Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

If You Want to Fight the Blues, Find Your Blue Zone

My friend Darla posted an article about Dan Buettner's research on what makes people happy, and that, along with an article in the New York Times about how our gadgets keep us chained to the office, got me thinking: how is it that the older, and supposedly wiser I've become I feel more stressed and not in possession of my own life? When will it get easier? The bills keep getting bigger as I, and my family, become more consumptive. After all, we're trying to be good Americans. No wonder it's so hard to breathe sometimes. So here are the five ways to find your blue zone, according to the article Darla sent me, based on Buettner's book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way:

1. Limit Your Work Week: To do this I'd have to settle for a lower income, which makes me anxious, and I'd have to say no to people who request my services, and that taps into my need to feel needed, my ego, or both. I like the concept so I'll need to figure out how to spend less money. But I don't have enough time, and I'm too tired. But I'm writing this blog. Doesn't that take time? Yes, but this if fun and makes me think I have time. Also, it might mean people continue to request my services. So, the first step: stop writing this blog. Check.

2. Avoid Long Commutes: This one's a no-brainer. It only takes 7 minutes to get to work. In fact, having a commute has made all the difference in my quality of life. For nearly 15 years, I worked out of my home, saved money, yes, but had no separation between work and personal life. However, I had to work fewer billable hours since I had no waiting room, extending the total work day by an hour and a half some days. So for me, no commute meant longer work hours and less income.

3. Don't Skip Vacation: Check. I try to take at least 4 weeks per year. Still, I have to budget for this since I'm self-employed and don't get a paid vacation. However, working with a sharp blade makes for safer, more enjoyable work so it's worth the time and money, and thinking about it gives me immense pleasure. My office walls are lined with art work from past vacations: Italy, Spain, the coast of Oregon, Skaneateles Lake.

4. Enjoy Happy Hour: Now this one's a problem for me since I often work through and past the happy hour. So to compensate, I work out at the gym in a group training class, attend writing groups, play poker once a month with friends (this is new), play golf when the weather permits, play basketball in the winter, and hang out with friends whenever possible, as well as volunteer at TLC events.

5. Find the Right Boss: This one's tricky as I am my own boss. Since I'm not in a position to fire myself (I could work for someone else I suppose), my plan is to keep working on personal growth and development, to be the kind of person I'd want to work with and for. I see my own shrink weekly, to practice what I preach, though I don't tend to preach very much (my wife and kids might disagree), but you get the point. It's good to see things from both sides of the couch, or chair, depending on where you sit.


Now I'll add a few of my own:

6. Develop a Passion: My two passions are poetry and golf, both impossible to master but fun, and meaningful to try. Making room for both is essential to my happiness.

7. Resolve Conflict: It's important that I maintain peace and harmony in my closest relationships so I do my best to keep lines of communication open to deal with disputes that might arise. I don't want to hold a grudge because it's corrosive to my relationships and health.

8. Shake Your Money Maker: I'm happiest when moving my body, keeping the weight off, watching what I eat and drink, and staying generally fit. Oh, and I do like to dance from time to time. Having a healthy sex life with my sweetie doesn't hurt either. OK, TMI.

Here's a kind of blue zone poem I wrote some years ago that was published in FREE LUNCH:

I think in denim,
blue cotton thoughts
that float like shirts
on nylon lines.

I fly on a blue
denim seat,
three-thousand feet
above the sea.

I am rolling on blue
waves that toss in a blue wind.
I hear them in my veins,
oceans of blue under my skin.

The watch I wear has a face
that keeps blue time.
In the glass I see mine
reflected, a visage of blue lakes.

Your turn. What puts you in the blue zone?

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