September 18, 2009

on my happiness project...

my new hair posy.

[my new hair clip from Morgan's sweet little etsy shop!]

I've been slightly absent from posting for a while. But don't you worry! I do actually still exist. (Which is definitely a good thing, I suppose.) I've just been attempting to free myself from the computer as often as possible lately - and I'm not going to lie, it actually feels rather nice. Finding the perfect balance will never be easy, but I'm trying.

I have had a certain revelation in the last couple weeks, though. I didn't really talk about it much before going into it, because I have issues with promising something and having great intent - then after talking about it my motivation fizzles out and I don't end up following through. But this? This has been huge. Something that I've been wanting to work on for the last few years and didn't really know where to begin, you know? I didn't want to mess it up. And I didn't know if I would fail miserably, either. I guess that's why I kept it to myself for a bit.

What I've been working on is my happiness and contentment. A little happiness project, so to speak. (I know, it doesn't sound that exciting, but believe me...it's been good.)

I decided to try out my own little happiness project and see how far I could go. Inspired by a few books, quotes, and other people who seem to be so ridiculously happy, I decided to start trying to change my attitude and reaction to things. I've been trying to be more peaceful, optimistic, forgiving, and all of that. And one of the biggest things I've learned in the last little while is how my reaction to something has the power to make an entire day blissful or the exact opposite of blissful (which is, quite frankly, crappy). I know that it sounds so obvious, but how many times throughout your own day do you find yourself ruled by your whims and emotions? Half the time it's so easy to excuse bad attitudes by rationalizing it all away. "Well, he made me mad." "Well, today has sucked." "Well, someone at work pissed me off." "Well, they messed up my order at Subway and not even my sandwich is okay right now ahhhhh!"

I'm awful when it comes to letting my situation get the best of me. I know that I may seem like a ball of sunshine (on a good day) but that's not always what comes across to the ones closest to me, as it is with many of us, I'm sure. (Plus, it's a lot easier to put my positivity into writing, as opposed to actually living it.) I think I've mentioned it before, but my husband was the first person to point out my recent transformation into a pessimist. Throughout the first few years of our marriage he has pointed out how I always let things get to me and managed to miss the bright side all too often. At first, that only made me more irritated.

"WHAT? You think I'm negative? What are you talking about? THAT IS SUCH A MEAN THING TO SAY! YOU ARE A MEAN HUSBAND! MEAN, I SAY!"

Little did I know that I was merely proving his point.

And now I constantly see it in myself - when I'm letting things get to me and when I begin to play the same negativity card I always seem to choose. (Believe me, I'm a natural when it comes to playing a damsel in distress. Just ask my husband. I constantly want someone to fix things, fix a situation, fix me.) It's like a light bulb went off in my head, I knew what I had to do to rediscover my optimism, and I haven't turned back since. (That's not to say that I haven't failed miserably along the way, but you know. It's all about having the awareness and the intent of doing better, in my opinion.)

My marriage has been the biggest thing I've wanted to work on. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that our marriage was ever in trouble, per se. But I can see how my negative attitude has effected Jay in the past, and how it only drives him away from me. I used to think, "Well, this is how I feel. He should be able to take it and listen to whatever I want to say, and he should still love me and adore me because he is my husband, amen." But, really? How fair is that? I'm realizing that if I choose to be more lighthearted (even when I don't feel like it) I only make myself more lovable and adorable in his eyes. Does that make sense?

Let me give you some examples:

1. Grocery shopping has become more and more easy as the years go by, but there is always a bit of whining on my part when we don't buy something that I really want. When it comes down to it, I know that most of my irritation comes from my wanting Jay to simply give me my way all the time. The whole mentality of, "Well, I want this, so it shouldn't make any difference to you." The last time we went shopping I made a conscious effort to not whine for what I wanted (which was difficult, because I really wanted that tiny, over-priced bottle of my favorite ranch dressing) and instead realize that in the grand scheme of things, it didn't matter.

2. Being an old married couple (and loving every minute, mind you) we enjoy a good board game. I'm not going to lie: I'm a horrible loser. It reminds me of being a little girl and quitting a game of Old Maid when I realized I wasn't going to win. When Jay and I sit down for some wine and a game of Scrabble, I will almost always accuse him of cheating or being rude or whine about not ever getting good words at some point during the game. We played a few days ago and I made a conscious effort to lose gracefully, and instead of berating him for his mad Scrabble skills, I instead praised him for being so smart and so incredibly good at the game. The fact that we ended the game with light hearts mattered much more than the fact that I lost by more than half. (No, really, guys. I suck at Scrabble. It is not okay.)

3. Jay is kind of messy. Not horribly messy, but I tend to get on his case when he has four pairs of shoes and socks floating around the duplex. Or when he doesn't load his dishes in the dishwasher when it is obviously empty. Or when he jumps out of his clothes when he gets home late and leaves them in in a pile by the bed. (I've taken to saying, "OH, MY GOSH. SOMEONE MUST HAVE BEEN RAPTURED RIGHT HERE." I'm not sure if he finds that funny. But I do.) This whole week I've done my best not to get on his case. I'm realizing that while my idea of the perfect home is a place that is spotless, organized and smells of peaches, Jay deserves to feel comfortable here, too, and know that he doesn't have to walk on eggshells when I'm around. And if it means that I load a few extra dishes and throw his clothes into his side of the closet a few times a week, then that's okay. I can do that.

4. One thing that I've struggled with throughout our marriage is constantly comparing our relationship to other people's. I wonder why he can't write me sweet notes like someone else's husband, why he doesn't compliment me like another guy I know, why he doesn't always reach for my hand when we're in public like he used to. I know that me picking apart things like this is, for lack of a better work, poisonous. How would I feel if Jay constantly picked apart the things I did, and pointed out the things I didn't do? That would break my heart. I can only imagine how many times I've hurt him more than he's shown my by lack of appreciation. So, I've made it a point to avoid petty arguments, praise him for the things he does that make me feel loved, be the one to reach for his hand when we're out and about, and try my best to make sure he feels like my hero (which he is).

Jay hasn't said anything about the change, but that's okay. Because I feel it. I feel the change. And I see how he is more eager to be honest with me when he knows I'm not going to snap or be defensive. I see how he goes out of his way to do more things around the duplex for me, or how he makes more of an effort to call me to check in or offer to bring me lunch at work - which makes me all glowy and happy.

I think that what has surprised me most, is how I don't feel like I'm being forced to repress my true feelings or to hold back what I want to say. I sort of figured that I'd feel like I was forcing myself to hide my emotions or something. But, really? It's the exact opposite. I feel much more connected to myself when I'm thinking about how I can handle something in a way to make the situation okay. I feel much more connected to Jay because I'm taking the time to really love him in ways I haven't made the effort to do since we first fell in love. It feels good to know that an entire day has gone by with nothing but good things showering down all around me - and so much of that is because I made the decision to be happy. I didn't just wait for happiness to find me. I made happiness an action, not just a fleeting emotion.

And that's huge.

I'm obviously always going to be a work in progress, and I'm going to have days where I cry or complain or storm into the other room to cool off...and that's okay. But, in general, I feel so light lately. I want to make sure I don't lose that.

51 comments :

  1. Words to describe Wishcake, by Spatzi.

    Lovely. Beautiful. Creative. Adoreable. Accepting. Embracing. Lovable. Fanmtastic.

    and...

    INSPIRING.

    Thank you for being you. I am so thankful God has let our paths cross and I am getting doses of your goodness in my life. You, my darling, seriously are a spectacular person and this post is so very much an inspiration. And came at a good time, before I found myself getting irrationally upset for something that doesn't deserve it. (Which you planned, clearly, right? Haha)

    I LOVE YOU! And I love that I can honestly call you a dear friend. Thank you for sharing these things.

    I don't recall you sucking at Scrabble on the beach. Just saying.

    ReplyDelete
  2. beautiful!!! i need to work on my marriage too.. as you say its not in trouble... its my attitude.

    what books have you been reading to change your mindset? i may have to read them :) xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, that was beautiful! You are a real inspiration and I love reading your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This post came at exactly the right time and was just the reinforcement I needed. I've been reading the book "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" because I can be quite hotheaded at times and it seemed to be bringing me (and those close to me, for that matter) down. Once I began reading it, I started to really understand the truth behind the words, and change came relatively easily.
    With some added stress here and there, I've begun to stray from the knowledge I gained and start falling back into that pessimistic tune. Reading this was like a little push to get back into the optimistic way of doing things. It's helped me realize I don't need to have a huge grin on my face at.all.times. but I should still be able to let things go and at least feel lighter.
    Great post- and great idea. I think we could all use a bit of the happiness project in our lives. (Also- check out the book! It has some fantastic chapters)

    ReplyDelete
  5. brenda elizabeth9/18/09, 8:50 PM

    This post is beautiful.

    And it makes me feel so. much. better. Because I struggle with the same thing, and my guy has the same reaction to it, and I have the same reaction to his reaction, and then it's even harder than before, and it is about damn time I snap out of this, because I am just the sweeeetest thing in public. How sad that I can't seem to make that happen for the guy who deserves it most.

    So, then, this post. This is something I intend to print and keep on hand and read on a regular basis. Here's to a self-arranged happiness. I'm glad that you've found this :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. This was really, truly something I needed to read. Even though I feel entitled to be a little diva sometimes, I can't help but feel like with every little complaint I make I'm just sucking happiness out of my life (and Justin's). Wonderful and inspiring post, my friend!

    And about the SOMEONE MUST HAVE BEEN RAPTURED thing... I lol'd. That's what I always think about when I see a complete outfit lying it a neat little pile on the floor. DID I MISS IT?! lol

    Thank you for the etsy shop pimpin today too! I love you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is a great post, and so correct. You really need to act the way you wish to feel. I need to work on creating some happiness in my own relationship.

    By the way, have you read www.happiness-project.com? There are some great tips, ideas, etc. for creating this happiness. I've learned a lot there.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I had a comment written but it was getting lengthy so I deleted it and will just tell you that reading this inspired me to do something a little different in my own relationship tonight, and it very much turned out for the best. :) Thanks my dear!

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a great post, and so spot on. I've been reading A LOT of different books on simplicity, happiness, etc. lately. I tend to make things more complicated than they need to be. Or I get worked up over the tiniest things that should really be non-issues. Couple that with always comparing my life to other people's and it can become a bad situation. I have a ton of book recommendations that have helped me, if you ever want to read more into it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Such a great and timely post. Thank you for taking the time to write it. I lol'd (and told the hubby about) the "rapture" comment- so so funny! (We could both legitimately say it to each other near our shower... oops!) Really great post though- truly inspiring. Sorry I don't comment often- I've gotten lazy since I started using the google reader- but know this was a REALLY good post, because I strayed from my easy reader format to come and comment :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. It is always inspiring to read about someone else's discovery of happiness.

    What really resonated with me was your discussion of the effects of happiness (or the opposite pessimism) on your marriage. I've definitely noticed a strain in my own relationship lately; sometimes it takes someone else to point out the seemingly obvious reasons though.

    I wish you all the best with the continuation of your project!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love this post, definitely inspiring. Maybe I should try to apply a bit to my life? Well I may not live with someone yet but I guess if I reduce my negativity everyone else around me like my family or my close friends will be more at ease as well. I'm also one of the examples of a person who let's her reaction to things affect the rest of the day, I know how bad it is.

    Good for you for making awesome efforts.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is so lovely to read, I'm totally guilty of number 4, but I'm working on not comparing our relationship to other people's. I suck at Scrabble too. But to the extent that I don't play it. So that's ok!

    ReplyDelete
  14. You are very brave to address your own issues and see your own weaknesses Kerri.

    I think, in ourselves and in relationships, we all at times allow our emotions to rule us, and what we want to be what should happen. I am especially with you on the messy boy part, and though the outcome of our discussion was different to your way of dealing with it, the important thing was that we had the discussion!

    It is important as a person to try and improve oneself, and I am very proud of you for doing so!


    Do remember that you are lovely though, else Jay wouldn't have married you in the first place!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow. What an amazing post. This was the first thing I read on this Saturday morning, and I'm sure my weekend will be better for it. Thanks, wishcake.

    PS I started "Every Woman's Marriage"- really good so far.

    PPS I've been working on a happiness project of my own. This website has come in really handy. Check it out if you have time.
    http://www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com/

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow. Simply wow. It like you just reached into my head and pulled out all of the things I've been wanting to say about where I am in my life and marriage (minus the happiness project, but I think it's a wonderful idea!).

    I think your newfound outlook on life is a great, great thing. I hope you continue until one day you won't even have to think about it anymore. :)

    ReplyDelete
  17. I adore you, really. I was just sitting with my girlfriends last night at starbucks and we were talking about our new(ish) relationships and how far we'd come and one of the major things that we kept saying was how important that it was to just STOP and be in the moment. To never take for granted the wonderful things these men in our lives do for us, no matter how small and how important it was to not waste time being angry.

    It IS a balance and it IS hard. Last night, I got into an argument with Matt because he didn't call and instead updated his facebook status a full 45 minutes before I ever heard from him. I knew where he was and I was seriously getting PISSED because of something that I already told him was okay.

    So I just sort of made myself stop for five seconds and I rolled over to him, told him I loved him and gave him a kiss. (And then I warned him to never do it again, so help me God.)

    Thing is, it's all a huge learning experience. Life is one huge journey. This post was amazing and I'm so glad you're finding your "happy". Really, it makes me all sorts of giddy.

    Now come visit me. Pronto.

    ReplyDelete
  18. It is amazing how the slightest change in attitude or conscious effort can shift so much! You have such a positive outlook - I strive to be more like you :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. I have the same issue with losing motivation for something after I talk about it. Glad you're working on your happiness, and thanks for sharing it so eloquently!
    I consider the best lesson my mother ever drilled into my head as "you can't control what happens, or what other people do - the only thing you can control is how you react to it. If you think a day is good, it is. If you think a day is bad, it is".
    She said that to me literally every single day of jr. high, and it's the best lesson I ever learned (although it's hard sometimes to put it into practice). :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow? I've been reading you blog for months now and LOVE it! This post especially! I have been with my fiance for 7 years and just moved in together. This week I had been saying the same things that you did. (by the way I stink at Scrabble, and he also has amazing skills) Thank you for the post, it is always helpful to here that it's not just you, and that other people are feeling the same way as you. I can't say how much I love your blog, Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  21. The thing that I really love about this is that this is straight out of the book, The Art of Happiness, which is a psychologist interviewing the dalai lama about how people can learn to be happy. Taking ownership of your reactions to things is pretty much the key thing it talks about.

    This idea is so powerful, I totally live my life by it, and I'm so much happier for it- if you can choose to be happy and to bring happiness into other peoples lives, why not, right?

    And I lose at all games to my husband, all the time. My tactic is to try and throw his game lol =)

    ReplyDelete
  22. My husband and I have a large family (7 sons in a blended family) and we're caregivers for his granny (103-1/2 years old). So, our only oasis of time together that's peaceful is our nightly Scrabble(tm) games together. It's a time to unwind and catch up and it's not competitive. It's like our relationship, we both help each other to achieve. I've even written a Scrabble word list book to help us be better!

    Cherie K. Miller
    author of BackWords: a backwards word list for gamers.

    ReplyDelete
  23. When my daughter was in grade school she came home with a poem the gist of which was "you create your own weather inside". It has always stuck with me though I can't find the actual poem. Sometimes it is hard to remember but that is my motto and what you have been doing and its great, huh?

    ReplyDelete
  24. First of all, cute hair clip!!
    I am so glad that you are finding your happiness! There seems to be a happiness epidemic lately in the blog world and I love it! You have inspired me to take my journey one step further. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Your posts never cease to amaze me. You are so inspiring!

    This post is such a testament to the fact that WE are in charge of our own happiness, nobody else. I can just feel the changes that YOU feel by reading this, and that's all YOU. Truly amazing. And inspiring, have I mentioned inspiring? :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. This post is beautiful! :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ok, I need to answer one of your post for once and for all. I became a fan a few months ago and have been following you since. First, let me say that I love what you have to say. Your stories are adorable, sweet, inspiring. I also turn into a cheeseball and go all "oh my god, I totally can relate!"

    This post was definitely one of them, I have been with my boyfriend for over four years now (still waiting to call him my fiance, ahem) and he's amazing. I let little things get to me more than I often should, and he doesn't deserve my pettiness. It's amazing how he puts up with me sometimes.

    Thank you for reminding not only me but others on keeping positive, a little thing that that can go a long way. :]

    As for the little things like a note here or there, why don't you do it for him instead and maybe he'll start returning the favor. Unless that's something you already do.

    I also suck at Scrabble big time.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I love this post and it makes me ridiculous happy. I read The Art Of Happiness too and it completely changed my thoughts on happiness. Happiness is a choice (sometimes a hart done, but still a choice). You are marvelous.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I totally understand where you're coming from. I grew up with both parents slightly more on the negative side. My whole life I spent trying to make my parents see the positive while they stubbornly showed me the negatives in everything I ever wanted to do or buy or see or make of myself.

    As I've grown up, I've noticed my optimism has been lacking. My boyfriend will note that sometimes I'm acting like my mother or father in terms of negativity, and it makes me sick.

    I've been trying this past year to get back into the optimistic side of things, with blogging, doing things for others, getting over the imperfections in life.

    I think that's why we both have so much trouble. Perfectionists have trouble with anything that's not "perfect". Like your score in Scrabble, on a deep level it just does not live up to your standards (trust me, I cheat at Monopoly to win or else I quit the game if I'm losing too.).

    My favourite quote is this:

    "Being happy doesn't mean everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections."

    Once I figured that out, things became better.

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a great little post. A lot of the "issues" you felt, I feel too. But you're right, in the grand scheme of things... the stupid stuff doesn't matter.

    I like you're idea. I'm going to run with it myself, if you don't mind!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love this post. I heart your honesty and ability to put into words the exact same emotions so many of us feel. That's pretty amazing...

    ReplyDelete
  32. Okay, the "raptured" thing IS funny.

    BUT, I totally get what you're saying. I was completely self-centered and manipulative growing up (what teenage girl isn't)... but through incredible parenting, a humbling courtesy of working in restaurants, and fucking up a lot, I've slowly realized that and worked on it and I've changed. It will, as you said, always be a work in progress... but knowing is half the battle, right? ;-)

    Love this!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm a really sore loser too.

    I love to read your blogs. Seriously, they're inspiring. I'm getting married next year, and I just know I'm going to be reading your old blogs because they offer me a kind of clarity on my own behavior.

    ReplyDelete
  34. What a GREAT post!!
    I was just sitting here ON My computer because I was in an un-happy mood, and definitely taking it out on my husband. Point number 4 you made could have come out of my mouth WORD FOR WORD!! Amazing!!
    I really appreciate you writing the truth and not just writing about how marriage is unicorns and butterflies all the time! After I comment, I am going to embrace this beautiful day with my husband and be a happy wife with him! He is always happy…and I find my negative moods bring him down sometimes…Thanks for an honest and true post!!

    ReplyDelete
  35. I really really needed this. Everyone of your examples has happened in my home between me and my husband in the last two weeks and I haven't handled them with much grace at all. As a result.. I've had some pretty crappy days and before reading your post this morning.. have felt pretty darn hopeless. So thanks for the encouraging words! Your decision to consciously be happy and show love has inspired and challenged me to take the next right step and do the same! thank you. by the way.. (and no kidding here) I lost by half to my husband in scrabble last night. it's humbling to say the least.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Thank you so much for sharing this. I needed to read this today, and, like everyone else, I'm guilty of having a bad attitude a lot. This makes me want to work on a little happiness project of my own!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Isn't it funny how being happy and positive seems to come so naturally to some people, and then here we are saying okay I'm going to TRY to be more positive. But then once you start trying, it becomes easier and easier. So I hope that your happiness project starts to feel less like a project as you continue to get yourself in that happiness mindset :)

    ReplyDelete
  38. It's amazing how your words always seem to speak out my thoughts some time... probably even everyone's thoughts.

    ...that's why I love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  39. so proud of you, beautiful girl. i'm sure you've seen this, but i have it hanging on my fridge and on the wall of my office at work:

    “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

    love.

    ReplyDelete
  40. thank you for this post. i can definitely relate and need to take some of these methods and apply them to my own marriage! you're so great :)

    ReplyDelete
  41. So nice to read that someone else struggles with letting something get the best of them! It really is an everyday work in progress, but I'm so happy for you that you're feeling lighter!

    ReplyDelete
  42. I think I need to work on a lot of this too! I certainly don't mean to be negative but it happens and when it does it totally sucks because it really does impact my life, my job, my co-workers. As always you're an inspiration. =)

    ReplyDelete
  43. this is so inspiring! thank you for being honest about the work that you're doing!

    ReplyDelete
  44. this is an amazing project. and you and jay are fabulous (even though i haven't met him, i'm just assuming so because you're fabulous so he has to be too). and um heart everything about this post so much.

    ReplyDelete
  45. This is so inspiring to me. I do the exact same thing when it comes to the dishes and laundry. I think...gosh...is he purposely doing this to annoy me? I mean, why put your plate next to the sink and not in the dishwasher RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE SINK!!

    But what you said about letting Jay feel comfortable in his own house...gosh that is so true. I don't want Matt to think I'm on his case all the time about such little things that only bother me and he could care less about.

    Thank you so, so much for posting this :)

    ReplyDelete
  46. Lovely. Just lovely. It's always worth it to work on things before they get to the breaking point. You're so mature about your approach to marriage, I know that you and Jay will go the distance!! There is no room for failure. :o)

    ReplyDelete
  47. I love this post. Being content is something that I really need to work on, especially in light of all that's going on with my body, etc. Thanks for the reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  48. What a lovely post. Reading your story made me realize that I do the same thing. I have turned into a pessimist over the years. I'm going to pay more attention to my reaction to things and see how that goes. Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Great post. I heard a pastor say the other day that we need to focus more on how we've been blessed than on what we haven't received or have lost. And as you've written, that's crucial in relationships. It's so easy to feel slighted over silliness, but it's so much more joyous to take note of every good thing.

    ReplyDelete
  50. i think i'm bookmarking this post.
    for some reason I've just felt "blah" lately. I don't know why. I shouldn't. I'm employed, engaged, and overall "The Shit Is Good."
    But I can't shake the blues.
    I'm scared to death it's not something I can control, but before I even start to consider such I think I'm going to embark on the WishCake Guide To Happiness and see if it helps.
    :-) Thanks for this post.

    ReplyDelete

Thoughts? Questions? General musings? Do share!

If you are asking a question, I will respond here within the comments—so, be sure to click that handy little "notify me" box below to know when I've replied!