This post could also be entitled My Happiness Project Journal Entry #3. As mentioned in previous posts, I have been reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Yes, I know what you are thinking and yes, I could possibly be the slowest reader on the face of the planet. Regardless, here is a recap of my takeaways.
- I started reading this book in the first place because I do not want to let my circumstances govern my mood and quite frankly, I am tired of being miserable – a state, which I have been more in than out for the last four years.
- I need to re-evaluate my values and priorities and allow those to determine how I allocate my time and energy.
- Everest can only be conquered by taking one step at a time. I just need to determine the route and where I will set up camps along the way.
My life is full of highs and lows. The highs are so incredibly satisfying and productive but the lows are really low, often rage-filled lows. It possibly sounds presumptuous but I believe that I feel deeper than many – call it bi-polar, call it depression, call it PMS, call it what you want but the fact of the matter is that I am acutely aware of which version of myself could spring to the surface at any given moment and know when it won’t be pretty-and-fun-to-be-around Krista (possibly, also known as tipsy-Krista). I can feel it when I wake up in the morning. The last couple of mornings have started low so I have turned to my back pocket list of quick fixes. They include but are not limited to:
- Cleaning my house or completing a simple nagging task (and obviously check-marking it off my to-do list in a highly obnoxious colour like neon pink). This gives me the necessary sense of control to get on with my day. Actions like these are known to trigger the release of dopamine.
- Go for a walk. I think most of us know that exercise is known to release serotonin, which also boosts one’s mood.
- Retail therapy: it is what it is. No science to it but quite frankly, 9 times out of 10 it works like a charm.
- Drink more caffeine or eat chocolate. It has been said that drinking coffee also releases dopamine.
But this morning as I was doing an online yoga course in my new 50% off Lululemon top, I suddenly had a revelation: What if I don’t want to be happy. I would never describe myself as a happy person AND, I doubt that those closest to me…or anyone for that matter, would describe me as a happy person and I am okay with that. I don’t laugh much, and when I do it is at stupid dry humour. I don’t have dance parties in my kitchen. And I like the rain, not so I can go puddle jumping but so I can sit in my house, with a cup of tea and listen to it wash away the dirt on the streets and give life to the earth. No, I don’t care about being happy. I do however, want more than anything, to be content. I want peace.
But when I say peace it is not limited to my children not fighting, or states ceasing to be at war with each other or finding a way to shut Donald Trump up. It is more than that. When it says “Blessed are the peacemakers” in Matthew 5:9, it isn’t just talking about making peace with each other but making peace with God and, in turn, with oneself. I am not at peace with anyone: not myself, not God, not my husband, not my neighbor.
“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves”
So how do I achieve peace? Well, I think we both know that it will never be fully realized this side of the grave, but how do we cultivate peace in our lives.
“Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
Speaking candidly, the first thing that comes to mind is the elimination of being in a hurry. I hate being rushed, perhaps because I hate to be late, even more than I hate being rushed.
“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset”
Saint Francis de Sales
This day in age, we suffer from a pandemic of busyness. My girlfriend often talks about this. She, more than anyone I know, makes time for her friends, but when she asks them to make time for her, they are “too busy”.
As a parent, I have to admit that when I am most on edge with my children it is because I am in a hurry. I lose patience. Spend an afternoon with Ella and you will know EXACTLY what I mean. The girl moves slower than molasses in January. Seriously, like 5 minutes to get up one flight of stairs and a half an hour to get coat and boots on to go to school. But who cares? Why does it matter? She is doing it by herself! Why should I get myself in a tizzy? Perhaps, this is also the case when I am dealing with myself. Do I lack peace with myself because I lose patience with myself? “I am not where I thought I would be by now” “I cannot accomplish enough in one day” “I have no time” “God, why don’t you fix this now?”
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”
I think that I need to rename this little exercise to the Peace Project.
How do you cultivate peace in your life?
This is beautiful. Very true…if you know yourself you are more likely to be at peace…if you know you are more of a serious person and that is ok, then peace happens. Love that concept.
How I stay at peace? I would say I am at peace most of my day but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about struggles or world issues or am not anxious at times… it means that even when I DO these things or think these thoughts- I still accept who I am and my truths of who I am…all the messy parts. I also say NO…a lot. To things that could be beneficial but at the same time- why do them? Especially if I already have a fulfilling life and so do my kids…it means for me to assess how my kids work too and honour that like you do with Ella ( which I love). We used to go to every function and believe in all institutions which only set us up to perpetually give away our family time. Some people thrive on that but we didn’t. I also set strong flexible boundaries with love. Mostly though I try to love and understand myself ( which I just wrote about on my space…understanding an aspect of myself) and then apply the same principle to those I love.
I can honestly say we carved a life where we do not go out unless we want to besides what we need to get by. Some would say that is unrealistic or wrong but it is right for us…which gives us great peace. It also came with thinking counter culturally and hurting people who prescribe to these ways of thought and making tough decsisions…I am saying that because it wasn’t easy to get to a place where I feel inner peace almost all parts of my day…And I am a real person so I believe in being real to the fact that the peace is a inner foundation that serves for the still over thinking, sometimes worried, sometimes anxious me.
BTW I read that book a few years ago and still have it in my collection. I liked it. I love that you are writing about it and I have many more recommendations like the book that are similar if you want more:)
I am very hard on myself…but now that I know and accept that fact…I tell myself in those moments of being hard that I also have immense grace for my messiness…and I am ok, in the mud face down, I am still ME. So it’s a bit of a paradox…I can’t explain it but it gives me deep peace.
I loved this post. Something told me to check your blog today. I had a lot of down days a few years ago and I understand what it’s like. You are not alone and this will contribute to your future peace…already It is there..