The Best Things in Life…

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Today we’re off on holiday! The plan for this post was just a couple of quick, merry little paragraphs (mostly as an excuse to show you photos!) detailing our early start, breakfast in Gion, then our cheery voyage aboard a JR highway bus, getting us to Tokyo station at about five thirty in the afternoon. A relaxed check-in, a little stroll, a pleasant dinner and then a gentle evening spent chatting, writing, sorting out the day’s photos and drinking our wine underneath the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park before hitting the frantic scramble of the city the next day. It was a good plan.

Instead, it’s rained all day, breakfast was McDonalds, our bus was late, there were landslides in the mountains, Kin was poisoned by a highly suspicious roadside Pluto Pup and, typing this at eight thirty at night, I am STILL on this goddamn bus, stuck in a traffic jam outside a city I’m HOPING is Tokyo, cramped, cold and getting crankier by the second.

Well, I was. I’m still stuck, that’s true, but I’m feeling a little more cheerful about it thanks to an even crankier email I’ve just read from a friend in Oz, detailing woes renovating, with a newly mobile baby in the house…

…And I started laughing at both of us. Honestly, there I was, grumpy about being en route to one of the most exciting cities in the world and there she was, cranky about her healthy child’s typical development and her house becoming lovely. People as lucky as we are shouldn’t feel so cranky!

 Gratitude

Feeling a lot more relaxed, I settled back into my (still kind of uncomfortable) seat and started giving some thought to gratitude. Why does it make such a difference to happiness? Not to mention, why is gratitude so essential for being awesome?

Mostly, I suppose, because being grateful for good things helps you to accept how much they cost. Right now, I am fatigued, uncomfortable and getting chillier by the second… but I get an amazing trip out of it, so I’m happy. The best things in life may be free when it comes to money, but there will always be some sort of sacrifice needed, of comfort, time or other resources. Without being grateful for the rewards these sacrifices earn you, though, you’re more likely to find the costs unacceptable… and so good things will come to you less and less frequently.

Accepting the costs

Being grateful for the fun you have at a party is great; it means that you accepted the awkwardness and boredom of the first half hour. Being thankful for the daffodils is a result of your choice to go for a walk instead of being sedentary. Appreciating a good dinner helps you accept the time spent preparing it. And once you get used to these sacrifices, they become part of the joy.

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See, that’s the part where I think a lot of people get the wrong idea about gratitude. They think it’s a passive thing, where you simply choose to accept with joy what the world has given you… and leave it at that. Now that’s fine, as far as it goes, (and it’s certainly better than being a miserable wanker about everything) but it’s really only a very basic first step. Gratitude isn’t passive. It’s a choice and a force. What do you do when you’re grateful to a person? You thank them and you and try to return the favour. You DO things! Gratitude is very, very active. In fact, just hanging around waiting for nice things to happen seems pretty UNgrateful to me. Simply by virtue of being when and where we are, we have been given immense opportunities for joy and growth.

 Active Gratitude

Life has many gifts for us, but the gifts won’t just happen, even if you have been lucky so far. To keep on getting, you have to keep on doing. Even if it’s just making the decision to stay on top of your bad mood; you can’t be grateful for the violets near your feet if you’re scowling at rainclouds.

If you’re happy now, there are probably still things you can do to ensure your future has gifts to be appreciated (I’m thinking bone-density and financial security, ladies. Get that load-bearing exercise on and review your expenditures; it’s never too late!) If you’re not happy now, do something to be grateful for. Stand up right now, stretch as high as you can and then try to bring your chin to your knees. Hold that for twenty seconds, then straighten up (bend your knees as you straighten if you have issues with your back). Do that three more times. Feel good? Not yet? Okay, do it again tomorrow. Keep doing it for a week and I guarantee you’ll have something to be grateful for, as you recognise your increased gluteal strength and flexibility. Every time you do that simple thing, you are doing something awesome.

 When Activity is Hard

If you’re depressed, never learned, or are just plain out of the habit of looking after yourself, it can be difficult to experience these everyday rewards (I’m talking mild-moderate depression here; if you’re in the middle of a serious episode, some chick talking to you on the internet probably won’t be helpful; you need to see your healthcare professionals and keep working on your plan). So, instead of telling you to look around for reasons to be grateful, I want you to look around for reasons why you’re awesome. But you can’t tell me things you are (I’m smart, I’m friendly, etc) you can only tell me things you’ve done. Five of them. Five awesome things you’ve done since you got up this morning.

And don’t tell me “Nothing”. I don’t believe you. I’ve been on this bloody bus all day, but I reckon I can still scrape out five. Yours will be much better. What have you done?

“Um… I watered the pot plants” YES! You’ve done something to ensure the continued existence of another being AND maintain your own environment’s liveliness and joy. What else? “I…. um… I let someone in ahead of me on the roundabout.” BRILLIANT! You demonstrated kindness and consideration at a particularly stressful time of day. What else have you done? Did you make breakfast? Shave? Wash the dishes? Pick best five and chuck them on your list.

“But I do that stuff every day!” So COUNT it every day! If you don’t think it’s good enough for your list, count it anyway and keep counting it until you have something else that bumps it out of the top five. THIS STUFF MATTERS.

If you’re depressed, just getting dressed might be enough to make it to your list. If you’re an alcoholic, not drinking is the best possible action you can take. We can’t measure this list against anything that other people are doing, it all has to be just us. And every day, we need to make five. I know that sometimes it can be hard to make yourself achieve anything in a day, let alone five things. But really, if you’re already miserable, then doing things won’t make you any less happy, will it? And by giving yourself things to be grateful for, you’re making happiness so, so much more likely.

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 My Awesome Five

I’ll admit, my mojo is kind of being hampered by this bus, but I’m still not without resources. My five things from today are:

1-     I’ve stretched at each rest stop, so I wouldn’t get headaches.

2-      I successfully blow-dried my hair out of its usual dead-seaweed tendencies (still a very new and unreliable skill for me) so I still look human.

3-      I’ve kept my temper all day despite being sleepy and cranky, so Kin and Shallow still love me.

4-      I’ve answered an email and made my cranky friend laugh (she feels much less cranky now).

5-      I’ve written a blog post about doing five awesome things!

What are your five awesome things? Did you cook something? Make something? Plant something? Help someone?

Leave your awesome things in the comments. I’d love to see what you’re doing!

Gem

XX

Edit II: If you can’t find the “Comments” box, try clicking on the heading “The Best Things In Life” so that you’re actually in the post. Then you should be able to see comments at the bottom.

It also seems that the reason some of you are PMing me your five things is that sometimes an error message comes up when you try to comment. I’ll do my best to fix it, but in the meantime, I’m told that just refreshing a couple of times should do the trick.

I really need to learn some HTML, damn it.

Edit: This was actually completed on Wednesday, and was supposed to be uploaded the same day, but issues with batteries, camera cards, hotel wifi, and the generalized insanity of Tokyo meant that it was much, MUCH easier to just wait until we were back in Shiga. Also, a more complete album of the Penis Festival is now available on our Facebook Page.

A Week of Willies

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Yes, that is exactly what it looks like. A 2.5 metre, 250 kg, giant, wooden wang.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, that when something’s on your mind, it just seems to keep cropping up? This week, from the new run of “Please do not expose yourself to other commuters,” signs on the train to an unexpected linguistic discussion (that resulted in three people chanting “dickbread dickbread, dickbread” in Portuguese for almost seven minutes), the universe just keeps coming up bellends.

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Today’s post, believe it or not, has a religious theme.  I give you:

Dongs of Praise

Komaki’s spring fertility festival is one of the internet’s favourite spiritual events. I’m guessing you can see why.

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The festival is actually called Hounen-sai or Hounen Matsuri, but people usually just call it the Penis Festival. Again, I’m guessing you can understand.

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Although a lot happens at this festival (like dancing, rice-cake throwing and traditional music) the main event is the rowdy procession bearing a giant carved phallus to its new home in Tagata Jinja, the old home of Tamahime who, along with her children, developed the area during the Yamato period. Tamahime, like many ladies of the time, did not live with her husband, but rather received him as a regular visitor in her home and… I think you’re beginning to perceive the oh-so-subtle symbolism of the festival.

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In the old days, the giant penis was actually attached to the crotch of a straw samurai, borne along by the inebriated procession, which seems a lot more graphic to me. These days, it’s modestly snuggled into a portable shrine, but is much, much bigger, meaning the bearers have to struggle along with around four hundred kilos of weight on their shoulders. And not just calmly hauling the thing either, but actually bouncing, spinning and waving it around to the cheers of the intoxicated crowd. Needless to say, the bearers need to put away even more sake than the spectators to manage this feat.

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At Tagata Jinja, the penis is installed in the place of honour, while last year’s model is auctioned off to local householders and businesses. (And can I just mention that this is the best tradition ever? Just think, in the living rooms and public spaces of literally hundreds of normal-seeming Aichi homes and shops lurk enormous, metres-long, polished, hardwood wangs. Hundreds. Whenever you feel sad, or start believing the world is empty of magic, just remember that.)

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The long history of the shrine is why, I think you sometimes hear painfully sincere foreigners speaking earnestly about the real meaning of the festival, which is not waving genitals around on sticks, but is instead a solemn veneration of the divine generative and restorative properties of the earth and season.

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Uh huh.

I think that modern city dwellers need to understand that olden-day rurals enjoyed a good metaphor as much as anyone; and enjoyed a dirty joke even more! Ensuring the blessedness of the sacred earth is important to a community making its living from the soil, it’s true. But if you can manage your religious observations while drunk and waving a willy on a stick, so much the better. If the shrines wanted to encourage solemnity of worship, they wouldn’t hand out unlimited free sake and dick-whistles. The locals have been enjoying the joke for 1500 years. You can enjoy it too.

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Kin and I were actually pretty sober for this year’s festival, despite the best efforts of the shrine volunteers to fix that state. After a quick wander around the food stalls (selling a variety of phallic snacks) we made our way with Dudebro and Granita to join the throng of spectators waiting for the giant wang to wind by. The three of them found an okay spot by the  road (the best thing about this festival is that, unlike many others, the procession is so long that everyone who wants to see the event gets a chance to) while I wound up on the other side, near the most horrible old lady I’ve ever met.

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Seriously, she was great; she made her way to the front of the crowd by leaving a trail of the most horrible carnage behind her.  I only became aware of her after she inserted one ancient and extremely pointy elbow underneath my floating rib while doing the same to the gentleman on her other side. When both of us yelled and turned slightly away from the injury, the old buzzard had enough room to reach the sake cart, snatch two cups and scurry away.  I was keeping an eye out for her after that, so I got to watch her repeat that action many, many more times.

The procession was the usual wonderful spectacle of graphic banners, men in silly hats, and penises, both large and…. well, still pretty large actually.

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Not to mention people handing out still more cups of sake which, after a while, I just started handing directly to the awful old lady (who received them with the same natural gratitude as a duck accepts breadcrumbs).

We then raced the procession to Tagata Jinja itself, to revisit the food stalls and view the current collection of penis-shaped items accumulated by the shrine.

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Tagata Jinja is worth a visit at any time of year. Anyone in the area who finds anything even remotely penis-shaped trots off with it to the shrine and donates it to the cock-collection. Which sounds like one of the easiest and most entertaining methods of fulfilling your religious obligations that exists in the world to date. There are also a lot of carefully carved or cast penises, (including a penis-shaped shrine bell) and, while the big fellas are auctioned off these days,  there are still a good many Dicks of Christmas Past (as it were) arranged within the shrine.

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The Tell-Tale Dick

In rod-related revelations closer to home, it seems that the build-up to exams has infused the Dick Phantom with a fresh burst of creative energy. Kin tells me that the Phantom’s artistic sensibilities have not greatly matured during this period, but it seems that his productive output has increased significantly… to the point where he’s becoming careless.

His first slip was discovered a few weeks ago, when Kin, stacking desks after a second-year exam overturned one to reveal a lovingly-rendered, extremely veiny illustration, sketched by the master himself.

Kin, himself an accomplished phallic artist, is unwilling to expose a brother to the long arm of the law, so he continued stacking desks without trying to determine who had been sitting at this one. (I wish I were joking, by the way. He once drew an enormous, horribly graphic one on our metre-long whiteboard and I got so used to looking at the damn thing that I forgot to erase it before my grandmother came to visit.)

But then, last week, while marking the papers themselves, Kin turned a page and revealed the final clue to the Phantom’s identity… in the form of a gigantic, hairy knob scratched into the student’s completed and SIGNED examination paper.

The moment was pivotal. “Is this…a cry for help? Is the Phantom weary of life in the shadows? Does he actively seek apprehension and redemption in the light?”

“Or did the dumb little bastard just get bored and draw a dick on his exam paper like he does everything else?”

Figuring it was the second, Kin marked the paper, carefully closed it and returned it to the stack, still determined not to lose a comrade in arms.

“Fight on, Brother. Fight on.”

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They are legion.

Gem

XX

P.S. We’ll be putting up a more complete album on our Facebook page on Sunday.

 

P.P.S. For those who are wondering what sort of linguistic discussion could result in three people gravely intoning “dickbread” at one another for an extended period, it was a phonetics conversation about minimal pairs and meaning contrast on nasal vowels in Portuguese. Pau pão was the only sound set Granita could come up with, and it was only after we’d spent several minutes attempting to accurately reproduce the words that one of us asked about their meaning.

Pau pão : Dick, bread.

Welcome, Spring!

By Gem IMG_2193

…or maybe not. That is my school this morning. What the hell, man?

To an East-coast Australian, ice is NOT a substance that occurs in nature. Ice is produced by machinery and found in drinks. There is no good reason for it to just appear all over the place and even less reason for it to hang around for months at a time, getting thicker and meaner-looking every night. And there is absolutely NO possible excuse for it to roar back again NOW, when both the plum blossoms and my spirit were just starting to unfurl some tentative blooms.

Still…

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…plum blossoms are tough and there have been some signs today that I may soon get my spring; like the honest-to-goodness waterfall tumbling off the roof of the gym. This morning, it was just beginning to trickle, but it was cascading by lunchtime and now it resembles alpine thaw in a nature documentary, just before the music turns to woodwinds and a time-lapsed field of edelweiss blooms.

I can only hope.

During the relatively snow-free weekend, though, Kin and I both popped on our coats (and hats and gloves and boots and scarves and mufflers and three layers of thermal underwear) and went to meet Gecko Sensei, my Tea Ceremony teacher in a watery little town to the south of Nagahama, called Gokasho.

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To Grandmother’s House

Gokasho is one of Shiga’s Omi merchant towns from the Edo Period. The Omi merchants’ business took them all over Japan, but their families and their valuables remained safely installed in exquisite (not to mention highly secure) mansions in Shiga. Omihachiman is probably the most famous of these towns, but I find Gokasho with its spectacularly laid-out gardens and population of fat, friendly carp in the canals beside the roads, far, far more charming.

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In theory, we were there to see the town’s Hinamatsuri displays. Sensei is the archetypal Yamato Nadeshiko, so a visit to a girl’s festival is exactly the sort of outing she enjoys. Kin finds Hinamatsuri dolls as creepy as hell, but is fond of Sensei and doesn’t trust her wobbling around unaccompanied when she’s wearing zori (which is pretty much all of the time). I find the displays fairly interesting, but mostly want any excuse to poke around in the magnificent gardens and old family homes (not to mention tickle a carp or two, should the opportunity arise).

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For all of this meticulously planned magnificence, Gokasho isn’t imposing in the way that, say, Kakunodate or Nara can be. For one thing, it’s very obviously a little country village, even if it IS a little country village built and maintained by fabulously wealthy businesspeople. For another, any family home which has lasted for more than two generations develops a really awesome “Nan’s place” vibe ESPECIALLY if that home has since been making an effort to hang onto any item of potential historical value. That means that every old box that every Omi Mum has packed away for the last several hundred years has been unpacked and displayed, including the recent ones, so that next to each other are centuries-old teakettles, exquisitely lacquered furniture, plastic elephants on wheels and shelves of things like combs, old toys and tacky seaside ornaments made from shells, glue and googly eyes.

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It’s an incredibly relaxing place for somewhere so interesting. And just look at this kitchen!

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I’m always drawn to kitchens, but this was a particularly beautiful example of its breed. A person could really work in a kitchen like that.

The Gokasho gardens are surrounded by high walls and each one is different from all of the others.

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I’m certain that the houses and gardens were planned simultaneously, as they complement each other so perfectly and each household seems to have chosen their own aesthetic. One family constructed a fascinatingly erratic landscape with hills, cliffs and a boulder-filled river. Another produced one that was peacefully flat, rambling and flower-filled, except where it rose around the lake (which the house was constructed to showcase).

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My favourite garden looks like a small, dry forest with uneven stone paths winding through it. It’s kind of hard to explain what exactly is so breathtaking about that, but somehow this garden manages to feel completely peaceful and separate from the world outside its walls.

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And any way, any town where the fish follow you around has to be pretty cool.

(A more complete album of Kin’s pictures can be found on our Facebook page.)

Keeping it cool (unfortunately).

Gem

XX

EDIT: Ugh, I’ve just seen some of the photos of Gokasho available online and they give COMPLETELY the wrong idea of the place. It may be time to buy Kin that 32mm Prime lens and let him do it right.

February was…

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The first faint stirrings of spring!

 

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Indoors, that is.

(This is the Nagahama Bonbai Festival; a lovely collection of plum blossom bonsai.)

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Frost-free cycling!

Mostly.

 

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Warm times with friends. Indoors.

 

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Peaceful times at home. Indoors.

 

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The first insect of the season! Also indoors; this little guy followed us in with a load of washing and settled straight onto the indoor refugees.

 

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Time for learning.

 

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And practice.
(You can peek at more of Kin’s practice on our Facebook page)

 

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And time for wine! Although much less than usual; this work with the physio is really paying off.

 

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And time to see how other people feel the change of the season.

February was flowers, fun and frosty mornings. It was brisk walks outdoors and warm cuppas indoors, not to mention some Kansai travel with friends. It was also waiting, waiting, waiting! Waiting for the warm weather; it’s so close now, we can almost TASTE it. Waiting for the school holiday. And waiting for Shallow‘s arrival in March!  February was potential; but we are oh, so ready for the actuality of March.

Let’s get this year moving!

Kin and Gem

XX

 

Being Awesome Part II

By Gem

Part One is available here.

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Okay, ready for step two?

Stop Feeling Like A Jerk

In Part One, we discussed how a bit of self-criticism can improve your relationship with others. Now we’re going to look at how self-criticism can improve your relationship with yourself. Today’s the day I want you to take a long, hard, critical look at yourself… and love what you see.

 I’m Sorry

Oh god, I think I threw up in my mouth a little. One second….

I’m a bit jaded on the topics of self love and self acceptance just now, because of the nasty, self-adoring fetishism that’s currently passing for both online. There seems to be a real push at the moment to avoid the unpleasant, indulge all desires and cling to every flaw as a virtue; after all, it’s a facet of our totally wonderful selves!

I could not possibly agree less with this nauseating dreck, but will still happily admit that accepting and loving yourself is 100% essential for anyone with the urge to be awesome. You just have to love yourself right.

 The Bad Boss

Have you ever had a really, really horrible boss?

The kind who hang over your shoulder every minute, eager for you to make a mistake? Then, when you do slip up, insult you instead of helping you and make you so nervous and unhappy that you dread going to work? How much did you get done working under a boss like that?

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Conversely, how much more have you achieved with a good boss and a more supportive atmosphere?

The good boss is aware that you have weaknesses (like shyness and inexperience) and uses that knowledge to help you overcome your troubles. They applaud your successes and help you not to fail. In such a supportive environment, it’s easy to achieve and it’s easy to recover from mistakes.

The bad boss is also aware that you have weaknesses and loves to draw attention to them. In fact, if you don’t have enough weaknesses for their satisfaction, they’ll help you to create some (like anxiety and defensiveness). The bad boss ignores your successes, but is thrilled when you fail, rendering that failure more and more likely with every day. In such an antagonistic environment, achievement is almost impossible and recovering from mistakes becomes very, very difficult.

Don’t be the bad boss. Not even to yourself.

 Being The Bad Boss

Being the bad boss is miserable. It’s setting yourself up for self-hatred based in lies. Unhappiness lies to you about what you can do and how you’re perceived by others. Loneliness lies. Fatigue, hunger and boredom lie. And depression lies worst of all.

Being the bad boss is also impractical. People who don’t love themselves don’t get anything done! If you’re constantly focused on what’s wrong (I’m a lazy, awkward frump with no skills, bad breath and a terrible haircut”) then it isn’t really any surprise that you don’t care to do much for such a loser. What would be the point?

This is where the infuriating, self-worshipping gunk plastered all over the internet at the moment is right; you do need to love yourself. And this does include the parts of you that need improving. Where it is wrong, wrong, WRONG, is in suggesting that this is where the journey ends. Loving yourself isn’t important because of internet warm fuzzies. It’s important because of what it makes you DO. You can trumpet to the skies how much you love your scatty brain/ messy house/ alcoholic tendencies, but deep down you know better. Which means that, deep down, you’re still unhappy.

This is why your truthful self-analysis is vital. If you’re being the bad boss, dishonestly focusing your reflection time ONLY on negatives, then you’ll hate yourself and do nothing. But if the way you choose to love yourself also causes you to do nothing, that’s almost as harmful!

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 Being the Good Boss

In the past, I’ve told you not to go around assuming you deserve things. Today, I’m telling you not to assume that you don’t!

Confused? Stick with me, this actually does make sense.

The trouble isn’t really your conviction that you deserve something. It’s what that conviction causes you to do. If people think too much about their rights to things, they lose their impetus for action. They deserve whatever it is, damn it, so other people had better bloody make it happen.

But thinking that they don’t deserve things also destroys a person’s ability to act if they’re hanging over their own shoulder being the bad boss. Kick that bad boss away! This is the time where you do get to think about what you deserve. But I’m not talking about eating pizza or quitting your lousy job. I’m talking about real things, the things that get left out of the Tumblr circle-jerk.

Self-love does not mean indulging your own every whim. Self-love is recognising your desires (for example, good health, enjoyable work and a happy home) and then loving yourself enough to do what is necessary to achieve those desires!

Think of the respect the good boss gives you. They’re encouraging and supportive. They want you to be happy. But they don’t give you a book, a beanbag and a bar of chocolate and tell you to have a nice time. They expect you to work. And you should expect that too!

People work hard to do things like build a house, raise a child, create a business or maintain a marriage. And all of these things have made people very happy. But they also involve a lot of unpleasantness and difficulty. If you’ve thought hard about yourself and your desires, it becomes a lot easier to grit your teeth and get through the hard parts, because you understand the rewards will be worth it.

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 Expecting the Unrealistic

I know it isn’t necessarily that easy to just look at every part of yourself and love it. Most people avoid thinking about their flaws and hence, when they are forced to face them, they seem far more heinous than they would in another person. Relax. Deep down, most of us are pretty dreadful. But luckily, we’re all pretty awesome as well. You fit right in.

Your problem probably boils down to just one thing: Unrealistic expectations. There are two forms of these and both of them are bloody dangerous. There’s Form A, otherwise known as:

 I Hate Myself

Look at all of the awesome things everyone else is experiencing while I’m not doing anything. Everyone I know has a better job/ prettier children/ nicer holidays. I suck.

Form A is what happens when you have unrealistic expectations of yourself. If you don’t understand yourself well enough to know what it is you want from your life, it’s impossible to determine whether or not you’ve achieved it. In that state, it’s easiest to look at what other people are doing as guidance for what you should be doing as well.

Trouble is, all of those people are doing different things! Some of them are travelling the world, some of them are having babies, some of them are volunteering in distant places, some of them are staying home and achieving amazing things in their fields. You can’t possibly keep up with the achievements of absolutely everyone you know, so instead you wander around feeling constantly dissatisfied, no matter how many good things there are in your life.

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Or you could have Form B, otherwise knows as:

 I Hate Everyone Else

I’m an amazing person so good things should happen to me. If they don’t, it’s because society and the people around me are shallow and superficial and only care about money and prominent abdominal muscles.

Form B occurs when you have unrealistic expectations of the world. It’s not wrong to believe good things about yourself. You probably are a truly nice person.

BUT WHO THE HELL ISN’T?

Have you honestly met that many people who aren’t nice? And has the world rewarded them with riches, fame and incredible sex lives? Nope. Because being a nice person is the default setting for life in a human society. It is literally the least we can do.

On the bright side, that means we can usually depend on other people to be nice as well. On the bummer side of the ledger, though, is the fact that there are no special rewards for being nice, other than our fellow humans continuing to allow us to be near them. To get the extra goodies, we need to do extra things.

Some Form B people manage to think that far and try to do the extra things, but don’t necessarily get the goodies they’d like. That’s because their expectations are still unrealistic, like “Once I’m thin, everyone will love me,” or “If I get this law degree, I’ll be rich.” And when these things turn out not to be true, they promptly arrive at Form A via the long road, with a hearty dose of self-loathing to get them started.

Actually, I think most of us tend to combine Form A and Form B, depending on the state of our self esteem at a given time. But whichever one you pick, you’re going to be miserable, and miserable people aren’t very good at loving themselves.

Fear not! None of this is inevitable! Unrealistic expectations of any sort are caused by lack of self-understanding. And that means that you’ll be completely cured by a healthy bout of honest self-analysis (INCLUDING self-criticism). Fortunately, wiping out the unrealistic expectations makes it much easier to love yourself; and loving yourself makes it much easier to get rid of the expectations!

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 Staying Real

 When you are trying to honestly assess who you are and where you’re going, try and do these three things:

1- Look at the big picture

Sometimes we need to be gentle with ourselves. Sometimes it’s better to have a glass of wine, rather than go to an evening class. Sometimes it’s better to rest and let the dog go unwalked or the children unwashed for one day. SOMETIMES.

But please don’t be so gentle with yourself that “sometimes” starts to become “mostly”. If you aren’t moving toward the things you desire, then you’re waiting for someone to given them to you. And is that really very likely?

2-    Measure your progress against yourself

“My friend just ran a full marathon!” Well good for them! But you learned to make Pad Thai, so good for you, too. Don’t judge the worth of your accomplishments by what others do, judge them by how far you’ve come. Your achievements will make you greater, so it’s safe to take joy in those of your loved ones. They do not diminish you.

3-    Don’t make excuses!

It’s okay to not want to do things sometimes, even when those things are good for you. It’s also okay to want to do other things which aren’t good for you. What’s not okay is when you try to sell those feelings to yourself by blaming your long day, sore knee or lazy spouse!

There is no need to try and eliminate your imperfections, or hide them behind a wall of denial and shame. If you examine them in the light, there are usually ways to work with them. But if you’re nurturing your feelings at the expense of your development, that’s not loving yourself. It’s killing yourself.

Basically…

You can’t be awesome if you think you’re rubbish. Accepting and loving who you are is one of the first and most vital steps of your journey.

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Just never forget; it is a journey. And without regular, honest self-criticism, even those first steps are going to be impossible. Don’t criticize yourself too gently; you deserve more respect than that. But don’t dwell on your failings, either. Sure critics can be harsh sometimes. But other times, they give rave reviews.

On with the show!

Gem

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