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What makes me happy?

February 21, 2011

Last night, between trips out to the drive way to shovel*, I received a comment from Elizabeth that asked, “Megsie, what makes YOU happy?”  And I have been thinking of it ever since.  It is strange because there are so many ways to answer this question, but I think she was asking me about my life, NOT chocolate ice cream.  (But, chocolate ice cream SEEMS to do the trick…)

When I think about my life there are certain categories that I think about differently.  Yet, they are all interdependent.  Kind of like your desk drawer.  You have paper clips, pens and pencils, pads of paper, tacks, glue, tape scissors, note cards… and all of these have a certain compartment, but they are all related.   They are all office supplies, right?  Well my life has my husband, my kids, my extended family, my work, my friends, myself, and my house.  All of these things contribute to my happiness.  And, I could look at each component and write down what would make me happy about each of them, but this isn’t what really makes me happy.  It would be great if my house was all organized and clean and perfect.  It would make me happy, but it will never happen.  Life in general isn’t all organized and clean and perfect.  I think we have to love the imperfection.  That is the key.

I also think we need to believe that our happiness will find us, if we let it.  Last year, when I was trying to figure out what kind of job I wanted I posted this:

I went to a career counselor last week and babbled on about what I could do, about what I didn’t want to do, and about what I wanted to investigate further it terms of employment.  I found out that I have a lot of opinions and expectations about finding the right job.  However, I know that I won’t have much choice when it comes down to getting hired.  And, here’s the thing:  maybe I don’t want to search for a job, and get hired.  I have done that.  I know that the market is tight.  It always has been, and it always will be.  When job searching, you have to tell potential employers what they want to hear, even if it is not in your heart.  Once you get a job, you are just so happy that you don’t have to search anymore that you sell yourself out and do what you said you would.  On some level, I just want my life to unfold.  I know that it will, and the perfect job for me will fall into my lap.  It has *almost happened* a couple of times in the past year and a half.  I am not saying I just want to sit in my pajamas every day waiting for a knock on the door (although, I am still in my pajamas right now, so, hmmm).  I am not against hard work or putting in my time.  I just don’t want to lock myself into a position where I have to justify myself all of the time.  Been there, done that.  NO FUN.

So.  There you go.  My brain is a mess, and I don’t know which direction to turn.  I know that I will figure it out.  I have to, right?  No choice.  I will just keep reading all you people out there, and a path will appear.  You will show me the way.  (No pressure.)

It is quite prolific considering a job literally fell into my lap within 3 months.  A job I am definitely struggling with, but a job which I already love and will love even more once I feel more competent.

What makes me happy?  I think the only true answer to this question is time.  Time well spent.  Time to connect with my husband (WITHOUT the kids sometimes) to share dreams and stories and love.  Time to teach my kids how to be decent human beings and time to slow down to do that teaching well.  Time to laugh at them as well, and read to them, and PLAY with them.  Time to connect with my extended family and friends.  Quality time.  Time to plan decent lessons and give good, worthwhile feedback to my students.  Time to research best practice and learn how to teach college students so I can maximize their potential.  So I can help them succeed, so I can make a difference, and make the world a better place.  Time to knit and to write, to read (FOR FUN), to go to movies and out to eat.  Time to be creative.  To paint that dresser, to learn how to upholster furniture, or use a sewing machine. Time to exercise and do yoga.  Time to myself to rejuvenate, to take a bath if I want to, to light candles and enjoy the quiet.

Time seems to be the answer.  But it is so limited.  That is the problem.  We all have to choose how to use our time wisely.  That is when things get hard.  When we have to give up the time spent with our spouses because of work, or kids or both.  When we give up time to rejuvenate (or SLEEP) in order to get all of the stuff done for our next deadline.  Too much time scheduled for me is what robs the happiness from my soul.  It is then that I feel trapped.  No time for spring break vacations, well, NOW what?  The juggling begins.  And, because our lives are never organized and clean and perfect we have to wade through disappointment, worry, and being overwhelmed.

I do want you to know that I am so grateful for my life.  I have had amazing opportunities and amazing people throughout my life have taken such good care of me.  They have loved me and encouraged me and helped me along on my journey.  You, who take the time to comment and write your own wonderfully insightful posts have stretched my thinking, and made me a better person.  On some weird level, I feel like I am closer to you all than my actual in-the-flesh friends.  I think it is because this is a different level of consciousness.  Although I write about trivial things I also bypass the small talk when I need to.  Sometimes, that is difficult to do with a real person, to just launch into deep dark feelings.  This is why I committed to writing once a week.  I need to, for my own happiness.

So, thank you, all of you and especially Elizabeth, for helping me to think about my own self today.  I don’t think I made any breakthroughs or anything, but now I know what to focus on.  And, I think in the big picture, I do take time for most of my priorities.  I am not learning how to upholster, but I did FINISH my afghan that I started years ago.  I finished yesterday.

So, did this answer the question, or am I way off?  What do you think?  I would love to hear your two cents worth!

*We had a spring week weather-wise.  Temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s.  There was grass underfoot, and real-live mud.  The snow wasn’t near gone, because we have had so much this year, but it was that gross gray, dying snow.  I did begin to wear actual shoes to work instead of boots.  My friend (hi LeaAnna!) had to cancel the sledding party she planned on throwing on Saturday (the day before yesterday) because the sledding hill was closed due to lack of snow.  (She figured out how to make it a swimming party instead.)  Then, yesterday, it began to snow.  With in an hour we had three inches.  It would let up, and then come down like gang busters again, but it never stopped.  It is still snowing right now.  My shoulders and back are sore.  The plow hasn’t come by our house yet, but when it does, I will have a HUGE job digging out.  We shoveled every hour yesterday, until we went to bed.  As of 9:00 last night we had 13 inches.  I have no idea what it is at now.  Winter is back, with a vengeance!

  1. February 21, 2011 1:36 pm

    What a thoughtful, heartfelt post Meg. Ahhh, yoga and other exercise–I know you’ll make me happy too, why do I keep you at arms length so often?!

    re the question of teaching college students, I’m not doing it yet, but I get email updates from a site called “tomorrow’s professor” and they have some great advice about teaching sometimes, packed into 1000 word posts:

    The afghan is beautiful!!

  2. February 21, 2011 3:21 pm

    That Elizabeth…she always cuts right to the chase. Loved this post, especially THIS line: “On some weird level, I feel like I am closer to you all than my actual in-the-flesh friends.” Because O! I hear you, sister.

    I hear you about the rest of your post, too. Time is so essential, and yet we spend our lives trying to capture it, keep it, spend it, save it, hold on to it, make it, and yet it continues to slip past us, around us, over and through us. I guess we just have to learn how to surf the time-wave, eh?

  3. February 21, 2011 3:42 pm

    that AFGHAN!! wowza– so beautiful, but possibly eclipsed in beauty by that darling girl’s smile and oh, sweet fluffy white doggity– love love love that photo.

    I loved reading how MUCH makes you happy– so many things give you pleasure– so yes, you are right, making 5 minutes a day a priority for one of those pleasures (CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM TOTALLY COUNTS!!!) is very much worth it . . .. xo, E

  4. February 26, 2011 8:44 am

    How did I not comment on this post already? I love that the magical Elizabeth asked you this question and reminded you oh so kindly that YOUR happiness is so important. I so believe that, especially since you’re a mother and wife and your emotional well being affects the household. I believe so deeply that we must pursue our own joy and happiness, separate from the kids and the husband and the job, even though at first glance it all seems tightly wound together.

    Yes, time – that commodity that is so limited, with the way we live – is key. I am a huge believer in stepping off the busy bus. That is easier said than done, I know, I know. But I think it’s also about using our time well. To think about what we REALLY want and how to get it, what little tiny changes we could make to find our way. I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to step back in the last few years and recover from the whirlwind.

    The afghan is lovely! Looks so super cozy and YAY! You made it. Can I tell you, I have been knitting two scarves all winter? Scarves take FOREVER. They are never going to be done!

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