Because I’m Happy (At Least, I’m Trying)

This year has not been a happy year for me. Sure, there have been moments of laughter and joy. But if you look at the year as a whole, I have been depressed, cynical, sarcastic, moody, and angry. I know I have not been myself and recently I’ve been hit upside the head by what is really happening.

Since my femur fracture in January, and throughout the subsequent months of rehabilitation, I have not bothered with much beyond the basics when it comes to my daily habits. Most days, if I’ve been able to get out of bed, pee, and get dressed, I’ve been content to call the morning a success. Bonus points for the days I’ve managed to shower!

I am not a vain person, but I have been blessed by the hair gods. My hair is thick and pretty much does whatever I ask it to do. Every now and then I find a stray gray, but nothing that makes me want to rush to color it. As I dried my hair on Wednesday while preparing for a work event, I realized it had been at least six months since I took the time to dry and style my hair. Unless you count a pony tail as a style, my hair hasn’t had much of a style this year.

Friends and family know I can be counted on for lipstick. I don’t wear much makeup, but I always have at least four or five lipsticks with me. A few years ago at a family reunion, I provided various shades to all my aunts and many cousins before we took the group photo. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of times I have worn lipstick in 2016.

I love music. There are over 6,000 songs in my iTunes library. I am usually singing or humming, and most of the time I don’t realize it. This always makes for interesting times at work when I am not aware I am singing at my computer while people are trying to do work around me. But since January, I have rarely listened to music. Even sadder, today I realized I have not even opened iTunes on my computer since I moved in August except to download audiobooks from the library onto my iPod.

For the past twenty five years, I have treated myself to new perfume at Christmas. Since 1998, my signature scent has been “Happy” by Clinique. I like the scent because, well, it makes me happy. Friends say it’s “very Dee.” Wearing one spritz per day, it takes me about a year to finish a bottle. Today, I looked at the bottle of perfume I purchased last December and realized I have not worn any perfume this year.

I am an extrovert and draw energy from being around other people. Every time I have completed a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory, my scores on the extroversion/introversion scale have been the same – total extroversion, not a single introversion answer. I draw energy from being around other people and seek out social opportunities. I nurture friendships and do my best to connect with others on a regular basis. Some people tease me for having too many friends. Not this year. I haven’t gone out to happy hour since last December. When I have free time, I don’t call friends or seek out opportunities for socialization.

These observations made me realize I am falling back into the trap of withdrawing from the world and nurturing my relationship with grief. I have a comfortable relationship with grief. I stoically cultivated it four years ago as I trudged through the “year of funerals.” Fourteen funerals in thirteen months can do that to a person. I became good at sitting alone with my thoughts, ignoring the habits which bring me joy and make me feel nourished and alive.

I’m walking down that path again now and I need to turn back before I go any further. This year, I am not grieving the loss of loved ones or friends. Rather, I am grieving a further loss of independence and mobility due to my injury, the loss of my ability to manage daily pain to a level which does not interfere with my daily routine, the loss of my ability to drive independently, and the loss of trust in some of my Personal Assistant staff.

When I am mired in grief, my daily habits change. Priorities shift. I compromise, trying to balance what I would like to do, what I need to do, and what I actually have the energy to do. Instead of practicing daily gratitude, I engage in destructive list making. I expound on all that is negative, ignoring all the good still surrounding me.

Today, I pledge to make a shift in my daily habits. I will resume my daily writing. I will start wearing perfume and lipstick again. I will practice daily gratitude. I will schedule time with friends and reach out to those I have been avoiding. I will enroll in that writing class I have been considering. I will submit that essay I have been working on. I will sing songs that always make me happy.

Because sometimes when you pretend to be happy, you find out you really are happier than you think you are. And Straight No Chaser singing one of my favorite songs really does make me very happy.

 

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21 thoughts on “Because I’m Happy (At Least, I’m Trying)

  1. Thank you for sharing! I felt hints of sadness, reflection, and finally resolve. It has got me thinking about the small things that I do that are “me” and that reflect my happiness. Obsessive reading was a definite quirk for me during my adolescent years, but lost after entering the realm of adulthood. No I have reignited my passion for reading and I LOVE the energy it provides me. Perhaps there are some more things I have lost along the way that I need to pick up again.
    Thank you again for sharing, I can see how this wouldn’t have been an easy post to write and share, which only makes me appreciate it all the more! I hope recognizing your “happy” things and bringing them back into your days help you!
    Also, I greatly enjoyed the music video 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your comments. If you have never taken the time to think about all the things that make you “you,” it can be a good exercise. It is especially useful when one day you realize you haven’t done any of those things in a while. I am so glad you have renewed your reading. This post wasn’t easy to write or share, but I am so glad I did. Today I had a really happy morning. 🙂

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  2. Oh my friend. I’m sorry this year has been so hard. I’m also grateful that you are facing it squarely and reaching for joy. May the rhythm of Happy be tapping it’s way up your bad leg and into your essence very soon. (I, on the other hand, am going to try to rid myself of the aforementioned ear worm now).

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    • I’m sorry for the earworm! I have had a John Mayer song in my head for 3 days now and I gave in this morning and finally listened to the album. I hope it may be gone. That would make me happy!

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  3. I loved this post. It makes me realize that the conditions for happiness are within our power. I was especially touched by your comment about expressing gratitude versus destructive list-making. Reading, wearing our favorite perfume — all of those little things are spirit-lifters. Thank you for this.

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    • Thank you Carolyn! Yes, we can do many things to help influence our happiness. I have not been engaging in as many of them as I should. I have written many posts about my use of gratitude lists. I think they are very helpful to maintaining balance when your world is chaos. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Will the real you stand back up (of course I don’t mean that literally) ! The real you has disappeared this year. But now you have made the positive decision to restore some of your favourite behaviours (lipstick, music, hair styling, etc) the you of you will come back. And now you have a new project to write a book – well, the world will become yet again your oyster. Best wishes from Helen

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  5. Denise, this other Denise is so proud of you. You are willing to admit you were not happy, and rather than continue to wallow in it, you are willing to do the work to pull yourself out of the hole you’ve been in. That takes GUTS. It also takes time. Be gentle with yourself. It sounds like you are on your way to practicing extreme self-care, and that is never a bad thing. May you be richly blessed with peace and happiness as you stay your course.

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    • Thank you other Denise! I knew I couldn’t be the only one to be experiencing what I was feeling. Sometimes when you share, you find out there are many others who have been there, done that. I’ve never been good at being forgiving of myself, so it’s a work in progress. I’ll get there.

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  6. I hate that this year has been so difficult for you. So happy, though, that you were able to identify these areas and have set plans in place to move to a different point and place. Can’t wait to see pictures of you all over Facebook with amazingly dazzling colors of lipstick singing your heart out. You’ve got this!!

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  7. Love both the song AND your attitude. There really *is* something about the fake-it-till-you-make-it kind of approach. You’re not really faking it; you’re just choosing to amplify what’s there and make it your focus. A good strategy. I always have to remind myself that I can choose joy.

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  8. […] In prior years, I have spent at least part of the race shedding a few tears while thinking about how my sister and brother-in-law would be so proud watching their children and grandchildren continuing to honor Mary Jane’s request that they do something for others who are facing brain, head and neck cancer. Instead, this year I laughed. How come nobody told me having a cuddly three year old boy wearing a Yankees cap in your lap was such a good way to avoid melancholy thoughts?! And you would have thought I’d known the enthusiasm of an energetic six year old would be infectious. I think I knew both of these things, but it hit me yesterday how spending time with happy children can improve your mood when you are searching for your own “happy.” […]

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  9. […] In prior years, I have spent at least part of the race shedding a few tears while thinking about how my sister and brother-in-law would be so proud watching their children and grandchildren continuing to honor Mary Jane’s request that they do something for others who are facing brain, head and neck cancer. Instead, this year I laughed. How come nobody told me having a cuddly three year old boy wearing a Yankees cap in your lap was such a good way to avoid melancholy thoughts?! And you would have thought I’d known the enthusiasm of an energetic six year old would be infectious. I think I knew both of these things, but it hit me yesterday how spending time with happy children can improve your mood when you are searching for your own “happy.” […]

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  10. I’m really impressed by your self-awareness, both of what makes you happy and the admission that you haven’t been doing it enough lately. This was an exercise a therapist made me do a while back and I was so resistant to it at first. But once I started I realized what was keeping me from doing those things and that I had the power to change the situation.

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    • Thank you. I really wasn’t feeling very self-aware when I wrote this. I was really feeling very down on myself because I had lost myself – or things I felt to be ‘me’ things. I have been working on regaining my happy, and I know things will improve.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You wrote here that you’re not driving independently anymore. But I thought I read a recent blog of you driving again. Is the driving situation permanent, or could it change? I hope you might be able to get back on the road again like you were in that blog!

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