Welcome to my thoughts on Living with Joy, Purpose, and Conscious Choice.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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Here, I share my thoughts on spiritual power, relationships, simple living, managing stress, work-life balance, career decisions, money, politics, the environment, and much more.

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The content of all my blogs/websites consists entirely of personal opinion.
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Sunday, May 13, 2012

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Families and Social Expectations

Question: Mother's Day is kind of sad for me. This Mother's Day was another reminder that in my life it's almost always about me giving and not getting anything much in return, not even getting phone calls from my adult kids on Mother's Day. And some members of my extended family are disrespectful of me when our family does get together. What is your advice on dealing with this?

My Answer:

Take a few quiet moments. Sit by yourself and prepare to contemplate an important idea that is contrary to how most people think about life...

*** There is no particular way that family relationships are "supposed" to be. ***

Most people have a quite rigid idea of what a "good" family is supposed to look like. There are "supposed" to be two parents - a man and a woman - who got married to each other in their early 20s (or perhaps late teens or late twenties - depending on cultural differences). They are "supposed" to be about the same age (with the man perhaps 2 years older than the woman). They are "supposed" to have the same racial heritage and have been brought up in the same church (which, of course, neither of them has ever considered changing). They are "supposed" to have 2 children (or 4 or 8 depending on the subculture they belong to). The woman is "supposed" to be subservient to the man, and to focus the majority of her creative energies on parenting her children, while the man spends the majority of his creative energies outside the home.

One of the hallmarks of this "supposed to be" (traditional) family is that when one's children have grown, they are "supposed" to establish their own "good" families (as described in the last paragraph). They are "supposed" to live in the same town they grew up in, or at least nearby. And they are "supposed" to bring the grandchildren to visit very regularly - perhaps for a weekly dinner after a shared Sunday religious service.

Well... Life isn't the way it was "supposed to be." Times are different now, and more people are making different choices. What is much more important to consider, however, is that even in the days of Leave It To Beaver and white picket fences, many families weren't the way they were "supposed to be." People sometimes died young. People occasionally found the courage to leave abusive relationships. And some people have always found the courage to commit their lives to someone of a different color, or religion, or part of the world.

So, how does all this relate to dealing with the kids not calling on Mother's Day?

1. Ideas of expected social behavior are culturally based. While you may have a preference for how others behave, the expectation that they "should" behave that way is based on traditional culture, and not on any natural law.

2. You can't ever change anyone (other than yourself), and you will always suffer whenever you try.

3. Understand that others are not "wrong." They are simply making their choices - as they have a perfect right to. (I hope it is clear that I am speaking of "social choices," and don't categorize things like child abuse as "choices.")

4. Be happy. Live and let live. Spend time in social situations that make you happy, and avoid social situations that make you unhappy.

When your whole family is loving and supportive, it is a great blessing. But when family members are indifferent or hostile, release your expectations, and find the love and support you need elsewhere. - Jonathan Lockwood Huie


A couple of side notes:

Over half of the children born in the United States to women under 30 are now born outside of marriage. In my opinion, this reflects an evolution of cultural norms, rather than "morals going to hell." But whatever your own opinion of this trend, it is important to understand that we live in a world of irreversibly changing social expectations.

Productive and joyful lives have always been lived both inside and outside of traditional families. And suffering, dysfunction, and even child abuse have also occurred both inside and outside of traditional families. I found an article in The Atlantic by the daughter of a "single mother" that you may want to read.

Further reading: Zero-Based Gratitude

How to Forgive and Move On

Honor tradition AND question tradition. - jlh

Saturday, May 12, 2012

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Test Jitters

Question: I have a test coming up very soon - and I'm scared. What can I do.

My Answer:

1. Visualize that you have failed the test -- and that life is very good anyway. Other paths open to you for a great life.

2. Visualize doing well on the test. Hold the image that you are relaxed and confident and finding the test easy.

3. Relax. Study, but also make sure you sleep and exercise.

4. Do well on the test.

Play to win, but be a good loser.
Have a plan for your life,
but accept whatever comes your way
with grace and gratitude.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Monday, May 7, 2012

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Yes, YOU Can Be Happy

I often get email saying, "MY situation is different. Being positive and joyful, and creating a life of service and purpose are great for OTHER people, but I can't because I am..." And the reason they can't be positive and happy is being out of work, or having no money, or having a falling out with relatives, or living with a memory of childhood abuse, or being sick, or having a sick relative.

Truly, I can only think of one situation that is often beyond the power of being positive: Being in racking physical pain. With regards to being out of a job, having no money, and such... Once one has food and a roof over their head, the rest is nice, but not necessary.

I recommend reading about others who have found happiness while in situations most of us can't even imagine.

Helen Keller was blind and deaf, yet said she was happy.

If I am happy in spite of my deprivations,
if my happiness is so deep that it is a faith,
so thoughtful that it becomes a philosophy of life.
If, in short, I am an optimist,
my testimony to the creed of optimism is worth hearing.
- Helen Keller

Read about Viktor Frankl who found happiness and meaning for life while in the Nazi Death Camps.
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men
who walked through the huts comforting others,
giving away their last piece of bread...
They offer sufficient proof that everything
can be taken from a man but one thing:
to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances,
to choose one's own way.
- Viktor E. Frankl

Read about Anne Frank - a 13 year old girl who lived under Nazi persecution.

I don't think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.
- Anne Frank

May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

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Many Paths to Joy and Service

Question: The purpose of my life from childhood has been to study medicine and become a researcher. I have always gotten excellent grades, but I have been turned down for medical school. I feel like my life is over. What should I do?

My Answer:

I am very sorry that you are so troubled. Please, please take good care of yourself. Your life is important - value it and respect it.

I understand your life feels very difficult at this time. Nonetheless, you can choose to live a great life - a life of joy and a life of service.

I understand that it feels very important to you to attend medical school, but I ask you to look at your life from a wider perspective. Perhaps you will eventually attend medical school - and that would be wonderful. But there are many other ways for you to live a great life.

There are only two true values in life - your own joy, and being of service to others. These two are related in that one of the best ways to find your own joy is to be of real service to others.

Ask yourself why you want so much to attend medical school. What is your underlying goal in life? Medical school by itself cannot be your ultimate goal in life. It must be merely one stepping stone on the way to your true goal. So what is that true goal? If your true goal is to be of service to others by helping to cure disease, then medical school would be a great path, but it is not the only path. Suppose you spend your life as a laboratory assistant rather than as a graduate medical researcher? I realize that would not be your first choice, but couldn't you be of great service, and also live a joyful life.

It is far less important what your job title is, than that you approach your job with dedication and compassion. Consider these words by the great Martin Luther King Jr.

If a man is called to be a street sweeper,
he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted,
or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.
He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts
of heaven and earth will pause to say,
here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me share a story...

Do you know whose hands actually performed the delicate work of the world's first heart transplant? No, not Dr. Christiaan Barnard, but his black laboratory assistant Hamilton Naki. At that time, Blacks were not allowed to attend medical school or be doctors in South Africa. Read the whole story here. Even if the story has been exaggerated, let it inspire you to do what you can with the opportunities available - as well as also continuing to look for higher-leverage opportunities.

Listen also to the words of Helen Keller (1880-1968) who overcame being both deaf and blind to become a famous author, lecturer, and activist for women's suffrage, workers' rights, and ending war.

When one door closes, another opens.
But often we look so long, so regretfully,
upon the closed door,
that we fail to see the one that is opened for us.
- Helen Keller

May the world be kind to you, and may your own thoughts be gentle upon yourself.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie