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I am a wife, mother,grandmother, aunt, dog and cat owner, professional buyer, reader, movie lover. I love reading blogs and now I am writing one.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Happiness Project

I started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I have not gotten as far as I wanted to.  I’ve been sick again: Bronchitis, sinus infection, and conjunctivitis.  My eyes hurt and burned so badly, I was not able to read at all last week.  It was a big bummer, but I concentrated on resting.  Today, I finally feel a bit better.

The first part of the book is called Getting Started.  Gretchen quotes Sidonie Gabrielle Colette on the second page.  Colette said:  “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.  Gretchen indicates that this quote has haunted her for a long time.  She writes:  “I didn’t want to look back, at the end of my life or after some great catastrophe, and think, ‘How happy I used to be then, if only I realized it.”  This concept is part of what spurred me to use this year for introspection and re-evaluation. 

The second thought that stood out is on page six.  What is happiness?  There is never going to be a universal definition of happiness. Dictionary.com defines happiness as good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.  Each of those words will mean something different to the individual.  For example, say you find out that a previously unknown relative passed on and left you a thriving business.   One person may be thrilled.  This is the opportunity they longed for and they are ridiculously happy at the prospect of running the business.  Another person may think this is a nightmare in the making.  They don’t want the responsibility and the thought of being chained to a business makes them sick.  Good fortune to one, bad to another.  The same can be said for pleasure; contentment; joy.

Gretchen quotes Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of obscenity was, “I know it when I see it.”  Louis Armstrong said, “If you have to ask what Jazz is, you’ll never know.”  Finally A. E. Housman wrote that he “could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat” but he “recognized the object by the symptoms it evokes.”  At the end of the day, we all need to define happiness for ourselves. 

I decided I want to define, not only happiness, but unhappiness as I perceptive them.  Knowing triggers that cause me unhappiness might give me more insight into what brings happiness.  It’s a thought anyway.  That’s my assignment for the rest of the week.  I’m going to build two lists:  What makes me happy and what makes me unhappy.  I am intrigued to compare the lists and see what trends I find. 

My new favorite blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, sparked an additional list for this week.  In her post from January 25, 2016, she invited her readers to ponder Things That are Saving My Life Right Now.  Any of us who live in places where winter is brutal, often need to hold on to something that will help get us through.  I’d never thought of making a list of the things that are holding me together during the bitter cold and snow.    I’m looking forward to exploring my own list and reading others.  February 1, 2016 is the day MMD will share her list and her readers will share their lists.  You should stop by and participate.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Awesome Weekend and My Two Words for 2016

Back in September, my husband took a job two-hours north of where we live.  We have been trading weekends here and there since then while we look for a new house.  This all fits in with the theme of starting over in 2016. 

We found a house that was almost perfect, but it failed the inspection and the “owner” refused to fix the issues.  Then we found another one.  The house was great, but the commute for my husband was horrible.  It fell through as well, but I was not that upset about it.  It was a dream house, but in the long run I don’t think we would have been happy there. 

Finally, we found the house we did eventually buy.  It is very close to the house of my dreams.  I’d like two more bedrooms and one more bathroom.  The bathroom we can add on later.  The bedrooms…well I can live without them.  The kitchen is fantastic.  The master is huge with a beautiful ensuite. We back on a protected wetland.  It feels like we are in the middle of nowhere, but people are not that far away. 

This weekend was our first to stay there.  I still work in the Cities, so I cannot be there full time.  However, this weekend was fantastic.  I cooked in my wonderful kitchen.  I sat in my new butter soft leather rocker/recliner and watched TV.  We had a fire in the wood fireplace and in the gas fireplace. We are going to be happy there.  I can’t wait for it to be full time. 

On Sunday, we went out for breakfast.  I picked up the Star Tribune on the table we sat at and found a wonderful article by Gail Rosenblum called – "Who needs Powerball to Dream? Real power comes from you." It was a great read and I encourage you to read it.  One of the things that I took away was Nancy Mramor’s concept of “flow”.  Dr. Mramor describes her concept of ‘flow” as creative endeavors in which you forget time and space.  You just forget about yourself.  I want to get my hands on her book Top Ten Tips for Lasting Happiness.  Flow is one of the tips.  So far, I’ve not found a copy anywhere I’ve looked.  Anyone have any ideas?

I already decided that my 2016’s theme/word is happiness.  I’ve decided that I am going to adopt “flow” as a sub-theme.  Creative endeavors like crocheting, reading, and adult coloring are relaxing.  Practicing some kind of “flow” every day, even for a short time, can relieve stress.  Relaxed with less stress, sounds happy to me!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A New Start

A New Start

I love the Modern Mrs Darcy (MMD) blog.  I discovered it not very long ago, but it quickly parked at the top of my morning must read list.  Today's post inspired me.  I was typing a comment to the post when I realized that I was writing a dissertation rather than a comment. Immediately, I thought about my blog.  The poor thing just sitting there neglected.  I think about it often.  I write blog posts in my head that never go anywhere.  My internal voice clearly broke through and said, “Sheesh you are SO lazy”.  Just like that three thoughts clicked into place. 

First, some background…

January is a symbol of fresh starts.  Many people, including me, make a list of won’t do/will do things for the upcoming year.  My lists were always long and detailed.  By February most of the list falls to the wayside.  By March nothing has changed, no new habits formed, no epiphanies fell from the sky. 

Last year, I turned 50.  Typically, I don’t care about what age I am.  90% of the time, I don’t remember how old I am without doing the math.  I just don’t care:  However, 50 sent me into a tailspin.  Half of my life was gone; presuming I’m living to 100.  Five decades, FIVE, finished.  6-months before my birthday, I was in complete crisis mode.  Filled with anxiety, I started to review my life, my mistakes, and my successes.  I desperately wanted the success list to be miles longer than the mistakes.  Spoiler alert:  It wasn't.

I forced myself to dig deep and find some brutal honesty.  I’m rarely honest with myself.  I excel at pretending, convincing myself that everything is great.  If you are not going to take a good, long, and truthful look inside at a milestone like 50, then it’s never going to happen.  I spent the rest of 2015 walking on an introspective road through my life. 

I did a made a few superficial changes.  I had cataracts from prednisone use.  Midyear those were removed and for the first time in 46-years I didn’t need glasses on except for reading.  Unless you’ve worn glasses your entire life, there is just no way to explain what kind of impact this event had on me.  Suffice it say HUGE is understating the impact.  Next, I got a major haircut.  This may seem like something not worth mentioning, but I wanted long hair for my entire life.  It would not grow past my shoulders.  For some reason when I reached my 40s my hair took off.  It was still impossibly flat and fine, but it grew to the middle of my back.  It didn’t look good, but it was long damn it.  Sometimes I styled it, but my hair fights curl like it is the plague.  SO, for a decade I mostly wore it in a low bun at my neck.  

6-months ago I went into Fantastic Sam’s and said, “chop it all off”.  I’ve never had a moment of regret.  It was liberating.  Something that seems so trivial galvanized my decision to reinvent myself. Little changes weren’t enough.  I started reading websites like http://tinybuddha.com/http://zenhabits.net/, and http://soulanatomy.org/I looked at books like The Happiness ProjectStart Where You Are, and How to be Happy.  I like the research part of planning.  That’s the fun part.  I like making a plan.  This time though, I did take a few more steps.  I started working on the The 52-List Project.  I started with the lists on the website even though I know she didn’t end up doing 52.  I got the book, and I do plan on switching to that after I exhaust the lists on the website.  I also decided to cut back about 99% on my alcohol consumption, for reasons too personal to share here. 

Then this morning I started my day with the The latest post on (MMD).  Right after my internal voice yelled at me for being so lazy, these three thoughts surfaced and demanded attention.

For the last decade I have indeed become lazy.  It's a symptom of a larger issue that I am just now starting to explore.  While I delve into that larger issue, I’ve decided that my number one thing on the let’s not to do this in 2016 is "put it off until never".  I make the plan, I love planning, it’s the actually DOING I suck at.  To be successful, I must continue to explore the "larger issue" and define what's going on deep under the surface.  In the meantime, I’m going to make small changes over the course of 2016.  Small, measurable, attainable goals.  Slow and steady. No giving up!

Number two is "stop beating myself to a pulp when I slip".  It took ten-years to get in this place and it's going to take longer than five-minutes to get out.  Every time I decide to work on something, I beat the crap out of myself at the first slip up.  It does not take long until I just give up altogether, hence a decade of failure.

Number three is to give up on the notion of perfection.  In my 20s and 30s I strove for perfection.  I had to be the perfect wife, mother, homemaker, reader, crafter, "Christian"; the list goes on and on.  In my 40s the cracks that come with the illusion of perfection started to show.  I started the ten-year slide into the hole I live in today.  Every time I've made the decision to start the climb out, I made perfection (the past Bridget) my target.  Rather than facing that perfection does not exist, I kept reaching for it.  I made the goal to "go back" and become the person I used to be. 

Going back is never the answer.  Even if it was, I was not really happy back then. 

So, forward it is. The theme of 2016 is Happiness. 

Step 1 – Read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project
            Already using The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal
            Commit to the three-no more in 2016 list
                        Stick with it – no more lazy
                        No punishment for slip ups – forgiveness is not just for the other guy
                        Nothing and no one is perfect – my best is good enough

I’m going to start by keeping my thoughts and progress on the blog.  I’ll be accountable to me and no one else.  Fresh Start, here I come!