Do More of What Makes You Happy

Last year, from my Secret Santa (aka my dear friend, Erin), I received a magnet that stated simply: Do more of what makes you happy. It was a perfect gift considering I was doing virtually nothing that made me happy, and Erin knew how miserable I was, and how desperate I was to break out of that funk. But deep in that funk I was, and though I would look at the magnet stuck to the side of my refrigerator every day, I couldn’t manage to follow its advice. Until now, that is.

As most of the people in my life (or who have read my blog entries) know, 2015 was a year of great change. Both great in the sense of many changes, but also in the sense of things that ultimately brought more happiness to my life.

I transitioned from working 50+ hours a week, constantly stressed, feeling like I was spinning my wheels only to go nowhere, another cog in the education system desperately in need of repair, to a stay-at-home wife and mother. And granted this new position I’m in has its own share of stresses, it is truly nothing like trying to do it all as I was before. Because even though I left my house by 6:45 a.m, and most often didn’t return until about 5 p.m, I was still coming home to my family and needing to immediately switch gears and turn into wife and mom. And by the time mothering was done for the night, I was too spent to give anything else, either to myself or my husband. Now there are days, though, when I’m desperately lonely being home all by myself. I crave adult interaction. I sometimes feel like my contribution to the world has been greatly diminished.

It’s not always been an easy transition to say the least. To go from so many years of just going, going, going, to days now where I do have the luxury to step back and take a breath is stranger to me than some might think. I’d grown so accustomed to always doing more than I feasibly could that I sometimes forget that what I do now is not only reasonable, but appreciated and more than enough. Instead of continually striving to do more, failing to finish, and never receiving thanks for it, I am now able to budget what really needs to be done, and see the positives of my efforts. Getting kids to and from school, making sure the house is well-kept, making nutritional meals (even if they’re not always eaten), helping with homework, working through behaviors and relationship issues, and showing my kids they’re valued each day is a lot, even if I’m not also bringing home a paycheck. And I need to recognize this more and scold myself less for not doing more.

Because, you know what, 2015 was also a year of bravery. And I’m just starting to give myself proper credit for it all.

Earlier this year, something snapped in me, and I decided enough was enough. I decided that nothing, especially not a paycheck, was worth feeling like utter shit all the time for. I spoke my peace, defended what was right for both students ad teachers, stopped doing more that what was required of me, and, if I may say so, gracefully accepted the consequences of it all. This cog came loose, setting off the entire machine, and it needed to be rid of. And instead of putting myself back in line with everyone, I tore loose and hightailed it out of there. And I can say with absolutely no pretensions or doubts, I don’t regret it even a fraction of a percentage. Not then, and certainly not now.

This is not to say there weren’t days when I doubted myself or wondered if I’d gone truly mad. But I’d found ways to work through it. And one of those ways was through writing.

I have, off and on throughout the years, dabbled in writing. I’ve always loved writing, but lacked the confidence to do much about it. But in November of 2014, I began this blog, and throughout most of 2015, I managed to keep up a semi-regular posting. And really, the main start of it all was my New Year’s Reflection from last year. It really helped me pinpoint what was important to me, and one of those things was writing. (And shit, I wrote 3/4 of a fucking novel–to be finished in Jan. 2016! 🙂 )

I wasn’t always able to write as frequently as I should have, both because I lacked the time, and because I lacked the motivation or belief in myself. But I tried, above all, to be honest in my writing when it did come. And in being honest in my writing, I needed to be honest to myself. And this involved finally admitting I had depression and seeking treatment for it. I know I’m not the only person in the world that suffers from some type of mental illness, and I know that many also don’t understand it. I was one of those people, even after having gotten my eventual diagnosis. I didn’t realize how multifaceted the condition was, and how much work it would be to manage it. But I think finally addressing this need of mine helped put everything else into perspective and place. This shift in understanding of myself led to a shift in expectations for both myself and those around me. And though depression is not easy to deal with sometimes, and is something I quite likely will live with the rest of my life, it has changed my life immeasurably for the positive. Because in recognizing I had new needs, I also was forced to make absolute changes to my life. Changes that I wouldn’t have made without this. 2015 was a year for doing what needed to be done. 2016 will change that.

This is not to say that there won’t always be things that need to be done. The kids will always need to be fed, clothed, cleaned, healthy, loved. The house will need to be kept in relative cleanliness and organization. My marriage will need to be a priority in order fort the whole family to work as one happy, successful unit. But if there is a day when we have sandwiches for dinner, will that hurt anyone? Of course not. If there is cat food on the kitchen floor or dirty laundry in the hamper, will anyone die? No, that’s ridiculous. So instead of trying to get everything done, I am going to focus on getting done what will make us as a family the happiest, and say fuck all the rest.

This isn’t to say that I’m just looking for excuses to be neglectful or lazy. Instead, this allows me the space to be flexible, understanding, and to forgive myself if I’m not perfect–which, spoiler alert! I won’t be.

You see, I’ve finally come to realize that there’s no reward for running myself ragged and doing more than what is reasonable. No one is getting a medal for being too busy and hectic. And winning the contest for being the most stressed out is no longer a contest I’m interested in participating in. If it forces me to be less than my best self most of the time, then I’m over it.

I know that I’m only one person in a complicated equation that is human relationships. But I also know that the happiness of all my relationships depends, at least in part, to me. If I’m miserable, apathetic, stressed, exhausted, or any of the myriad negative emotions that can encompass a person at any time, then I will pass that along to everyone I live with, and thus my most important relationships will suffer. And though I’m only one part of each relationship, I am an important part. And the only part I can control is my part. So, though I can’t control others, I can certainly do what I can to make sure we’re as happy as possible. And while I will inevitably fail at this from time to time, I am determined to make more of an effort than I have before. Nothing good has ever come from being negative. And nothing but good can come from trying to be better.

So here we are again at the point when I suppose I should be listing my resolutions, only I again refuse to make any. Instead, I have chosen to make myself promises instead. And each of my promises will all work toward building a happier me and the life that I see is most beneficial.

First off, I promise to make more time for hobbies, relaxation, and simple enjoyment. Americans notoriously overwork and under play, many working Americans don’t even take any vacation time each year. Studies have shown that not allowing the mind and body down time leads to all sorts of health issues–both mentally and physically. It’s my goal to live as long and as well as I can. And spending some quality time each day doing what I love–reading, watching the birds, gardening, writing–will hopefully help me along in this goal. And at the very least, it certainly won’t hurt.

Next, I promise to be better to my body than previous years. This is not where you will see me pledging to lose a bunch of weight or give up sweets. Fuck that, actually. I promise to give my body the credit it’s due and to celebrate all it provides me with. It has grown and delivered two children. It has planted and maintained a huge ass yard of gardens. It has offered comfort and security to my children. It has climbed great hills, skied down slopes, and so much more all because I asked it to. It may not be perfect. It may have flaws, and I may not always give it what it needs, but I know that I’m doing my best. And instead of making comparisons to others or wishing I was more this or less that, I am simply saying I’m enough. And as long as I live a mostly healthy life, the sweets I eat, or the days I’m too unmotivated to exercise, will be minor. My body and my mind are not separate, though I treated them as such in the past. If my mind is sound, my body will follow. If I can mediate to relive stress, or write my thoughts out in self-therapy, or stretch and strengthen my body in yoga, then both my mind and my body will gain. And it will be enough.

Lastly, I need to focus on taking each day as it comes. Each day is a gift, even when it’s a challenge. Some days will be better or easier than others. And some days the best thing I can do is just go easy on myself. I need to recognize that I’m doing the best I can with each moment. And though my best may see some flux along the way, as long as I am making a conscientious effort to be true to myself, I know I will be fine. I need to remember that though I can do anything, I can’t do everything (stole that from Pinterest :)).

No more ultimatums, no more pressure. Only reinforcement of that which speaks to my soul. I know so many people think that type of stuff is corny and new-agey, but I couldn’t care less anymore. Its taken me this long to finally feel comfortable with myself and to finally advocate for what I know is really best for me, and I’m not going to let anyone take that away from me. If I can go to bed each night feeling like some good came out of each day, then nothing else matters.

I wish nothing but what makes each and every one of you equally happy as 2016 continues.

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