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Thoughts @46: What Makes Me Tick (and Other Observations)

I’ve been feeling my age lately… not so much in a “gosh, I’m getting old” way but more of a “hmm… my perspective has changed a lot as I’ve gotten older” kind of way.

46 and countingMaybe it’s because I seem to spend a lot of time around people at least a decade younger than me. Or maybe I’m just getting more introspective. Either way, there have been several times over the past few months I’ve felt the urge to write some of this down. My birthday seemed like the perfect opportunity, so in no particular order, here are 46 observations, thoughts and other miscellaneous items to commemorate “me” at this stop along my journey …

  1. Technically, I now have two “adult” children and it’s been almost 30 years since I hit that milestone myself, yet I’m still waiting for the day when I actually feel like an adult. Not sure why that is or if others feel the same way, but it’s definitely different than what I anticipated during my pre-adult years.
  2. Life is too short to spend it doing things that don’t make you happy.
  3. Living according to #2 is a lot more complicated than one might expect.
  4. It turns out, raising girls is a lot different than raising boys.
  5. It’s unnervingly easy to forget things I was sure I could never forget.
  6. Planning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Oftentimes, it’s far more effective to just jump in and GO.
  7. Few decisions are truly permanent. (Remembering this tends to make #6 much easier to put into practice.)
  8. That saying about having a child being like “forever having your heart walk around outside your body” is so true, especially when said child reaches driving age. Even moreso when he leaves home and moves out of state.
  9. Some folks are very good at taking care of sick people. I am definitely NOT one of them.
  10. Actions really do speak louder than words. A lot louder.
  11. I miss the days when sleeping past 7 am was an option. And it’s not that I don’t have the opportunity. It just doesn’t seem possible anymore.
  12. I’m not entirely sure yet what my own definition of “happiness” is, but I do know for sure it involves the practice of “creating” on a consistent basis. And new challenges.
  13. If Santa’s listening, what I most want for Christmas is a really good housekeeper.
  14. I appreciate many of the traits inherited from my ancestors, but thick calves isn’t one of them. 😛
  15. There’s a lot of wisdom in the advice to “never say never.” Bill Cosby and Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner come to mind.
  16. Some things are really better left unsaid. Especially on Facebook.
  17. I’m not sure I could pick just one word that sums up my intent, but these are in the running: CREATE, BALANCE, AUTHENTIC.
  18. I often wonder how we became a society that doesn’t freak out when we hear the list of side effects during commercials for pharmaceutical products.
  19. Ditto on salaries for professional athletes.
  20. And ingredient labels on processed “food.”
  21. I really wish Facebook would create a setting that would allow us to filter out posts containing specific topics without having to block the person who writes them or leave Facebook altogether. (See #16).
  22. I believe everyone is “creative.” Some people just haven’t figured out yet how their creativity is best expressed.
  23. Having excellent hearing is great. Except when you live with people who don’t.
  24. Now that I’ve lived in Central Montana for 18 years, where it’s bright and sunny the majority of the time, I’m painfully aware of just how much a lack of sunshine affects my mood and general mindset. It’s amazing I survived my childhood, considering how often the Flathead Valley is overcast and gray.
  25. I’m pretty sure I have that disorder that makes people go nuts when they hear loud eaters. And tappers. And whistlers.
  26. I was not born with that gene that makes you love pets. Or animals in general. (Except baby animals… if kittens and puppies didn’t turn into cats and dogs, things might have been different.)
  27. It took me three different majors and five years of college to land on a teaching degree, only to figure out later that I don’t really like working with large groups of other people’s kids. Turns out it’s the design and curriculum planning type activities I most enjoy. Wish I had figured that out a lot sooner.
  28. I’m not sure which scares me more – that we could end up with someone like Donald Trump for a president … or that there are enough people in this country that support him and his ridiculous behavior that it’s even a possibility.
  29. I’m not interested in discussing #28 and probably don’t want to hear whether you agree or disagree with me (unless you agree… LOL… but I still don’t want to discuss it). There’s a reason we’re told not to discuss politics. Or religion.
  30. I am one of those people who has words that make me crazy. Can’t stand saying them and dislike hearing them even more. And no, I’m not going to tell you what those words are.
  31. I probably use LOL and 🙂 in texts and emails far too much for someone my age. Don’t care… I’m going to keep doing it anyway. 🙂
  32. My definition of “fun” (and “NOT fun”) seems to be far different than most people I know, including my family members. Though honestly… I’m not sure exactly what I find “fun” most of the time. (Except creating. That’s always fun.)
  33. It’s so easy to take good health for granted. Until you start feeling under the weather, that is … then its value becomes painfully clear.
  34. Somewhere along the line, I became terrified of traveling by car. This is particularly true if the weather is bad and/or the roads are sketchy, in which case I won’t even consider driving. But it’s often the case even when someone else is driving, regardless of the road conditions. I miss the days when I could just spend a trip reading, rather than trying to manage irrational anxiety without annoying the heck out of my travel companions.
  35. Copy and paste Facebook messages drive me nuts. Won’t read them … and definitely won’t copy and paste them, regardless of the message or whether I agree or disagree with it. (You know the type… they often start with “I know most of my friends won’t read/do/care, but… ” or use the phrase “what happened next will {insert verb here} you…”)
  36. Same goes for campaigns that urge everyone to change their profile photo to a common theme or image.
  37. I used to find it strange when my mom wished simply for silence. Not any more.
  38. It irritates me when people tell me to appreciate my kids while they’re little because “someday you’ll miss them.” They’re the same people who say having young kids “keeps you young.” (Which is baloney, by the way.) I know their intentions are good, but the statement always feels very presumptuous to me, as if life experiences are one-size-fits-all.
  39. I think it’s all too easy to allow our expectations to frame our perception of experiences without even realizing that’s what’s happening. Just because something is not like it was when we were growing up, doesn’t mean it’s somehow lacking. I try to be very conscious of that … and wish others did the same more often.
  40. I’m not an easy person to surprise and I notice pretty much everything. Sometimes I just don’t let on that I noticed. Other times I wish I was better at blocking things out.
  41. After reading dozens of books in the past couple of years on topics related to nutrition and health, my trust in anything USDA- or FDA-approved is basically zero. Probably less. As much as I love and trust our family doctor, the same goes for the medical profession. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to eat or otherwise function as part of today’s society.
  42. I’m very curious about how my morning sickness-filled pregnancies might have been different had I chosen to quit eating wheat and pretty much all processed foods prior to having kids. Not enough to try it again, but curious nevertheless.
  43.  When I really think about it, I can see that fear plays a role in my decision-making processes far more than I’d like.  Not sure if that’s something I can change, but it would probably be to my benefit if I could.
  44. If I could have one superpower, my choice would be a toss-up between 1) the ability to turn my thoughts off & on at will and 2) the ability to control situations and environments simply by wiggling my nose, like Samantha… (that would take care of #13!) A close third would be the ability to teletransport.
  45. I’ve noticed that I struggle with being around weakness. It irritates me, frustrates me and sometimes even angers me, particularly in the forms of “timid” and “indecisive.” That probably says more about me than whatever perceived weakness I encounter, but it is what it is.
  46. It took me about three hours … and 46 years … to come up with this list. 🙂

From Atta-Girl to Happiness & the Key to Life

What makes you happy? It’s a question I’ve come to realize is the primary guide for many of us as we make choices, both big and small, in our daily lives.

Sometimes the happiness we seek is found through immediate gratification, such as when deciding whether to have just one more glass of wine (knowing we’ll pay for it later). In other more mindful moments, we recognize happiness is the long-term outcome of perhaps less enjoyable tasks we must first complete. (ie. Tackling the sink full of dishes right after dinner in order to enjoy a clean kitchen the next morning … or reorganizing the nasty storage closet so we can find what we need later.)

Happiness - The Key to LifeOn a deeper level, the pursuit of happiness plays an important role in how and where we choose to focus our life’s work, particularly in the choice of careers. The trick is to figure out just where that happiness is coming from, preferably at a young enough age that we still have time to experience it.

Sounds easy, but I know for me personally, this has been a lesson that’s taken a big chunk of my 40-plus years to figure out. I’m now beginning to understand that this process of defining what really makes me happy was behind my multiple changes in majors back in college, followed by a string of interesting but quite varied career roles, and even mostly likely my choice to divorce and remarry.

Throughout the process, I’ve made a transition from doing what I think would make other people happy to figuring out and pursuing what truly makes ME happy. It’s a process, however, that requires conscious effort to keep feelings of guilt at bay resulting largely from that misguided notion that doing what’s best for yourself is somehow an act of selfishness.

Yes, putting your own happiness ahead of others CAN be selfish if done at their expense. But as Gretchin Rubin points out in her awesome book, The Happiness Project, seeking and actually finding happiness for ourselves benefits everyone around us, provided doing so doesn’t directly harm others in some way. Think of it this way… would you rather be around someone happy? Or someone who seems miserable with life and everything in it?

I’m happy to say that my own pursuit will soon result in a change to my current employment situation – beginning next month, I will drop down to half-time in my position as an employment specialist with the State of Montana, freeing up more time for Webtiste, my latest entrepreneurial venture and so far, a source of a great deal of personal fulfillment and happiness. The creative process of putting together a new website or marketing plan generates a ton of happy feelings for me … and sharing the results with others, especially the person for whom I did the work, makes me even happier.

Atta-Girl PostcardIt also makes me happy to share that I’ve finally taken action on something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a teenager. As a seventh grader, I took second place in the county spelling bee and as a result, had what was probably my first achievement-related photo in our town’s newspaper.  That alone felt pretty cool, but the part that made it especially memorable was the “Atta-Girl” postcard and clipping I received in the mail a few days later from a local businesswoman.

I realize now my special delivery was probably at least partly motivated by a smart marketing plan, but nevertheless, it made a huge impact on me as a kid and it’s an act I’ve always wanted to replicate in my own way. When I discovered John Lennon’s quote about happiness and life, it resonated with me so strongly that I decided to design a postcard featuring that quote. I now have a stack of those postcards sitting near my desk. When I hear or read about someone taking courageous steps toward their own pursuit of happiness, I grab a postcard, jot them a message and send them their own personal “atta-girl” (or boy). It makes me feel happy when I do it … and hopefully brings a smile to the face of the recipient when they receive it.

Do you know someone who might enjoy receiving one of those postcards? Email me their story and mailing address and I’d be happy to send one their way on your behalf!

I’d also love to hear YOUR thoughts on the pursuit of happinesswould you like to share?