Dec 29 2011

Old-time Secrets to Graceful New Year Transitions

Jamie Lee

Once upon a rather long time ago, the deep dark of winter gave people the gift of time – time to look back, to savor the moment, and to ponder the future. Hundreds of years ago in this very town, settlers gathered around the hearth, enjoying not only warmth and light but also a pause in their labors. The wheel of the year slowed for these cold and snowy months, giving everyone a chance to ground themselves in the quiet dreams of the season.

Today, we are rarely afforded such luxuries. Our modern lifestyles and convenience technologies rob us of the enforced respite that used to arrive with the first snowflakes. Now, the ending of the year not only fails to slow us down, it actually drives us forward at ever increasing and urgent speeds. Beginning in October with Hallowe’en, the holidays stampede toward us, overlapping in their haste to celebrate – Christmas lights showing up on store shelves alongside plastic jack-o’-lanterns. December finds us rushing hither and thither trying desperately to accomplish the slew of seasonal tasks that has suddenly materialized on top of routine family and work responsibilities.

And then – when the explosion of holiday “magic” has passed us by, when all our good cheer has been spent, and our adrenaline-induced sprint seems run – the New Year descends upon us, full of good intentions, resolutions, and a fresh batch of obligations, deadlines, and demands. We have traded in the natural and nurturing cycle of seasons for a treadmill.

As we close the door on 2011 and prepare to step into 2012, maybe we can give ourselves permission to stop for a moment and sit with the story of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Perhaps instead of careening blindly back into the fray of things we “must” and “should” do, we can pull back for some perspective. 2011 was a tough year for many, but there are still things for which we can be grateful. And although the year ahead is full of unknowns, surely some of those mysteries hold good things for us.

With the sparkle and glitter of the holidays shining in the rearview mirror, now is the time to stop and take a breath … or even two. Remember that winter is the season of reflection and regeneration. These are the months when we should take a lesson from the wild creatures that hole up sensibly in their dens and burrows. Though the days already grow a little longer with each sunrise, there is still a chance for us to find pockets of time where we can curl up with our thoughts.

The really good things in life happen in the spaces in between. They creep up on quiet paws and settle in our laps when we least expect them. Epiphanies and understanding come to us when we make room with quiet. Here’s to a New Year full of hope, possibilities, and a healthy share of moments in which to slow down and enjoy the journey.


Image Credit: Jerrycharlotte Miller 

This piece was originally written for and published in The Ipswich Chronicle – the small town newspaper of my home town, Ipswich. 

Apr 27 2011

The problem with someday

Jamie Lee

Whenever someone starts a sentence with, “Someday I’d love to …” my heart breaks a little.

The word “someday” is a sinister kiss of death that lands ever so lightly on the blushing cheek of a bright, young dream. It seems benign – a promise almost – but each time those lips brush against that hopeful vision, a little more poison seeps into the dream, causing it to wither and fade. The effect is subtle, but fatal. Suddenly, it is too late – someday has passed you by.

Someday sucks.

Most people’s lives are full of somedays. Someday we will try salsa dancing. Someday we will volunteer with the kids in the cancer unit at the children’s hospital. Someday we will get up the nerve to tell our boss what we really think. Someday we will start that new business. Someday we will take that trip to the jungles of the Amazon. Someday we will start practicing yoga. Someday we will learn how to eat healthy. Someday we will find our true love. Someday …

There’s nothing inherently wrong with somedays. We need dreams and aspirations, hopes and goals. They are what give our lives flavor and direction. Without them, we would simply be going through the motions, never growing or stretching or seeking out new experiences. The tragedy of someday strikes when we fail to take action or even have a plan. It’s just too easy to leave our dreams hanging in the limbo of an impotent and unqualified someday. Life is busy. We have a living to make, fires to put out, children to raise, errands to run. Our somedays slide further and further down the priority list until they are so buried under the daily grind that we almost forget what they look like until something triggers us – a museum exhibit about the jungle, an ad for a salsa dancing class – and then we utter those fateful words, “Someday I’d love to …”


Save yourself from the heartbreak of a lost someday. Grab that someday and turn it into a today, or at least a “next Thursday” or “next month.” Make a plan. Take an action – even a small one. Call the dance studio. Look into what it would take to get you of your couch and into the jungle. Ask a friend to come with you to a yoga class. You will be surprised at how easy it is to transform your someday wishes into realities. You can create the life you dream of – you really can.

Someday is a slippery little devil. Don’t let it slide through your fingers day after day until all your days are gone.

What can you do today to get one step closer to turning your Someday into a Real Day?

Image Credit: Zervas

Oct 4 2010


Jamie Lee

And, sometimes, that’s all there is to say.

Image Credit: Adam Gerhard

Jul 30 2010

Happy: Quiet Moments, New Friends, Adventure

Jamie Lee

Today, I’m coming home to Suddenly Thursday after a long absence. Though I have been silent on the digital front, my Real World days have been enveloped in an always-present spiral of ideas and dreams that are slowly leading me to a new adventure, tugging on my heart, pulling me along, one step at a time.

I’m inspired to return here – somewhat spontaneously given that my original plans for the day did not involve a stop over at Suddenly Thursday – by a new friend, though since we’ve only just met, perhaps it is too soon to invoke that label. Her name is Jamie Ridler (Yes! Another Jamie). Today’s post is in response to her lovely “Happy Book Mail Around” – a bloggy event that takes place each Friday.

So – the point is to share things that have made me happy this week. For starters – friends. I am so grateful for all the friends in my life – old and new – and the joy they bring me. I am also so grateful that we are able to stay in touch through the pixels and code of the internet. If it weren’t for the magic of my modem, I’d be a lonely girl. I adore seeing local friends in the Real World, but sometimes life makes that challenging; it’s so nice to be able to share ideas, observations, wishes, and even hugs with a few taps of the keyboard. Just yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with two friends who, as it turned out, share some passions between them. We traded thoughts throughout the day, ending with gratitude for the way the internet brings us closer. As one friend put it, “interconnectedness promotes peace, understanding and friendship!”

Although my week has been hectic beyond words, with the my self-imposed expectations weighing heavy on my mind and shoulders, I have managed to carve out a few moments each day to walk out into the world and just look and listen and breathe. This is a leaf that I came across on one such walk – bedecked in dewey jewels that shone like diamonds in the early morning sunlight. The beauty of it stopped me in my tracks and reassured me that there is still magic in the world, and the magic matters.

Happy, happy Friday. Enjoy the adventure!

Nov 3 2009

Start NOW

Jamie Lee

rosiehimageMy run at the Good Mood Gig may be drawing to a close, but I’m just getting started with this blog. Although I’m a little sorry that I won’t make the cut into round two (unless one of you has 5,000 friends who’d be willing to vote before Friday 😉 I feel like this really is the “start of something beautiful.”

You see, over the last year or so, I’ve been toying with the idea of launching my own blog. I have a notebook journal full of ideas, a domain name, a WordPress theme, and a lot of passion for my topic; but – until the Good Mood Gig Campaign gave me a much needed kick in the arse, I hadn’t done much about actually STARTING my blog. I hate to admit it, but if it hadn’t been for the jumpstart the contest gave me, my ideas would probably still be gathering dust amidst the pages of that journal and in the back of my mind.

Do you have an idea or a project you’ve been thinking of for a while? What’s stopping you from starting? They say the first step is the hardest, but it’s also one of the most exhilerating parts of any endeavor. With each first step, you embark on an adventure that could lead anywhere, you fill your world with new possibilities. Like most things, starting becomes easier with practice. Though at first you may struggle to take each first step, eventually, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier. Soon, your starts will lead you to new experiences that you would have missed if you hadn’t taken those first steps. Starting also sometimes leads to finishing, but that’s a story for another day.

Today, I hope you’ll think about starting something. It doesn’t matter what it is; all that matters is taking that first step. Go for it. Free yourself of any weighty expectations. Don’t think about the finishing, just focus on the starting. There’s a pretty good chance that your journey may take you places you never expected; but you won’t go anywhere until you take that first step.

Photo Credit: Rosie Hardy

Nov 2 2009

Do something. Do anything.

Jamie Lee

whalesjawIn my small and very unscientific poll about the “root of a good mood,” nearly half of you said that a “sense of accomplishment” was a great source of happiness. Though popular culture often defines ultimate happiness as the absence of activity (think woman lying motionless on the beach, relaxing into a massage chair at a spa, or reclining on a chaise eating peeled grapes), I tend to agree with the popular vote. It’s not that I have anything against doing nothing. I don’t. In fact, I think doing nothing is an essential part of creating a sane and balanced life. However – big picture here – doing something is usually much more fulfilling.

This photo is a quick snapshot my beau took of me a couple weekends ago. On an impulse, I decided to scale the impressively high “Whale’s Jaw” boulder at the Gloucester park called Dogtown. You can’t really get the scale of the thing from the picture, but I was a good forty or so feet up in the air. That may not sound like much, but when you’re scaling a slippery, steeply angled, smooth rock face; it sure seems high enough.

There was no reason for me to climb this boulder. No one asked me to do it, and I’m actually slightly put off by heights. I had to ditch my socks and shoes to get enough traction to make the climb. I’m honestly not sure what came over me; but, I have to tell you, I felt pretty damn good when I got up to the top. It wasn’t about doing it entirely on my own. (I didn’t. My beau provided some great on-the-ground coaching and also spotted me on my somewhat less-than-graceful descent … going down is always harder than going up.) It was just about doing it. Why did the man climb the mountain? Because it was there. Sometimes, it’s great if you can stop thinking long enough to just do something. I didn’t ask myself why I wanted to climb the boulder or whether I should climb it. I just had an impulse, and I went with it. I DID something.

And the accomplishment – however small or irrelvant to my everyday life – was just as sweet as if I’d completed some task I’d been planning for months. It may have even been sweeter on some levels, because there was such a sense of play about the whole endeavor … the “just because” part of the equation.

Yesterday, on November 1st, I started another “just because” project. Alongside about 140,000 other wannabe writers, I started writing a 50,000-word novel for the 30-day National Novel Writing Month challenge. Though I am full of self doubts and second guesses, though I have only the glimmer of a storyline and a hazy sense of my overall theme, though I have an entire chorus of inner critics foaming at the mouth inside my weary head; I am just going to go ahead and do this. There’s no big prize at the end. Busting my ass all month to write what is sure to be the crappiest of crappy first drafts does not  have any moral, business, or financial benefit. I’m doing this just because I want to see if I can do it.

And, each time I push myself to do something – anything – just to see if I can do it, I’m amazed at what I can do & that makes me happy.

How about you? Have you ever done something “just because?” Have you ever surprised yourself by doing something you didn’t think you could do?

Oct 30 2009

What fear can teach us about happiness

Jamie Lee

fearThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself. This phrase, made famous by FDR, speaks volumnes about the paralyzing nature of fear; but have you ever considered how powerfully fear motivates?

We all know that fear of something can stop you from doing things that might benefit you. A fear of flying might keep you from traveling. A fear of public speaking might keep you from impressing your boss. A fear of dancing might keep you from having a good time at the holiday party. But, fear can also motivate you like nothing else. For instance, a fear of illness might make you eat healthier foods. A fear of being fired might make you work harder. A fear of being embarrassed on stage might make you practice your backup vocal part over and over for six days straight until your family wants to rip your tongue out. Oh, wait. That was me.

Yes, fear can definitely motivate you by frightening you with potential consequences. But, what if you flipped that tactic on it’s head? What if you could motivate yourself by thinking about the positive benefits of overcoming a fear?

With the spooky, scary Halloween holiday upon us; I’d like to invite you to do something that scares you. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, just something that makes you uncomfortable, something that makes you push just a little bit past the boundaries of your “comfort zone.” You may be surprised at what you can accomplish if you set your fear aside for a minute. And, if you do succeed, you’ll reap the benefits of new experience, expanded horizons, and increased confidence. Even if you fail, you can still say you tried. In truth, the act of trying is more than half the battle when it comes to conquering fears. You may not succeed the first time out of the gate, but it will be that much easier to go for it a second, third, or fourth time.

Each time you conquer a fear, your capacity for happiness grows. Happiness is often a by-product of feeling in control and accomplished. When you eliminate fears, you increase your ability to control your world and to accomplish whatever task is at hand. Think how wonderful it would be, for instance, if you no longer had to agonize over every little presentation you had to give. Or, what if you didn’t have to spend time worrying about looking silly in front of your child’s Kindergarten class (and the other moms), but could just go in there and have a great time?

Fear has it’s uses, but I prefer to focus on the positive ones.

How do you use fear? Do you motivate yourself with the threat of punishment, or the promise of a positive benefit? Which works best for you?

Photo Credit: Luna DiRimmel

Oct 29 2009

Lower your expectations.

Jamie Lee

sadprincessYes, that’s what I said; but it isn’t as pessimistic as it sounds. It might be more accurate if I said, “ditch” your expectations. Let me explain …

Have you ever gotten yourself all worked up about an event (like a party, concert, dinner, etc) only to be really disappointed when the big day finally arrived? I’ll bet you’ve walked away from more than one Big Deal something-or-other thinking, “Wow. That was anti-climactic.”

It’s easy to make the mistake of setting yourself up for disappointment by placing huge expectations on something. The “something” might be a new job, a special event, a relationship, or even – gasp! – you. The trouble with expectations is that you expect them to become reality, and then – when they don’t materialize the way you’d expected – you are sorely disappointed, even angry. You feel gypped out of something that was rightfully yours. You feel betrayed. You might feel foolish.

But, you say, you don’t want to go through life low expectations. Of course you don’t, and I don’t want you to either. I want you to go through life without any expectations. Ditch those expectations and replace them with aspirations. It’s a subtle but powerful difference. Put simply, an expectation is something you expect while an aspiration is a goal or objective. Often, expectations spring from a sense of entitlement, but aspirations usually spring from a desire to attain something through your own actions. An expectation is passive, but an aspiration is active. If you expect to have a great time at a party, you’re waiting for someone or something to create that good time for you. If you aspire to have a great time, you’ll find a way to have a great time – regardless of outside circumstances.

You should fill your life with goals and objectives, but put expectations out of your mind. Instead, work towards your goals while enjoying the journey. Expectations can be very limiting – closing us off to undiscovered possibilities. Ultimately, nothing we do is as much about the end result as it is about the journey … but that’s a post for another day.

Do you have expectations or aspirations about things? If you have expectations, how do you think your outlook would change if you shifted to aspirations?

Image Credit: Gabriela Camerotti

Oct 27 2009

Good Moods 'n' Gratitudes

Jamie Lee

gratefulIt’s after 9PM and I’m feeling like I ought to just give in, take a shot of NyQuil, and call it a day. So far, this week has been plagued with technical difficulties, insane work schedules, a nasty cold, and – to top it all off – continued falling in the Good Mood Gig voting polls. Rough week, and it’s only Tuesday.

So, what does all this have to do with being in a good mood? I’m so glad you asked.

Whenever I’m having a particularly rotten day – you know the kind I mean – I take a moment to make a mental note of the things I’m grateful for. From the huge items that we often take for granted (like our overall health) to the small details that we often overlook (like sun shining through the window, warming the back of your neck while you work), each day holds many large and small pleasures for which to be thankful. The act of expressing gratitude automatically puts you in a positive frame of mind. How can you be cranky when you’re in full appreciation mode for the wonderful gifts in your life?

Think I’m crazy? You may want to try the gratitude journal experiment: For one month, take a few minutes at the end of each day to jot down five things you’re thankful for. I did this for one year and was amazed at the power of this tiny committment to consciously appreciate the good things in my life.

Today, I’m thankful for:

  1. Being able to take time to chaperone my daughter’s Kindergarten class on a visit to a local farm
  2. A great first meeting between two business associates that I referred
  3. Having the money available to buy my mom a couple nice birthday gifts (she deserves them!)
  4. The patience of my wonderful beau who always looks out for me – even when I’m the one driving me crazy
  5. An easy-breezey bedtime with my daughter tonight – bath, books, & bedtime

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image Credit: Sno Shuu

Oct 26 2009

How to easily turn on your good mood

Jamie Lee

ericHDo you have a personal soundtrack? I highly recommend getting one.

Whether you capture it on your iPod or 8-tracks, a collection of songs that put a little extra spring in your step is a valuable asset and a gift that keeps on giving. The right music can calm your nerves, bolster your courage, and brighten your mood. The right music mix can be a highly effective health tonic with no side effects (unless you count involuntary toe-tapping ).

Here are 10 grooves that always do the trick for me with a random pick for the embedded video:

  1. Amazing – Josh Kelley
  2. New Shoes – Paolo Nutini
  3. Stitched Up – John Mayer with Herbie Hancock
  4. Sounds Like This – Eric Hutchinson
  5. Rock & Roll – Eric Hutchinson
  6. Ok It’s All Right With Me – um … Eric Hutchinson again :) … see below
  7. Agua del Pozo – Alex Cuba
  8. Don’t Tell Me – Soulive
  9. Legendary – Hamilton Loomis
  10. Fibre De Verve – Paris Combo

So … what tunes get your mood into an upswing?