“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.” – Martha Washington
I believe that as human beings, sometimes we can fall into a pattern of behavior gradually, so that we do not realize the depths of our change until someone points it out to us. This happened to me recently, when in the span of just a few days, both a very good friend and a family member pointed out to me that I’d become easily irritated and that I was complaining a lot over silly things. Since one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to “stress less, smile more”, once I was (metaphorically) slapped in the face with my bad behavior, I was instantly motivated to change. I had to get over myself, fast.
Being a methodical and research-minded person, I downloaded The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. My hope was that it would be a good guide to figuring out what was lacking in my life, what was causing me to be so cross and disagreeable, and that it might offer me some direction in rectifying the issue before I drove my loved ones crazy (or, even worse, right out of my life). I started reading the book, and to my surprise I had a huge revelation by the end of the first chapter. The writer talks about how, on a bus ride, she fully realized that she has a great life but wasn’t enjoying it. To say that I’ve been the same way is an understatement.
I have so much of what I’ve always wanted, and yet I have taken it for granted and not enjoyed it. While it’s good to be ambitious and want more, I know that it’s harmful to spend so much time focusing on what I do have that I completely forget to stop and appreciate all I do have. We’ve all heard the old saying about stopping and smelling the roses – isn’t it beyond time that I did just that?
I have a wonderful boyfriend and I love him with all my heart. Our schedules are complete opposites right now, and we don’t have any days off from work together. I miss him terribly. And yet, I come home from a long day at work, I find myself getting cranky with him instead of just enjoying my time with him.
Paul and I have been together off and on for nearly nine years. Back in 2006, we split up and I thought we would be out of each other’s lives forever. I missed him terribly, and the time spent apart just made me realize how important he was to me and how much I loved him. I vowed that if I ever got another chance at our relationship, that I would remember how I felt when he was gone and never take him for granted again. Happily, by the fall of 2007 we had gotten back together, and we’ve lived together this second time around for just over five years. I’ve learned that memories fade, and it’s not so fresh in my mind anymore just how much I missed Paul when he wasn’t a part of my life. Despite the fact that I should know better, that I should have learned, I still haven’t been treasuring my relationship with him as I should. Even though it’s not pleasant, I’ve forced myself over the last several days to think back to the time of our breakup, and to try and relive just how awful that was for me. And then when I go home to him at night, I am all that more grateful for the time together and just for who he is as a person.
There are changes I can make at work, too. I have a stressful job, and I’ve been working long hours to stay ahead. The thing I’ve forgotten to consider, is how badly I wanted this job and how lucky I am to have it. When I moved to Washington from California, I was beyond burned out with being a call center employee. I hated being on the phones all day long, taking call after call. I hated the mandatory overtime, the erratic schedules, the sales pressure. Then, in July 2010, I was offered a six-month offline project and took it enthusiastically. I worked very hard to prove myself, and caught the attention of my current boss, who offered me the position I am so fortunate to have now. My schedule is consistent, and I’m given a lot of flexibility.I imagine myself from a few years ago, working in the call center, and I imagine how elated my former self would be to know that there was something better on the horizon for her. And I know she would bludgeon me with a shoe if she knew that I complained about any aspect of my life. “This is what I dream of!” she’d shout at me (my younger self was a shouter). “How can you waste time being unhappy over little things when your big picture is so, so good?” And she would be right. I’ve been ungrateful. I have everything she wanted and I need to remember that.
There are a ton of other things in my life right now that I am so happy for – amazing family and friends, and my happy healthy kitties. I’ve found hobbies like Zumba that I’m passionate about and enjoy, and that keep me fit and feeling fabulous. And of course I have a warm home, good food to eat, my every need (and most wants) cared for.
So, more or less, my newfound mission in life is to savor the joy of the moment, to look around me and truly embrace all that I have, all the dreams that have come true. Because when I sit down and really let the gratitude wash over me, I have nothing at all to complain about, and everything to rejoice about.