She Was a Nice Lady

I cannot remember exactly when I saw the little 5 year old speak after a funeral; all I can remember is that it was a newscast. With microphone in her face all the little girl said was, “She was a nice lady and she was always in a good mood”. An eloquent eulogy if I’ve ever heard one. Those words, and the idea that we should all have 5 year olds do our eulogies has stuck with way of thinking ever since.

Ah, out of the mouths of babes. It was of no consequence what this woman did for a living, how many children she raised, what type of car she drove, whether she was a size 6, how many times she was married, or what type of house she lived in. Also not mentioned was volunteer work, extended family, travels, if she was rich or poor, or other external virtues. All that mattered was that she was a nice lady and always in a good mood. And at the end of the day, she is right.

Being a nice lady has nothing to do with what you have or what you do; being a nice lady is something you strive to be. You can be nice whilst standing in line or complimenting someone on their efforts. You can be nice at work, to your children, to yourself, to your spouse, to your family, to your community and to humanity in general. If you live in a grand mansion, you can be nice to the cleaning staff. If you live in a 3-bedroom bungalow with 5 other people, you can be nice to the person after you who needs toilet paper refreshed.

What exactly is being nice? It comes down to common courtesy. Being nice is a pleasant way to live your life; and talk about so simple – all you have to do, in every situation is ask yourself, “Is this being nice/courteous?” or even “How would a nice person handle this?” Being nice never means having to say sorry. Or undermines your confidence. Or upsets your inner calm. Being nice gives you a little lift and a skip in your step. You never walk away from being nice feeling blue.

The most important person we need to be nice to however, is ourselves. Honestly, how many times do you catch yourself talking to yourself in a degrading tone that you would never speak to anybody else that you loved? Would you tell your daughter she had better not eat those fries, no matter how strong the craving, because what would people think? Would you tell your child that they were stupid? Would you tell your niece that she’ll never amount to anything and it’s too late now, so why bother? Then why on earth would you speak to yourself like that? Why is it so difficult to be nice to ourselves? Ask yourself, “If someone else said this statement to me directly, how would I feel?” If you feel anger or sadness, that’s your first clue that you are not being nice to yourself.

So, how do you be nice to yourself? First, by listening to your body. Sleep when it’s tired, eat when it’s hungry, expel as necessary. Wash regularly. Rest in the way that you feel happy resting, whether it is reading, crafts, puzzles, watching TV, naps or anything that gives you a mental break, but don’t feel guilty about it. Second, change your thinking habits; try saying the negative statements aloud to help understand how derogatory they sound. Pretend you are saying them to a loved one; you’ll be amazed at how fast you stop mid-sentence. Third, surround yourself with beautiful objects – a tidy home, photos of loved ones, a drawing from your child, plants, favourite blanket or anything else that makes your heart happy. In other words, treat yourself just as you would treat anybody who you loved and needed your attention to be happy.

Now, being nice isn’t the same as being a doormat. Being nice also is being nice to ourselves in a way that we can radiate the pleasantries of society coming from a base of confidence. Being a doormat is not being nice to you as it creates all kinds of emotions that torture our souls. You can be nice without being taken advantage of, for example, letting someone with only two items ahead of you in line at the grocery store. That’s being nice and you’ll feel good about yourself. Letting the next three people with only two items ahead of you to the cashier is being a doormat; you will feel taken advantage of and possibly angry if it has made you late for your next appointment.

Being nice is buying a package of Girl Guide cookies when they ring the doorbell. Being a doormat is letting in the door-to-door sales and buying the $1200 vacuum cleaner because you could not say no, even when it put you in debt and you didn’t need a new vacuum in the first place.

Being nice is:

  • holding open a door for the person behind you
  • unexpectedly buying the person behind you a coffee
  • shovelling your neighbour’s walkways
  • sharing the bounty of your garden with neighbours
  • bringing a pot of soup to someone alone who is ill
  • taking an extra turn at dishes
  • volunteering before being asked
  • carrying a heavy box for someone
  • remembering someone’s birthday with a phone call
  • truly listening to someone’s story
  • going one step above and beyond of what people are expecting
  • letting someone in at a bottle neck on the road
  • anything that makes the other person feel like they’ve been given a gift (because they have!)

If there has been an abuse during act of being nice, you will feel angry, guilty, disappointed, fearful, sad, discontent, or any other negative emotion, indicating you have been a doormat. I think this is why people have resisted being nice, so fearful of being taken advantage of especially at present with the proliferation of scams. Stop and think, “Will this act give me positive or negative emotions? Am I presenting this from a place of confidence or a place of need?” Within the answer will be your next step, whether it is to abruptly stop the act of niceness or continue as planned.

And always in a good mood? That’s a no-brainer, being nice to people automatically puts you and them in a good mood. After all, if you show up angry, bitter, sad, negative and project that onto the other person, are you being nice to them? If you whine and complain all the time, how does that lift the other person up? Will that person deem you to be in a good mood or always cranky? “Oh, she’s so nice, she came by and gave me a headache.”

I’ve never seen a U-Haul behind a hearse nor certificates of achievement keeping you on life support. I’m vowing to live my life as if a 5 year old is writing my eulogy. Let’s start a club; who’s with me?

My Bucket List Kicked the Bucket

IMG_8892I’ve deleted my so-called ‘bucket list’, the list of things I wanted to do before I kicked the bucket, or left Europe; whichever came first. And so should you. Why? Because you tend to ponder on what you haven’t done or is missing than appreciating what you have accomplished. The list haunted me and pulled me in a direction that invoked inadequacy attitude and feeling.

One year after we sold everything and left for Europe, I was still fretting over what we haven’t set out to undertake. Can you believe that? Do you know how many people have let me know they envy what we have done and they wish they could do the same, only if… (fill in the blank)? I wonder if all those people would like to shake me and yell, “Get a grip! You are living a dream life!” And I would warrant that response and would like to think I would thank them for pointing out the obvious.

Having a bucket list keeps you from living in the moment and/or constantly striving to the next ‘thing’ rather than relishing the current ‘thing.’ Keeping that bucket list keeps you in the lack mindset rather than the abundance mindset, a much nicer place to hang around. Keeping that bucket list keeps a person in regret rather than appreciation. Besides, keeping a bucket list reminds us there’s an end-point and living in the future rather than the now. IMG_3634

What if you complete your bucket list, then what? You die? Then why the hell would you complete your bucket list – isn’t that a great line for procrastinators! Or what if you have nothing for your bucket list? Is that a wasted life? Are you boring? Who came up with this damn list anyways???

Here lays my European bucket list dated December 2009 – January 2010, gone and forgotten. I hope we never meet again.

1. Move to a new country every 4 months. Fail. Sure, we have visited 6 countries this past year, but shortly after we arrived in Spain, we realized how unrealistic moving around Europe is, unless we want to a) spend tons of money or b) live in hostels or c) camp, none of which tickled my fancy. Cancel.

2. Take in as much as we can in those 4 months so we are experts on said country. Epic fail. (See above.)

3. Learn at least one other language. Review and revise. Well, being a native English speaker affords one the greatest gift of never having to learn another language, and I’m okay with that.

4. Embrace the European lifestyle of walking everywhere; being fabulously fit and well dressed. Double fail. Actually, it’s such a double fail that my recent trip back to Canada I bought two new pairs of yoga pants (good ones, to wear out and about) a size bigger than when I left Canada.

5. Bungee jump. Okay, I was drunk to put this on my list. Delete.

6. Become an expert Mediterranean wine and food connoisseurs. Sort of completed; I’m an expert Mediterranean ‘value priced’ wine and food consumer. Check.

IMG_2312 - CopyLooking at everything I hadn’t accomplished in the past year, and considering I didn’t even accomplish ONE item on my bucket list, I really could consider everything to be a grand waste of time and money. Or is it?

I have grown, stretched and mangled the little box I previously lived in. (Priceless.)

I have become a happier person. (I think so.)

I have learned to slow down. (More than just my drinking a bottle of wine.)

I know more of who I am and what I can actually do. (I can feel the fear and do it anyway and know that it always works out in the end.)

I am okay to sit and be in silence and just observe. (And not only from the next door bathroom stall.)

I get to see my children more often. (They get to ask me for money more often.)

I have discovered that Europe really isn’t that expensive, once you get away from the tourist trappings. (Except for gasoline – everybody gets ripped off there.)

I really AM interested in other’s life stories, because they can teach me something, plus they are all so different and interesting. (When did we become so afraid of our neighbours?)

I’ve learned to be rather than to do. (Not like Frank and do be do be do.)

I’ve learned that everyday doesn’t have to be something worth blogging about. (It’s okay to have pyjama days, even in Spain.)

I didn’t number these because each as important as the other and they showed up in no particular order. Note that none of these gems where on my bucket list at all. I’m not even sure if I would have included them I was so focused on the end result rather than the journey to arrive at said end result.IMG_2020

What’s on your bucket list? Even if you don’t think you have a bucket list, you do. How many of us give ourselves deadlines for marriage, babies, career, success, mortgage paid, retirement, etc. Bucket lists don’t have to be worldly or fabulous to be a bucket list. More importantly, which items on your bucket list are keeping you from living in the moment, from living today, from appreciating today, from appreciating who’s around you and the nuances of simply living.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with goals and dreams and wishes. If we all stood still, we wouldn’t get anywhere as a society or a species. But the real snag is when we step out of today to live for tomorrow. Tomorrow is never promised but we can do our best to make the tomorrow that does arrive worth living. We can work towards that great destination we have in mind by saving a little bit of money today. We can work towards anything by preparing today, that’s still living in the moment because we are doing our best with what we have today. We can study today for a career somewhere down the line. We can do our best today, so the best shows up tomorrow. But to do our best today, we have to live in today. We have to appreciate today and everything it has brought with it, because to dismiss today would be to dismiss everything that we have done that brought us to today. Whew. I think I got that, did you?IMG_3460

If I would have stuck to clearing my bucket list, I would have zoomed past all these significant life experiences that taught me that it’s never too late to grow and learn. I would have zoomed past life with only a few t-shirts, photos and knick-knacks to show for it. And that would have been a big waste of time and money.