The end of the year is approaching, again faster than one always seems to expect.
Ready, set… No?
At the beginning of the year I felt like I have the energy for a G. Rubin style year-long happiness project. In retrospective I think perhaps it was a bit too bold an assessment of my own abilities.
It’s not like I haven’t changed or figured out anything this year. I actually have learned a hell of a lot.
And I’d like to think I am braver, and happier, for that.
The road to a happier existence just hasn’t been at all what I planned it to be in the beginning of the year.
That’s a lesson learned right there dear people! I am not beating myself up for not following my plan through, as it was not serving me as well as I had hoped.
I have actually changed a lot of opinions and assumptions I had, when embarking on this journey. I think it’s all for the good though.
Back when I had my relationship month, I remember picking something like “chasing your demons” as ONE item, amongst many others, to work on.
Quite ambitious of me.
At least I knew myself well enough to understand, that I needed to focus on that issue.
It’s just that I have since realized those demons are better hidden and much more powerful than I had imagined. I thought I had already done enough healing to take on this project full-on, but I guess it just wasn’t quite so.
With demons I mean my insecurities that tend to cause pretty much every problem that I seem to face in my life.
I’ve written before about how feeling your most negative feelings is needed in order to heal. But even I didn’t realize how well I actually had hidden my most crucial pains. But to hide your fears, insecurities, and pain doesn’t mean, they will not have an impact on your behavior. They make me act strange on a lot occasions. They are the reason I have trouble letting go of feelings and people, why I tend to overanalyze everything and try to be somehow more than I really am. They are at the core of my anger, that surfaces much more often than I would like.
It probably shouldn’t have come as such a surprise, that therapy and happiness techniques sort of go hand in hand. But it kind of did. I’ve kept saying that my happiness project is not meant to heal me from my depression. And that still holds true.
A lot of the things, I have learned through focusing on what makes me happy, of course are good techniques to help with my depression.
But to really achieve a more lasting happiness, I have to slay this demon I carry inside me. Until then I’m afraid it will always have an effect on everything I choose to do, how I behave, where I want to be in life.
Just understanding this, and knowing I can now work on this issue, has made me that much happier again.
Things can go well, even when they don’t go according to plan.
Funny how I never planned feelings to be my thing for the month, but how it has become so. It seems my subconscious is pushing this theme on me, whether I choose to deal with it or not.
I think one of my biggest fears, and so also one of the biggest influences in my life for some years now, is my fear of being abandoned. It makes you do weird things. You do not tell your closest friend important news for fear of making them angry. You make your boyfriend suffer all kinds of shit, to test his love, before marriage. It makes you kick into complete survival mode instead of admitting you are weak – because you’re sure everyone will leave if you show them you can be hurt.
I have told before that I’m a big believer in the healing powers of friendship. But the fear of abandonment has sometimes hindered my ability to get to know people. I’ve left it mostly up to the others to somehow convince me, they actually like me. At the same time, what I really wanted to be doing, is screaming “you are amazing! It would be such a pleasure to spend time with you!”
Then I bumped into someone.
Who, for reasons I can’t explain very satisfyingly even myself, has made me drop my guard completely.
It’s been scary, it’s been liberating, it’s been strangely empowering. This person has had such a strong positive influence on me, that I’ve been pushing myself in their presence perhaps a bit too strong even…
Which leads me to shame, and being me.
I’m a party girl. So I went to celebrate a birthday. I drank, possibly few too many, glasses of bubbly. And in the heat of that moment, it felt like an excellent idea to start writing messages to this above mentioned person. Quite innocent ones, in my opinion, but I guess it led to some issues at his end.
I’m hardly ever so drunk, I would do something completely out of ordinary. And I do stand behind every word I said. But because it had caused issues, I felt ashamed. I probably also felt ashamed because it hadn’t occured to me at all, that it could cause trouble. Mostly though, I think I was ashamed for letting my guard down. For opening a possibilty to get hurt.
Essentially, I realized, I was blaming myself for acting like me.
Because of those feelings of shame, I re-evaluated, if perhaps I was also regretting sending those messages. Or for being so open about how big an impact he has had on me.
But I can’t say that I am. I regret the needless worry I might have caused to a completely innocent person. But I regret nothing I said. It was all true. And none of it was meant as a means to hurt anyone.
Acting like myself throughout this whole experience has taught me another valuable lesson, which I’ve really waited to learn.
you really can not take responsibility for other people’s feelings or actions. You think you are saying “hello”, but their own history, fears, egos and what not, can affect the situation so that all they hear is: “fuck you”.
Because behind every action, I have been truly me, I can let go of my shame.
I recently wrote about how you can’t really be happy, without being in touch with all of your feelings.
Life has offered me an excellent week to try out this statement.
I have been frustrated, angry, furious, uncertain, recentful, desperate and just basically on somekind of edge for most of the days. And let me tell you – it’s very uncomfortable. It seems I’ve gone from one end of the spectrum, where I was always nice to everyone, to the other end of the spectrum, where I’m yelling at completely innocent people.
That is something I do not appreciate about myself.
Then again, I have noticed that I’m also feeling overwhelming joy and pleasure again. I think I have got my sense of humor back. Finally! I am actually laughing out loud at jokes!
Do you have any idea, how painful it is, not to be able to joke and laugh about things!?
Because I do. It’s a weird fog in your brain that just makes everything… Flat. Unintresting.
What is the best part about being able to feel feelings? Our kids are starting to feel like a source of fun in addition to the constant worry, and occasional headache they cause.
Perhaps it’s because for such a long time things were a bit… flat, that every feeling in want of being felt is jumping at the opportunity. Perhaps it’s because other people’s moods tend to still affect me heavily. I’m not sure. But letting all your feelings be a part of you doesn’t mean you have to be a jerk about it. And I don’t want to be.
Luckily Friday evening gave me a chance to spend some time on my own, so I was able to let off some of that steam.
I attacked our stove and made it sparkly again.
Then I sang some songs, very loud! And texted some friends about how to blow off steam when you feel that the anger and hate and frustration are trying to eat you up. Then I went to bed early enough, had a decent night’s sleep and woke feeling a thousand times better on Saturday morning.
Saturday brought some more anguish though, that was almost too much to bear. There was an incredibly upsetting event in Finland on Friday, and the aftermath of that event meant so much anger in every possible media outlet, that I wasn’t able to shield myself (one of my survival tactics is not reading too many news, but this was unavoidable…)
Luckily Sunday saved my weekend (and perhaps the whole week) due to seeing and talking to an old friend, I hadn’t seen in a long time and having some new friends over for lunch.
At least I bloody well can make the distinction between my negative and positive feelings, and am totally able to appreciate when feeling balanced, happy or excited even.
“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”
Reading a lot about happiness in many media outlets, I have noticed, that there is a lot of talk about how positive thinking is or can be dangerous.
Perhaps I have managed to read only the suitable passages in books and articles about happiness. But never once did it occur to me, that being happy would mean denying some of the feelings I have inside me.
Quite the contrary.
Excluding feelings – fear, anxiety, tiredness, overbearing stress, dissatisfaction – is an excellent habit if you are intrested in building a volcano inside yourself, that is inevitably going to blow up. Tried that!
Spiritual growth, becoming happier, becoming a better version of yourself… Whatever you want to call it -is going to force you to face all those difficult feelings, you might have been hiding for years.
By trying to avoid certain feelings, I think I’ve become a bit confused about my own personality even. Being busy trying to make people like me, instead of just being me. Not owning up to the fact if I’m feeling hurt, for fear of being abandoned. Doing what is expected of me (by whose standards – I don’t know…) instead of just doing what I want.
So yes, I need to acknowledge all my feelings. Because without acknowledging what makes me smile, how can I ever imagine having a more positive outlook on life? Then again, without understanding my deepest fears, how am I ever going to put myself back together in one piece?
It’s not always a pleasure rummaging through the hidden corners of your mind.
There’s not much more you can do though. I mean… If you carry in your heart pain, troubles, negative thoughts that are hurting you, they will find you in your new job, in your new house and most definitely in every relationship.
In order to be happier, I try to understand my pain, cherish my smile and let all of my colors be a part of me.
How do you understand happiness? Is it a state of 100% pure sunshine, or more about accepting the possibility that things are most likely not going to be perfect all day, every day?
Some articles in finnish about positivity and happiness:
This is something many of us happiness seekers ponder.
In my case especially because fundamentally I have everything in my life I could ever imagine needing. Also because so much in the world seems to be wrong. There is hunger, torture, war, racism… Things my husband and children will hopefully never have to face, but that are reality to a lot of people – even friends and family members.
I remembered a discussion I had with a colleague some time back. Today, I realized the meaning of what he said, to my happiness project.
I argued that I’m doing this to be happier in my everyday life, because not all of us have the possibility to quit our job and move to Gili Air.
He argued that that’s basically bullshit – that you always have a choice and he for example chooses to be a whore for money. (He’s quite a straightforward type of a guy and voices his opinions loud! And I quite like him for that by the way.)
So his point was received – very loud and clear – but I wasn’t entirely convinced.
Who knows why, but I had a sudden epiphany about why everyday happiness is the way to go for me.
We are not all the adventurous type.
And that’s ok.
E.g. I’ve tried living in rental apartments. But I care deeply about being able to make the place look like OUR home and that is not entirely realistic in a rental in Helsinki – in my experience.
I’m intrested in interior design and even paint one shade of white over with another, if you get my point. Having our own apartment and there a kitchen, we designed for our purposes, makes me satisfied on a daily basis. I realize this may sound strange to some, but I like our well functioning kitchen and the fact we can afford to pay our monthly installments to keep that kitchen.
Then again, I have friends who I’m sure will never spend all their lives living in one place. Others that would never work from 9 to 5 (like I basically do) and so on.
And that’s ok too.
It’s amazing if someone has found their passion in traveling on a motorcycle around the world, working odd jobs here and there and they are able to fulfil their dream. But I like that little bit of predictability in my life that a steady paycheck and a safety net of friends and family around give you. Truthfully, I would go as far as to say that I would feel anxious and stressed without a steady income and a place to call home.
And so I realized, that even if I still don’t think a “whore for money” is the accurate way to describe my goal in life (or that everyone really has a choice), I actually am not intrested in quitting my dayjob right now. That may change one day, and I’m fine with that aswell.
I find enjoyment in a lot of things I have right here, where I am. Recognizing that, and giving myself permission to actually BE happy where I am (no matter what the social media, newspapers or advertisements say) is perhaps the biggest victory of my happiness project so far.
I don’t necessarily need a study to tell me, that a happy person is more likely to give back to their community. Or that the happier a person is, the less reason they have to hate or envy people around them. So actually I shouldn’t be the only one benefiting from my happiness.
Trying to be happier “in the now” doesn’t stump your possibilities for personal growth, or dreaming big. I dream! There are so many travels I need to do, tattoos I plan to take, studies I want to continue…
It’s just that I know from experience that if I feel shitty where I am right now, no outward circumstance is actually going to fix that (e.g. quitting that day job…). The everyday life will catch you eventually.
So figure out what it is that makes your everyday life happier. In some cases it’s moving to Bali. In some cases it’s moving out of a rental. Perhaps expanding your social circle. Sleeping more. Finding a long lost hobby you used to love…
Or maybe you are already exactly where you are supposed to be. I’ve heard it’s a possibility.
Chronic pain can lead to depression and depression itself can cause also physical pain. Though I’m quite sure pain has not been a factor in my depression, I have suffered from chronic back pain for around 20 years now (since my teens that is).
So as often as I can, I spend money on massages, acupuncture, physiotherapy etc. It is a very satisfying feeling laying on a table with the acupuncture needles stuck in your back and feeling absolutely nothing. Bliss.
Even if you’re not in pain, something like a hot stone massage is oh, so very relaxing. An acupuncture session is also a perfect excuse for an hour of me-time (all you busy parents out there!) – I usually fall asleep there.
You just might want to make sure you have an opportunity to rest after your treatment – a massage tends to make at least me so relaxed, all I want to do for the rest of the day is sleep!
“In fact, a weak social circle is bad for your health, adds Barker. According to research from Brigham Young University, not having enough friends is the same risk factor as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
As a kid I was the most open, approachable person you’ll ever meet. I had no trouble making friends, I cornered even the shy ones.
Some experiences have led me to be more wary about people, so making new friends doesn’t come as naturally as it used to. It’s propably a mix of poor self-esteem and getting attached to people quite strongly – which always opens up a possibility to getting hurt.
Luckily despite all my issues, I have been blessed when it comes to friendships.
Laws of attraction
I don’t know that in my current life situation (work, two kids, marriage) I intentionally try to seek out people to bond with. But some just stumble on my path, whether I try to look for them or not – and I’m certainly not complaining.
Some of my friends I’ve known for so long (one friend 33 years out of 36!), I have no idea how we initially met, or how long it took for us to get a thing going.
What I do know, is that a certain chemistry, attraction is present in all my friendships. It doesn’t necessarily mean we were best buddies the second we met. Just that there was something that made us (or at least me!) want to swap more than a mere hello.
Sometimes the attraction is so present, it’s almost tangible. In those situations I’m very adamant that a person belongs in my life.
Almost twenty years ago a black haired girl walked into our classroom. I can’t remember how she was introduced or anything – but I do remember thinking “She intrigues me.” When we finally hooked up through a mutual friend, we were an instant hit. And we really are like the sun and the moon, but I could never imagine my life without her.
Some friends feel more like family, even when they live further away. (I love the fact that whatsapp exists.)
Some friends you don’t see in years, and still, when you bump into them, you chat like you had just seen them yesterday.
There are those friends that have stood by you every step of the way, helping, giving much needed love when you had none to give. And they still keep on giving. Advice, laughter, experiences…
There’s even a friend who held my hand in childbirth and saw a baby come out of me – and it all felt perfectly natural. She’d make a perfect midwife by the way, even though she might not think so.
All friends so different, all contributing to my happiness in one way or another.
How to find friends
I’ve managed somehow apparently! But I never had any kind of calculated tactic. Mostly I just try to keep an open mind.
I’ve met friends through work, studies, hobbies… All quite natural places to meet people. I’m not picky about age or gender either – you never know who you hit it off with.
I’ve met some really intriguing characters through friends of friends – so if I’m asked to join a party or a dinner for example, I try to go. Even if it scares the shit out of me (honestly, I’m no social butterfly…)
What if people feel like the scariest thing ever
If you feel like you need a bigger social circle, but you suffer from e.g. anxiety or depression or you’re just shy, meeting new people is propably going to feel daunting. I must confess I was lurking at home for quite some time.
But then I realized I could use our kid as a clever cover-up. I shamelessly used him as an excuse to meet people. Even then I didn’t join a moms group, but rather found out if any of our neighbours were home with a baby too. I just function better when there’s not too many people to talk to at the same time.
And as luck would have it, I found someone.
The importance of having friends
It’s that age old wisdom about sharing. Share your sorrows and they will seem lesser. Share your joy and it’ll multiply.
When my friends succeed, have happy events in their lives, are trying new things… I’m there to share the excitement. With a pure heart. I can be many things, but I’m not jealous. I feel their butterflies, their smiles and I’ll feel an instant lift myself.
Admittedly, while not so strong myself, I propably haven’t been the best consoler to all those around me. I am there to listen though. Most of the time that’s really all any of us need.
Doing different things with different friends – all a bit depending on our life situations, history (or taste in music!) – just gives me so much.
Friends, who know you like the back of their hand, friends who share your passion for books and writing, friends who understand your work life, friends who have that similar stage in life, friends who made it through school with you and those who will party with you all night long and have the courage to laugh at your ridiculous hangover. Then there are those new beginnings where you are cautiously figuring the rules of that particular friendship out.
What it takes to be a friend
You have to work on your relationship. You can be insanely blessed, like I was, and get your friends back after a long silent period (because of a relationship by the way, not mental health issues) – but it doesn’t always work like that.
Like I said, I get attached to people, which also means that I’m fiercely on my friends’ side.
My only fear is that I don’t always know how to show my appreciation well enough, remember to stay in touch often enough, or I leave something unsaid in fear of conflict, which may lead to weird situations.
Let opportunity knock
Seeing as how I’ve managed to quit smoking six years ago, I would think it a bad policy to let my social circle shrivel.
So that in mind, being more open to people, and opportunities to meet people, is something I’m trying to embrace as part of my happiness project. I actually quite enjoy my me-time, but I would go nuts without my friends!