The Hard Truth of Managing Your Own Happiness

(How to Avoid Feeling Like a Smooshed Grape)

I’ve gotten to this slightly jaded place, where if you start talking to me about vision boards, or even mention the “law of attraction,” I start to feel a sense of cringe.  A small part of me wants to roll my eyes. I guess I’m feeling more sceptical about all of that fluffy-bunny woo-woo stuff these days.

I don’t fully mean that of course.  In fact, I’m making fun of myself just a little here.  I’m pretty fluffy-bunny woo-woo. I’m no stranger to crystals and pendulums, herbs, essential oils, tarot cards or healing energy.  I love all of that stuff. I just don’t think it’s wise to make the mistake of thinking that anything can replace hard work, motivation or perseverance.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m still a little resentful of some of the new age philosophy I bought into as a teenager (and stuck with throughout my early twenties). I’ve got a little baggage going on, because I now believe that I was only getting half of the answer.  Somehow, I had absorbed the message that if you just visualized hard enough, things would fall into place.  

This is perfectly encapsulated with the whole idea of “the cursed how’s.”  I remember reading things that were literally telling me that I didn’t need to worry about the steps to accomplishing my dreams, aka “the cursed how’s.”  I only needed to focus on the end result. The Universe would take care of that pesky bit in the middle.  

Utter malarkey, of course.  

Yes, visualizing is good.  Yes, I think you should practice it.  Heck, you should get SO GOOD at visualizing that you are able to practically smell your dreams manifesting.  You should get as involved in your visualization as possible. You should try 100% to make it real for yourself.

And THEN, and see, this is the bit I was missing, you have to come back down to earth and make a plan as to how to get there.  You MUST consider the “cursed how’s,” because your day only has so many hours in it.  You have to turn your goals into step-by-step actions. Houses don’t buy or clean themselves.  Abs don’t magically arrive just because you visualized the perfect body. Getting caught up in a daydream of end results is not the same as rolling up your sleeves and putting in the effort. You cannot wait for the Universe to pluck you out of obscurity and say, This one.  I pick this one. This one’s special.  Trust me.  Tried it. It doesn’t work.

Please bare in mind that all of this is coming from a self-confirmed New Age hippie.  I believe we can do a lot with our energy. I think there’s more to the world than meets the eye.  Yes, I even believe that you can attract a better life by improving your energy. However, you also have to accept your role in the transformation.   As Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Pray to God, but row away from the rocks.”

All of this doesn’t just apply to big life stuff, like dream houses, finding true love, or losing 50lbs. I think it also applies to your daily emotional wellbeing.  Like, you have to take charge of your own happiness. You have to build it yourself, and protect it, and work on it, or it may not stick around.

I don’t know… maybe other people have a more robust, durable sort of happiness, but mine is not.  Mine needs tending to like some kind of fussy, exotic flower garden.  

I journal to deal with my “flower garden” of feelings, and the other day I wrote this: 

I feel like I am being smooshed like grapes for wine.  Like someone is dancing on my soul. Like they are gleefully crushing it beneath their disgusting bare feet.  (Ha. These days, I’m not even so hung up on the wine, just the smooshing.)

Ok, so my soul is being smooshed.  What now? Do other writer-types feel this way?  Do they feel like their 9-5 is sucking away their creative potential?  Their time? Their energy?  

Ha ha.  I’m writing this while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office and Sheryl Crow’s “If it Makes You Happy” just started playing.  Personally, I think that was a little heavy-handed of the radio.

Yeah, my personal journal rants and a little dramatic, but the bad feeling of being “crushed” was, I think, due to my lack of organization/motivation in keeping up my own happiness-inducing habits.  For me, those habits, those “cursed how’s” are so important. My fussy, exotic flower garden requires: adequate and regular sleep, cardio and strength training contained in 4-6 workouts a week, time for writing, time for reading, time for singing, healthy well-balanced plant-based meals, time for meditation and time spent with friends and family.  If I start lacking in any one area, I am off. Life is bad. My emotions get…well, you saw the journal entry!

The only way to get it all done, and to avoid the “my soul is being smooshed” feeling, seems to be to schedule my life, and then maintain the motivation to actually carry through with my plans.  

I’m drawing attention to that last bit because I feel like that’s where I tend to fall down.  I can come up with a great schedule/plan and then get distracted, or get busy with something else, and all of a sudden it’s 10:30PM, and my real goals for the day are yet to be accomplished.

And I wind up feeling like a smooshed grape.

Vision board away.  Feel free to send your hopes and prayers.  (You can even send ‘em my way!) Maintain a rule of “good vibes only.”  Just remember, it’s still you who has to put in the grind and the effort.  You are the only one capable of rowing away from the rocks.

A Forest In Fall

I don’t always have the chance to go, but there is a wooded area behind where I work, and on my lunch breaks I sometimes venture up there. When I do, I find myself blissfully alone in what I consider to be a mind-blowingly beautiful place.

unnamed-4
Makes it hard not to feel a twinge of hope, y’know?

My pictures don’t do it justice.  I hardly think they could.  Not until they can capture a perfect panoramic shot, along with the brightness of colours alive in the moist air, and combine it all of it with the actual feeling of being there.  I only hope there is some shadow of how it seems to me reflected in the pictures I snap with my phone.

unnamed-8
Gotta love that clean air. (The crowd’s not too judgmental, either!)

Apart from when I indulge in dramatic makeup and costumes, most of the pictures I take of myself are “forest selfies.” Me, against a backdrop of trees left to grow of their own accord.  Embarrassing, perhaps, but it makes sense.  I am trying to capture the state in which I feel I am being my most authentic self.

In the wilderness, things like choice of clothing are of little consequence.  Somber or bright, as long as I am warm, comfortable, and not hitching my hem on the trees, I’m fine. (Still, because I walk directly up from work, I admit that I do sometimes wear wilderness-questionable outfits out on the trail anyway!)  

Like any immediate concerns about appearance, most modern distractions become so much nothing in the forest. My social media presence and number of Twitter followers are infinitely less interesting than this one particular tree I was fascinated by. It stood “alone” in a crowd; surrounded by trees of different species. Yet it was the one dripping in sunlight. I wondered if anyone else had ever even seen it look like that  before.

unnamed-1
Don’t be afraid to be different…

unnamed-2
It was so much more shiny in reality. I love the pluck of this sun-struck tree!

I miss the outside when I don’t go.  I work indoors now, and when the days are busy and long, or cold and miserable, I don’t go to the woods at all.  It bothers me not to have this tiny escape.  The urge to follow the path to the trees some days is quite insistent.  

 

When I worked as a mail carrier, Mother Nature didn’t have to push me quite so hard. Outdoors was a given. I couldn’t help but observe natural cycles in action.  I brushed past buds and first crocuses. I was met by fall bugs seeking warmth in the crevices of dark mailboxes. I even, in the right place at the very right moment, caught a glimpse of late-summer Blue Flag Iris growing wild.  In short,I saw the change of the seasons as easily as I read the words on the envelopes and fliers between my fingertips.

unnamed-15
One of my more recent shots. The forest is changing again!

I have to force myself to pay a little more attention now.  Like so many others, I don’t have to go outside.  It’s just something I endeavour to do.  I am fallible.  I am easily distracted.

Still, even at my most distracted, I think Autumn has always been my favourite.  The trees themselves may be bare or nearly so, but the wooded landscape is far from lifeless. I love the moss, and the brilliant shades it boasts, even late into the season.. I love the cacophony of the leaves that litter the ground.  I also cannot help but love the proliferation of strange mushrooms in their multitude of unexpected shapes and arrangements. You might find the strangest specimen standing alone, or a circle of frilly brothers and sisters keeping unexpected vigil. I love those perfect days where the temperature is just crisp enough to tell you to keep moving, and to whisper of impending winter.

unnamed-14
This is pretty amazing to me. Fungus is neato!

I have a history of wandering.  Trails through the forest, going precisely nowhere, suit me perfectly.  I love the mystery that lurks there, and the fact that we as humans don’t fully understand everything about how it works.

Life is complicated.  2016 has been so hard on so many people. This fact only heightens for me the spiritual importance of creating a built-in time-out.  Ordinary breathing space on ordinary days. I’m not saying a walk in the forest will cure your sadness.  I’m just saying there’s a lot that clean air, mossy undergrowth and being awed by the wilderness can fix.

Yours in continued observations and aimless wanderings,

-Jennnq

unnamed-3
Me, pretty much in my happy place.

Non Navel-Gazing Friday

Earlier today I was writing some intense, navel-gazing foolishness about me, and all my complex inner workings, and how I had been feeling sad recently. (A lot of the reason why I haven’t been writing here much.)

A whole bunch of journal-appropriate venting about how I might seem one way, and be feeling another.

The drama.

That kind of writing never really works for me.  Every time I try to explain about my own mental health, I just sort of graze over it. Fluff it up. Work around it.  Never depressed.  Maybe just “blue.”  “Anxious,” not, “suffering from relentless anxiety.”  Obviously, there are reasons for that, (who likes to admit to what is often perceived as weakness?) but I think that I’m ready to skip all of that crap for today.

Hence I’m scrapping most of what I wrote.  Even some of the pretty words.  No need to dance around how I feel or who I am.  There’s also need for me to make myself out to be some kind of victim, or to feel sorry for myself because I am this extra-sensitive, squishy person on the inside.  No need to play myself a tiny sonata on a teensy-tiny violin.

I’m not actually “crazy.”  I may like to dance and sing and dye my hair green, and I may spontaneously decide that I ABSOLUTELY MUST LEARN HOW TO YODEL, but I’m not now, nor have I ever been “crazy” in the negative sense of that loaded word.  I am firmly in this reality.  I am not dangerous.  I am non-violent.  I am intelligent and  loving and do not intend to do harm to myself or to anyone else.

But yeah, in case I haven’t made it clear, I know a little about anxiety and depression.

The world we live in, how our lives our designed, and the pace of life mean there are so many others like me; regular people who happen to be no stranger to inner darkness and self-doubt, or seem to have an over-active panic-button.  If you don’t deal with those things, well, congratulations, because I hardly think they make me special.  (Watch an all-news station for a while and try to keep yourself in a good mood! Attempt to attain a laundry list of societal check-boxes deemed necessary to make one ‘successful’ and stay relaxed!)

But it’s FRIDAY, and I really do feel fine, after all.  I don’t really want to wallow, or sing a song about the darkness.

(Although I’d be happy to listen to something BY The Darkness…)

If you’re like me, I don’t think you should either.  Plan to do something this weekend that gets your blood flowing and makes you happy.  Don’t get lost in your own head.  Find a reason to be grateful.  Hug your cat.  Phone a friend.  Get distracted!

Let’s look up from our navels for a while.

-Jennnq

Green Smoothies, Getting a Job, and that Terrible Budget…

I’m going to go ahead and call this past week an all-round interesting one.  I will say that, although I STILL do not have any set-in-stone plans for my future, and things are still feeling very up in the air right now.  (The excitement!) I believe that things will work out for the best, and I am very curious about the opportunities the Universe is currently presenting me with.

As of right now, I actually DO have a part-time, and fairly unexpected job. (!)  My ex-boss from 4 years ago, back when I was writing commercials, is…now my boss again.  I met with her earlier this week, and I have been invited back on a part-time basis.  Very cool.  It actually felt amazing to be back in the building after 4 years away.  (It was terrifyingly also a little like ‘coming home’!)  I am excited to use my writing skills once more, and I am thrilled to see some folks I haven’t talked to in a while, as well as to meet some of the new-to-me faces around the building.  I’m pleased to at least see where this thing leads.

I also managed to do a little soul-searching and to revamp my diet.  I think feeling a little blue kind of derailed my regular eating.  When you start eating crappy food, it can be really hard to stop, and I had definitely noticed that I sorta fell off the wagon.  I also know how good I COULD feel with the right food, so I am deep into raw food again. I say “again,” because I have experimented with raw veganism in the past.  

I want to reassure those of my friends who may worry about me, however.  This time, I am NOT doing things with an iron-clad strict approach.  I am also NOT even eating entirely vegan (just a lot of vegan-friendly food), and I have every intention of sitting down to a decent, cooked supper most nights.  (Jason would have it no other way!)  I am not aiming to be perfect, only to put what I know about proper diet into action.  Hey, who doesn’t like to feel good?

Right now, I am ramping up the amount of fruits and veggies I eat during the bulk of the day, and, again, I aim to have a heavier meal with my family in the evenings.  This sort of approach (based on SOME of the thinking in the highly-popular “Raw ‘til 4” movement) works really well for me, and makes me feel very alive.  Again, for anyone who knows me, I want to stress that this is so that I can feel/perform my best.  I am NOT restricting calories, just crappy food.  I always find that a couple of days with a LOT more greens and fruit-packed smoothies will make me feel like wonderwoman.  🙂

In the realm of positive change, I really think I’ve eased up on myself  more recently, and that’s a good thing.  I’m 33, I’m 5’5”, and I guess now I’ll never be a teen model. 😉  I still love experimenting with fashion, and I love makeup, but yes, there are times when I know I may be using it out of insecurity.  Like, when I worry about my uneven complexion, and wind up using corrector, tinted moisturizer, bronzer, blush and highlighter all at once.  

I want to stress that there is NOTHING wrong with any of that stuff, and I am NOT about to give up my bronzer or anything, but when you feel like you NEED it…that’s a bit of a warning sign.  

I had a good think earlier the week, and I am proud to say that other than moisturizer and sunscreen (my poor nose always burns!) I have been leaving my skin goop-free.  You know what else guys?  I look totally fine.

So I guess that’s it.  Some distinctly interesting possibilities in my life right now, a lot of bananas and dates, and learning to live with my natural self.

Oh, and the Newfoundland budget is flaming terrifying, so I made this:Library

5 Cool Tunes I’m Listening to

Every morning when I get up, I turn on the radio.  My car is full of CD’s.  I will sing at the drop of a hat, and usually for much less than that.  I prefer to shower only when the mini Bose speaker we have is hooked up to my phone via Bluetooth, and it’s playing one of my awesome YouTube playlists.  Did I mention my YouTube playlists???  I have one for everything, of course!  Workouts, summers on the deck, late at night, parties, and several for Hallowe’en. 😉

Then there are the records Jason and I listen to, and the occasional concerts and live shows we love to get out for (how we actually met).  I also couldn’t forget all of those hours logged listening to my favourite jams as I run across the city, or lift weights, or, well, basically do anything.  (I even had a birthing playlist, for when I was in hospital with my daughter.  At one point, I scrapped it entirely in favour of Rob Zombie, but that’s a whole other story!)  

The obvious truth is, I simply can’t imagine my life without music.  It’s part of almost everything I do, and it still holds the power to make me excited every day.

So, I’m passing on a few audio goodies.  Just 5 songs I love.  I am aiming to be quite varied here, so if you hate one of these, chances are there might still be a surprise here you will appreciate!      

 

  • “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”  A well-known classic, but this version is extra-special.  This one is the performance at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions.  EVERY artist here is a heavy-hitter, but if you HAVEN’T seen this cut (yes, I know it’s been going around), you simply must watch it and wait.  You will probably think it is quite good.  And THEN PRINCE will show up, and he will MELT YOUR FACE OFF.  I’m not kidding.  His guitar solo at the end is enough to leave the finest guitarists gaping in his wake. Get ready to chant “we’re not worthy!!!”

 

  • “Frenzy”  It’s awesome to go way back musically sometimes.  This song is from 1957, and it is…well, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins doesn’t really have any equal, so it’s hard to describe.  I have never heard another voice like this.  It might just put a smile on your face! 🙂

 

  • “Mr. Midnight”  We play The Devil Makes Three a LOT around the house, but I realize they aren’t that well-known.  This is not the type of music high school me would have approved of, as it is bluegrass, but I absolutely LOVE IT now.  I can thank Jason for this one. It’s fun, the musicians are talented, and it might just win you over to the twangy side too.  Check it out!

 

  • “She’s a Bad Mama Jama”  I had no idea that I wanted to be a “bad mama jama” before I heard this totally sweet old-school disco track.  It turns out that I do!  I do want be a “bad mama jama,” Carl Carlton.  I do!  Shake it!

 

  • “Are You Satisfied”  I like boppy dance music, but I dislike a lot of pop music.  I’m not a fan of sub-par singers who are relying on auto-tune to give them vocal power.  Let’s face it, a lot of modern pop certainly feels that way!  It was actually my daughter who turned me on to Marina and the Diamonds.  I haven’t loved a singer this instantly since Florence + the Machine came along!  She is TOTALLY a pop singer, but this gal has a gloriously dramatic voice.  She is capable of really nice live high notes many singers wouldn’t touch, and some truly resounding lows that a lot of female vocalists simply do not have.  It’s pop music, but it’s GOOD pop music.  Try it.  Ya might just bop around the house!

I hope all of the sounds that greet your ears this weekend are a blessing to your soul!  Have a great one! 

-Jennnq

Happiness Tips for the Unemployed (and Underemployed)

Society is pretty relentless in showing us what “success” looks like.  We know it well from television shows, music videos and social media.  It is a sun-drenched life of privilege and freedom.  It is a life where money is no object, and where everyone is almost effortlessly beautiful and popular.  It is, of course, what many of us want for ourselves.

Unfortunately, lots of us must grow up to face a life that looks very different from the life of our hopes and dreams. No one’s goal is to be unemployed, or to feel underemployed and underutilized at work.  The child within us, the one with the big ideas, cannot help but become dissatisfied.  Where are those awards?  The accolades?  Where is the totally sweet company car?  Where is all the money that the media tells us over and over again that if we just work really really hard for, we will certainly get?  (Not to mention the big house, the beautiful, adoring partner, the luxurious vacations and, these days, the thousands of online followers!)

It can seem like we want to collectively sweep anyone who isn’t at the top of their game under the rug.  Like we would rather ignore them until they get their eyebrows on fleek and some dolla dolla bills in their bank account.  That’s hell on the ego, and with the current Newfoundland budget, it could also turn into a lot of sweeping.  

So, what do you do if you’re the one facing tough times?  How do you keep up your happy if your life isn’t quite the vision of success you were hoping to achieve by now?  

Without further ado, here are my top ten tips for keeping your sanity, and your good mojo going when you are out of work, frustrated with your work situation or otherwise under financial strain.

  1. Pull yourself together!  The temptation exists to let yourself slide when your prospects take a downturn.  Fight this urge.  Get dressed and put on your face, if that’s what you need to do to make yourself feel great. (Eyeliner makes me feel better every time!)  Wear decent clothes.  Eat a sensible meal.  Make sure your household mess is tamed to a dull-roar.  It’s cheesy, but when you make your world look and feel better, it’s hard not to be at least a little happier.
  2. Honestly assess your situation.  It’s more convenient to play ostrich, but it’s way better for you to get this entire bummer situation out into the open first.  This could mean that you sit down alone with an open computer and an open mind, and/or this might be a conversation you have with your partner.  Either way, get out that budgeting app and look up your bank accounts too.  It’s time for a thorough examination of where you are, so that you can get a handle on what it will take to get to where you need to be.  Are your expenses basically covered?  Can you afford to save anything? Do you have a cushion in case things get worse?  Is there any spending you could conceivably cut back on?
  3. Take the best financial care of yourself possible.  Once you’ve taken stock, you can make a goal-oriented plan. Seeing a way to move forward the best way to fight the blues!  You might not get a job (or a raise) today, but you can at least be informed enough to know where you’re headed.  (It may be highly beneficial to read up on finances, or seek out a financial adviser.)
    Also, if you need to submit time-sensitive forms, (for EI purposes for example), make sure you do so early.  Write those due dates down, or put reminders in your technology!  It is depressing to have to ask for money, sure.  It is more depressing to have NO MONEY because you didn’t take the time to do some basic steps.
  4. GO OUTSIDE.  It turns out that staying inside worrying and staring at a computer screen isn’t very happiness-inducing.  Don’t do this to yourself.  You DO have permission to go outside.  Even if it’s just for a little while, and especially if it’s sunny out.  I never come back home and think, ah damn, I shouldn’t have taken that half hour walk in the sunshine.  
  5. Plan your days.  If you go to bed knowing that you have no definite plans tomorrow, it can really drag you down.  But wait…why don’t you have any plans?  You may not be working, but, are you allocating some specific amount of your time to looking for a job?  Do you still practice your hobbies? Do you make time for that walk we just talked about?  A full, planned day when you are not working will keep your spirits up, and help you be more productive.
  6. Maintain a BUDGET.   I mentioned a budgeting app earlier.  It doesn’t have to be an app, but that’s certainly one convenient way to go.  I am surprised by the number of adults I know who don’t keep track of personal finances somehow.  It is so worthwhile!  If you don’t want to use app and you like excel, or some other method, use that, but do something.  Simply ‘hoping for the best’ money-wise is rarely a prudent approach. Track your budget, and actually log what you spend your money on. You could be very surprised!  
  7. Don’t fixate.  If you are taking good financial care of yourself, you are allocating time in your day for your job hunt, and you are trying your best to be on top of your budget, give yourself a break.  You can worry about money when you do budget stuff, or when you actually sit down to pay the bills, but not for the rest of the day.  If you have to, you could even write down your money worries to address later when you find them cropping up in your mind.  You are allowed to use your mind for other things.  (Yes, you are even allowed to be happy!)
  8. Hobbies.  You have to do the things that make you “you,” even if you feel down. Whether it’s singing, or lawn darts, or Filipino stick fighting, or putting together giant puzzles in the basement, include some time in your plan for things that bring you genuine joy.  These small pockets of activity will brighten your mood, and that tends to spill over into the rest of your life.  
  9. Treat yourself.  Ok, if money is tight and/or you’re between jobs, this might not amount to a weekend at a fancy resort.  How about a new lipstick?  A cool t-shirt?  A haircut or a book to read?  Even if your resources are limited, you can usually afford the occasional something that puts a smile on your face.  Plan to make those small indulgences semi-regularly.  
    If even a few dollars seems impossible, make a list of non-monetary treats you can rotate through.  You and your partner could exchange 15-minute massages.  You could make a date with a friend for a walk in the park.  You could make a trip to your local library. You could take a long, leisurely hour of yoga.  The most important thing is that this be a brief celebration of you!  We are all human after all, and  we all need some excitement…just like how every calorie-counter needs a cheat meal!
  10. Maintain Your Contacts and Stay Professional.  It is important to not let any simmering resentment cloud your judgement on what constitutes “professional” behaviour.  Do not burn bridges.  Do not spurn former colleagues.  Do not simply disappear either.  Instead, challenge yourself to keep on top of your industry.  Study up.  Periodically email people whom you admire in your field.  Check out forums surrounding whatever it is you do.  You will feel much better if you are a part of the conversation.
    As well, remember that employers typically waste no time in checking whatever publicly available information there is to be had on prospective employees.  This underscores the need for an impeccable online profile.  Make sure you represent yourself well in general.  Are you someone YOU would hire?   

    All in all, good luck, keep that smile on your face, and keep trying. I really do know it’s tough out there!
    -Jennnq

    Manatee

The Happiness Battle Plan

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?”

bodybuilder_cartoon
“I’m not so sure you are…”

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.

2016-03-14 23.28.45

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.

jerry springer
Is this show even still a thing???

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! 🙂
-Jennnq

Taking My Artist Vitamins

Months and months ago, I auditioned for a local movie.  They were looking for “punk” characters, and they were also looking for people in my age group.  It seems rare when projects are looking for either, so I got excited.

I signed up, got the sides (excerpts from the script), and got into it.  I printed them out and marked them up.  I repeated them aloud and mentally.  I memorized them.  I spoke them more than once to my cat.  Got to know them backwards and forwards.  Knew the exact intonations I wanted to use in certain places.  At home, I had this down.

Then, I got to the audition, and as SOON as I was there, I was whisked into this room that was dark, except for one bright light and the camera in my face, and it was “action” right away, with no chance to breath.

It did.

Not.

Go.

Well.

I managed to get through the first part of it, and then I just…kinda froze?  Not my finest hour, and definitely not what I would consider typical!

Anyway, I asked to start the scene over again (because OMG), and the lady said to me, and I shit you not, “No, that’s ok, we’ve seen enough.”

Ouch.  Mortifying to say the least.  Probably my worst audition ever.  Especially for something that had seemed so easy peasy in my bedroom

Some time later, I spoke to my producer/director/actor friend Alix about it.  I was still embarrassed, but she laughed it off, and said that everyone needs to take their “actor vitamins” once in a while.  

Well, guess I was due again today.  Holy Flip though.  Do these vitamins ever suck.  Only, I guess I can’t really call them “actor vitamins”  since this time they’re not acting, but writing-related.  Maybe just “artist vitamins”?

That kind of works.  There could be a whole slew of “artist vitamins”!  In my mind, those vitamins would include things like outright rejections, rejections that suck more because they take endless weeks, and of course the undying expectation that you can and will work for free, because you love your art, and you need ALL OF THE EXPOSURE.

Ugh.  It’s hard to be bouncy.  Rejection sucks.

A part of me feels like I am not even supposed to write that, or say that.  Like it’s sacrilegious.  Like I just get to carry on, pretending that nothing weird happened today, and that I am tough, and remind myself quietly that even if I DIDN’T get the job I wanted,  the Universe has bigger plans for me, and everything else.

Blah blah blah whatever.  I know all of those stories.  But I didn’t get a job that I wanted today.  Boo.  At the end of the day, I understand that, and it’s ok, but guess what?  It still blows, and it’s a bitter pill to swallow, and I don’t have to like it.  Damn it.

So give me my time to sulk, and to be a jerk, and to let the vitamins work their magic.

Ha.  As silly as it sounds, thinking of rejection in this way is helpful.  Just knowing that these “artist-vitamins” are so very, very common makes it all a little better to think about.  It worked on my brain after that God-awful audition, and it’ll help me now.  A reminder of the universality of suck.  Really, who HASN’T blown an audition?  Mucked up a job interview?  Who HASN’T been turned down for some cool thing?  I bet even great actors, great writers, and great producers, people involved in the very best projects, have “artist-vitamin” stories that could make us all shudder and anxiety-vomit.  Those people are still A-ok.   

I’m still ok today too.  I just get to take some more vitamins.  Hell, given my love of supplements and choking down weird concoctions, this should be easy.  Pop in those rejection-filled “artist-vitamins” between the probiotic protein smoothie and the vitamin B.

😦

-Jenn

20160303_162657
Crappy day. Snapped this though.

 

P.S. I swear I’m alright.  I have other projects to work on. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Critical Happiness

Hello, and welcome to my brand-spankin’-new blog!  🙂

If you’ve been following me for a while, or if you’ve ever read a “garden variety punk” post, then THANK YOU.   (If we’re completely new to each other, that’s awesome too…no presuppositions!)

If you want to know more about me, you can read what’s in the craftily-titled “About Me” section above.  Really though, I’m just another carbon-based life-form riding along on this tiny blue-green marble, hurtling through space at ridiculous speed, trying not to trip over my own shoelaces.  I’m no super-athlete.  Or super-genius.  Honestly, I’m not even that great in the kitchen either.  What I AM is someone who isn’t afraid to work hard, and who is driven by natural curiousity.

This leads me to my goals.  What am I hoping to accomplish here?  What’s the purpose of “Critical Happiness”?  Why is this site called that?  Why do l have to be so critical of happiness anyway?  I mean geez, what is my actual problem?  Why am I continuing to write these rhetorical questions to myself?  Will Tom marry Sue, or finally leave her for Rachel??  WHAT IS ANY OF THIS EVEN ABOUT???

*Ahem*  I do have a couple of ends in mind when writing to you, actually.  Firstly, I am a huge nerd, and I miss the work of blogging.  It’s good practice.  It’s fun.  It’s personal.  (It’s amazing how much better it looks by the third edit.)   I also know that I’m a sucker for genuine feedback, and that’s part of what makes blogging more exciting than writing in your diary.

Secondly, I need a way to represent myself that allows me the freedom to write as I please.  Here, I can create writing reflective of my ideals and visions.  Who doesn’t prefer their own rules to someone else’s agenda?  I get to be as rant-y as I want and that’s cool because it’s my blog.  In fact, I can talk about all the baddies if I feel like it; religion, politics, even about how funny pictures of Donald Duck with Donald Trump’s face are.  (Hint: very)

donald-trump-duck

Thirdly, and most importantly, I am back, writing in this new blog because I want to share this crazy happiness-chasing life-journey thing with you!  As cheesy as it sounds, it really is a journey, and I don’t have all the answers, but I am at least open to sharing, and to connecting with other happiness-seekers.  You know who you are.

Critical Happiness

Now that you know a bit about why I’m here, what’s the deal with the name anyway?

On the most basic level, it means what it says.  Happiness is critical.  Life kinda sucks without it.  This blog is part of my belief that working to create and preserve happiness is absolutely vital.  It’s arguably the most important pursuit of your life.  If you don’t have happiness, you don’t have much.  If you live in a giant mansion but you’re miserable, you may as well be in any old hut.  Simple enough.

To get deeper into the “critical” thing, I also believe that thinking critically is a path to better understanding. Understanding leads to increased control over personal circumstances, and that personal autonomy leads to a better chance at happiness.  If you have at least some control over your life, you have a shot of feeling good about it.  That’s why a part of my concept behind this blog is an element of deconstruction.  Blind acceptance is dangerous.  Don’t assume the prescribed recipes for happiness are the right ones for you.  I believe in the validity of questioning them, testing them, and observing what some of the greats do. The better we become at taking in and evaluating information, the better we can be at unpacking real habits, ideas and ways of living that promote lasting happiness.

Lastly, I am keen to link the concept of happiness to the idea of critical mass.  Simply put, if you manage to do the right stuff, in the right order (e.g. good food, adequate sleep, reasonable exercise) you might just find that you wake up happy.  I love this idea of being able to push yourself, bit by bit, and piece by piece into happiness.  Like, if you lead the best life you can, you eventually just won’t be able to help it!

It’ll happen, like some kind of a happiness…

EXPLOSION!!

 

download (1)

(Honestly though, I hope it’s somewhat less violent than this.)

Let’s have some fun,

-Jennnq