My Favorite Quotes

Here I have compiled some of my favorite quotes. Some of them are from books I’ve read. Some of them are in prose form, some poetry. Some of them are from favorite authors of mine, others from authors with whom I’m not incredibly familiar. Some from popular authors, others from authors not well-known. Some of them I’ve come across randomly, others I’ve sought out. They inspire me in some way or are just beautiful passages. I begin with my favorite author, Shirley Jackson.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality. Even katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.

~Shirley Jackson

I know something about this obsession business. It isn’t real. It is a huge cloud of looming nothingness triggered off by small events. But it is not real. I am the captain of my fate. Laughter is possible. ~Shirley Jackson

‘Can’t you make them stop?’ I asked her that day, wondering if there was anything in this woman I could speak to, if she had ever run joyfully over grass, or had watched flowers, or known delight or love. ~Shirley Jackson

When shall we live if not now? ~Shirley Jackson

So long as you write it away regularly, nothing can really hurt you.

~Shirley Jackson

Time is the only critic without ambition. ~John Steinbeck

The power is in you. The answer is in you. And you are the answer to all your searches. You are the goal. You are the answer. It’s never outside.

~Eckhart Tolle

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ~James Baldwin

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. ~Emily Dickinson

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you. ~Charles Bukowski

If I never see you again I will always carry you Inside, Outside. On my fingertips and at brain edges and at centers, centers of what I am of what remains. ~Charles Bukowski

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster. ~Elizabeth Bishop

Breathe and release anything that does not serve you. ~Anonymous

The root of suffering is attachment. ~The Buddha

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. ~Mahatma Gandhi

I am rooted, but I flow. ~Virginia Woolf

My brain hums with scraps of poetry and madness. ~Virginia Woolf

No need to hurry, no need to sparkle, no need to be anybody but oneself. ~Virginia Woolf

How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself. ~Virginia Woolf

So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea. ~Virginia Woolf

What is the meaning of life? That was all — a simple question; one that tended to close in on oneself with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. ~Virginia Woolf

Who shall measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught and tangled in a woman’s body? ~Virginia Woolf

Many are destined to reason wrongly; others, not to reason at all; and others, to persecute those who do reason. ~Voltaire

Poetry is what happens when nothing else can. ~Charles Bukowski

I am a series of small victories and large defeats and I am as amazed as any other that I have gotten from there to here. ~Charles Bukowski

The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you. ~C.G. Jung

Difference is what unites us. The exceptional is ubiquitous; to be entirely typical is the rare and lonely state. ~Andrew Solomon

Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open. ~Natalie Goldberg

I think hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go. ~ Neil Gaiman

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself. ~Neil Gaiman

A library is a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it. That includes health information. And mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world. ~Neil Gaiman

Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. ~Gibran

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend. ~Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles William Eliot

A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only real requirement is the ability to remember every scar. ~Stephen King

You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop. ~Rumi

Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. ~Rumi

I cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do. ~Jana Stanfield

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King

Why I Don’t Have Children

I’m at that age where many people are surprised that I do not already have children and that I don’t want any children in the future. Especially for women, not wanting children can invite a lot of criticism, judgment, and assumptions from others. Not all of them are ill-intentioned. For example, recently, when I told an older lady I am not married and do not have any children, she patted my hand and said, “That’s okay. You still have time” (assuming that I am discontent with my single and child-free status ).

So why wouldn’t someone want children? First, let’s examine some of the common reasons for wanting them. Some people want to be assured there will be someone to take care of them when they’re old. However, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? Most adult children who take care of their elderly parents don’t do it because it’s easy and fun. They do it because of feelings of love, loyalty, and obligation. It requires a lot of time away from their own children, possibly a lot of money, a lot of reconfiguring things to fit the needs of the elderly parent, and a great amount of patience (especially in the case of dementia, Alzheimer’s, incontinence, physical incapacitation, etc).

Some people want to pass down their legacy to their children. Again, isn’t this an inherently selfish reason? It’s all about the parent. And what if the adult child makes decisions that do not please the parent, maybe even go against fundamental beliefs and paradigms about the world held by the parent? The legacy the child lives might not be the one the parent wanted to leave.

Others want their families to be able to enjoy grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Although this is a more noble reason, it still does not take precedence over the numerous reasons for not having children.

Some people see it as “normal” to have kids and do not want to appear “abnormal”. These are often people who are being urged to have kids by friends and families, told “what good parents they would make”, and don’t like to stand out from the crowd. People in this group might also be worried their lives won’t mean anything if they do not raise children. However, something’s value cannot be proven simply by the fact that it’s prevalent. The value of making more human beings cannot be proven simply by citing the fact that a lot of people do it. There is nothing inherently noble about having children, nothing shameful about not. It is my opinion that our lives have no inherent meaning and that they must be given meaning by each of us as individuals (perhaps more on this in a future post?).

I suspect most parents never really weighed all the pros and cons seriously before having kids, and many, I’m sure, weren’t even aware of all the cons. But what could possibly be the cons to having children? I have identified many cons to having kids, some of which apply to everyone, and some only to myself.

In no special order…

I don’t want children because mental illness runs in my family. There is mental illness in both my immediate and extended family. In fact, three members of my immediate family have attempted suicide. I have also suffered with mental illness, myself. I wouldn’t want to pass this down to my children or to give them a sub-par childhood because of my own issues.

I don’t want children because they make me nervous. I prefer adult conversations. Children are more unpredictable, have not yet developed filters, and have not yet learned the social norms that often govern our conversations and interactions with each other. There are many adults who not only can handle this, but thrive working with children. Generally-speaking, I am not one of them.

I don’t want children because I am not financially stable. I have worked menial jobs my entire life, despite having a higher-than-average education. I have come pretty close to living in my car. It takes a lot of money to raise children nowadays, and I would not want to make children to whom I cannot offer every advantage. In a past era, a person who was honest and a hard-worker would be financially set. Nowadays, it’s far harder to reach financial security, due to wages not staying up with inflation, jobs requiring higher education and more experience, the weakening of unions, everything being much more expensive, and more people vying for fewer jobs as the population has exploded and many jobs are now automated or obsolete…

just to name a few.

I don’t want children because I would be tied to the child’s father. I have known other women have children with men they thought they knew and could trust, only later to find out they were wrong. It’s hard for me to trust someone enough to make this important decision with them, especially considering people often change, and parenting is an 18+ year commitment. If I choose to have a baby with the wrong person, that doesn’t just affect my life. It affects my child’s, as well.

I don’t want children because of the heavy responsibility parenting is. I take parenting to be a very serious endeavor and not something to be chosen lightly. Parenting really isn’t about raising children — it’s about raising future adults. It is imperative to consistently use authoritative parenting techniques (as opposed to dismissive or authoritarian), which give children boundaries without stifling their natural curiosity and independent spirits. To form children into adults who are strong, yet kind; are sensitive, yet not thin-skinned; appreciate humor, yet show respect; put themselves and their families first, while caring and doing for those outside their own circles; are ambitious, yet at peace, ETC., is not an easy feat. And although it’s possible to engage in child-minding and child-rearing roles (working with children, helping to raise a niece or nephew, etc.) motherhood is permanent, and you can never “put the genie back in the bottle” once you’ve decided to bring a child into the world.

I don’t want children because I want to feel free to be spontaneous. Children need consistency and stability. For example, it would be irresponsible and selfish to pick up in the middle of a school year and move or to take an unplanned vacation without your child. Every decision I made would need to pass the “Is this the best thing for my child?” test.

I don’t want children because I have already had a lot of experience with child-rearing duties with my own siblings. For many years I had heavy child care responsibilities for my younger siblings that surpassed mere babysitting duties. Because of my parents splitting up and neither one’s mental health being great, a lot of the burden of my siblings’ wellbeing fell on me, and I acted as their primary parent. I feel that I have already experienced parenthood and am not ready for it again. In a way, I feel thankful that I am in the minority of people who were able to “try out” parenting before committing to it.

I don’t want children because the earth already has enough people. The world population has more than doubled just since the 1960’s. There are a finite amount of resources to go around, and already scientists are warning that things cannot continue at this rate or human beings (as well as all other species) will go extinct. Advances in fertility treatments, life expectancies increasing, and infant mortality rates decreasing have all contributed to the earth’s population explosion.

I’d like to make a special point of saying that a career is not one of the reasons I don’t want children. Many people jump to conclusions when they hear someone (especially a woman) say she doesn’t want children — the implication being these are the only two choices for women. However, there are many ways to live a life, and I’ve decided neither of these ways is fit for me.

It feels good to get my thoughts surrounding this topic organized and compiled in written form. Thank you for taking the time to read them. Is there anyone reading this who has also made the decision to remain child-free? Do you have other reasons than the ones I listed for doing so? I would love to hear your thoughts on this controversial and sensitive topic.

Ditching the Drama

Engaging in drama and gossip can feel highly satisfying in the moment, and the juicier the gossip, the more satisfying the feeling. However, it can be a liability in the long-run. For one, gossip is often not true. In fact, you can hear multiple pieces of gossip that contradict each other. It’s possible those you’re hearing it from are lying to you.

However, it’s also possible (much like the game ‘telephone’), they believe they are telling the truth, perhaps something they, also, have heard secondhand. Relying on a piece of misinformation can result in forming unrealistic expectations. For example, when you’re new to a job, a coworker might warn you about a certain supervisor being really strict or let you know that another supervisor is really lax and you can get away with a lot. Or you might be told a rumor that So-and-So from Accounting and So-and-So from Sales are sleeping together.

Before even having dealings with these individuals yourself, you begin to form beliefs about their character and how they will treat you. These expectations cause you to feel resentment towards them immediately. It is less stressful not to know some information, especially in the workplace, if it doesn’t facilitate you doing your job or make your day any easier.

It’s easier to do your job and view your coworkers and superiors as fellow professionals if you aren’t aware of all their supposed dirty laundry. In the case of a supervisor with the reputation of being lax, it is dangerous to base your work off of that bit of gossip for fear it isn’t true, has been exaggerated, or causes the quality of your work to slip, possibly endangering your job security.

And I have personally experienced mentally taking the job home with me, as it’s hard to stop thinking about the negative things I’ve heard about people at work and how they will possibly affect me. Additionally, not partaking in the gossip mill puts you in the position to honestly claim ignorance on a sensitive topic if you are asked about your knowledge of it. In doing so, you won’t be forced to “choose sides”, which could make you a target. In general, keeping your work life professional by not participating in gossip and drama can help keep you sane, as well as help you make and retain the work relationships you need to succeed in your position.

Likewise, it is wise to be careful what information you offer about yourself to those at work. You must realize you are potentially in competition with your coworkers for promotions, incentives, and other perks, so it is important you maintain a rather sterile and professional image of yourself. For example, telling coworkers or your manager about drama going on with your relatives could cause them to see you in a different light or to make negative assumptions about you.

I recently started a new job and this topic has been on my mind. Already I have heard gossip and have been tempted to participate in the negativity. I figured I would write about it as a way to deal with it head-on while I’m thinking clearly, as well as to possibly relate with my readers. Have any of you been tempted to engage in workplace drama? Has workplace drama ever resulted in consequences for you or others?

Contentment vs. Striving

Both contentment and goal-setting are lauded as positive by society. Yet they seem very much like opposites. If you’re content, why are you striving to reach goals? If you’re striving to reach goals, does that mean you’re not content?

Let’s examine the issue. What is your reason for goal-setting? How do you know if your goals are worthy and are coming from a positive place? Is your motivation internal or external? What positives will reaching the goal bring into your life? Is it a lasting or temporary positive?

Be honest with yourself about why you’re setting a certain goal and whether the motivation comes from a place of good faith or insecurity. For example, wanting to lose weight because your BMI is dangerously high, you have trouble breathing after walking up one flight of stairs, or your knees have started to hurt are all healthy reasons to want to lose weight. But losing weight in order to catch your crush’s eye is not. The first set of reasons are in the spirit of self-care and self-love and have lasting positive effects. The second reason is due to feelings of inferiority, of not being “good enough”. And even if you do lose weight and win over your crush, a relationship based on looks is unstable, dehumanizing, bound to cause resentment on your part, and can be easily severed by the introduction of someone who is even better-looking. In other words, the effects are temporary. Likewise, setting a goal to make an A this quarter instead of a B is a worthy, healthy goal if it’s springing from yourself instead of your parents and is due to you knowing you are capable of making a better grade. In this case, the goal emanates from your knowledge that you are highly capable, intelligent, hard-working, and an A is within your grasp. On the contrary, giving in to your parents or professor and setting a goal to make an A when you used all your talents, skills, abilities, and other positive traits to make the B, is self-defeating, self-sabotaging, and inherently comes from a place of seeking to placate others by admitting to the falsehood that you’re not good enough as you are.

Is it lazy to be content? Should you always be goal-setting? Feeling contented (fulfilled, satisfied) when you already have what you need is often an indication you have not given in to societal standards that urge you to always be buying, upgrading, competing, and climbing life’s “ladder of success.” And goal-setting should not be considered inherently positive. Contentment and striving are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. You can feel content but also set goals. If you don’t meet the goals you set for yourself, does your unconditional positive-regard for yourself become diminished? It shouldn’t if you are truly content. If so, reappraise the motivation and origin of your goals. Are your goals the result of self-hate, lack of confidence, not feeling like you measure up, or not feeling like you play an important role in the world? This might mean self-care and introspection should take place in the immediate and goals set on the “back burner” until they can be re-evaluated when you are in a healthier and more loving frame of mind towards yourself. According to the Buddha, “the root of suffering is attachment”.

Happiness should be a positive effect of contentment and goal-achieving. It should not be the goal, itself. It should be the means, not the end. Striving for happiness is the best, fastest way to rob yourself of contentment. Happiness is an amorphous, abstract concept, and therefore, it’s easy to chase it your whole life. Instead, ensuring that you are living in a way concordant with your physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, financial, social, and spiritual health will bring happiness. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Happiness is like a butterfly. The more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

Accents and Attitudes

Recently I’ve been noticing how accents and attitudes are similar in that, the more you’re around them, the more likely you are to adopt them, yourself. If I am around people at work who speak a certain way, use a certain kind of slang or colloquialisms, I find myself using them when I’m away from work, unintentionally. I also find the same concept applies to attitudes. When I’m surrounded by people with positive, optimistic attitudes, I tend to take on those same feelings. Likewise, when I am around negative, pessimistic people, I feel discontent and dread the unknown and new, myself. It’s easier to surround yourself with positive people when not at work, but you can’t control who your coworkers are. Spending eight hours a day around people who bring you down can be the recipe for a miserable time.

I have just started a new job where the training period is very long and the work takes a while to learn and master. I’ve made it through the first week but the next several weeks is when we really get into the meat of the job duties and put them into practice. I’ve made the commitment to be as positive an influence as possible. This will not only hopefully put those around me in a positive state of mind, but will put me in the frame of mind to learn and absorb rapidly and to expect success, not failure! The difference is palpable when I interact with fellow trainees and other coworkers who are positive, helpful, pleasant people. I feel calm, optimistic, and self-assured. On the contrary, interacting with negative, sour, unpleasant coworkers makes me feel negative and unsure of myself. I don’t want to set myself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy, where I tell myself I can’t, so I can’t. I want to use the law of attraction to manifest greatness so that I can be great!

Gaining Closure on Closure

The desire to “gain closure” is a common one, experienced by people who have extended feelings of hurt and loss that ensue following a negative event, such as the breakup of a relationship, death of someone close, or not getting a promotion at work. Pursuing closure is usually thought of as a healthful, positive way of dealing with hurt. However, what happens if closure never happens? If it’s never offered to you? It’s understandable to feel the need to know why things happened the way they did. However, one thing I have had to learn is that many times in life, you never get answers.

Dwelling on gaining closure can act as a defense mechanism that lets us indulge in self-pity rather than making necessary changes, letting go, and moving on. For example, it can be easier to obsess over why your partner broke up with you than to stop thinking about them at all. At least in the first scenario they are not out of your life totally, because they’re still on your mind. Meanwhile, you’re living in the past, convincing yourself it’s the present, and robbing yourself of a future.

Other less-serious incidents than your partner breaking up with you, such as day-to-day interactions out in the world with strangers, can also be hurtful. Examples are not getting a call for a second interview or a stranger in the grocery store sneering at you. These can be smaller in impact but can still add up to a pretty large pain body over time if the right perspective is not taken. What should that perspective be? That we have the power to improve our lives by not dwelling on situations and circumstances, but instead moving past the hurt and confusion, regardless of whether we got the explanation, apology, or atonement “due” us.

Did something happen in the past that isn’t relevant today, but still plagues your mind? Is the presence of this hurt impeding you from living your fullest life? Let go of what you have no control over and empower yourself by making the decisions today that will allow you to grow, overcome, and thrive.

Slowing Down and Self-Care

In a rushed and chaotic world, self-care for me often is all about slowing down and getting back to the basics. Even with all of the technological advancements that are supposed to make our lives easier and faster, people are busier and more stressed than ever. Politics, media, and employment culture are to blame for a lot of it. However, we as individuals can take steps in our every-day lives to help remedy this situation. Even our hobbies are often more stimulating and less relaxing these days — for example, playing video games, watching graphic/over-stimulating/violent movies and television shows, or browsing the internet rather than more traditional pastimes such as reading, writing, communing with nature, or even watching older films/documentaries. I notice in myself a major shortening of my attention span and loss of memory capabilities, which alarms me. I have to wonder if entertainment today is specifically meant to help us forget about our problems, avoid introspection, and numb us, if just for a short time.

The remedy for this situation is to use free time more wisely in order to foster a sense of calm and rejuvenation, instead of hyperactivity and speed. Activities such as taking walks, reading uplifting or educational material, and playing a board game are all fun, healthful, and allow one to fully participate. This is in contrast to watching an action film or playing a video game, which are both fun, but also raise blood pressure and heart rate and relegate one to the position of spectator instead of participant. Of course, playing board games or taking a walk are also better for our social and physical health, respectively, which are important parts of a holistic self-care regimen.

For me, this blog is part of my self-care. I allow myself the time to carefully put into words what I’m feeling and thinking. I’m in a quiet environment and I’m able to focus inwardly, pushing the outside world away if only for a little while. I don’t rush myself and many times come back to edit a post several times before publishing it. This gives me time to ensure I include all my thoughts on a topic and communicate them effectively. Doing so helps make more sense of my often-jumbled thoughts and also invites others to perhaps be introduced to a new perspective or to realize they are not alone in how they feel. After blogging, I feel calm, confident, relieved, capable, and accomplished. I plan to incorporate a nightly walk around my neighborhood into my self-care routine. More on this later.

The Importance of Setting Boundaries

Boundary-setting is vital to a healthy, happy life. Boundary-setting can be difficult because it requires a strong, stable, confident sense of self. Otherwise, it is easy to fall into the trap of putting your own wishes and needs to the side and allowing others to walk all over you.

There are many different kinds of boundaries. There are physical boundaries, which are the most obvious kind and the type most people instinctively know to respect. For example, most people know not to touch someone or walk into their house without first getting permission or to convince someone allergic to peanuts to go ahead and eat them. And most people feel comfortable speaking up if someone violates these boundaries.

Emotional boundaries are more amorphous, less easily protected, and more liable to be violated. What are emotional boundaries? My own definition of boundaries are those issues we cannot compromise on without jeopardizing our mental, emotional, or spiritual health. So, for example, not working on a Sunday because one’s religious convictions forbid it. Mere preferences, on the other hand, should not be considered boundaries and should be up for compromise. For example, eating your second-favorite flavor of ice cream because the first is not available.

The need for emotional boundaries comes up in different areas of one’s life, including with strangers, loved ones, and at work. The level of closeness in a relationship makes it easier or harder to maintain strong boundaries, as well as what is at stake if one chooses to either maintain or violate their own boundaries. It often feels easier to maintain boundaries with strangers because of safety reasons, as well as the fact we don’t feel we owe anything to strangers. Plus, if we offend them, we never have to see them again, so we won’t experience consequences. However, it can be harder saying “no” to a family member, friend, likable coworker, or boss. These are people we want to like us and whom we might need something from in the future. However, if we betray ourselves by compromising our boundaries with those close to us, it sets a precedent. Unfortunately, the people who are close to you are also those in the best position to take advantage of you. For example, if you refuse to work a certain day of the week and made this clear when you were hired, but a coworker asks you to take their shift that day for them, saying “yes” makes it more likely you will be asked again.

If your boundaries are reasonable, it is important to keep them firm. It is also important to effectively and kindly communicate your boundaries so that you do not criticize someone for doing or saying something they were unaware is unacceptable to you. If a relationship is lost with somebody because they refuse to accept your boundaries, that is a toxic person who you are better off without. Of course, this is easier said than done if that person is a superior at work, given the employment culture of the U.S. However, I have found most people will respect your stance and won’t push it further.

Knowing yourself and understanding why you feel and think the way you do are imperative for healthy boundary-setting. Putting your needs before the desires of others, as well as having the self-esteem necessary to enforce the prioritization of your needs, is also imperative. The emotional maturity needed to endure a possible confrontation with another person is also imperative. If you second-guess your own convictions when you’re by yourself, you will have no chance of holding firm to them when they are questioned or criticized by others.

This is a major area in my life I need to work on. I tend to either waver on what my boundaries are, not communicate them effectively, or not enforce them, and then blow up when they are violated. Are there any areas of your life where you find it nearly impossible to maintain your boundaries, or where you need to begin erecting some boundaries?

“Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!”

No wiser words were ever spoken than these from the author, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau. Several years back, I began feeling a strong desire to simplify my life. At the time, I had been using retail therapy to help fill the void in my life while simultaneously feeling emptier and emptier. I realize now that the more stressful moments of my life are also the times when my life is artificially full with activities, people, and things that don’t add meaningfulness or value. It is when my life is going well that I also am practicing simplicity. This is not to say that my life needs to be uneventful, boring, or lacking in order for me to be happy, but rather that I fill it with the right kind of activities, priorities, and goals.

For example, many people feel pressure to get married and have children because that is often the message sent out by society, in the forms of television shows, advertisements, job benefits, tax credits, would-be grandparents, etc. Children can be a blessing, but they also require a lot of time, money, and exasperation. Thus, the decision to procreate should not be taken lightly. Likewise, some feel the need to amass certain items or reach certain goals they feel they need in order to “make it”. These could be a new car, home-ownership, or a certain amount of savings in the bank by 30 years old. The problem isn’t the things themselves or having goals. It’s the fact that they come from an inner uncertainty about ourselves and whether we are good enough, in-and-of ourselves.

A simple life isn’t about lack. Instead, it’s about removing the undesirable noise and chaos, regardless if others tolerate the noise and chaos in their own lives. It’s about realizing how precious time and options are and putting thought into decisions (especially large ones like parenthood) before making a decision based on societal expectations. It’s about understanding that every decision for something is by default a decision against something else.

I think about my own problems and those of people in my life, and I can’t help but find most of them are self-inflicted. Many are as a result of not just one bad decision, but a sequence of them. With exceptions such as a debilitating genetic disease or being born in a war-torn country, we have a lot of power over the way our lives will go. And slowing down and figuring out what is vitally important to us will also make crystal clear what doesn’t actually matter at all. I am still figuring out what is important to me and what is not. I have a lot of it figured out already, but still struggle to hear my own voice over those of others telling me what I should do, believe, think, buy, and spend my time on. I just know for most of us life doesn’t have to be hard if we don’t make it hard. “Simplify, simplify, simplify!”

To Wait or Not to Wait and Take Decisive Action?

We’ve all heard the saying “Good things come to those who wait.” But do they? Is it best to wait and hope things will get better or to weigh one’s options and then take the best course of action?

I have personally seen how waiting and hoping that things will get better can backfire and achieve nothing but wasting both time and opportunities. I have witnessed the disastrous effect of wasted lives when someone assumes things will “work out” or that other people will “come through” for them. On the other hand, there are some instances where waiting in order to glean more information about a situation can prove wiser than taking immediate action. For example, it would be wise to put off making vacation plans until finding out from your new job when you can take time off and for how long.

However, if you’re waiting simply because you’re too nervous to take a risk or take decisive action, there’s no logical reason why waiting would be necessary, and there’s no obvious time in the future when making a decision would be easier, then this is nothing but a stalling tactic done out of fear. In my experience, waiting to make a decision or act is in most cases done out of fear, not strategy, and therefore harmful.

Sometimes the reason behind waiting is because all of the circumstances are not perfect, it’s “not the right time”. For example, many people use this thinking to rationalize putting off going back to school, losing weight/getting healthy, or having children. However, life hardly ever offers situations that are perfectly predictable where all possible snags can be foreseen. And it hardly ever offers perfect timing. Often it is only after an opportunity has passed us by that it becomes obvious action should have been taken at an earlier time.

Unless there’s been an impetus to effect positive change, situations don’t magically improve just because a lot of time has gone by. It is empowering to make the decisions for yourself that affect your life. Even if you make wrong ones from time to time, you learn for the future and rest secure in the knowledge that you did the best you knew to do at the time. Is there something you’re currently putting off simply because you’re dreading making a decision that might be of some enormity or you’re worried about choosing wrongly?