The One with the Happies

“Happiness is not a destination you arrive at, but a manner in which you travel.” 
Four score and a few years ago, a good friend of mine (although, I can’t remember which one exactly…) informed me that there was a sale on Amazon.com and a year subscription to Real Simple was $5.00. I remember being in bed, jumping out of bed, running to my computer to place my order before the deal expired. Best five dollars I have ever spent. Hands. Down. Each year when it comes time to renew it increases by only a few dollars, I think this year being like $11? Whatever deal it was, locked me in for life. And, I am forever grateful.
I remember when the January 2011 issue came to me. It was mid-December and I had a rough day at work. Teenagers acting crazy, paperwork piled up everywhere and it was cold and I probably had not worn enough layers. be happier this year. How did you know Real Simple? How do you know my thoughts? 
I, overall, am not an unhappy person. Ask my students (they got to see my real angry face a few days ago….and laughed). I am an interesting mix. I am perpetually positive and enthusiastic mixed in with the perfect amount of sarcasm and cynicism. Nonetheless, December wasn’t my happiest month, making me complain (what I would consider to be too much) about (what I would consider to be) everything. Which as annoying as it might be for my roommate and boyfriend to hear, is just as disheartening for me, because I tend to feel bad about feeling bad. Double whammy. The reality, however, I have nothing to complain about.
Over Christmas break I had some wonderful opportunities to sleep. Do crafty things. Play with legos. Organize my thoughts. Watch It’s a Wonderful Life for the first time. Not think about work. Play in the snow. Catch up with wonderful, wonderful, wonderful friends from college. I didn’t do a lick of work, and it totally paid off. I had a chance to seriously sit back, look at my life and realize how much I truly have to be thankful for. I also realized I needed to look at what was making me unhappy, and how to fix it. 
The culprit? Working too much. 
The fix? Giving myself boundaries. For example, I try to leave work at work, and do home at home. Difficult (SO DIFFICULT) for a teacher, when it is tempting to grade papers in the comfort of your jammies and couch, but I’ve realized I’m so much happier when I come home and can actually relax… not just pretend to relax when I do work. However, I have found myself to be in an interesting predicament where I am homebound for two workdays with no work computer….currently reevaluating whether or not I should bring the work home always… just in case. 
The culprit? Facebook. 
The fix? Facebook? Making me unhappy? No way! It is unreal how much Facebook just evokes negativity from me. Constantly just looking at other people and their lives was just creating this sense of frustration and wasting so much time of my life. It was so frustrating to me to instinctively pull up Facebook without even thinking about it. Thanks to my sweet boyfriend, who is currently the master of my password, I went all last week without looking at it (with the exception of Saturday, when I saw on Twitter that one of my childhood best friends was engaged, and I wanted to wish her Facebook congratulations! He promptly reset the password for me, sweet thing). Someday I will have the willpower to just not look at it, but in the meantime, Marshall is the password keeper. In complete honestly, I have been more productive and way happier in the past week than I have in a long time. I totally recommend taking a short break, you’ll be surprised how much you get done!
The culprit?: Feeling like a lazy bum.
The fix?: It’s winter. I, like most mammals, want to hibernate and curl up in a snuggie for days. I would come home from work, collapse into the couch and not have the energy to even get up to pee….and after three episodes of NCIS that situation just did not improve. So, I decided to do a little test on myself. Real Simple (and our apartment complex newsletter) said that the best way to maintain happiness during the winter is to exercise, so I decided to take advantage of our apartment complex fitness center (read: two ellipticals, two TVs and a few hand weights). I went, and I didn’t hate it. I also found that watching TV shows on your iPhone using the Netflix app really make the time pass by quickly, making 30 minutes on the elliptical feel like nothing. Three weeks I kept up this workout thing 3 times a week and I can tell a huge difference in my energy level. It seems backwards but after working out I have SO much energy, I can actually do fun things after work… like cooking dinner, or doing laundry or working on a craft project. I finally see what the rest of the world says about exercise. Since the New Year most of our apartment complex made a New Year’s Resolution to visit the gym so the ellipitcal has seen a bit more action. I decided to join a gym in the area with a bit more variety and classes…and after much deliberation and calling pretty much every gym within a 5 mile radius, I scored a deal with Planet Fitness in Garner, and discovered fitness classes that the town of Garner offers at the senior center (not just for seniors, ages 18-99, or so it says in the booklet)  for an unreal price. I am really looking forward to Zumba Thursdays beginning the 27…and I’m hoping that will make for some good stories. 
The culprit?: Not eating right.
The fix?: So it’s not like I was eating junk food and Big Macs, but I definitely wasn’t doing the right things. I was actually eating fairly decent food like oatmeal, and Special K… but for dinner, and wheat thins (and only wheat thins) for lunch. Oopsies. With some better strategic planning for grocery shopping, and a new Crock-Pot , I see this whole eating thing to go better in 2011. It already is. Mostly because the roads are frozen and I’ve been forced to eat the beans in our pantry, but I’m excited for new cooking adventures. I made some stuff called Applesauce Chicken yesterday. Pretty delicious. 
The culprit?: Procrastination.
The fix?: I finally learned. Procrastination makes life worse later. Being a teacher has taught me this, mostly so I think I can attempt to pass it along to my high schoolers…although they probably won’t realize it until they are 23 going on 24 and are teachers…even though they never thought they’d be teachers. No matter what it is, photo stuff, laundry, grocery shopping, teacher stuff, etc. I have made the conscious decision, multiple times to continue working (when I am tempted to quit and do it later) and have seen how it has benefitted me. Totally wish I realized this before college. Life would have been way different. 
On a less serious note, I’ve also made sure to surround myself with little things that summon happies. Pictures that sweet kids I babysit draw for me. Making note of verses that are reminders that God is in control and (thank goodness!) I am not. Paperclips in fun colors. Lemon fabric in a frame beside my bed. Putting my broken sewing machine on a shelf where I can admire it’s prettiness, and pretend it’s a piece of art instead of a broken machine. Organizing my closet by color. Writing my favorite song lyrics on a canvas, smearing some colorful paint on it and hanging it in my bathroom where I can see it everyday. Writing on the board with (and protecting with my life from destructive high schoolers) my favorite colored marker. You know, silly meaningless stuff, that makes a huge difference when life hands you lemons, paperwork you forgot about, moving violations and taxes. 
Happy, happy 2011. I hope you have many, many happies. 

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