Pure joy!

I took this photo during my trip to St Vincent & The Grenadines recently. It was the last day of school for most of the children on the islands and this little boy and his friends cut school early to play by the sea on their way home. They were all jumping off a pier and boats. They were splashing each other and laughing so hard having such a good time, I just had to capture the moment.

He’s still wearing his vest and schoolpants, shoes and bags left on the pier.

“Tell everyone you know: “My happiness depends on me, so you’re off the hook.” And then demonstrate it. Be happy, no matter what they’re doing. Practice feeling good, no matter what. And before you know it, you will not give anyone else responsibility for the way you feel-and then, you’ll love them all. Because the only reason you don’t love them, is because you’re using them as your excuse to not feel good.” – Esther Hicks

Last evening, I found myself hanging out at a bar and wishing with all my heart that I’d said no and headed home instead. The whole time I was sitting on that bar stool I kept asking myself why, if I knew I wasnt feeling 100, did I still agree to come? I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for my unhappiness and discomfort. I felt tortured by the whole scene, all the conversations going on around me felt inane and boring. I wanted to blame the other people in the lime for my predicament, but the only reason I was there was because I said yes. In my frustration I alienated everyone in the lime that I agreed to like it was somehow their fault that I had made this stupid decision.

How many times have you found yourself in a situation that does not make you happy and you take your frustration with yourself out on the people around you? For me, its more times than I deserve forgiveness for. I’m a work in progress.

I didn’t like that person who wanted to make everyone feel bad because I wasnt feeling well. It was unfair. So I’ve decided that since I am solely responsible for my happiness, I should have a few rules to live by, so that when I’m on “2 minds” about something, I will refer to them for guidance. I was going for ten, but let’s be real here, I’m not going to remember ten rules. So this is what I came up with for living my best life:

1. I am responsible for my happiness, NO ONE ELSE IS.

2. Always remember Rule #1.

Those are my rules, pretty simple huh?! I thought so too and I can definitely remember them, even when I want to be mad at the whole wide world. Yes, I am allowed to feel pain, sadness, anger, fear, panic and disappointment since they are a part of life. I believe we have to feel it to heal it, so feeling the negative emotions helps the moving on process. But I am not allowed to wallow. Happiness is not a destination, it is a decision and the time is always now, now is the time to choose happiness.

Thankfully, I’ve learned over the years what makes me happy:

    Drinking more water, my body thanks me when I do.
    Doing more spin and yoga. Whenever I do a spin class, I feel like I can take on the world after and well yoga, just makes me feel good period.
    Recently, my drinking green smoothies and trying new recipes are a source of joy that I didn’t think possible.
    Getting more rest. I am always nicer when I’ve had enough sleep.
    More Sex. The in love, committed to each other, you rock my world kinda sex, because that’s the kind I’m happiest having.
    Blogging. I started this blog to share my experiences with my readers and it amazes me every time I realise that people are in fact reading. This has been such a humbling and exhilarating experience all at once.
    Drinking less alcohol. Hangovers get worse with age.
    Forgiving more. Forgiving myself first and then everybody else. We are all carrying burdens and some are heavier than others, I don’t have to make mine any heavier by holding on to crap. This means forgiving him too.
    Praying more, because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
    Taking time to enjoy cassava dumplings and Tiramisu when I can. Because life is short and we’re here to have plenty fun too.
    Enjoying the outdoors, exploring my island and travelling more. Experiencing new things always make for extraordinary moments.
    Yes I have career goals and financial goals and working towards these goals add to my happiness, the little steps I take everyday towards achieving these goals matter the most.
    And when I need a time out from it all, I promise to listen to my body and take care of me.

I am going to cultivate the habits that make me happy everyday. It’s an evolving list as I learn and grow and become the Vernette I was created to be. The great thing about happy is that you can find it where you look for it and when you realise that it’s inside of you, then it makes things a whole lot easier. The happier I am, the more loving I am. The more love I have to give, is the happier I will be.

There is a quote that goes, “The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.” Don’t wait for “someday” to be happy. Embrace the light, embrace your light and make yourself happy now. The time is and always will be now.

This is one of my favourite places. Every time I’m in Tobago, I make the time to visit. I feel happy and at peace here and my spirit is always renewed. It’s also the scene of one of the last happy times I had with my mother before she died. Do you have a “favourite/happy” spot that renews your spirit too? – photo by Lucy Masters

Culloden Bay, Tobago

Merge – photo by Lucy Masters

My friend Lucy, took this photo on our trip to an Eco resort in Tobago last weekend. I kept trying to find the perfect scene that reflected this week’s theme of merge. This photo stood out to me because it is happy, sad, hopeful, romantic and serene all wrapped up in one. The light and dark, ebb and flow of the water, the two chairs in the distance reminding us that there is the human element in the rawness of nature, can all be seen here. I absolutely loved this.

Life is about Balance.

Something powerful happened to me today.

As I was stretching in my yoga class, the skin on my chest felt like it was on fire. I had to stop stretching and look at my skin to make sure I wasn’t having some kind of reaction, to what I don’t know.

My instructor saw me looking uncomfortable and more than a little scared and asked what the matter was. I told her that the skin on my chest felt like it was on fire. It was so powerful, I was sweating and on fire all at the same time. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. She said that it was energy. This heat burning my skin was pent-up energy trying to get out. Energy huh?! How about that.

So of course I had to Google this magical happening. God bless Google.

According to my Google results, energy is a pulsation that moves in waves through-out our bodies. Yoga poses help to ease tension and clear blockages, allowing your energy to be released and flow freely.

In Yoga there is no separation between the mind and the body. What happens in the mind happens in the body and ultimately affects your spirit. So if something is bothering you emotionally or something is on your mind it will manifest in the body. My insomnia comes to mind here. When you work your body during a yoga class, the more you stretch and breathe the more likely you are to encounter your pent-up emotional issues and their release can be powerful.

During Yoga, I focus so much on getting my breathing right and holding my poses that I don’t think too much about the energy being released. It’s simply amazing to me that this happened to me at this time though. You see, I recently had a conversation, that required I be absolutely honest about what I was feeling and while this made me vulnerable, I felt empowered. After that conversation, I felt so free.

I did not realize until my yoga class that I had experienced a breakthrough. Through my stretch, I was able to release the energy of that conversation and what it represented through my chest. Which in itself is poignant because that’s where it was focused. My heart. That conversation required I speak from my heart. That heat I was feeling was the last of those unresolved issues with the fear of expressing what was in my heart being released from my body.

I will admit I was more than a little scared at first, because I did not know what was happening inside my body. But now that I do and I know what that conversation meant for me, I am amazed at the connectedness of it all. I love my yoga. I have always known it was good for my body and my breathing, now I know it is good for my mental and emotional health as well.

I almost said, “But you’re not homeless!” as I held unto the food with both hands staring with some consternation at the well dressed guy standing in front of me.

He earnestly said, “You’re giving out food right? Well I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten all day.” Immediately I handed over the meal and was instantly apologetic.

In my mind, the homeless and hungry had to be dirty, in torn clothing, most probably crazy. Not this clean man, in clean clothes and of apparently sound mind. You see, I was doing a personal thanksgiving for all the blessings I have been receiving by distributing 30 meals I prepared, to the homeless in the city where I worked.

While we were driving around Woodford Square, which is a park in the down town area, looking for parking, I said to my brother-in-law, I don’t think these people are homeless, we’ll have to look elsewhere. I spied one guy who fit my mental description of a homeless person and he was the one I was homing in on when I was swamped by MOST of the people sitting in the square.

It was then, looking with new eyes, I saw the bags of what appeared to be belongings on top of the various tables they were sitting at. I looked a little closer at the faces and they were gaunt, up close, their clothes though clean were not in the best condition. They were all grateful for the meal.

I, on the other hand felt two things.

I was happy that I was able to distribute all the meals and I was ashamed that I thought I knew what poverty/homelessness looked like. Yes, it might look dirty and unkempt, smelly and crazy. But it can also appear clean, well-dressed, well-mannered and educated. This thanksgiving has taught me so much about myself. I underestimated the amount of work involved because I was happy thinking about the result and I wanted to OWN the result all by myself, completely ignoring the process and the hard work it would take to get there. What was supposed to be a lunchtime meal, turned into dinner, since I was only able to distribute by 4:00 p.m. I suppose it was the perfect time and I shouldn’t worry too much it, but had I accepted the help offered in getting the meal together, I might have been able to stick to my goal of a lunchtime meal. There was a part of me that wanted all the credit for this. I can see that now.

I had this mental picture of what a homeless person should look like, and you should know as well, that even though I use the word homeless, in my mind that translates to poor person. I am guilty of stereotyping. Thing is, I only realized what my true thoughts were, in that moment when that guy walked up to me.

This got me thinking about what poverty truly looks like.

Yes, if you called to mind what you thought a poor person looks like right now, that would be correct in most cases. But poverty is also, the “well-dressed” person sitting in a square, with other well-dressed people, who all had nothing to eat for the day.

There is a thought that poverty is for the lazy. I know I had a vision of what a homeless person looks like. So it would be correct to think that there are people who also suppose, that people are poor because they want to be. Poverty is complicated. I am not disputing the fact that there are some truly lazy “hard-back” men and women who refuse to work and are willing to live off of the sweat of others. Yes there are those who beg, because they can. But not everybody is out to scam the system. There are people with full-time jobs who still cannot achieve the most basic standard of living. Imagine for those with part-time employment.

I see the desolation of it everyday, because the homeless/poor frequent the downtown area where I work. But what about the poor with homes? And that for me is the alarming part. This is poverty that is hidden. My life would have been very different if my mother didn’t rise above the many challenges she faced as a single parent. This is why I was shocked at myself for having stereotyped the homeless. I should have known better.

Can poverty, a problem as complex as it is, ever be solved? How can we help? Solutions are possible. But we must first have a government serious about reducing poverty and homelessness; throwing money at a problem is not always a cure, sometimes it’s just a band-aid. The rest of us must care enough to act together to achieve a better community.