Practically as soon as I get gung-ho enough about pursuing my own happiness to build a whole blog about it, life gets all up in my face like…
“Yo, you sure about that bro?”
I feel like I’m being tested lately. You guys already know about the not-so-great job stuff from last time. Since then, a few other things have gone wrong. Most of them have been small irritations, but not all. I could get into them here, but the point of this is not to bring you, or myself down. Suffice it to say that all in all, lately I’ve been feeling more blue than my hair.
That’s not my style. At my core, I believe I’m a happy person. I practice writing down my gratitudes. I often find myself deeply moved by art or music. I receive and give many hugs. I am such a loved and lucky lady!
In fact, I’m intensely aware of my good fortune in being born and raised here. I can explore my rights and freedoms in ways that some, in other parts of the world, simply cannot. My feeling “blue” comes with its own compounded burden of guilt, since I realize I am in such a good situation. I am a woman living in Canada. I am educated. I choose my own friends. I am free to discuss my politcal opinions with them. I could shave my head and show it off in public if I felt like it. I can drive a car (or a mail truck). I speak two languages. My teenager STILL thinks I’m cool.
Yet, who among us is immune to sadness? Not this happiness-seeker. I know this cloud; the one that just sort of shows up from time to time, making all of the great stuff that much harder to see, and turning “happiness” into something that takes real work, attention, and a critical mind.
I mean, as greedy as my Western privileged white-girl blues can seem, if you feel sad, the choice is always there to give into it. I could wake up tomorrow, and once the offspring is off the school, I could just wander back into the house, sit my arse down, and cease making progress at all. No one will yell at me if I don’t tidy up. No one will weep if I do not write a word. Not a soul would notice right away if I abandoned my personal schedule in favour of a little Jerry Springer, or Netflix, or YouTube, or just endlessly scrolling my Twitter feed.
But you know what happens when you quit. Giving up only feeds the blues. When you stop fighting for positive momentum, and it gets harder and harder to start again. When you allow yourself to fall further behind, your mood sinks even lower. It’s made worse when you wake up the next day to a mountain that’s a little higher. Worse when you become that much further from where you ought to be.
I won’t quit. I can’t quit. I have goals that I’m after, and too many promises I’ve made to myself.
I console myself by thinking that maybe I’m a late bloomer. That’s not so bad. So, I didn’t become a “success” in my early twenties or anything. So what? I’m certainly not alone there. Maybe I just don’t “make it” until I’m older than average. Maybe that’s ok. I want to think it is. It’s hard to not feel a pang of jealousy when I know so many smart, successful people, and here I am, Jenn Martin, still curious about EVERYTHING, but not much further ahead than I was 10 years ago. I’m just plugging along, hanging my hopes on a star.
I’m taking steps to improve. The “behind” feeling was definitely worse at the beginning of last week. In fact, it was so big, inundating, and kinda scary that I had to do something about it.
I made myself a battle plan.
THE HAPPINESS BATTLE PLAN
I sat down with a pencil and a clean, unlined sheet of paper. (I don’t like to be confined. Even by those dastardly lines! Ha ha.) Alone and with NO distractions, I got introspective. I wrote notes on the attributes that would make up my ideal self. Physically, mentally, spiritually, career-wise, socially…everything! I went crazy with it. No limits. (This had the almost immediate effect of helping me feel better. Purpose is everything!) I made notes on the most awesome person I could want to be: well-read, informed, friendly, funny, fit, living in accordance with my morals/ideals, spending time with loved ones and making a difference…all of it. (I tried to be as specific as possible.)
While that was fun, and a pretty illuminating exercise, a pipe dream version of myself isn’t anything, unless I can make those ideas functional. (Sort of like how saying you want to “get fit” doesn’t get you any closer to a six-pack or make you better at prepping meals!) I took that sheet of ideals and I extrapolated it into goals on a new sheet. For everything I had said I wanted, I carefully considered how someone would actually get there.
For example, yes, I do want to be more well-read. I have an English degree, and I love books, but for the past few years, I genuinely haven’t read much. (Life gets busy!) A goal? How about I read a book a month, plus I actually keep track of them for myself? I could even do a little review! (Bring back the book report, yeah!) That’s a real goal, and it’s a lot better than continuing to feel self-concious that I read too little.
THEN I took this new list of goals, and started scheduling things into my planner. I slotted in gym time, reading time, ukulele time…all of the fun things I actually want in my life, in a proper space.
It’s worth noting here that my planning style used to be way more chaotic. I used to just have one list for to-do’s AND my schedule. It was all in one place, mangled together. It was ugly, and a mess, and I NEVER wound up getting everything finished.
As of last week, my schedule is now JUST a schedule, and my to-do list is separate. In fact, I actually sub-divided those “to-do” tasks: one list for ‘urgent’ things and one for everything else. My schedule pages look a LOT less stressful now, and there is NO excuse for not attacking the “urgent” list first!
I also want to highlight here the fact that I once used to have this crazy idea about fitting everything into a single day. Like, my ideal day would involve cooking, cleaning, working, writing, singing, personal projects, research, working out, playing an instrument, spending time with my child and partner and everything else. Of course, it’s impossible! My solution? A schedule that leaves lots spaces, so I don’t go crazy, and that spans the whole week.
I know I’m neurotic, but you guys, whatever it takes, right?
A lot of folks believe in more of a “go with the flow” approach, but I find a lack of planning stressful. If you want to get things done, this is one system that takes into account your vision for the future. You will at least know that you are doing things in accordance with your higher self!
The whole process, start to finish, took me about 2 hours. I now have ideals and goals that I can review periodically, and I can always check to see that they’re infoming my schedule. The new plan isn’t perfect. I still need to play with it, but I already think it is VERY helpful. I can at least see a path toward progress, instead of dealing with the awful feeling of treading water.
Plus, while I’m not at my very best now, I think that happiness is cumulative. This is a good way of making sure I am actually doing those smaller, happiness-inducing things that wind up meaning so much. (I’m even planning on seeing my friends more, as I don’t very often, and I crave those deep, thought-provoking conversations!)
So no, I’m not where I want to be. Yes, I want to wash these blues right outta my head. (Perhaps literally…I’m plotting a new dye job to boost my spirits too!) I am willing to work for it, and if you’re like me, you might just be well-advised to go back to the drawing board and do the same.
Happy Monday everyone!
Now get out there and shoot for the stars! 🙂