Friday, January 13, 2017

How to be serene (most of the time)






We use our local library a lot.  I order books, magazines, dvds and cds on their website and go in usually on a Friday to pick up our new stash and return due items.  However, they've recently upgraded their website and I found it bothersome to use.  I liked their old website much better!  So each time I'd log on to request items - which by the way costs me nothing for books and magazines, and a few dollars for a cd or dvd - I'd think 'stupid new website, why couldn't they leave it as it was'.

Instead of being grumpy about the new website I could be grateful.  I have access to this world-class library system and it costs virtually nothing.  They have spent probably hundreds of thousands if not millions upgrading what may have been an antiquated website that will set them up for the next few years.  I'm sure the staff have had way more headaches than me getting to grips with it, not to mention all the complaining customers who have undoubtedly flooded them with queries and moans.

I have no control over what the library does with their website so why am I getting grumpy about it.  Just accept that it has changed.  And that, my chic friends, is the key to serenity:

No complaining about that which you have no control over

This phrase would stop the whiny voice in my head 'why has this website changed, it used to be easier, now I have to learn something new...'

Complaining, even just to myself, about something I cannot control is futile.  It gets me nowhere since there is nowhere for the complaining to go - I can't fix it, I just stay stuck in the complaint with no was out.  If I complain about something I can fix, I can fix it, or stop complaining.  That's a different thing.  But complaining about something I have no control over is pointless.

I thought of other ways this focus is applicable:

  • When someone is rude to me
  • When someone cuts me off in the car or makes me take evasive action not to collide with them
  • When someone is thoughtless - cuts into a queue, doesn't return a call
  • A news item, if I happen to see the news or if someone asks 'did you hear about...'
  • A business's stupid policy
  • Other people simply being annoying - parking badly, loud music etc
  • When other online things change - i.e. our online banking, email, our shop website's hosting company
  • When I have no choice over buying a new electronic item because the old one has died or is obselete, such as my laptop.  When I had to get a new laptop just over a year ago it caused me months of stress, anxiety, anger and all sorts of not good emotions.  Yes it was loads of hassles, one after the other, but at the end of the day I just had to learn what to do to fix the issues and move on.

There are many ways in which this realisation will benefit me:

  • It gives me clear boundaries - if I can do something about it I will, if I have no control over it, I will go with it (or choose not to deal with that company maybe)
  • I will feel proactive
  • I will feel like I am in control (this is the main thing - feeling like you are helpless is the worst feeling and it leaves you feeling really demoralised)
  • I will become stronger with each thing I delete or overcome
  • I will be emotionally mature by sailing my own ship, not letting the waves buffet me around so much
  • I will be more positive and successful in my endeavours because I will be focusing on that which I do have control over, rather than the other
  • I will radiate calmness
  • I will go through life lightly, letting annoyances slip away, I don't need to hold onto them
  • I get to choose how I feel
  • I will be nicer to be around
  • I will have better health and general happiness because I have less stress

What do you think?  Do you stress about little (and big) things that you have no control over?  What might you change, if anything?  I’d love to know.

fiona

PS.  I've had wonderful feedback from my latest book 'How to be Chic in the Winter', which is all about living slim, happy and stylish during the cold season.  Here is what one of my lovely readers Elizabeth had to say:


'Great book!  She articulates and explains so many things I have struggled with in putting together my ideal lifestyle. She has a unique, patient, and step by step way of explaining....how to be CHIC! Want to read all her others. LOVED her Christmas Chic book too.'

I am so happy that my writing comes across in this way; thank you for the review Elizabeth!

34 comments:

  1. Hi Fiona,
    What a eye opening post. I get angered so quickly in traffic with rude drivers, but your post made me realize that it is in fact futile and only a waste of my time and energy. I cannot control other drivers but I can control how I feel and react. Thank you :)

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    1. My pleasure, Jacqueline - it's a reminder for me as well :)

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  2. How serendipitous! The Duchesse at Passage des Perles wrote about complaining and negativity this morning as well. It is never chic to complain. We have many services like the library, healthcare (in Canada), community centres and parks that are provided for us. We have control over some things and not over others. Life
    does not come with a guarantee so we have to accept what we can not change.

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    1. Madame, your comment about it never being chic to complain (which I love!), reminds me of a quote that said something like 'when you complain, you look so ungrateful because there are many who would die to have all that you do'.

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  3. I have a co-worker who complains about everything all day long. If it is a beautiful sunny day- she will complain! There is a definite noticeably energy shift when she is not at the office. I think of that all the time when I am about to complain and I immediately stop. My grandmother told me all the time: wherever you go and whatever you do, be the one that brings the light.

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    1. Dana, oh no, I bet everyone gives her a wide berth. It feels mean but is helpful to sometimes have the opposite of a chic mentor to remind you of how you do NOT wish to be!

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  4. I think this is all easier said than done, although it is possible to achieve serenity if we do the things you suggest, Fiona. However ... when you are about 30 years older life can be more difficult in lots of small, annoying ways. For example, everything I buy is difficult to open, even a pack of biscuits for which I have to get a knife. I can't screw caps off bottles, open those push together and twist bottles of bleach, pop a paracetamol out of one of those push-from-the-back foil strips, open a jar of jam or honey or a bottle of mineral water. Believe me, there are a hundred and one annoyances when you are 72, when the strength in your hands has diminished and not only can you not open things, but you drop things easily, too; and when you need reading glasses for every small task and even then they are not strong enough for small print so you then have to go and find a magnifying glass. When your hands aren't strong and even reading a book in bed becomes painful. Then it takes a lot of self-control not to become fractious and if not actually, to mentally stamp your feet! But I can see that I shall have to try harder, Fiona!
    Having said that (sorry, cliché!) I do accept change such as recently when my computer was upgraded to Windows 10. It didn't take long to get used to it. Similarly, while I dislike all the various kinds of light bulbs we now have to buy - screw in, bayonet, LED, halogen, and the wattage has changed so that I'm not sure how bright a bulb might be or whether it's even suitable for the lamp for which I want it, I know this is beyond my control, and so I accept it. Perhaps I can still learn to be more serene!
    Margaret P
    www.margaretpowling.com

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    1. It's interesting that you bring those examples up, Margaret, because I always use a pair of scissors to open food packets, even packs that most people would tear. I just like the ease, and the clean edge :)

      Plus, I have a small, square rubber doodad that a Tupperware friend gave me. It's like a coaster made from rubber, and I use it to open most things - a new jar, the top of the mineral water bottle when it's new. Maybe you could find something similar at a homewares store? It's magic.

      Plus, I just got my first pair of reading glasses last year :)

      When I am reading in bed, if the book gets too heavy I turn onto my side and rest it on the pillow...

      I do get what you are saying though, Margaret. You have to get more creative as you get older to live the same life.

      The new lightbulbs are a great example! I admit I have become grumpy at the light bulb display at the supermarket, trying to find what I need, so thank you for that reminder.

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    2. You are already learning techniques of dealing with the minor problems of life, and that's good. But when your shoulders and bones also hurt, you are also unable to turn onto your side to read ... but, hey, I don't want to moan! And similarly, my husband bought one of those rubber doodahs to help open jars and so forth, but what he didn't comprehend is that you need to have some strength in your holding hand to be able to pull it with the opening hand. If both hands are really painful, no matter what gadget you use, there is a problem. I do have an electric can opener, so if there isn't a ring-pull I can use that, but grasping a jar in my left hand and trying to open it with my right is still something which I'm unable to do because of painful hands. However, as yet (and I hope I'm not speaking too soon!) typing isn't a problem!
      The other displays which I find problematical are those for tights (far too many choices in too many sizes) ditto bras! To save getting angry I find it easier simply to walk away and buy online. But I try and keep serene, but it's not always that easy! Sometimes a good rant to let of steam is also a good idea? It mightn't be chic, but it it's a good pressure-release valve.
      Margaret P

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    3. I agree Margaret, sometimes you totally need to have a little rant!!!

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  5. One thing I decided long time ago was to never complain about the weather (and we're up to 184 inches of snow this year and spend an hour a day with snow removal). I find it pointless to complain about the weather: as long as you're dressed properly and take sensible precautions (i.e. snow tires) one might as well enjoy the dramatic seasons.

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    1. Amy, that's a fantastic example. I'm pretty good about not complaining about the weather, but you have taken it to another level. Thank you for being a wonderful example for me to up my game even further!

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  6. Love this, Fiona~ a nice reminder to take life in bites and bits, and not let it overwhelm us. Between world events, the politics in my country and general life worries...it is too much for our systems! And complaining is my own vice during those times I feel in a slight panic. Thank you! Have a lovely day!

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    1. That's interesting, Koma, I never thought of it that way - sort of like a coping mechanism. Excellent observation :)

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  7. Gosh, I needed this reminder today. Thank you!

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  8. Hi Fiona, I took a meditation course recently wherein the instructor happened to also be a psychoanalyst. At almost every class she discussed this very topic. Her answer to it was to use compassion. When I notice drivers doing annoying things, I hate to admit it, but when I put myself in their shoes I find I may have done the very same bad parking, or not so smart maneuvering of my car in the past, just as they've done. For instance, sometimes in a parking lot I'm forced to park badly because I have no other choice. Usually this happens when one crookedly parked car unintentionally skews all the other cars parking in the adjoining stalls the same way. And then when the car next to me leave and my car is left, it looks like I was the one who parked crookedly originally! I guess what I'm trying to say is that one never knows the circumstances of someone else's behavior. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but goodness it is hard sometimes. Incidentally, the meditation class I took was through my local Parks and Recreation Department, where the class schedule is distributed through my LIBRARY :)
    I am at our library almost every week, I love it too.

    You've inspired me to try not to complain today, even if it's a complaint I'm only thinking of and not voicing.

    D.

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    1. Compassion is an excellent turnaround, D! Ha ha, I have done the parking thing too. It's embarassing to come back to the car.

      I'm not going to complain AT ALL today also :)

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  9. This is brilliant. I like to think I'm serene, because I don't tend to blow up over things. I see a young relative constantly melt down over the smallest things and think, "get a grip! This isn't important!" BUT I do get mad at bad drivers and honk and sometimes even yell if they're particularly stupid/dangerous. And you are right: it stresses me, not them. Will think of you when I'm behind the wheel. Just let them go and try to stay a safe distance.

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    1. My husband commented about the driver thing that it lets me blow of steam when he has a rant. But for me, it just winds me up!

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  10. Sometimes, I do wonder if I'm being nitpicking but I find it difficult to be serene as home where there are loud noises. I live in an apartment building and these two families have young children who play, stomp, scream and yell loudly in the hallways every now and then. They are related so feel very comfortable about running up and down the stairs going in and out of each other's apartment.

    I mentioned this to a member on my board of directors and he said he had spoke to the adult of one of the families. A few weeks passed and all was quiet and peaceful, until the recent week. They seem to have become lax and are again letting their kids loose in the hallways and staircase.

    I told the kids off just the other day and last night, a young girl was bouncing a small bouncy ball right outside my door, with the ball hitting my front door a few times. I was just able to open my door when they retreated back into their own apartment.

    I don't want to confront my neighbor and leave a bitter taste in the mouth. I don't think anyone likes to be told their kids are annoying other neighbors and being a nuisance. On the other hand, I feel such injustice for having to be subjected to such disruption of peace in my own home and always vexing over this. What would you lovely ladies do if you were in my shoes? Sigh...I woke up this morning ruminating over this!

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    1. I lived in various apartment buildings for 27 years before buying a single family home and had my share of aggravations regarding apartment life. I think I eventually just realized that this was part and parcel of living in a communal environment - we can't control our environment 100% when we're living in close proximity to other people - for that you need to be in a single family house. I think you either need to reach a stage of Zen acceptance of this fact, or politely reiterate your complaints to your neighbors/Board of Directors. A calm request shouldn't leave a bad taste in your mouth.

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    2. Oh Natalie, I totally feel for you. Other peoples noise when I am at home is my biggest stressor. Why do you think we are moving to the country???

      I don't have an answer, sorry, and I know I have been 'that' neighbour in the past who has asked people to consider their noise and been told 'this is how we like it, deal with it'.

      I really feel for you, because your home is your sanctuary, and fair enough kids want to play, but right outside your door with a ball? And running around when the parents know the noise that will be made from that?

      I think some of us are just more sensitive to noise than others.

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    3. Thanks for responding, ladies.

      Amy, you are absolutely correct about not being able to control 100% of our environment when living in a building. It's true and this control-maniac will try harder to remember this well, for my own sake. Thank you for relating.

      Fiona, thank you for your sympathy. It made me feel better just seeing your words and knowing someone "gets" it about being "that" neighbor. I do know I am particularly sensitive to noise; funny, considering I was born in a metropolis and have ever only lived in cities.

      We have notified the board of directors about this again as these noisy neigbors are clearly breaking building rules, again. Considerate neighbors are so hard to come by!

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    4. I am noise sensitive as well. Noise cancelling headphones and a white noise app have been my saving grace in such situations. It helps you mentally "check out" and provides some much needed calm. I hope this helps if you try!

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    5. Excellent suggestions; thank you, Glee :)

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  11. My husband lives by these ideals and is one of the most Zen people I know. And yet, if you met him, you would feel his strength and confidence. He is also one of the happiest people I know. I truly wish I could be more like him. What comes to him naturally, I must work at. I rant and rail and feel miserable when I can't control the outcome. When I obsess about something that I seem unable to fix, he tells me to light a candle--which is short for the saying, "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

    This is a very timely message for me as we begin a new political era in the US. I struggle with the election outcome and mourn the loss of a leader that I admire. Yet, if I remember to "light a candle" and be positive in my own life, I will be a much happier and Zen person.

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    1. Your husband is a wise man :) I love his 'light a candle' reminder.

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  12. This is such a game changer of an attitude to keep serenity.
    I have always had this in my head since school days as our prayer before the start of meetings was, "Give me the Strength to change what aught to be changed, the Serenity to accept what cannot be changed, and the Wisdom to know the one from the other." It is based on the prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr.

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  13. When I did the Desire Map with Danielle LaPorte a couple of years ago, one of my core desired feelings was Serene. It is an ongoing project! I read Byron Katie's book Loving what is and I practice receiving everything that comes to me as a gift.

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    1. Serene is one of mine too, and Peace :)

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  14. When a business displeases me sufficiently that I don't wish to deal with them any more is it preferable to quietly exit or should an explanation be given? As a former teacher I try to resist the urge to show them the error of their ways. After all, perhaps it works fine for some.

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    1. Hmm, I wonder about that too sometimes. I think it works on a case by case basis. Sometimes I just disappear and don't say anything, because I think it might be just me and others are okay with whatever bothers me.

      I also prefer to go by the principle of praising good and ignoring bad.

      I used to write to companies if something really upset me or I had terrible service, but I don't these days. I never felt good afterwards when I complained.

      I know some would say 'but how will they know if no-one complains'... it's a tough one.

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Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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