Blog Post # 268 – Happy or Right

“Do you want to be happy or right?”

This is a question that I come back to again and again.

When i find myself in conflict with another, I tend to fall back on this question in helping me assess how to proceed.

But not always.

Sometimes, my anger is righteous, vengeful and deep.

So I don’t give a hoot about being happy.

I just want to prove myself “right.”

Some folks go through life wanting to prove that they are right about everything.

Or, most things.

And that may work well for them.

It certainly gets things done.

But I find it helpful to return to this question time and again during conflict.

I sit back and take a quick, deep breath.

And I ask myself whether I would rather be happy or be right.

Every now and then, we may achieve both – being right and being happy.

But far more often, we have to abandon our intention to prove the other wrong in order to be happy.

Stated differently, do we really want to surrender our happiness over this fight?

Do we wish to cede control over our emotions to another?

Is it really worth it?

For at the end of the day, it is our perspective on the dispute that governs how we feel much more than the outcome.

For today, let us not cede control over our happiness to another.

Let us ask ourselves if this fight is worth it.

And to choose happiness over righteousness any chance that we get.

Blog Post # 267 – Lesson from Little Yahya

Last week, I went to a client’s home for dinner in Columbia.

We had a very nice meal of roasted chicken, an Iraqi vermicelli side dish (delicious) and, in a nod to my favorite pizza place, a cheese Shakespeare’s pie.

I got to “break bread” with not one, not two, but three of my Iraqi asylum-seeking clients.

We had an illuminating discussion regarding the current realities in their hometowns of Tikrit, Fallujah and Mosul.

All three of my clients have very real fears of returning home.

The meal, and our discussion, served as a reminder of how our clients often have so much riding on the cases that we handle.

But the highlight of the meal was one other attendee, Yahya.

Yahya, who just turned three on Halloween.

He had a little iPad with a bunch of one-minute kid videos on the device.

One video was about elephants, one about monkeys and one about horses.

Yahya was a master of maneuvering around the various videos and, as each one started, he howled with glee.

“Look …. Look … El-ef-ant!”

“Monkeeeeee”

I tried to get him to use the Arabic words for each of these animals, but he strictly stuck to English.

This went on for at least 45 minutes.

Such unbridled joy.

Such excitement.

Each time that Yahya got another video going, he was ecstatic and said the name of the animal at least three times.

Simply adorable.

Such a gift.

For today, let us find the joy in all things.

Let us find that wonderment that Yahya exhibited all evening long.

And let us be grateful. For all of it.

Blog Post # 266 – Us, Defenders of the Constitution

Strange being in our nation’s capital today.

Preparations are being made for a candidate that I voted against.

Voted against with passion.

I kick myself because I could have done more.

I could have paid more attention.

I could have worked for his opponent.

I could have done a lot more.

Yet, here we are.

In about six weeks, a demagogue will assume the Presidency.

A man who built his campaign on divisiveness.

On waging war against “the other.”

A man who received 2.5 million less votes than his opponent.

A man who has absolutely no clue as to how to run a country.

A buffoon. A delusional, conspiratorial buffoon.

But I don’t have a time machine.

I can’t go back and do more for his opponent.

All I have is our new reality.

So I came to the District of Columbia for the future.

For I anticipate filing lawsuits here to keep the government accountable.

To challenge the coming abuses of power, as well as those that are already occurring.

When I was sworn in today, I promised again to defend the Constitution.

That is what we do when we hold Presidents, bureaucrats and Congress accountable.

We defend the Constitution.

I fear we are going to be very busy.

Blog Post # 265 – The Best Version of Ourselves

The best version of ourselves.

My friend John Fisher says that if we strive to be the best versions of ourselves in every aspect of our lives, we will lead an amazing existence.

I tend to agree.

We need templates like this.

A set of questions to ask ourselves when confronted with a new situation or problem.

A prism to assist us in analyzing new information or stimuli.

It also provides us with a roadmap on how to analyze and reanalyze ….

Our Day.

Our Effort Level.

Our Success.

When confronted with a decision to be made, we usually know which response will lead us to our best selves and which response will not.

Our job is to follow our best selves.

Do what we can to make the right choice.

And then let the chips fall where they may.

This approach may not work in each and every situation.

But it can serve as a powerful talisman for many of our daily dilemmas.

For today, let us strive. Let us ponder. Let us examine.

Let us make good choices.

And move a bit closer to our greatest selves.

Blog Post # 264 – The Opportunities Are Endless

Every failure is an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn.

An opportunity to improve.

An opportunity to know ourselves a little better.

We lose a case? An opportunity to do better the next time.

An election does not go our way? An opportunity to band together with allies and get ready for the next election.

We have a bad day? If we are still breathing the next day, we have the opportunity to make today better.

Sometimes, we have to go through a series of failures before the breakthrough comes.

Seen through this prism, we should remain indefatigable in the face of defeat.

Perseverance is what we are after.

Relentless, dogged pursuit is what we need.

A commitment to overcome will be the only thing that carries us through.

For today, let us view everything as an opportunity.

The obvious opportunities that stand before us.

And the not-so-obvious ones as well.

There is no defeat, no shame, no failure.

Just another opportunity to improve.

Blog Post # 263 – Terminally Unique

We are not alone.

We are not unique.

We are not the only one who is struggling.

One problem with our ego is that we believe we are unique.

Terminally unique.

That only our problems matter.

That only our suffering counts.

This idea that we are the only ones who are suffering leads to great problems.

Although it should not, it allows us to think that we have it the hardest.

That no one else can understand our pain, our struggles.

It makes us less sympathetic when it should produce the opposite effect.

Instead of wallowing in our own self pity, we could use the internal knowledge that we have about our own suffering to see the suffering in others.

That others too are just trying to make it through the day.

Barely holding it together at times.

The fact is that we are not unique.

We are not alone.

We can share what is bothering us.

The conversations that we have inside our brain are not usually very healthy.

Better to share them, give them definitions and boundaries.

This is how we break through those internal tapes that tell us the we have a unique lock on our own brand of suffering.

Get it out and let it out.

Do it today.

Blog Post # 262 – It’s Going to Be a Long Four Years

It’s going to be a long four years.

And maybe eight.

How do I stay engaged without becoming overwhelmed?

Can I keep abreast of the news without getting consumed by it all?

This is a small plea for personal balance in this new age to come.

What do you do when someone that represents virtually everything that you stand against gets elected to the highest office in the land?

Someone who brags about groping women.

Someone who vilifies your faith.

Someone who mocks the disabled.

Someone who classifies an entire people as rapists and thugs.

And this person is not camera-shy.

He knows how to get attention.

The American people have handed him the biggest bully pulpit in the land.

Which he is using to tweet out crazy conspiracies and outright lies.

Not only does he stand against the things that I hold dear, he is surrounding himself with smart people who support his policies.

Some of these people scare me more than he does.

These are all facts.

This is our new reality.

So how do I not get lost in this?

How do I keep these crazy tweets, blaring headlines and talking heads from consuming my day to day life?

I need to stay aware because the man will institute policies that affect my family, my people and my clients.

But I need part of me to hold on to.

Part of me that the news of the day doesn’t reach.

My centered part. My focused part. My part that is all mine.

You cannot have it all, sir. I won’t let you have it.

I am in this for the long haul and one day you will no longer be in office.

Until then, I will strive to practice kindness, introspection and a devotion to others and to the ideals that I hold dear.

You cannot have me.

Blog Post # 261 – Stop Fighting It

Tangled up.

When I was young, we went on vacation at the Black River Lodge.

The Lodge sponsored outdoor movies, volleyball and float trips.

My father took my sister, Kerry, and I on a float trip.

We had a lot of fun heading down the river in an old, aluminum canoe.

With me in the front, my sister in the middle and my dad in back, we sometimes ran aground.

Once, we came around a bend and drifted into a bunch of branches.

The branches surrounded me in the front of the canoe.

My dad hopped out of the canoe and into the river to try and pull us out, against the current.

Instantly, he knew something was amiss.

The river water swirled around him and he felt himself sink in some mud.

Then he began to sink some more.

He started to thrash and kick a bit in a futile attempt to dislodge himself from the mud.

The more he fought, the deeper the mud.

Kerry and I were not entirely sure what was going on.

Our father was a pillar of strength, a former Marine and the toughest man on the planet.

But the water kept creeping up his torso.

Eventually, it reached his shoulders and we could see the water swirling around him.

We tried to push out from the tree entanglement, but no luck.

My dad kept kicking and kept sinking.

Then all of a sudden, he stopped.

He quit resisting.

The mud released him and he floated slowly to the surface.

The resistance turned out to be his enemy.

It was only when he quit fighting and let go that he saved himself (and us).

Sometimes, we struggle too hard.  We fight when we should relax.  We make things worse.

For today, let us look for opportunities to relax.  To not struggle.  To let nature take its course.

Watch ourselves float to the surface.

Peace.

Blog Post # 260 – Wake Up Angry

Some people wake up angry.

They then stay that way most of the day.

When something it happens, they view it through their anger prism.

They find ample evidence that the world sucks and that they deserve to be angry.

Everyone else is to blame for their crappy little life.

They believe, honestly, that the world is conspiring against them.

These people walk through their day looking for a fight.

You may see these types pop up in your Facebook feed from time to time.

Content not only to fight with their actual friends on social media, but they also spend time fighting with complete strangers.

Everything is bad, bad, bad and it is all someone else’s fault.

Anger is a state of being and it can be very hard to shake.

But why go through life like this?

Why surrender our sense of balance and of happiness to the whims of chance and the actions of others?

We can choose to be happy or we can choose to be angry.

It actually is a choice.

This may be hard to see when our anger entraps us and refuses to let go.

But if we center are make ourselves still, the anger may dissipate.

We may try looking for the good things in our day.

To turn the tide on our anger.

We can get out of that dark place of hopelessness and resentment.

I know this because I have done it.  More than once.

And if I can do it, I believe that you can too.

Find the good, ignore the bad.

Commit to finding one good thing in your day and hold on to it.

Let that be the prism in which you view your day.

And then tomorrow, find two.

Blog Post # 259 – A Lost Day

Note: I forgot to post this yesterday for some reason. I wrote it but forgot to hit publish. Appropriately enough, this one was called a lost day.

A lost day?

Sometimes we feel as if we suffered through a day without getting anything accomplished.

We only have so many days in a lifetime.

So it is natural to feel this way from time to time.

The trick, however, comes from observation.

Observing all of the good things in our lives.

The small, discrete moments of human interaction.

A micro-win in the day-to-day.

Sometimes it is an achievement to just show up.

Maybe that is the most that we could do that day.

We certainly do not want to have too many lost days in a row.

Lost days lead to lost years lead to a lost life.

There is a difference, of course, between unplugging from the grid and just mindlessly going through our day.

Sometimes reconnecting to the earth and our spirit may seem like a day of loss because nothing really happened, but that is far from the truth.

We need those moments.

The moments that we do not need are mindless moments – binging on television, video games, the internet, food or mind-numbing substances.

Those can truly lead to a lost day.

For today, let us be mindful. Let us strive to make today a day of meaning – in a small way or a big way.

If we are in a string of lost days, let’s decide that today will be different.

For unless we shift our mindset, we can probably add one more tally to our lost day chart.