Stop and Smell the Roses

I recently read a book entitled “The Happiness Project”. Even before reading it, and especially once I finished it, I have been pondering the whole idea of living a happier life. Remember as a kid, playing outside until it was dark, and the street lights came on, and when your biggest fear or concern was that it may rain, and your plans with neighborhood friends would be post-poned? Somehow, even though I grew up during a time when no one buckled up in the back seat, and often times, the front seat; we rode bikes in the street, without any helmets, knee pads, shoulder pads or whatever other “armor” kids are required to have on, now; we played in yards, in the street, or down the street with very little parental supervision, and so on – I somehow managed to survive and am a healthy, grown adult. =)

Reading that book got me thinking about a much simpler time, when all of the above activities took place without a second thought. If my sister or I disobeyed, guess what? We were spanked, grounded, or whatever other punishment best taught us a lesson. We never once thought of it as “Child abuse” or whatever everyone thinks of it, now. Life was about having fun; going to Atlanta Braves games and grabbing Krystal burgers after the game, at midnight; going to the beach with family; Pigeon Forge, TN and Dollywood with church friends, and all sorts of other activities. My family had FUN!  We laughed, cried, shared in happy times as well as difficult times. There were no secrets.

I am rapidly approaching a major change in my life. In the not so distant future, I will say goodbye to my 30’s and hello to a new decade, a new era, and undoubtedly more of those pesky gray hairs. As someone who, at 17, proudly promised I would be happily married and “done having all my kids” by age 30 – and who only got married a couple years ago, life has always been a game of teaching me patience.  A few years ago, it seemed everyone and their brother was getting married, and/or having babies. The first few weddings I attended, or was in, was exciting. I was ALWAYS genuinely thrilled for my friends, their spouses, and the new life they were beginning, but it was hard to stand there with a smile, when it seemed everyone was getting what I so desperately wanted. I stayed in wrong relationships much longer than I should have, simply because the thought of having to start over, with someone new, was so unappealing. I would go on dates with people I had no interest in, and wonder if I could just overlook the things I didn’t care for, and make a life with them – all for the excitement of having “that life” – the life most all my other friends, had.

Then, in January of 2010 everything in my life shifted and changed in a way I could never have imagined, or wished upon even my worst enemy. When my precious father was diagnosed with cancer, nothing else mattered,  but hoping/wishing/praying he would recover, beat it, and live a long and healthy life. When God chose to introduce heaven to another angel, I thought life would never continue, for me. I felt guilty when I laughed, I began to cry every time I smiled, I had no desire or interest in eating anything, I didn’t want to be social or do much with my friends – simply because I didn’t want their sympathy, and I knew very few people who could truly relate to what I was going through. Thankfully, slowly, we all moved on as best we could – with a huge hole in our lives – trying to live the life we knew Dad would want us to live. It wasn’t until a few months after his death, when I was slowly getting back to a normal schedule, that it dawned on me; I couldn’t remember the last time I had truly been happy. It was as if  Dad audibly spoke to me, from heaven, reminding me I would never be able to make anyone else happy, until I was first happy, myself.

Upon that realization, I made a conscious decision to try and do more things that TRULY made me happy. If I was only doing something to please another, it wasn’t worth it, except in certain, specific situations. I spent a month in the fall of 2011 in Texas, with 3 of the greatest kids in the world; I spent several weeks in December of 2011 with them as well, and continued my stay in Texas for another five and a half months after that. I met new friends, I lived with someone new (Whom I fell absolutely in love with – her and her dog!), took my dog with me and jumped into life – simply because I thought it would be fun, different, a great opportunity, and a change of scenery. I have spent a good amount of time for over ten years in Michigan, with two sweet kids, whom I adore; I take more time for my family, and myself, than I ever used to; I have slowed down and truly been “in the moment” much more often than before. The past couple years have taught me several simple, but oft forgotten truths:

Get more sleep – its difficult to function, when I don’t get the necessary amount.
Enjoy and be present in each moment, as it comes.
Take time for the truly important tasks; Eat properly, exercise more, worry less.
Understand everyone wont always agree w/you. Its ok if they don’t. It doesn’t make either of you wrong.
Don’t expect so much; appreciate more.
Pursue a true passion.
Make memories; do fun projects.
Write down what I’m thankful for.
Think about eternity.
Remember my manners.
Forget about how something ended, and remember how it began.
Lighten and loosen up. Laugh more.
Be silly. Think outside the box. Walk down an unmarked path.
Show emotions; tell others how much they mean to me; dont worry about unimportant things.
Accept the ability to ask others for help.
Remember big events; Milestone birthdays, first anniversaries, and celebrate them!
Be generous – with time, money, love.
Give up something; a habit, something I dont “need”, or just my time.

These are a few things I have realized I need to work on. Take one, two, or the whole list, and work on being a better version of yourself, too. You’ll be so much happier, and feel better, too!

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