True Rules

In The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin talks about “True Rules.”  According to her, True Rules are the little personal rules we all make to get through life.  I think of them as sort of a personal code of conduct.  They are what we use to make decisions on a day to day basis; and so engrained in our psyche that we don’t even think about them anymore.  They aren’t always logical, nor do they always make things easier, but they do exist.

I read about her True Rules last week while traveling for business.  I couldn’t get the idea out of my head and started thinking about my own.  I thought I would try to put together a list of some of them:

When in Rome – eat what the locals eat.  This is a big one for me since i do a lot of traveling, but it is also true for dining in my hometown.  I try to go to places I haven’t gone before and order the items off the menu that have I’ve never eaten before.  If I haven’t even heard of it before, all the better!

When you are going somewhere new, always give yourself more time to drive somewhere than you need to.  Okay, this has resulted in me being fairly early, fairly often, but has also saved my butt more times than not.  On the other side though, I get really twitchy if I am running late and can drive the people with me a bit nuts.

When traveling, dress up a bit.  You never know when your luggage isn’t going to arrive with you and you are going to have to give a seminar in what you traveled in.  So far, (knock on wood,) I have never had to test this out.  I do think, however, that I do get better service from airlines and other personal when I am dressed for business, so that makes it worthwhile.

Keep your lawn mowed.

Don’t pry.  If someone wants to tell you something, they will.  This one has backfired on me more than once – especially when what I considered prying was someone else’s version of showing that I care.

Overdress.  This goes along with the one about traveling in dress clothes.  When you are unsure of the dress code – being overdressed is more socially acceptable than being underdressed.  (Although I am starting to wonder if this one is true anymore.)

Write it down.  I’m a big fan of todo lists and notes to myself.

Tidy room = tidy mind.  I feel more calm in a clean house. Unfortunately, the flip side of this coin is that it becomes a source of stress when I don’t have time to clean and things get cluttered.  I am far more anxious about it than I should be.

You have a responsibility to complete your commitments.  True, but a major source of stress when I say “yes” to something I am unsuited for.  I have painted myself into several corners this way.

Make your bed.  (Hmmm… pretty sure I forgot to do this one today.)

The best defense, is a closed mouth.  AKA if you don’t have anything to say… shut up.  Sometimes I can be way too chatty, but when it comes to things that matter, I tend to keep my cards close to the vest.  I share my real self with only a select few people.

I know there are a lot more of these, but they are so instinctive they are hard to pin down.  I’ll keep thinking about them and add more to this list as I think of them.  What I would like to do is take a look at some of these and see if they are really helping me in my life, or if it is time to let a few things go.

Things Are Taking Shape

I just changed my tag line. It was Thoughts, Musings, Plans and Reflections which honestly, felt a little mushy to me – too amorphous. Okay, that is what I am doing here, but it doesn’t say why. I think it was because I didn’t have a clear picture of it myself.

However, after the last couple of posts, things are starting to become a little clearer. I could see a shape and direction to this blog, which is coincidentally, to put shape and direction to my life. Here are some of the concepts I was playing with, you can see my thought progression:

Setting Goals

Pursing Happiness

Making Order

Looking Ahead

Finding a Good Fit

Answering the age old question, “Where do you want to be in 10 years?”

Self Improvement

Creating a Life

The Next 20 Years

The Next 20 Years – my goals, the journey, and discovering who I want to be.

The Next 20 Years – discovering how I want to live.

The Next 20 Years – Becoming the Woman I Want to Be and the Life I Want to Live.

Becoming the Woman I Want to Be and Discovering the Life I Want to Live

Interesting, eh? I really like the idea of putting a 20 year goal out there, but I didn’t like the way it looked in the tagline. (It made the words wrap.) Besides, I turn 39 in September so really this should be “Where I Want to Be in 21 Years or So” and that didn’t feel right either. So, I took it off for the tagline, but I think I will keep the concept.

I like the idea of putting some hard time frames out there. What do I want my life to look like when I am 60? When I am 50? When I am 45? How do I want to be living? What do I want to be more of? Less? And as importantly, Who do I want to be?

That last question deserves a post (or six) to itself, so I won’t try to answer any of this today.  For now I am just going to be happy in my accomplishment of starting to define my purpose. I like that.

Life, Liberty and Pursuit of a Beautiful Garden

More inspiration:  Right after starting this blog, I got an email from Burpee.  Yes, that Burpee – the specialists in seeds and plants.  It seems they are having their Fordhook Farm Open Days and will be “celebrating happiness and all that flowers, shrubs and ornamental trees do to bring it into being.”  They sent out an email on happiness and how it relates to all the wonderful things we grow in the garden.  This is the part that got me:

Yet, when you think about it, you detect patterns. [Thomas] Jefferson wasn’t referring to feelings. I lug down my Johnson’s Dictionary. There is another clue. A “happy” person is “ready”, as Johnson puts it in definition #3. As in “fit”, this definition fits the concept of happiness very well. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of whatever fits me—I’ll be ready for it.”

The Declaration of Independence becomes even more interesting when you consider, “pursuit”, my favorite word in Jefferson’s phrase. I like to think that he was most proud of “pursuit”. It means “occupation” in its secondary definition. Certainly, one wishes to pursue something that fits or is fitting one’s goal or purpose. As Homer suggested, “The journey is greater than the destination.” And one always has to earn—or win—one’s occupation, by either luck or pluck.

My horticulture mentor, Claude Hope, used the word “happy” to describe plants that were thriving in their position or site in a garden. “It’s very happy there”, he’d say about a begonia. “They love it, they’re happy,” referring to a bed of orange hybrid impatiens in an English park. A very fit man, Claude Hope was descended from a long line of Scotch Irish dairy farmers and, earlier, peasants. Like my grandfather’s grandfathers. Peasants of peasants. “Land races”, to use a horticultural term. No drawing rooms, pubs or long dinners of, well, happy conversation for them, as for Messrs. Johnson and Boswell.

Claude’s and my forebears were not especially happy, in all likelihood, except in the definition of “lucky”. Indeed, they were “yearning to breathe free”, in the words of the poet Emma Lazarus, carved into the base of the Statue of Liberty. So, one way or another, they pursued happiness.

Like a composite flower, the word “happiness” collects all of these old and new forms and presents them to us. Contentment, well-being and a sense of euphoria are derived from the good luck of having ancestors who were fit to make it across the Atlantic, the Pacific or overland to a place where fortune smiles and a person’s destiny or fate can be discovered.

A happy word, then, is “happiness”.

These are some of the very things I am working on – being ready for whatever fits me, enjoying the journey of discovery and thriving in a place that fits me.  It makes me laugh that a newsletter from a gardening company could hit so close to home and so beautifully encapsulate the very thing I am trying to pin down.  Well done, Burpee, well done.


I just read a wonderful post by Leigh on her blog: In Case I’m Gone.  Here is an excerpt:

Slow Down

by leighmcg3 on May 22, 2012

I have a tendency to rush. Not rush my work per say, but to feel burdened by the sense of what I need to accomplish, then flap around trying to complete everything faster and more efficiently. I’m a multi-tasker to the extreme and for the most part I’m quite highly functioning. The thing is, when I really stop to consider my behavior – which is rare, because who has the time to do that? – I realize that I’m not necessarily enjoying myself. For all my efficiency I’m stretched a bit thin and I’m becoming aware that I often miss moments thinking about, or dealing with, something else. I like completing tasks. I like checking things off my list. But for all the things I do, my list is never shorter. There’s always something else to add, handle or deal with. Maybe it’s the life of a mother, or a woman, or just the general burden of adulthood.  I’m just not sure it’s the best way to live.

Go over to Leigh’s blog to read the rest – it is beautifully written and well worth the time.

It seems since I started thinking about these kinds of things that I am finding inspiration everywhere.  One of the things I am going to do with this blog is put them here to remember and review.  Though I am not a mother, Leigh’s blog frequently inspires me to think about how we look at life and what is important.  “Slow Down” is no exception.

Big Questions

Some thoughts:

– What do I want to do with the rest of my life?

I have a good, sort of basic job in a small office handling accounts, sales, marketing – that kind of thing. I work with a good group of people, receive decent wages and benefits, and have comfortable hours. This company has taken very good care of me over the last 13+ years. I cannot say it is exactly what I thought I would be doing at this point in my life, but priorities change. The question is, is it what I want to continue to do for the next 13 years? If not this, what do I want to do and how do I get there?

 – How about volunteering?

There was a time in my career that I struggled with my job because I wanted to do something that “mattered.” I wanted to give back; be a part of a charity or nonprofit that I deeply cared about. Eventually, however, I realized I didn’t need to switch careers to reach that goal.

Currently, I serve as President of the a Board for an arts nonprofit that I am deeply passionate about. I feel like I am making a difference and I have one year of my term left. After which I do not expect to leave the Board, but my responsibilities will lighten. (This is a good thing. The arts are a demanding mistress. It takes up a lot of time.) So, what do I do next? Do I keep the status quo, are there other things for this company I can do? Or do I try to use my volunteer time for something different all together – something for myself?

– Do I stay or do I go?

I always thought I would move to another city. I always thought something would call me – a job, a love, a desire to live in another climate – something. Yet, here I am, in the same city where I was born. I am okay with that, I like it here and have a tremendous network of friends and family, but depending on my career choices, where I live may change. Am I open to that? I always thought so, but I really don’t know anymore.

– The house.

Even if I continue to live in my current city, do I want to keep living in my current house? I have mixed feelings about my house, that I swear, change day to day. Some days I love it, some days I dream about moving to a condo in a high rise, with less maintenance and less aggravation. I can’t sell it in the current market (not for what I have into it,) but I am just starting to see homes in my area listed for roughly what I paid for mine. I don’t see myself going anywhere for awhile, but I’m not sure about the future. How much I decide to invest in the house and what upgrades I choose to do, depends on how long I am going to commit to live there.

– How do I get more done?

I am continually frustrated by my lack of time. As I wrote in the last post, I need time outside of actual time. Until someone discovers how to open a time space continuum for me though, I think I am out of luck. So, what I can do to insure that I (for the most part) have the time I need to do the things that are important to me?

– What kind of woman do I want to be?

I believe that one of the keys to happiness is to be constantly growing, learning and stretching our boundaries. I think one of our jobs as adults is to keep educating ourselves. When life is really busy though, this is one of the first things to go out the window. I certainly haven’t been doing much of it lately. But I think it is important, so what do I want to learn and study? Should I go back to school? If not school, then I can create my own curriculum, but I need to know my goals first. Do I want to learn all the bird calls in the Midwest? Learn another language? Expand my cooking skills? Get a Master’s degree? The answer is yes to all of these – but if I am going to do any of them, I need to focus on one of them.

These are some of the big questions rolling through my head. I think if I can answer a few of them, the others will start falling into place. Once I have that, I can set goals and make plans. First though, I need to pick a place to start.

Please, Just a Little More Time

We are never so happy or as unhappy as we imagine.
La Rochefoucauld, Maxims 1678

Tuesday night I had a glass of wine with a great friend. I told her, “I just want three weeks. Three weeks snuck in between today and tomorrow; that’s what I want.” I’m not talking about a vacation. Vacations are lovely, but time doesn’t stop while one is on vacation. You come back and there is just as much (if not more) work waiting for you when you get back. I am not dreaming of a magical three weeks because I want to work on my tan. What I want is time to get things done – to mow the yard, weed the garden, read a book, clean my house from top to bottom, and so forth. I want time to do all the things that need doing, without interrupting the rest of my life. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

I’ve been working on the concept of acceptance. When it comes to house and home, I want things a certain way, and frankly, I have a hard time when they are different than how I imagine they should be. It makes me twitchy when the lawn is too long, when the counters aren’t clean… when there are mini tumbleweeds of dog hair building in the corners. I have been trying to tell myself that these things are natural – grass grows, counters clutter, dogs shed. I also try to console myself with the fact that I was busy with X or was working on Y, but even though those things are true, it doesn’t change the fact that the lawn needs mowing.

There is one solution, of course. There isn’t much that can’t be solved with large amounts of cash. I could hire a gardener, a house cleaner, and a dog walker. I can pay my handyman to do house repair projects and hire an organizer to come clean my closet, but I don’t have that kind of money. Besides, it isn’t that I don’t want to do these things myself, it is simply that I don’t have the time. I actually love gardening, and throwing on the tunes and scrubbing the house.

So, what I need to do is set priorities and create routines that help me get things done. Maybe I’ll have time to do that… tomorrow.