To be or not be: happy

When I read the news or turn on the TV I don’t really want to know all the details of beheadings, attacks and killings.  I can’t get away from it though. It’s everywhere, it’s sad and I pray for all affected. No one should have to experience such horrific events.  Yet they do because there are unhappy people everywhere.  What makes people happy or unhappy?  Alex and I discussed this recently in one of our many discussions.  Countless books have been written on this topic and gurus abound, but here is our take on how to be happy.

1 Acknowledge and accept that one cannot be happy 100% of the time, but believe that you can have more happiness than unhappiness. Like anything in life, accept the truth and move on.  It’s impossible to be happy all the time.  There will be times when you are sad, angry or feel blue.  These emotions will pass.  How fast they pass by depends on you.  This is a fact of life. When you acknowledge this and are no longer fixated on being happy all the time, you will have less stress.

2 Search for the true cause of the problem that is making you unhappy.  For each ‘unhappiness’ that you want to fix, you need to be able to find the true root cause of it.  If you don’t find the root cause, it will be like cutting weed without taking out the root.  The weed will come back. It may expand underground and resurface in different areas, but it will be back.

For example, most people, myself included, have some form of insecurity. As the german psychoanalyst Eric Fromm (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Fromm) said, “The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.” We must find the cause of our insecurity and face it.  Insecurity can take many forms. A lot of people hide their insecurities through accumulation of material goods.  If they have so and so , x and x with this much value, people will ‘love’ or look up to them.  They don’t think they can be liked without their possessions.   Sometimes the insecurities come in the form of defensiveness.  I bet we’ve all experienced this where the other side just cannot accept any form of constructive criticism.  They feel insecure and threatened.

3 Really believe you can fix it.  It is in your power to fix it. The important thing is to ‘believe’ and make a plan.  A lot of people make the mistake of believing that problems can be fixed right away and result in immediate happiness, but more often than not results take time. A lot of time.

For example, a lot of people complain about work. They are unhappy and complain day after day, wishing that things were better, but do nothing to fix the problem.  Years go by and the unhappiness intensifies. What do you do to fix the problem? You could start by taking small steps to make it better.  See if you can improve the situation. Can you make the environment or do something to make it better?  Little by little the situation can and will be improved.  Be patient. The responsibility is in your hands.

What do you think makes one happy or not?

Reflections after the storm

In the wee hours of this Sunday morning we had a summer storm. I woke up and lay in bed listening to the sounds of howling winds and raindrops pouring down on the roof and garden. I loved it. I love listening to sounds of rain, of course when I’m not stuck outside, and blissfully thought how much cooler it would be later on in the day. I thought about how the dry grass would be rejuvenated and trees would blossom from the water. I thought about how happy the birds would be to have some water. They always liked to come play whenever I watered the plants. I thought about the toads that would be hopping around the garden.

I got out of bed and as my morning routine is to grab the ipad and start reading odd news here and there while having some morning time with the dogs, I realised the wifi was slow. It annoyed me. I felt emotions of annoyance bubbling up on such a lovely morning.  Then Alex reminded me, it’s good enough that we have internet.

That’s true. It’s indeed a blessing to be able to have wifi all day, 24 hours a day. I admit I am addicted to the internet and to being ‘connected.’ Two decades ago, this would not have caused me to be annoyed. I grew up in a time when essays were handwritten.  Internet required modem dial-ins.  I still remember the sound of the modem and how it would signify communication from afar (email).  It’s so easy to forget and lose ourselves to our emotions and be dissatisfied, never satisfied, always wanting more. Wifi and being connected aren’t worth the energy being dissatisfied. Life is too short.

Life should spent be living. Research says that showing gratitude and content are key to happiness. I agree. For now, I feel blessed to be able to think about all these things and not have to worry about the roof of my house flying off from the wind or that the house would be flooded. I don’t have to worry about my next meal or if I’d have clothes to wear.

Time for me to donate some more to charity. Clear the clutter from the house and donate to where it would be better loved. Live simply. Less is more. Happy Sunday!

No Recipe for Life

Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that can boost for your soul or simply make you happy.   Simple things like cooking or baking.  Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old I’ve been baking and cooking up dishes in the kitchen with my picture cookbook (which I got from one of my best friends and still use till today. Thank you!).  Some dishes turned out well, some turned out funny, some turned out to be something else, but overall it turned out to be a generally good experience that can teach one a bit about life.

It is the experience of cooking or baking that counts despite the sometimes failed attempts.  Thirty years on my parents seem to recall perfectly my initial attempts at making brownies that turned out to be little black squares of rock-like substance that seems to have been part of a volcanic eruption or how my “Eggy” bread” gave everyone a good laugh.  My husband reminds me of how my cookies turned out to be scones or how cakes turn out to be bread.

What ever happens in the kitchen though can be a little reminder of life in general.   There is no one recipe that fits everyone.  Whilst the recipe might work for some, for others it might require tweaking, changes in measurements, or need techniques to get the desired outcome.  The outcome depends upon the ingredients, the sequence in which they were combined or how fast they were mixed.  Even things such as humidity (which are hard to control) play a big role.  The trick though, is to keep finding out why it worked (or didn’t work) and to keep working on it.

That too is life.  There’s no perfect recipe.  You may spend your life trying to do everything “right” but in the end, we are all human.  There are good days, bad days and days you wish you could just stay in bed all day.  Life is all about the experience; finding the recipe, getting the ingredients, imagining the desired outcome and finally seeing the ingredients come to life step by step.  I love the thrill of seeing the outcome.

Sometimes it turns out well, sometimes it doesn’t.  Don’t worry when things don’t go the way you want it.  Don’t worry when you find yourself out of some ingredients.  Improvise and find an alternative.  Figure out why it didn’t work and try again.  If you don’t try, you’ll never get it right.

Happy Baking (or Cooking)!

A Balancing Act

Sitting in my study looking out the window, I am still thinking about “The Descendants” I wrote about yesterday.  That movie was about a man, a successful lawyer and a land baron who had devoted all his time to his career, to making money only to later realize he had “lost” his family.  Although his wife was now seriously ill from a boating incident, he had lost her years ago.  They had ceased to talk, to spend time together, to go out and enjoy each other’s company.   They had grown apart.  His daughters, he had hardly seen and could hardly remember the last time he was alone with them.  They too had grown.  So that was Matt King who spent his life focusing on himself.  Then there are opposites:   those who spend their time completely devoted to other’s lives until they forget to have a life of their own.

It happens sometimes.    It happens more often than I would like to acknowledge.

It happens in relationships and in families.   They believe that family is number one and that nothing else is more important.  They find themselves unconsciously assimilated into the other person or persons.  They forget everything about themselves and focus entirely on the person or persons.   They must spend their time taking care of the family, taking care of their needs and anticipating their needs.   They serve each and every need in the belief that this is right.  This is the “right” thing to do.  This is what is “expected” of them.  They devote their entire time, their entire life to others.   Guilt prevails if they want to do something of their own.  Guilt, self-inflicted.   So the cycle continues, on and on.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not saying that it is a bad thing to care of others, it is good to take care of loved ones and people around us.  What is most important though is that there needs to be a balance.

There needs to be a balance between taking care of others and taking care of your own needs.

Your own needs are equally important, and your life is equally important.  You have dreams, you have desires and there are things you want to do, places you want to go.  Don’t push all your own needs out of sight and hide them somewhere deep inside your soul.  One day you might just erupt like Mount Vesuvius.

And when your erupt, or if you just stay dormant.  One day you may find yourself on your deathbed looking back on your life and thinking about all the things you could have done, all the things you wanted to do, and all the places you wanted to go.    You might feel a resentment at others, why they had done the things they wanted to do and did all they wanted to do.  Yet all these emotions come too late and your life has passed you by.  You will just have to wait for your next life to do the things you want to do.

Find a balance in your life.   Have some time of your own, have some time for others, have some time for your dreams.

The Descendants

 

I love the weekend.  It’s time for relaxing and for thinking about how to relax.  It’s been awhile since I last watched a movie and it’s been an even longer while since I last sobbed watching a movie.  Watching a movie on DVD at home where there are not another hundred or so people next to you, you find yourself fulling immersing yourself and embracing the emotions that come with it.   You can cry and laugh as loud as you want.  You aren’t going to be disturbing the person next to you.  So yes I cried when watching “The Descendants”, but it was a good one.

“The Descendants” isn’t one of those action movies that keep you grabbing to the edge of your seat or hiding behind a pillow, when it gets all bloody.   It’s one of those movies where you watch a family, lives and emotions unfurl.  It’s harsh reality beautifully portrayed.

It’s about a family, a husband and two daughters and what happens after the mother is seriously injured in a boating accident.

You might think, so it’s another one of those movies when everyone sobs and gets through it.  Well there’s more.  A possible death of a loved one or family member brings up all kinds of emotions.  There’s anger, denial and most often regret.

In the first scene of the movie, the lawyer husband and land baron, sits by his wife who is laying in bed in a coma and hoping that she wakes up.  They had not spoken in days and months.  He wished he had lived his life differently and spent more time with his wife.  But life has passed by and he cannot bring her back.  Their marriage had quietly disintegrated despite a seemingly happy life with a large house and money for all their needs.

There is no one cause, but a mixture of reasons.   He was probably too focused on his work and his wife busy raising the children.   Matt King discovers he hardly knows his daughters.  He doesn’t know what they like, don’t like nor what kind of persons they have become.  He didn’t know his wife in the past ten years of their life together.  He had neglected her needs. He had been too self focused.  He lost touch with the personal and emotional aspect of his family.

It makes you think really.

What is it you want out of life?  What is important in your life?  Families like a tree require regular pruning and watering.  Once absent, they will wilt and die.   Relationships and emotions have to be handled with care and nurtured with love.  Only then will the tree blossom into a strong and beautiful one.   Think about what you really want.  Once you have it, focus and do not lose sight.

Life once lived cannot be taken back.

Don’t end up sitting by the bed of someone you love full of regrets about all you hadn’t done, thinking about all you should’ve done.   Live your life and do what you want to do, but don’t forget about those most important to you.   There’s more to life than just fame and money.

It’s no wonder this movie won an Oscar and several other awards.  It’s reality beautifully made.

7.30am @ Frankfurt Airport

A rushed week getting ready for the trip, I am finally started on my journey and it feels good.  There’s something about travel that stimulates the mind and awakens the senses.  I’m coming back to Europe after having been absent for awhile.

After eleven hours on the plane I have arrived at Frankfurt where I am waiting  to take my connecting flight to Amsterdam.  It’s a two hour wait and it’s really not that bad at all.   Passing through immigration and getting to your gate already consumes a fair bit about of time.  And if you forgot to take out your laptop when passing through the x-ray machines, you get  a little added excitement.  My netbook and I were taken along to a little operation room to the side of the x-rays by a large and impressionless man.

Everything works like clockwork here in Germany.    There are few sounds, not many announcements on the speakers, all you hear are the sounds of people’s clothes as they brush along as their owners rush towards their destination.    Frankfurt is a business hub and the airport is full of business people.  This particular  Monday morning it’s all black suits accompanied by black carry-ons.  I start to be conscious of my height.    Germans are tall.  Everyone seems to be at least 1.80m high.

Walking pass pretzel stalls and sandwich shops that just really tempt your tastebuds, I find a little spot with which to cosy up and await my flight.  I’m sitting at the gate for the flight to Krakow waiting for my flight to Amsterdam.  Here, I’ve got a view of airplanes and supply trucks going along their business.   I’ve got a little coffee machine (compliments of Luthansa) with which I enjoy watching because I don’t drink coffee, and a  supply of fresh English newspapers.   Hollande has won the French election against Sarkozy.

It’s really quite pleasant here.  I people watch from afar.  After 7.30am the crowds change.  The tall silhouettes of black change for slightly more colourful clothes.  Shades of grey, khakis and some splashes of colours.  A red bag here and there.   The scene becomes a bit more international.   I suddenly start hearing Chinese.   A group of Chinese people have formed the seats into a little circle besides me as they await their flight to Krakow.  The old capital of Poland.  It reminds me of my time there.  The Chinese remind me that this is the new age.   Business knows no boundaries.   20 years ago, seeing a black haired person in Poland was an oddity.  Now it must be commonplace.

It’s almost boarding time for me now.  In just an hour or so I shall be in Amsterdam!

You say “Normal” ?

It’s now April and the weather has gone all awry. I wonder if sometimes there is ever a “normal.” Perhaps we just adjust and what is awry now will be the new “normal.”

On some days it is so hot you would think you could fry and egg on the scorching cement ground. Hot air rises from the ground and at ten at night, the walls to my house are still warm despite my having the air conditioning on.

The past two days it has been cooler after thunderstorm rain poured down last week and a summer storm is now blowing through Bangkok. It’s cloudy and windy. Leaves flutter in the hot wind and paper fly through the air. It conjures up images of mid western towns in the middle of nowhere where the wind blows through every nook and cranny. Only we aren’t in the midwest, we’re in Bangkok.

I say this weather isn’t normal for Bangkok. It started to be hot with temperatures in the mid 30’s Celsius even before March started. It rained in January and February when usually it is dry, cool and sunny.

How will it be next year? Will it go back to how it once was or shall will we all have to accustom ourselves to this crazy weather pattern? Maybe future generations will only know this weather.

So “normal” is really just a word we use to describe what we are used and accustomed to. Soon I bet this now “strange” weather will become “normal.” Normal therefore is in reality constantly changing depending upon your definition.

Same applies to everything else in life. What do you think ?