The Happiness Factor

The other day, I had the most amazing discussion with an older woman, in her early 80s, named Joyce M. I met her at an alteration shop, and she watched as I tried on my bridesmaid dress, waiting to be pinned. She told me how beautiful it was, and we chatted about her wedding, and the colors she made her bridesmaids wear. I joked and told her that I already knew what colors I’d have for mine, and that I couldn’t wait to get married again (this is actually true, even though I currently don’t have a boyfriend nor actual prospects). After I was all changed and ready to go, we stepped outside, and continued to converse by our cars in the sweltering July sun. I told her that, although marriage would be great, I was currently focusing on myself, and how to become more like myself everyday. She indicated that my focus was coincidental, as she had attended a family reunion the previous weekend, and her nephew had given a presentation on the pursuit of happiness.

Pancakes

He discussed a study, the Harvard Study of Adult Development, which is considered the longest study ever (75 years and counting). The study follows 724 adult men throughout their life, examining their experiences and quality of life, but the crux of the study essentially investigates what happiness is and was for each of those men. What was coincidental on my end is that just a couple of hours prior, I had a great discussion with a friend on this very topic, about what happiness is and what it looked like for us. Many times, people comment on the way you live your life, and interject their feelings of disapproval, because they aren’t in your specific situation. They find it mind-boggling that your version of happiness isn’t reflective of THEIR version of happiness. The thing is…your happiness is your responsibility, and no one else’s. You aren’t responsible for their happiness, their relationships, their careers – that is something they ultimately have control over. What we make of our lives is a direct result of our own decisions, and in those decisions, practicing mindfulness and self-guidance.

Kitty Mail Slot

The discussion was so timely, because although I consider myself fairly content, I’m not sure if I’ve yet attained that goal of ultimate happiness. It was as if the Universe was speaking to me, and causing me to be mindful of my present, instead of focusing too heavily on my past or future. Joyce mentioned that her nephew presented a book during his presentation, by Dr. Seuss, entitled, “Oh The Places You’ll Go!”. How many of us have not even bothered to glance at that book, because it appears to be a children’s book? But oh, it’s definitely not, and it’s filled with a variety of advice on how life’s ups and downs will halt us, spin us around, even bring us to extreme moments of despair, but we have to keep moving. We can’t let past failures cloud our futures and our pursuits.I’m learning to be open to new situations and people, and to be careful to not close myself off because I think I already know better. Sometimes we have to start giving new and different experiences a chance, because we won’t know unless we actually try.

Droopy Flowers.jpg

I would often talk about finding love, and wanting to be in love, but at the first sign of viable interest, I would close my heart’s windows and shut the blinds. After a failed marriage, there was nothing in me that could even consider trusting another human again. If once upon a time I had a love so deep and intense, but one we both could ultimately dispose of so callously, what hope was there for something equal or better? There were days and nights that I could do nothing but cry in emotional and spiritual pain, unable to verbalize the exact cause of my hurt. As a result, I made sure that my walls were reinforced with iron and industrial grade concrete, and every once in a while I would make sure there was a steel gate to slide across that wall too!

Fire Hydrant.jpg

In the past couple of years of self-reflection and self-actualization, I’ve learned that while it’s quite alright to be cautious, sometimes you have to make space in that wall for a door too. I realized I was only going to receive the joy I longed for, the spiritual and mental peace I craved, if I took the risk of being open to change. Of course, the catch-22 is that no one else can determine what those risks will entail, because they can’t define what my happiness looks like. I’ve had to make the conscious decision to search for and create my own contentment. It has been difficult, because it has taken a lot of effort, and extreme soul-searching, but it is possible. I’m now living by the words of the famous Seuss, every day I wake up: “Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!”

 

 

 

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The Heart of the Matter

Forgiveness. It’s a word that’s been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. I’d been contemplating whether or not I should write about it, and then Sunday morning, India Arie’s cover of the song “Heart of the Matter” rolled through on Pandora, and then her song “Wings of Forgiveness” came on. So yeah, the question in my mind was pretty much answered for me. And of course, with today being the observance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, it seemed even more apropos.

Boxing

I’ve never considered myself to be a very forgiving person. In fact, traditionally, I’ve been the complete opposite, the grudge-holder, who contemplated all of the ways I could make you pay for hurting me, betraying me, no matter what the offense might be. I grew up around people who didn’t necessarily believe in the idea of letting things slide, of letting bygones be bygones. Because if you did, you were somehow weak, a pushover. And you know what all of that negative energy beget? A home filled with resentment. Pent-up anger. Anguish. Anxiety. All of the things that can lead to depression. I realized that it also hurt ME. If the other person was smart, they weren’t even thinking about me and my animosity towards them. I was only damaging my OWN soul.

Arm Wrestling

I’ve been dealt with some hurtful situations over the last year. Situations in which I would have had every right to lash out and act crazy. Initially, that was my first inclination. I wanted to do everything in my power to make those persons pay for what they had done to me, how they had made me feel. I sometimes even fantasized about how it would all go down. But for some reason, I made a different decision. I determined that it essentially wasn’t worth my energy. Yeah, I’d feel good in the moment, but that’s all it would be. Just a moment. Once it was done, my psyche would be wrought with the memories of my malicious impulsiveness. So, I did nothing. I meditated and prayed on it, and decided to just forgive.

Pancake Smiley

Let me tell you – that was quite literally the best decision I  could have made. Now, instead of being consumed with rage, I could focus on more important aspects of the situation’s aftermath – like healing from it. Anytime I had any thoughts on potentially going back on my decision to forgive, I just thought about how it would affect me. After a while, it stopped being in the forefront of my mind, and I’m pretty certain that I pushed my healing curve ahead tremendously. Yes, anger can be justified, but it’s also a choice. We can always choose to keep our minds and spirits there, and as a result, become breeding grounds for negativity. Or, we can choose forgiveness, and learn to be the person who moves on. Not because we’re weak, no. But BECAUSE we’re strong, and we love ourselves more.

What’s Your Vision?

What’s your vision for 2015 and beyond? A friend of mine purchased a book for another friend, entitled, “One Word That Will Change Your Life”, and, while I haven’t read it (I plan to!), the idea is a novel one. What better way to keep yourself and your goals in sight than to give yourself a theme for your year, and every year going forward? I know that for me personally, my last year was one wrought with many changes. It was a year of heartbreak, shattered dreams, and destroyed goals. But it was also one of self-actualization, acceptance, and perseverance. If I could sum up the last year in one word, it would have to be transition.

Pile of Junk

It’s New Year’s Eve, so of course, many people have created a laundry list of resolutions. For some, that may work, but for me, I’d probably lose the list by the second week of the year! I eliminated my desire to create resolutions long ago and instead resolved to be a better me every day of my life. Sometimes, I move two steps forward, and other times, I take six steps back. However, as long as that backward movement taught me something valuable for my growth, then the regression was inherently worth it.

Sterile Room

For the coming year, I’ve been trying to come up with my one word. I know that I’ll be focused on exploring all of the elements that make me so unique, becoming even more comfortable in my skin, embracing my talents and quirks alike. I want my days to be purposeful, meaningful, and filled with growth and love. For too long, I have allowed my spirit to be stifled. I’ve cared too much in the past about following some generic blueprint for life, being flexible to those who don’t deserve such accommodations. This year will be about me breaking through my oft self-inflicted barriers, about me becoming more organic and authentic, being more free. Hence, my focus for the year will be spent freeing myself of any thing that constrained me in the past. My word for 2015 will be freedom.


Freedom

Turn Pipe Dreams Into Reality

Every once in a while, we find ourselves lost, confused…feeling out of place. We look in the mirror, and all we feel is disdain and displeasure with the image reflected back at us. We feel insecure, unloved, depressed – every negative emotion and feeling available. And some days, it’s seemingly impossible. We’ll never find true love (for the first time or again), we won’t get that promotion, our dreams won’t ever come to fruition – or so it all seems. In short, we feel trapped and despondent, slaves to stagnancy.

Bunny Suit

It’s so easy to stay stuck in that place, believing that happiness and joy is just a pipe dream being sold by some shady dealer. Those feelings of despair lead to quiet discontent and complacency, making us almost immobile to change and progress. The key to moving past this is understanding that nothing is permanent, and realizing that the only thing keeping your situation the same is you.

Hockey Players

Have you ever gone into a restaurant, retail store, government agency – anywhere – and, instead of receiving a smile and good service, you were met with a negative attitude and annoyance? And, if you’re like me, the first thing you thought was, “Well, if you don’t like your job, why don’t you find a new one!”. Like, how could anyone be THAT unhappy, yet still hold on to something they hate? When you give in to the negative side of being at a standstill, you might as well be that disgruntled employee.

Pug

I know it’s not easy to just magically change a situation, and this is definitely not a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” soliloquy. And maybe you can’t change your current situation immediately, or even the next week. However, what you can control is how you view it and handle it. You can give in to the “woe is me” mentality, or, you can start making a concerted effort to focus on the positive, and making those plans to propel yourself forward. Maybe that means loving yourself more; maybe it means getting more education, or putting yourself in a place outside of your comfort zone. Whatever it is though, you need to start it now. Not tomorrow, not next week, not for the new year, but NOW. Everyone deserves joy and purpose – start claiming yours.

I Build Walls, and Then I Tear Them Down

Every once in a while, we meet someone who seems to speak to our soul – perhaps even sing to it. And we try so hard to make that person fit into the vision of our future, ignoring the red flags, the doubts, the things we considered deal-breakers with others. For some reason, something in them caused us to let our guard down, to feel a little carefree, to be more ourselves. And then, out of the blue, something happens that causes all of that to come to a screeching halt, causes us to put our walls back up. We somehow find out that the person is actually human.

Spilt Milk

At first, it’s difficult to comprehend. We become confused, misled, maybe even sad. Our plans and goals have been altered, and we begin to feel as though we’ve been duped, deceived. It is at this point that our recovery becomes crucial, because it will tell us whether we’re going to rebuild our wall (this time a little sturdier and with better insulation), or, whether we’re going to put a door in that wall, one we can open at a later time, when we’re ready. Unfortunately, many of us are more apt to do the former, and prevent anyone else from getting in.

Brick Wall

I watched a documentary last night, entitled “Happy” (on Netflix!). One portion discussed the American pursuit of happiness, and how most of us look to money to aid us in achieving said happiness. The study found, though, that although there was a huge increase in happiness between those who made $5k a year and those that made $50k a year, there was no real difference in those who made $50k and those who made $500k (random fun fact!). However, the study discovered that a large indicator of happiness was actually the existence of close interpersonal relationships, which had a direct correlation with how happy people considered themselves to be. All of this to say, if you build that wall, will you potentially be limiting the amount of happiness that can flow into your life?

Closed Shop

I know this is hard to believe, but guess what? People will disappoint you. Over and over and over again. And there’s nothing you can do to prevent it, but there are ways to deal with it. You can take that disappointment, and let it chip away at your spirit, making you miserable and unlovable and unloving, shutting off the world. Or you can accept that disappointment, allowing yourself to wallow in it for an appropriate amount of time, and then…well, and then, you can open your door back up and let the fresh air in.

Dating…With Children

Dating, in this day in age, is difficult (as I’ve said in other posts, I’m sure, of which I’m also sure you’re sick of hearing, but eh). Throw some kids in the mix, and you’re just asking to be single until those little ones go off to college. Child-less people feel weird entertaining others with children, as if children were a disease of some sort.  As if children are a personality trait that can’t be ignored. Obviously, I’m not saying go against something that’s at the core of what you believe and throw caution to the wind. I AM saying though, that people have certain misconceptions about single people with children, and they write them off before they’ve even gotten to know the person. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable around kids, maybe they don’t want to feel like they’re overstepping in some way – I totally 100% get it. I see some disparities in how parents are viewed, based on the parent’s gender. Men with children don’t seem to be that big of a turn-off for women, while women with children might as well have a “C” for children scarlet letter emblazoned on their dresses. But let’s be real here: if you’re over the age of 30 and you’re looking for a serious relationship, chances are, 7 out of 10 people you meet may have children (I literally threw out an arbitrary, made-up statistic out there, so please, spot-check me and correct me, it’s cool). I’ve noticed that there are at least three common fallacies surrounding single parents, so please take heed and ensure that you’re not generalizing a diverse group of people (I know this is America and that’s what we do, but try, this one time, ‘kay?).

Baby

1. Single parents are looking to replace the “missing” parent. 

Please. Have several, several seats. Not all single mothers are looking for a “daddy” for their kids. Truth be told, that is typically the furthest thing from their minds. Companionship and partnership are important, but they are not looking for step-mommy-or-daddy-dearest to step in and save the day. For the most part, all of the single parents I know are doing fine on their own, thank-you-very-much. And lo and behold, the “missing” parent has a HUGE part in those kids’ lives, and they engage, participate, and know their children. No, the single parent is looking for someone to have a relationship with, because yes, the children are the most important part of the lives, but not the only part. Also, if the single parent is doing it right, you shouldn’t be meeting their children any time soon anyway. As parents, they want to take their time and get to know someone, to figure out if you’re even a right fit for them, much less their children. I give this phase about 8 months to a year, with that time period being spent in the serious relationship. And then maybe, maybe you can make it to meeting the kiddos.

Mother and Son

 

2. There’s nothing but constant drama with the “other” parent. 

Okay, I could see why this would be a concern, I do. No one wants to deal with someone’s crazy baby daddy or baby mama. But again, here we are making assumptions. Hopefully, you’ve met a single parent who has their head on their shoulders, who wants to do what’s best for their children, and leave the drama elsewhere. I have witnessed several successful co-parenting situations, where the parents get along, have great relationships with their children, and even with the new significant other. You will encounter situations where the other parent is no good, and I don’t blame you for wanting to steer clear of that b.s. But have faith: there are tons of mature adults out there that have come to grips with the fact that they didn’t work out, but understand that they still have to partner with each other to raise wonderful little people, and who realize they are wonderful people themselves that can move on and give their all to someone who is willing to understand their situation.

Man

3. They may still be carrying a torch for the “other” parent, also known as the ex.

Another valid concern, I suppose. I mean, it’s one thing for a person to break up with someone, and you swoop in and take that number one spot, with the ex never being heard from again. But an ex that your lady/man has to talk to constantly? No, no, no. Not gonna happen. Um, but guess what? Exes are exes for a reason. It’s usually because the two people who were once in that partnership realized that they just weren’t gonna work out together. And again, they are those two awesome mature adults that understand that, but still need to communicate for the good of the people they produced. It’s a given that they will still care about each other to a degree; most of us without kids still care whether or not our exes live or die (hopefully), so of course you’re going to care about the well-being of the parent of your children, since essentially, it will affect those children. You just have to keep in mind that you’re the important one in their lives, and just like you were able to move on from your exes, so can they.

Heart in the Pocket

I know we all have our deal-breakers when we’re determining a person’s value in our lives, and I know accepting someone else’s children is a huge one. But if you meet a good person, who has it together, who makes you happy, and just happens to be an amazing parent, don’t just write them off. I happen to be a friend of people with some wonderful blended families, and I know that if they would have run the other way when the words “I’m a parent” left their lips, they would have missed out on something great. Happy dating!

 

What the Cuff…

I really hate the term “cuffing season”, just as much as I hate what it stands for. To me, it just illustrates how shallow and self-centered our generation can be, how pathetic we can appear, and how anti-social we actually are in this “social”-media heavy society we live in. We spend seven to nine months out of the year (depending on your geographic location) just partyin’ and bullsh*ttin’ to our little hearts’ content. We go through phases with supposedly potential partners, flirting via text, then super heavy texting and perhaps intense phone conversations, to exchanging a few selfies that become increasingly more risqué. We work up to doing the deed (if it wasn’t done in the first place…y’all know how us millennials are), we forget why we even started talking in the first place, and then one of the parties in the situationship falls off the face of the earth.

Handcuff

We go through the cycle throughout the “off-season”, using people left and right to entertain us, until we notice that the season has begun and everyone’s already snatching up all of the good draft picks. We start to panic and scramble back to resurrect one of those stale situations we were in during the off-season. And sadly, because at that point, there are only 2nd and 3rd picks left, we get desperate and cuff. We tolerate all of the crap that annoyed us before, we cuddle, we go out, but we both know that it’s all probably temporary. We have these awesome little surface relationships with no titles, just so we don’t have to feel lonely. And then, once spring hits, we discard each other like our winter wardrobes, and start the dance all over again. And the best part? We never had to invest our real selves into any of it!

Third Round

I have this great fear that my generation will potentially be comprised of a bunch of lonely old geezers. Everyone places so much emphasis on being independent and not needing anyone (*cough cough* bullsh*t!), that we fail to appreciate two beautiful characteristics of being human – caring about another person and authentic, real-life partnership! We are so hooked on instant gratification and false representations of perfection. We believe everything we see on social media, and the airbrushing makes us want it all (right now!), instead of putting any real effort into anything that may prove to be fruitful with a little care.

Alone

I know this isn’t all of us; some of us really hope to be a part of genuine, amazing relationships. We DO want love; we want to be understood, we want that awesome feeling of security and happiness of being loved in a positive, reciprocal relationship. However, if we keep celebrating foolish generational customs like “cuffing season”, I’m not so sure the real relationships will ever stand a chance of becoming a reality.

 

Fallin’ For Yo…Me

It’s okay to be alone with yourself.

That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past five days. It’s human nature to want to be around people, connect with other souls (no matter how much you may tell yourself that you’d rather be alone). We crave conversation, shared experiences, love, companionship, all those good things. But what happens when you put so much into your interpersonal relationships, and not enough into your intra-personal relationship? You know, the one with yourself?

Lonely

I am so absolutely 100% guilty of having a hard time being alone. I grew up in a family with five siblings, got married at 19, and started a family at 20. I have a good deal of friends, so there’s always someone to reach out to. But I’m starting to see that constantly seeking other people to fill that void that makes you unable to cope with the silence, to enjoy just being alone, just being you.

Silence

Having other people around 24/7 to ease the chatter of my mind has made me insanely lazy when there’s a reprieve that forces me to make attempt to listen (And the barrage of social media notifications and mindless surfing doesn’t help either). In the process, I’ve found that I’m starting to lose sight of who I am, what I’m most passionate about. How does that oft-quoted meme go? “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything”. I’ve been finding that I have been susceptible to the latter. One week, I’m trying on one personality, the next, a “better” one. But what happened to MY personality?

PersonalityI have spent the last few days being alone (minus the daily kid interaction/interruption, but that doesn’t count). And let me tell you. It SUCKS. I hate it. Absolutely hate it. There’s no constant stimuli, no one to entertain my random thoughts, to cater to my whims. I’m dependent on myself to engage myself. It is awful, because it is a wonderful breeding ground for paranoia, negativity, self-pity, over analyzation (made up word). I start to think that I’m not missed, that no one cares. I start to chip away at the confident exterior I wear as a badge, and I become a little insecure. It can be pretty self-deprecating and pathetic, to say the least.

Insecurity

So, after a very emotional weekend and a LOT of thinking, I’ve decided to focus on the important stuff for the next couple of weeks – the important stuff being me. I have to like, date myself, as corny as that sounds. I want to remember what makes me so special, so unique. I want to draw myself in and get lost in myself and fully appreciate myself, and (PG-ingly) love the hell out of myself. I’ve come to the realization that the silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and that the loneliness is actually just a synonym for meditation. I’m going to allow myself to be more spiritual and in tune with who I really am. I’m going to finally take advantage of this time to understand who I am…to fall back in love with ME.

Self Love

Here Comes the Sun

It’s so easy to a bitter, sour person when things don’t go your way. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion you wanted, or they left you out of the equation yet again. Maybe your archenemy just drove by in the car you wanted, or purchased the house you thought you’d be able to buy. Unfortunately, bitterness won’t improve your situation, or make you happier. Sometimes, you have to make a conscious effort to just let it go and be happy. As of late, I’ve been focusing on three ways I can ensure my daily happiness (daily, because you have to start somewhere), and just be great. Why do I keep focusing on these positive posts? Well duh, I’ve still got work to do!

1. Don’t let other people’s emotions and reactions to you determine your mood.

Argh

I have such an issue with this. I tend to be very empathetic, and sensitive, and if I care about someone, their mood seems to always somehow dictate mine. I could be floating on cloud nine all day, and one sideways comment or dirty look can make me feel some type of way. I can’t help but feed off of others emotions sometimes. It’s such a gift and a curse (ok, I’ll stop with the hip-hop song references). I’m figuring out slowly but surely that I have to do my best to kind of put up a wall, or just brush it off. Because, like I’ve said in previous posts, it’s really not that serious. That doesn’t mean you can’t care, but you kind of have to care about yourself first.

2. Stop raining on other people’s parades. 

Debbie Downer

Like, seriously. Just because you’re in a bad mood doesn’t mean you have to put everyone else in a bad mood too. Try being genuinely happy with someone else’s good news or good fortune. Or dammit, if you have to, fake it. There are always those scientific studies out there that say things like, “smile when you’re upset and it’ll make you happy”. That’s like, actually true. At least in my case. When I start faking the feeling, I actually start feeling it. Try it today. Smile!

3. Chill with the self-deprecation. 

The Breakfast Club

You’re actually not as horrible as you think you are, or as stupid, or as [insert unrealistic negativity here]. Everyone is entitled to make mistakes in life, but the key is to feel it, and move on. And while you’re at it, relax with the over-analyzing. I’m one of those people who, after a trying situation, goes back and tries to think of every single thing I could have done differently. And when I bring it up to whomever was involved, they had already stopped thinking about it eons ago. Besides, if you were sooo perfect, how would you ever learn, and grow? If you have to, stick some positive affirmations up around you. THEY ACTUALLY WORK.

No one is expecting you to be happy all day, all of the time. That’s actually pretty ridiculous and would make you some weirdo Stepford Wife or robot. However, you can actively change your outlook on life, so you can start being a more content. If you have some tips for improving your outlook on life, please please please feel free to share with the rest of us!

Multi-Racial Misfit

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