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GUEST COLUMN

What is the meaning of life and why are other people so *#%@! annoying?

I'm an expert in mommy guilt, corporate disillusionment, marital misery, slacker parenting, faux housework, flat-line libidos and drive-thru spirituality. Yet people often ask me how I can write about fast food, fake boobs, reality TV, and annoying in-laws, and consider it a spiritual experience.

I think it's because most of our problems are really people problems, and people problems are actually spiritual problems in disguise. I titled my new book "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear" because that's our biggest challenge: creating a peaceful existence that transcends knuckle-dragging bosses, overflowing laundry baskets and self-absorbed spouses who refuse to see that your way is the right way.

Webster's defines grace as "a divinely given talent or blessing." We humans are blessed. We're blessed by the beauty of the other souls who surround us each day. Unfortunately most of those lovely little souls are trapped inside hugely annoying personalities that bug the living stew out of us.

Yet if I could reach into the heart of humanity and impart a single message, it's this:

You don't have to control the chaos to find the peace within.

You don't have to get your Tupperware organized; you don't have to loose 10 lbs; you don't have to make gobs of cash; and you don't even have to have an enlightened family to be happy. You can find grace, peace and love in your regular old Mac 'N Cheese life.

Five tips for Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear:

1. Forget Balance: The myth of perfect balance has us teetering on a tightrope of insanity as we frantically juggle the plates of our compartmentalized lives. Instead of worrying about the moments you're missing, get fully present for the moments you're in. Composing your grocery list while phoning your mother or planning a Power Point while you're having sex doesn't make you more productive. It just keeps you detached from your real life.

2. Think Love, Not Laundry: Instead of mindlessly grinding through tasks hoping you'll get some love or appreciation, make a decision to bring love into everything you do. Whether it's family, work or dog grooming, love is the cornerstone of happiness. You may still have to clean out the dust bunnies, but when you decide that your life is about expressing and feeling love, leftover pizza boxes don't seem so gross.

3. Ooze talent: We're at our best as human beings when our daily lives are in congruence with who we are inside and when we are connected with others. Get clear on your own fabulous skills and talents, switch off Dancing With the Stars and do the tango of life with the people around you.

4. Embrace Exasperation: The people in your life weren't sent to earth to annoy you. They were sent to help you grow. The common denominator in every people problem you have is you. Next time you're about to lose it, look in the mirror. The irksome behavior of others is often God's request for you to be the bigger person.

5. Reveal, Don't Dig: Grace isn't hiding underneath the piles of mail. You don't have to search for it, you've had it since the day you were born. Find your ability to see the divine behind the dim of the dullards.

We humans have created a nuthouse of global proportions and watching it in action is the best reality show in town. Yet despite our Botox-injecting, email-addicted, money-grubbing, marriage-wrecking ways, in our hearts, we are truly amazing.

May we find the grace to ignite the spark of divinity that resides within each and every one of us. And may we never let our own dirty laundry stand in our way.

Excerpted from "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear" (April 1, 2007 - Jefferson Press), by Lisa Earle McLeod.

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