June 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Choosing Happiness., Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy) | 7 Comments

So here’s the thing about my last post.

The homework my therapist gave me is based on the idea that if I am in the process of actively creating a life that makes me happy, I might not care so much about what people think of me – or at least I wouldn’t base my own happiness on someone else’s arbitrary definition of success.

Because I care too much right now.

I care that I have no answer to “what have you been up to?

I WANT to say something like this: Oh, 3 MORE years of fertility treatments, two miscarriages and realizing that the family we dreamed about will stay a pipe dream. But it’s okay, because I can devote time now to wasting HOURS of my life commuting into Boston, where I spent my time on the Tobin Bridge regretting my life choices from years ago. Because, hey, lots of debt in student loans and no time or the energy to change careers right now. So instead, I’ve been focusing on running marathons – ah, yes, you’ve seen on Bacefook. Annnd, you think I’m obsessed. Maybe I am, because it’s the only time I actually FEEL like a success. Except not really, because my marathon times are getting slower, not faster, and I’m pretty sure I won’t actually qualify for the Boston Marathon anymore. But it’s okay, I don’t REALLY want to run it anymore because I hate being cold and running in the winter sucks. And plus, it’s not like I love marathons. I just like feeling hopeful, that with hard work I put in I can actually see results.


I say nothing instead. And I walk around the people who used to know me best, feeling lost and alone. Which is stupid, because I know for a fact that a lot of them have had loss in their own lives. I mean, shit, the couple who hosted the party just recently had a baby after a lot of struggle – miscarriages and trying for some months.

I am NOT alone. Not ever.

It’s just situations like parties where I feel in sharp relief, the missing pieces from my life. I want to feel fulfilled, and connect with old friends, and feel full and happy and not at all like I’m missing something.

And I think I’m realizing, as I stumble over writing down some simple wants in Athena:

I’m not sure I actually KNOW what makes me happy.

My life, up until this point, has been a series of Happiness Experiments, a try-something-out-and-see-if-it-sticks kind of approach. I’ve been a kind of happiness chameleon – always up for something new, but trying on the stuff that friends like to see if it’s something that makes me happy.

I’ve always been like this. And I am pretty sure that’s why I’m having a hellish time writing down what I want.

(And by wants, I mean the kind of wants that make a like me person happy. Not the “I want to be a better parent” or “I want to be better at running marathons” or “I want to walk the dog so he’s not a butthole.” I can be capable and make my life easier for other people, and I want to be a better kind of me, but that sort of stuff is the surface things. I’m talking about the wants that fill up my soul, the ones that help make my life whole, and the ones that bring me some more moments of contentment which might outweigh the lost and alone feelings I seem to fill myself up with.)

So of course my therapist is right; this homework is a really good thing for me. It’s good for me to sit and think about the sorts of things I CARE about. Because I tend to be one of those people that has a hard time prioritizing the things I want to do based on my values or what makes me happy. So having a few items to focus on when I have free time, it’s a good thing.

It may have taken me forever, but I was able to write down three things on this week’s list.

You want to know what they are?

1. Try a new recipe. I don’t talk a lot about my love for cooking and making good food, but I LOVE to cook. I love trying new things, finding quick and healthy recipes that taste good. We’re also currently on a budget since I didn’t work much in March and April and we had some out-of-the-ordinary expenses those months, so the very best new recipes are the kind that either a) use what we have in inventory, b) take advantage of a sale at our grocery store, and/or c) all of the above.

This weekend, mussels were on sale. Shockingly, Lucky LOVES them and I know he’ll eat them. So I made an Ina Garten recipe for steamed mussels that was out of this world. Charlie actually drank the broth at the end of the meal and looked at the leftover broth somewhat sadly, saying, I probably shouldn’t get a straw, right?

And then we went and got ice cream at a local creamery. It was awesome.

2. Finish a book. I have four books going right now – not counting the audiobook I borrowed for my long ass commutes. I pick at each one here and there, but I feel spread too thin. My plan for tonight is to include a full HOUR of reading. (An hour! Luxury!) I’d love to finish one of the books I’ve started this week if I can.

I love everything about reading; the escape it provides – and the opposite, depending on what I’m reading. I love to learn about something new. I love to see the world through a different view. I love getting lost in a book – and finding myself. I love books, and I don’t spend enough time with them anymore. It’s time I change that.

3. Visit with a good running friend before she moves to North Carolina this weekend. I have already taken her out for a night AND we’ve driven together to a race a couple weeks ago, but we have avoided saying goodbye. I want to see her and hug her and tell her how much I’ve loved having her live nearby and how much I’m going to miss her. Even though Lucky and I are going to see her in July when we visit my brother, because she’s moving literally a town over from where he lives.

Still, though, I’m going to miss her. And she needs to know how much she means to me before she moves.

So that’s my list of wants for this week. It might have taken me WAYYYYYY too long to write these down, but I feel like it’s a good first step.



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  1. That’s an awesome list! All those things sound very happy-making.

    Your paragraph about not minding so much what other people think reminded me: my (twin) sister told me that one time her therapist asked her what would make a perfect day, and KK said “a day where i didn’t feel like anybody was annoyed with me” And in that totally serious tone therapists take , she asked “okay, so how would you know nobody was annoyed with you?”. And of course, my sister realized that it wouldn’t feel any different at all. She probably wouldn’t even know. I guess the idea was, that’s not a good thing to base your happiness on.

    Easier said than done, though, I know. 😦

  2. Augh, WordPress ate my first post. Trying again…

    I have multiple lists. I have a big bucket list of things, like write a novel and visit Australia for 2 weeks, and a list of smaller things, like learn to espalier fruit trees, make a cottage garden like Monticello’s, and learn to can jam that I am not afraid to eat. I have a financial long-term goals list, like saving $150K to put down on a new build round house with geothermal heat and lots of land (to make that cottage garden on), and pay off the new van in 18 months. I have a yearly goal list that lets me peck at those bigger ones, like put xx more down on the van every month and cruise frugality blogs and try xx different strategies to save money and keep from spending more. I then keep a weekly list that pecks at these yearly ones a bit more.

    This week, my list includes taking the kids to a new park to explore, and keeping my grocery budget for 5 people under $115 by eating vegan meals I find on Pinterest 5/7 days this week. There is a lot of satisfaction in the small weekly goal sheet, knowing they are working steadily towards that big bucket list, and knowing a lot of them are exploration-focused. We try a lot of new things every week around here, especially recipes, frugal techniques, and exploring the parks and festivals around our town.

  3. I’ve said it before, but, oh my word; you are channelling my very thoughts here – I’m just not sure what would make me happy again.
    No, you are not alone. There is a littler OBGYN who is walking the same bloody awful and lonely path as you are right now – questioning everything, and not really coming up with answers I like.
    Thank you for blogging so authentically and honestly.

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