Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Wassup w/happiness? (long, but fast read!)

I asked myself why I've been writing so much lately about happiness.

I realize it's because I'm happy - and I see so many people who are not only unhappy, but who actively make unhappiness happen in their lives.

They get in their own way, sabotage themselves, cut off healthy people and choices in their lives-

I guess I remember how I used to do the same thing way back when and how deeply I wished I had someone like me to show me the way, to turn on the light for that road less taken.

I do have more to say on the subject, but for now, I'm putting it to rest because whether Proust or Patrick, we all have to make the decision on our own, as I did, that happy is the way I want to feel, live and how I wish to deal with life.

As thousands of books, Oprah, Dr. Phil and the million other people who have found their own way to happiness know: it is no secret: making the decision to be happy - to have the desire to make the most of who we truly are live it to the fullest - is the first step.

Learning just how to be, behave and live that way day after day, minute by minute, has been the most challenging and enlightening path for me to take - and it's all been worth it.

I know I've said it before, but it's true: I wish you happiness.

The more happy people there are, the kinder we will treat ourselves and one another; the kinder we treat ourselves and one another, the more we will understand one another. The more we understand one another, the better we will get along. The better we get along, the less violence there will be. The less violence there will be, the fewer the wars will break out. The fewer the wars break out, the more we will focus on real issues in the world: health, education, the environment, self sufficiency and how a variety of cultures can live together in peace.

Interestingly, many people believe that we "need" war to keep economies stimulated. A lot of people mae a *lot* of money from waging war.

What they don't get is that if our economy shifted focus to thrive economically from promoting environmental welfare, empowering and educating people to become self-sufficient, healthy, understand each of us has a positive role to play in the world - that each of us belongs here - and capable of determining our own futures, the planet would thrive as we do.

The earth is the little canary in the world's coal mine.

If you listen carefully, you will hear that the little guy's song becoming weaker and weaker.

If you don't listen because you have better things to do? You will not only be shocked when he dies, but part of the reason he suffocated and mad as hell at all those "other people" who killed him because they wouldn't stop deforestation, polluting, overpopulating, killing off hundreds of species who are indicator animals.

"Indicator animals" are those whose welfare indicates the state of the environment in which they live.

There was a huge fight in the Northwest about the status of the endangered spotted owl, which relies on old forest growth to survive. If the spotted owl is in trouble, so is its environment. Loggers wanted to continue to harvest logs while environmentalists said that logging had to desist until the spotted owl's environment was healthy again.

Old forest growth takes decades - if not centuries - to thrive without interference other than clearing brush.

The media fight became between the "greedy" timber industry and the "idiot tree huggers" who don't make a living from the land. The stories almost *never* mentioned the spotted owl is an indicator species.

Like if the loggers keep logging without conisdering the future of the spotted owl? Um, no more logs, no more living off the land, and another area is deforested which reportedly contributes to more global warming.

If the environmentalists figured out a way to preserve the old growth forests in a way that would allow a healthy way to preserve the forests' integrity and - ultimately - maintain a thriving logging industry; if the logging industry came in with the attitude of needing to preserve its source of income by protecting the spotted owl, rather than just wanting to clear cut a forest then moving on to another area? The negotiations and media coverage would not have been so vitriolic.

As always, the enemies dehumanized one another at the outset - "Those greedy bastards don't care about the environment!" "Those tree-hugging hippies don't care about putting people out of work!"

The government stepped in by making proclamations rather than inviting all parties in before any proclamations were made so there would be a clear understanding of why the spotted owl needed to be protected. More, why wait until the species is endangered before taking action?

Let's face it - negotiators from all sides were un-happy! Unhappy people feel attacked instead of viewing a problem as a challenge.

They push people to take sides like two immature parents fighting over the custody of their kids in a nasty divorce.

Of course the innocent owl was caught in the middle - as its habitat was being destroyed, and by extension, the future of the logging industry there as well as contributing to the environmental illness of the world.

My wish is that one day I'll read the headline, "HAPPY PEOPLE MAKE PEACE BREAK OUT!"

I know it sounds woo woo and laa laa and tie-dye print and artsy fartsy to a lot of readers.

Believe me, it's not.

As you can see from my one very simple example, it's a totally left-brain, logical way to reason and think and negotiate.

We just have to teach people how to reallign their philosophies and reasoning systems.

But, as with happiness - they must make the decision they want to live, work and thrive as happy, educated, truthful people whose goal is to improve life for individuals and communities.

As it is, the unhappy "bad" conservatives supposedly only want what is best for the individual - generally the wealthy individual - those who have, keeping government out of our lives as much as possible (until it comes to intruding in our bedrooms, religions, women's bodies and other private matters) -

And the unhappy "bad" liberals supposedly only want government enforcing what they believe is good for the group - making government responsible for the welfare of everyone, including the "have nots." Of course, the folks who have to pay for it should be the "haves," only the "haves" have enough power to make sure the folks who end up paying more than their fair share are the "have nots."

Thus, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

I wish others would join me in understanding that it's time to rethink how we deal with all parts of a system wherein the people who are supposedly "in charge" of a republic - voters - are only left to feel constantly betrayed, lied to, powerless, helpless and .. dare I say it? UN-HAPPY!

My apologies for the length of this blog! Peace out! -cp

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Proust's suffering and happiness

If you've seen the film Little Miss Sunshine, you know Steve Carell's character explains that Marcel Proust is considered as great or greater a writer than Shakespeare - whose life was filled with suffering until the last few years of his life.

At the end Proust said his happiest days were those fraught with suffering; that the time he ought to have considered himself happy were dull and unfulfilling.

Knowing me as you do (if you're a regular cp blog reader), I have to ponder his reflection and make a comment or two.

Fortunately for you, I won't use Proust's writing style because he was exceedingly loquacious, and by comparison my notes will be as concise as a three-year old's short term memory.

My first response: Hmmmm. I'm happy and don't consider my life unnecessarily difficult. I have faced challenges that most might consider suffering - like breast cancer, several biopsies, lumpectomies and surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, unpleasant ups and downs of any career in journalism and the arts, PTSD from the many traumatizing experiences I experienced as a child (my family moved 17 times by the time I was 17), Air Force veteran and journalist; a serious bout of depression; one truly miserable relationship (among others that were quite pleasant)-

Whoa. A biographer only reading this list without actually knowing me or having the perspective of reading the extended list of what I've done that is considered exciting, positive, valuable, fulfilling and/or rewarding would not have the slightest idea or understandng of who I am . Mostly because - except for that one relationship - I've enjoyed taking on life's tests and challenges.

I mean, bring it on.

What I'm saying is that what others may consider suffering, I take as simply one more thing in life with which to deal, along with all the other wonderful things I've been so fortunate to experience.

I have a feeling what could have happened to Proust is that he also got a emotional kick out of all the things life handed him - but then didn't have an awareness of the emotional impact so many of his challenges had on him. His life was full because of all the physical and emotional challenges he faced daily.

Then, like it happens with most of us, when he no longer had that emotional kick, he realized something was missing - finally having an awareness the impact those experiences had on him.

And perhaps at the end he simply gave in to what was handed him and relaxed because he wasn't forced to deal with a deluge of circumstances that previously made him feel fully alive day in and day out.

I read that another great novelist, Leo Tolstoy, was so successful that he basically allowed himself to "go to seed." People around him did everything for him - to a ridiculous degree - as he was left free to write and write and write some more.

That sort of "man of leisure" existence could become boring and tedious for someone like Proust, making life much less fun or engaging.

With success, at last, Proust may have found he no longer had the urgent sense of living with fewer stressful challenges that used to fill his life and provide the passion for creating his novels whenever he could.

So perhaps his definition of happiness was simply to be fully engaged - emotionally and physically - with life every moment, because he was forced to.

Then he didn't realize how to adapt, creating that sense of urgency and passion within himself when it wasn't shoved in his face.

IMO, happiness is a state of being we choose to have - no matter what is or isn't happening in our lives. And feeling fully alive - completely engaged in life - is also a choice that we make every minute of every day, whether we realize it or not.

A great example of making attitude choices in life is the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray's character morphs from a self-centered, arrogant, unhappy, immature jerk into a fulfilled man - who learns how to live happily ever after when he decides to enjoy - and share - every minute of his life by becoming genuine, empathetic, compassionate and generous.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Look where you WANT to go!

I met someone at a dinner party recently who had the opportunity to take a course in race car driving - one lesson of which she takes with her through life now.

Basically, when a race car driver sees himself heading toward a collision, he must not look in the direction of the oncoming crash, but instead at where he wants to go to prevent the accident!

My dinner companion said she was certain she could do it. She understood its reasoning, how it would indeed prevent a tragedy and how effective the idea is for racing and for living.

But when she found herself behind the wheel of a simulated race car on the track, as she was barrellng toward a brick wall, she was paralyzed, staring at the oncoming barricade, caught like a deer in headlights.

The pro driver/teacher sitting beside her actually pushed her face toward where she needed to go to prevent the simulated smash-up.

"Look where you *want* to go, not where you're going," he admonished her.

Impressive advice.

I thought of all the times I had simply looked straight ahead unconsciously at where I was already going rather than awarely viewing - surveying - where I really wanted to go.

I'm very good about taking in the world around me when I take a walk, go for a ferry ride, hike, and drive. As Sherlock Holmes would put it, I like to observe rather than only see.

But to make a concerted effort to see and observe where I want to go, what I want to do? This concept is not just a way to live past a potential pile-up literally, but a great philosophy.

Let's say you're working as a plumber and where you really want to go - what you really want to do - is become a singer.

So instead of staring directly ahead at plumbing work day after day and feeling stuck there, you start looking where you want to go while still using your plumbing skills to keep you on the road.
You take voice lessons, study music, watch/listen to your favorite artists, perform at open mikes, network with pro's and work your way up the live performance and recording food chain, kicking off your career.

Or who knows? You may find something else along the way that turns you on even more because you're looking for how you want to feel as well as where you want to go!

In relationships, work, hobbies, special interests, volunteer opportunities, weight loss, releasing addictions, or life in general: are you aware of where you want to go? Looking in that direction? Keeping an eye out to find your personal passion or fulfilling work if you aren't sure what it is now?

Or are you gazing straight ahead, unaware where you're going or why, simply letting life happen to you without considering what else living may offer you - or what you have to offer yourself and the world?

There are times I have to remember to push my face in the direction I want to go because sometimes it's easier to keep marching straight ahead without listening to myself, becoming lost in the din of the world's white noise.

Then I realize if I don't give myself the opportunity to at least glance in the direction I want to go, no matter how difficult that might be, the only collision I have to worry about is running into myself.

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