Taking charge of your own happiness

By Jahoo Clouseau

The most empowering and liberating thing is this:  You are responsible for your own happiness. And, most crucially, you are worthy of it. You are worthy! You are the creator of your own happiness, where the only limit to it is the scale and scope of your vision. How do you take charge of your own happiness? Here is the continuation of my previous blog post, How to be happier in the New Year.

Take responsibility

When you make the conscious decision to take charge of your own happiness, you must also take responsibility for the story of your life. You are the writer of the movie which is your life.  Where is the movie going?

Reflect on this: What is your personal story? It’s that thing you keep you repeating in your head. It’s the story you tell the world (This is my life). Is it a story of pain, disappointment, injustice, loss and tragedy? Or is it a story of grace, awe, wonder, trust and triumph? It is not a toss-up. It is always a mixture of everything. The question is what you focus on.

The reality is we have all been dealt with our share of sadness and disappointment. There will always be things in life that are unfair and beyond explanation. Everyone is entitled to their moments of sadness and grief. But you are also entitled to heal. You are entitled to receive support, to bounce back, to regain your footing, and to thrive and flourish once again.

Have you been stuck in the victim role for far too long (It’s just the way it is. There’s nothing I can do to change things. I’m powerless in this situation.) Or have you been playing and replaying sad events in your life from 5, 10, 20 or more years ago? Do you continue to blame the past, or people from the past, for what is happening today? Are you resigned that these are the cards you are dealt with? Why?

These are questions worth asking and reflecting upon. Past is past. Whether or not you want the past to have control over your life today, that is your choice. If you choose to be happy now, you are always empowered to create a new reality.  Do not yield that power to the past, to people or to events.  You and you alone have the power to rewrite your story.

It is time for you to start being the hero of your life.

Question rules

When I say “rules”, I mean every belief, tradition, custom, norm, value, collective goal, aspiration that we have lived with all our lives.  These are the things we have come to accept as normal, valid or truthful without question.

Questioning rules is important because to take charge of your own happiness means to think independently. It requires formulating your own opinions. It requires coming face to face with your highest truth.  What do I know for sure? What do I know is true? Is this necessary or important? Am I comfortable with this? Is this who I am? Do I believe this? Do I agree with this? What do I truly want?

Think about it. We have been living with rules all our life since we were born. Blue is for boys. Pink is for girls. Why? Just because.

Some rules are necessary. Don’t play with the knife, don’t play with matches, look both ways before crossing the street. These rules were for our safety. They are worth following.

But not all rules are worth following. What rules have we been following all throughout our lives, just because? Rules made by our parents, family, school, teachers, schoolmates, church, spiritual or religious leaders, community, friends, peers, institutions of higher learning, workplace, organizations, bosses, colleagues, society, country, mass media, social media, etc.

Let’s push the case against bad rules to an extreme. There are people throughout history who have created some very bad rules. And following them have led to some of the worst tragedies of humankind like genocide or world wars.

There is a cost to pay for group thinking.  There is a cost to pay when people do not question things that they do not believe in or things that make them uncomfortable, when people do not listen to their inner voice of truth. Often the cost is one’s true joy, peace and happiness.

Take a look at the picture of your life right now. Where are you at this point? What rules have you have been following that have brought you all the way here? Does it all still ring true or not?

If there are things that no longer ring true for you, perhaps it is time to make changes. How big or small the changes you make is entirely your own decision. How sweeping or subtle you want to transform your life is entirely yours to make. Big or small, sweeping or subtle, honor it.

You will know the right moment to recreate life on your own terms.

Connect with the highest source

There can be no lasting happiness in life without acknowledging life’s awe, mysteries and wonders. As Albert Einstein once said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead.”

Behind every wonder in the universe is the great and powerful energy that created it, from the smallest particles of nature to complex human beings to vast galaxies. There is but one and the same energy that connects you and me to all of creation.

There is a beautiful passage written by author and speaker, the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, in his book I Can See Clearly Now: “I cannot conceive of a watch without a watchmaker, so it is impossible for me to believe that this universe exists without an intelligence that is the matrix of all matter – a creator.”

I love spring. I love it when people emerge from the cocoon of their homes, and gather in parks and public spaces to marvel at the blooming flowers. Flowers! Tiny, insignificant little things, but so beautiful and effortless. They do not have to try so hard, they do not try at all! And yet they are so adored and admired, so much so that they attract crowds and bring joy to people.

I talk about flowers because that silent adoration that passes from human to nature is an acknowledgement of a divine hand in creation.  It is a sense of reverence that the same spirit, energy, creator or God that created the flower is the same one that created you and me.

Connection with highest source is a key ingredient to happiness. It reminds us that we are never in isolation or separation. We are connected not just to God, but to the essence of abundance, grace, love, prosperity, goodness, creativity, and all the good things that the highest source stands for. It brings the contents of this world into proper perspective, guiding us to infinite possibilities, and guiding us with wisdom as to what is important, and what is not.

Happiness is acknowledging the divine within, and that after all this time, we have been worthy from the start.

 

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(Photo by Jahoo Clouseau)


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How to be happier in the New Year

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Can you recall the many New Year’s resolutions you have made through the years?  Lose weight. Exercise more. Spend less. Save more. Eat better. Learn something new. Travel more. Read more books. Spend more time with family. Start new project. Change project. Finish project. The list goes on. I bet you they all boil down to 1 of 2 things, or both. Be a better person. Be happier.

There’s something about happiness that I discover more and more as the years go by. It is not a destination. It is not a place to get to that requires pain, sacrifice or effort.  It is not something attained or achieved. (What if you regain the weight? What if you lose your money, job, house, spouse, partner, kids, health? Do you lose your happiness as well?)

Happiness is something that we create in the present moment. This puts our happiness squarely on us, not on someone or something external. It is something that we choose when we come from a place of personal empowerment, when we come from a place of trust. Trust that the Universe is so generous that it wants us to be happy now, without denying or delaying it for some future date. Trust that there is enough for everyone because grace is infinite and without limits, because God’s love itself is limitless. And trust that there is no fear of failure because the Universe is always on our side.

If happiness is not a destination, if it is not achieved by doing, are there things that we can do to empower ourselves to create joy in the present moment? Certainly. And here are some:

Less resolutions, more reflection

The reason why it is difficult to keep up with resolutions is because of the self-imposed pressure. Oh, God. It’s already (insert year). I’m turning (insert age). I haven’t done this and that. I’m running out of time. My family, friends and colleagues  already have this and that. If I don’t do it now, it will all be too late. What do I have to show?

Pressure comes from fear, guilt, lack and feelings of unworthiness. They are the worst motivators.  Ditch the belief that you are under an artificial time pressure (brought about by age, calendar years or clock time). Breathe. Empowering life transformations have their own timeline. And it is never too late.

Give yourself moments of gentle but honest self-reflection. Sit down, pause and answer important questions. What do I really want?

Follow that train of thought without personal judgment and without placing limitations upon yourself, then ponder further questions. What is no longer working in my life? What changes have I been putting off? What do I need to let go of? What is holding me back, and why? Are there small but positive changes that I can make towards what I want?

Empower your mind

Start your day with positive affirmations. The moment your eyes blink open in bed in the morning, notice your 1st thought. If it is something like, “Oh, God. Another day. I’m so fed up and exhausted. How am I going to get through this?”, then you seriously have to break this bad habit.

Your mind is your tool. Use it to your advantage. Your mind will constantly churn out thoughts anyway, might as well think good ones. Say, “This is going to be a good day. I receive all the support I need. I am safe. I am calm. I am creative. I am empowered. My endeavors are always successful. People are inherently good and kind. We all deserve good things, and there is more than enough for everyone.”

Whenever you get stressed, take a breath. Inhale. Exhale. Check in with your thoughts. If you are spiraling back into negative thinking, reverse it immediately. Think empowering thoughts. Post positive reminders where you can see them (your bathroom mirror, your cellphone wallpaper, your computer monitor, your office desk, your night stand).

End your day with gratitude. Make a mental review of the small and big things that you are grateful for. Soon, you will become the master of your mind, and you will see that, ultimately, your thoughts create your reality.

Clean up the contents of your life

When I say contents, I am referring to all the stuff that you fill up your life with.  The basics, but not limited to these – your social media feed, your possessions, your relationships. Why is it important to clean up these things? Your outer world is a manifestation of your inner self. If you see too much negativity, toxicity and clutter in your physical world, then that is the kind of energy you are attracting into your life.

How many things in your social media feed do you actually enjoy seeing, watching and reading? It is your choice if you wish to unfollow certain people if their posts do not add any positive value to your life. Instead follow people and pages that inspire you and give you delight. Think of your interests and follow them. Do you like art, architecture, animals, sports, food, fashion, health and wellness, travel, interior design, gardening, crafts, cars, music? Fill your news feed with things that make you happy. This is part of creating a new physical reality.

Sort out your closets, cabinets, desk and possessions. The stuff you no longer use or need, say thank you to them for having been part of your life. Now that you no longer need them, sell, donate or give them away to people who could actually use them.

When you clear your life of clutter, you cut off chords of attachment and fear. You are actually making room for new blessings to come into your life. You are declaring to the Universe that you trust in its infinite grace so much that you are willing to let go of things you no longer need.

Contents also extend to the people in your life. Are there people who have become too toxic, needy or negative? Are there people who weigh you down and prevent you from soaring gloriously in the journey of your life? Are there people whose values have simply gone off in a different direction from yours? The kind of people you want in your life right now is your choice. If you choose to let some relationships fade away, send gratitude to these people for having been part of your life. There is a time, place and reason for everything and everyone. Then trust that the Universe will bring new people into your life, people whose vibe resonates with yours, and people who will support your new journey.

Click the link to go to Part 2, Taking charge of your own happiness

 

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Best desserts I had this holiday season

It’s worth skipping the lechon for, in my opinion. I’m talking about sweets. They’re my absolute favorite, and they bring joy and finesse to any table spread. It doesn’t matter if it’s polvoron or pastillas, or something fancier, if it has sugar I’m on it.

I thought I’d share with you some of the desserts that brought me delight this holiday season. I have nothing but admiration for these specialty home bakers who have made a thriving enterprise out of making people happy through their sweet creations. It takes a certain kind of generosity of spirit, as well as confidence, I believe, to put your product out there for others to enjoy.

I ever-so-briefly considered being a baker when I took some baking classes in San Francisco (I still know the difference between American buttercream and European buttercream frosting), but after all the hassle of getting that French macaron light and airy, I decided right there and then that I am best as a devourer and enjoyer of sweets, not a maker.

So here’s my short but sweet list of sweets that you might want to try as well

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Cookies by Jam’s Kitchen

1. Cookies by Jam’s Kitchen. I saw these cookies on Instagram and I could not get over how moist, chewy and fudgy they looked. I was right. I ordered their 3 most chocolate-y flavors – Fudgy Campfire (they’re like smores with cookie dough base, marshmallows and brownie chunks), The Classic (chocolate chip with sea salt) and Hot Cocoa (brownie cookie base with semi-sweet chocolate and marshmallows). Absolute cookie goodness in every bite.

Jam was nice enough to include a sample. She calls this flavor All Out. It’s a cookie topped with potato chips, pretzels, bits of peanut butter cups and M&Ms. I was doubtful. I thought it would taste like a hot mess, but I was pleased that Jam made me try it.  The saltiness of the potato chip, the crunch of the pretzel, and the richness of the peanut butter cups just played so well with the cookie dough.

Minimum order is 8 pieces (any flavor). You can pick it up in Ortigas, or she can have it delivered to your home via LalaMove. You just pay for the delivery fee. Call (0917)579-7422.

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Gateau de Crepe by Dessert du Jour by Mara de la Rama-Poblete

2. Gateau de Crepe by Dessert du Jour by Mara de la Rama-Poblete. I first tasted this heavenly creation 10 years ago when a friend gifted it to me on my birthday, and I have not forgotten it since.  The gateau de crepe is made with layers of French crepe sandwiched with vanilla crème.

The crepe layers are as delicate and as thin as lace, and the vanilla crème is light and sublime. It’s like the Coco Chanel of desserts – classy and elegant. This cake is the reason why I was on the road as early as 7 am last Christmas eve, making my way to Ecology Village in Makati (near San Lorenzo Village) to pick up my order. It was worth it.

Call 405-2580 or 0917-8036272 for orders. Pick-up only.

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Ensaimadas by Imang Salud

3. Ensaimada by Imang Salud. I love ensaimadas so much that I would bring boxes of it whenever I would return to the States from the Philippines (I shared them with my co-workers, of course). My earliest memories of ensaimadas are the flaky, buttery, sugary pastries that my dad used to bring home from the original Hizon’s in Ermita, Manila in the 80s. Very few ensamaidas have lived up to that memory, but this classic by Imang Salud which I received as a gift this Christmas is definitely among the good ones.

This one is an heirloom recipe by Salud Dayrit-Santos of San Fernando, Pampanga. Their ensaimadas are big (around 7-inches in diameter) and golden yellow. The dough has the essential light, soft and airy layers, and is topped with the traditional white sugar crystals and grated quezon de bola (not the cream frosting that is common today).

They can be found at the Legazpi Sunday Market, but you may call 404-6582 or (0920)947-8819 to reserve.

(But I do have to say that as far as ensaimadas go, Pasteleria Mallorca’s near Tomas Morato in Quezon City is still the most memorable for me. It’s as close to the buttery and flaky goodness of my childhood, though I did not have it this holiday season. You may call at 373-2789.)

Now, the holidays are not yet over. What do I want to receive and taste this New Year?

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Lola Marina’s Tocino del Cielo

Lola Marina’s Tocino del Cielo,

and Pudding by Café Mary Grace, made with ensaimadas, milk and eggs.

Angel of all things sweet and sugary, Bring Them On.

(Photos from Facebook)

What I gifted myself this Christmas

The angels of Christmas must have worked their magic. My orders from the U.S. (mostly from Amazon), which I was not expecting until after the New Year, have arrived by sea cargo 3 days before Christmas day. “So you have a lot of goodies to open. Merry Christmas”, the Spirit of Christmas Present must be saying. Why, thank you.

In case you are wondering, I used shippingcart.com to ship my orders from the States. Good job, though I am aware that those who had their goods delivered this December are experiencing some delays (as you would expect). Lesson: ship early. I did mine mid-November. Sea cargo takes a month and half, about a week for air cargo.

Anyway, rather than write down a gift list, I decided to make a gratitude list. So what’s in my box of goodies for myself? Let’s begin with…

barbie oscar dela renta

Isn’t this breathtaking? The Oscar Dela Renta doll from his bridal collection by Barbie. This is going to my display shelf.

 

barbie oscar box

Even the box is gorgeous.

1. The gift of play. It’s a magical time, afterall, so why not return to that moment of pure, unbridled place of joy and wonder of a child at play. The “toys” I ordered are my reminders to be light-hearted more often, and they happen to be Barbie dolls.

Now, I was not into Barbie dolls as a young boy (I enjoyed my Ghost Busters, Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe action figures like the other kids). Why now? Recently, I read a novel, Marcus Gabriel’s The Designer, where he wrote about how European designers like Dior and Balenciaga would do “fashion shows” in Paris using dolls, instead of real-life models. This was during the war when fabric was scarce. I was fascinated.

I checked out Mattel’s Barbie website, and saw their Signature line which are mostly for collectors. I enjoyed the beauty and intricacy of some of these dolls. I thought these would look nice on my shelf. I chose a beautiful doll in an Oscar Dela Renta gown. I saw a Dela Renta retrospective at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and I loved it. This doll is a nice way to have one of his pieces.

barbie mutya

This collector’s item Barbie from the Global Glamour Collection makes me feel proud. What a lovely way to showcase Philippine traditional wear.

barbie mutya box

The outer garment has a tribal motif with sun design from the Philippine flag. Lovely.

I also picked out the Mutya doll in Philippine dress from Barbie’s Global Glamour Collection. It looks so lovely and dainty, and it made me feel proud and happy. This was designed by Filipino-American Carlyle Nuera.

frank lloyd wright usonian clock

Bulova Usonian II clock by Frank Lloyd Wright

2. The gift of time. This is something most people would want more of, I’m sure. The thing about time is that you can view it as your friend, or your enemy. If you fight it, you’re always chasing it and ending up with less. If you embrace it with no resistance, then it supports you and all your endeavors. That’s what mindfulness taught me, and this is something I teach my students who come to my meditation workshops or who see me for private sessions.

The item I bought is a clock because I needed a new one for the living room. I picked out a beautiful art deco modernist piece designed by the great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Among his most famous designs is the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The clean architectural lines of this Bulova clock will look good on the shelf. (Prices are cheaper on Amazon.)

a home in paris

Chic and eclectic Parisian home interiors to inspire interior decorating and travel

3. The gift of dreams. And what else can easily transport a person to the land of fantasy and imagination but books. This time, coffee table books with all their lush photographs and shiny pages.

I picked out A Home in Paris because I think Parisian interior design is so chic, eclectic and effortlessly stylish. And to live there, not just to travel, is definitely on my life list.

vogue met costume

I got this because of the photographs of all of those glamorous costume exhibits at The Met through the years

I also got Vogue and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties, Exhibition, People. I love the Costume Institute’s annual big exhibit at the Met New York, and this book chronicles the most memorable exhibits with all the wonderful fashion.

And, yes, I also got another book, Oscar Dela Renta: His Legendary World of Style.

oscar dela renta book

This is a keepsake of that fabulous Dela Renta exhibit I saw at the De Young Museum

demeter grass

Ahh, the fresh and invigorating scent of grass in a bottle. From Demeter Fragrance Library.

4. The gift of freshness. I got hooked on Demeter Fragrance Library scents when I bought a tiny bottle on a trip to Seoul. Very pure and uncomplicated scents because they are all single-note fragrances.

This time, I picked Grass fragrance, one of the best-selling products which I haven’t tried. I love the smell of nature and this is my way of taking it with me wherever I go. A little daily reminder of how nature does wonders in making one feel more relaxed and grounded.

Demeter has such fun fragrances like Between The Sheets, Hot Fudge Sundae, New Baby, Kitten Fur, etc.  They even have crazy fragrances like Sushi, Dirt and Cannabis.

dentek floss picks

Because tooth care is important, right? And I don’t like unspooling floss, hence, the floss picks.

5. The gift of good dental care. Okay, so my cargo box still had some space left and these dental floss picks were a cheap but practical add-on item on Amazon, so there. They’re not usually on stock in local supermarkets. And besides, one must never underestimate the value of daily flossing. It’s part of self-care.

Amid all the frenzied gift-giving, don’t forget to give a treat (no matter how simple) to the most important human being in your life: Yourself. Joyful Christmas!

 

 

Hunting for affordable art for your home

Printable Gift Ideas

These gorgeous black and white prints will look great in a minimalist home. Designed by graphic artist Eleonora of PrintableGiftIdeas on Etsy, Milan. (Photo from Etsy store)

“Your order is on its way.” Now that’s an e-mail subject line that always makes me giddy with excitement. This time around, the order is coming from someplace more exotic than my go-to Chinese fast food joint across the street. It’s traveling 9,000 kilometers. Shipping from Istanbul to Manila. And I am so excited to unwrap it when it arrives in 5 days. More on the contents of this package later.

You see, I’m renovating my new home, and with that comes my absolute favorite part: decorating. For me, the structure of the home is like a blank canvas. The décor is what gives it color, texture, vibe and personality. I love to hang art on the walls. And this post is all about how my art hunting has led me to wonderful sellers all over the world. With online shopping, the world is your marketplace for affordable art for your home.

I was inspired by 2 posts in the Style by Emily Henderson website, How to choose, frame and hang an art collection , and The guide to a well hung gallery wall (IKR. That’s a gallery wall that’s worth a gasp and a double take.) She wrote about sourcing art pieces conveniently on Etsy. Yes, that wonderful online marketplace for all things creative.

I happen to like Etsy a lot. I have the app and have ordered some unique stationery from Etsy sellers in the past, but never thought of it as a place to buy art. I was pleasantly surprised when I browsed around. Absolutely wonderful pieces, from affordable to expensive, from reproductions to originals. Different styles from classic, abstract, vintage to minimalist, using different media. And you have all the freedom to choose the pieces that you really like and make you smile. As Emily said, there’s no one to tell you which is good art or bad art.

Vogue

This is a beautiful vintage Vogue cover poster from the 1920s reproduced by Wall Arty. I’m thinking of hanging this in the bathroom. (Photo from Etsy shop)

So after a lot of browsing, I settled upon several pieces. There’s this wonderful store from Istanbul, Turkey, Wall Arty, that sells really attractive vintage prints and posters.  Their vintage prints are sorted out in different themes like travel, movies, fashion, food, cars, motorcycling, sports, etc. They are printed in high resolution in the size of your choice. I was happy to see their buy-2-prints, get-1-free promotion for the holidays. (Prices start at around $16 or 800 pesos for the smallest poster prints size 11 by 14 inches.)

Southern Philippines

I was surprised to find this vintage Southern Philippines travel poster from Wall Arty, and I just fell in love with it. (Photo from Etsy shop)

I found another nice seller, Social Print, owned and curated by Jev Kucerenko from Riga, Latvia. He has a wide collection of fine art reproductions of works by masters like Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Vermeer, Warhol, etc. His pieces are licensed for reproduction and are museum-quality printed on canvas. He uses the technique called giclee (“zhee-clay” which refers to fine art reproductions using high-quality inkjet printing).  Imagine having a Van Gogh reproduction at just the price of a good sneaker. (By the way, Social Print’s shipping is free until 31st December. Prices start at around $19 or 980 pesos for the smallest canvas prints size 11 by 14 inches.)

water lilies

I am a Claude Monet fan, especially of his famous water lilies from his garden in Giverny. I think this would look nice in gold frame. Reproduction by Social Print. (Photo from Etsy shop)

ladies of avignon

If modern art is your thing, there are Picasso pieces like this Ladies of Avignon. Very striking. Reproduction by Wall Arty (Photo from Etsy shop)

Another wonderful product by Social Print are their photo collages. Just send Jev your favorite images, and he will transform it into a nice collage that he can print on photo paper or canvas of the size of your choice. Lovely way to display your memorable pics from Instagram. I am sure you can find local shops that can do the same photo collage for you, but shipping is free is so I’m taking advantage of this offer on Etsy.  (Shipping time varies per seller, from 3 days to 2 weeks or more).

photo collage final

Now you can hang your favorite Instagram photos on your wall. This photo collage was designed by Etsy shop Social Print. I think it will look great in a simple white frame.

abstract DYA

This simple but beautiful black and white watercolor abstract is by artist Danushka Abeygoda of DYAStudio in Perth, Australia. (Photo from Etsy shop)

There’s another seller I like, DYA Studio, owned by artist Danushka Abeygoda from Perth, Australia. I love her modern abstract prints, especially the black and white pieces using watercolor which will look nice in the living room. They would go really well with any minimalist home design.  Her pieces are even more affordable, because you simply purchase digital downloads of her pieces. Some of the digital downloads go for as low as $7 or about 300 pesos. Once you have downloaded and saved the file, you can just have it printed in the size of your choice and framed by your local shop. Inexpensive but attractive way to decorate your home with your own style. Can’t Wait To Decorate.

 

Home

By Paul Henson

Monterey Bay, California. (Photo by Paul Henson 2015)

On land, or on the sea? On the hills, or in the valleys? Where is home? (Monterey Bay, California. Photo by Paul Henson 2015)

I used to think home was one place.  Familiar.  Comforting.  Safe.  Harking back to childhood memories. Attached to specific faces, people – family.

I was wrong.

It turns out home is many different places.  It’s not always familiar.  It can take us out of our comfort zones.  Unsettling.  It can be strange, foreign, new, terrifying.  Still, it can be home.

Have you ever felt the need to break free?  Moments you simply felt stunted, caged that you just wanted to create for yourself a new home?

Be careful what you wish for.  Life is listening.

A window opens.  Sometimes, a door.  Slowly at first.  Filtering in a little bit of light, a gentle breeze, through the cracks.  Enticing.  Newness beckons.  Fresh, exhilarating, liberating.

A window opens.  Sometimes, a door.

And sometimes – I suspect, oftentimes — the whole house comes crashing down.  Torn apart.  Blown away.

A flood of emotions:  Anger, disbelief, grief, sadness, heartache, pain.  More anger.  A little regret.  A little self-hate.

A deluge of questions:  What just happened?  Did I do something wrong?  What was all this for?

WHY?

You stumble through the debris.  Lost, dazed, confused and frightened.  Sometimes you try, but are just too paralyzed by fear.

Grand Canyon, Arizona. (Photo by Paul Henson 2015)

Finding home even on the precipice. (Grand Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Paul Henson 2015)

Finding your way

But help comes when you need it most.

A word.  A hand.  A shared tear.  They don’t take away the pain completely.  But sharing it makes the load just a bit easier to bear.

And then amidst all that is frightening, unfamiliar, uncomfortable and painful – slowly – you discover that home is many different places.

Home is in the smile, the outstretched hand, of a new friend.  The color of his or her eyes may be different but the tenderness is something you have felt before.

Home is in a song, a dance.  The words, the steps, are new but the pull on your heartstrings (or hamstrings) transport you back to fond memories.

Home is in a meal.  The flavors may be all new but the satisfaction and contentment in your heart and your belly are the same.

Home is…

Sometimes, you retrace your steps to your old home.  You see the old places, old people.  Sometimes, the familiar brings you comfort.  At other times it brings you discomfort.  Either you’ve changed, and they haven’t.  Or have they changed, and you’ve stayed the same?  It doesn’t matter.  There’s no right or wrong.

You look back.  You look forward.  You’re not quite sure what is ahead.  But you feel the ground beneath you is solid and safe.  You feel a quiet sense of accomplishment.  You exhale.  Your breath carried by the mist, the wind, into the sky, the sunlight.

Home is many different places.  Sometimes – oftentimes, I suspect — the old one has to come crashing down, get torn apart, get blown away.  Don’t worry.  That home is not gone entirely.  You just have to trust that you’re making way for something new.

***

Follow the author on Twitter @Paulhenson or Instagram @heaveninawildflower.


Lessons From the Firing of an Editor

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Jill Abramson, former The New York Times executive editor. Photo from The New York Times website by Fred R. Conrad.

On Monday, May 19th, Jill Abramson, top news editor, stood before the graduating class of Wake Forest University in North Carolina to deliver the commencement speech. It would have been an ordinary event, yet it became a minor media circus.

Less than a week prior to her speech, Abramson was fired as executive editor of one of the most influential news publications in the world, The New York Times. She was replaced by her number two man, managing editor Dean Baquet.

The Times very own journalists David Carr and Ravi Somaiya reported that the entire newsroom was “stunned” by the ouster, as announced by publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. in a hastily-assembled general meeting on the afternoon of May 14th. “It is one thing to gossip or complain about your boss, but quite another to watch her head get chopped off in the cold light of day. The lack of decorum was stunning,” Carr wrote in a subsequent article.

Abramson, 60, was the first woman to ever hold the highest-ranking editorial post at The Times. She helped supervise the coverage of two wars, four national elections, hurricanes and oil spills. She led the expansion to new platforms on digital and mobile. The Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes under her.

So why fire her? In many organizations all over the world, there are many leaders who have far less accomplishments (or none at all), and yet their heads are nowhere near the chopping block.

Several speculations surfaced from Abramson’s personality (she has been described as “brusque”, “polarizing”, “mercurial”); to issues of gender bias. Ken Auletta of The New Yorker wrote in an article that sources said Abramson discovered that her pay and pension benefits were less than that of her male predecessor (The Times denied this.)

Sulzberger gave the following official explanation of Abramson’s firing: “an issue with management in the newsroom,” “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back,” “[Abramson is guilty of] arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.”

There are reports of tensions between Abramson and Baquet. Abramson was reportedly planning to hire Janine Gibson of The Guardian to become Baquet’s co-managing editor for digital. Carr wrote that Baquet was “furious and worried about how it would affect not only him but the rest of the news operations” and so Baquet supposedly told the publisher he will leave the paper.

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Dean Baquet addressing the newsroom on the day he was appointed as executive editor. Photo from The New York Times’ website by Todd Heisler

That Baquet is the man standing and now holds the top post may give an indication as to how he is regarded. The first African-American to hold the plum position, Carr describes Baquet as “courageous and smart, and he makes newspapering seem like a grand endeavour” and has the makings of a “great leader.”

The makings of a leader

I briefly witnessed Baquet at work last year during my fellowship with the World Press Institute (WPI). The WPI fellows attended the morning page one meeting presided by Baquet, with all the top editors in attendance. It was a formidable room. He seemed very collegial, allowing the editors free rein to develop stories with their reporters. But when time came to make choices for the front page, he was very decisive and sure of what he wanted.

After the editorial meeting, he engaged the WPI fellows in a casual chat for a few minutes. He spoke about how the mobile and digital platforms have changed the media landscape. He seemed keenly aware not just of the editorial side but also the business challenges in news, at a time when print circulation and revenues are diminishing.

How do you get readers to pay for online content? What can you offer that is worth paying for? Who is more important – the consumer or advertiser? Can all media outlets put up a pay wall on their websites? Who is your market? What other online revenue sources can you tap? Baquet touched on these things.

Uphill battles

Indeed, improving business-newsroom relations and digital/mobile innovations may be Baquet’s biggest uphill battles. Auletta wrote that Abramson had clashed with The Times CEO Mark Thompson over the “perceived intrusion of the business side into the newsroom.”

And recently, Nieman Journalism Lab wrote a piece on a supposed New York Times innovation report. The report is a self-examination on how The Times is performing on the digital platform.

The Times is undoubtedly known for some of the best online work in the world (check out its Snowfall multimedia project), but the report was critical of where The Times was doing poorly: social media promotion, reader interface and engagement, providing and packaging more in-demand content, creating tools for its writers, integrating research and development with newsroom operations, pushing staff to do away with traditional newspaper practices and adapt to the changing times, among others.

(Ironically, in an interview with Ken Auletta, Abramson said that one of the biggest changes at The Times under her was innovation in the digital platform by enhancing narrative with video and motion graphics, among others.)

Evidently, there is no escaping politics in any organization in the world, but set aside the struggle of relationships, the real battle is taking place in the digital and mobile sphere. Those who can adapt, innovate and earn amid these changing times are the ones to survive and thrive. As to what’s next for Abramson, she says she’s in the same boat of uncertainty as the new graduates she addressed which, she says, makes for a frightening, yet exciting time.

“I’m talking to anyone who has been dumped — have not gotten the job you really wanted or have received those horrible rejection letters from grad school… You know the disappointment of losing, or not getting something you badly want. When that happens, show what you are made of,” Abramson said.

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