Archive for category Reverb10

Slouching towards Happiness: My Core Story

Many thanks to #reverb10.

December 31 – Core Story

What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

(Author: Molly O’Neill)

I’ve never felt like I deserved to be happy.  When sadness entered my life, I accepted it with open arms, offered it a drink, and sat down to commiserate.  Sad is comfortable.  Sad I know.

Happy.  Happy is a different story.

You see, with happy you have something to lose.  Sad is a burden, a load of crap you carry on your back, or pack in your suitcase.  Nobody wants to take it from you – why would they?  It’s easy to own, and frankly, easy to come by.  Just watch the nightly news and you’ll see more than a few reasons to be sad.

Happy, on the other hand, is something everyone wants.  It sits there all shiny and pretty, alluring with its bright colors and sunshine.  When you’re sad, you think happy is mocking.  Too bright, too cheerful.  Sad is easy, like those jeans you’ve worn for years until they are thin with age and many rounds in the dryer.

Getting comfortable with happy, I think, has been one of the biggest adjustments I’ve gone through in the past couple of years.  It used to be a daily thing for me to look for the next way my life was going to blow up, the next way I was going to lose something that meant a lot to me and go back to sad (i.e. normal).  I needed a lot of reassurance that happy wasn’t going to slip through my fingers like sifted flour.  I’m getting better about that – not perfect, mind you, but better.

And Happy is better.  And weird.  Not weird in a bad way, it’s just different.  Happy is lighter, it fits in your suitcase no problem, and you hardly even feel it while you carry it around.  Sometimes when I’m on my way out the door, I look around and feel like I’m missing something.  Convinced I’ve forgotten a book I might need for class, or my phone or computer, I walk back through the house looking for that one item.

And then I see my sadness sitting in the corner of the room, a moss covered heart, and slowly I see the moss is falling away revealing underneath it a vibrant jewel, a deep luscious red.

So that is where the next leg of my journey begins.  Instead of watering the moss, I am going to live my life so that the jewel within me can shine.  Because if happiness is nothing else, it sure is shiny.  And I am finally ok with that.

 

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Prompt 30 – Gift

December 30 – Gift

Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

(Author: Holly Root)

I’m finding this one of the most difficult of all the #reverb10 prompts.  I feel like so much of my life is a gift, so many little things that I constantly make myself slow down to acknowledge.  Many of those things I’ve already written about here: my love, my friends, my mom, my work, my students.

One gift that has gone unacknowledged, mostly because I take it so for granted, is my health.  After my mom was in and out of the hospital for almost the entirety of 2009, I started paying even more attention to my heath, putting a focus on staying in decent shape while working on the Ph.D.  If the “freshman 10” is common, I think the Ph.D. is more like 50.  Stress and a lifestyle that focuses on inactivity are a pretty bad combination, especially for someone who comes from a heart disease challenged family.

My mom has slowly bounced back from being sick, and although things aren’t perfect for her right now, she’s in good shape considering what she’s been through.  But now we have another hurdle.  While I was in NZ, my brother had congestive heart failure.  Next week I will travel home to go with him and my mom to the hospital so he can have an angioplasty and possibly bypass surgery.  It’s difficult not to be terrified about this whole process as my brother is very close to the age my dad was when he died.

My mom and I both were surprised that this happened to my middle brother, having suspected the more likely candidates to be my other brothers who are prone to more, er, expressive bouts of emotion.  But now it seems clear that my middle brother is most like my dad, that stoic, hold-in-all-your-emotions kind of guy.   Guessing all that holding in isn’t so good for the heart.

So although this year been hasn’t been void of all health issues (I have what I am now calling Wii-Knee, an injury from the Wii Fit that just won’t heal), my heart and cholesterol levels are all in the green and I intend to keep it that way.  I’m also making a promise to myself not to hold in my emotions.  Although I’m not as bad as many members of my family, I do tend toward holding on to bad feelings and often let them fester.  Whether or not it physically effects my heart, I know expressing what I’m thinking and feeling (good and bad!) is better for me.

Maybe that is the real gift, hidden amongst all this scary health stuff: an awareness of how important my own emotional health is to my overall well-being.  Maybe I can start thinking about feeding my emotional self like I feed my body and keep both mental and physical health as priorities for good care.  Now I just need to figure out what is the emotional equivalent of zucchini . . .

 

 

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Prompt 29 – Defining Moment

December 29 – Defining Moment

Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

(Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

I ate popcorn.  And I liked it.

Yes, it might sound insane that I am picking this moment as one of the defining ones for the year but it just seems so clear to me.  I’ve hated popcorn my entire life.  People ask (often with a sense of incredulity) if it’s the taste or the texture or that the seeds get stuck in your teeth.  It’s none of those things.  I cannot stand the way popcorn smells.

One of my earliest memories is of my mom making popcorn in her brand new air popper, filling to the rim the brown kitchen mixing bowl with the small flowers stenciled out on the side.  She held the bowl out to me and I backed away.  It smelled absolutely disgusting!  I couldn’t understand what they were so excited about but they ate it with utter glee while I cringed.

For years my mom tried to get me to actually try it, and I gave in eventually.  It tasted as bad as it smelled.  So I avoided it for the most part, hurrying through the lobby of the movie theater, hoping I wouldn’t end up sitting next to someone holding a big bucket of the stuff.  I could tolerate caramel corn because that smelled and tasted like sugar but that was about it.

So while we were in Rotorua, we decided to go see the newest Harry Potter movie.  It had just opened that week.  We weren’t sure if there would be a line so we got to the theater to get tickets about an hour before.  There was no need to wait at the theater so we went to the pub next door to get a pint.

I had a Radler Bier from Monteith’s of Greymouth and it was one of my favorites of the trip, light and lemony.  We hadn’t eaten dinner but I figured I’d get a hot dog for the movie.

Um well.  They didn’t have hot dogs at the concession stand.  In fact, they had limited kinds of candy and the dreaded popcorn.  So out of necessity, we got a medium popcorn and two sodas.

I am not sure what it was but that popcorn tasted SO GOOD!  I’ve tried since then to have that experience again and I came close at another NZ theater, but I haven’t been able to duplicate it since I’ve been home.  Maybe corn just pops differently in the southern hemisphere?  I dunno.

But the lesson, I suppose, and the reason why this is clearly a defining moment of the year, is that things are not always what they seem and your perceptions aren’t always right.  So I’ll keep trying things I’m sure I dislike – maybe not all that often –  but I won’t wholly write things off anymore just because I’ve always thought they were disgusting.

(As a note, I picked up some small microwave bags of popcorn at the market recently and I popped one today.  Unpleasant experience, mostly because I burned it.  Maybe it’s only movie popcorn?  Certainly, I need to do more experiments.)

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Prompt 28 – Achieve

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

(Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

When I read this prompt last night, I literally laughed out loud.  But it wasn’t a giggle or a belly laugh but instead a loud HA! that suddenly erupted like a bark.  Chris looked over at me, smiling at my phone and I said, “I think this is the prompt I’ve been waiting for all month.”

 

What to achieve: easy – finish the dissertation and graduate.

How will I feel?  Elated and relieved.

Brainstorm ideas/things to do now: not so easy!

10.  Accept that I did enough work this year to take the next few days off.

9.  Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, just done.

8.  Remind myself that my observations are important and valuable.

7.  Stop constantly second guessing #8.

6.  Breathe.

5.  Enjoy the process by accepting that revisions/additions/modifications are just as important as original ideas.

4.  Be thankful of my supportive committee.

3.  Breathe some more.

2.  Dance.  Do some yoga.  Be somatic.

1.  Show love to myself, my boyfriend, my friends, my family.

 

This was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  It is so easy to think about how happy and excited I’ll be when I finish the dissertation and graduate.  It’s a lot harder to think about how I can feel that way NOW.  All my life I’ve had this feeling like that next BIG THING that is just down the road will be the one that makes me feel accomplished and complete.  I realized several years ago that I’ll always have that feeling because there is always something else down the road.  It is important to stop and enjoy where you are and acknowledge that every little piece, moments of joy, pleasure and frustration, are part of what makes up the picture of your life, your own personal puzzle so to speak.  The picture wouldn’t be complete without all the many steps along the way.  How about that.

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Prompt 25 – Photo of The Year

December 25 – Photo – a present to yourself

Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

(Author: Tracey Clark)

A little overly enthusiastic, I think, but me nonetheless.  Chris took this picture, right before we got on the ski lift to luge while we were in Queenstown, NZ.  Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world and the birthplace of bungy jumping, so the luge was a pretty mild activity for the area but it was still awesome fun.  I list toward the reserved side sometimes (ok, ok MOST of the time!), and this photo represents some of that wild, goofy child that still lives deep inside me and the one I want to let loose more often.

Who’s with me?  😀

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Prompt 27 – Ordinary Joy

December 27 – Ordinary Joy Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

Christmas was an extraordinary day.  It symbolized much of what I’ve worked towards in the last year where several of the separate paths of my life have intersected.  Although I didn’t get to go home and see my family, I’m happy with the small community I had in my midst.  We played games, literally, all day long and I decided early to make the food all appetizers so that we could snack while we played.  Great food, fun, and good company.  I couldn’t have asked for more.

But the ordinary moment of joy was at the end of the night.  Chris put in a video, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, which he had watched as a kid.  We all enjoyed its sweet sappiness together, and it was a moment then, while I was curled up on the couch with Chris, that I realized how much joy there is in my life and how much I have to look forward to in the years to come.  That’s what I plan to manifest for 2011 – a sense of joy and community.  Now that’s something to toast to on New Year’s Eve.

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Post 21 – Future Self

December 21 – Future Self.  Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

Dear Regina,

It’s December 2000.  You are putting the finishing touches on your Master’s thesis and already thinking about applying for Ph.D. programs.  It’s been a good year, and in the years ahead, you’ll have some fantastic moments and some really trying times.

Take time to reflect on your accomplishments. In May 2001, you’ll march behind a gaggle of bag pipe players to accept your M.A.  You worked hard and it paid off.  Try to fight that sense that you’re always falling behind in some unknown race.  You’re doing just fine.   Don’t worry about CUNY not working out; as you’ll soon realize, your drive has always been to teach and taking some time to do that before the Ph.D. program is one of the best decisions you’ll make.

I’d tell you not to marry that guy, but truthfully it was the right decision at that time (and an awesome, fun filled wedding!)  Going through the divorce won’t be easy but you’ll learn a lot about yourself, some are things that you knew and some that will surprise you. Accept the process.

Actually, you should make that the motto of your life.  You’ll always have this sense that you need to rewrite and change the way you do things because somehow you fall short.  It’s not the case; live your life with joy and patience (mostly with yourself but with those around you as well) and you’ll reap the rewards.

Enjoy the time you spend with your friends and family.  One of the biggest challenges in your life will be all the moving around you’ll do.  It’s not easy to connect and keep in touch with your friends and family when you keep moving to different states every few years.  Slow down, smile, and laugh.  Tell people they are important to  you.  Some of the best times in your life will be spent with people you don’t get to see often after you move.  (Especially your friends that surround you now, while you’re living in New York.)

Some of these things you’re still working on, and probably will be for many years to come.  Be forgiving: true change takes time.  As the Ph.D. will teach you, some things are well worth the wait.

Love,
Regina

 

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