busy and it’s not everyone’s thing. But I’m glad I did it anyway.

I never did share my list with them that night. The evening felt “too focused on me” already. But I’m going to share it here now … just as it was written two years ago. (Not an easy thing to do for this Private Extrovert by the way). Some things are seemingly pretty big … having explored Venice and the Isle of Capri or traveling through the clouds to work every day. Others are seemingly small … having experienced true deep friendship and falling head over heels in love. But the more I wrote the more it seemed the smaller things were in fact pretty damn big, and I was so proud and thankful to have experienced them.

Let me be clear. This wasn’t a list about the future. And wasn’t about the present. We talk a lot about the little things in life we are thankful for. But this list wasn’t even that. It was about more than whispering my gratitude. It was about taking stock. It was about celebrating and recognizing a life I had worked hard for up to that point. It was about things I was not just thankful for but also proud of. It was about acknowledging all of that at one moment in time. Some of those things I worked consciously for. Some I had fought hard for. Some were given to me. But regardless, by making this list it made me appreciate and recognize all of them.

Since those two years I have been able to put many more things on that list which perhaps I will share at the turn of another decade. Things I am proud of. Things I have failed at but have at least I have tried. But all of which have a made me who I am today for better or for worse.

This is not my bucket list.

This … is instead … my “basket” list.

 

 

Forty PLUS Things I Have Done BEFORE I was 40
Swam with dolphins. Took a gondola ride in Venice. Ate at the Plaka in Greece. Looked over Florence during sunset. Fell in love. Been interviewed for television, radio, websites and newsprint. Ziplined over a canyon. Spent summers working in Banff. Guided my son and daughter through childhood cancer. Rode the Cheetah Hunt Rollercoaster along with dozens of other thrill rides. Saw Cirque de Soliel. Had true friends. Hit on strangers in bars. Was hit on by strangers in bars. Took photos. Took more photos. Saw Oprah in person & went to a taping. Saw Michelle Obama in person. Played on the floor and in the dirt and on the court and in the pool and in the woods with my kiddos. Been to a U2 concert. Found my Dianna. Climbed a mountain in the Rockies. Made love at 7486 feet above sea level. Held a tarantula. Swam with and held Sting rays in the Ocean. Shopped at Harrods in London. Got chosen for the Wedding Game. Went on a Cruise. Said I Love You and meant it. Said I’m Sorry and meant it. Saw a rainbow above the clouds. Had a snowball fight in August. Put thought and effort into celebrating my Moms life at 65. Swam in four different oceans. Wrote an article that was published in the paper. Had the perfect wedding weekend. Married a man who loves me. Had an imperfect marriage. Worked hard at that imperfect marriage of which I am so proud. Learned every word to Barretts Privateers, Sonnys Dream and Home for a Rest. Appreciated music. Read, appreciated and made notes in good books. Took the perfect photograph. Won a photo contest on television. Went to my high school reunion. Pursued and purchased my dream of country living with a view. Was a good friend. Was a good Mom. Went Whitewater Rafting. Stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel. Stayed at a Dude Ranch. Whispered thank you countless times. Went whale watching. Owned and loved a horse. Slept in a mall. Slept in an Aquarium beside the Dolphin tank. Shot a rifle, shot gun and hand gun. Had my heart broken. Broke a heart. Went to the Calgary Stampede. Made out on the beach in the moon light. Enjoyed live theatre. Laughed until I cried. Cried until I laughed. Fed a giraffe. Watched a movie under the stars. Went to a Drive In. Forgave others. Forgave myself. Got “the” job for me. Let go of old friends. Held on to old friends. Had numerous and varied work experiences. Dated much older men. Dated somewhat younger men. Drank at Senor frogs in Mexico. Had family I could count on. Drove across Canada. Treasured my children at every age. Worked hard for a degree. Lived in four different Provinces. Wished on a shooting star. Swam under a waterfall. Climbed a waterfall. Kept a daily gratitude journal. “Made” moments happen for my family. “Recognized” moments when they happened “to” my family. Surrounded myself with photos of those I love. Surrounded myself with words and voices that gave me strength. Seized small things. Celebrated my Nannys birthday and Mothers day every year without fail. Volunteered and gave back to my community. Sent old fashioned mail. Remembered birthdays. Worked hard to make friends and family feel cared for. Told my children I loved them no matter what every night. Made mistakes. Made more mistakes. Chopped down a tree. Drove a stickshift. Owned a sports car. Recognized and appreciated my life … regardless of the circumstances.

Pass the Duct Tape Please

I was wasting time on Pinterest this week and read the following quote:

“Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!”

It doesn’t look particularly striking, stuck here in Times New Roman font in the middle of a random sentence really does it? I guess it looked better on Pinterest. Everything looks better on Pinterest.

But regardless, it really hit me. It’s the end of the school year and I’m watching all of these extraordinary kiddos put another year behind them. Some dressing up for proms and semi-formals, getting report cards and graduating from all different levels of schools – elementary through to college. They are growing up so fast.

I’m reading these four little words and I’m thinking to myself, ‘I wish I could duct tape this quote to every kiddo in my life and sign it “Love Karrie-Ann”.

I can’t wait to see what they all will become in life. Where they will go. How they will change the world. What their passion with be. I can see glimpses of that now in so many of them. But will they follow it? Will they find the courage? What will that ‘x’ factor be that encourages them to keep pursuing their dreams? What will that ‘y’ factor be that holds them back? What, and who, will influence them, make them more confident, be more resilient? What will help them move those mountains? One thing is for sure … it won’t be one big thing … it will be a lot of little things.

It’s so easy to wonder these things about our ‘own’ kiddos isn’t it? I think mothers spend 92% of their time pondering these questions and searching for the answers for their families.

And it’s so natural to say this phrase to our ‘own’ children isn’t it? Personally I’m pretty sure I have not only duct-taped this saying to Megan and Mark, but have done so in such a fashion that there is no white-space left for them to peek their little eyes out thru. “KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!!” “Ya ya Mom. We know, we know. Enough with the mountain thing already. You believe in us – we got it. Pass the potatoes please.”

But I sit and wonder this morning how good of a job I am doing at conveying this to other kiddos in my life? Other kiddos who I care so much for and who are going to do remarkable things in this world. I want THEM to know how much I see in them, how much I believe in them. I want to be part of that ‘x’ factor in THEIR lives … because I think to make it in this life it takes so many more people to believe in us than the people who share our DNA … so many more than the people who are “supposed to”… whose job it is.

I don’t necessarily think we do this very well in western society – be supportive in both a vocal and purposeful way with other people’s children. Particularly in situations where it is not “required”. If we are in a profession or volunteer opportunity, such as a teacher or a coach, where it is expected of us – and that affords us that direct opportunity as part of our “work” – then yes, I would argue we often are.

But most of us are not in those situations. Most of us are trudging along through life doing the best we can to take care of our own. It is of course human nature. Instinct. And sometimes it’s all we can give just to do that. Take care of our own. Life is, after all, exhausting as a parent!

But you know what? It doesn’t take much. It doesn’t have to take much to go outside our own family circle. And I want to put that into practice more. Because I think it’s the little things that count – the seemingly little things in life that are the ‘x’ factors. And also – the things that happen now. Now as they are in elementary school. As they are in middle school. As they are in high school. This is the foundation. The small kindnesses that we are both purposeful and vocal about. – showing them – telling them – they have incredible gifts, characteristics and talent that are so uniquely “them”.

“Kid, You’ll Move Mountains!”

Because I tell you … I can’t wait to see if they will! I can’t wait to see if Ricky becomes a successful entrepreneur opening up his own custom repair shop. Or if Jane becomes a chef running her own restaurant. Or if George becomes a film producer. I can SEE it in them all plain as day. Their dreams, their potential. Even though it’s not well defined yet, it’s sitting there – right at the surface. Waiting.

I hope some small acts I’ve done in the past – and some acts I will make sure I do in the future – can be some small drop in that incredible swell of a river their parents and caregivers have created to help them sail along to their dreams. A hug, a kind word, time spent purposefully together, a home they feel comfortable coming to, an inside joke, a card I’ve written for them, an invitation to do something unexpected and fun, a surprise token to show I’m thinking of them. I hope these things have and will make a difference. I know my kiddos have been lucky enough to have a couple of key people in their lives who have made a difference for them. People who have specifically taken an interest in what they have accomplished, or what they are passionate about. Who have gone out of their way to ask them about their life in a meaningful way and engage them in a way that says “you matter”.

Do they all see it’s not just their parents or blood relatives or teachers or coaches who believe in them? That there are in fact dozens of people rooting for them and their dreams?

I hope so.

I hope I can be a drop in that water – in that swell their parents have spent so much time creating. I want to work harder to be – with real and thoughtful actions – however small they may seem.

But for now – for this morning – I have some other work to do.

Time to line them all up. And pass the duct tape please.