Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Things I've Given Up to be Happy

For me, each Fall has always been the start of my personal new year.  I resonate strongly with the fall, the transformation that the earth goes through in preparation for the new beginnings.  The time to shed the parts of us that are no longer healthy or useful or full of life.  The parts we shed are beautifully shed as we retreat to hibernate and begin growing anew.  

This last fall was no different.  In looking back upon it now, winter and much of Spring behind me, I can see how everything was beginning to be shed so that I could become new.  Of course, I oftentimes fought this change and shedding and growth; it's a natural response to want to keep things the same. It's familiar, and even if things aren't working; familiarity is comfortable.  Little did I know how uncomfortable I would have to get to get where I am now. Happier and healthier.  And that came with giving up a lot.  Things that I when I look at right now, are wonderful things to shed and should be shed joyously, but when you're in the midst of it all, may seem impossible some days.

10 Things I've Given Up to be Happy

1. Complaining: We all do it.  It is so often easier in life to point out what is not going right in life, rather than to focus on what is going right or what we can do to change and better our lives.  I used to have a friend who constantly complained.  You asked how they were, and what you heard back was the list of every hard or difficult thing that was going on in their lives.  They would post about their woes on social media often. It was exhausting. Not because their woes were exhausting and I had to hear about them, but because I noticed that even when good things happened, it was never the focus, the things still left to be fixed were. It was also exhausting because as  their friend, all I wanted to do was help and I worried constantly about them, trying to find ways, do things, try new ideas to help them.  And no matter how much I gave of my time, my money, or my ideas, nothing was ever better, and ideas were never even tried.  The constant complaining had become a trap, so much a part of their identity that even when offered insight, something always held them back from improving because the role of the struggle was who they were.  And it is scary and hard to change who you are.  The other exhausting part of this friendship was the fact that I noticed that after a period of time around them, I began to complain more and be grateful less.  I would notice everything wrong and not look for the things that were right and that is not fundamentally who I am at all.

So I started to take the advice of a photo I saw once, and go 24 full hours without complaining even once... and I loved my days of no complaining a thousand times more than I did my days full of complaining, negativity, and pessimism.

I began to realize that for me, complaining ='s ungratefulness. And I think grateful is one of the most, if not *the* most, important things to be.

2. Having to always be right: I'll be honest, this one can be hard for me.  I was raised to be strong and sure in my thoughts and my actions.  When I am not careful, and this goes unchecked, I can have a tendency to believe that I am right, at least most of the time.  But this does no good for my life and happiness or those around me.  There is a great freedom in allowing yourself to be wrong, or at least not right about someone or something else's life.

When I let go of this, I felt truly unburdened.  I was simply human again, and allowed to make mistakes!  As a result, a lot of beautiful, magical things have come from those mistakes!

3. Fighting: There used to be a part of me that really and truly valued fighting. I was under the mistaken belief that in order to value, show your love and dedication to, and to believe in something that you *had* to fight for it. It was almost a guilty pleasure. Conflict meant that something was true and valuable and in turn, somehow meant I was valuable to someone or something. Fighting with loved ones, your friends... It meant that *I* was worth fighting for. And fighting meant I had something worth fighting for, right? I mean, it had to!

BUT. It doesn't. Sometimes, fights are a symptom of something that is broken, no longer productive or healthy to your life. You can glue a broken cup together again, sure. But there is no guarantee that it will be able to effectively hold liquid again... Despite the strongest glue, some damage is simply not meant to be fixed. You have to sweep up the mess the best you can, say goodbye to what it once was and let it go. 

I do my best not to fight anymore. I am not my best version of myself when I am fighting and I want to strive constantly to be only my best self. Because at the end of the day, I know now that there are very few things worth fighting for. 

4. Always saying yes: This is a big one. I always say yes. I am often the person people ask for things again and again. Because until recently, I have always said yes. Yes to the point where I was decreasing my own value and self worth as a person and turning into simply whatever services, favors or deeds I could do for others. 

This came to a head for me when I realized how many people in my life were only there for my "Yes"s when I noticed how quickly they changed in their treatment of me when I had to and started saying "No." Whether they realized it or not, their friendship had become conditional and used to me always being there with a "Yes". With a "No" the relationships became strained, inconsistent and disappointing. That sucked, but being pushed to the point of neglecting my families and my own needs to the point of panic attacks and tears sucked worse. My family and I deserve better. 

"No." Is a complete sentence. 
And in order to say yes to one thing, you have to say no many others. The yes had better be worth it!

5. Explaining myself: After a recent relapse with this one, I am now more resolute than ever before to truly give up the idea that I have always explain myself.  Because if I have learned one thing most recently, it is this:

Many people don't listen to hear what you have to say, they listen to respond. 

It all too often falls on deaf ears. If I'm being brutally honest, the ones who are demanding an explanation, are often not worth the time and effort it will take to explain yourself, your thoughts, your feeling and your heart to.  I've learned that if upon hearing that they've have hurt someone, their first response is to get defensive and deflect responsibility rather than apologize and try to see your perspective, then it is the time to stop the dialog. Stop explaining yourself and simply walk away.  Because when it comes to having to explain yourself, your friends shouldn't need it and those who aren't really your friends won't believe it. It's as simple as that.

6. Blame: To any one reading this... I want you to know that it's okay to STOP BLAMING YOURSELF for everything.  When some one treats you poorly, it's not automatically your fault.  But I also want you to know, that it's most likely not solely the fault of everyone and everything around you either.  We have to quit being so quick to resort to blame in our lives.

There seems to be two types of people when it comes to blame.  The ones who are quick to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, and the ones who blame every single thing that goes wrong on anyone and everyone else.  Either one is problematic.

If you blame yourself for everything, all you do is create a prison for yourself of negativity, shame and despair.  Nothing can go right if you already feel that everything that you have ever done, are doing, or will do is wrong.  Sometimes shitty things happen and it's not your fault.  Maybe it's no ones fault.  It happened and what we need to do is dig in, problem solve and try again!

If you look at your life as the victim of your circumstances and that everyone else around you is to blame for your life, you also create a prison.  This prison is built of bitterness, self-pity, victim mentality and despair.  If you insist that you are a powerless victim, you will continue to be one.  Whenever possible, stop letting your life be the result of other actions or inactions. You have the power to take charge in your life and say that you refuse to accept or assign blame to anyone or anything.

7. Toxic relationships: There is a quote I read at least year ago and it has stuck with me ever since.
"Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren't inherently bad people, but they aren't the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go. Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can't destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make your wellbeing a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend, or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful- you have every right to leave and create a safer place for yourself." ~Daniell Koepke
I had to do this.  Months in the making, and last month I just had to do it.  I had to stop, turn around, and walk away.  As I expected, it was not reacted to in the same way and I dealt with a fair share of anger and accusations, and even a bit of bullying and harassment.  I tried to explain myself, but as I said before, it didn't get me far, and it just confirmed for me that the direction I needed to walk was away, so I did.  And it is okay.  I'm okay.  Everyone is the right one for someone. And everyone is the wrong one for someone else.  And sometimes, someone is both for the same person. All we can do is honor the good and let go when it no longer is good or healthy for BOTH people.

8. Excuses: When I made the decision to live as blame free of a life as possible, it also meant that I had to give up the habit of making and giving excuses for things.  An excuse is a defense or a justification that we use to seek the lessening of blame.  If I am free from blame, blaming myself or others for my life and what happens to me, then I am also free from excuses.

I am also not responding to, or even listening to, if I can help it, excuses from others.  I am not going to take what I am making effort to not dish out.  If I hurt you, I will tell you I am sorry. I won't try to tell you why me hurting you was justified or kind of okay.  I'm just sorry. And if I tell you that you hurt me, all I want is an apology if you are truthfully sorry.  I don't want to hear why I shouldn't be hurt or what I did wrong to somehow cause my "punishment" of you hurting me. No more excuses. Just honesty and accountability.

9. Control: Somethings are just simply out of my control. I can't control it. It's not my job.  And there is absolutely NOTHING predictable about "control" anyways.  You can do everything in a situation that should add up to result #1, and still you end up with result #27.  And you can do nothing in a situation and end up with the best result ever.  All we have at best is a semblance of control in so many areas of our lives.  We will make ourselves sick with worry, stress, and anxiety if we try to micromanage and control everything. It's okay to let some things go. It's okay to trust others to do it their way and it'll be okay.

10. Grudges, dwelling and revenge: This one. Oh man, this one can be hard!  When we're hurt, it's so easy to hold on to bitterness, resentment, anger and more. And I have been a long time member of the misery company and I have dwelled on my hurts in long, drawn out and oftentimes unhealthy ways.

I realized that I was finally changing and growing up when recently faced with something that would have damn near killed me in the past and I felt okay.  I felt peaceful and I felt content in my choice to walk away. I let some pressure and actions from the other side of the experience step me backwards a bit into the explanation and fighting trap of negativity, but I stopped it and stepped away quicker than I ever have before in my life and for that, I am proud of myself.

I'm not mad anymore. I'm not hurt anymore.  I'm not sad anymore. And I am also not dwelling in a grudge of bitterness this time.  I honor what was had with a smile on my face and smile at the course of life I am on now, with who I am on this course with.  I'm okay.  I'm free.

Obviously, I am no where near perfect.

I have days where I want to complain, and blame and make excuses.  I am human.  I am flawed. I am imperfect.  But I am trying.  Every single day I try to be better than I was yesterday.

If our level of happiness filled a jar, my jar is bigger and fuller than it was a month ago, three months ago, six months ago, or a year ago. And I am so grateful for that happiness. The healing, the growing, the letting go and the moving forward have made my life so much better, more fulfilling and positive.  I am a happy person. I've learned, I've lost, I've grown, I've loved and I continue to do so.  I share this today to not pretend that I am some special lifestyle, blogging, happiness guru... but rather to share what's worked for me and to hopefully effect a positive change for even one person.  I am just one person on a journey for their best life, grateful for those who have shared their journey with me and hoping to share my own.

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