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I stumbled upon a golden opportunity to start teaching my 3 year old a valuable life lesson yesterday. We started a new little weekly tradition of spending Sundays with my parents. They live about 45 minutes away so we start off our drive at the local Barnes & Noble, pick up a latte for me, a cappuccino to bring my mom and the NY Times for all of us to read when we get there and then head off on our drive. Yesterday, Drew was holding onto a new pair of sneakers I bought her for when we are out there. My parents have 6 acres of land with woods and we spend most of our time there outdoors so she has been in need of new sneakers for trudging around out there. She had the box in her hands and took the lid off and was playing with the sneakers, then tried to put them back in the box and put the lid on. But she couldn’t get the sneakers into the box properly so the lid wasn’t going on right. She FLIPPED OUT in frustration, screamed, threw the box and shoes down, folded her hands across her chest and started glaring out the window. I watched all of this in the rear view mirror as I drove.

Usually, the 45 minute drive each week is my time to reflect on my life and the things around me and I spend it either thinking of the things I’m happy with that I’m changing daily within myself or think of things that I need to keep working on. This week, as a result of the incident with Drew, I decided to use that time to talk to her about some stuff in life.

I stopped her from screaming and asked her to take deep breaths while I counted to 10. This is our way that we get her to calm down regularly and she responds really well to it. She immediately calmed down and I proceeded to talk to her about how sometimes things don’t work how we want them to but we can choose to either throw a fit and scream about it and be mean and negative or we can slow ourselves down, look at the situation calmly and work on a solution. Frustration is a normal emotion. The reason she was having problems and got frustrated was that instead of changing how she was trying to put the shoes in the box, she just kept doing the same thing that wasn’t working and it, surprise, kept not working!

After slowing down and calming herself down, she picked up the box, tried putting the shoes in a different way and they went in properly and the lid went on as it should. Smiles all around. And she proclaimed “It worked! I tried harder and it worked! I’m happy and having fun now!”

Exactly.

Things aren’t always how we want them to be in life. We may expect something to happen one way and when it doesn’t we can either keep forcing something that doesn’t work or we can try something new and find a way that makes life happy and fun for us. Being able to adapt to things without throwing a fit or becoming negative is the first step to finding a new way. It doesn’t have to be THE way. The beauty of individuals is that we all have a way that we see things working. What works for me may not work for the next person. And things that I see working for other people aren’t things that would work for me in my life. I can either try to force something that isn’t right or I can embrace the way I see and find the happiness and fun in it.

I feel good about the lesson I was able to start teaching my daughter when it came up yesterday. I don’t want her to think she has to do everything the way she sees others doing around her. I want her to think for herself, find the way that works for her and go with it. That is how she’ll find happy in her life.

Yesterday, I posted a list of 10 Things to Eliminate from Your Life Today. Today, I thought I’d share some things to make sure are part of your life for finding some semblance of happiness and sanity.

  1. Exercise – You don’t have to win an ironman, just start moving more.
  2. Time just for you – it doesn’t have to be extravagant, but setting aside even just 10 minutes with no distractions that is all for you to do what you please with no one else demanding anything of you, take it. Everyday.
  3. A hobby – if you don’t already have something that you love to do and is your way to escape, find something. And make sure you make time to do it.
  4. Good friends – no you don’t have to go out and make new ones. But connect with the ones you have. Put a smile on their face. Pick up the phone and say hello and that you are thinking of them. Keep them in your life to add value to theirs and yours.
  5. Risk-taking – be bold, take a chance, let go of your fear of failure and try something new!
  6. Experiences/travel – doesn’t have to be exotic. it could just be a daytrip to the next town over. Get out more and discover new to you things. Broaden your horizons.
  7. Positivity – keep a smile on your face, look on the bright side, appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t. Adding a positive perspective to your life will change you at the core quickly and you won’t ever want to go back to being negative.
  8. Organization – both your time and surroundings need to be organized in a way that suits you in order to be productive and reduce stress.
  9. A budget – if you don’t have one, get one and stick to it!
  10. Sleep – go to bed earlier. I struggle with this so much even though I know that when I get more sleep, I am happier, more relaxed, more focused and able to take on all the other things that add fulfillment to my life.

Drew and I were snuggling on the couch last night and somehow it came up about mommy being happy. I asked her if she thinks I’m happy. She replied yes, of course! Then I asked what makes me happy and she replied “Me and Daddy and Eli. Oh…and me not making messes!”

She is one smart cookie. I guess I’m doing something right since she didn’t name anything material 🙂

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I used to live in a big house, I was a working mom while hubby stayed home with our daughter, and I spent money on anything and everything.

What in the world happened to me?

Reality, I guess.

I loved working at my job until my daughter was born. After that, I spent everyday wishing I was home with her instead of at work. I didn’t care what it took, I wanted to be home with her. And here I am. 1500 miles away. A lot less money. 2 kids. A simple life. And a lot more happiness than I ever imagined.

I have to remind myself sometimes of what life was like then. I got up at 6:30 everyday to be at work and I was home by 5 to see our daughter for a few short hours before bedtime. I had to hear about first roll-overs and first smiles and first steps and first words from my husband. I had to miss so many things.

While I was missing those things, I was filling my life with other stuff I thought I needed to be happy. I shopped all the time for new clothes, I spent a lot of money on food, travel, whatever my heart desired really. I thought all those things were making me successful, envied, wonderful, fabulous and happy but they weren’t.

I lived in a big stark house with white walls that I didn’t have the time or energy to decorate and put any effort into. I just went to work and came home for dinner and sleep.

Today, I have found that not only being with my daughter and now my son too, has brought me the happiness and fulfillment that I expected, but I have found so many other wonderful things along the way.

I now live by the beach. I used to hate the beach. All that icky salt water? Not for me. I grew up vacationing at a lake in Upstate NY and spending my summers in Algonquin Park in Canada. I was a lake girl. No need for the ocean. Now, here I am living just a few short miles from the wonder that is the Atlantic Ocean. I love that I have within my reach something so vast and amazing. I love that I can go somewhere that immediately feels like a sweet escape even if it’s only 3 miles from my home.

I live in a small house, one that oozes love and charm and character because I have the time, energy and desire to make it that way. I have learned from this home to appreciate so much, and that living simply is living beautifully.

I am not who I was 2 1/2 years ago when I left my job. The job that made me feel important. The one that paid our bills. The one that was entirely thankless and I was forgotten the day I walked out the door. The job I do know is very much a thankless one too, but I think in the years to come the kids who don’t know it yet will appreciate all that their parents do for them today. I am fortunate enough now to have a hubby who is pretty good at telling me how lucky he is to have me raising our kids and making sure they grow up happy and healthy.

So much in life is unexpected. My life today is completely that – unexpected. But appreciated and valued. It’s worth more than any paying job I could do.

So, what happened to me? My kids happened. This move happened. This house happened. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

I realized something today as I was thinking about the days that I was in debt. I was thinking about what might be my Financial Epiphany and realized that it came one day that I was paying my pile of credit card bills. I got mad. Really mad. At myself. That there I was spending nearly every last penny I’d earned day in and day out to pay for stuff that I had bought weeks, months, years earlier. It pissed me off. How could I be so stupid? What I had earned just that day was already accounted for to go to a credit card bill for something that I had convinced myself I needed so long ago.

I decided I had to stop and stop I did.

I’ve talked about the entire journey in a guest post at Paid Twice, Why Credit Cards Are Not My Friends. Still today, I think back on that time and how I thought I had it all. I had all the clothes I wanted, all the stuff I wanted, all the things a girl could ask for. But I was miserable. I think a lot of my spending was because of the eating disorder I had that I have talked about before. I can think back to times I would be standing in dressing rooms and try on a pair of size 24 jeans at Guess and be all proud that I squeezed my 5’11” frame into them so therefore I must buy them for the $88 price tag. Really, you could insert whatever clothing item you want. If it was the size I wanted to be and it fit, I bought it. Like I was proving something to myself or the world by doing so.

I feel sadness when I look back on those years. Sad for who I was. Who I thought then that I needed to be. I feel sad that I didn’t know better or know that I was looking for happiness in entirely all the wrong places.

If I had only known then what I know now. That happiness can’t be bought. Happiness isn’t a size on a tag or a label on a car or the size of a home. Happiness is being okay with what is. Happiness is not needing MORE stuff to feel fulfilled. Happiness is stretch marks from the pregnancies that carried beautiful children that add more to life than anything you can buy. Happiness is making a house a home. Happiness is love and friendship.

So here I am today, debt free. Do I ever wish I had more than my life can afford? If I am being honest, sure I do. But when I think of what I’d have to sacrifice to have more today, I know it’s not right. I know that being able to invest in the future is so much more important than what I might think I need today. My kids have what they need, I have what I need. And I can put money toward dreams of tomorrow instead of paying for yesterday now that I am debt-free. It’s a place I’d recommend to anyone. And I know it’s a place a lot of my friends are trying to get to. To just think of the possibiltites when you have all those credit card payments or other debt or house payments to put elsewhere – toward your life today and your life tomorrow. I know that it isn’t reality for many but I don’t do anything but cheer for those getting out of debt. Because I know how much better their life will be when it’s gone. I know this side of it so I can’t help but cheer and anticipate the day they see what I do. A brighter tomorrow. A more fulfilling today. It’ll come and it’s fabulous.