What Makes Me Happy: Letting Go
If you're depressed you're living in the past
If you're anxious you're living in the future
and if you're at peace you're living in the present
- Someone (it's not Lao Tzu, sorry)
I've realized over the past few weeks that I'm going to need to change some things about how I integrate my life and this blog. I'm super happy spending my time developing it and thinking of ideas and learning how this all works and fits together and finding new avenues for all of the many many things that fill my brain that I want to share on the regular. I realized that I want to grow beyond just sharing my cooking.
For one, I live alone, so while I share most of my recipes, I can't constantly make enough to post every three or four days like I would like. That being said, food is a huge part of my life that I believe is a cornerstone to human connection, love, family, and caring for the earth. So I will always share my recipes and reasons for eating the way I do in hopes of inspiring someone else to attempt a healthier more harmonious life.
Today's post is going to be a first in a series I'd like to call: What makes me happy.
Now, there's lots of things that make me happy like my cats, and my friends, and family group hugs, and sunny days after a week of rain, but that's not what this is about.
What it IS about are the things that I think make me feel the most level headed, in the present, and best version of myself that I want to share to see if they resonate with you or can also help improve your life.
Number One: Letting Go
Wiser people than me have said in many shapes using slightly different wording, "Suffering is wanting things to be different than they are." And they could not be more spot on. We spend so much time in our heads that build pictures of what we expect reality to be that when reality fails to measure up it can wreck our zen.
In a larger sense this can be sweeping ideas of the future or the past. Dreaming of what we future we'd like to have, the man or woman we'd like to meet, where our career should be in ten years, how hot we'll look when we finally lose all that weight. Things that we know can't happen immediately but surely can manifest with enough of our attention going to them.
In the smaller sense this building of our reality plays out in things like imaging our coworker understood how hurtful their comment was (they know you hate being single! Stop talking about their wedding in front of me!), or having kids ruin your things and not even stop to apologize, or being butted in front of, or being cut off by that asshole in the parking lot that HAD to see you.
In all of these incidents we consciously and subconsciously build the world we live in, but most of it is in our head. Are there ass hole drivers? Sure. Are there coworkers who legitimately do like rubbing things in people's faces? 100% Has my stuff been broken many, many times by students who didn't even realize they had knocked my favorite coffee cup over? Yes.
As time passes and our larger dreams don't come true, or don't live up to what we imagine we can feel defeated and discontent. I'm never going to lose this weight. I always f-up my dates and am going to be alone forever. My kids are failing and I know it's my fault I didn't do XY and Z to ensure they succeeded.
What are my options?
Be pissed, be depressed, or let it go
Who am I giving my energy to? The idea of what I wanted to happen.
The smaller sense topics are the ones we get pissed at: I wanted my coworker to keep their big mouth shut. I can't believe that person hasn't texted me back. If that person had hit my car I'd kill them. Why are they emailing me again?
All of that energy is going to the frustration that reality didn't match the idea of the thing you wanted to be.
In reality, a thing happened, and you've decided it's bad. I sincerely stop myself every time something annoys me and ask, "is anything happening right now that is threatening you physically?" No? "What is happening right now?" I'm in my car. I'm at my desk. I'm on my couch. I'm annoyed. "Do you wish things were different?" Yes. "Can you accept that something happened that was not what you wanted to happen and move on?" I can try...
And I've been trying. Over and over and over until my new behavior replaced my old. My happiness is not an accident. In part it is a manifestation of learning to let go. I now almost never get overly upset about things. Do I get upset about things? Sure. But I've created a new frame of reference where I want things to happen, I try to make them happen, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. If the thing I want happens, awesome! If it doesn't, then it just doesn't and I look for the next thing to be happy about.
I'll give you a recent example of something that made me lose my cool and how I dealt/am dealing with it. A parent, who loves their child very much, has been emailing me regularly (like twenty times in two weeks) wanting unrealistic things: Extra credit opportunities out of routine assignments, pushed back due dates on assignments, private tutoring time after school, exact yearlong grades calculated out to decimals, and on and on. She is very adamant that her son earns an A. He, on the other hand, couldn't care less. Except to get her off his back.
Every time my phone or computer would show a new email I would look to see if it was her and then instantly explode with anger. "What else can she want now?!" I've spent literally hours of my time responding to her emails, offering her videos and practice problems, answering her questions, politely but firmly denying her requests and still she pushes.
In my mind, I believe that I have offered her enough and I expect her to be satiated. To leave me alone. To understand that her request are not reasonable. But my expectations are never met with reality as emails continue to pop up and more requests are made.
Finally I had my moment where I reflected: This bothers me because it makes me feel like I'm failing on some level when really this has nothing to do with me. She also has her own agenda of how she wants the world to be. I am responding kindly, quickly, and am offering solutions to her problems and while they aren't what she wants, I cannot be stuck here.
I am at my desk. I am on my couch. I am in the break room. And I am fine. She emailed me. So what? I will respond when I have time and I will understand that the time I could spend being irate is time wasted. Instead I can be enjoying a nice chat with my coworkers, or joking with a student in the hallway, or complimenting the custodian on her fabulous new hair cut. Those are things that are happening now. In front of me.
You're happiest life is out of your head.
The depression comes from the larger picture not matching our ideas.
I wanted to be married by now. I thought I'd be a new, better job at this point. All my friends have houses and I can barely pay rent. My friend's kids are so well behaved and mine never listen to me. I told myself 2017 was going to be my year and here we are in 2018 and I'm still fat. I let that relationship failed, if I could do it again we'd still be together.
I've thought literally all of those at some point in slightly different contexts. And guess what: none of them led me to be happy or to the life I wanted. The longer drawn out version of telling ourselves over and over that we have failed because we haven't lived up to our ideas leaves our spirit squashed.
Guess what? It's all in your head. Kids act shitty for most parents. New jobs can still be had. 2017 might not have been your year but ANY year can be your year. You're not the only single person. And also, newsflash, being single is NOT near the list of the worst things to happen to someone. I'm not even talking in a bullshitty 'you can take up the whole bed!' way. I mean literally. You're not in harm. You're not losing income or property. Your not in a genocide. You're not even so much as badly sunburned. You just aren't in a relationship. And those facts are true for all of the above.
Energy is meant to be spent on forgiveness and compassion. Toward others and equally importantly, ourselves. You do not have the monopoly on messing up. Even royally. We all do. You will mess up again. We all will. So why imagine that we're the only ones or that our F-ups are worse than other peoples? Forgive yourself when things don't work out. Forgive others when they disappoint you. Let go.
Happiness comes when you appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what you don't. Forgive yourself like you forgive people you love. Be kind. Be patient. And most of all, enjoy the present, because it's all we really have.