The Right to Grieve — And That Means Being Sad [en]

[fr] Avez-vous remarqué comme personne ne veut qu'on soit triste? La tristesse est néanmoins une émotion nécessaire, celle qui nous permet d'accepter une perte, d'en faire le deuil, et de pouvoir continuer à avancer à travers et au-delà de la peine.

Have you noticed how nobody wants you to be sad? Tell people around you that you’re sad, and immediately they’ll want to cheer you up.

Sadness is not bad. Sadness is necessary. It is through being sad that we are able to accept our losses and move on. That is what grieving is.

Our friends don’t want us to feel sad, because they don’t want us to suffer. But refusing to be sad and to grieve brings along a lot of suffering — certainly more, in the long run, than the pain of sadness.

Sadness is not depression. Unprocessed grief can lead to depression, though.

Sadness is the feeling of loss.

A person who is experiencing loss needs the courage to feel sad, and in a world which wants to shove sad under the carpet at the first opportunity, that can be far from easy.

What is valued is staying strong in the face of loss, grief, catastrophe. Not collapsing. Not showing how much pain we’re in.

But what we need when we’re sad and in pain, most of the time, is support so we can dare to feel all this. A safe place to be heard, recognised, and not judged. Love and acceptance that does not desperately want to save us from our emotions, but on the contrary, regard them as part of ourselves and our journey through life.

To grieve and to move on from all the various losses in our lives, all the nevermores, we need to be able to be sad. It is a good thing.

Similar Posts:

The Zeigarnik Effect and Open Loops [en]

[fr] L'effet Zeigarnik, c'est ce qui nous fait finir quelque chose dans lequel on est lancé, ou qui fait qu'on repense à ce qu'on a interrompu pour y revenir. A mon avis, cet effet joue un rôle clé dans ce qui nous attire encore et encore à retourner sur Facebook ou autre: en prenant part dans des communautés et réseaux en ligne, on met en marche toutes sortes de choses dont on veut voir l'aboutissement. J'ai posté un lien, la chaîne d'actions logique est ensuite que des gens vont liker, commenter et partager. Il y aura peut-être une réponse à donner, ou tout du moins, je veux "suivre" pour savoir comment ça fini. Les conversations en ligne, idem: il y a toujours quelque chose qui se passe dans un chat, la discussion ne se termine jamais.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon the Zeigarnik Effect. It is the effect that prevents us from interrupting our teeth-brushing in the middle. Once we’ve started, we feel a need to keep going. It’s really useful.

For me, it was a missing piece of the puzzle that fitted nicely alongside the idea of GTD’s “open loops”. If you have to interrupt something before you’re done with it or the task is completely, the Zeigarnik Effect will make sure your brain nags you about it.

It explains why it’s important to “just get started” or “just do something”. It also explains why having a lot of ongoing stuff in parallel is stressful.

While I’ve been writing this post, I’ve given myself a wonderful demonstration of the Zeigarnik Effect in action. You see, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d heard about it. I’m pretty sure it’s in one of James Clear‘s posts, because it’s definitely the kind of thing that he writes about, but I’m not 100% certain.

I can remember the context: for a given task, there is a kind of “tipping point” where the Zeigarnik Effect kicks in, and you finish what you’ve started. Knowing where that point is comes in really handy for getting things done rather than just thinking about how we’re not doing them. I remember the example clearly: for flossing, the “tipping point” or “trigger” in question was when he’d torn the piece of floss off the roll.

I’ve just spent… oh, I don’t even dare tell you… way too much time trying to find that article so I could link to it. I found plenty about flossing and the Zeigarnik effect. The worst is that I already spent way too much time trying to dig out that source when preparing a mini-workshop on “time/task management” I gave two months back. And didn’t find it.

You know the irony? I just stumbled upon the article in question! It wasn’t James Clear after all. And you know the funny bit? I thought I’d add a link to a Google search in the above paragraph. Just to show you how much stuff about Zeigarnik and floss I had waded through. To my surprise, many of the links there were not those I had been wading through an hour ago. Maybe I only searched in specific places where I thought the article was, like Clear’s blog. Anyway. I have it! Incredible!

The reason I went down that rabbit-hole was because it was an “unfinished task”. And the more time I spent trying to “finish” it, the stronger my urge to keep going became. Typical, right?

And here we go again: while looking up some old articles of mine, I remembered that the markdown plugin wasn’t working on the new server. I had to hold myself back from downloading and installing it. It would have meant interrupting the writing of this blog post, though, so I guess that is what just saved me. But now I have this nagging “open loop” in a corner of my mind.

(Bear with me while I add it to my running list of things that need to be done so I can stop thinking about it.)

(Oops, while I was there, I quickly checked a spreadsheet to see if there were any new sign-ups for my next workshop. There weren’t. Do I leave the form open or close it now?)

As you can see, there is a clear link here to multitasking, procrastination, and the general feeling of “not enough brain space” that I have a times. It also makes me think about how when I start something, I have a lot of trouble stopping. Hypertrophied Zeigarnik Effect?

Today — and this is what prompted this post — I suddenly realised that the Zeigarnik Effect played an important part in dragging me back to my computer, or my phone (home to Facebook and Google Plus). By participating in online communities and networks (sounds better than “social media” doesn’t it? more human?) I set things in motion that do not end.

An online conversation is never-ending. There are always people in the chatroom. I post a link, it will be interesting to see who likes, comments, or shares it. I stumble upon interesting articles that need to be read.

My time on my phone or my computer is spent creating innumerable open loops that I am then desperate to close, while at the same time opening yet others that will also have to be closed. Whack-a-mole.

It feels like my “tipping point” for feeling the urge to finish something (or at least dive in) is ridiculously early. Am I mixing two things up here? Do we still speak of the Zeigarnik Effect when a task has not actually been started? Is thinking about doing it sufficient in some cases to “initiate” it?

So here’s my next mission: taming my open loops. I can’t remove them, but I can learn to live with them better.

(This was originally the title to this post, but given I’m not sure how I’m going to do that it seemed a little misleading.)

Before writing this post, I googled for “open loops social media” and other related searches, and I now have about a dozen articles to read about “compulsion loops” and the inevitable “social media addiction” (disclaimer: I’m not convinced it is correct to speak about “addiction” in this context). I’ll probably have more to write on the topic… if I manage to get around to reading them. 😉

Similar Posts:

Our Relationship To Technology: Is Your Smartphone In Charge, Or You? [en]

[fr] Une réflexion sur notre relation à la technologie. C'est pas aussi simple que "addiction! addiction! au secours!".

Today’s post, again, brought to you by an article of Loïc Le Meur’s: Why are we checking our smartphones 150x a day? (Remember when Loïc was a blogger?) He links to a video with the catchy title “After I saw this, I put down my phone and didn’t pick it up for the rest of the day”.

I have mixed feelings about this kind of discussion.

  • On the one hand, I think we need to strive to be those in charge of our use of devices, and not victims of the operant conditioning of modern technology.
  • On the other hand, I think that framing the issue of our relationship with technology as addiction is counter-productive, as it puts the blame on technology and removes responsibility from users.

It’s also not a new conversation, and it pops up every now and again as “today’s big problem”. Hey, I was afraid I had “internet addiction” back in 1998. I read Silicon Snake Oil and The Psychology of Cyberspace, headed off to my chalet for a week, and stopped worrying.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m online a lot, both on my computer and on my phone, but I still perceive being on your phone when in human company as “impolite”. I try not to do it too much. So, usually, when I’m with other people, I won’t be on my phone, unless:

  • we’re playing with our phones: taking photos, looking at stuff together, etc.
  • there is something I need to attend to (I apologize and try and be quick)
  • I’m looking something up to help us solve a problem or get information we need
  • we’re spending quite some time together and are both having “phone-time”

I’m aware this doesn’t mean much: with the same description I could be glued to my phone all the time. How do you define “something I need to attend to”?

So, some context.

My phone is in silent mode, and I have very few notifications set (same on my computer). It usually lives at the bottom of my bag. When I’m working, there are chances it’s next to me on my desk. It’s often charging or abandoned in another room when I’m at home.

I’ll check it somewhat compulsively when I’m on the bus, or when I’m using it “as a computer” to hang out online. If I’m with other people, as I said, I don’t take it out too much (though they’ll be the best judges about how much — I do take it out).

I suffer from FOMO like almost everyone who is connected today, I guess. But I don’t feel that I’m a slave to it. I read The Paradox of Choice many years ago and it really opened my eyes: today’s world is so full of possibilities. If you don’t want to succumb to the anxiety of too much choice and too many options, you need to be aware of what’s going on, and accept you’ll miss out. I try to be selective. I still struggle, but I know I’m going to miss out and it’s not the end of the world. (It’s in my social media survival kit, by the way.)

Why do we end up compulsively checking our phones and stuff? I think there are many reasons, and that’s why saying it’s an “addiction” is a way to frame the problem in a way that makes it difficult to address.

  • FOMO: with the internet, we have access to everything that is going on, all the time, everywhere. If we want to be “part of it”, hang out with the cool kids, or share the video that’ll get us 20 likes, we feel a pressure to “not miss” what is going on in the real-time stream. So we overload ourselves on the input side. We think we need to consume everything.
  • Operant conditioning: I’m clicker-training one of my cats, Tounsi. He knows that a click means a reward is coming. When I’m reinforcing a behaviour, I use an intermittent reinforcement schedule: he doesn’t get a reward with each click.
    See how this fits with digital interfaces, and even more strongly, social media? I think Kevin Marks is the first one who first pointed out this phenomenon to me, when I was having trouble taking breaks from my computer even though I had bad RSI.
    Suw Charman-Anderson wrote about how it applies to e-mail back in 2008. We check our mail, there might be some candy in there. We check Facebook, there might be a like or a comment. Nothing? It only makes the urge to check again more compelling: the next time could be rewarded!
    Yeah, dopamine plays a role in there. Understand how your brain works so you’re not a slave to your hormones and neurotransmitters.
  • Validation: we want to be loved and appreciated, and some of what we’re looking for online is just that. Oh, somebody responded to my post. Oh, somebody sent me a nice e-mail. Ooh. But people who thinks that this is the only thing in play round down our issue with technology to an “ego problem” (very fashionable). It doesn’t help. But yeah, if you feel that your drive for franticly checking your phone when you’re having dinner with a friend is just that, maybe it’s worth addressing.
  • Work: the other time when I ran off to my chalet to find some peace was in 2008, and it was not to escape technology. It was to escape work. Our relationships to work and technology are very much entwined. Often, when people say they’re “addicted to their email”, and you take the trouble to dig a bit, you realise the problem is not “email” but “work”. They can’t pull away from work. They work during the week-ends, the evenings, their holidays. This is, I believe, a bigger issue than technology. Our relationship to work, as a society, is unhealthy. (And: Americans, you have a way bigger problem here than us Swissies.)
  • Not engaging: people often look at “not engaging” as a consequence of excessive use of technology. It’s the message conveyed by the video Loïc linked to in his post. I think that’s missing the point that “not engaging” can be the objective here. Relationships are difficult. Being present is difficult. Being with oneself is difficult. Being present to life is difficult. We do many things to avoid doing all this. We veg’ in front of the TV. We talk about unimportant stuff to avoid dealing with what matters in our relationship. And, increasingly, we dive into our phones.
    In the past, I used my camera a lot to “find my place” in social gatherings that would otherwise make me feel awkward. If I’m the person taking photos, I have a place. I have a pretext for interacting with others. I can remove myself from what is going on to be the observer snapping pics. It’s much more difficult to find my place and be with others if I’m just me, with no escape.
    So when we look at somebody who has his nose in his phone during a dinner party, I’d also ask “what is he avoiding by not being present?”

I think I have a reasonably healthy relationship to technology — and work. I have my drinking completely under control 😉

So, a wrap-up:

  • I check my phone in the evening before going to bed, and it sleeps on my bedside table, on but mute, and it never wakes me up (except when I ask Siri to do so).
  • I generally keep my phone muted and in my bag and my notifications off (also on my computer!)
  • I understand how FOMO and operant conditioning work, I’m aware of my need for validation and how I react to the infinity of choices in the world around me.
  • I stop working at the end of the day, and on week-ends, and I take holidays. Real holidays, not work-holidays.
  • I “switch off” a couple of times a year, taking a week or a few days off somewhere with no internet, where I don’t work and use my computer mainly for writing and having fun with my photos. This helps me remember what it is like to live more slowly, and makes me want to bring some of that back into my “normal” life.
  • I try and give priority of my attention to the people I’m with offline, without being religious about it. If I do need to attend to my phone or online stuff when in company, I try not to “disconnect” from the person I’m with offline.
  • I consider that I am the one in charge of my relationship with technology, and strive for a healthy balance between my ability to spend time totally immersed and connected and multitasking, and my ability to be completely (as completely as possible) present to the “offline”, be it a book, a person, an activity, or myself.
  • Like so many things in life, it’s about having healthy boundaries.

When I shared Loïc’s post on Facebook, he commented that we seemed to have similar points of interest these days. For some time, I’ve found what Loïc is writing about much more interesting to me. It’s more personal. Less about business, more about life. Life has always been the thing that interests me the most. My interest for the internet and social media comes from my interest in how people connect and relate to each other.

Interestingly, this is also the kind of stuff I’ve decided to shift my work focus to. Labelling myself as a “social media” person doesn’t fit with what I really do and want to do, specially in the Swiss context where “social media = digital marketing”, something I have very little interest in and want to stay the hell away of. So I’m moving towards “I help you use technology better”. Helping people have a healthy relationship with tech, use it to do their work or whatever it is they need to get done better. Some of social media fits in there too, of course. But also stuff like (yes, still in 2013), learning to use and manage email properly. (I’m actually preparing a training proposal for a client on just that these very days.)

So, how’s your relationship to technology? Who is in charge, you or the compulsion to check if there is something more exciting going on?

Note: I wrote this article in one sitting, getting up once to go to the loo (!) and checking my phone’s lock screen on the way back (it’s charging in another room) to see if I had a message from my neighbour, as we had been exchanging messages earlier and made a vague plan yesterday to maybe hang out together and look at cat photos this morning.

Similar Posts:

Three Good Things [en]

Here’s something I do regularly that really quickly improves my mood — within a few days: take a moment each evening to make a note of “three good things” for the day. Things that went well. Positive things. Even in the shittiest times, you can find three things to look at positively.

I started doing it after reading The How of Happiness. One of the intentional activities that has been shown to make people happier is practicing optimism. Some time before, I head read Learned Optimism, which really changed the way I viewed the inner workings of my psyche. I had not realized that optimism was something you could train yourself into. And reasonably easily.

Making note of three good things during the day past is a way of tuning your brain into a “positive” mode. Positive attracts positive, negative attracts negative (that’s one thing I learned over a decade ago reading Emotional Intelligence: why it may make sense in certain gloomy times to just go watch a funny movie and laugh to “switch gears”).

You know when you start to spiral downwards, making a mental list of all the things that are going wrong today/in your life/this year? Well, you can do the same thing to go upwards. And all it may take is a few mindful minutes of your time to shine the light on good things.

I use Path for this. I love Path, though I’m connected to precious few people on it — scratch that, because I’m connected to few people. A dozen, maybe fifteen at the most. My good things are kind of private, not really blog or facebook material. Path works really well for this. And I have two-three Path friends who have started doing “three good things” too — I love reading those postings.

I usually do “three good things” for a while, then forget or drop off the wagon, and if I start feeling down or discouraged, I remember to get started again. And as I said, within a few days I’ve usually perked up.

This is one of the things I love about growing older: knowing yourself so much better. Fifteen or twenty years ago it would have taken me months to crawl out of what is now a slight dip that lasts a few days, a week at the most.

Have you tried this? Do you do anything similar?

Similar Posts:

Loneliness [en]

[fr] Sur la solitude.

This morning I stumbled upon the article Only The Lonely, in which Stephen Fry talks about depression, wanting to end things, mental health, and loneliness.

Here’s the passage that made me think a bit more about the nature of loneliness:

Lonely? I get invitation cards through the post almost every day. I shall be in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and I have serious and generous offers from friends asking me to join them in the South of France, Italy, Sicily, South Africa, British Columbia and America this summer. I have two months to start a book before I go off to Broadway for a run of Twelfth Night there.

I can read back that last sentence and see that, bipolar or not, if I’m under treatment and not actually depressed, what the fuck right do I have to be lonely, unhappy or forlorn? I don’t have the right. But there again I don’t have the right not to have those feelings. Feelings are not something to which one does or does not have rights.

In the end loneliness is the most terrible and contradictory of my problems. I hate having only myself to come home to. If I have a book to write, it’s fine. I’m up so early in the morning that even I pop out for an early supper I am happy to go straight to bed, eager to be up and writing at dawn the next day. But otherwise…

There are two important things here. The first is that feelings are there, and the question of whether you have the right to them or not is irrelevant. They are there. If you feel this way, then you feel this way. That way? That way. That’s it.

The bit on loneliness got me thinking. Everyone knows how lonely it can be to be in a relationship that has stopped functioning. How one can be at a dinner party surrounded by people and still be lonely.

Loneliness doesn’t have much to do with having human beings around you. What makes you “not lonely” is being connected to others in a meaningful way. Feeling recognized for who you are, and not for a social or professional persona you project when others are around. For me there is no contradiction in what Stephen tells us of his busy social life and his feeling of loneliness. It’s apples and oranges.

Having a social life does not mean you have authentic relationships with others.

3rd #back2blog challenge (10/10), with: Brigitte Djajasasmita (@bibiweb), Baudouin Van Humbeeck (@somebaudy), Mlle Cassis (@mlle_cassis), Luca Palli (@lpalli), Yann Kerveno (@justaboutvelo), Annemarie Fuschetto (@libellula_free), Ewan Spence (@ewan), Kantu (@kantutita), Jean-François Genoud (@jfgpro), Michelle Carrupt (@cmic), Sally O’Brien (@swissingaround), Adam Tinworth (@adders), Mathieu Laferrière (@mlaferriere), Graham Holliday (@noodlepie), Denis Dogvopoliy (@dennydov), Christine Cavalier (@purplecar), Emmanuel Clément (@emmanuelc), Xavier Bertschy (@xavier83). Follow #back2blog.

Similar Posts:

La pile de livres aspirationnelle: se construire un champ des possibles [fr]

[en] About the aspirational pile of books that I brought to the chalet with me.

Note: comme la plupart des billets que je publie ces jours, celui-ci a été écrit hors ligne durant ma petite retraite à la montagne.

Je suis au chalet, avec deux chats et une pile de livres, de quoi lire pendant probablement un mois. Une bonne douzaine. OK, un mois en ne faisant que lire.

J’en suis au premier bouquin que j’ai pris sur la pile. Entre-temps, j’ai quand même passé une demi-journée à trier/organiser mes photos (j’ai pris mon disque dur externe exprès) et je suis maintenant en train de rédiger mon 7e (septième!) article pour Climb to the Stars en quelques heures.

Pourquoi diable monter tant de livres pour quelques jours seulement? Je me suis posé la question. Je me la suis d’autant plus posé qu’on a abordé récemment avec Evren la question de la pile aspirationnelle de “choses à lire plus tard”. Je ne me leurre pas: cette pile de livres est totalement aspirationnelle.

Précisons tout de même que j’ai loué une voiture pour ma petite retraite à la montagne, ce qui me permet de ne pas trop me soucier du poids excédentaire de mes aspirations.

En fait, ce à quoi j’aspire, avec cette pile de livres, mon ordi plein de photos à trier, et mes doigts pleins d’articles à taper, c’est aussi le choix, le possible. Je veux être ici au chalet avec le choix de mes lectures, et non pas limitée et contrainte par un choix fait avant de venir.

Alors j’amène plus de livres que je ne peux lire. J’élargis un peu le choix. Je me laisse la liberté de suivre mon humeur. De butiner. C’est ce que je cherche un peu, ici loin de tout.

Chez moi, c’est un peu la même chose. Il y a dans ma bibliothèque plein de livres que je n’ai pas vus. Dans ma DVD-thèque (oui, encore, je sais) plein de films et de séries à regarder encore. Dans mon étagère vitrée, une bonne trentaine de thés.

Je veux être dans un contexte où j’ai le choix. Je peux sur un coup de tête lire ceci ou cela. Les habits et les chaussures, c’est sans doute la même chose — et les réserves dans le garde-manger.

Mais si on a lu The Paradox of Choice, on sait que cette liberté, ce choix ouvert auquel on aspire, eh bien il peut aussi être contre-productif. A trop devoir choisir on se fatigue. Trop de possibilités, ça angoisse.

On n’utilise qu’une petite partie des choix à notre disposition, et le reste pèse sur notre conscience. Ça me fait penser à cette étude où l’on demandait aux gens de planifier leurs menus sur un mois, et on comparait ensuite avec ce qu’ils mangeaient réellement. Pas trop de surprise: les menus “réels” étaient bien plus répétitifs que les menus théoriques. On croit qu’on va vouloir de la variété, mais en réalité, on aime aussi la répétition.

L’autre chose à laquelle ça me fait penser, cette histoire de pile aspirationnelle, c’est la bibliothèque d’Umberto Eco, dont il est question si ma mémoire ne me fait pas défaut dans “A Perfect Mess“, le parfait livre-compagnon à The Paradox of Choice cité plus haut. (Si c’est pas dans A Perfect Mess, c’est peut-être dans The Black Swan, autre livre indispensable.)

La bibliothèque la plus intéressante, c’est celle qui regorge de livres encore-non-lus. C’est elle qui contient peut-être le livre qui va bouleverser notre vie, mais qu’on n’a pas encore lu. (Plus j’y pense, plus il me semble que ça vient de The Black Swan, ce que je raconte.) Le potentiel pour le changement radical réside dans ce que l’on ne connaît pas encore.

Bon, ça rime à quoi, tout ça? Dans cette pile aspirationnelle, il y a plusieurs niveaux:

  • on aspire à un état où l’on aurait lu tout ça
  • on aspire à une liberté de choix qui, poussée à l’extrême, serait paralysante
  • on aspire à une vie où on aurait le temps de lire tout ça (le livre comme métaphore du temps de libre — même si on sait qu’on se prive activement d’avoir le temps de faire tout ce qu’on ferait si seulement on avait plus de temps)

En résumé: quatre jours au chalet, ce n’est pas assez!

Similar Posts:

The Trap of Happiness: Big Things and Small Things, Outside and In [en]

[fr] La clé, pour être heureux, n'est pas dans les événements ou circonstances extérieurs, mais dans nos activités. En nous, et non au dehors de nous. Ce n'est pas très intuitif, d'où le piège. ("Quand ceci ou cela arrivera, alors je serai enfin heureuse.")

I realized today that many of the things I agonize over, the big things of life, are probably not worth spending so much energy on.

These big things of life — work, relationships, where to live — are just the measly circumstantial 10% component of our happiness (50% is due to our happiness “set point”, and the remaining 40% depends on certain intentional activities).

If I’m agonizing over whether to pursue a relationship or not, whether to keep my current line of work or change it, stay put or move to another continent, I’m doing so because at some level, I believe those decisions hold the fate of my happiness. But they don’t.

This is not to say that major life changes have no impact on how we feel. Of course they do. And of course bad decisions can lead to pain and anguish. But if things are going reasonably well and the drive is to be happier, the research presented in The How of Happiness (which I’ve already blogged about) tells us that these major changes will probably have way less long-term effect on how happy we are than certain more modest-looking intentional activities that have been show to reliably increase happiness.

Major events give us a “happiness high”, which is maybe one of the reasons we keep on looking to them as the solution to our lasting happiness. Hence the trap of happiness:

We think that big important things like being in a relationship, having a great job, having kids or living in our dream city are going to make us happy, when in fact it is small day-to-day activities that make use happy.

So when we’re unhappy, we yearn for big changes and stay stuck on “if onlys” rather than doing something that will actually make us feel happier.

For me, there is an important corollary to this:

The key to our happiness is inside of us, and not in exterior events.

This is nothing new under the sun, but I think that today I have really understood it.

You see, in addition to agonizing over “big decisions”, I spend a lot of energy hoping or waiting for things to happen which I expect will make me feel happier. Things that are outside my control or depend on other people. Without getting into details, this energy sometimes pushes me down alleys where I do things which I know are doomed to failure, which I know are a bad idea (and I can even explain why), but I have a very hard time stopping myself from doing them.

And I have understood today that the way to fight these “dysfunctional” urges is to remember where they come from: they come from feelings of unhappiness that I’m trying to address in the wrong way. I’m trying to make big things happen outside of me, rather than certain small things that involve only me — the “happiness activities” or “intentional activities” Sonja Lyubomirsky describes in her book.

Not surprisingly, some of them are already part of my “toolkit” for making myself feel better. Before reading The How of Happiness, however, I think I just hadn’t measured how important they were. And now I have extra stuff to add to my happiness toolkit. Yay!

So I’m making a note: to fight my gosh-I-wish-I-wasn’t-heading-for-that-wall-again urges, pick an activity out of my happiness toolkit. And I’m putting “working on being happier through daily activities” above my big “existential issues” on the priority list.

I find it ironic, in a way, that something as important as how happy we are (I mean, a huge amount of what we do, we do because in some way we’re trying to be happy) can be influenced by so small and seemingly trivial things.

It does explain, though, how we can tumble from “happy” to “not happy” in just a few clicks, and climb back to “happy” by answering two e-mails and cleaning the bathroom sink.

It’s not rocket science.

Similar Posts:

Tears Do Heal — But Slowly [en]

[fr] Un retour d'Angleterre un peu difficile, des vagues de chagrin qui vont et viennent depuis trois mois que Bagha m'a quittée. Mais le chagrin, c'est notre réaction à la douleur de la perte. Le sentir, c'est avancer sur le chemin de l'acceptation.

I’ve had a handful of pretty miserable days upon my return from England. Feeling very sad again about Bagha’s death, and some other losses 2010 brought along with it. But this last couple of days have been better, because tears do heal, and spring is here.

Pencil Effect Sunday 26

Three months after Bagha’s death, I’m thankfully not bursting into uncontrollable tears in socially awkward settings anymore. It comes and goes. I might spend a week or ten days with hardly a tear, and then a wave hits and I’m going through stacks of tissues every day. I’m getting used to it.

I know I need to though, so I dive into the pain and grief when it comes — and when it’s appropriate to let myself do so.

When I’m “in”, it feels like my life is over, like it hurts so much that I’ll never get over it. It feels like some part of me will forever refuse to accept that he is dead and gone, refuse to accept that there is nothing I can do about it, and refuse to accept too that nothing will bring him back. It feels like I will never manage to move on and open my heart this much again, like I will be stuck in grief forever.

Of course I know this isn’t true, and outside of these moments of intense grief, I’m living my life pretty normally these days, despite my heavy heart.

But what I’m starting to understand — and understand really because I’m experiencing it — is that these moments of pain where I am so adamantly refusing to accept that Bagha has died, and I now have to live without him, are actually the very thing that is helping me accept it.

When I was told this it made immediate and perfect sense to me. I feel pain and sadness because I am facing the fact Bagha is dead. Even if my reaction (defense mechanism) to that pain is a futile refusal to accept that which is causing the pain (clearly a flavour of denial — “I want my cat back, I don’t want him to be dead”), it remains that if I am feeling that pain it is precisely because I am realizing or accepting a little more that my life from here onwards will be without him, and I have no choice in that matter.

That is why sadness and tears heal: they are the expression of a step forward in accepting a difficult reality. And though it feels sometimes that the steps are small and the road long, I know I am making progress, and that my heart will heal again.

Similar Posts:

Brené Brown on Vulnerability (TEDx Talk) [en]

[fr] Excellente présentation de Brené Brown sur la vulnerabilité et l'importance de celle-ci pour notre capacité à entrer en relation. A regarder absolument (il y a des sous-titres français si vous en avez besoin).

After a pretty unproductive day watching cars spawn and unhacking my blog, I settled down to watch a few videos I had stuck in Boxee over the last months.

First I watched Alain de Botton, who said very eloquently what I’ve been thinking for a few years now: if anyone can be anything, and we owe our successes to ourselves, we are also fully responsible for our failures, and that responsibility is crushing us and our self-esteem. I then went on to David Blaine, who held his breath for 17 minutes — more scary than inspiring for me (kids, don’t try this at home in the bathtub).

Finally, I listened to Brené Brown’s talk on vulnerability and connexion. It hit close to home, and I took some notes, which I’ll share with you in continuation with my mad crazy live-blogged notes of the Lift conference. But do listen to Brené directly:

In order for connection to happen, we need to let ourselves be seen.

Shame: if people see or know this thing about me, then I am not worthy of connexion.

The only thing that separates people who have a strong sense of worthiness from those who struggle to feel worthy of love and belonging is that those who have this strong sense of worthiness — they believe they are worthy of love and belonging. That’s the only difference.

The only thing that keeps us from connexion is our fear that we’re not worthy of connexion.

Courage to be imperfect.

Compassion to be kind to oneself and then to others.

Connexion as a result of authenticity. Let go of who you should be to be who you are.

AND vulnerability. They fully embraced it. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful. The willingness to say “I love you first”. The willingness to invest in a relationship which may or may not work out.

We numb vulnerability. But you can’t selectively numb the emotions you want, the difficult feelings. You numb everything else too.

We make everything that is uncertain certain. (Control.) We perfect. Including our children.

You’re imperfect, you’re wired for struggle, you’re worthy of love and belonging.

We pretend.

Let ourselves be seen. Love with our whole heart, even though there’s no guarantee. Practice gratitude and joy. Believe that we’re enough.

Thanks, Brené. You can follow Brené on Twitter or check out her blog.

Similar Posts:

Brain Downtime [en]

[fr] On a besoin de débrancher son cerveau -- avez-vous assez l'occasion de le faire?

My brain needs downtime. So does yours.

We’ve managed to make our lives so efficient that we’ve removed all the downtime that used to be part of them. We can work on the train, listen to podcasts while we clean and cook, why, we even read on our iPhones as we walk through town.

Sleeping just doesn’t cut it. Of course, we need sleep (that’s also body-downtime), but we need awake-downtime.

What’s your downtime?

For me, reading fiction and watching TV series qualify as brain downtime. My conscious mind is immersed in fiction, though I’m sure a lot is going on in the background. Sailing and judo qualify to, as does riding my exercise bike if I’m listening to music rather than a podcast.

When I’m on the bus and reading FML or flicking idly through my Twitter stream, is that brain downtime?

When I’m walking in the mountains, drinking a cup of tea on my balcony, watching the sun set, taking a bath, or meditating, that’s definitely brain downtime.

Do you get enough brain downtime?

Similar Posts: