Friday, August 23, 2013

Pursuit of Happiness

Having a clean house makes me smile.  :)  I managed to get some kid-free time this week to clean my house, thanks to the kids having sleepovers with their grandparents--super exciting, huh?  I thought Dan and I might get a date night out of the deal as well, but he had too much reading to do...bummer.  But I kept smiling, and cleared about 7 trash bags full of toys out of the playroom and Jake's room--and no, I'm not kidding.  My kids have too much stuff!  I'm pretty proud of the clean-out effort--it was my most ambitious to date.  On previous cleans, I've held on to things that had sweet sentimental meaning to me...but weren't necessarily currently-played-with toys.  I had no sentimental qualms this time around--we were busting at the seams.  So now I have 7 trash bags added to the piles of disaster in my garage that I need to go through...but at least they're not in my house anymore!  The added floor space in the rooms is phenomenal.  So I've done fairly well on my Happiness Project (aka, Challenge #3) this week, but I haven't really been tested...so it feels a little like cheating.  I have conscientiously put a smile on my face throughout the last few days--there's definitely been effort, but I'm waiting for when things get hard to see how I handle it.  I won't have to wait long with the back-to-school craziness coming soon!

a much-needed reminder

The pursuit of happiness.  Is that wording not totally fascinating (and somewhat telling)?  It is to me.  I have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Happiness itself is not an inalienable right--I can pursue it to my heart's content, but it's not handed to me.  Being happy is not a given--and while that is true for everyone, I have felt it to be especially true for me the last 16 years.  I feel more comfortable when I'm slightly miserable--and I recognize that that's a terrible thing to say.  It almost seems like Challenge #3 is a challenge against my nature!  If you had encountered the 15-year-old me, you would have been accosted by a bubbly, perky cheerleader who was flirtatious, fun, and super energetic.  Most people evolve from their 15-year-old self, and I certainly have.  I had a really great childhood that informed my 15-year-old carefree attitude--it was the tumultuous transition to adulthood that brought me back down to earth.  I developed a biting sarcasm.  I dropped the bubbly cheerleader stereotype, because I've always been smart (and hated the inference that I wasn't just because of my short uniform skirt)...and I've always been a bit rebellious.  My steady state in college was trying not to drown in a competitive environment (that I absolutely loved, mind you).  Although I wasn't quite a kid anymore, I was not adult enough to escape the endless personal drama--I was the definition of an id-driven, world-revolves-around-me college girl.  I worked hard, I made so many mistakes, and my attitude reflected all my experiences.  It still does.  I often remark that I make the choices I do because I insist against my own happiness--when things are going well, I sabotage (as evidenced by my weight-loss issues!).

Now, as a 33-year-old mom-of-three, my attitude is more a reflection of the responsibilities of adult- and parenthood.  I have about 50 things in my head at once, and smiling isn't usually one of those 50 things!  Don't get me wrong--I smile and laugh plenty throughout my days.  My kids are pretty darn hysterical--the stuff that comes out of their mouths is priceless.  If I focused on their musings all day long, I'd be constantly smiling...but I have those 49 other things weighing on my mind.  Being an adult is not really a smile-fest, even when things are great.  I'm constantly thinking ahead to troubleshoot potential issues with the kids and our household, and of course, I'm constantly dealing with repercussions from past decisions (parenting is sometimes a torturous cycle of second-guessing...).  I try not to dwell on the past, or let it mess with my head--but some days, I can't help wondering how my life would be if I had been a better person/daughter/sister/friend/wife/parent at various points in time.  And that gets me wondering about how my life could be if I work on being a better person now.

I might be onto something here...

I have recently been watching "Secret Millionaire" on ABC, and I cry like a dork when the millionaires reveal themselves and give away some of their fortune to worthy causes.  I'm not a millionaire (in case you were wondering), but I really think that a key to happiness is helping others however you can--it's something that Dan and I have discussed many times in relation to the kids.  How can we instill in them the importance of helping others?  They seem really young to do some of the ideas we have come up with (at least all three of them--Abby could probably go to a food bank or soup kitchen at her age), so I'm hoping that the concept will be easier to impress upon them as they get older.  I used to spend a lot of my hours volunteering--something of which I was (and still am!) extremely proud.  I started volunteering when I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, and continued devoting a large portion of my time until I was 24--first I was candy-striping at a local hospital, then I volunteered with the local Office on Youth, and then I worked for a national non-profit (paid when I worked at the national office, but all volunteer for the hundreds of hours I put in on the local and state level).  At that point, I was a little burned out the politics and hours of volunteering, and I was newly married...I felt like a break was in order.  I didn't realize the break would last for almost 10 years now, and I've been thinking a lot lately about how to get back into some volunteer work.  With the boys still at home with me full-time, I can't even manage a day volunteering in Abby's classroom, so most of it is just daydreaming--but when all three kids are in school, I want to find a passion for volunteering again.  What causes will I want to champion--the same ones as my younger self, or new issues?  I'm honestly excited to find out who I am through volunteering again--it's a great way to define what's in your heart, feel connected to a larger purpose, and re-energize.  Until then, I'm going to start keeping an eye out for small, doable opportunities to help others--because that genuinely brings happiness all around, and because I hope to give my kids the same foundation in service that I had growing up.  What are some good, small volunteering ideas for young kids that you guys have discovered?  I may have to google and get going!

1 comment:

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