Thursday, 6 December 2012

Life Is Easier When We Smile

I took a quick walk this evening over to the gas station to pick up a few things for my mother. Considering my recent sourness towards failing attempts to make my life go as I planned (shouldn't I know better by now?), I probably didn’t have a joyous holiday smile on my face. Regardless, I was my polite and friendly self greeting the attendant at the counter and left the station without letting my glum mood affect anyone else’s evening. But, oh, how the simplest things can erect happy feelings when you least expect it.

Upon leaving, the second attendant, a younger man who was servicing a car at the pump, decided to infect me with his outstanding positive mood. “Have a good night, eh?!” he recites to me in a very genuine, cheery, thick Canadian accent that is so indicative of my hometown region. He followed this with another simple and genuine statement that quite unexpectedly turned my week long morose around – “Life is so much easier when we smile.” This was simultaneous with a quick wink. My mother insists he was simply flirting, but however this attitude came to be, I am infinitely grateful.

Beyond the truth found in this man’s statement (whatever his hidden agenda may have been), his optimism for the simple do-good facial expression brought to mind a number of my long-forgotten ideas about how our attitudes affect our lives.

When I first arrived home from Ghana, I was obsessed with not letting my reverse culture shock tackle my gratitude for life. I remember having coffee with a mentor of sorts and conversing about gratitude. I was firm believer that my life was good and I was happy because I was so grateful for things around me. Being quick to play devil’s advocate, my experienced friend reminded me that I had a lot more to be grateful for than most people.

Years have passed since that conversation and my stringent mindset of life and gratitude has fluctuated constantly; most days since then I've been convinced my mentor was right in assuming my gratitude came from the wonderful gifts my life had handed to me. Now, I find myself realizing how spot on my 22 year old self actually was.

While dealing with the concerns and stresses that life is currently handing me is definitely unavoidable, recognizing the ability to be grateful for all the aspects life is offering me is much more important. Thanksgiving should not be the one sacred time of year we recite our appreciation; it should be every day. And not because we owe it to the world or God, but because we owe it to ourselves. Because being grateful means finding contentment in the life we have made for ourselves in the everyday bustle.


I am grateful for the opportunity of peace and family connections I've been given for the holidays. And I am grateful for the opportunities of travel, career and friends that the past has always afforded me. 

And more than anything, I am grateful for the possibility of opportunities I have yet to discover.

And I’m grateful for a smile... and someone to remind me of them.

Life really is easier when we smile.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Hippies Unite!

So, I want to be a hippy.

Well, kind of. Not the pot smoking, unshaven, off-in-space, society-mooching hippy, but a modern day one.

I’ve fallen in love with the idea of having my own garden, so one day my kids will know how real, fresh, home-grown tomatoes taste. And I want to bake my own bread, because that way I know it is preservative free.

And I want to re-make old furniture and art so that my house looks modern and stylish without contributing to the world of commercialism and waste.
I want to redesign old clothes that I treasure hunt for at thrift stores and consignment shops so I can still be “in-fashion” without spending an entire paycheck at Banana Republic or Guess.

But more than all the financially frugal benefits and the do-good-for-the-world mentality, I actually just want to make things with my own two hands. I’m sure many of you have heard of the “Ikea Effect” (if not, watch the video below.)

To some, it may sound ridiculous. Perhaps you are so caught up in a world where having more and measuring success by the price of the items you own can counteract your insecurity and need for meaning in life, but that’s just not the case for me.

While I would not turn away a $50 million lottery winning, I feel like all that money would take away part of the challenge, fun and learning in life. As though, being able to buy and do anything I want without having to earn it, build it, or create it could leave me feeling empty inside. The process and journey of achieving a goal and constructing the items I enjoy would completely disappear. Some may view it simply as having what you want while avoiding the frustration and stress that it takes to get it, but to me, that frustration and stress, the sweat, blood and tears, and the constant overcoming of an obstacle is what makes life exciting and meaningful. It’s what makes you appreciate what you have and be grateful for the gifts and opportunities that life presents to you.

Disagree? I’m sure you do! But I challenge you to be open-minded. Moreover, I challenge you to think about something you really want to buy. (Perhaps an item your were thinking about picking up this week – it could be a cake for a friend’s birthday party, a new chair for your desk, or maybe a picture frame for your family Christmas photo.) And then consider whether maybe this is an item you make or re-create. Find an interesting recipe online and have your grandmother help you bake the cake; or pick up an old chair from a scrap yard, sand it down and refurnish it; or perhaps take an old book  you’ve stuck in storage and get creative making a picture frame out of it! Just try something! If you do, and hate it, feel free to tell me how wrong I am. But I have a pretty strong intuition that you may just absolutely love it... and possibly find a new sense of meaning that doesn’t involve making more money.

Hippies Unite!