How happy are you, really? Do you have a general sense of optimism even when life throws you lemony curveballs?
Me…I love lemony everything, but I’m grumpy a lot. At big things. At little things. At all the things. I go through bouts of deep soul-searching sadness too, when nature can’t reach me and people seem against me and trying seems pointless. I yell at my four-year old for doing four-year old things, and then I’m wracked with shame and guilt for being a yeller. I am hermitting much of the time lately, grieving, healing, reading, feeling generally sorry for myself albeit trying, even though I often don’t have the energy to try.
Grumpiness makes me tired. Sadness sucks my lifeforce. And my existential search of the last two decades has been exhausting.
What’s it going to take to be happy?
I decided a couple weeks ago that I was going to tackle this happiness issue head-on, like a high-achieving project manager whose bonus is based on results, S.M.A.R.T results. Specific. Measurable. Actionable. Relevant. And Time-Bound. I started talking to people, okay…my mom, and I declared my intentions. Out loud. After I got done crying. “Other people are happy,” I sputtered. “And I will be too!”
I figure lots of things out; I can figure this out. I can learn how.
Turns out “The Happiness Project” is the name of a book I haven’t read, a best-selling book that looks pretty decent. I checked out the author’s website. There’s a blog and something of a “movement” happening; people are gathering together to take responsibility for their own happiness.
That’s what I need to do too. I’m going to read the book. (Anyone up for a long-distance book club?)
If it has instructions or steps, I’m going to follow them.
In November, I started working out, just gentle walks or following little 30-minute exercise videos. Moving my body has been wonderful for my motivation and mood. It’s not a cure-all, i.e., I still yell at the four-year old sometimes, BUT on days that I move early in the morning, I feel a lot better all day. I get more done. I yell a lot less. Exercise makes me more conscious of what I put in my body too. So, I’ve lost ten pounds and 7.5 inches without trying that hard. I want to keep going.
In December, I took on some new projects. I still have the familiar sense of dread and loathing before beginning almost any task, but once I’m underway, my sense of well-being soars. Keeping a commitment and accomplishing something you said you would is very powerful. So is worshipping God by doing the dishes. Slowly, that anticipatory dread is fading because I’m keeping promises to myself and others.
In January, I started slowly minimizing my household. (Check out the weekly “Minimize Minute” column the Pioneer editors graciously agreed to run each week. It’s going to help keep me accountable, and I’m hoping you’ll join me.) Funny: the subtitle of “The Happiness Project” book directly references cleaning closets, so there’s another win. I’m also reading “Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It’s a gentle daily lesson (about a five-minute reading commitment) that is showing me how daily life is my connection to the divine and will lead me “to a happier, more fulfilling and contented way of life.” I’m on Day 18 as I write this, and it’s helping.
It really is all the little things.
In February…who knows. I want to try extended fasting. I want to do more snow-shoeing. I want to focus my writing towards something bigger. I want to get back to work on Northerly Park.
So…I guess I sorta have my own happiness project started already. And frankly, that’s great. It’s well past time to do something about all this melancholy. I don’t want my daughter to remember a yeller. I don’t want her to inherit the depression. Time is flying by, and I’m ready to feel better once and for all. I’m not angry anymore, at least. The general anger I felt about everything and anything subsided about a year after I quit drinking. I figure the next emotional detox is due. Sadness? Hopelessness? Pack your bags! Your time here has expired.
Yeah, I know I’m being ridiculously cheesy. But if I feel this way, so do other people. If I need help, so do they. If a few small steps can equal a giant leap forward in life, I’m game. Sign me up. I’m holding the clipboard of accountability, handing out the name tags and assigning bunks. To me.
I’m not aiming for distractions, but it’s time to get busy.
I’m going to learn Happy.
(P.S. – I wasn’t joking about the long-distance book club. The easiest way for me would be a private Facebook group where we simply post as we have something to say. Next week, I’ll have that ready to go. This week, let’s buy the book.)
(P.P.S. – To the anonymous reader in Fargo who sent the loveliest note via way of the Pioneer office, I wish I could give you a soft Kellie hug and tell you how much it meant, how many times I’ve read it, how I will be forever grateful for your words. I’m so deeply honored that anything I’ve written has made a difference. God bless you and Happy New Year.)
(Published in the January 23, 2018 issue of the Warroad Pioneer in Warroad, Minnestoa)