Sunday, August 11, 2019

Building Happiness

About two weeks ago my family and I went on a four day vacation into the scenic mountains of Colorado and forests of New Mexico. It had been about 16 long years since we had taken a real vacation, which pretty much meant ever for the boys and only once for hubby and I.

We took long drives through the most curvy roads and gorgeous views. There was no itinerary and nowhere in particular to be. There were stops in overnight cabins in the woods, cafe lunches and parks to see, trails to walk if we came across some and wanted to peruse them at the time. It was quiet, peaceful and uncrowded. Just the way I like it.

We did stop to see some friends as we traveled. One of those friends was from my husband's childhood. We hadn't seen him in 22 years or more. He'd been staying with us and then left for Colorado, and that was that. Twenty-two years and now we're all gray. I'm not sure how that happened. It didn't feel like it was that long ago. One day I'm 18 and trying to get by and the next somehow I'm 40.

The in between years were not exactly filled with joy and peace. Those were years of struggling. Of course, don't get me wrong, there were happy moments, but there were also many of turmoil, pain and healing. So much confusion from my own perspective of not knowing I was autistic, and having such a dysfunctional family always interfering with everything I did. It was like a black cloud that followed me everywhere and sabotaged all that I did. I had to recognize and break free from that, which then required healing. My husband has had some similar issues.

I am always looking for that extra piece of the puzzle, or clue on ways to be happier. How can I improve my life? Sometimes I'll get this small, little clue that will cross my path that will be too obscure to put into words. It will be more of a feeling or a gist than an action. Like one time I had to go to the hospital for a routine surgery and the way the staff interacted was a specific kind of way. I can't say it, or explain it, but I felt it and it was very positive and it clicked something inside of my brain that helped me to relate to others in that manner, too. I cannot explain it, but it changed my perception of life, and my attitude.

But, this is something a tad more explainable. Being away, in such beautiful scenery, and then that final click inside of my brain was when I saw a physical representation of time. My brain went, "Wait. Stop everything." I had to fully comprehend this. I just can't handle another 22 years in Kansas. Ugh. I don't like it here. I spent the first 35 years of my life struggling and healing from so much. Look how quickly time can go by. Can I stand another 22 in a place I don't like?  What if we were able to enjoy that kind of nature all the time, or at least lived close enough to it to enjoy some of the time?

I don't know. It was an awakening to something. It was a whisper of an answer to that restless feeling
that I have had the last few years where I wonder what is missing. I had tried to find the answer in changing small habits and ways of thinking, but it's not any of those things. This was a stretch for something much bigger, and I couldn't identify it. This is my time. After this year the last child in public school will have graduated and there won't be any good reason to stay here. We can move where we'd like and start new. It's scary, but exciting to think about.

I've tried on a lot of different ways to be and looked in hundreds of places that could enhance my well being over the years. Some of those were definite misses. They were attempts to fill holes of insecurities and empty gestures never fulfill long term, no matter how much we try to dress them up as being healthy, wholesome, or spiritual even. Real intentions will catch up and we'll have to deal with them in the end. There's always a market for trendy practices labeled all those things and no shortage of gurus, teachers, sellers and customers, because we all want to feel good. We'll even lie to others and ourselves about how we feel when we partake in some of those activities that we claim work to avoid admitting that maybe we've been misled, or even worse, we don't know how to reset ourselves to feel better, happier and more content. What if we never find out? What if everyone else has it figured out, but us? Somehow I think most people feel the same way. Falling apart inside 5 times a day and secretly wondering what the hell is wrong with me, wondering how everyone else has it together and when I'm ever going to. Now, to be fair in the last couple of years I have not had as much the meltdown, anxiety upset I used to have, but more impatient angry upset, because people are rude or whatever.

Truth is, though... happiness is like building a brick wall to me. Some days we'll have more than we need and it's great, but other days we won't have any to build with. Still other days, tragedy will strike knocking down the wall and taking all the bricks leaving you to take over. It's normal. It's okay to not be building all the time. As a matter of fact, I saw a longstanding study the other day (sorry, didn't save it, so I can't link it) that spoke about overall happiness scores dipping in ones 20s and going back up again in the 40s. I'm not sure why that it tends to work that way, but overall for people in general it seems to. I think in our culture it's somewhat frowned upon to admit that you're not fully happy. It's almost look at as if you've failed, but that is just not the truth. I think life is just a journey with a wild ride of emotions. We need to do our own work of searching, trying on, learning, healing and living to find out what we need and who we are. Feel how you feel and never apologize, but always be accountable for looking to improve.

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