Wednesday, October 27, 2010

joyful girl

I am not a joyful girl.

In fact, I am quite cranky, quite a bit of the time.

Once upon a time, a former boyfriend told he he loved how I was so happy all the time. I thought that was funny, since I was 16 and felt not happy most of the time. Apparently I seemed a joyful girl.

Then came single teenage motherhood. And even through that, I was ok. I'm sure I complained - but there was no choice but to keep on keepin' on.

Somehow as I've gotten older, I've become a cranky pants complainer. I've become a pessimist. I've become a 'the sky is falling' kinda gal. I don't know exactly when it started. My early 20's I think. It started with the worrying.

My mom was always a complainer. She could be standing in a field of daisies on a beautiful spring day, and notice the only pile of dog crap out there. I always hated it. I never understood how someone could be so miserable so much of the time.

Guess what? I've become my mother. Dishes in the sink? Complain. Laundry piling up? Complain. Husband has too many gigs coming up? Complain. Weather doesn't cooperate? Complain. I think there may be a pattern there.

So how does one become an optimist? How does one stop complaining? Or better yet, stop noticing things to complain about?

I mean, I've tried. I look at my household chores as things that bless my family, and that helps - it really does. Most of the time. I looking at my very long days at work as an opportunity to get other things done like reading or knitting (I have a lot of down time on my 12 hour shifts).

I try to slow down and find something good in every day. I try take the time to notice the beauty around me. But, my goodness, sometimes it's too easy to stay wrapped up in a gray cloud.

And you know, I know all the answers too.

You can't control other peoples actions or emotions. So if someone else is upsetting me (like the kids, or The Husband, or co-workers) I can't control them, I can only control how I react towards them.

I know that 'if you don't like a situation, change it. If you can't change it, change the way you look at it'.

I know that if you look for bad things, you will find them and if you look for the good, you'll find that instead.

What I don't know is how to implement those things. I have tried, really. I've taken Dale Carnegie classes at work. One of my lessons was to pick a statement from the book and implement it in my life. I chose 'Don't criticize, condemn or complain'. This was probably 6 years ago, and I knew I was complaining too much then. The idea was, if you just stopped doing those things, what you wanted would eventually come about. At the time, a huge issue was dishes. There is nothing that gets under my skin more than coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes. But after months of arguing, clearly nothing was changing. So I stopped complaining. And I just came home and did them, as calmly as I could. With out saying a word.

You know what happened? I got angrier. Because nothing changed. I'm not saying nagging is the way to go, but not mentioning what's wrong doesn't fix anything either. The dishes are rarely a problem now, but I don't remember how we solved that one. . .

So there has to be a balance right? A way to not get walked all over, but not whine and complain and nag, right?

How do you bring joy back into your life? How do you stay happy?

I have a few ideas, ways to begin. I guess it's a daily commitment to live that way. At least fake it till it works.

I know I need to get back into keeping a gratitude journal, it helps.

I need to get outside more. I went walking on lunch yesterday, in the cemetery by work and it really was healing. I need more nature, and I need more exercise. I work a desk job for 10-12 hours a day and it definitely drags down my spirit.

I need to take more me time. I don't know how. Even my hobbies are for my family. But maybe that's ok. I enjoy sewing, I've been wanting to make a quilt for the kids for a while, but "never have the time". I need to make that time, even if the end result is for someone else, the process is for me. I need to take the time to nap, without feeling like I've wasted time. Or soak in a tub without worrying about what else I should be doing.

I need to be more flexible and spontaneous. Sometimes things don't work out just the way I wanted. That needs to be ok. That's life.

I need to make changes. I need to find joy in what I do. I need to go back to school, I need a new job. I've known this for a while, but have been reluctant to make the change. I'm not the kind of person who would go hand in their 2 weeks notice right now, just because I'm not happy, but it's time to take steps in that direction.

How do you keep joy in your life? Are good thoughts automatic for you? Are you a complainer? How do you decide when to draw the line, when it's ok to complain ?


Valkyrie said...

You do not come across as a pessimistic complainer at all. You do, however, come across as a huge over achiever. And maybe you have a little perfectionist in you, too. Nothing is more stressful than having really high standards and wanting to DO IT ALL. That's how I see you. So no wonder that you get frustrated that it doesn't all get done. Of course it doesn't!

I used to be a little more like you, but not quite to your degree. I doubt I ever had your energy! But I used to want everything to be perfect. Now I guess I'm happy with "good enough." For me, a lot was just reshuffling priorities and letting some stuff go. When I let it go, I realized the world did not come to a screeching halt.

But there are some things where you do have to stick to your guns--like dirty dishes. Oh, I can't stand piles of dirty dishes either. That's just a basic thing. You shouldn't have to do everything. You deserve to have some help. It's not nagging if you just have a conversation. Sometimes, we have to have the same conversation over and over and over again. And it's hard to stay calm and non-accusatory (well, for me it is!). But you do have to keep at it because you are right--doing nothing will not solve the problem.

I don't know. It's all a balance. From where I stand (fah fah away), it seems that you try to do too much. So maybe let some of the drudgery go so you can make time to do the things that bring you joy.

My husband always says he loves me because I'm so happy and optimistic all the time. And it's true. It's just more automatic for me to see how good I have it. But I'm not frustrating myself with overly high expectations either. I think part of my happiness comes from LOW expectations. hahahaahaa Is that bad??

gardenofsimple said...

thanks so much for your comment valk! :) I think somewhere along the way I did become a perfectionist. I have NO IDEA HOW because I certainly was not one in my younger years. The older I get, the more I want things to be a certain way and the more I try to control those things. I'm certainly not an over-achiever at work :D

I really think I need to take a year or so and just stay home. I've never been able to do that, since I had Evan at such a young age. When Kev starts working I"d love to take a year 'off' and go to school and just be home - do home things - be with the kids. I think that trying to balance work and life and home is just too much, something has to give and the only thing I can see myself giving up is my job!! :D

Sara said...

I get madder too when I feel I've communicated how much something, like dirty dishes, aggravates me and it feels that nobody listens or wants to help. When in reality, it is my issue and I gotta figure out a way to make it not upset me.

Like you, I struggle with it daily. And like you, I think I complain more than I should. Unlike you, though, I don't have the need for perfection. I used to. Way back in junior high, but counseling helped. Also, part of the perfectionist tendency, for me, was in response to the alcoholism my stepfather struggled with. With that particular -ism, I was the compensator, the perfectionist. If all was right, then bad things don't happen and the world doesn't crash in on me.

I too, wish to stay home, not because I'm a great homemaker (as if! ha), but because each and every day I feel the pull of a more simplistic life. Raising my own animals, making my own clothes, growing my own food. I wish I'd seen my path more clearly at age 20, than I do now. My job is a means, but my heart is with family and home.