A Modern Manual For Happiness, Part 2
Remember last night, when I wrote Part 1 of this list, and reported that we were on the brink of a 24" dumping of snow? Well, my about-to-shovel back is so happy! It's less! I shall not vilify weather-people, as that's become a national pastime and now seems oh-so cliche. Instead, I will enjoy shoveling far less cold, white power than I anticipated. And I will use that bit of exercise as an excuse to eat something chocolate-y later on.
I've had a hell of a lot of fun writing this list, and have realized that I quite like writing list-like posts. (Here's the first one I did - it was very popular.) They're fun, conversational - they feel very me. Maybe I'll become an All Lists All The Time writer.
Anywho (yes, I turned 89 overnight), let's get to it.
A MANUAL FOR HAPPINESS, PART 2
6). Cry. I cry a lot. I'm unashamed about this. I am not overly-emotional, too sensitive, or any other semi-derogatory-thinly-veiled-jab-at-people-who-feel-things. I'm a fully-feeling woman in an emotionally stunted world. There are lots of us out there. And it's okay - no, it's fucking necessary - to stop suppressing our emotions because they're too much. They're not too much.
They're exactly what we need.
There's so much goodness that appears when I let myself just go where my body and feelings want to go. (Don't skip ahead 'cause I said the word 'feelings'.) I get shit out and make space for new shit. Fully feeling and fully releasing - something that often looks like tears - is a vital part of living a full life.
Let yourself cry and don't feel bad about it.
7). Don't do anything 'til you know what to do. I like to think of this as a 'Revelatory vs. Reactionary' way of being. Old me used to hear something that made me uncomfortable ("Hey, can you not use that tone of voice? We're just talking here.") and respond with ("WELL, YOU..."). That's Reactionary. Now, I'm all about letting next steps reveal themselves; I try to say nothing until I know how to respond in a way that isn't charged with defensiveness.
Now - please note that I fail at this constantly. Just the other day, I was on the phone with my mom and we were in the middle of a conversation that became increasingly Reactionary. We both had hurt feelings. Looking back, I should have excused myself from the call twenty minutes in, after I saw where we were headed. Instead, after an hour, having ignored my instincts that said, "Don't say anything you don't mean!" I snapped and hung up on her. I hung up on my mom. Reactionary, at its worst. I called her two days later and apologized, and we had a clear, civil conversation that ended with us laughing over what an asshole I'd been.
Waiting to take action until you know what to do can save you from turning into an accidental asshole.
8). Let the fact that you're going to die scare you a little bit. I've been thinking about death a lot lately. And not in the "oh, it's part of the circle of life" kind of way. It's much more like, "NO. I DON'T WANNA."
There's so much I want to do before I die. There are so many people I want to help. There are so many people I want to love. There's so much I want to figure out. And the part of me that's been freaking out about the idea of death? I'm grateful to her. That feeling of what-if-I-die-before-I-do-all-the-things! has been spurring me lately. I've been making some professional leaps before I'm ready. I've been focused on loving my kids up and simultaneously setting clear boundaries about what I need to maintain my sanity as their mom ("Let me write for an hour and then I'll make you that [impossible to clean up] corn starch goop stuff.")
It's a fact that I'm going to die. And right now? I'm kinda bummed about it. But I like that a slow-simmering fear-of-dying-before-I-accomplish-anything is forcing me to do things.
9). Accept that discomfort doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. I get it. Feeling "good" is better than feeling "bad". But why have we decided that feeling uncomfortable is bad? There's so much information wrapped up in discomfort! So much! And we're missing out on all of it because we don't like how it feels? Well, now, aren't we precious.
We gotta get over this shit. Feeling uncomfortable is priceless, you guys. I used to run from it, too. I washed it away with shots of tequila, so scared was I of what might happen if I let myself investigate my discomfort. You know where that got me? Back into therapy full time. Which was a goddamn blessing because it was there that I learned all about what's underneath my discomfort. And you know what I found under there? A whole lotta fear. That's all. I didn't find a malformed soul or a permanently wounded woman. All I saw was someone living her life led by fear.
Feeling uncomfortable doesn't mean you're doing life wrong, and investigating your discomfort won't kill you. It'll do quite the opposite, actually - it'll let you fully live.
10). Believe that you can be happy. And that 'happy' is up to you I know, I know...it's all New Age-y. But no one can make you happy but you. Do outside influences matter? Of course. Does day-to-day reality factor in? Obviously. But don't we control many of those things? Don't we have free will?
If there are toxic people in your life, learn to set firm boundaries. Don't like your job? Make a plan to get a new one. Wish your marriage felt better? Find a therapist to sit down with and do the work. Having the life we want - and feeling how we want to feel - is completely in our hands.
This used to piss me off. A lot. I didn't want to admit that I was choosing to be unhappy. "Why would choose that? This is bullshit."
I was so, so wrong. I was choosing unhappiness because I was used to it. I was more comfortable with what I knew. I wanted someone to hand me a magic happy pill. I didn't want to do the work. But I gotta tell ya - the surge of possibility I felt when I realized that I get to make my life what I want it to be? It was super fucking powerful.
You can be happy if you want to be. And it's not going to look perfect or feel perfect or be "easy" in the way we like things to be easy. But you can have it. I have it because I decided it's what I wanted.
My happy takes work. There are bumps on my path. And yet I think I deserve to be happy.
And so I am.