February 1, 2014

The Happiness Project Parts 3 and 4 - Mindfulness, Money, and Other Mayhem

So I am cramming weeks 3 and 4 into one post because I totally forgot to post last week. Wheee!  So hopefully you can follow everything I am saying. I do say some interesting stuff!  As the previous 2 posts, this is kind of a stream-of-consciousness post I wrote as I read.

July Money

“Money can’t buy happiness.”  That may be true but it can buy things that can in turn provide happiness.  Like health insurance.  Necessary surgery. Heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer certainly lower my stress level.  It buys a roof over my head, food for my energy, and water for my thirst.  Money is very important to those who don’t have any.  It is not the most important thing, no.  There’s love, finding your life’s purpose, and helping others.  But money certainly helps us to live better lives.  

Accumulating stuff for the sake of accumulating stuff has never much appealed to me.  I routinely go through my place and get rid of stuff I am not using and have no intention of doing so.  I don’t have knickknacks sitting around, just a few choice decorations.  Other than books and art/craft supplies (which I use) I don’t collect anything.  Even those I weed out some every so often.  (I really don’t need to keep books I didn’t absolutely love. I definitely don’t need to keep books I didn’t finish.)

I’m not an overbuyer or an underbuyer.  I buy more shampoo when I notice I am getting low so I will have it on hand when it runs out.  I do overbuy toilet paper but that’s something I just really never want to experience running out of.  I underbuy food and then I run out and I’m like “Aggh I’m starving and exhausted.  I have to order in again.”  My mom and older sister are overbuyers.  Especially my sister. She has a Target’s worth of beauty supplies stockpiled because she would buy them whenever they were on sale whether she needed them or not.  When we finally did a clean sweep of her stuff, we were like do not do this again for a very very long time.  You need nothing.  My younger sister is an underbuyer.  She sees no point in getting something until you need it and furthermore doesn’t want to bother with finding a place to store it.  Once again I am the one in the middle with the moderation.  Interesting how that happens.

I am a satisficer as oppose to a maximizer.  Being in chronic pain forces you to be one.  I don’t have the energy to go from store to store to store looking at every single bed and trying every single bed available.  I went to the first store, found one that made me hurt less (a lot less).  And said this is the one.  (I think I tried 3 others in the same store to be sure.)  I went home with a bed and I am very happy with it.  When I find something that satisfies me I don’t have to keep looking to make absolutely sure I am right.  I trust my instincts.  They are right 75 percent of the time.  (I did end up buying Sprint when I should’ve stuck with Verizon because Sprint was cheaper.  I got cheaper plans but with crappy service.  I am clearly not perfect.)

August Eternity

First things First:  Her chosen spiritual master is my Patron Saint!  How cool is that?  St. Therese of Lisieux is amazing and there is a wonderful reason they made a 24 year old into a saint.  You should read all about her.

As someone who has experienced her fair share of catastrophes, traumatic experiences, and horrifying phone calls, I can safely say I do not relate at all to Rubin here.  How nice it must be to have to read about another person’s misfortunes in order to gain some perspective.  At least she is trying.

I do relate to her Third Splendid Truth, which is that “The days are long but the years are short.” 

I don’t really have much interest in a gratitude journal.  I’ve tried a few times to keep one before since I saw it on Oprah way back when I still liked her.  Anyway, it never works out because inevitably I start re-reading last journal entries and thinking how awful my life is.  I’m like all I have to be thankful for most days is that I can walk and talk and breathe?  Wow, my life sucks.  I would much rather not be reminded that I am still struggling to get my health under control and just do it instead of writing about how grateful I am I could operate the microwave today without having to sit down from pain. Maybe I should look at these baby steps as wonderful but I don’t.  Reading about them I just think: How depressing.  Best keep depressing activities to a minimum.

The section in which Rubin talks about how happiness takes energy and discipline and therefore some people choose to stay unhappy because they think happiness is too much trouble?  That hits very close to home as I suspect that is what is going on with my mother and has been for 4 years.  She often does the whole “I’m unhappy because I had to take care of you and your sisters my whole life and now I’m tired of doing anything” guilt trip routine.  It’s not just that she is depressed; it’s that she LIKES being depressed.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to her because now she has excuses not to do whatever she doesn't want to do.  Energy Vampire is what I call her right now because she sucks the energy right out of me just trying to keep from falling into her pit of despair and pity.  Blah and no thanks!  I will be over here being happy, mom!  Let me know if you ever care to try it out! But thanks all the same for trying to crush me with your broken wings! 

September- Persue a Passion

A Page from my Art Journal

This is something I have really been focusing on this year (in addition to my health goals).  I have varied interests though, obviously, like Rubin, books are a huge one!  I have been pursuing other passions, too, however:

-Art Journaling Project
-Writing Poetry
-Yoga (Been doing yoga but now taking classes    again)
-Learning something new
-Reading more!
-Being active & involved in the book blogging  community

October Pay Attention/Mindfulness

Like Rubin, I have tendencies that run counter to mindfulness- multi-tasking is the big one, worrying about the future instead of staying in the present moment, and inattention, although to be fair I am a bit A.D.D. and the fibro brain fog doesn't help matters either.  However, I do have as one of my resolutions for 2014 to get better at meditating.  

In my first month of practicing I have reached a whopping 4 whole minutes of being able to be still and focus.  4 minutes.  Now you understand why I can’t read one book at a time or I am doing 45 projects at once.  Bah!  Focus!  We are polar opposites, focus and I.  But I am determined to tame the beast.  Or at least move closer to the illusion of a focused Becca.

Like Rubin, I am fascinated by the Buddhist koans.  I have studied Buddhism, both in college and on my own, and somehow koans had never been mentioned.  How is this possible?  Did I just not understand it at the time?  Who knows.  But, like Rubin, I have always been fascinated by unanswerable questions and enigmatic thoughts.  I've had a few of my own, as I am sure you have as well.  I mean even the chicken and the egg debate is a bit of a koan, even if scientists think they've settled that particular debate.  As I said earlier, St. Therese of Lisieux is my patron saint and I've read quite a bit about her.  I have always been struck by her expression “I choose all” as well (not to mention dozens of others).  I think that might be a good koan to begin meditating on.  You know, for my whopping 4 minutes.

November Attitude

Having a good attitude when you are chronically ill is both extremely challenging, and absolutely necessary.  If you don’t laugh, you will spend all your days crying and depressed.  Last year I went through some really tough times- I was bed ridden, when I did walk it was with a cane, I ached and throbbed in every part of my body constantly and sometimes there was sharp shooting pain like fireworks being set off inside my skin.  Nothing was improving and I got into a big funk.  Is it surprising that I was in a funk?  Probably not.  But did I have any desire to stay in that funk?  Absolutely not. 

Finally I began seeing a counselor to help me figure out how to cope with the loss of the life I want to lead (even though it’s been in play now for 9 years- I thought I could handle it on my own, turns out I need help.)  I also began physical therapy and a body mechanics rehab clinic.  I got a new pain management doctor.  I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel rather than just more of the same tunnel.  One small tiny speck of light was enough to spur me into a decision: I was not going to let the pain be in control any longer.  I was in control. 

I am a bit hard-headed when I put my mind to a goal these days.  I was determined to get better and that these were the people to help me- I trusted this group of doctors and therapists and I knew that they were going to be a godsend.  And I was right.  I made up my mind to not look for perfection from my body that is impossible.  I made up my mind not to be in a rush- the pain is not going to drop dramatically; it will be a gradual process and though I am not a patient person I was going to be patient.  I decided as long as I was moving forward, really as long as I wasn't moving backwards, I was going to be happy with it.  Any progress, no matter how small, is still progress.

It’s been 3 months since these changes began going down and I’m not bed ridden anymore.  There is no longer a cane.  I don’t need narcotics.  Am I done with physical therapy?  Am I healed?  God, no.  I still can’t stand more than 30 seconds or walk more than 5-10 minutes depending on the day.  I still hurt doing light chores and I still take pain medicines (but not narcotics!).  But that is PROGRESS.  I have gotten somewhere!  I may not be at my end goal, but I am on my way.  

Once I started looking at it that way instead of through the distorted prism of my life and body before I was sick, I began to feel instantly happier.  I not only felt happier, I was acting happier.  My boyfriend noticed it, my mother noticed it, my sisters and my brother-in-law noticed it, my friends noticed it, my fellow bloggers noticed it.  You don’t often realize how good you’ve got it with your health until it is taken from you.  I think my positive attitude and outlook is making an impact on the drastic improvements I am seeing in PT.  In 6 weeks I went from a range of motion with my hips/legs of  12 percent to 95 PERCENT!  It’s unprecedented, they told me.  How awesome is that?  How can I complain I am not where I need to be yet (out of pain at these levels) when I am making such enormous strides?  Positivity.  Catch yourself some.   Watch your life improve.  Take it from me.

December  Happiness Manifested

I think what I said in November spills over into December’s topic.  You’re never going to have perfect circumstances or perfect days.  But the way to facilitate change, indeed the ONLY way, is to try again the next day.  I am a better version of myself today Feb. 1st than I was on January 1st.  By December 31st, I will be the best version of myself I’ve ever been, if only by sheer determination. J

1 comment:

  1. Love your art journal page. That's essentially what I got from, briefly, keeping a gratitude journal -- that I can always find something positive if I try hard enough (the way the clouds looked at sunset, the fragrance of my new candle, a slice of toasted chocolate chip bread).

    Great thoughts all the way through. I'm so happy for you that you're seeing improvement physically as well as emotionally this month.

    Joy's Book Blog


Thank you for visiting! Leave a comment and share your thoughts with me!