Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Happiness is a Choice you have to respect

You've probably heard someone talking about how happiness is a choice. If you're reading this, it's pretty likely you're one of the people that have made that choice. 

You're probably even one of the people who realizes that it is a choice that you have to make over and over, sometimes in the same hour :) 

Out on my run today, I was pondering how happy I was to be out running on a hot, but beautiful day, and I got to thinking about some of the people in my life. It led me to the realization that while I expect others to respect the choices I make in my quest for happiness and fulfillment, I don't always respect theirs. 

I will readily admit suspending judgement of those closest to me is one of my hardest struggles. I think my judgement is based on love and "seeing what could be better in their lives". Have you been guilty of this too? 

A prime example is my mom. Everything I believe about strong, unstoppable women comes from watching her as I grew up. She was a force of nature. Known, loved and respected from the top to the bottom of her company, anyone who worked at ComEd, knew my mom. She was one of those people who could get things done and whose bad side you didn't want to be on. She makes friends at first sight, like falling in love. At the store, at the hotel or restaurant, anywhere. When people meet my mom, they are instantly friends with her. After she retired, she went through some changes. I'll certainly never understand all of them, but the result was that she made some choices that made her happy, but they made her different than the mom I had grown up with. She didn't seem as strong or confidant or secure as she used to be. 

For years, I thought this was a bad thing, we even had some pretty unpleasant arguments around it. I felt like she let me down, like that strong woman who showed me all I could be was gone and that made me question if it had been real. If my beliefs were founded. At one point, during one of those ugly conversations, she told me that she is happy the way she is now. 

Honestly, it didn't sink in until today.  

I was thinking about me, and what I wanted and what I needed. What I thought was best for her, and you know what, that's not up to me, any more than it is up to her to tell me what choices I should make for my happiness. 

Using the line my friend often uses, sometimes it takes a 2 x 4 for an idea to sink in. She is happy, and all I need to do is be happy for her. 

There are plenty of other examples I could cite, but it only dilutes the point. I'm sure you have people in your life that you can draw a parallel to. Their choice for happiness isn't yours, isn't something you even think has value, but it's their choice. 

Sometimes people in our lives are making bad choices like dead end jobs, or abusive relationships, or neglecting or abusing their own health, or worse, and it is definitely a great thing if we can help them through those times. 

But sometimes, they are making a choice - their choice - for their happiness. Even if we think "they could do better" or "if only they would ...", that's not our choice, it is theirs. 

And then, our job is to respect and support it, just as we want them to do for ours. 

Monday, June 2, 2014


I am admittedly NOT a gardener. Several years ago, Mike and I hired a landscape designer and then dug in the flower beds and pavers ourselves. 

I do love the bed in front of our house, it is so pretty to look at when it's flowering outside our picture window in our living room. One of the plants in that bed is a flowering carpet rose. There are maybe 6 plants or so, and each spring, they need to be pruned, trimmed back and shaped. Being the not proficient gardener that I am, I always wait until the plant starts to green so I know where to prune and what to leave. 

This year was the first year I noticed that all the new growth was at the base. None of the branches were greening at all. I waited, and waited, and no change. So, 2 weeks ago, I got out there with the shears and pruned all the dead branches off. Stuck with rose thorns, and a pile of brush for our Monday yard trash, I looked at the little tiny growth in the center of each plant, wondering if I had done the right thing, if they had really just taken too much of a beating through the winter, and if they would come back at all this year.

 This weekend, I noticed, they are fully back to nearly the size of all the branches I sheared and removed with thick, healthy, leafy new branches. Where there was just 2 or 3 inches of growth 2 weeks ago, now there are branches a foot or 2. When I finished trimming, they were all smaller than the one in the front left.

How can such a dramatic change occur in just 1 week? 

Well, as I understand it, a plant has roots that bring in moisture and nutrients and then those are distributed throughout the plant. I'm guessing, and I believe that those roots don't really have any idea what state any of those branches are in, they just pump out an equal amount of moisture and nutrients to all areas of the plant. The dead wood, simply can't absorb it, so it is just going to waste. Once that dead wood is removed, the roots can effectively and efficiently pump all those nutrients to the live healthy areas of the plant and those then thrive and prosper.

What the heck does this have to do with anything? 

Pruning is something we have to do in all areas of our lives from time to time. Sometimes we have maybe people in our lives, or aspects of our business that are draining our resources, but simply cannot absorb the nutrients in a healthy way. It feels bad to "cut off" this "dead wood" because we saw it grow to where it is today, and we continue to hope upon hope that it will come back if we continue to pump those nutrients into it. 

The truth is the same as that rose bush, dead wood simply cannot absorb anything, and once it is pruned, what remains, even though it may look small and stunted now, can burst into beautiful color and thrive perhaps even larger and brighter than ever before.

As you look around your life or your business as Spring closes and Summer begins, do you see things that could use pruning? Go ahead, grab your shears!