"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.
Weekly small change challengesWeek 1 - pay compliments to strangers.
This is a really tough one for me, and I am still working on it. I am very shy of strangers, terrified of large groups and of meeting new people. However, in order to overcome my social anxiety, I have been training myself to observe strangers and say something nice, when appropriate.
For example, when I am at the grocery store and the person helping me at checkout is a woman, I always pay attention to her jewelry – earrings, hair clips, necklaces, rings, etc. Usually, I can see something that I can sincerely compliment her on. I also pay attention to the name tags, because many people have beautiful and unusual names, and I make note of that.
I am not suggesting that you turn into Polyanna or become creepy. But learning to say something nice to people you've never met, when appropriate, is kind of fun.
Week 2 - don't ignore your problems.
I am still struggling with this one myself – being bothered by something for a long time, trying to "handle" it, until it gets to a point where I just lose it. Not a good approach. I am getting better at trying not to let my problems escalate to critical mass, but I still have a lot of work to do.
So, come along with me on this self-improvement journey, and let's all learn to recognize and mitigate our problems before they drive us nuts. Sometimes, it's something we can fix ourselves. Sometimes, the solution may require the involvement of others. Perhaps, you have a recurring ache and need to go see a doctor. Perhaps, your kid has been leaving dirty dishes sitting all over the place and inviting ants and cockroaches into the house. Or maybe you are just feeling tired (it happens to everyone) and need to ask your spouse to help out around the house more. Whatever it is – believe me, it's never too small.
Don't get me wrong – I am not inviting you to become an emotional and physical hypochondriac who constantly whines about everything. However, if you feel something is escalating and the cumulative effect is starting to get to you – don't wait. Speak up. Get help. Don't be shy about explaining what's going on and why you need a break. Being nice to yourself, especially when something is constantly grating on you and weighing you down, is not a weakness or a selfish act. In the long run, you are not only helping yourself, but also sparing people around you what might turn into a huge, emotional tantrum or a real medical emergency.
Week 3 - It's NOT going to be one of THOSE days
Sometimes, you get up and slide your foot into your slippers only to discover that a dog threw up into one and a cat left you a dead mouse in the other. Sometimes, you go to brush your teeth and stub your toe on the nightstand leg. Sometimes, you go to get dressed for work only to discover that the shirt you were going to wear is missing a button, your jacket needs to be dry-cleaned and your shoes are scuffed. When things like that happen, what's the first thing many people are tempted to say? "Oh, sheesh. It's going to be one of THOSE days."
No. No, it's not. Do not pre-program your day to be lousy. It's just a mouse – if you have pets, you know things like that happen.
Yes, that stubbed toe hurts – put some ice on it, make sure nothing is broken, and take an anti-inflammatory. Wear comfortable shoes to keep from bothering it too much.
It's just a button – it takes five minutes to sew back on.
The dry-cleaning can wait a day – just brush your jacket as well as you can, maybe steam it if there is time (hanging it in the bathroom while you take a shower and closing the door to trap the steam actually works quite well).
Give your shoes a quick shine – another couple of minutes. Done!
No, it is NOT going to be one of THOSE days just because the start was rough. Unless your roof fell in, a tree fell on top of your car, or a loved one had just gotten hurt or something equally disastrous happened, other things are small by comparison
Week 4 - Hold the door
There are days when I do great at being aware of my surroundings, and then there are days when I appear to be blind and deaf, and just plow right through people. So, while I do my best to hold the door in or out of the building for someone following me, I am not always consistent at it – it's still a work in progress.
That said, I do encourage you all to try and do this on a consistent basis – hold the door for someone, whether they are struggling with a bunch of packages, or a baby stroller, or just because they happen to be entering or exiting behind you. It's a nice thing to do and requires very little effort.
Big little stories
- Yesterday I was heading home from work when I saw a gentleman asking how to get to the airport from where we were. He didn't get the answer he was looking for so I asked him where he was going, he told me the airport. So I walked him over the the RTD map they have at the station and showed him the two easiest way to the airport. He thanked me so much and tried to give me money for helping him but I turned him down and asked him to pay it forward. About 5 minutes later, he had come the to the light rail and insisted I took his can of pop and a bag of snacks that he couldn't take on the plane and continued to thank me. You don't need to be the nicest person in the world to help people, you just have to be willing to help a fellow human being.
- Homelessness - it's not incurable.
- What a great idea!