I finally found a way to look at the other side and not jump off a cliff.
In an attempt to create a sequel to my Happiness Project Adventures of last year, I’ve decided to keep tracking my attempts to get as much juice as I could from the lemons life gave me and so far my Clear-Eyes-Full-Hearts-Thelma-&-Louise-you’re-different-now-kind-of-feeling hasn’t worn off yet.
I’m happy about that.
Usually self-improvement projects, plans, bucket list items, changes, gung-ho promises made at the beginning of the year — aka resolutions — suffer setbacks or wear off. Luckily the ripples are still in the water.
So I managed to take advantage of this mindset and continued tweaking my outlook so that certain roles within my George Costanza existence would look more appealing and the effort to improve wouldn’t feel like such a chore. I’d have a Happiness Project Adventure Sequel, a Secret Life of Walter Mitty moment or two. I’d have less George and more me.
Apparently the first step to this was to psych myself up, to give myself one of those awesome pre-game sports speeches, the kind that’s delivered by Coach Eric Taylor in Friday Night Lights (the show, not the movie), by Sean Astin in Rudy, by Kurt Russell in Miracle, and by Gene Hackman in Hoosiers.
I’m no Kurt Russell, but I did come up with some creative ways to look at the different roles within my life. I juiced it up a little so that I could look forward to these parts of my life, instead of dreading them.
And so far so good.
Instead of checkbook balancer, coupon lady, and finance checker, I thought Rainmaker would motivate me more when dealing with my finances.
Instead of working on “emotional control,” I thought Zen Master Apprentice would be more appropriate.
Instead of saying dude I have to workout, I’d look at it more like my Ninja Warrior Triathlete-Decathlete training, which sounds a little bit more awesome.
Instead of working on exercises to develop a spiritual side, I thought I’d try to be a Super Soul Sunday Engineer. Sounds like I’d get all kinds of spirit with that.
Instead of thinking of myself sometimes as just a mom who’s home with her kids for endless amounts of time trying not to get lost, I could consider myself more of a Human Spirit Adventure Developer and Life Compass Architect.
Instead of freelance writer, I could look at myself as a Future Barnes & Noble Best Seller.
Instead of looking at crappy moments like I-can’t-believe-this-just-happened-to-me-I-need-chocolate-right-now experiences, they could be envisioned as life moments to be written up and appear in Saturday Night Live Skits, although I wouldn’t get rid of the chocolate.
Chocolate is still a necessity.
Even though I’ve juiced up the different parts of my life and kept the ripples in my pond going I think I’ll still keep the chocolate. George Costanza phases come and go, but like I said before hopefully with these little changes in perception I’ll have less George and more me. Don’t get me wrong, I love George, but you shouldn’t have too much of him.
I saw this and realized I definitely gotta get moving.
I got GPS and everything.
Step one, baby. Step one.
And if I fall, which will probably happen, there’s always room for a chocolate break.
Then I can continue steppin’.
This is it.
Everyone is talking about it.
The get-off your ass promises you make to yourself in order for this year to be less mediocre than the last.
And why not?
But it’s all good. Getting off your ass is important. It inspires stories, and as a writer I need some good comic relief. But I didn’t have to wait until January 1st to make changes or to get inspired for change. Living a life of I-can’t-believe-this-is-where-I-am sort of catapults you into wanting something different, or at least sticking to the dream you had when you were 20-something, on a weekly basis.
But not everybody needs change, some of you are freakin’ fantastic all year round, and that’s cool, but in truth I don’t fit that demographic. I’m just happy some of the time and when I am I’m swimming in it every minute. But I could always more.
So what’s the plan for more? What are my changes? What are my goals? What are my self-improvement projects?
Don’t have my entire list. I’m working on it. Although I don’t have anything to quit. I do everything in moderation except self-doubt. But I’m working on it. I did however have an epiphany during my girls night out. It was Super Soul Sunday! Except it was on a Thursday. Yeah. Super Soul Sunday on Thursday.
For those of you unaware Super Soul Sunday are awesome episodes of your-life-could-be-better-than-it-is-and-I’m-not-judging-you-but-here’s-how-you-can-improve-it-if-you-want-to. It has awesome quotes from Oprah and her many guests on the OWN Network. Their life stories end up affecting change in your own life story. It’s like free therapy.
Yeah. So I had one of those live and in person, but it wasn’t with Oprah, it was with a bunch of my college buds. And in truth, I really needed the outing, with all the stress of the I-can’t-believe-this-is-where-I-am-right-now existence I’ve gotten some more gray hair and I’ve been perusing the anti-aging aisle at the CVS. They don’t have cream or Nice N’ Easy formula for “crappyness”. But they do have Ben & Jerry’s, and that cures any problem.
So I guess one of my plans, goals, self-improvement projects, or get-off-your-ass moments would be for more Super Soul Sunday Moments on any day with anyone. I mean it doesn’t have to be Oprah and it doesn’t have to be Sunday. It can even happen while binge watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix on a Tuesday.
That’s one goal. Definitely more Super Soul in my life.
The other is to always have more Ben & Jerry’s on hand, in case the Super Soul gets too deep and comedy can’t save me from drowning.
Happy New Year.
The “negativity bias” crept in this week, like a tiny parasite sucking the life out of me.
I let the outside effect my mood. I mean who doesn’t right? It happens to everyone, maybe even Gandhi himself, that’s probably why he meditated so much.
Most of the time you feel good when you wake up because you realize you have another 24 hours to make something happen for yourself. 24 hours to do something. 24 hours to find a way to be happy or happier. 24 hours for something different from yesterday. 24 hours to fly your freak flag and be proud. 24 hours closer to reaching you dream. 24 hours … I mean Jack Bauer saved the world in 24 hours the least you can do is have a good day right?
But then you get out of bed and life happens.
You stubbed your toe. You can’t find matching socks. Your kids fight over the superhero cape. You realize someone sent in the payment late and you’ve gotten a penalty fee. You wanted orange juice in the morning and just as you reach for the Simply Orange way in the back of the fridge you realize that some jackass left it in there with three drops. You try to shake it off, but then you hear from Debbie Downer and they’re trying to drag you down with the ship. You get criticized for the third time in ten minutes. You check your voicemail and realize that your friends are taking an awesome two-day vacation you desperately need, but you can’t go on because there’s no one to watch your kids. It takes a village to raise one, right? This town is population: 1 Guat.
You need to get out of the house.
So you walk out to the car to get the diapers your dude left in the trunk overnight and $78 parking ticket is hanging out on your windshield for all to see. Street Sweeper. People walking their dogs see it. They give you a sympathetic smile. They feel you. You’re glad, until you walk back home and step in dog poop.
You really need a Namaste moment. You realize the “negativity bias” kicked in.
The bias is defined by Gretchen Rubin as:
“… we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. I’d learned in February, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act. With money, the pain of losing a certain sum is greater than the pleasure of gaining that sum. Hitting the best-seller list with Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill thrilled me less than a bad review upset me.”
Yeah … like I said negativity bias. Although I don’t really agree with her on the money one, if I found lost money I’d be doing cartwheels, and forget about how pissed off I was when I lost it. Finding lost items is awesome. But I agree with the rest. So what could I do with all the negative stuff brooding in my system?
She suggests finding a mental “area of refuge” and I agree. Thinking about an escape, something to distract you from the drama, something to occupy your mind and get you through the momentary traffic jam that is your life. So I thought of bungy jumping in Austrailia. I thought of the giant water slide my dad and I ventured on in Guatemala. I thought about the Spider-Man theme song my uncle use to sing randomly. I thought about Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes. I thought about Jack Tripper (he always made me laugh). I thought about my son in the swimming pool doing his first starfish float and smiling excitedly. I thought about my daughter’s bouncy toddler run when she “hits” a home run and runs around are makeshift bases. I thought about the fresh smell of wet soil as I rode my bike through the park early Sunday mornings. It smelled liked Earth.
I wasn’t Mary Poppins after that, but I wasn’t festering in the crappy mood or the dog crap.
Things got better, until night time.
Thank God for Netflix. I was able to distract myself with episodes of Arrested Development.
This is where failure usually happens. You think being 37, I’d be used to it by now and maybe even immune to it, but no. It still stings. Even though there is an abundance of chocolate covering every stumble and fall, it’s not easy “finding the lesson” when things don’t go the way you hoped. But when things work out, it’s definitely a do-a-cartwheel feeling.
“Do what you do.”
Pursuing a passion. I’ve got lots of these, and thanks to The Happiness Project I’ve been able to do many cartwheels this year and last year, most of them involving sports or other adventures requiring BenGay afterward, like the triathlons, and The Warrior Dash. But I think this chapter may be asking me to pursue a passion I haven’t done yet.
And I wondered, well other than sports, writing, television, movies and books what else am I passionate about that I haven’t explored? I’ve dedicated parts of my Happiness Project these last couple of months to plenty of athletic adventures that made me feel genuinely happy and not just momentarily, but the whole entire day. It was an emotional high and it had nothing to do with chocolate. It was just the rush of being successful and accomplishing something I set out to do.
That pushed the reset button on my life and I decided … yeah I want that feeling. Pictures are great, but I soooooo want to bottle that up and open it and relive those feelings for when one of those crappy days rolls around and slaps me in the face. So I continued my athletic adventures. I’ve enrolled in a beginners roller derby class and registered for an urban climbing race, which also benefits the American Lung Association. I’m on a mission to do an athletic adventure at least once month and maybe I won’t need that special bottle.
I continue to write as that is one of my biggest passions and I get a great sense of satisfaction every night when hit that “publish” button on my blog. I feel like I did something. Just the other day I reached the 400-posts mark and it felt good to reach that number. I didn’t tell anyone, but I didn’t need to in order to feel fantastic, the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream which involved chocolate was reward enough. Plus I’ve got to admit, I patted myself on the back and gave myself a gold star.
Movies and television I am so on top of that. In fact I may be too on top of that. Some people say it’s not that great to watch a lot of television or movies, but I say why not? Television and movies are awesome. Sometimes they provide escape, comic relief, or inspiration and I’m always for that.
But this chapter inferred I pursue something new, or something I hadn’t done yet.
“What you choose to do on a free Saturday afternoon is an indication of your passion.”
Normally the answer to that involves, sports, working out, television or movies. But there were two things that came to mind. Food and travel. I’m all about food. I love it. I enjoy it. I look forward to it. I savor every bite. Sometimes I even dream about it. And the calories? C’mon now. It’s me The Guat. Calories don’t matter, I just walk it off or buy bigger pants. And travel? If I had any money I would being traveling places at least once a month, but since I’m a poor writer all I do is travel to the supermarket with coupons and dream while I’m in line. But I could make travel possible, even if it’s just for a weekend.
So there it was, I found my answers. But in order for the chapter to work, I’d have to choose just one and seeing how I’m financially challenged, food would probably be the better choice. And what an awesome second choice, right? Who doesn’t love food? And I could probably travel to places through food, right?
So in addition to my other projects I’ve decided to pursue food. Eating it mostly, but cooking it of course. I’ve decided to try a new recipe once a week. I’m really not one for following cookbook recipes since I’m a big Food Network fan, but I’ll take the recipes from wherever I can find them. Julia Childs cookbook, Authentic Guat recipes cookbooks, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, Emeril, Paula Dean, or any of the cooks featured on the network. But I’m not going to fool myself into getting a Rachel Ray recipe and thinking I can do it in thirty minutes. Because I’ve learned the hard way. That chick is lying. It takes at least an hour.
But no matter how long it takes I’ll finish. Whether it’s baking or sautéing, I’m on a new adventure. It’s culinary and it will probably involve chocolate. Oooooh. Maybe in every dish. Stay tuned because the Food Network Adventure begins.
You ever feel like your life needs an intervention? I mean you’re not an alcoholic, drug user, or addict of any kind. Your only “addiction” is giving people the benefit of the doubt and somehow you just run into a lot of stupid people and a lot of bad luck. You look in the mirror and think this can’t be it. This really can’t be it. You need to sit yourself down in front of the mirror and say … What the hell is going on?
Yeah … I had one of these moments. And then I saw this …
I thought … holy crap I’m already there and I’m not even 40 yet, but I’m already there.
Granted the situation is not the same. I don’t have a trampoline and I’m not a bitchy wife, but you have these moments where you think … I didn’t think life would be this hard, or this much work. I mean I followed all the rules. The do what’s right and not wrong rules, the be kind to others rules, the go to college rules, the bust your ass to get an education and good job rules, the be a good mom with a good heart rules, the follow your dream rules, the make a Bucket List rules, the create a Happiness Project rules.
All the rules … I’ve done all the right thing rules and sometimes … sometimes it works and I can say that I’m happy … for a minute.
But I’d like it to last a little bit longer than just a length of a commercial.
I mean there are other times when I think … damn do I need another self-help project? A smack me out of this crappy state of mind project? However, I think I have too many projects already, I mean I can’t even find the time to fold my laundry. And when you’re the mom in a family, you usually come last on the list of priorities. I guess I have to start picking an entire 24-hour period where I’m first, instead of an hour three times a week.
But let’s not get crazy, who ever heard of me getting 24 hours to myself once a week. Dude. Hasn’t happened yet.
I find myself in a happiness recession today. I’ve fallen off the Happiness Project-Bucket List Wagon. I don’t know, maybe I’m just still tripping over the loss of my dog, or maybe I just had a really crappy weekend, or maybe I need to see this Judd Apatow movie to get a few suggestions on how to get out of this unhappiness weekend funk by using comedy.
Maybe I just need a movie night. A ticket for one. A table for one. The quiet silence of the night without getting interrupted by someone needing something.
Maybe this weekend was a temporary setback and I need to continue chipping away at my “Do Better” list, my Bucket List, and my Happiness Project. Maybe I just need a 2.0 version of myself before I actually hit 40, so that I don’t have a crisis when I hit that milestone birthday. Maybe I need to continue visualizing The Guat 2.0 in order to get passed the current happiness funk the weekend brought me. Maybe I just need to cowboy-up and realize that sometimes bad days last a little while longer, and I just need to buy more chocolate in order to get through weekends just like these. It’s all part of the intervention process. Chocolate is step one. Comedy is step two.
Falling off the emotional Happiness Project-Bucket List wagon is hard. It’s a good thing I’ve got padding, I feel I’m gonna need a lot of it.
“Who is she to talk about happiness when everything in her life is fine?”
She asked the question and I thought about it. And yeah … when I started this whole Happiness Project it did cross my mind. I thought yeah … Gretchen Rubin should be happy. She’s got everything she wanted … everything I wanted, what’s up with her? She doesn’t need any more happiness. She’s got surplus. I could use some. I’ve got deficit … in the trillions.
Yeah it did cross my mind. But as I continued reading and got to the end of the “Be Serious About Play,” Chapter she brought up a good point:
“Are you more likely to think about happiness — and take action to try to build happiness — when everything in your life is going well, or when you’re facing a catastrophe?”
Dude. Everyone could use happiness, when you’re at the bottomless pit of crappiness you need it. When you’re happy you need to realize that you have it and you should do everything you can to maintain it.
Everybody’s answer is different.
After reading all the responses at the end of that chapter, I realized that for me, it’s a combination of both. I think about happiness during my mid-life malaise and when I have my Holy-Crap moments. On most days I have small moments of happiness … I hear a great song, I dance in the living room, I post on my blog, I eat a great piece of chocolate, I sit in the quiet of the night, or I watch an awesome episode of Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men, or Breaking Bad. They’re not ever-lasting moments, but I enjoy them while they last.
Then on some days, like when I accomplish triathlons and Warrior Dashes, when I get seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, when I have pizza-making night with my kids, a girls-night out with my friends, or Halloween-athons with the family, these moments last a lot longer. Sometimes the entire day or the whole night and even though I’m tired, weary, or exhausted, I’m so grateful for the day-long happiness — for the Guat smile, for the Guat laughter.
Most of this gratefulness stems from surviving all the crappiness that’s come my way. And since I haven’t had many happiness marathon moments, I tend to really appreciate and savor them when they come.
I recognize them when they happen. It’s like having a bad hair day six days in a row and then on the seventh day, you look like a Pantene model, with soft-silky hair. You remember when this happens.
You try to bank these days.
“It’s like saving money, you can’t save for when you get laid off, or after you get laid off; rather you have to save while you have a job and the money is still coming in. Life is like that, you have to DO while you are able to think of what you want, what you like, what needs it will fill, how it will enhance your life, how it will help you to maintain you, so that you have some reserves when crunch time comes.”
Crunch time. It’s all about trying to have your Pantene moment, or remembering a Pantene moment, when Crunch Time happens. That’s one of the lessons I learned from this chapter. You think about getting happiness when you’re going through a catastrophe, and you’re grateful for happiness when it comes. Or at least that’s the goal.
But I’m also learning what specific things make me happy. In this chapter finding out what “fun” meant for me was a nice holy-crap moment. I mean I already knew what I thought was fun, I was just reminded that other people’s idea of “fun” was different from mine and that was O.K. Even though I may find ideas exciting and great, they might not be fun for me, and I’m all right with that because during Crunch Time all that matters are the little Pantene moments that contribute to the “good hair” days in my life, those little Pantene moments that I can deposit or withdrawal from the bank at any time, during Holy-Crap moments or catastrophes.