Jan 1, 2012

Be Happy.

We had a very nice Christmas season. Hopefully I will have pictures to share soon.
After 5 years of being a parent to Ainsley I have had lots of time to observe her and wonder at the amazing person that she is. How is it that someone can go through so much, have so many trials to suffer through and yet be soooo HAPPY?!  This isn't uncommon for children with medical issues and/or special needs. I believe it really comes down to their ability to live in the present moment.  It is a gift that they have been given, the happiness that we all seek. The title of Ainsley's blog is Happy to Be Me, and she truly is. She doesn't try to be someone else, she doesn't focus on what she can't do. She is simply happy to be as she is. We can learn from her. I can learn from her. We can all be happy to be ourselves! And we can all be happy no matter our circumstances.

I've been reading about mindfulness over the years and also recently about fighting perfectionism (thanks Ann). I do believe that we already are and have everything we need to be happy. Surely that is true. But it is not always easy. To be living means we will meet struggles in our days. But we can choose what we focus our attention on. And what we focus our attention on becomes bigger, I find. So when difficulties arise we must find and exercise our inner Pollyanna. Do you want to be right or happy?

I often find the days slipping by with not enough time spent on the things that are truly important to me. And in addition I think it's easy as the mom of 3 children, one with lots of special needs, to lose track of my self.  Sometimes I can't even remember what makes me happy. Much of what I do every day feels like a chore. Recently I read Life Strategies. I liked Dr. Phil's analogy of our self as a "life manager". If I was paying myself to manage my life how would I rate my performance? Am I doing a good job in all areas of the job description? My life manager is really good at certain things and completely ignoring other important parts of the job. Like having fun and taking time for myself. She also isn't the best at managing time or goal setting (especially the big picture goals). My life manager is an unrelenting task master.

In 2010 a friend told me she was reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. After reading the book I decided to try my own project in 2011. To give you the general idea of what a happiness project is, in a nutshell, you look at your life and find areas that you think you could be more happy, then set goals and specific action items, focusing on a different area each month of the year. Read more about it at her website. My project fizzled when the move to Redmond took over our lives last year. I'm restarting again in 2012 and I'm very excited about it. 
I am using Gretchen Rubin's concept to as the framework to my own happiness project.  It isn't about trying to live perfectly (which this project could easily turn into for someone with perfectionistic tendencies) but is about analyzing my life and the things that I can do to make myself happier, knowing that some things cannot be changed. I found the perfect day planner by Thich Nhat Hanh to record my project goals and my daily observations (which the above quote and photo is from). Try as I might to stick to the plan I'm sure this happiness project alone isn't the answer. A second part of my happiness project is to practice gratitude and focus on the good things that happen each day which I plan to record in a photo project, stay tuned for my weekly "Happiness Is" post. The third is to simply being present in the moment. After all I too can be happy to be me, in all my imperfection. To sum it all up:

My Plan for Creating Greater Happiness
  • planning: goal setting with action items
  • gratitude: actively seeking and acknowledging the good in life every day
  • mindfulness: focusing full attention on what what I am doing or i.e. get out of my head
I invite you to take charge of your own happiness. After all if you don't who will? If not today, will that elusive "tomorrow" ever come? If you start a happiness project of your own please e-mail me and tell me about it. Regardless I wish each and every one of you a Very Happy 2012.


  1. Susan - I love your Plan. I would also encourage you to add a #4 to your list -
    "Do something for myself at least once a month".

    As someone who has been at this a bit longer and who is a bit older :) ... I find that "Me time" has become a matter of survival. It's imperative that you put yourself first on occasion, especially as the mother of a child with disabilities.

    Love you my friend and would love for you to spend some "Me time" with me some day -- we must get Sedona on the books.

  2. Love it, too. I'm looking forward to your weekly happiness posts. I agree- our kids do live in the present and they are so happy. I am thankful for that every day!

    And I agree with Ann. Do something for yourself. And challenge yourself to find what it is that makes you happy. Since I'm insane, mine is running and spending time laughing with my girlfriends. I just wish we lived closer so that we could do that together. I bet we have some sick senses of humor (you too, Ann!).

    Much love and happiness to you!

  3. Ann and Christy I love you guys! I truly hope someday we get to meet face to face and sit around relaxing with no kids to care for and have drinks! The whole idea of the Happiness Project is to do things for me, and to focus on MY happiness. So not to worry. It would be great to plan a girls' weekend. Steve's game is nearly finished (yes, it drug out further and he got called in this weekend) so he's promised me lots of me time in the near future. First on the list is to use the "day at the spa" gift certificate that I've been sitting on for 4 YEARS. As always thanks for your support!

  4. Great post Susan! I am looking forward to your project - and it has started off well, the first week looks great.

    But I really need to thank you for the first paragraph. Everyone comments about what a happy boy Luke is, and I have always been grateful for his pleasant, easy going disposition, but I had never thought of it in quite the way you describe. Those thoughts are a gift, and I appreciate you sharing them.

    I am glad you enjoyed the holidays and got to have some family time. Happy 2012!