“What do I know about happiness?” A #PghGBE Post

When local blogger Alex reached out and asked if I wanted to be part of this year’s Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Because…

1) I’ve met Alex in person exactly once and have already decided that someday we will be super good friends and I’m working on a plan to ingratiate myself to him. Step one: say yes to all requests!

2) I love Pittsburgh. My adopted city is brimming with creative, interesting people and I make a point to take advantage of every opportunity to meet more of them. Even better if I get to introduce you to some of them.

So, Alex assigned all of us guest bloggers and guest blog locations (I’m over at Dawn’s today), and that’s how I met Katrina.

In other words: we’re strangers. We know nothing about each other. She asked me what she should write about on my site and I said, “well, I usually talk about happiness and what that looks like/means for different people.” With that auspicious start, I admit that I didn’t have a lot of expectations for this post.

And then, while I was sitting in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport Sunday afternoon, I got Katrina’s email with her post attached.

Kismet. Perfection. And another reminder that some truths are universal, even if the paths that leads us to them are uniquely our own.

Friends, I give you, Katrina’s happiness journey:

katrina jelly jars

I must admit, when I saw I was to write for Britt today, I got a little nervous. I thought to myself, “What do I know about happiness?”

I have not always been a happy person; in fact, I have spent a good portion of my life being a very unhappy person.

I’ve struggled with depression on and off since I was a teenager, but even as a child, I was usually the one crying. I am a very sensitive soul and things tend to get to me, even when I know they shouldn’t or even when I know they are not intended to hurt me. But I have made leaps and bounds over the past few years. I have felt a twinge of depression creeping in now and again, but I have been able to fight it back before it overwhelmed my life.

I wish I could tell you how I’ve done that, but it’s just been a conscious decision to not let it in. And I know, I KNOW, that it may seem like the impossible, but it has been possible for me.

I was in a very dark place a few years ago. I was living alone, completely alone, for the first time in my life. My best friend had graduated and moved away. I didn’t have a license so I couldn’t even make it home to see family without a pre-arranged ride. I lost my job and three days later, my boyfriend at the time broke up with me.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been that low…but one by one, as the blows came, I decided to just ride the wave. But I also decided to plan for the future and made an appointment with Duquesne University’s Psychology Clinic.

The next available appointment was more than a month away, so I decided that I would give myself 30 days. I could scream and cry and lay in bed all day. I could eat junk food or not eat at all and binge watch Netflix. I could be completely selfish and do whatever I felt like doing. Thirty days of any of those things were not going to do irreparable damage, but once those 30 days were up, that was it, I had to pull it together.

And so I did all of those things. I cried for days. I screamed into my pillow until my voice was hoarse. I ate whatever I felt like eating and I ate it cold if I didn’t feel like cooking. I blew through Weeds and Lost and countless other shows.

But a funny thing happened well before those 30 days were up…I began to feel better.

I started going for walks and reaching out to other friends online. I started applying for jobs and may have even put up an online dating profile. The crying mostly stopped and I stopped sleeping 16 hours per day. By the time my appointment at the Psychology Clinic rolled around, I felt good.

I still went to the appointment…and 2-3 after that, but even the clinician said that I was in a really good headspace. But what had gotten me there?

I think so often we do not give ourselves time to feel. We don’t want to be seen as weak or fragile, so even though we are breaking on the inside, we try to put forward a happy face…and that can, unfortunately, make things worse.

I know not everyone has the luxury of 30 days to grieve, but even an evening or a weekend could help. We can’t all be 100% happy, 100% of the time. I think it’s important to recognize that happiness may not be your default state and it is okay to have to work for it. And it is okay to have to take some detours sometimes.

I have worked hard…and I am here, I am happy. And every so often, I think back about where I was, and how far I have come and that puts a smile on my face.

Seriously you guys, kismet. I am right this moment preparing to give a talk on Feeling Your Feelings in Palm Springs.

Like an Egg About to Crack

like an egg about to crack

The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and birds are singing again. There’s no doubt winter is coming to an end and something new is coming around the corner.

My hibernation is also ending. The couch and the bed, the sweaters and blankets, the digital streaming: all have suddenly lost their appeal. Instead I’m craving color, light, and sound. I want to write and read instead of watch and rest.

I’m ready to make and do.

My friend Debbie Harding expressed this stirring perfectly on Facebook:

“I feel like an egg about to crack.”

I’m not just pregnant with potential, but I’m on the verge of popping!

This weekend I attended SWAN Day Pittsburgh, an annual celebration of women artists, and I could hardly sleep afterwards because I was dying to do something with all the inspiration I’d soaked up. Music, dance, live painting, live theater: I’m suddenly sure I want to try a little of all of it!

potential

My season is definitely shifting, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. (I suspect that is no accident.)

I’m getting ready to host my first weeknight retreat for creatives (grab your ticket if you live in Pittsburgh!), I’m about to appear in the inaugural cast of Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh, and I’m just days away from announcing a huge, exciting - well, not quite yet. ;-)

My head hits the pillow at night full of new ideas about everything! I think about crafts we could do in Girl Scouts, new artists I could reach out to, stories I could write, entire new careers I could tackle if I just went back to school!

Plus, I kind of feel like mopping my kitchen floors.

Are you feeling it too? Is something crackling inside of you?

What are you doing to connect with it?

Happiness is Accepting Your Season

Seasons

We are cyclical creatures. Women especially. Me in particular.

Since reading a book about hormone balance, I’ve been using a hormone tracker app and have realized I am SUPER affected by the rise and fall of my estrogen and progesterone levels. (I’ve also learned that women have about 8 days out of every month when we can expect to not be being jerked around my our hormones in some way.) It’s a relief to discover this sensitivity because I’m fairly certain now that I’m not bipolar.

That’s not a joke at the expense of people who are bipolar: I’ve sincerely wondered several times in my life if that could be the reasoning behind what has often felt like drastic changes in personality, mood, and willpower.

Turns out it’s probably just hormones.

Knowing this about myself is helping me to practice compassion – with myself and others – and make better use of my talents, strengths, and hormonal upswings. My owner’s manual has been updated, and I’m loving it. Knowledge absolutely is power.

While I’m only recently uncovering the details of my hormonal cycles, I long ago noticed the power of larger cycles on my life. Seasons. Times when I’m growing and adding, times when I’m pruning and removing, and times when I’m just hunkering down and waiting for what comes next.

Unfortunately, the seasons of my life don’t always match up with what I see outside my window or on my Facebook news feed.

Like when everyone in the world is getting excited about New Year resolutions and I’m in hibernate mode.

Or when everyone I know is in do! grow! plan! mode and I’m in a cut back and refocus season.

It’s tempting to be frustrated by this dissonance, to ask “what the heck is wrong with me?”

But one of the most fundamental tenets of happiness is acceptance, including acceptance of oneself.

So I do not should on my season.

I embrace where I am and say no to what isn’t right for me right now.

I recognize that something or someone being out of season for me isn’t about anyone being smarter, dumber, too much, or not enough. Without judgment, I acknowledge that paths cross and uncross and recross as needed.

Or at least, I try.

(I am also human, so…)

I was in a yoga class earlier this week and the teacher instructed us to “let go of what is no longer serving you”. It occurred to me in that moment that so often the letting go comes with a side of smugness or self righteousness, but that isn’t really letting go or accepting.

Letting go of what no longer serves you does not have to be about slamming, or being sad, or being better than what no longer serves you. It just means something no longer fits. Maybe it will again someday. Maybe not.

It’s out of season.

I’m going to hold onto that line, I think, as a reminder that letting go can be both temporary and completely without judgment.

Also: there is never an everyone. Everyone is not doing anything.

The best thing about the Internet is that you can always find someone who is in a similar season (even if they don’t know it’s temporary) and you can remember that you aren’t a freak. You might have to go looking for that reminder – depending on how deeply ensconced you were in your last season or the story of you being a freak – but the reassurance is always just a few clicks away.

Proof:

I asked on the Facebook page what season people were in, and I got four different answers from the first three people who responded.

What season are you in right now? Do you feel in sync with what’s happening around you, or like you’re in a season of your own? Feel free to share in the comments or jump into our Facebook conversation.

The Time I Accidentally Got a Job

I wasn’t planning on getting a job. In fact, I was just trying to relax with a hot stone massage.

And yet here I am, all of a sudden and mostly on accident, employed for the first time in more than four years.

Let me back up. A few weeks ago I stopped into my local massage clinic to schedule a massage. I had a gift certificate to use and time to kill. I noticed a Help Wanted sign in the window on my in, and I briefly wondered what kind of benefits you get for working at a massage clinic. There was no opening for that day but a slot available the following one. I booked and went back to my mostly free day.

The next afternoon, I showed up about twenty minutes early to fill out my intake paperwork. Again I noticed the sign in the window. As I turned in my clipboard with my medical history, I jokingly asked the woman behind the front desk if employees got free massages.

“We didn’t used to, but we’re under new ownership and as of last month we get free treatments every month.”

“Where do I sign up?” I laughed.

She handed me an application.

My mind began to run through all of the reasons why this would be a good idea:

Free massages.

Part-time, low stress work to fill some of my non-writing, non-coaching daytime hours.

Free massages.

Walkable – in fact, an excuse to get out and walk regulary.

Free massages.

Extra money because my teenager’s favorite activities are rowing crew and skiing.

Free massages.

I filled out the application. One week, an interview, and a “so, I got a job today” text to my husband later I started training to be a wellness consultant (ie, I help people figure out what they need and rave about the benefits of regular massage and self care. EVEN MORE PERFECT FOR ME.)

Now, in addition to my full-time business, I have a part-time job. I am waffling back and forth between, “this is so great how this fell into my lap” and “what the hell were you thinking!?!?”

But that’s mostly because I am feeling like a kid in her first week of kindergarten. My brain is getting a P90X style workout with a steady stream of new things, and it wants to do nothing but fall asleep in its spaghetti-os when school is out.

Not answer emails. Not write. Not follow up with sponsors and vendors. Not keep up with my own self care routine of journaling and yoga and being creative.

Learn. Asleep in my soup.

That’s it.

But I know this part is temporary. Soon the learning curve will level out and I’ll have this really great addition to my life that will add to my writing, my life experiences, and my bank account. Soon I’ll be back to doing what I’ve always been doing and doing this new stuff and enjoying my free monthly massages.

Soon.

Right?

Uncertainty Sucks, And This Is What It Looks Like to Choose It Anyway

A heartbeat.

A need for food and water.

A total disdain for the unknown.

These are just a few of the things that make me human.

(Incidentally yes, I did love the $25,000 Pyramid.)

joey on 25000 pyramid

It is completely normal that I hate living under a cloud of uncertainty. I’m having to remind myself of that about every five minutes right now in order to avoid making any stupid or rash decisions.

My family has decided to move this August. We’re staying in Pittsburgh – and hopefully right in our neighborhood – but it’s time we upgraded to a place with a dishwasher and on-site laundry. (How we’ve survived living with two children and no laundry for this long is both mystery and miracle.) It’s also time we moved to a place where the owner isn’t constantly on the fence about whether or not this will be the year he moves back in for a little bit and lets us know at the last minute.

So, we’re moving. And now that we’ve lived here for a few years we have a better idea of exactly what we want. We know how may bedrooms, bathrooms, and major appliances we need to be comfortable.

Good job, us! Knowing what you want is half the battle!

But…

  • Our lease isn’t up until August.
  • We live in a very competitive rental market.

That means I’m actively shopping now but I have no idea if something better will come along between now and our target move date.

I saw a great townhouse this morning. It has the modern kitchen and basement, and it does not look like a place four graduate students who hate each other would live. The only thing missing is the second bathroom that we’ve grown accustomed to.

Do I jump on it? Do I wait?

My struggle, I realize, is less about understanding the local real estate market and more about how much I let my fear of the unknown control me.

Uncertainty Sucks sticker

I want to spend all of my free time pouring over real estate ads. I want to throw myself into finding a solution until said solution is found. I want to make a decision, sign on the dotted line, and put a nice tidy bow on the future as soon as possible – all so I can banish uncertainty from our lives.

But I do not make decisions based on fear.

This is one of the most important parts of my mission statement.

I intentionally choose to be brave.

Right now what that looks like is intentionally choosing to live under the dark cloud of the unknown for as long as necessary. It means resisting the urge to jump on something I feel meh or almost excited about just because I want to be done being uncertain.

I know this isn’t the kind of bravery that equates to heroics. I am not saving anyone’s life or risking anything important.

I am just making a conscious choice to acknowledge my fear and not let it drive.

That’s requiring a lot of deep breaths and inner pep talks.

(I think it’s clear I am not cut out for any job requiring actual heroism or fearlessness.)

I’m curious: what does living with intention look like in your life right now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments (or Facebook, Twitter, wherever.)

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Stay inspired by weekly emails with personal stories, practical tips & links to recent blog posts. You’ll also have access to exclusive discounts on products & events and a handful of freebies I’ve made just for you.

I save my best stuff for subscribers. Sign up today for free!

     

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