Monday, February 7, 2011

Patience is a Virtue

As a child I loved books.  I started reading and couldn't stop, and even before I could read I loved being read to by others.  At the risk of sounding like a complete and total nerd, my mother told me, when I got older, that unlike most children, I slept with my books and not stuffed animals.  I don't remember this, but I've come to terms with this potentially embarrassing piece of information now.  In fact, I still love to read.  It is one of my favorite pastimes, and a huge stress reliever.  One of the first books that I remember having read to me was a big book at my parents' house called The Children's Book of Virtues. The Book of Virtues is a collection of fables, fairy tales, and short stories that each teach a specific lesson or has a moral that is easily identifiable for children.  I can remember sitting with my dad before bed and listening while he would read me a story, and we would talk about what I learned.  (Sidenote: Typing this, for some reason, makes this whole scenario sound super cheesy and storybook-esque on its own, but I promise that this really did happen in my childhood.  I had, and still have, awesome parents.)

Anyway, I couldn't tell you the names of any of those stories, or, for that matter, most of the morals that I was supposed to learn.  I can, however, tell you the one phrase that this childhood memory has engrained in my mind forever: Patience is a virtue.  I have always, and continue to be, a very impatient person.  I'm that person who taps their foot in the bank teller line and the checkout at Target; I hate traffic.  If I could teleport from place to place to make my arrival more immediate, I would.  I know what I want, and I have never been able to come to terms with the idea that I can't always have it when I want.  Keep in mind, that I am fully aware that the expectation for instant gratification is extremely childish.  I feel like a grownup in a lot of areas, but I'm a work in progress, too, I guess.  When I was a child, I was equally impatient.  I can remember my dad reciting that line over and over and over in various situations: Patience is a virtue.

Recently, I have had lots of opportunities at work to be more virtuous and patient, and it has brought this little mantra to mind.  At my day job, where I sell women's clothes, I work with a very wide variety of customers.  We have women come in who immediately give the "back off and don't sell me things" vibe.  They are perfectly capable of finding what they need, and that's fine with me.  I'm there if they need me and am happy to help.  However, we also have customers who come in and expect you to drop everything to pull every item that they might like, work with them for hours, and then buy nothing.  Patience is a virtue.  As a dance teacher, I get to exercise patience everyday, when girls would rather discuss their weekends and boyfriends and breakups than work on their dance technique or listen to anything I have to say.  Patience is a virtue.

I think the Rolling Stones said it best:  "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need."  And most of the time, I am pretty sure what you need might just be what you least expect.  So, as a new week starts, I'll continue to remind myself that patience really is a virtue.  Since I'm working on the constantly improving, grownup version of myself, it'll be good for me to be more virtuous.  I just can't wait 'til I finally get there....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Finding Happy

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." 
-Martha Washington

This has been one of my favorite quotes for a long time.  My mom sent this to me my freshman year of college, and it has inhabited my "favorite quotes" on Facebook ever since.  It's so hard for me to remember that happiness is a choice, not some mysterious feeling that just happens upon us based on our surroundings.  I thought about this quote recently, because I began reading a book called The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I was initially intrigued by the title.  What could a happiness project entail?  The premise of Rubin's book is that most of us are happy (and extremely blessed); we just aren't as happy as we could be, because we allow the clutter of life to drag us down into a less happy place.  Her answer was to set attainable resolutions for each of the twelve months in a year that she felt would make her a happier person, or at least a person more able to recognize the reasons she should be happy.  

In a lot of ways, I feel like Gretchen Rubin.  I am fully aware of my many blessings.  I have a wonderful, supportive, and loving circle of family and friends that I can always rely on.  I have two jobs that I love.  I am healthy and have my whole future ahead of me.  But in the midst of all these blessings, I have found that it is so easy for me to slip into a state of discontent.  I worry that I'm not good enough or that I'm not reaching my full potential.  I get bogged down in the little things like cleaning my house and doing laundry and paying my bills, and then I start to focus on the negative rather than the positive.  I have a friend who always used to say "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative."  Well, that statement is WAY easier said than done.  For example, I could focus on the fact that I have two great jobs that I love, that I get to work with people all day, and that I am lucky to have these two jobs when there are people who don't have any job at all.  Instead, I constantly find myself complaining, both to myself and to others, about how overly busy I am and all the 700,456,259,483 things that I have to get done in a week, and how impossible it all is, and blah blah blah etc, etc.  

So the first resolution in my "happiness project," and my wisdom for this week, is that we have to be "determined to be cheerful and happy," just like Martha Washington.  A couple weeks ago, when I couldn't drag myself out of bed because I had put off going to the doctor for a month, a friend brought me Chinese food (because I was SO sick of chicken noodle soup).  The fortune cookie I got that day is now taped on my bathroom mirror as a daily reminder.  It says "happiness is a journey, not a destination."  Everyday is filled with choices, and the first one we make when we wake up every morning is whether or not each day is going to be a good one.  I am choosing to make every, single day a happy one.  Complaining is a personal decision to clutter our lives with reasons to be less happy.  And I just have to face the fact that I have hundreds of reasons to be blissfully happy everyday.  In the words of my late grandpa, "Everyday I wake up is a good day."  It's definitely about time I made it that way.