Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How I Stay Happy

My roommate's boyfriend said to me the other day, "Are you ever not in a good mood?"

"I think you're just always around me at the right time," I joked.

"I don't think so. It's like... every time I see you, I could be in the worst mood of my life, but then I see your smile and I think 'Everything is just going to be okay'."

This is a double edge sword for me. Always has been.

First off, this is the highest compliment I could ever really receive. That anyone could really receive. I love bringing joy to others. It makes me happy to make others happy, especially when I'm feeling out of sorts. And the people who have told me this, I get embarrassed and incredibly flattered. I keep friends around that make me feel this way, and it's such a pleasure to know that I have this effect as well. I would honestly not know what to do with myself if I ever found out that my presence made anyone feel ill, uncomfortable, or full of hatred.

Well, I know a few people that it could happen to, and I am okay with that. Mostly because I probably mean to be a certain way to make them feel those feelings because I am a lesser woman when it comes to people who are horrible to my friends, or who have treated me with undeserved disrespect. One day, maybe, I will take a higher road in those situations. Maybe. But today is not that day.

Off topic.

The second portion of this compliment is that it places a self pressure/expectation. It is a struggle. People who see this image of me, that I am always happy, giddy, loving life, they don't know what to do with themselves when I start crying in an art gallery over a video of sunsets. They aren't sure what to do when I am so angry that I spew out profanities like poetry, slamming books down with force. They look away when my throat catches, or, better yet, sob uncontrollably because life has suddenly become just too much for me to comprehend. They hesitate when I become quiet and, after a half second, change the subject, most likely downing the last of my drink while I look away.

The issue with being what others call a "delight" is that they don't see you as a normal human being. They see you as a constant beam of happiness with no other valid emotions. You are there as help to battle their own emotions, and anything other than joy expressed reminds them that they don't actually really know you in the least bit, and that, if Constant Delight is having issues, perhaps everything isn't going to be quite well in their world. Delicately, they will remove themselves, prodding only when they know there won't be any response other than to help them.

I struggled with this. For years. I still do.

I didn't like sharing things about myself. People so often like to talk about themselves, rarely listening to what another has to really say. When you really pay attention, you'll find that many people are just waiting for the next moment to talk. It hurt to share the smallest things about myself, trying to connect, only to find that it hadn't been considered important enough to remember. A mixture of understanding and resentment would follow. I'd see their side, understand the need to be heard, to let someone know that what they had to say was important, but I just wanted to be heard, too.

I accepted being a leg lifter for other people far too easily. I still do look at it in the light of me knowing it'd be something I would want from a friend. I'd want someone to help me if I were down, if I were stuck, or if I were hopeful. I wanted to be the person I knew I'd want around. And it made me happy. I had residue of sadness, but to see others achieve their goals with my help, it was nice. When I had time, I'd work on my own goals, saving up for projects, creating things with metal, or writing what I hoped could be a novel some day.

This didn't prepare me for the coming people in my life who would then turn back around and offer their hand to pull me up to their platform.

Realizing that someone actually cares for what you have to offer is more difficult to accept than someone using you for their own gain. I can't fully explain as to why this is (I never did take the class on psychology, just bought a book...and read maybe 10 pages). All I know is that I somehow started to stumble upon people who cared enough to ask. And if I said, "Nevermind." they would press for the real answer.

They would remember I disliked grilled cheese, and would eat popcorn every day if I could. They would remember I wasn't a fan of sitting in the back seat as I get easily car sick, and to give me apple juice if I did anyway. They'd answer my incessant questions without irritation because it was known in our group that I was a curious soul with genuine interest and saw fascination with what seemed to be the mundane.

But it was the accepting of their help that troubled me most. I had gotten to a point in my life where I wanted to do everything by myself. I was so used to hiding many of my feelings that I just didn't trust anyone to handle them.

It's hard to describe the through process I went through when I decided to say "Fuck it." and try living how I wanted to live for once. Perhaps it is because I had once lived that way before when I was quite naive, before I realized that what I could say and do changed how others would react. I think it is because I had something to go off of, the feeling of being free. It was the feeling you get when you are yourself without realizing it, without trying, and not caring what others think. Not caring wasn't in a rude way...it was in a way that you just don't think about it.

The day I decided to say "Fuck it." was the day I decided to start living again. By living, I mean doing things I've always wanted to do. I was so used to being frugal. Of being in the middle of something and putting it aside to help someone else finish their project instead, and never really getting back to what I was doing as others asked for help. Of always saying "yes" to what other people wanted to do, thus me missing out on my own wishes that I felt would make a more complete me. Of people making the decision for me because my own way was too sporadic or considered off the beaten path.

I was basically the person who opened the door and let one person pass, only to become the doorman because I continued to let everyone else behind me go first. And now that I have continued to say "Fuck it." I have never been more happy in my entire life.

A quick list of things I have done in the past year and a half:

  • Moved to the cities
  • Got a new job with a rather large raise
  • Met a group of friends who I don't know how I've survived without knowing them
  • Went to Wisconsin Dells for the first time ever--including Wizard Quest, an extremely fancy hotel I never would have agreed to in previous years, water parks, etc.
  • Done many charity events
  • Been a part of four 5Ks
  • Started a podcast
  • Found a really good martini bar (I like martinis now--who knew?)
  • Got over my fear of singing on demand (rather than just for fun)
  • Drove to Chicago for a day because I'd never been
  • Have gone to two symphonies
  • Started up D&D
  • Found quite a few ways to bring about happiness within my community (Volunteering, random acts of kindness, etc.)
  • Accomplished ten road trips--and counting
  • Started going to monthly events at the MIA
  • Wrote for a video game that many Spanish orientated sites seem to enjoy
  • Made wishes via flying lanterns
  • Applied to be a professional vlogger
  • Made a habit out of laser tag
  • Have learned how to be okay with crying, and how refreshing it is to be okay with showing those emotions, sad or happy, because I'm actually stronger for it
  • Created a yearly event of Book Shop Hopping (where you go to used/local bookstores, get signatures/stamps, and enjoy the atmosphere)
  • Created MANY yearly events, actually, new traditions within our group
  • Have had several jam sessions
  • Went on many dates through online dating
  • Removed myself from online dating
  • Held a chicken for the very first time ever
  • Created a painting
  • Have seen three comedians
  • Have been to SO MANY CONCERTS
  • Get my hair cut by professionals every six weeks
  • Went skydiving
  • Introduced Space Jam to so many people
Each day, I become more and more confident in not only allowing myself to say yes, but to include others in what I want to do in life. And I'm also becoming okay with doing the things I always think isn't possible to do alone...well, alone.

I want to leave with something that everyone should know: I have always been a very happy person. I grew up in a life with love, I was encouraged to try everything (martial arts, softball, basketball, volleyball, piano, theatre, professional choir, and modeling are just a few things I was a part of before the age of 18), and it was a rare time I was told I wasn't allowed to attempt my dream. What I am trying to say is that during my period of allowing others to use me for their needs, I was losing my loving and optimism and happiness. I was becoming cynical in the end.

And that's how I stay happy. By taking the oxygen mask first before helping others. There are still a few times that I give up what I need to do to help someone, but I check myself to make sure I can handle it before offering. And I also have myself some fantastic friends who understand when I say no, rather than the ones who made such a big fuss that I'd feel guilty. By sharing, by being honest, by surrounding myself with people who are worth my time, by not allowing my own fear of life and living get in the way of what I want to do: which is live life.

It isn't an easy road. I still have to remind myself to say "yes", or to not allow myself to be cornered into a situation that will run me dry with nothing in return. And placing trust in myself rather than fear is still the most difficult thing of all. But I am getting there. And I'm the happiest I have ever been. And while I give a lot of credit to my friends and family, I am also proud to know that it came from me to be this way.

So, when people genuinely want to know how I am so happy all the time, I smile and say, "It could be worse, and I'm pretty lucky." You have to want to change for the better to start the process. Luck aside (because I haven't run into too many problems with any type of depression for myself), I have parts inside that got me along when luck wasn't there.

And, to be completely fair, there is a fear of being happy. This has become some sort of human habit. We are afraid to make ourselves happy. Afraid of the responsibility that is us taking over our own lives. Of making decisions to keep our lives going. Of prioritizing our said lives. Because it is work, and we can't go blaming everyone else for what we decide.

And what if we do succeed? The question seems scary for two reasons: you feel shamed for not doing it earlier, and you don't want to turn the success into a failure. And then you'll start to regret your choices, which is worse than everything put together. Regret means it was a waste of time.

For me, there is no wasted time in life while learning. Wasted time would be me never learning anything and staying there in fear of learning more. And allowing that fear to cripple you, to stay in a stasis, is far more terrifying to me than jumping for what I want in life.

You have to make some tough decisions that may seem harsh, you have to be firm in your beliefs, and, most importantly, you have to do your damnest to connect with everyone, even those you have nothing in common with, even if it is just by smiling at one another. Because life is far too short to waste it on not being the best you can be. And the feeling is so contagious, you won't want to stop.

Just say 'fuck it' and do it anyway. And love the heck out of it all.

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