Heard · Learning · Monday Matters

Don’t Be Positive, Idiot!

I was on my way to work a couple weeks ago listening to the Jillian Michael’s podcast, and though I usually find it interesting at the very least, on that day the episode really hit me the wrong way. The episode I was listening to is called “Bad Stuff Happens,” and in it Jillian goes on for about 10 minutes positing that people who are positive are basically unrealistic idiots. She rants about how bad stuff is going to happen, and about how people who deny that are just going to end up more disappointed than if they accepted that not everything always works out in the first place. She also talked about how what matters is how we deal with the bad stuff–the lessons we learn from things that don’t happen the way we’d like.

Now, for the most part, I agree. However, what really bothered me is that Jillian was equating positivity with a lack of realism. She said she “hates positive people,” but to me, people who do the very things she suggests (like finding the good in the bad and learning from hardships) are positive people. I always try to have a positive outlook on things, and that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m denying things might not work out the way I want. For example, we put in an offer on a beautiful house that we both love. And it seemed like everything would probably be fine–almost to the point of it being too good to be true. However, neither of us were like, “We are going to get the house.” We said, “There is a good chance that since our offer was accepted, we will get the house. A lot depends on the inspection, but we’re hoping for the best.” After the inspection, we’ve found there are some things that need to be dealt with, and so now our positive outlook has morphed into “Well, we’ll see how much the sellers are willing to work with us on the things that need to be fixed. There is a good chance they won’t want to, but maybe they will! If they don’t, the house wasn’t meant to be ours and we’ll find something else.” We are being realistic, but we are also being optimistic.

I also feel that every challenge is a lesson, no matter how hard it is to get through at first, and no matter how hard it is for me to initially understand exactly what the lesson may be. I tend to push myself toward gratitude in these cases, which admittedly can be difficult at times. For example, I had a really tough time when leading a training session at a former job in which some trainees just didn’t seem to like me. Their bad attitudes disrupted the entire training session, and ruined all of my excitement about the training. I was in shock, and couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. At first, I had to really focus on everything that went right, despite the things that went wrong. I was grateful to have my husband and friends, who supported me and reassured me. And with that change in focus, over time I was able to remain positive and find the lesson: I grew so much, learned a lot about myself and about others, and came to realize that it doesn’t matter if people don’t always like me. In this case, positivity and gratitude went hand in hand. Oh, and I never ever denied how much learning that lesson sucked.

I feel like I could give countless examples of how you can be a positive person without ignoring or denying reality and that bad things happen. Being positive is about choosing to focus on the bright side and about learning from hardships instead of dwelling on them or letting them consume you. I think Jillian Michaels actually encourages positive behavior all the time, and that in her podcast she mislabeled positivity as being synonymous with naiveté and denial. Ultimately, I understand my concern comes down to semantics, but Jillian’s blunt declaration really rubbed me the wrong way. Rather than telling people, “Don’t be positive” or that positive people are idiots, I’d like to say, “Find the positive in every negative, and work your way through it.” That’s what we’re doing with the house, that’s what I did with that training session, and that’s what I continue to do through the tough parts of my day, every day.

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What do you think about positivity and optimism? Do you agree that it’s possible to have a bright, hopeful attitude while being realistic and understanding things don’t always work out?

Learning · Projects

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

 

 

 

I remember loving the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” when I was growing up, and I still love it to this day. Lately I have been finding myself getting down and worrying about a lot of things I can’t change. I want to fix everything to make my family happy all the time, I want to have more friends that I really feel I can connect with that live on the same continent–or better yet, the same city in the same state!–, and I want to be comfortable and capable in my new job. I don’t want to worry, I want to be happy!

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A few years ago, before I got the opportunity to work exclusively as a teacher of small children, I made the page above in my art journal. Amazingly, I’ve done a lot of the things listed: I’ve gone to Italy and Spain, I’ve sort of joined a book club (though it only consists of my sister-in-law and myself), I started Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (though I didn’t finish–ahem), and I’ve gone paragliding (though I know that’s not the same as parasailing!). I’ve been researching soup kitchens and Habitat for Humanity, and we’ve been looking at houses with a Realtor, so we’ll be getting our chance to make our first house a home.  And, probably most significant at the moment, I am now working in a cafe.

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Around the same time that I made that page, I made this one above with a “mantra.” I came up with the mantra through an exercise in an art journaling class I was taking, and when it came out be the following, I was really excited:

“I want to electrify the lives of children by broadening their horizons and teaching them to navigate life with energy, curiosity, creativity and optimism!”

After making that page, I was lucky enough to live out my mantra as an Executive Head Teacher and Curriculum Coordinator for the Early Learning Center of an international school in Japan. I found my passion, and I hope one day I can start making a difference in early education in the states. In the meantime, I’m trying my best to stay positive, and not let anything or anyone get me down. I mentioned briefly before how working at Starbucks has been kind of stressful, but I think I’m already getting used to things. And I feel pretty lucky to be getting the opportunity to learn all about (and taste!) coffee, to always take my breaks and arrive/leave when my shift starts/begins (which I never did when working as a teacher), and to be gaining so many new, valuable experiences.

Since we’ve been home I’ve often been feeling a bit out of place, and it’s been hard to talk about my life when pretty much every sentence starts with, “In Japan…” or “When I was in Japan…” That was my life for about 5 years, but I feel like a lot of people can’t relate and so they sort of shut down whenever I talk about it. I’ve had moments where I just want to scream or where I just want to cry because I miss my friends in Japan. But, I also have the joy of being with my family every day, and of living in the gorgeous state of Michigan. I’m forcing myself to think something positive to counteract every negative thought that crosses my mind, and if I’m frustrated with a particular situation that’s out of my control, I try my best to let off steam about it once and then limit my acknowledgement to a simple, “I’m frustrated with X situation right now,” before trying my best to let go.

I think I’m learning an important lesson in being vulnerable and in growing through change. We knew we had gotten really comfortable with life in Japan, and that things would be getting uncomfortable for a while as we figured out our life together here. But overall, we’ve sure got it good. We don’t need to worry, we just need to focus on letting go, appreciating how lucky we are, and on being happy.

 

Learning

It’s been a good day…

Today I went out to lunch with my mom and grandma (we went to Olga’s–yum!), got groceries and hung out doing laundry at my mom’s (and ate some of the amazing chocolate chip cookies she made!), leafed through a Taste of Home magazine my mom is lending me with way too many delicious looking recipes to try, and bought a new bike!

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I am really excited to have a bike to get around town with, and already rode about ten miles on it today alone! I was especially happy about the color. Chad suggested I get a brighter, bolder color, but the maroon color of this bike was the same as the first bike I ever had when I was in Japan. I feel so lucky to live in an area in which I can bike to the grocery store, the library, and the beach–the latter two of which I biked to today with Chad!

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When we stopped by the library, I dropped off two books and got them marked off on my Book Bingo card. I primarily started the bingo because if I finish it I have a chance at winning a gift certificate to Grimaldi’s Chocolates in Grand Haven, and we all know how obsessed I am with chocolate! Additionally, the Book Bingo sort of goes in line with another of my Summer Bucket List points: join a book club. I know it’s a little different, but it’s a step in the right direction!

So far for the bingo I’ve read Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Seriously, I’m KiddingYoga Bitchand Other People We MarriedI really enjoyed Yoga Bitch. Do you have a suggestion for a good mystery? I usually don’t like mysteries very much, so I am totally up for suggestions. As for now, I’m starting one of the “groundbreaking” reads about archaeological adventures, and putting a close to a very nice day.

What are some good things that happened to you today?

 

P.S. I have been enjoying playing around with the BeautifulMess app, which I used to decorate my pretty bicycle picture above! Have you tried it out yet?

 

Monday Matters

Home, Sweet Michigan

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard

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After nearly five years of living abroad in Japan, we’re finally home to Michigan. It’s strange, at the moment–the feeling that we’re on vacation for a while and going back to Japan soon is starting to fade, and yet being here permanently hasn’t quite sunk in yet either. It is so good to see family so often now, and difficult to explain how at the same time I so dearly miss my friends and “family” in Japan. How do you describe a life abroad for that long, where you start calling a different location home, too?

20130701-101410.jpgAn ema, or prayer card, I filled out about a week before leaving Japan.

I’ve said before that whether in Japan or the US, we’ll always be homesick for one place or the other. I can’t lie and say I don’t miss Japan, but I also can’t say that I’m not incredibly happy to be home. Life in Michigan is so comfortable–I love being in America!

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We lived in Kobe the last half of our time in Japan.

I know that our time spent abroad was invaluable. It definitely wasn’t always easy, but Chad and I learned so much about each other, about cultures all around the world, and about life in general in our time away from Michigan. We had some hard lessons, some fascinating lessons, and many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Now that we’re home, we’re onto the next journey in our lives–a new beginning, so to speak. We’re not sure what that means for us exactly, and I think that’s okay. Through it all we’ll be together, with our past experiences to look back on and remember.

Here are a few pictures from our last few weeks in Japan–though there are so many more and it’s hard to choose only these to share!

20130701-101420.jpgGreen tea soba, at a restaurant with my beautiful kimono-wearing friends, a pretty coaster, a matcha parfait

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Standing in our kimono in Kyoto (except my lovely pregnant friend, who is still just as cute!).

20130701-101454.jpgPirikura (Japanese photo booth)

20130701-101752.jpgOn our last day in Japan, we got this message on our drinks from Starbucks! I decided to try the matcha flavor frappuccino for the first time since I didn’t know if it would be offered in the US.

Thank you to everyone in both Japan and in Michigan for all of your support and love over the past four and a half years. We couldn’t have made it through our adventures without you, and will keep on needing you in the future! Here’s to new beginnings!

Heard

It’s a good excuse that I love to use…

So many people are holiday haters, and start ranting about materialism and about how holidays are arbitrary as soon as one approaches. I was on my way to the station this morning when a song by Kina Grannis came on (I mentioned her beautiful version of Sound of Silence last week). The song was called “Valentine,” and it really summed up my feeling about that holiday–and all holidays, really.

There is a line that says, “It’s a good excuse that I love to use, baby I know what to do: I will love you, I’ll love you, I’ll love you.” She also talks about not needing “those things,” and I totally agree. I don’t need an excuse to go crazy loving my husband (I always do, anyway!), and I never need an excuse to celebrate! But I love all holidays, theme parties, normal parties…any reason to get together. I embrace every moment we have to share joy, whether through a Valentine song, a dinner, or a quick conversation and a hug. It may sound cheesy, but I truly believe in the cliché of making every moment we have together count.

How do you feel about holidays? Are you looking forward to any gatherings soon?

Uncategorized

Bubbles drifting like joy in a dream

Had a dream that I could do magic, but only randomly. I was going to a school with other people like me in which we were trying to figure out why we couldn’t do magic all the time. What circumstances made magic possible or impossible for us to do?

One guy around my age that I went to school with was getting really discouraged because he hadn’t been able to do magic for a long time. He was starting to question whether anyone could do it anymore. I sat down next to him, and looked intently at a silver dessert spoon on the table. At first nothing happened, and I began to wonder if it ever would, but then the spoon floated into the air. The spoon began to take on a shimmer as though it had been dipped in liquid dish soap, with rainbow colors gliding around the spoon slowly. Then the silver of the spoon and its defined shape became less and less clear as the dish soap became more translucent. Finally, we could only see a fat line of dish soap suspended in the air, which began to spread out until bubbles began to break off–slowly at first, but then quickly– so that the air all around us was filled with drifting bubbles.

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I wonder if this dream was representative of how I can feel so confident and self-assured at some times, but at other times feel totally out of control and like I have no choice in what I do. Or how even if I achieve the things I want to, like the magic in my dream, there is always something more just out of reach, floating away.

Lately I have been preparing myself for leaving Japan, and I feel so ready. When I go home, I know I’ll miss it and question my haste, but for now I’m having trouble focusing on the magic of what I’m doing–instead feeling tired and stressed out from the final couple weeks of work. I really need to appreciate and be grateful for each moment here, and not worry about which circumstances make that easier or more possible. I need to believe I’ll get through the stressful parts and that the drifting, joyful parts are more important (and just as plentiful!).

I’m trying to enjoy our final days in Japan, but I’m also counting down the days before we start a new chapter in our lives. Less than one month to go before we leave.