Ten Times I Broke My Comfort Zone

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Eleanor Roosevelt once supposedly said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Well, being scared every day doesn’t hold strong appeal to me; I tend to not be a big risk-taker and like my routines and familiarity, but I do think Eleanor was onto something. Research shows that seeking out new experiences  is a key source of happiness. And what better time to seek out new experiences than on a honeymoon? So, here are ten new experiences I sought out to get myself off the pool chair and into life:

  1. I tried sushi fusion. Sushi? Sure! Hamburgers? Sure! Hamburger sushi? I was on the fence, but I tried it and it was pretty good. At least, it was at the place we went. Not an everyday choice, but certainly tasty.
  2. I climbed a rock wall. Admittedly, a first climb at the top of a ship during high winds was not the most comforting experience. And I didn’t get very far. But it’s something I would try again, for sure. On solid land.
  3. I road the darned Hippogryph ride. We spent a few days in Orlando before embarking on our cruise. I had been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter once before, and had done every ride and attraction except this children’s ride, The Flight of the Hippogryph, because there was always a long wait. So, my husband and I got up at six AM to be first in line for early admission… to ride a kiddie coaster. We were the only ones on the whole coaster, which was probably a good thing, because my husband, who doesn’t like roller coasters, kept crying out, “You said this was for children!?!?!” And “Whyyyyyy?!?!”
  4. I swam with dolphins. By far my favorite part of the trip. Our dolphin’s name was Kappy. And yes, we actually got to swim with them.
  5. I tried Earl Grey and lavender ice cream. It was ok. Nothing to write home about, even for a tea lover.
  6. I went to a mystery dinner theater. Ok, it was cheesy and we were by far the youngest couple there. But you know, we had a really good time and met some wonderful people. We were glad we went.
  7. I went to a chocolate factory. Well, this one wasn’t a huge discomfort for either of us (the hardest part  was finding the hole-in-the-wall place in the middle of Cozumel), but it sure was tasty! We got to make our own chocolate, too.
  8. I wore a sequin dress. Normally, I like wearing a lot of natural-looking fabrics and am not into bling. I have never in my life owned sequins. However, my mother-in-law and I found this sequin dress over the holidays and both fell in love with it, and she got it for me for Christmas. I have to say, after wearing it, it’s one of my new favorites.
  9. I went to a casino. I had never gambled before. I don’t think I will be a card shark any time soon, but it was fun to do once. And bonus, thanks to my husband’s savvy gaming skills, we actually won money!
  10. I went in a submarine. This was the thing I was most nervous about for sure, but my husband really wanted to do it. (And remember: he rode the roller coaster with me.) So it did it, and am so glad I did. We saw a coral reef, a scary drop-off, and even a sunken ship!

If I’ve learned one thing from Eleanor Roosevelt, it’s this: the things that take us out of our comfort zone can become our most memorable and fun experiences, and sometimes our assumptions about certain experiences we haven’t tried are way off the mark. I disliked some experiences I thought I would love, and loved some experiences I thought I would hate.

This was also a reminder that it shouldn’t take a honeymoon to try something new. It’s something we can do every day, whether it be taking a different route on a run, trying a new combination of spices, or putting together a new outfit out of old clothes.

Have you ever been proud of going out of your comfort zone or trying something new? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

 

My Wedding Vows

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So, I got married last month! I promise not to deluge my blog in wedding posts, but I did want to share my vows, as I think they speak to why the man in my life helps me remember to keep life enchanting:

Jonathan. As a writer, these vows should have been one of the first things I did, but truth be told I waited a long time because vows are serious, and we are always laughing and teasing one another.

But that, I realized, is what I wanted to include in my vows to you, because it’s why I want to marry you. I have a bad habit of taking things way too seriously, but one of the things I love most about you is that you always remind me to find life’s joy.

  • I love you because you took me to Toys R Us the day before my 21st birthday since it was my “last day as a kid” and told me you would buy me anything in the store.
  • I love you because you insisted I try octopus, but when I saw the finished product you had cooked, it was cocktail weenies cut into octopus shapes that were smiling at me.
  • I love you because when we went to the zoo, you narrated what you thought each animal was thinking in great detail. With voices. And made-up songs.
  • And I love you because even in the saddest moments of my life, you are the one person who always knows how to make me smile, and you make the very happiest moments just that much brighter.

Even though I tend to take life so seriously, you are a constant reminder to me that our relationship has been so much more beautiful because of fun and laughter, and that those things, too, can be an expression of sincere love, as they are with us every day.

So,

  • Jonathan, I promise to hold your hand through life.
  • I promise to give you my heart, my faithfulness, my sincerity, my respect, and my joy.
  • I promise to embrace every day together with you as an adventure worth sharing.
  • I promise to get in snowball fights, and have fits of laughter, and try foods I know I will hate, to wander without a destination with you, and to be open to growth and change.
  • I promise to take a page from your love of gaming, and view every obstacle that life throws our way not as a threat to our marriage, but as a challenge that we can work through together, as a team.
  • And because I know how important it is to us, I promise to make having fun together with you a priority for all the days that we spend together in this life.

Want to see more wedding pics? Check out photographer Anna Bowser’s blog here!

Ten Ways in which I’m an Environmental Hypocrite:

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Part of living a more enchanted life for me personally is living a more holistic life. This is because living a life in which we recognize a greater meaning outside of ourselves is one of the most effective ways to find happiness. For me, recognizing that I am a small part of a greater whole on this earth and showing respect and reverence to that whole is part of what makes life truly enchanted. (Hmm… the magic of connecting with the earth? Yeah, I’m hard-core channeling some Pocahontas right now.)

But here’s the thing: sometimes, quite frankly, I suck at it. After reading an article about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar Speech, environmental hypocrisy has really been on my brain. So, I have listed ten ways that I myself am an environmental hypocrite. I hope, or perhaps I don’t hope, that you can relate:

  1. I have eaten a vegetarian meal out, then taken the left-overs home in a Styrofoam to-go box.
  2. I will carefully rinse out and recycle a bottle of eco-friendly body wash that I used in my hour-long bubble bath.
  3. I spent a significant amount of time thinking of how to use and in some cases re-use items for my wedding in the most efficient and minimalist way, only to then purchase 800 plastic disposable cups.
  4. I chose my car for its energy efficiency, only to drive to a job that is almost 40 minutes away.
  5. I went shopping at a second-hand clothing store for attire for my honeymoon- which will be on a cruise ship.
  6. In order to feel more grounded and connected, I bought a yoga mat…off Amazon.com with free shipping.
  7. I adopted a dog so as not to contribute to the inhumane conditions of puppy mills but I eat meat from factory farms a few times a week.
  8. I have a strong appreciation of wilderness, even though I know that in trespassing on it, it is less preserved than it would be if I just stayed home.
  9. I have found myself on occasion purchasing a nice, new, shiny “eco-friendly” product, even though I may have had a product at home already that would do the same job.
  10. I go paperless for all possible notifications, but I love to edit all of my writing on printed paper rather than on the computer and am a stickler about hand-written thank-you notes.

I don’t have a spark of wisdom this week, or a witty conclusion. Instead, let me know what you think. Was there a time when you found yourself in an environmental contradiction? Do these kinds of small personal sacrifices even have an impact on environmental footprints at all? Was there something that helped you to have a healthier relationship with the earth? Is it better to be an “all-in-perfectionist” environmentalist, a half-baked but well-intended hypocrite like yours truly, or to not try at all? Or, am I looking at the question all wrong? Let me know what you think.

 

Hindsight: The New Superpower

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A few weeks ago, my fiance and I were having a heated discussion over dinner. Nerds that we are, we were arguing over what the absolute worst superpower would be. I decided that mine would be to disappear and reappear instantly, but only within the same dwelling. His choice was Super Hindsight (like Captain Hindsight on Southpark), where you know exactly what should have happened, but only after the choice has been made.

Sounds pretty awful, right? I’ll admit, Super Hindsight may not be my number one choice, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that there could be an advantage to always knowing what choice should have been made.

I recently read the book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck. In the book, Dweck talks about how some people have what she calls a fixed mindset, or a belief that their traits are set, while others have a growth mindset, which means that they believe in their ability to grow and change. When faced with failure, people with the fixed mindset would take the failure personally, i.e. “I am a failure.” In contrast, the people with the growth mindset would consider failure as an opportunity to learn and improve.

We aren’t defined by our successes. We are defined by our mistakes. So often, we walk through life making the same mistakes over and over again without realizing we were wrong. Stopping to analyze our choices and using that knowledge to make better decisions in the future is one of the most challenging things that we as human beings can do. It takes courage, honestly, humility, and a lot of optimism.

The next time you find yourself saying, “I really should have made another choice,” give yourself a pat on the back. You are working on your hindsight, a skill that many people go their whole lives without using. Realize that what you are doing is very brave, and put your newly-found knowledge towards your future choices.

(Source: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck)

A Plea for Thank-You Notes

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Most people who know me know that I’m not the forerunner of propriety. I’m usually that person who is pushing the edge of what is acceptable, the person who is always asking, “But why?!?” Still, there is one area in which I am staunchly, relentlessly conservative, and that is in writing thank-you notes.

When my mother was ill, we were fortunate to have a plethora of friends, family, and fellow churchgoers who brought a steady stream of food and goodies to our home. My mother kept a journal, and in it was a running list of names of people and the items that they had brought. Even a mere couple of months out from her death, when cancer and cancer drugs had infected her brain and her handwriting had become large and shaky, she was writing every single one of them back. She must have written hundreds.

A few months ago, I found a good deal on thank-you notes at Target, and since I really liked them and was in the throes of wedding planning, I put nearly two hundred cards in my cart. When I got up to the cash register, the clerk looked at me with this blank stare and said, “You have a lot of gratitude.” I shrugged and explained that I was getting married, which didn’t seem to clear up anything for the clerk.

The thing is, though, I do have a lot of gratitude. I am so grateful for all the friends and family who have supported me through the years, and a little paper card seems like a small price to pay for that.

But this blog is not about manners and decorum. It’s about finding happiness. And this is why I am making a plea for thank-you notes. Studies have shown that gratitude actually has a very strong positive association with happiness. When we express our gratitude, we connect with something greater than ourselves, which has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to boost happiness. The benefits of this vary from helping us feel more positive emotions, to helping us deal with difficult times, to strengthening our social bonds.

In a world of selfies and status updates, it’s easy to forget that showing our love to those outside of ourselves has real personal benefits, not just because it’s the “right thing to do” (although that is certainly a good reason), but because it’s what we as human beings were wired to do. We are social animals, and it’s only natural and healthy to share our appreciation for others. So, the next time someone does something nice for you, consider writing a note to thank them. You may make their day, and you may give yourself a spark of happiness to boot.

 

What is Enchantment?

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A few weeks ago, I found myself trying to explain what I write about to someone… and failing miserably. (There is a reason I’m a writer, not a speaker.) I realized that part of the confusion was coming from the word, enchantment. What exactly is enchantment? What does it mean to live an enchanted life?

While I’m sure there are a lot of different definitions, I would like to take a moment to explain what enchantment means to me, and why it is such an important aspect of personal happiness. In fantasy literature, an enchantment is a spell or bit of magic cast on a person that alters their perspective. The physical reality around the person does not change, but the way the person perceives the world around them changes.

You have probably heard it said that true happiness comes from within. When we experience a more enchanted outlook, we aren’t focused on trying to change the world around us or our place in the world. We focus, instead, on changing our own perceptions. It is only through changing our outlook that we can truly learn to be happy.

When we live a more enchanted life, we realize that we always have a choice. We can let our reality control our perceptions, in which case we are at the whim of the moods, the fads, the weather, the push-and-pull of everything around us, to dictate what we want and how we feel. OR, we can let our perceptions control our reality, in which case we are lead by our own inner light, our own contentment, our own spark of happiness. True enchantment is being in touch with your own inner light, and letting that deeper truth be the filter through which you choose to participate in the world around you.

(Source: The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Clute and Grant: Enchantment)

Make Room for Enchantment

I’ve been thinking a lot about space lately. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the space between my two ears. It occurred to me one night, when I was awake at some ungodly hour, that I really only had so much space between my ears, and that it might be wise to think prudently about how I use it.

You see, I spend a lot of energy thinking about the space outside of my head, especially as I have inherited a lot of belongings and live in a small apartment. I think about how I want to organize things, what kinds of things I want in my home and what I don’t, and when and how to purge.

Somehow, though, I’ve never applied this same concept to the space in my head. Specifically, I have been working to add more enchantment in my life. That means more imagination, more creativity, and more wonder. I’ve been passionately seeking out avenues to bring more of these things into my life. Consequently, I’ve been engaging in creative writing projects, reading a lot of psychology books, and generally approaching life with a desire to grow and learn more.

What I have realized is that we need to not only bring the things we are passionate about into our lives, but in order to make space for them, we need to edit out the things that are not as important to us. For me, this means simpler food, a simpler wardrobe, and less media consumption. For the past few days, I have been on a Netflix fast, and am already noticing a change in the amount of emotional energy I have.

The start of a new week is a great time to think about the kinds of things we let into our minds. Is there something in your life that you can prune to make room for a more enchanted life? If so, feel free to give it a try, and let me know how it goes.