100 happy days

For the last few months I have been a grumplesaurus rex to be around. Work stress + life stress + miserable weather has left me very cranky. I was hoping once the cold weather and snow lifted that so would my mood. But alas it has not.

I came across a post with the hash tag #100happydays. I followed it back and found there’s a campaign currently happening to promote happiness.

I thought perhaps in order to cheer myself up and remind myself to enjoy the tiny moments that I should sign up to participate. Most posts will be via twitter but I wanted to explain my posts for the next 100 days.

A long time ago I participated in a 365 picture project so I see this as an extension of that. I already convinced a friend who has also found herself in the blues to join me in the project. Day 1 and I already got to see a pretty amazing sunrise via text.

Join us and show off what makes you happy.

Day 1

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The great Facebook experiment

I didn’t set out to do a Facebook experiment, but that’s what happened.

On New Year’s Eve 2012, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. I wasn’t doing what I wanted for NYE and I really didn’t want to see what others were doing without me. So I decided to unplug for a bit so as not to compare my life with theirs. But it turns out, I really liked my time away from fb.  It was tough at first, but soon I forgot I even had an account and realized I didn’t care what others were posting on there either.

An entire year passed without me being on the site. I would periodically log in thinking I had missed something, but after five minutes I’d realize what a waste it was and deactivate my account again.

facebookWhat started out as a way of avoiding something, turned in to a far more interesting experiment, however. What I learned was that I had been an initiator of 90% of social interactions with certain friends. I felt it to some degree before, jokingly labeling myself “social director”, but I didn’t have any real evidence of such. But when I left Facebook, my friends left me. Texts lessened, IMs halted, and in-person hangouts stopped all together. Apparently if they didn’t see me post inane details of my life in a public forum, I ceased to exist in their consciousness. In fairness, I found myself not thinking about some of these people, too.

This year off gave me some time to re-evaluate who and what I needed in my life. I was able to branch out, meet new people, and make new friends. I hit some major adult milestones in the last year, but I shared them privately and not in social media. I am sad some of my old circle has not been able to share in my excitement. But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?

Friends float in and out of your life whether you want them to or not. I mourn some of those lost friendships, but realized some probably needed to go. I’ve been a lot happier this last year than I have been in ages. Coincidence? Probably not.

 

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What you once were isn’t what you want to be any more

I used to listen to this song. A lot.

If last.fm had been around at the time, my stats would look a lot different than they do now. It would have Wilco at the top of my most played list, and this song in the number one position.

I wish I could say I was listening to it for good reasons, but alas, that was not the case. Nine years ago, I found myself playing this on repeat on my drive to and from work. I had a job I hated, a career I loathed, and a me I despised. This was the soundtrack for the miserableness that was my life then.

I kept focusing in on the line “What you once were isn’t what you want to be any more”. It was optimistic to me which is exactly what I needed at a time when things looked so bleak. Jeff Tweedy seemed to be telling me what I was dealing with right then didn’t have to be my fate forever. I figured if I listened to him say it enough I might start believing it.

Some time after, I chose to make a change. I gave up my job, moved away, went to grad school, and became a new me and boy am I happy I did.

That said, I’ve been feeling the itch to listen to this song again on infinite repeat. While the situations are vastly different (I love my job, career, etc), there’s still this itch that hasn’t quite been scratched. Something that still needs to be changed to make me happy.

I noticed recently that every seven years or so I have what I would call a life-altering year. 2000 sparked a good five-year run of ridiculousness of the best kind. 2007 (despite ending terribly) marked a start of a lot of new friendships for me. If the pattern remains, I would say I’m due for another year full of positive change.

So maybe my Jeff Tweedy theory was right. If I listen to this song enough I can escape my fate. *crossing my fingers*

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Great expectations, we had the greatest expectations

Here’s the thing about work, there are rules and protocols that people need to follow. Here’s the thing about dating, none of those rules and protocols apply.

You see a job posting and criteria for the position. You have an outline and expectation for what the opening entails. In short, you sort of know what you’re getting yourself in to.

Keep-Calm-and-Lower-Your-Expectations1Dating is nothing like that. Initially, you have little idea what the other person expects. Are they looking for short term dating or something long lasting? Are they wanting a friend or something more? Rarely do you have any sense of what you’re getting yourself in to.

Upon being chosen for a position, your employer expects a level of loyalty they may or may not have earned yet. That level of loyalty in dating initially would creep out any person.

Work provides feedback of how you’re doing. Whether it’s a yearly review or just positive remarks on a job well done, you usually have some sense of how well you’re doing.

Dating should have positive feedback when your mate appreciates something you do. But that doesn’t always happen. And yearly reviews would be ridiculous (although periodically hearing things like “I’d appreciate if you’d make dinner more” would probably do wonders for most relationships).

Some days I think I would function better if dating were more business like. Would relationships be more successful if they followed that method?

I’ve been watching a show called Sister Wives which follows how one man and four women function in a plural marriage. Whatever your opinion on plural marriage, it’s interesting to see how they deal with the challenges of every relationship times four. They struggle with expectations and communication much like any other relationship.

This past season they worked to create a family mission statement. The idea being like a mission statement for any business – something to remind people the goals and expectations so they can remain focused on it.

I don’t know if this model is more fitting for a traditional marriage or those that have multiple parties invested in its success. But perhaps more marriages would survive if husbands and wives laid down their expectations before getting together.

But what if people were to lay out those expectations before deciding to date. Would people ever get together if they knew what the other was expecting?

I’ve sat on this post for a couple of months now, unable to figure out how to end it. My previous job paralleled my last serious relationship in that both were pretty emotionally abusive. Since taking my more recent job, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking how much it’s like dating a new person.

There are days when I think I have both under control and then other times when I wish they operated like I expected. But how effin boring would it be if they both went as planned?

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You won’t forget the one who’s making you shake

I’m back to loving The Head and the Heart so much. Tickets purchased to their Oct 24 show at the Egyptian Room. All is right with the world again.

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You say I choose sadness, that it never once has chosen me

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Growing up, I loved autumn. I looked forward to it all year. Halloween! Jumping in piles of leaves! Bonfires! Add in that my birthday typically fell on the first day of fall, how could I not love it?

As I get older, I have embraced the cooler temps and sweater weather. Fall means cardigans and knee socks and pumpkin spiced lattes ( I allow myself but one all season). I still look forward to my birthday. But the excitement of autumn has been replaced with a fear of the October doldrums.

I lost my dad to lung cancer 6 years ago. He was diagnosed on October 15. We buried him on December 15. Two months. While I know the rapid pace was better for him – he didn’t have to suffer long – that timeline haunts me every year.

Years earlier, my brother had a heart attack in October. The next Thanksgiving, he had more surgery for his heart. And by the third year, he had triple bypass surgery before Christmas.

My love of zippy weather has been replaced with a genuine fear for what terrible thing will hit me this year. Usually I can stave off the depression until October and I suffer through until after the start of the new year. Some years are easier than others. Some find me struggling more than usual (I’m looking at you 20 pound weight gain last year).

This year Mr. Blue settled in early, taking up residency before my birthday so I know it’s going to be a long ride.

I was diagnosed several years ago with dysthymia, a low-level, chronic form of depression. It means that I can still get up and function daily and most people have zero idea what’s going on behind my mask. And frequently things are good, but just as frequently things aren’t.

For those people who have never had to deal with depression themselves or with anyone close to them, low-level, chronic depression seems like something I could easily get over. Just pull up your boot straps and keep going.

But it’s not that easy as anyone who goes through it knows.

This conversation came up recently with a coworker who, shortly after meeting, admitted to having depression and having a partner who doesn’t get it. I related to her situation. I empathized with her.

I was impressed with her ability to be honest and candid about her experience after such a short time of knowing me. And I was impressed with my own ability to speak out about my personal struggle with someone I work with. As I could feel the grasp of this year’s depression growing tighter, my words to her became my words to myself. I was speaking to her, but more importantly, I was speaking to myself.

Two non-medical resources I frequently recommend to people are Hyperbole and a Half (Her two posts (1, 2) on depression are pretty spot on) and The Bloggess. While both capture the topic in humorous ways, the accuracy of their insights is uncanny. I highly recommend checking out The Bloggess’ video on how depression lies. It’s not funny, but extremely helpful.

 

This week I had a few moments when I realized my happiness mask was slipping. My reaction to a request from my boss was out of character. I thought back to that Hyperbole and a Half post and realized I was having my own breakdown of sorts.

“I could no longer rely on genuine emotion to generate facial expressions, and when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable.”

This panel gets me EVERY TIME. As much as I try to fake it, eventually everyone figures it out. And generally it ends with the other party thinking “wtf is up with her?”

ADTWO13Well, depression is what’s up with me. Forgive me if I’m not myself for a while.

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52 books in 52 weeks? Try 192 in 39 weeks

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I was home at my mom’s this weekend looking for scrap paper to make myself a note. Instead I came across the above picture. It took me a minute to realize what I was seeing. I had come across my mom’s list of books she has read this year. That’s an index card, folks. Where I have Goodreads, my mom has an old fashioned index card.

Check out the number of books and the tiny writing! The number in the upper left hand corner is the total number to date for that month. I found the one for September. 192. 192 books in 39 weeks. That’s like 5 books a week. A book roughly every day and a half. I consider myself reader, but those numbers blow me away.

I remember my dad being the voracious reader when I was growing up.  I don’t know that he ever had a library card, but I remember buying him books all the time or people would give him whatever they were discarding. We’d buy him five books at Christmas, and he would have them read by New Year’s. He loved spy novels and westerns, but he would read anything you gave him. One year, my aunt was giving away boxes and boxes of Harlequin romance novels and my dad made his way quickly through those. He got to the point he was rereading things because there was nothing left on the shelves in the house.

But I don’t remember my mom being much of a reader. I know she said she liked to read, but she didn’t allow herself to do much of it because when she sat down to read, she basically didn’t get up until it was finished. She kept herself from starting a book so that things were accomplished around the house. Consequently, I didn’t see her read much when I was growing up.

So to see her complete 192 books thus far this year blows my mind. Where as my dad never had a library card, my mom is reading almost exclusively library books. I’m sure the librarians in town love her and are keeping their stats high.

Myself? I’ve read 24 books this year. I’m well above the average; however, I’m 13 books off pace to finish 52 books in 52 weeks this year. I’ve attempted it at least four years now and fallen short every time. But 24 books is nothing to sneeze at. But when I compare it to 192, I feel like I’m slacking, folks. Even if I currently have four different books started.

 

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