Accidental Happiness

I put a lot on my “resolution” plate for this new year. Some of the things on my list were thoughtful entries—health and faith. Some things were happenstance—stopping prescription medications (my five-year date is in April and will signify a completed post-cancer regiment). One unplanned resolution contributing a great deal to my current level of happiness came about in a fit of frustration and hurt.

My background is this: I am a people-pleaser. I will often put my comfort level on a back burner so situations that involve you and me will go smoother for you. It leads to a great deal of stress and unhappiness on my end, but if you’re happy then it is worth it. Or so I thought. I truly felt that if there were stress, I would absorb it so that you could be happy and content, and then I would be happy eventually. What I didn’t realize or acknowledge is that I was not eventually happy. I carried that burden for us and simply buried it. I had headaches, a stiff neck, and sleepless nights. I just brushed it off to aging.

I have gotten well-intentioned advice to remove toxic people from my life. I just wasn’t sure who they were or how to go about it. When your method is to only see good and to always boost others you begin to not be able to identify negative people. I’ve been encouraged to cut ties, block via social media, or otherwise disengage with people who fit the category of negative; those people who drain the happy from me and leave me with their emotional residue.

I was at a loss to remedy this for nigh on 49 years. The catalyst to change this was initiated for me: I was unceremoniously removed from a contact online who was rather paramount to my whole family. Me! Someone removed me!—and my whole family,  to boot! I was infuriated. I was hurt. I was confused. I was relieved. Wait. What? Ahh, no more pretense. Mmmm, this was nice. I mean, I processed the rejection part but when the dust settled, I was … happy. I had delayed decisions that might be best for my family and this person hurried my changes. I sort of reveled in a new layer of peace I was unfamiliar with and I liked it. I took it a step further. I did some serious thinking and evaluating. I played back interactions that I had, or was still having, with a few people and whether or not I was receiving anything positive from them. Not that it was making me happy—my happiness is my job. But even in the midst of negative situations, there can be something positive. So I asked myself, “Am I learning? Do I feel better after interacting? Did I have a healthy engagement with this person?” If I could answer yes, great—life was proceeding well and things could be or were on an even keel. If I said no, I evaluated their merit in my life. Granted, I am not at that emotionally secure yet, so these people are in my life still, but I limit their negative actions on my life.  And I am sleeping a whole lot better.

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The Best Day for Resolution Makers

Today has arrived. December 31. The eve of a better you: a more fit, healthier-eating, spiritually-renewed, organized, and independent you. Or … hear me out – maybe just “you.”

Every year I make these commitments to myself. And every year I fail at more than one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still making the commitment to changing these very things about myself. I don’t exercise; I’ve joined a committed fitness group with a committed coach. I will have the support to stay motivated. Plus I have a cute swim-suit I haven’t worn in two years. I’ve already programmed my alarm to get me up early to exercise.

I have been lackluster in my faith. I’ve blamed God, my church, the school, and even friends for that. It’s not on any of them. I own this, so I have to fix it. I will start with what I deem is the core for fixing it—God. My path is to include regular attendance to my church. I am fortunate that my priest has been routinely in touch with my angst without knowing it; so I trust God and the Holy Spirit that this will be true and my anger and hurt can be healed. But it can’t unless I make the effort, too.

I always consider myself unorganized. I have learned in the past year that is not the case; not at all. I am rather pleased that I don’t have to think about that this year. On the heels of that, though, is the sad realization that that resolve has been replaced by this realization: I am sloppy and lazy. I don’t mean that I am not neat and clean. I am. I mean that the pile of papers sitting on my desk, or that stack of mail sitting on my counter, just sits there (sloppy). I mean that those appointments I need to track (and request leave-time for) need to be entered in my calendar and acted on (lazy). My resolve is to actually use follow-through and do these things.

Now for my big reveal: these resolutions are daily/weekly/monthly, every year, all year. These are not reserved as new-year’s resolutions for me. This is who I am, who I want to be, and my constant goal. I am okay with that. In the last few weeks, while I was preparing for The Big Day to better myself, I finally released guilt and angst over being a little “less” than others.* I have decided that constantly wanting to better myself is not a bad thing. My active resolve will be my faith-walk. I have to fix that because for me that is the core of fixing/having will-power/being confident in all my other betterment goals.

Now for the last item mentioned in my first paragraph: independence. Overall, in supporting myself and my daughters, I am independent. I have fully grasped the day-to-day, self- and family-sufficient tasks needed to be independent and a provider. No, my independence for me is to be true to myself.

Therefore, this year I resolve to:

  • put God first and stop being faithfully-stubborn.
  • be true to myself; realize it’s good and healthy for me, and a great example to my daughters, to take care of my needs so I can be strong for myself and others. In that order.
  • forgive myself for not being everything for everybody; for not being who others want me to be, for being a gloriously-failing human, and letting others own their reactions to that.
  • say no. Unequivocally, clearly, and without explanation: No. (I am not going to explain why I want to say no. I don’t have to. No.)
  • to get my funny back. I miss my sense of humor and wit. I don’t even care if that’s arrogant to say. I am a funny person and I miss that about me.

 

* I do not truly think I am less than anyone, but do find myself wishing I had his will-power; her confidence, etc.

 

Awkward

When you get to a certain age awkwardness kind of fades away a little. You get to live a few years of blissful awkward-free life. Having teens live in your house, some of that comes back to you. That shirt with those slacks look awkward. Your hair is a little awkward, Mom. And who calls them ‘slacks’? Awk, Mom–they’re pants.

I’ve been a parent for a while. I have friends and family who are parents. We’ve all gone through, or are going through, the awkward teen phase. This is not like the awkward stage pre- or early-teens go through, but the mid-teen phase where the embarrassment of parents is almost turning into pity because we, as parents, have hit the stage of knowing nothing!

I am having a contradiction of sorts with awkwardness. I am a fairly confident, comfortable-in-my-skin middle-aged mom. At this point in life, I am who I am. I try to be the best I can be of: a child of God, a child of my parents, a parent to my girls, an aunt, a friend, and most importantly I am the best Julie I can be.

After all that being said, that confidence and identity being bandied around–Gretchen and I were waiting to get her sports physical the other day and she was bored. She dug through my purse, used my lip balm, played with the flashlight on my keychain, and found my little notebook I use for blog ideas. She started looking through it and I felt awkward.

I think the vulnerability of it made me feel awkward. This is my child and she knows how I think. These are blog ideas that I will be posting online for anybody to read. Watching her read them, and listening to the ones she read out loud, was a little like having someone find your diary. Those are my ideas, but I haven’t fine-tuned them yet. Those are the thoughts I have, but I am not ready to share them.

She didn’t do anything but read them aloud. I got over being embarrassed about it. She did not once pity me for not knowing anything. She read more, and a couple of them are (hopefully) funny ideas. We laughed. I snorted, as I sometimes do, just as the doctor walked in.

Okay well, that was  awkward.