When You Don’t Like Reality

My reality is, objectively and subjectively, pretty great.

I have a loving family, I’m in excellent health, I get to do meaningful work. I have enough money in my bank account to enjoy a jackfruit bun for lunch while I tappity-tap on the keys of this mid-range laptop. I never go hungry, my bed is warm, and I have wonderful friends.

My list of gratitude would fill an entire notebook. My life is good.

Despite all this, sometimes I don’t like reality. Something happens (usually something trivial) that spins me into a chaos of misery. I turn into an embittered, teary-eyed grouch. I wish it didn’t happen, I wish I had more emotional fortitude to defend against these experiences, but I’m only human.

It’s not fair, I say.

I don’t deserve this.

Everything sucks.

I’m all alone.

I’m telling reality through gritted teeth, I don’t like you. You’re not my friend.

I’m telling reality, I want something different than what I’m getting right now. This pain, this illness, this loneliness, this is not what I want.

And that’s how I get stuck in the muck of misery.

I’m resisting the very thing that exists at this moment. I’m looking reality in the face and denying it.

If your house is burning down, it’s like standing there and saying, this sucks. I hate this. I don’t want the house to burn down.

All that is true, of course. Your house burning down would suck and I’m sure you would hate it.

But wouldn’t it be more productive to call the fire department, be sure any family members and pets are safe, and alert the neighbors?

Wouldn’t it be better to say, this is happening right now and I need to work fast to save the day?

“Don’t find fault, find remedy.”

-Henry Ford

So instead of Allysia-the-Grouch pouting about her poor fortune (finding fault), Allysia-the-Grouch needs to confront reality, accept it, and deal with the burning house (finding remedy).

Allysia-the-Grouch (or Allysia-the-Non-Grouch, for that matter) won’t always like reality. Neither will you. Reality can be hard. So, so hard. Even the most trivial thing can be hard under the right circumstances. Realizing you don’t have any rolled oats in the cupboard and all the stores are closed can be the tipping point. Not that I would know.

But what does sitting there and not liking reality accomplish? Shaking your fist at the TV but never getting up off the couch?

You have to accept the burning house. Then you have to save what you can. Then you have to rebuild.



If You Don’t Love What You Do, You’re Not Trying Hard Enough

If you don’t love what you do, you’re not trying hard enough.

The highway looks wet in the distance, but that distance never arrives. You never reach the wet spot. It’s a mirage, an optical illusion.

In your life, you say, “When I’m doing what I love, then I’ll try hard. Then I’ll be happy.”

And you keep your eyes fixated on that wet spot in the distance. You don’t arrive, so you don’t try hard and you aren’t happy.

All the while your life is flying by, one kilometer after the next, this constant journey. You don’t see the sky, the signposts, the deer in the ditch, the wildflowers. You just see the wet spot.

Effort = Satisfaction

Maybe you’re working as a fry cook right now. And you’re saying, “Allysia, this is garbage. I’m not happy because I’m a fry cook. It’s a miserable job. This is about as far away from living my dream as it gets.”

So you show up miserable to your fry cook job, and you put in the minimum effort required before miserably returning home, and then repeat the cycle miserably.

The radical idea I’d like to suggest is this: What if you said, “Today I’m going to be the best fry cook in the world.”?

You show up for work, determined instead of miserable. You give it your all. I’ve never been a fry cook so I have no idea what this means in actual terms. Maybe it means you’re more precise. You’re really paying attention, you’re really being present inside each moment. You’re focusing on positive and helpful interactions with coworkers. Maybe it means listening to high-quality podcasts or audiobooks.

What happens at the end of the day? Do you miserably slump your way home?

Probably not. Maybe being a fry cook isn’t your dream job. But there’s a deep satisfaction you get from doing a job well. So instead of slumping home, there’s a spring in your step. You gave it your all.

You were present. You lived your life instead of disparaging it.

Being a fry cook forever

What if you never reached your dreams, and you were stuck living as a fry cook forever?

What if it were literally impossible to do anything else? Maybe someone’s holding a gun to your head and saying, “You have to be a fry cook forever”. That’s basically the only scenario I can imagine where it’d be impossible for you to opt out of fry cookery.

Yes, that would be a sucky fate. But you know what? Some people have sucky fates. They lose both legs, they’re born with cerebral palsy, they’re given a cancer diagnosis. Any sucky scenario you can imagine has probably happened to someone. There’s probably even someone out there who had to be a fry cook forever.

What do you do with that? Bemoan your fate? “Life sucks, I have to do this stupid job forever.”?

You have a choice

The thing is, even if you can’t chose your circumstances, you can choose your response to those circumstances.

Your job might suck. But whether or not you’re miserable because your job sucks is 100% your decision.

There might be two fry cooks in an identical situation (gun to head, fry cook or die). One is content, the other is miserable. How is this possible?

They make the choice – be miserable or make the most of it.

This isn’t my own original concept. In his powerful book Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl talks about life in a concentration camp, one of the suckiest fates of all. He observed how some people were kind, generous and upbeat despite being in a concentration camp, whereas other people withered in misery.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
-Vicktor Frankl

Love Fry Cooking

Ironically, learning to love your life as a fry cook can be the very thing that brings you more opportunities. It can help you move toward your dreams.

People tend to think, “If I embrace fry cookery, then I’m resigning myself to that life forever. I need to fight my life as a fry cook in order to change it.”

But the complete opposite is true. By bringing your “A” game to whatever you do, even if it’s not your dream job, you’re telling life that you know how to be happy with what you have, regardless of what it is. You’re saying, “Whatever you throw at me, life, I can handle with grace.”

Life says, “Okay, awesome. You’ve passed that challenge. Here, let’s move on to more interesting challenges – such as how to channel your ‘A’ game motivation to something more interesting than fry cookery.”

Putting your all into a job, regardless of it it’s your dream job or not, will bring you daily satisfaction. The mere act of doing your best is satisfying. With this, you start noticing the road instead of just the wet mirage in the distance.

My job history

I’ve worked a lot of terrible jobs. And I’ve spent most of my adult life not having very much money.

I’ve waited tables, peddled popcorn, answered phones at a call centre, chopped endless pounds of vegetables, and sorted through thrift store clothing. Eventually I stumbled upon piano teaching and that was finally not terrible.

I’m proud to say I’ve always brought my “A” game. I showed up on time and I did the work as best I could (even when I hated the work). I wanted to be the best and most efficient server, and I hustled hard. I didn’t really know how to be a popcorn-selling master, so I chose to enjoy the summer sunshine and constant socializing. Sorting through clothes was boring, but long conversations with my friend at work was not.

Even if I was gun-to-head forced to keep peddling popcorn, I would probably have a pretty good life. Not a lot of money, but fresh air, cheerful interactions and great blues music. I could still have a rich family and social life. I could still read tons of books and play music and do all the things I love.

How to find happiness and love what you do

When you’re satisfied on a daily basis, you get unstuck. Misery is stuckness. Miserable people lack ideas and creativity. They lack the ability to say, “What can I do next? How do I change this situation?” They spend all of their energy being miserable, which perpetuates the misery.

When you work hard and do your best, it’s hard to stay miserable. You’re moving. You’re creating momentum. That momentum then spills into other areas of your life.

Suddenly you’re trying your best in your personal life, in your day-to-day relationships. You’re bringing your “A” game to parenting. To cooking. To your leisure time. Suddenly your life is infused with effort. You care. You’re trying. You’re doing things. You’re moving.

This motion is what moves you beyond fry cooking. You learn new skills and have interesting new experiences. New doors open. You come up with creative ideas.

You’ll learn how to kick that guy holding a gun to your head in the groin, skip town and change your name.

You’ll learn that the mirage in the distance isn’t going to make you happy. How could an illusion make you happy?

It’s the process, the day-to-day, the working hard, the doing your best. That’s where you’ll find it.



Commandments of Being Healthy and Happy

As we gear up for a new year, and as I ice the cake of my goals, dreams and ambitions for 2019, I feel compelled to reflect on my list of “Commandments of Being Healthy and Happy”, a list I created back in 2016 when I was struggling with big swings. Weeks of high energy followed by weeks of ambivalence. Weeks of finding zest in life, followed by weeks of blandness.

So I came up with these commandments. My Grandpa’s philosophy (whether he knows it or not) is that most problems in life can be solved by a good meal.

While I think that’s a little simplistic, I also tend to agree. We human beings are simple, and oftentimes the root of happiness isn’t this complex network but rather a bulb easy to uproot – and easy to plant.

We have this first layer of needs – food, water, clothing, shelter, warmth. Once those have been met, loving relationships add sweetness. But after that? If all of those criteria are met, then what?

This list will be a little different for everyone. We all have our own nuances. But I also think we humans have much in common. I don’t, for example, think most humans could thrive with a nocturnal schedule, or without access to fresh air.

Without further ado, here it is.

Commandments of Being Healthy and Happy

The following points contribute to my optimal health – physical, mental and emotional. When one of these points is disregarded, the whole structure becomes imbalanced. Even one missing piece can be a catalyst for illness, depression or anxiety. Therefore, it’s important to establish a habit of all the following points, especially in the early stages. Once a routine emerges, I can become a little more flexible, but until then, follow these as laws.

  • Go to bed by 11pm or earlier. This means lights out + eyes closed.

  • Wake up by 7am or earlier.

  • Exercise daily.

  • Get fresh air, in the rain and shine, warm and cold. Even just 5 minutes outside can make a difference.

  • Go for walks/jogs (outdoors when possible). It clears the mind and provide opportunities to reflect, and/or listen to something interesting.

  • Eat 3 meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner) at a consistent time.

  • Eat healthy food. Food primarily comprised of vegetables, beans, whole grains, fruit and nuts/seeds. Allow treats, but not in excess.

  • Ensure adequate nutrition by doing the following:

            -supplement:     -daily vitamin D, even in the summer (mental attitude/bones)

                                    -B12 weekly (even when drinking fortified milk)



                                    -flax for omega 3

            -a serving of nuts or seeds every day (vitamin E, good fat)

                        -1 brazil nut daily for selenium

            -nutritional yeast for B vitamins

            -dark leafy greens at every meal (kale, collards, romaine, chard, spinach, brussels, bok choy and yu choy, broccoli)

  • read something awesome (audiobooks count) – note that really dark and depressing literature is best in small doses. Non-fiction and fiction, go where the wind blows, reading is pleasure.

  • Shower daily

  • Spend time with Michael – actual time, even if it’s just a little (watching TV doesn’t count)

  • Spend time with family and/or friends (on a near-daily basis)

  • Stay organized (yearly goals, monthly, weekly, daily)

  • Journal

Wishing you an excellent 2019. See you on the flip side!



Cheerfulness is an Art

What a great effort it is, to live life cheerfully and with verve and energy. It takes a lot. The more I think about it, the more it’s like art. We have these impulses to create art, but they’re random. If we just follow our impulses, our art output would be really minimal. We have to sit down and decide to do the work. Most of the time it’s not “finding motivation” but “creating motivation”.


And the same, then, for being cheerful. For being energetic. It’s just like art. Sometimes we’re in the mood, other times it’s a herculean effort. I’m not saying one could be cheerful indefinitely (I wouldn’t know how to go that far), but to make the effort to be cheerful the vast majority of the time – wouldn’t that make the world a better place? Wouldn’t that be one of the best contributions you could bring to life?


Because if you’re energetic, vervy, zesty – that has to rub off on others, right? Energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I want people to feel refreshed after being around me. Restored. I want my energy signature to be a force of good.


But then I have to do the work.


Don’t we as humans tend to take the lazy route? We just give in to our moods and feelings, accepting them as reality, accepting them as unchangeable. “I’m feeling lazy”, “I’m feeling bored”, “I’m feeling sad”, “I’m feeling happy”. It’s like the winds of moods blow us wherever they please, and we’re scraps of human paper. But who wants to be so flimsy and two-dimensional?


Sit down, do the work. Be an energy artist. Live my life like every day counts, which of course it always does.





Love and Kindness

I wrote this on October 12, 2011, the day after my 25th birthday.

The month prior was spent in beautiful Northern California, where I breathed the ocean and lived all by myself and was lonely and revitalized. There was a creative streak that followed, but it faded (as is wont to happen without kindling).

It’s harder to write about positive shifts (ahh the angsty artist), but maybe it’s more important.



Love and Kindness

You pulled me up and
I let you down.
A mountainside, steep and promiseless
I’d forgotten how
To hold on.
And forgiveness rushes by like movie slides,
And we’re blind to it, and
We’re bound to it.

I waited for a perfect moment
But the story didn’t wait for me.
And I tell you everything, and I give you everything.
Scene by scene, again and again.
It’s all perfect in the end.
I close my eyes and watch it unwind.

I’m not a stranger, and
No one’s estranged.
This damp earth runs deep and ageless
Temporal and changeless and
I’m learning how
To move on.
And forgiveness rushes by like movie slides,
Scene by scene, over and over.
Love and kindness.
Love and kindness.
Love and kindness.



Am I Happy as a Mother?

That’s the million dollar question: Am I happy as a mother?

And therefore am I happy as a human on this planet Earth? As Allysia? But specifically in my role as Allysia-the-mother?

Well I started this blog, an answer in and of itself. There was the need to write and share, a weight of things to remove from my shoulders and toss in your direction.

Doesn’t that imply a lack of happiness? A happy person doesn’t need to write in a diary to find relief. When I flip through my diary entries throughout the years, happy times are notably absent (weddings, travel, all the good stuff I wish I penned for memory’s sake).

Here’s the problem.

Up until now, for the last 32 years of my life, I’ve expected the world to make me happy. Happiness is something that happened to me. Not something I found or worked for. Something that just came about – poof! – in waves forever. Now you’re happy, now you’re not.

A sunny day – happiness. A cuddle, a hot cup of coffee, a warm blanket, a private moment away with words. A piece of chocolate, a waffle, a bowl of mac n’ cheese, a Belgian beer.

Rainy skies – dreariness. Cancelled plans, a stubbed toe, finding out I’m all out of oatmeal right at breakfast. These are the antagonists of my life, the things that place the collar around my neck and drag me around my day.

When happiness is out there, I don’t control it. I’m a victim of it. Sometimes the Universe smiles upon me; sometimes the Universe could care less about me. I’m blown around like a paper doll. Dust in the wind.

But the happy times feel so good. Sunny-cuddle-coffee-blanket, it’s a high. What’s wrong with creature comforts, with happiness that exists out there?

Who am I to say anything is wrong with it? Life is life, life is made up of these glorious moments. But it’s also stubbed toes and cancelled plans. You can’t get one without the other.

I don’t want to splash around while the waves happen to me. I want to learn to surf.

If someone has this surfer’s  manual, please deliver it to me.

I was thinking about this while Jane and I were having lunch. My phone was only a foot away but I refused to look at it. This is a moment for just us, I thought. Me, my mind, and my daughter. This is a moment to think my own thoughts. I kept the phone out of reach.

Am I happy as a mother?

My answer is that for the last ten months, probably not really. Not overly. I was happier last year, in the sense that I had time, freedom, and control. The things that happened to me were nicer things. In my 10 months of being a mom, the things that have happened to me are hard. Early wake-ups, constant dependency, a complete lifestyle change. So from an outward point of view, I am not very happy as a mother. Not right now. Not if I’m being honest.

I’m not depressed, though. That’s a different animal. It’s just that life is harder, and my mood is all tangled up in Jane’s. Her bad days become my bad days. Her storms are my storms. And – truly – her happiness is entangled in my own too. It’s not all such a grim story.

But that’s the problem. I’ve never learned how to properly draw happiness from within. I’ve always just sucked it out of the world around me.

So how you create happiness? How do you surf?

I don’t have an answer but I suspect it’s nestled in spirituality somewhere. Or – secularly – in gratitude. In little rituals, little rememberings about the precious nature of each moment. In being really present. Present for the rain, present for the shine. Present for this sweet little girl of mine, now just 10 months.

When I take a bird’s eye view, I can see the beauty. Because I find perspective beautiful. But I don’t think that’s enough. Life is more than the long view. Life is more than the retrospective. Life is ordinary moments, waiting to be noticed. It’s attention that ignites the magic.

I know I know I know.

The way I feel when I look at these pictures is how I want to feel when I’m inside the picture the moment it’s all unfolding.




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