Friday, July 26, 2013

Happiness Project: It is what it is

In the book I quoted in the last post, At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, there is a chapter where the rector is having a heart to heart with a member of his congregation. I found it rather inspiring and thought I would share this excerpt.

"I've never been one for physical exercise," she said, "but what God does with our faith must be something like workouts. He sees to it that our faith get pushed and pulled, stretched, and pounded, taken to its limits so its limits can expand." 

"If it doesn't get exercised," she said thoughtfully, "it becomes like a weak muscle that fails us when we need it."

"Would you agree that we must be willing to thank God for every trial of our faith, no matter how severe, for the great strength it produces?"

"I'm perfectly willing to say it, but I'm continually unable to do it."

I have always felt that when I come to a trial (noticed how I come to a trial, that the trial doesn't find me), no matter what it is, the trial somehow becomes a trial of my faith. I ask the question of the day: Do I have faith enough that things will work out in the end? And after I ask myself this question, I proceed through it, fighting the whole way - I don't handle my trials with grace. 

Last night, a new friend provided me with a great perspective that I want to emulate. She said "Oh well; it is what it is, and everything will work out." I noticed that she would say this after I complained about a trial, or after she related a trial to me. It is reassuring that I to can live in the "it is what it is" and continue to move on and let my faith grow the way it is intended to grow. 

I can stop fighting the trial, and really embrace it. I guess the next step is to be grateful for it.I see this as a three step process:

  1. Recognize that the trial is what it is; the trial will take me to my limits so my limits can expand
  2. Embrace the trial; recognize that my limits will be expanded and be ok with it
  3. Be grateful for the trial; be grateful that my limits are being expanded and recognize God for his efforts in trusting that I can expand the way He needs me to
I am inspired to include the phrase "it is what it is, embrace it, be grateful for it" to my 10 commandments that I am working on for my Happiness Project. I love being surrounded by great and wise friends, and amazing literature. I'm liking this so far! 

Question: What are some 'commandments' that you live by that have helped you get through trials? What are some things you say to yourself to help you find happiness again when you find yourself in a slump?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happiness Project: Getting Rid of My Trash

I am currently reading At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. I can't tell you how much I love, love, love this book. It is the first part of the Mitford series, and I just can't get enough. I have always found pleasure reading and watching stories about one character and the community that shapes them. Gilmore Girls, for example, just wouldn't be the same without all the other quirky characters that shape Loralie and Rorie.

Another thing I love about this book is that it is based on the life of a small town rector. I love the encouragement and wisdom he gives to his patrons, and found a way to tie his wisdom into my Happiness Project.

Getting rid of my trash: At one point, the rector meets a stranger who is trying to figure out if there is a God, but never receives an answer. He explains that getting rid of those things that are barriers to receiving answers is a way we can receive revelation. Another name for this is repentance. The rector tries to explain this to the man by saying, "Let's say you need to move into another factory building. Trouble is, it's crowded with useless, out-of-date equipment. Until you clear out the rubbish and get the right equipment installed, you're paralyzed, you can't produce." He continues, "You can keep the factory shut down and unproductive, or you can clear it out and get to work. Is your life working?" 

For the Happiness Project, I decided that August seems like the perfect month to focus on my spirituality and really evaluate if my life is working by getting rid of bad habits (saying my prayers in bed and falling asleep every time), and developing those habits I have been putting off (kneeling). I know I am going to need to identify things that are preventing me from being close to God. It will be a lot of soul searching and sticking to commitments to do those things I know I should already be doing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happiness Project: Holier Than Thou

While I was reading the Happiness Project, I couldn't help but get a sense of "Holier Than Thou." I felt the author was somehow rubbing in my face that she could do all of these things better than anyone else. But, I was hooked on the book and kept reading. After I got over my initial impressions, I started reading just for the sake of reading. I approached the book thinking, I wonder how I can apply this to myself? Instead of wrapping my mind around the "I am so much better than you - look what I can do....and see, I even wrote a book and making a great living off it," I decided to let her words inspire those hidden places in my mind/soul/body that I need to hone. 

I remember rolling my eyes sarcastically as the author recalled all these WONDERFUL things she was trying to do to improve, and even that she accomplished. Then I noticed that those areas of growth for her were areas of weakness for me. You mean, I was taking offense at someone else's achievements? Wow, that was a new low for me. How dare I! After this realization, the book became one of the most fun reads, and inspired me to blog about my experience with my own Happiness Project. 

I am making a blind assumption that when I write about my experiences that I may come across "Holier Than Thou", and I totally understand why people who read about what I will be doing might feel that way. Fact is, I don't want to rub my accomplishments in your face. In a world where I should be mourning with those that mourn, and comforting those that stand in need of comfort, I am using the blog as a time of reflection, pondering, and hoping that maybe some things that I do are inspiring to others resolved to be happy.

Perhaps my intention of sharing my experiences is to 'pay back' (somehow) all those that have gathered me under their wing and buoyed me up because they were willing to share. There just doesn't seem to be enough thanks I can give to those people - my angels, as I like to call them. 

Too long have I been disappointed because I have had unreal expectations. Too long have I waited to start things that I know will make me happy, and find myself falling into the trap of complacency. I know it will take time to grow...changes of heart usually take time.

So, readers, I hope you will enjoy my journey as I try to gain happiness and develop a well-balanced life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Happiness Project: What I Am Already Doing

I completed the book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. In an earlier post, I stated that I wasn't quite ready to tackle this because I was afraid I would "over-do" it. But really. How does one really "over-do" creating happiness? I have to admit, consistently concentrating solely on the things that I lack with happiness seems a little daunting. 

The author admits that it is hard work, and I know this from actively seeking happiness in my past. However, I realized that I haven't really given happiness the activity or concentration it deserves. In addition, part of the author's suggestions for starting my own Happiness Project is to figure out those areas that make me the happiest - that I need to concentrate on. This task doesn't seem too difficult, but making those areas concise and controllable in certain timeframes throws me off. I know myself well enough to say that I my high expectations impact my I know I need to ease up.

Perhaps one of the things I need to concentrate on is having more realistic expectations and stop thinking there is only one way to do this Happiness Project. In an effort to make the project seem less difficult, I decided that before I begin identifying different areas of concentration and establishing timeframes, I am going to list things that I have already been actively doing to be happy and that help me have happier everyday experiences. 

1. Be more goofy. My sweetheart likes to be goofy in a very brotherly, I am going to pull your pigtails, or poke you a bazillion times, kind of way. When we were dating, it was cute, and I relished any touch he gave me. After we were married for a while, it became annoying and I would go into a funk every time he did it. I felt like I was constantly telling him to "stop" or "quit it" and then he would be annoyed that I was annoyed. It was not a good situation. 

One day after seeing this happen and not liking how I felt after the encounter, I decided to try an experiment. The next time he did something or said something in his brotherly/teasing way, I went along with it and added my own little goofy vibe. Adam doesn't laugh a ton, so when he does, it means a lot more. In this particular situation, he laughed. I laughed. And the persistence of his teasing stopped with an embrace and a kiss. 

2. Eat less sugar. One day I was sitting in a meeting and had one of those amazing sugar cookies from Corner Bakery. You know the kind, right? The one that has those huge sugar crystals not only baked into the dough, but also sprinkled on top. *Mouth watering, nom nom nom. I digress. After having "said" cookie, I recall my coworker asking me a question. I was in such a sugar coma, I had to ask her to repeat the question. She didn't seemed perturbed, but I was embarrassed. I was paying attention, wasn't I? Was it really the sugar that got to me?

After further examination, I realized that earlier that day I had also consumed 4 twix bars, 1 Chewy PB& Chocolate bar, a couple varieties of little candies, and one other cookie. Don't get me wrong, I was also eating other crap like a PB&J sandwich, Cheetos, and an apple. After that experience, I made a committed decision to stop eating processed sugar on a daily basis, and gave myself one break day a week. I had done the body for life program back in the day, and loved the idea of throwing my metabolism off by eating sugar once a week. That way, I eliminated processed sugars that I typically relied on to keep me going, and incorporated more fruits into my diet. This not only did wonders for my attention span, but also for my hips. Adam started doing the sugar diet with me too. I  had gone 6 months then lapsed into our old habits, attempted again after 4 months, and re-lapsed. We started it again this month.

Since the last go-round, I found that some days I just needed to pop in a chocolate-covered pomegranate. Since I regulated processed sugars for 9 nonconsecutive months (a worthy goal - I might add), I can now introduce sugar again and limit my intake  - one cookie a day. I recognize that this may seem like justification....and really, it is. I noticed that I am happier when I am not trying to combat eating processed sugar all the time. So every once in a while, I eat a cookie. 

3. Stop talking about the bad stuff, especially my marriage. It is really easy for me to whine when really, I don't need to. I often join people in commiserating about the terrible muggy weather, or how bad traffic is, or where I live, or my new haircut (no one really likes their new haircuts too well, that I know of). And for some reason, I complain about my new marriage. I'm not sure why I do it. People I speak with don't typically whine too much about theirs. They joke around a lot, but none of them do this to the extent I do. What is my deal? Is it because I am so stuck in my ways that being with and living with someone I care about is totally stressful for me? Perhaps. Is it because I recognize I am learning all this new stuff about my sweetheart and all this new stuff about myself in this new marriage and learning new stuff is challenging? Perhaps. Regardless, I shouldn't whine about it. 

I don't have the resource, but it has been shared with me by many married women and men that when people complain about their marriage and bring up the bad things all the time, it is easier to resent your partner and develop more ill-feelings toward them the more you talk about it. Even if a study hasn't been done about this, this is sage wisdom. 

In an article I found, Protecting Marriage From Outside Intruders, it says that we must put a stop to outside influences on our marriage now. The article states: "We have to recognize the dangers and put up well-balanced boundaries, before these things come between us or our spouse. We need to learn to say no to them, before they have become so strong, that we can't seem to fend them off anymore." The thing I decided to stop was talking bad about my marriage. 

I really don't have anything to complain about, and even if I did, sharing it does not make me happy, it just makes me more miserable. I have a remarkable husband who is kind, and deals with my emotional roller coaster. I love him...why on earth should I ever speak bad of him?

I stopped talking bad about him, and started really paying attention to raising him up. When I find myself doing it, I make a mental note and determine to say 5 nice things about the experience afterward. This has improved my mood toward my marriage substantially, and I can say I am happier for it.

4. Exercise now regime. I found myself getting into this new "DC trap" as I have named it. The DC trap  happens when I get home from work,and I feel I only have enough time to accomplish 1 or 2 things. Do I clean my house? Do I cook dinner? Do I have a bill-paying evening? Do I do laundry? Do I meet up with friends after work? Do we go out on a date? Do I work out? I found myself going over the endless list of things I wanted to do after work. I found that the list got longer and longer, and I would get more and more exhausted by the list. I therefore gave up on the list during the week, reserving it for the weekend.

This might seem logical, but it also meant giving up a lot of crucial things that needed to get done, and when the weekend came, I wasn't able to get out and do other things that I enjoy like going to museums, scoping out new travel locations, hiking, whatever. I will have to work on those other things later. 

Because I only thought I could get 1 or 2 things done after work (DC trap), I ended up giving up exercise. No bueno. I already know from past experience that without exercise I am moody, hate the way I feel, look at myself in the mirror with a frown, feel less like a woman and more like a cupcake, etc. I needed to add exercise back in my life, and I wasn't going to restrict myself to what kind of exercise. 

I think identifying the barriers to why I didn't exercise was one of the most important steps for me to 'get out and just do it.' I found that when I would limit myself to my favorite form of exercise, swimming, I wouldn't get out and do it because 1. The pool cost a certain amount of money every time I went, which I don't have budgeted right now, 2. It took more than 20 minutes to get to the pool, 3. The swim lanes were nearly always full, and sometimes I would have to wait, and so on. I also realized that I didn't need a full hour to get a good workout. Going off my body for life experience again, I read that 20 minutes of leveled cardio suffices for a good heart healthy workout. I was not looking to lose weight so much as I needed to get into the habit of working out just to work out and get in the habit again.

So, the successful 'exercise now' program for me included getting my heart rate up for 20 minutes. This could be doing all kinds of exercise-related activities including walking, elliptical, swimming, cardio DVDs, yoga, dancing, etc. After coming up with this goal, I realized that I didn't have to spend money getting this kind of work out, unless I wanted to. I also didn't need to plan on a lot of time, unless I wanted to. I just recently started this exercise program and will keep you updated on progress.

More To Come

I have more things I have done to reach a higher happiness medium, and will continue to post as inspired. I am thinking that once I have identified the things I am already doing to be happier, I can then establish my ten commandments, develop my splendid truths, use the Happiness Project toolkit, and commit to the Happiness Project more fully.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Back on Track

I received this quote in an email today and wanted to share it:

"There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: Children's Literature....How I Love Thee!

I went back to my last book review post and realized I haven't written a review since October. SAD, very sad. I have mentioned a couple of books in my other blog posts, but alas, I have not done a complete book review of them. Let me catch you up:

November 2012- July 2013

Currently reading: The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin - unfinished

I can tell you though that I am loving it. I have already written a post about my upcoming transformation. I like the idea of researching happiness, even though I have a pretty good formula already.

The Giver, Lois Lowry - 5*

This is by far my most favorite children's book. I have re-read this at least 6 times. I capture something different every time. I am not quite sure why this book is so incredible for me. This time I was struck by how much I take for granted. Color, feeling, knowledge, history, etc. I think one thing that struck a chord with me the most is feeling. I remember a time where I was numb to emotional pain. This lasted for several months. I remember wanting to feel something, anything...just as long as I could feel. There are several pivotal scenes regarding feelings. I think sometimes, even when I am feeling pain, I just want it to go away, to be numb. But then I remember what it was like not to feel, and I find that I have to let the pain take it course. If I decide I can learn something from this pain, the painful experience becomes a memory that helps me toward progression. Read it. You will know what I am talking about. 

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd - 5*

There were so many great nuggets of wisdom in this book. I tend to have sensitivity to books regarding racial abuse, or abuse of any kind. I skipped the class that had us watch Schindler's list because I just can't take it. However, I found this book to be one of hope, endurance, courage, in spite of the fact that it takes place during a sad time in American's history. I loved the flow of the book, and the vibrant characters. I found myself wanting to reach out to this teenage girl myself and tell her how much she is worth. Must have been a good read.

Rocket Boys, Homer Hickam - 5*

A must read. I was so inspired by this book, I wanted to go make something of myself in honor of Sierra Vista. I couldn't put this one down, and want to see the movie October Sky. I enjoyed his writing style so much, I have looked into other books he has authored. His blend of creativity and explanation makes for a great read. I always wonder about memoirs that are written several years after the fact. Regardless, I guess if it wasn't true, I would still really enjoy it. Thank goodness no one has said it wasn't...and there are a ton of people who could validate it.

Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs - 1*

I only remember having seen the previews for the book-based movie and thinking, that show looks so dry...I would love it! Too bad the rating is not comparable to my taste! The first chapter was intriguing. I remember just wanting to get through the second because of the foul play. When I got to the third, I started losing hope that this was indeed going to be a good story. I stopped at the fourth. The writing was vivid and great. I would say A+ for creative writing. Sorry Mr. Burroughs, I just couldn't get past the swears and crude nature of the first couple chapters - that's just me.

The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis - 4*

I was so excited to start reading The Chronicles of Narnia series. I thoroughly enjoyed the book for its humor, action, symbolism, and character development. However, during the book, I found that it was too fast. there was too much happening in such a short amount of time. My mind was not ready to warp from one world to another, back to another. I couldn't catch up. I found myself getting more and more annoyed with it because my mind was too overworked in trying to keep up. I am not going to give up reading the rest of the series. I must proceed with caution if I expect the series to be any different.

Harry Potter books 1-4, J.K. Rowling - 5*

Yes, yes, yes. Always and forever some of the most fantastic writing, EVER. I stopped reading them because I needed something different in the mix. I also didn't want to carry books 5-7 in my purse, and I refuse to buy a kindle.

Embers of Love, Tracie Peterson - incomplete

I was heavily involved with wedding planning, and didn't want to read a melodrama when I felt like I was having my own. I will most likely revisit this book. It was cute....or has been, so far.

I missed reading for fun when I was studying for my PMP. I felt guilty when I couldn't lavish away in my books because I needed to be studying. I found I was extremely frustrated when I would read sentences over and over in my text books and not get a single word. If I can conquer Great Expectations or Count of Monte Cristo, I can surely successfully read the PmBOK, or the Rita Mulcahy PMP books, right? Hazaa, I did read them, and they got more interesting the more I studied them. 

As for me and my house, we prefer Children's Literature.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Marriage Learning Curve, Lesson 6: Opportunity to Grow

I have been struck lately by the idea that it is a divine opportunity to grow together in a marriage, but it is also a divine opportunity to grow individually. Lately I have been struggling with this concept and how that fits into our marriage. Every once in a while I find peace in hearing about someone else who also has had a tough time understanding this same concept, and learning about what they did to pull through. I am uplifted in seeing couples who, despite their individual trials, can testify of the sanctity of marriage, and how precious it is. I admire people who share openly their trials and admit that they too are anxious and nervous, like me. At the end of the day, I realize that this experience gives me the opportunity to really rely on those foundational elements I learned so greatly about when I was single: patience and endurance being the top two.

I was humbled today by this video the church put out, and again thank my Heavenly Father for my opportunity to grow individually in order to grow together....

I recently read an article, Stage Sets and Scribbling: How Personal Growth Enhances Marriage. She starts off telling a story about the day she told her friend that she had fallen in love with her husband over and over again. When her friend asked her how she could possible do that, she responded that she was changing and he was changing all the time for the better, and those changed people still found one another. I found this article refreshing as it discussed a full and eternal love that companions can have for one another. In addition, she discusses the need to grow individually, as well as together. Each of us are blessed with different likes and dislikes. This doesn't have to be a burden on marriage, but should provide variety and excitement. The article states, "We have discovered that our marriage is most vibrant when each of us is true to that inner voice that whispers, “Go forth, progress, learn, develop, become.” The renewal process of marriage begins with the renewal process of the individual." 

Other inspiring articles: 
What Happily Married Couples Do
Union of Love and Understanding