Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Happiness Is My Responsibility

Happy New Year, everyone!

Today was a relaxing day. PJ and I stayed in our pajamas all day as we puttered around the house, playing with trains, watching tv, and breaking a New Year's Resolution (ahem...Diet Coke). I finally gave in and turned on the heat now that Mother Nature seems to promise a sustained dip into cold weather, and I'm trying to make peace with the fact that there are only two days of vacation left. I have loved these lazy mornings with my best Guy.

I was looking at Facebook this morning, scrolling through everyone's New Year's Eve pictures and good wishes, when I happened upon a video of Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter, and her mother. I had skipped over the video a few times before; I once read a description of the Smith children (Jaden and Willow) that categorized them as "charmingly bizarre" so I disregarded the video as something that would not hold my interest. Today, I clicked on it:




At a celebration for moms at PJ's school. I let
him eat my plate of treats. 
I was surprised to feel such a powerful connection to what she was saying. Even before I became a parent- long before, in fact- taking care of myself is something that I have struggled with. I have always cared for others more than I cared for myself. I offer other people the gifts of my time, my thoughts, and my effort, gifts that I have never offered myself. I think it's why I was never into clothes, not much of a sleeper, and not a healthy eater (which was not a problem until I hit my late twenties). And I was okay with that. I liked feeling as if I had something to offer others and, even more that just that, it genuinely enhanced my life to do so. Some of the most amazing moments in my life, the times I have learned and grown the most, came from being able to offer parts of myself. It's where my happiness came from.

When PJ was born, I took all of that energy and focused it solely on him. I've talked about it before- the singular focus on my son, from birth to diagnosis to start of school, very nearly took down my marriage. I had no time for my friends or family. I gained a ton of weight. I was channeling all of my energy into PJ and in return, expected him to be the sole supplier of my happiness.

Some of that has improved. While being PJ's parent still takes an incredible amount of energy (both physical and emotional) I have managed to focus parts of my energy elsewhere. Pete and I have been working hard on making repairs to our marriage (a work-in-progress for sure, but we are trying) and I have been able to not only re-connect with the people who have always been in my life, but also make some new friends (a feat of super-strength considering my crippling social anxiety and general awkwardness). So I am making some strides but the question still remains; who am I? Who is responsible for my happiness.

Okay. This is happiness. No doubt. 
I am, of course. At the ripe of age of 26  38, I know that I can't place all of my happy eggs in other people's baskets, even the people I love the most in the world. Not only do I shortchange myself, but it's an incredible amount of pressure to put on someone else. I don't want PJ to grow up thinking that his success and happiness is the only thing that fuels mine.

When you fly, the spiel at the beginning tells you that, in case of a crash, to put on your own oxygen mask before you help anyone else. This is so you don't pass out trying to help someone that can't get the mask on at all. If you don't take the second to slip the mask on and breathe, you won't be any good to anyone. I have come to realize that I have gone a very long time without my oxygen mask on. Getting that on is part one. Eat better. Wash my face every night. Drink lots of water. Move my damn body. Keep the machine running at its optimal level.

The second part is finding my happiness, and I feel like this will be, by far, a more daunting task than finding the Kettle-Cooked Lays Chips. What makes me happy? Me. Not the things about other people but, rather, the things about myself. Pete is not the sole proprietor of my happiness. PJ isn't, either. This idea will take some work and will be a work in progress for a long time, but it's something I want to work on. In the end, I think it will make me a better person, a better wife, a better friend and a better mother. 

Do you feel like you are the owner of your happiness? How did you get to that place? Was it a journey or something you always knew? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

"If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad"
-If It Makes You Happy, Sheryl Crow


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