Friday, June 26, 2015

Happiness

I was recently interviewed for a program that I am very passionate about: Project Reveal! (See the video here.)  The topic was happiness.  What is happiness? Is it a choice? Can things make you happy? What truly makes me happy?
This is what I've come up with:

Outside; These are the things that make me happy for a little while.  They may not have anything to do with inner soulful happiness, but they are still great.

1. Turtle sundaes--Vanilla ice cream smothered in hot fudge, caramel, pecans, and whipped cream? Yes please.  While a turtle sundae will only make me happy for an hour or so, it DOES help my mood for that time too.  About an hour in is when I realize that maybe it wasn't such a good idea and start debating whether it was worth it.

2. Comfy clothes that make me look good--I love some serious comfort, and mega bonus points if I happen to look good while wearing them too.  I have this great cotton pencil skirt that I love because it makes me look pretty classy without restricting my breathing or giving me a major muffin top.  Yes, yoga pants are great too, but they aren't the bees knees in my opinion; I just don't feel very nice in yoga pants unless I'm on my way to yoga.

3. Snuggles--They really are the best way to help my mood for a little while.  Extra special Annika & Mayzie & Andy snuggles are the BEST way to turn my frown upside down

Inside: These are the things that touch my soul and make me feel whole again when I'm down.  The happiness that these spread through me cannot be touched.

1. Relationships--This is what really makes me happy on the inside.  All kinds of relationships influence my internal happiness.  My family relationships come first for me.  The time I get to spend with my children, husband, brothers, parents is essential for my happiness.  This is one of the reasons we moved closer to family upon our return from Berlin.  My friends are also essential to my happiness, including the ones who are far away and that I don't get to talk to very often.  Is there anything better than getting a random phone call at 9pm on a Tuesday from a friend in a far off state? The conversations we have fuel my soul and keep me grounded in a way that I sincerely appreciate.  The way to my heart is through my brain, and the best relationships I have are with people who understand that.

2. Experiences--There are so many experiences that have made me happy, that I can't even begin to count. Meeting amazing people, working hard on a big project to completion, doing something new---all of these things are experiences that soothe my soul and make me feel happy.

3. Helping Others--There is no greater way to make me happy than to make other people happy and/or to bring them comfort.  As I say in the episode, this is why I became a doula.  This is why my life's passion is to help others enjoy and understand childbirth.  This is why I volunteer my time doing things that promote well-being in the community.  Helping others helps my soul too, which is why there is this debate as to whether or not there really is such a thing as altruism since we all get something back from helping others.  This debate does not interest me, mostly because who cares if we get something back from helping others, whatever the motivation is to do it doesn't matter, only that you do it.

Both: Then there are the things that feed both my soul and my yearning for a little happiness right in this very moment.

1. Yoga--Is there anything better than getting out of your head and getting fully into your body while at the same time focusing on your breath and changing your perspective? A great yoga teacher gets me to do all of these things, and a great yoga class will make me be introspective and feel physically better at the same time.  Other exercise also helps, but yoga feeds me body and soul.

2.  Sunrise/Sunset Walks/Runs--Similarly, walking anywhere while the sun is rising or setting speaks to both my body and soul. I become contemplative and reflective.  The moments are fleeting, and remind me of the brevity of this life.  I've had so many of these walks, but some of my favorites:
2003: Sunrise walk on the beach with Andy when he asked me to marry him.
2007: Sunset walk on the beach with Nadia talking about our future plans.
2009: Sunrise run on the beach in northern California, when I planned my running re-entry.
2014: Sunset stroll along the Mauerweg with Andy and the girls past a canal and horse pastures.


3. Travel--Nothing comes close to making me happy in the moment and for a long time as traveling!  It doesn't even need to be far away, but sometimes is.  Oh the places I have gone that are forever etched in my memory and soul.  My travels are so much more than stamps on my passport or miles on my car; they are the memories that I go back to again and again when I need a little happiness in my day/week/month/year. They are the dreams that I have for the future too. Yes, the list of places I want to visit is a mile long, but I know that I can die a happy woman from my travel experience memories.  Bonus points: extra great stories for the old folks' home.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

13 Year Cycle

13 years ago I lived in Bloomington, Indiana.  I was working as a waitress/bartender at ChiChi's Mexican Restaurant.  I walked or took the bus to work and lived in an apartment with one of my best friends.  My favorite things to do were go out to the bar with friends, meet cute boys, and try my damn-dest to figure out how to afford to finish my undergrad degree.  Ok, that last one wasn't that fun, but it did consume a large part of my thoughts.

13 years ago in Bloomington, IN there was a humongous swarm of cicadas.  I love cicadas.  I love the noise that they make; it always reminds me of summers gone by.  Cicadas remind me of the movie Lucas. I love finding their little shells all over tree trunks.  That summer the cicada chorus was more of a deafening roar than a sweet summer serenade.  They were EVERYWHERE!  We couldn't walk outside without being reminded of their presence.  One even flew into my face that summer as I walked across a hot parking lot, prompting much face swatting and spitting as the guts got all over my face and hands.  Yuck.

I will never forget that summer of the cicadas, but they were really only one highlight.  You see, that was the summer that I met Andy (my now husband).  That was the summer that I trained him to be a server at ChiChi's.  We went out for drinks with friends, after his week of training during which I had been flirting with him mercilessly while still also pining for a stupid boy that really had no interest in a relationship with me.  After that week of training, we went out in a big group of people for a much needed night of drinks.  That night, Andy asked me to go on a date with him the next day, and I said, Yes!"

The next day, with cicadas blaring, I played my very first round of disc golf.  We laughed so much, and I was surprisingly nervous.  He drove me home to shower and change, and picked me up later so we could go to dinner and a movie.  We watched the Bourne Identity (whoa that was 13 years ago!), and went to dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant that has since been razed.  Afterwards, we went to play pool at a local watering hole famous for their signature drink the AMF (Adios Mother F*****) and for the bras that hang from the rafters.  He took me home.  We talked for hours, and then he was going to leave.  He was going to leave without kissing me.  I could not abide that, and kissed him instead.

The next day, we hung out again, and every day for the rest of the summer too.  I was hooked! I was done for and didn't even know it yet.  That summer was filled with hours of hanging out, going on dates, working together at ChiChi's, and lots of kissing! It was wonderful.

Here we are a mere 7 months after we met...on the Spring Break when he asked me to marry him!

So this summer, when the 13 year cicadas came out and started their deafening din, my first thought was of that summer 13 years ago.  My second thought was how much has changed since then.  My third thought: how much really hasn't changed at all.  While our lives have moved forward and we've been on so many adventures together and separately, we still love each other just like we did that summer 13 years ago when we fell in love.

Where will we be when the 13 year cicadas come back out? I honestly have no idea.  We will have a 20 year old Annika and an 18 year old Mayzie.  Now THAT is a frightening thought.  Another thing I know for sure: we WILL be together, hopefully sitting on our porch swing drinking glasses of wine and remembering that summer in Bloomington when we met.



Monday, June 1, 2015

Morphing of the Ugly Cry

Last night I finally got around to watching the Book Thief.  I had been wanting to see it for a while, and my MIL just so happened to have it on her DVR while we're housesitting.  Andy was off playing soccer.  The girls were in bed. So I thought, why not watch it.

Let me say that I thought it was a beautiful and moving story.  I loved it, but then again I am a bit of a sucker for movies about girls who end up being writers.  Of course, the ending of the movie made me ugly cry, and I mean snot running down onto my lips and uncontrollable sobbing type of ugly crying.  Yes, I cried because of the sad ending.  Duh, of course it is sad; It's set in Nazi Germany! One small note of annoyance about the movie from a German speaker.  The foster mother in the movie constantly calls the protagonist girl "it."  In English, this really makes her sound like a jerk.  In German, calling a girl "it" is proper grammar and implies nothing.  I chalk this up to most likely a bad translation.

But then my cry morphed into something completely different.  The cry itself didn't exactly change, but the reason for the crying changed.  The movie is about children during the war, which is probably what set me off on this mental tangent.  It was just so hard for me to think about it while my own innocent children slept upstairs.  They are, as of yet, completely oblivious to the evil-ness that lurks in the world around them.  They have no idea how evil and callous the world really can be.  I was overwhelmed by the thought of their innocence as it compares to the ugly world that exists.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the thing that is parenthood.  I was overwhelmed at the responsibility we have to explain these kinds of things to our children.  How do you explain WWII to a child?  How do you talk about all the horrific monstrosities that have happened in this world and continue to happen?  I imagined their faces and the thoughts that will go through their mind, and the loss of innocence that will happen in that moment when they learn that the world can be a horrific place that is filled with REAL monsters that look like humans instead of being round green single eye-balled humorous characters voiced by Billy Chrystal.

I know that we have to tell them about it.  I know that we will find the right time.  Is it odd that I would rather we be the ones to break it to them?  When does this happen anyway?

Again, the cry morphed in a more ridiculous direction.  It's going too fast.  All the stupid cliches are TRUE and I HATE it.
It all goes too fast! TRUE
They're only little once. TRUE
It's just a phase. TRUE
They grow like weeds. TRUE
Etc etc etc.

Rarely do we take the time to reflect on this parenting ride as it is happening to us.  It really is a luxury to do so, and I fully acknowledge that.  I'm enjoying it, I swear.  But sometimes, just sometimes, the sheer weight of it bears down on me and I can't help but ugly cry, and that's ok.


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