Happiness and Goals

My breakup in December really feels like a strong catalyst in my life. As I put my life back together afterward, I started wondering what I wanted it to be like. Being relatively new to Cleveland (at least living here as an adult), I didn’t have a lot that I was involved with. Especially because I was kind of lazy about putting down roots while I was with my ex.

All that has gotten me thinking a lot about who I am now and what I want to be like. How do I live the life I want? What makes me happy? What are my goals?

Sometimes, I get into these ruts where I just live very passively. I’ll spend my free time sitting on my couch devouring books or watching TV and not actively pursuing any of my goals. I’ll tell myself it’s because I’m busy or tired, but really I’m just being lazy.

I don’t want to live my life passively. I want to achieve my goals and dreams, but I can’t just sit around and wait for good things to fall into my lap.

I was recently reading one of Gretchen Rubin’s books on Happiness and it inspired me to take charge of my life and actively pursue my goals and dreams. Like her, I want to embark on a sort of Happiness Project. What she did, is spend an entire year focusing on being happy. Let me clarify one thing about happiness before I describe the project further. Happiness is not instant gratification. Happiness is something deeper- it involves both pleasure and meaning. Gretchen Rubin says in her book, “Happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.” I really identify with that statement and find it hard sometimes to do the things that will make me happy in the long term but might involve some effort or unhappiness in the short term.

In Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, she identified some goals and areas to focus on ahead of time- picking one major area per month and identifying smaller daily or weekly goals as well. It probably makes the most sense to begin in January, but I don’t want to wait that long, so mine will start on July 1st.

Here are my monthly goal areas:

July: Dating.

August: Exercise/Physical Health

September: New Friends

October: Self-Care/Mental Health

November: Writing

December: Family

January: Food

February: Work

March: House/Home

April: Creative Projects

May: Slow Down

June: Old Friends

I spent some time thinking about which goal area to go where, and had good reasoning for many of the areas. I’ll elaborate a little more on each as they come along throughout the year.

Let’s start with July. I picked dating first for a few reasons. First, I wanted to start with something fun. I thought about starting with exercise/health, but I knew that one would be particularly hard for me and I didn’t want my enthusiasm for this project to fizzle out before I’d even started. Additionally though, what I want more than anything else is to have a family- a loving, supportive partner and, eventually, children. Given that I’m single, dating seems like a good way to get there. Despite that, I find dating can be incredibly frustrating and depressing. The more unsuccessful dates I go on (unsuccessful being either me and/or the other person not wanting to move forward to date 2), the more I’m convinced I’m going to end up alone forever. This is, obviously, catastrophizing, but it still feels pretty shitty.

I think framing dating as a goal will help me focus on it in a more fun way. I’d like to daily check dating websites and go on at least one date each week in the month of July. I want to revamp my dating profiles and be enthusiastic about dating. But I also want to learn to trust myself. I have a bad habit of going on second dates with people I’m not interested in, because I find it hard to say no and I convince myself to give them another chance even if I really know I’m not interested. There’s no point in wasting the time or effort.

So goals for July:

-Revamp dating profiles

-Be enthusiastic

-Trust yourself

-Daily: check dating websites

-Weekly: go on at least one date

I’m excited to embark on this project and bring more overall happiness to my life!

It’s Okay to Be Sad

Today I realized that I’m still pretty bitter and sad about my breakup this past December. I had been trying to convince myself for so long that I was over him. If it was a good idea to breakup, surely my life must be better now and surely I shouldn’t miss him. I kept thinking that if I’m a strong person, I shouldn’t be sad anymore. I should be thankful, I should be doing better.

I’ve been trying to get involved with everything, partly because my coping mechanism for grief is to make myself so busy I don’t have time to be sad, and partly because I want to prove to myself that I have a better life. I’ve joined a boxing gym, I’ve started playing Magic, I started a Pathfinder campaign. I’ve said yes to getting involved with so many things at work that my colleagues constantly ask me how I’m handling it all. I love the new things I’ve started, but it hasn’t filled that emptiness inside me. The hole where my relationship used to be.

I’m past the stage where I miss him, but I’m not past grieving for the dream life I imagined us to have. My relationships never seem to work out like the movies- you meet someone and hit it off, you fall for each other, you have a beautiful wedding, beautiful children, and spend the rest of your lives together. That’s the life I want. That’s been my dream. And when I met Patrick, when we started a relationship, when we moved in together, when we took vacations together, I knew that would be our life. Except, it wasn’t. And it never could have been. But my heart still hurts for losing that dream. I’m not giving up on that life with someone, but neither am I getting engaged anytime soon.

I don’t miss him, but he’s still in my life. He’s in my life in the way I’m currently bleaching my dishwasher to clean it, like he showed me to do. He’s in my life in so many of the board games on my shelf that I loved first to play with him. He’s in my life in the garlic fries I now make for myself. He’s in my life in the king bed I bought for us that we built together and that I now sleep in alone. He’s in my life in these tears I now cry.

I don’t regret our relationship and neither do I regret breaking up with him. But I still grieve for the life that we’ll never have together.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. It’s advice that’s easy to give, but harder to take. But with this post, with this blog, with my life now, I’m trying to be honest and authentic. And part of that is admitting when I’m sad, and being okay with that.

Responsibility and Boxing

I’ve been delaying writing this post, because I am embarrassed to share this information. I don’t want to admit it to myself and I don’t want to admit it to others: I have gained 30 pounds since last year.

Of course, when I first noticed this trend, I looked for someone or something to blame. I first picked my anxiety medication. After all, I did start it about one year ago. That couldn’t be a coincidence, right? I talked with my psychiatrist, who assured me that it would be incredibly unusual for it to cause that much weight gain, but we could switch my meds to be certain. We did. It wasn’t the meds.

Next I was sure I had a thyroid problem. After all, they do run in my family and are related to weight gain. My psychiatrist didn’t think it was this either, but ordered a test for me anyway. I felt disappointed when the test came back normal. I had run out of excuses and realized, disturbingly, that I would prefer having a medical problem than have naturally gained weight. Who wants to have a medical problem? Just someone like me- someone who didn’t want to take responsibility for themselves.

It’s so easy to blame other people or things for your problems. If it’s not you, you don’t have to take the responsibility to fix it. But if you do blame everything but yourself, you’ll never be able to fix your own problems.

I’ve been really sensitive about weight gain and eating and especially after reading Beauty Sick. I’ll admit that a part of my motivation for eating right and exercising now is to lose weight, so I can fit into more of my clothes. But I also want to be healthy.

I’ve been trying to find ways to keep active that I enjoy. I recently went to a boxing class at Title Boxing Club (https://titleboxingclub.com/) Boxing is not something I ever really saw myself doing. But there was this gym I passed on the way to my house all the time. Plus I had just finished watching Season 2 of Sense8 and, let’s be honest, Sun is a huge bad-ass. I wanted to be strong, like her, and she boxes. So I figured I would give it a shot.

It was not what I was expecting. We started with 15 minutes of “warm-up” which was basically cardio and actually the hardest part of the workout. 4 minutes in, I was pretty sure I wanted to quit before we had even touched the bags. I toughed it out and enjoyed the 30 minutes of beating up a punching bag. The last 15 minutes of core were pretty tough too, but I think the adrenaline had kicked in enough at this point for me to not feel like I was going to die. The coaches gave me just the inspiration I needed to keep going, shouting things like “hard work pays off” and “we’re all in this together.” It was probably the hardest workout I had since my high school swim practices. But I felt AWESOME. I felt this huge sense of accomplishment- I had wanted to give up 4 minutes in, but I finished the whole hour. I loved the workout, and I usually hate anything that involves physical exertion. Importantly, I felt good about my body. That was the feeling Renee talked about in Beauty Sick. I loved my body in a way I hadn’t in a long time.

So. Take responsibility for yourself and your problems. Life is too short to be spent cowering in fear of them. Find what you love and makes you feel good and do it.

 

Writing and Relationships

This post comes to you from international waters! I’ve been on a Baltic cruise with my family, which has been a lot of fun.

Honestly, it’s made me feel pretty lazy- like I haven’t gotten much accomplished. Like I’m just wasting away my time instead of enjoying my life. Or maybe I just have difficulty relaxing. It’s hard to say.

I’ve been thinking about Patrick more often, probably because the last time I went to Europe was a year ago for our one-year anniversary. When my family is sitting around doing nothing, refusing to play board games with me (seriously, am I related to these people?) it does make me miss him. On the other hand, the times when my brother makes me laugh so hard I can’t breathe, I remember how much I missed that on our last family trip because of Patrick. I suppose the overall message there is to find someone who will play board games with me and also loves my family. I’m looking forward to going home and starting to date again.

Relatedly, I recently wrote a piece about my relationship with Patrick regarding alcoholism and self-delusion.* I am extremely excited and proud of this because it’s the first time I’ve gotten something I wrote (that wasn’t for work) published. I always thought that I really wanted to write fantasy books, but recently I’m discovering how much I love to write self-help/inspirational stuff about my life. It was also really empowering and healing for me to write the piece that was published. It helped to make sense of my story and what happened in our relationship. And I’m glad that I could share my story with the people in my life. I posted it on Facebook and I’m glad that my friends and family get to know the true story of my relationship.

Vindictively, I kind of hope that Patrick’s friends see it and learn the truth about him. I also hope that one of them shows it to him so he can understand what happened from my perspective. I feel pretty guilty about these hopes though.

On a happier note, I hope a lot of people see it and that maybe it will help someone going through something similar. I know I felt really alone and like no one would understand what I was going through in my relationship. Like many loved ones of alcoholics, I felt like I had to hide Patrick’s faults and couldn’t let anyone know what was going on. Relatedly, I’ve thought about trying to write a longer story or book about it, but I feel that my story isn’t good enough. I don’t know if there is some truth to this or if it is just a reflection of the general feelings I have sometimes of not feeling good enough.

I’ve been loving writing this blog and the piece for the Cropped site. It’s been really powerful for me to be able to write about my experiences and share them with others. I’m amazed that people I don’t know read this blog. I hope it helps them. Thanks all! J

 

*Here’s the link to the piece: http://www.wearecropped.com/issue-013/on-alcohol-self-delusion

I recommend checking out this website and the other stories as well. They are all very powerful and well-written.