Dogs Don’t Simplify Life – they simply make it better

You know what doesn’t simplify life?

Dogs. They are expensive. They are messy. They are time consuming.

And they bring immeasurable joy.

This week we said goodbye to our beloved family pet, an American Eskimo we got when she was just a puppy. To say she aged well is an understatement. She was a fluffy, pure white beauty with dark brown eyes. Her cotton-candy tail curled up over her trim 18-pound body. Her sweet face could melt your heart. She lived to be 17 and a half years old.

Like all of God’s creatures, she came to us with her own personality. The day my children and I brought her home, she fit in our cupped hands. She posed regally in the grass, one front leg draped over the other. She needed a name fit for royalty and was dubbed Princess Grace.

It took nearly two years to convince our princess she should use the bathroom outdoors. She was aghast, but finally accepted the situation. From then on, she was a well-mannered, elegant addition to our family.

American Eskimos are extremely intelligent, making them typical circus dogs. Grace learned to perform all kinds of tricks including prancing along the garden wall and jumping back and forth through a hula hoop.

By the time she was five, asking her to do tricks seemed as inappropriate as asking the Queen of England to sit, lie down, and roll over. She was a classy lady who had an air about her that demanded respect.

Grace did not suffer fools. She looked at other dogs with a raised eyebrow. She did not drool on people, jump on furniture, tear through the house, or bark unnecessarily. She enjoyed a restrained pat behind the ears and mature conversation. Loud children were to be avoided.

She was a pedigree with high standards, and she made everyone in our home want to be a better human. The bumper sticker that reads, “Be the person your dog thinks you are” couldn’t be more apt when it came to how we felt under Grace’s watchful eye.

Gracie was set in her ways, as any 119-year-old would be. You could set a watch by her meal times. Breakfast was served at 8 am, and dinner was at 5 pm sharp. If the help deviated from this schedule, she let them know.

Her favorite place was in the garden, where she often rested in the sun among the flowers. She looked so pretty with red and pink impatiens blooming all around her. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she rang for tea.

Every snowfall brought out the child in Grace. It was fitting that an American Eskimo would beg to go outside and stare straight up at the sky to catch snowflakes on her tongue. Rolling on the cold ground in delight, she disappeared against the white snow.

Gracie was a one-in-a-million girl, a dog who witnessed our family go through more than seventeen years of challenges, changes, and growing pains. Through it all, she remained a reliable friend and gentle spirit who simply made all of our lives more beautiful.

No, dogs don’t simplify life.

You will spend a small fortune at the veterinarian’s office. You will endlessly clean nose smudges off glass doors. You will constantly pick white hair off black clothes. You will cry your heart out when it’s time to say goodbye.

But every time you see a fluffy, dog-shaped cloud in the sky you’ll be reminded of the unconditional love and pure happiness your furry friend gave you.

A Dozen Reasons I’m Happier Without Facebook

Imagine a small get-together with a few close friends or family. You share your joys and challenges and offer each other meaningful support and encouragement. Later that evening, you feel grateful for your tribe and drift to sleep with them in your prayers.

Now imagine going to a large cocktail party. You bounce from person to person internalizing snippets of conversation –  a friend’s co-worker is sick, someone’s son is getting married, a neighbor’s dog got hit by a car, an acquaintance’s father has dementia, another got her dream job. There is an uncomfortable debate about politics. Later that evening, you feel completely drained and have trouble sleeping.

Facebook is like a crowded, never-ending cocktail party filled with casual acquaintances and friends of friends of friends. The average number of Facebook friends is an intimate 338. I left Facebook because it didn’t bring me joy to try and process the emotions of so many people on a regular basis.

I don’t know if I’m technically an empath, but Judith Orloff, MD, says empaths are “emotional sponges” who absorb other people’s energies, whether they are good or bad. When overwhelmed by the emotions of others, empaths can experience panic attacks, depression, chronic fatigue and insomnia.

I deactivated my Facebook account eight months ago and haven’t looked back. Here a dozen very honest reasons I’m happier without it. ~

1. More Positive Vibes – Facebook can be fertile ground for fear, judgment, anger, sadness, insecurity and narcissism. Those funky vibes seep right through the internet and zap me. Not only do I want to protect myself from negative energy, I also want to avoid the very real temptation of adding to it.

2. More Time – This is an obvious one, but not being on Facebook has freed up more time in my day to do things that add more quality to my life.

3. More Presence – It’s amazing how much more present I am in my experiences when not thinking about taking a photo, posting it with a clever caption and constantly checking the reactions to it.

4. Better Focus – My mind is much clearer without Facebook. All of that input took up too much valuable real estate in my head. Without it, I’m better able to concentrate on my own priorities.

5. Less Irritation – Let’s face it, people post aggravating stuff on Facebook. Some of it really pushed my buttons and elicited negative emotions that weren’t good for me.

6. Less Worry – As a people pleaser, I was always worried how people interpreted my posts. Without Facebook, I’ve completely eliminated that concern.

7. Better Relationships – Instead of posting something for hundreds of people to see on Facebook, I now take time to communicate more personally with individual people.

8. Less Guilt – I often felt guilty I wasn’t closer to Facebook friends with whom I’d once crossed paths. I care about them, but I found it impossible to offer my sincere support to so many people.

9. More Discretion – Facebook can encourage us to over-share and reveal too much about our personal lives (and that of our loved ones). Personally, I’m attracted to people who maintain a bit of privacy and an air of mystery.

10. More Self-Confidence – Have you ever felt sure about something, but after hearing from others began to doubt your own mind? Getting rid of the noise on Facebook helps me trust my own voice.

11. Improved Self-Care – It’s up to each of us to take care of ourselves in the ways that are most nurturing. The same way I know I need lots of time alone and in nature, I also know I’m better without Facebook.

12. More Joy – We are each responsible for creating our own happiness. The bottom line is, for me, Facebook has more negatives than positives, and I’m happier without it in my life. §

The Simple Swan Movie Premier (sort of)

I wanted to share this beautiful short video I wrote for a popular YouTube channel, Inspired by Nikki!

Nikki Moreno, a lovely and talented videographer, filmed this stunning four-minute video at Mount Charleston, Nevada and narrated it with words from my recent essay, “Winter Inspires Simplicity.” Nikki directed and starred in this video which premiered on her YouTube channel today. I’m excited to collaborate with Nikki on more projects in the future.

To receive an email of each new blog post, please subscribe at http://www.thesimpleswan.com. If my writing offers you inspiration, encouragement or joy, please consider becoming a patron for as little as $1 a month. Go to http://www.patreon.com/thesimpleswan.

Have a wonderful day! I’ll be back with a new essay or story on Sunday. ~Alicia

P.S. If you have trouble seeing the video, try this link instead. https://youtu.be/KlY4yMClEE8

5 Ways to Make Most of Your Time

 

Most of the trees in our yard are bare now, yet it seems just yesterday they were full of spring buds. The trees are a tangible reminder of the passage of time and the importance of living life intentionally.

In elementary school, it was always exciting when our class was led single-file to a basement corridor to watch an educational movie. We sat cross-legged on the cold linoleum floor facing a concrete block wall where the reel-to-reel film was projected.

When I was in third grade, a full-color nature film featured the seasonal progression of an ordinary tree. Classical music played softly in the background and a woman’s soothing voice narrated. Through the magic of time-lapsed photography, tiny spring buds transformed into lush green leaves, morphed into autumn-colored foliage, and fell away leaving stark bare branches against a smoky gray sky.

I was captivated by the beauty, rhythm, and order of nature. Wearing my favorite plaid dress and ponytails, I fought back tears of wonder and joy. In an unforgettable moment of clarity, I became stunningly aware of time and its inevitable and precious passage.

The eight-year-old who held that memory now qualifies for senior citizen discounts. I hope I’ve made good use of my time so far. When I find myself drifting from one day to the next, nature reminds me time is passing whether or not I am living purposefully.

In her book Time Alive, contemporary author Alexandra Stoddard writes, “Our time alive is brief by any standard. Now is the only opportunity we’ll have to give life meaning and find satisfaction. Our entire life depends on the wise use of our moments.”

Certainly, our individual responsibilities and stage of life determine how we spend our days, but here are five suggestions to help you make the most of your precious time.

1. Evaluate How You’re Spending It ~ You might be surprised how much time you rack up watching television, looking at social media, or frittering away at things that don’t bring you real meaning or happiness.

2. Identify Your Priorities ~ Decide what’s most important to you and dedicate your time to those things. Making the best use of our time often means deciding what we choose not to do.

3. Picture Your Ideal Day ~ Considering the realities of your life, what does a well-spent day look like? Map out your morning, afternoon, and evening to create a general schedule that leads to living your best life.

4. Simplify Your Possessions ~ There’s no point in wasting your time acquiring, cleaning, organizing, and storing things you don’t really need or want. Imagine the time (and space) you could create.

5. Take Care of Yourself ~ You can’t make the best use of your time if you don’t feel your best. In that memorable film from my childhood, the tree that bloomed and grew through the seasons was a healthy one, rooted in purpose and simplicity.