It all started a year ago with a picture and an unexpected outing at Barnes and Noble.
There I was in a CAL Hockey Jersey hands up in the air celebrating an amusement park triumph. I looked at the photograph and paused.
Who was this chick, and where did she go?
It was me … only I was happy, my spirit was busting loose. My freak flag was flying.
I looked at myself in the mirror and thought … what the hell?
And there it was … this is when the concept of the lemon squeezer was born. Had I turned sour because Plan A wasn’t working out the way I had imagined … maybe … I had my moments. Did I have bouts of malaise? Hell yes. Did I need an Elizabeth Gilbert Eat, Pray, Love experience? Yes…hell yes. But I was broke and had no time to really fly off to Rome, India or Bali. I couldn’t afford to go to Fiji and have a Tony Robbins life-changing experience. So I’d have to change my life without the use of a passport.
But I didn’t really get started until Gretchen popped into my life.
I never thought I’d meet a Gretchen or that she’d help change my outcome. I mean it’s not like she was Tony Robbins or anything, just some chick with a book I glanced at during one of my self-help expeditions at the book store. In truth, I hadn’t planned on going to Barnes & Noble, but the movie I wanted to watch was sold out, so instead of heading back home — a world where moms hardly escape — I decided to take a detour and hang out at the book store. As I was checking out all these ridiculous “find-your-inner-light” books by people who didn’t really have inner light, I came across Gretchen’s book: The Happiness Project.
I remembered my picture and thought … yeah I need me some of that because Trader Joe’s may be running out of chocolate lava cakes.
What do I have to lose? $14.99?
I thought damn Guat … you need to start squeezing some of the juice out of these lemons that life threw at you like a Randy Johnson fastball in his prime.
So I launched my Happiness Project. I made goals, plans, resolutions to make things better out of the crappy life I wasn’t meant to have. Sure I had my health, but I couldn’t just go walking around just being thankful for my health alone. I wanted more. I wanted to be like Will Smith at the end of The Pursuit of Happiness where he’s clapping his hands and crying because he made it. Yeah I wanted me some of that.
So I read it. And I know the book only had 12 chapters, but I managed to squeeze out 27 lessons, experiences, plans, resolutions for my Happiness Project. I vowed to take baby steps and giant steps toward my happiness. I vowed to rush down that field like an awesome Heisman Trophy winner. I vowed to be Badass again … with a capital B. I vowed to let my freak flag fly. I vowed to try to be that Guat I saw in the picture.
I concentrated on specific things for my own happiness: emotional, physical, and mental wellness; being an awesome member of the parenthood fraternity; finding the funny in not so funny situations; dancing like I was the chick from Flashdance every day because the music is definitely in me; staying athletic no matter how much IcyHot and ibuprofen I used; being present and not getting crazy with the multitasking that is inherent in all moms; seeking new challenges so I am less depressed; having my kind fun however it is that I defined fun which usually involved sports, the AMC network, or anything involving Jason Bateman; living like it was Shark Week; learning to be grateful; having a purpose and feeling like there’s something out there for me, productivity as in pouring out my writing ideas even if the publishing date is still TBA, and celebrating little accomplishments as in giving myself a high-five.
This is what I tried to do for 365 days.
So the big question is, are you happy? Are you happier? Did it work?
I can only say that considering I had turned into the female version of George Costanza, my Happiness Project has kept me from jumping off a cliff. I see that chick in the picture more often than I used to.
Am I happy all day, every day? No. I’d need more cash for that to come true. And I know people say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but they might not be trying hard enough, because it sure does help.
But aside from that am I happy? Considering what I go through and what my life didn’t turn out to be, I’d say I’m rocking Plan B. I’ve squeezed every last drop of the hundreds of lemons dumped on me by life and they in turn have given me more moments of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen off the wagon plenty of times this year. Marriage and family will do that to you. This is when the chocolate, drinking, Deepak Chopra style meditation, or Rocky Balboa type of workouts surfaced.
But regardless of the crappy days, I learned that the next day gave me another 24 hours to make up for it. I was like Jack Bauer … making the most of every hour. And during this Eat, Pray, Love journey that was confined to the Golden State, there were a few resolutions, lessons, goals that helped me out the most.
Be The Guat — remembering to fly my freak flag no matter what. I usually didn’t have a problem with that one ever, but it was always a good reminder.
Be present — as in show up, enjoy the now, be present in the moment in whatever it is I’m doing … running, reading, watching a movie, eating dinner, playing Legos with my kid. Stop multi-tasking and be present. Savor the moment because if I’m doing something I can’t go at it half-assed. Whole ass is the way to go.
Find the funny — you gotta laugh. First you’ll probably cry, and eat a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s but once that’s done, find the funny. Write your life like a Saturday Night Live skit and you’ll find the funny and it’ll get you through.
Yeah … these were my lessons, my goals, my resolutions. Am I happy?
I’d say I’m a little happier. I’ve learned to embrace the George Costanza phase of my life. Happy Festivus! And even though I finished the book, My Happiness Project still continues. I’ll always be trying to squeeze out as much juice as possible, it’s in my nature now. I’m a lemon squeezer.
The Journey …