We walk in the front doors of the apartment building. And as always, I am carrying 10,000 things at once. A bag of groceries. A Starbucks coffee. An iPad. A sparkly pink ball-cap. A basketball. And two stuffed animals under each arm.
My sunglasses are slipping off my nose. And as we pass the mailbox, I get my daughter Clara to dig the keys out of my pocket so she can open it up.
She slips the key in the lock, just as my son Liam turns around to see the horror.
“Noooooo!!!!!!!” he yells. Tears instantly start pouring down his face.
“It was MY turn to get the mail!”
I roll my eyes.
“Come on, Liam,” I say. “It’s not THAT exciting to open a mailbox!?!”
Then he lays aaalllll his 7-year old wisdom on me. And it makes me stop dead in my tracks (and feel horrible).
“Maybe not to you!”
Huh. He’s right.
There is absolutely zero thrill in opening a mailbox. To me. But to this little boy, it is like opening a pirate’s treasure.
I see the potential for flyers. Bills. And a picture of some lame-ass real-estate agent with way too much hair gel.
He sees the potential for scratch cards. Envelopes with money in them. Mysterious packages.
Happiness is a choice
Ah yes. Perception.
It truly defines reality. One man’s treasure, another man’s trash (after all).
And THIS is how I feel about happiness.
Happiness is a choice.
And ultimately? It is a choice in perception.
And maybe that’s a bit of a loaded statement. But I believe it to be 100% true. And here’s why.
When I was in the depths of despair….hating my 9-5 job….wanting out….I knew that in order to be happy, I needed to quit.
But quitting required effort. A change of routine. Risk.
And it was sooooo much easier to just….be unhappy (and complain about it), than to somehow find the energy to create a new path. And risk failure.
But like souring milk, unhappiness has a way of intensifying over time. And the more you tell yourself (and everyone else) you hate your job, the more you find reasons to prove it to be true.
“Did you see that snicker?!? Pam from HR is totally talking behind my back!!”
“Paper jam?!? I told you! This printer is out to get me!”
“Seriously Jon? Tuna for lunch?! Again?!”
The danger of letting your own unhappiness simmer
But the moment we start to swim in our own woe….and get angry that life has handed us this god-awful lemon….is the moment we give up our own power. AND our own happiness. For the long haul.
When I leapt from the cliff of my life-sucking job, I did so, with a hell of a lot of fear. But the discomfort of that fear was only outweighed by the discomfort of my unhappiness.
It was that bad.
But need we let it get to that point?
Sometimes, I think we let unhappiness simmer for while. Just to make sure it’s turning into a true unhappiness stew.
And sure, it’s probably a good thing to give shitty things a chance to de-shit (the last thing you wanna be is that person who continually chases shiny objects).
But “weighing your options” often happens for waaaayyyy too long. And we just linger there. In misery.
We question ourselves….am I really unhappy? Or did I just have a bad day? Am I really unhappy? Or did I just not get enough sleep last night? Am I really unhappy? Or did I eat one too many bean burritos?
Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.
Then OK. We call it. We decide. Yes, I’m unhappy.
At which point…..we need a bull-shit exit strategy. A transition plan. A guaranteed safe landing. Before we can jump ship.
And the unhappiness? Continues.
The plus-side of unhappiness
In the meantime….you get all kinds of sympathy for being “stuck” in a job you hate. Your mom drops by with cookies to cheer you up. Your best friend checks in with you to see how you “survived” your week. And you get to ditch that house warming party you were ho-hum about attending anyways, because you’re “just not feeling up to it.”
And admittedly….it feels kinda good.
Until we realize. Damn. This unhappiness ain’t going away. And these band-aid solutions? Aren’t cutting it.
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to snap us into awareness of our own power.
Other times (like it was for me)? It is a gradual awakening to the simple, yet profound truth. We can absolutely choose our own happiness.
Just like we can choose to see opening a mailbox as the most magical thing on the planet.
We have the power to take on a different perspective. A different reality.
And it starts with making different decisions.
You must be willing to stop at nothing to cultivate your own happiness
Sometimes, we sit around, waiting for happiness to somehow come to us. Like a ship in the night. But happiness is not something that is bestowed upon us. It is not something that happens to us. And it is definitely not something that is on the other side of the bridge.
Happiness is a choice. An active choice. The alternative path to unhappiness.
And if you are truly in pursuit of it, you will stop at nothing to cultivate it.
And that’s the kicker.
You have to be dedicated. And willing to…..talk to a therapist, journal your heart out, get active, eat healthy, go to bed early, give up complaining, have the difficult conversation….or whatever it looks like for you to DO THE WORK.
You have to be willing to prioritize your needs, your wants, your passions, your desires. And you need to be willing to sacrifice the predictable path. Which (yep, I get it) takes a hell of a lot of trust in yourself….and the universe.
Happiness is the scarier path. Because it is the one that demands more of you.
But it is also the more fulfilling path. The one that will leave you looking back at your life, thinking, “Holy shit! I did that!”
Bring the magic
For the longest time, I was the person counting down the hours to the weekend. Agonizing over my boring job. Living for Friday night.
Until I wasn’t anymore.
Because I chose not to be.
Also? I am now embracing the mailbox magic.
I have turned myself into the mailbox fairy. And have started leaving little trinkets for the kids to find.
Because why not?
It is waayyyy more exciting than real-estate.
When I was a little girl, I longed to feel special. I was the third of three daughters in my family. And so by the time I came around, there was a real sense of…..been there done that….in the air.
I craved adventure. And in the white suburban neighbourhood I grew up in, my friends and I created our own high-stakes drama, biking from park to park, narrowly escaping the “bad guys” who were always hot on our tail.
I can remember shopping with my mom at Zellers one afternoon, bored out of my mind, when I decided to limp around as if my right leg was broken. I longed for sympathetic looks from strangers…..or better yet, an utterance of “poor girl” under someone’s breath.
I wanted attention. Bad.
And by grade 7, I can remember wanting to be “the popular girl” so bad, I got my mom to blow dry and style my hair every single morning….rollers and all…with a magazine cut-out of Jennifer Aniston taped to the bathroom wall, for inspiration.
In retrospect, I sometimes wonder how much I was looking for love and affection from the outside world, in order to battle the inner critic that lived deep inside me.
“You’re not good enough,” my own voice would say.
Over and over again. In a myriad of ways.
Having a daughter, I secretly fear having passed along the self-doubt gene to her, crossing my fingers that she never loses the unwavering belief she has in herself, as a super-hero.
I ask her the question, “what makes you feel loved, sweetheart?”
She thinks about it, then says….. “hugs and kisses from you, mom.”
Her answer makes my heart melt.
But then I start to think…..Uh-oh. What if she starts to rely on the attention and affection of others, in order to feel good about herself?
I quickly forget this train of thought as she finishes her answer with a light-hearted giggle: “I also reeeeallly love sleep.”
I’d love to say that upon coming face to face with my own personal negative nelly, I lived happily ever after, nary a “you suck at this” in sight.
That bitch is a persistent one. And she shows up at the party, already wasted, sweater slipping off her shoulder, smeared mascara…..just when you least expect it.
You want “I’m not good enough” at max volume?
Go through a break-up.
Ya. That storm is one that’ll have you doubting even the qualities you thought were your greatest strengths.
But something I’ve really learned over the past year is that we always have the opportunity to reframe, and it is our self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy that act as our own prison.
Apparently, Leonardo Da Vinci was extremely hard on himself throughout his entire career as an artist. He’d abandon projects half-way through, convinced that they were complete garbage.
Until it was recommended to him to look at his work in a mirror.
By looking at the reflection of his painting (rather than looking at it straight on), he could be much more objective, and judge his work as if he were seeing it for the first time.
And it’s the same with our own minds.
Sometimes we simply need to take a step back, and distance ourselves from our own thoughts in order to see them from a different perspective.
And so when Halsey’s Bad At Love is tormenting me, and I’m starting to doubt my own light, my own beauty, my own ability to love deeply enough…….I reframe.
I tell myself three simple words.
I am learning.
Calm rushes over me.
I am learning so much.
And I am giving myself time to strengthen my skills.
Patience is a virtue, they say.
And in this case, they’re right.
With each stumble, I am gaining insight into who I am, what I want, and how best to get there.
Whether it’s in love, in business, or in health.
We rise. We fall. We rise.
Imperfection is part of the game of life. As is the “Climb Mount Everest” square…..which I always found to be a little unlikely, even for Hasbro.
And so, as if looking at my life from the other side (and not in a creepy Stranger Things kind of way…..that shit is fuuuuuucked up), I try to let go of negativity as best I can.
We have the power and ability to change our thoughts.
And there’s no need to break our own legs to do it.
"How tremendously powerful you are, dear one. Can't you see how much love you can create for yourself? How much suffering you can obliterate?" -- Sarah Blondin, Live Awake Podcast.
It is early October. The city is painted with beautiful golden leaves.
And like a scene from a 90s horror flick, we round the corner, only to be confronted by a hideous masked man, wielding a bloody butcher knife. It is winter. And it has taken us all by surprise.
My kids are ecstatic! All they can talk about is snowmen, and snowball fights, and hot chocolate!
Me, on the other hand? I am in the corner, trying not to pout. Hmph. Really, mother nature?! Really?!?!
Perspective is everything. And this is a lesson my kiddos remind me of me of, every single day. Positivity is a choice. And it is up to us to call it into action.
Sure, you can choose not to find joy in the snow. But if you make that choice, you will have less joy in your life....and still....the same amount of snow.
So why not choose to smile about it?!
Embracing light over darkness isn't always easy. And there are certain seasons of our lives that may seem impossibly heavy.
This past month has been a rough one for me. But even in the depths of heartbreak, I have been able to hold pearls of love in my hand, that I wouldn't have otherwise been able to unearth. There is beauty in everything. If we allow ourselves to see it.
And truly, guys? The quality of our life depends on our willingness to choose joy.
All too often, we blame outside circumstances for our unhappiness. But in those triggering moments, we can choose to hold the hand of joy, and set ourselves free.
One of the most self-defeating choices I used to make as a young mom, was to ignore my own well-being. I would tell myself that my kids needed me, more than I needed me. And over and over again, I would put myself last. Choosing to feel forlorn. Poor me.
I was exhausted. I was burnt out. And I was unhealthy, both physically and mentally.
But the second I started shifting my mindset towards gratitude, everything changed.
All of a sudden, I started to see that I wasn't alone. People were willing and able to help me out. And I actually did have pockets of time in my day that could be carved out as "me time." I was empowered. I priotized my own health. And in turn, I became a better mom, because I was a better me.
Negativity breeds negativity. And it was almost as if I had blinders on, unable to see how I was actually creating my own prison.
I made the conscious choice to see things differently. With positivty. And it was like a veil was lifted. Aha! I'm not as stuck as I thought I was.
And so in those moments that your fiery self wants to wage war on all goodness, shouting form the rooftops about the injustice of it all.....fill your lungs with a conscious breath, and see what it feels like to make a snow-angel in the midst of the snow-storm.
"And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling." - Shanti
Running through a sprinkler buck naked. Leaping from chair to chair, trying to avoid the lava at all costs. Having a shake-your-booty dance contest.
My kids find fun and exciting ways to get their hearts racing every day. In fact, it is their mission to play as hard as they can. Every day. And they continually inspire me get on the light-hearted, throw-caution-to-the-wind bandwagon.
In fact, just last night, I took a drop-in hip-hop dance class with a girlfriend......and let me tell you......we laughed (and sweated) our way through it all. You want me to strike a pose called "shopping bag arms"?! Let's do it!
We adults take life waaaayyyyy too seriously. And I am definitely a class-one offender.
But what about fitness? Do you take your workouts too seriously?
How do you feel before, during and after a workout? Is there fear, resentment, boredom, anger, and frustration? Or is there excitement, elation, gratitude, satisfaction and a sense of lighthearted joy?
Are you should-ing on yourself, guilt-tripping your workout into existence? Or are you prioritizing your workout, because it's honestly one of the best parts of your day?
The key to making fitness a part of your everyday routine, is to enjoy it!
Which is exactly why I love to mix it up and include all kinds of variety at the gym. Agility ladder? Let's hop-scotch it. Sledgehammer? Let's slam it. Cones? Let's race it.
Fun? Let's have it.
Whatever way you choose to get your blood pumping, make it something that puts a smile on your face. Because life is too short to begrudge your fitness.
Remember, you don't have to work up a sweat today. You get to.
And deep down, underneath it all, we all just want to have a shake-your-booty dance contest.