Is This Really Necessary?

Is this really necessary?

Is this really necessary?

This year, the New Year Eve festivities in Paris will be a laser show from and on the Arc de Triomphe.

One Parisan lady, obviously not impressed, expressed her dismay by simply stating, “Is that really necessary?”

My daughter and I both laughed and it has become our touchstone quote throughout our whole Christmas trip to Paris. And it got me wondering, what a fabulous way to live, always asking if something is really necessary.

Think about it – how streamlined and efficient your whole life would be and become, only by using four simple words.

Buying something new? Is it really necessary?

Spending money on frivolity? It is really necessary?

Have someone in your life that is more effort than they are worth? Are they really necessary?

Name brands? Are they really necessary?

The amount of food/snacks you are about to eat? Is that really necessary?

A full cart at Costco? Is that really necessary?

That bottle of supplements? That new exercise fad? That diet book? Are they really necessary?

Adding to your debt? Is that really necessary?

Another glass of wine? Yes.

And so on.

By removing the unnecessary from your life, you allow the necessary more room to be useful, pleasurable, and balanced.

In debt? This question alone will help you magically return to sanity, help you to stop spending, using the extra money to pay down your balance and then to stay out of debt.

Overweight and out of shape? Is it necessary to eat so much, rely on the magic diet/gizmo, taking the escalator/elevator or vehicle everywhere? Even ask yourself if the gym membership is necessary.

Stressed to the max? Is it necessary to work so much, take on so much, get involved so much?

In a bad or one-sided relationship? Is it necessary to keep this person in your life?

House full of stuff and cluttered? Is it necessary to keep buying more? Is it even necessary to keep it all?

Who needs resolutions when you have one guiding question all year around?

Using the “Is this really necessary?” as the first and most important question for everything you do, you will find that when it comes to yearly New Year’s resolutions, they won’t ever be necessary.

Know the Difference

My knowns have disappointed me far more than my unknowns ever have.

What I thought was reality, was an illusion. A construct of so-called knowns that came slamming down on me, one painful block at a time.

I don’t care for knowns anymore. I don’t care for routine or structure, either. They scare me because they can all be taken away, and without my wanting nor permission.

I am more comfortable with unknowns and not knowing where I am going. Nothing can be taken away from me. Nothing is ever cancelled. Everything is changeable. Everything flows from better to better.

I can’t get anxious about what I don’t know. I can’t be worried about missing out because I don’t know what I’m missing out on.

And you know what? So far, so good.

When I let go of the oars (or house, or job, or partner, or stuff), and quit trying so damn hard, the flow is more enjoyable; it brings me to places I would have never contemplated stopping for a break.

The most tedious travel I have ever encountered are trips that were carefully planned out, researched and on a schedule. I wonder how much I missed by seeing it all? [Site-seeing should be reworded to site-glancing.]

How many sunsets did I miss because I had to be somewhere?

How many people didn’t I meet because I didn’t have the time to chat?

Have I met – and passed over – the true love of my life because I was on a schedule?

How many hole-in-the-wall authentic restaurants did I miss because I was told where and what to eat? (Along with hidden gem wines!)

How many smiles, connections, nuances, details, doors, paths, smells, sights, colours, observations, mysteries, experiences, wanders and emotions did I miss because of shoulds, must-sees and preplanning everything down to the last minute?

My favourite travels have been journeys, where I didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to see. The unknown pleasantly surprises at every turn, when you don’t know what you think you should experience.

The unexpected has created fabulous memories; and indeed, those are the best kind of souvenirs.

How else could have I dreamt up a pyjama party in the main lounge in one of the most luxurious hotels in Japan, if I had bus tour dinner plans? The opportunity to encourage everyone to come to the lounge in his or her pyjamas (wearing the hotel provided housecoats), to drink champagne with me would have not presented itself. We all joked and laughed and laughed and laughed and co-created so much joy and we grew to such a size the hotel actually ran out of champagne! I’ll never forget that evening, and I’m sure they won’t, either.

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My favourite conversations when I return from travelling are, “Oh, I was there as well. Did you see Blank Museum/Church/Tourist Trap?”

“No. But I did see the last eight remaining wild rhinos in Zambia.”

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Or “No. But I did have an authentic hours-long Egyptian lunch with an Egyptian family in their home, just off the Giza Plateau. Then we watched the sun set behind the pyramids, right from their balcony. They called me their sister. I’ll never forget it.”

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Or with my daughter, stopping for a break in Vienna for a ‘quick glass of wine’ at 3 p.m.; by 11 pm and three bottles of wine later, slurring to everyone in the elevator, using a fake British accent, “Please don’ t make me laugh. I’ll pee my pants.” If we were on a tour bus, we would have missed that golden runaway – a memory that we will giggle about the remaining days of our lives.

I don’t know where I’m going, what’s next, who will be with me, when I’m going (if at all) and why my life has turned out the way it did – and that is so exciting.

Admittedly, it took a while to get to this podium. I clutched, cried and fought hard for my knowns, as if I’d die without them. How was I to know I was already dying with them?

My known life was full of problems verses possibilities. My unknown life is full of possibilities verses problems. Know the difference.

Life is one big wandering adventure when you think about it. You can either grab the oars, and make it full of what you think are knowns, musts, pressures, schedules, commitments, bad food, less wine; only to leave a bunch of crap for your children to throw out (or fight over) after you die.

Or you can embrace your life as overflowing with unknowns, living in the moment, and making memories -leaving a legacy with the most amazing obituary.

I know what I’m leaving my children. And that’s the one and only known that I’m comfortable with.

Your Greatest Strength is Also Your Greatest Weakness

I didn’t know what she meant when she told me, “Shanta, your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness.” I didn’t understand what she meant, nodded but I didn’t comprehend. I knew there was a nugget of great truth in there and for me to get the most out of it; I had to figure it out on my own.

Roughly a year later, one day walking the dog, I realized I was happy. I was smiling, and happy for no good reason. Content. Relaxed. Cheerful. And the only reason I could come up with why I was happy was because I simply didn’t care anymore.

I didn’t care what people thought of me. I didn’t care what they were nattering about. I didn’t give a rip what they were doing this exact moment. But mostly it was because I didn’t care what people were saying or thought of me.

 There is no moment in time that defined when I stopped caring. Or a death. Or an ah-ha moment. Or an argument.

I was happy. And I didn’t care anymore. Then it came to me: My greatest strength was that I cared too much. About everything. My husband, my children, my house, my volunteerism, my passions, my everything.

 If there were ever a poster child for The Overachievers Society, it would be me.

If I was going to be a wife, I was going to win Wife of the Year. Every year. I was going to care for him so hard, he couldn’t live without me.

If I were going to be a mother, I’d put every other mother in the history of the universe to shame.

If I were going to volunteer, I’d be Chairperson and make record-breaking years. (True story – when I started helping with Girl Guides in Fox Creek, within two years I was running the whole district and we sold record-breaking number of cookie boxes. When I started as a driver for wildlife rehabilitation, within a year I was chair of the fund raising and five years later, they still haven’t broken the record I set. I sincerely wish they could.)

And so on. Above and beyond what was expected. Insisted by me and me only. Like I had something to prove. Or maybe I was hoping that if I cared so much, it would be returned. (Spoiler alert – it never was.)

The problem was, I assume people wanted my caring. I assumed it would be nice to have someone help. I assumed they needed my help. I assumed my blow-it-out of the water attitude was appreciated.

They didn’t and for the most part, it wasn’t.

 My greatest strength, caring, became my greatest weakness.

I over care. I hurt when people hurt. I tried to relieve their hurt to relieve my own suffering.

The problem was forgetting to alleviate my own hurt. I was forgetting to put ME first. I was getting lost in the over-caring. I was losing myself because I never got to myself. By the time everything and everyone was looked after, I was too exhausted to look after me.

And no one was caring for me; especially in the way I was caring for others. When disaster hit, I stumbled, and hard. I had nothing to give myself. I gave it all away. Every last drop. I collapsed because there was nothing to hold me up. I had no foundations on how to look after myself.

It’s been over two years now since that terrible day I was told I was no longer loved, needed or wanted, and I am finally content. Genuinely, smile on my face before coffee, happy. Joyful and positive. And it’s all because and for me. There is no one else here to make me happy.

 And the best part is, because someone else didn’t bring in the happiness, no one can take that happiness from me. It’s all mine.

I gave the keys to my happiness away once and they lost them. I’ve rekeyed and no one is getting these ones. You can play with them but you’ll never get to keep them. They’re precious and they’re mine alone.

have turned my greatest strength on myself. And now I don’t care. And it’s fabulous.

I haven’t lost my empathy, I’ve gained my self-preservation, but without being selfish. Au contraire, generosity still pulses through my veins, maybe even more so now. It’s just altered.

I’ve turned my greatest strength back into my greatest strength. And I can’t imagine living any other way, ever again.

Lion

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?