One day last week (like Alexander in the children’s book by Judith Viorst), I was having a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day I updated my Facebook status to say, “I don’t mean to be a whiner, but today totally bites.” That evening, I had a voicemail from one of my oldest friends. She said, “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I was so happy to see your Facebook status! You’ve been so chipper for so long, I was beginning to wonder who you were, and what you did with my friend!” Was there any way to take that message other than to laugh and admit she had a point?
Dear readers, I have often shared that my life has changed materially in the time since I began this blog. It is true, I am happy for probably the first time in my adult life. The kind of happy that penetrates deep below the surface of daily ups and downs. The type of happy that prevents me from writing depressing status updates or complaining incessantly about minutiae. I am “big picture” happy — and that is a really great place to be.
If you don’t know me, or if, like my relieved friend above, you stay up-to-date through electronic means and infrequent chats, you might not be getting an accurate picture of how my newly happy self interacts with the world. Those who see me daily were less surprised, I am sure, to read my complaint! Being happy doesn’t mean I have stopped expressing emotional ups AND downs, or that I have magically overcome all hurdles in my emotional, physical, or professional life. Far from it.
Example #1: I am able to go for relatively lengthy periods of time having what I would call a “right relationship” with food. I eat and truly enjoy fresh, healthy food prepared by my own hands. In fact, this begins to feel so right and so normal for me, that I start to believe that I have conquered the old “wrong relationship” of using food to feed my emotional needs — I mean, anyone can overcome an ingrained, lifelong coping mechanism, right? And then a really difficult hurdle pops up and I find myself eating my way through a Thursday night and most of a Friday.
Example #2: Negative self-talk is something most of us have experience with. I have sometimes taken it to the extreme of hatefully loathing self-talk. (If I heard someone say to another person the things I’ve said to myself, I would be unable to refrain from physical violence.) Even on good days, I sometimes catch sight of myself in a mirror and that voice in my head starts in: “You think you look good? Who are you kidding? No wonder you’re alone. Look at you, who would ever be attracted to that?”
Example #3: When I have a bad day at work, I am tempted just like everyone else is, to rail against the other people who are clearly, patently, responsible for my bad day. Some days I totally give in to that temptation, and suddenly the number of miserable people multiplies exponentially. Who doesn’t start to feel worse when they spend time with Debbie Downer?
But the big difference about these situations now, what causes me to seem so changed to my old friends — none of those things defines me, nor do they set my agenda for days and weeks to come. Fell off the food wagon? I’m no easily bruised peach, and I’m certainly able to catch up to the wagon and jump back on! Talking smack at myself? It may not always be easy, but I tell that biach to shut up if she doesn’t have anything constructive to offer. Having a bad day at the office? Get in line! Or better yet, stop complaining and find something productive to do. I really have learned to stop my negative spirals and bring my spirit and mood back up to even keel. Some days I can do that immediately, others it takes longer. But I do get there, and that is the biggest gift happiness brings to my life.
So, to all my friends who have wondered where the real me went, SURPRISE! She’s still here. She’s just the new and improved version: more resilient, more self-confident, less cranky…most, but not all, of the time.