Everything…and Nothing Sometimes

My attempts to blog more frequently have been thwarted by my attempts to do everything…and nothing sometimes. Virtual school takes up a lot of time. Not like I’m going to school, but I have to do a lot of follow-up with my kids to make sure they’re turning things in. I’m still not sure they’re actually turning things in all the time.

COVID-19 is so strange. I have been home more in the last 6 months then I probably have been home in my adult life. When I go to the CVS to pick up something, it feels like a REAL outing! Also, my husband and I are together ALL the time. I told my sister I think I have seen him more these last six months then the first 16 years of our marriage. I used to actually go to work. Now I just go downstairs to work.

Some days I do everything and some days I do nothing. Productivity during the time of COVID is hard. It’s like there’s a little voice whispering to me on certain days that streaming 9 hours of television and drinking too much is okay. And then I have what I like to call guilty days where I decide I will turn over a new leaf. On these days, I go for a run, log my food, get all my work done, read, and spend quality time with my kids. I need more guilty days in my life.

I have over the last few months been wondering if I am suffering from depression again. I went through a bleak period a few years ago where I had some familial issues. Those were dark times. I worry on days when I am feeling particularly low, but then I think of all the extenuating factors. First, the whole world stopped in March of 2020. And the U.S. couldn’t get its head out of its ass long enough to put policies in place to stop the spread or at least slow the spread of COVID. Then there became a lot of social unrest (granted–it’s about time). And don’t even get me started on politics. And then the kids had to do virtual school. Oh, yeah, and we moved away from our family and had to make new friends, move into a new house, and start all over. These are big life stressors.

My whole life I have grappled with the big question of why we exist. When my kids were born I knew I existed because of them. Holding my newborn son for the first time felt so eye-opening. But as months and months stretch on I wonder what my specific purpose is. I think about how I could have been so creative during this time. I could have really tuned into my writing, and I wonder why I chose instead to binge watch every single show on Netflix. I would like to live a purpose-driven work, but sometimes it just seems like so much work.

I met someone the other day who said her purpose in life is to make fun. Or maybe she said to have fun. I mean, how amazing is that? Sometimes I think as human beings we are too hard on ourselves for living our lives, for not being perfect, and for not being okay all the time. I struggle with my sad feelings, thinking I have such a great life that I should be happy. But what is happiness without sorrow? It simply does not exist.

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I wake up each and every day with hope. I have my cup of coffee. I read or watch a little television. And then I tell myself that whatever I do today will be enough. That some days I’m capable of doing everything. And some days I’m capable of doing nothing. And that’s okay.

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Disclaimer

You know the disclaimer you see at the beginning of books:

This story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this novel are entirely fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, or things should be inferred.

It’s bullshit.

If you show up in my books, I’m sorry. But I’m pretty sure most writers make use of people, places, and things from their own life. When I write, my characters are filled with parts of me, parts of my husband, parts of other people I know. So one character might have some of my husband’s characteristics or several characters might be an amalgamation of him.

A lot of writers walk around with little notebooks to jot down funny little incidents they see taking place in their lives. They might write down the way the sunset on the lake makes them feel. Or they might write down how some lady sitting next to them at their son’s ballgame was using numerology to plan birthday parties—random things like that. Those scenes make it into books. We are, after all, part of the human experience. In order to make characters seem like actual human beings, writers sprinkle them with characteristics of people we may know or the stranger who did something shocking, funny, or weird.

When I wrote my first book, No Turning Back, which is still on Amazon I wrote about my past. I wrote about a relationship that hurt me and continues to plague me today. People who are/were close to me who read the book probably knew that. My sisters figured it out anyway. They say an author’s first book is always about herself. I’d say that most authors’ books are probably about themselves, the things they’ve seen or felt, or the people we know. Authors write for various reasons.

Here are the reasons I write:

  1. To Try to Answer Existential Questions
  2. To Deal with a Dilemma I’m currently facing
  3. To Deal with a Trauma or Pain from the Past
  4. To Deal with Depression – put the pain on the characters or have them solve the problems.
  5. To Try to Describe my Human Experience
  6. To Connect with Other People in a Meaningful, Deliberate Way

The more I get to know other writers, the more I think this is what writers do. They use their characters to deal with their life. It’s no wonder that writers often get described as tortured souls. The very thing that drives them can be torturous. The very thing that nurtures their creativity often threatens to suffocate them or pull them down into the darkness, the depression, the alcoholism—whatever the vice.

I find in myself, and you can see it in my pattern of writing, that I am driven by my restlessness. I write better and more often when I’m searching for an answer, when I feel unfulfilled, when I feel like the whole world might come crashing down at any moment. But at the same time, that work starts to provide meaning. It starts to provide a light. It starts to create hopefulness inside of me. It shows me my purpose, and aren’t we all striving for purpose in our lives? Ironically, the very thing that makes me feel better, creativity, often disappears once it has done its job. The plight of a writer.

Perhaps the hardest part of being a writer is feeling misunderstood. I’ve lived my whole life thinking too much, and writing eases that to a certain extent. All writers want their work to resonate with people. When the writing comes from a place of emotion, the characters often reflect that. And sometimes those characters come from real life, no matter what the disclaimer at the beginning of the book says.

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Intentional

I’ve been working on being more intentional in my life. It’s a thing, you know. I’ve felt, lately, like my life is passing me by. I have a lot of goals, but I haven’t done much to achieve those goals. A friend of mine told me to just write the book (he may have inserted a curse word in between). Friends tell me this often. They don’t realize it’s a process, but they have the best intentions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I might have done some things differently years ago. That’s called depression. Or hindsight. To quote George, from Life As A House, “Hindsight. It’s like foresight without a future.” I try to tell myself that often. Because nothing good comes from the what-ifs.

When I graduated from college back in the dark ages, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. This big adventurous part of me wanted to go to Bangladesh and get involved in microfinance. But this homebody, security-seeking part of me, wanted to do what was safe and get a job in the United States settle down, get married, have a kid or three, and just be settled. Back then, I chose safety over risk. And, you know, it worked out for me. I have a wonderful husband who cares about me, three great kids, and we’ve built a very comfortable life where we can travel when we want to, provide for our kids, and are generally pretty happy.

Except. There’s always a “but,” right. Except, there’s this part of me that wants to take a risk. There’s a part of me that wants to make a change. Write the book. Change my life. Feel more fulfilled. And for about a month or two, maybe three, I was letting it get me down. I felt lost. And when I feel lost I tend to push people away and watch Netflix and actually chill (not chilling the way the kids teens/young adults mean).

I think this time it got to me because I was having a creative loll. Everything I wrote felt exactly like everything else I’ve ever written. I wrote about unrequited love. Blah blah. Same old, same old, dealing with issues from the dark ages that will never be dealt with. Let it go already, Lauren. Adultery. Divorce. The South. I was just writing without feeling the creative bug whispering in my ear. I was just writing to try to make myself feel better. So I kept getting bogged down in the middle. I wasn’t giving it my all. I wasn’t being intentional. In fact, for awhile now I guess I hadn’t been living intentionally.

The thing is, sometimes things seem dark, and it can make aspirations feel so far away. And sometimes life can feel so overwhelming that we sort of fold into ourselves. About two weeks ago, I decided to make a habit change. I started cleaning out the kids’ rooms. I started helping more around the house. I started putting down my phone at night, not getting on the computer, and sitting down and doing something productive or fun or just meaningful with my kids. And it didn’t help me feel better at first, but it did make me think about them and how I need to give to them. It made me think about how I have this wonderful family, and how we can support and love one another. And I know it made a difference in how they think about me. And I know that it helped drag me to the surface from just-below—that’s something how taking an action can change an outcome instead of just sitting still and watching it all fly by. And slowly, I started taking that intentionality into my writing again. Very slowly. Still slowly.

I’m writing about 500 words a day plus occasional blogs now. But the next thing I need to do is make a plan for how I’m going to get where I want to with my writing. I can’t do that without taking a risk, even if that risk means failure. I don’t want to look back on my life ten years from now and have regret or hindsight about how I didn’t go for it. And it’s hard and it’s scary to put yourself out there. And I’ve never been great at that. I’ve never been great at expressing no or “I want” or taking the ears by the horn cow by the horns – whatever the eff that metaphor is– and going for it. I mean, some people in my life would say that Lauren’s “I wants” rule the roost, but not in the important ways. I haven’t been assertive in a way that is meaningful to me. I haven’t been able to get from Point A-B. I always seem to get hung up somewhere in the middle, scared or paralyzed, unable to move forward. This might be called perfectionism. But I’m ready to let go of that fear and do something intentional with my life. Happiness comes from the doing.

The thing is, I don’t want to die wondering why I never went for it. I don’t want to keep wondering why I’m not living my life in the way I should be. I just want to live it instead of watching it pass by. And I have to do that by dropping the woe-is-mes and living more intentionally.

intentional

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To Be

Shakespeare__Cobbe_portrait

There’s a famous author named Shakespeare (ever heard of him?) who wrote the words, “To be, or not to be; that is the question?” And maybe Shakespeare, in his famous play  Hamlet had it right when it came to happiness and emotions all those years ago.

This week, I read an article that Harvard psychologists think the more one tries to be happy the less satisfied or happy they are. This seems counter-intuitive, because in life we are told the harder we try the more successful we are. We see these results over and over again. If we study, we do well on a test. If we work hard and bring in business, we get a promotion. If we set a goal and work hard to achieve it we’ll succeed. Following the same formula, it would make sense to think, if we try to be happy then we will be happy.

Instead of trying to be happy, the psychologists argue that “showing up” to your emotions and allowing yourself to feel produces a happier and more fulfilled person overall. When we allow ourselves to feel our emotions without judging them, even our negative emotions, we receive important information about why we’re feeling that way. This information can help us make necessary changes for a happier life. It can help us become more assertive. It can help us get rid of negative people in our life. It can serve as a signal that something in our life needs to be changed. When we sweep our emotions under the rug, they come back to haunt us, so to speak.

One of the parts of the article that really resonated with me was the part about stopping judgment. The author states, we should stop labeling whether our emotions and thoughts are good or bad. When we have thoughts they are just thoughts, and we should let the thoughts come and go. When we have emotions, they are just emotions, and we should let those emotions come and go. The article ended with the following quote, “Ultimately, the goal is to be — rather than to be happy, which is somewhat freeing.”

The thought is freeing. Instead of struggling to find elusive happiness, just be. Feel emotions: sadness, happiness, joy, cowardice, anger. Allow your brain to receive the information that your body is trying to give you so you can make changes that will lead to a more fulfilled life. As someone who suffers from depression, I’ve struggled with my down times. I’ve told myself to snap out of it before. I’ve swept feelings under the rug. I’ve done everything. But through the years, I’ve learned that my down times come in a cycle. And they usually are there to remind me of what my up times feel life. Without sadness, we would never know what joy feels like, right? This analogy was described perfectly in the movie Inside Out. If you have not seen it, rent it. I’ve started to let myself experience those down times without further negating myself and without trying to artificially drag myself out of the deep dark ditches of depression before my body and mind are ready. And since I started realizing my feelings and thoughts are valid and not good or bad, my depressive periods have lessened. Plus, on the upside after I go through a depressive period I generally have a great period of creativity. The darkness leads to the light.

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Letting Go

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By Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE – Colours, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19871961

A few years ago, a movie came out. If you have little girls, you certainly saw it. My own little girl was still really little, and we didn’t go to the movies. Instead, we waited patiently for Santa Claus to deliver the little case with Frozen inside. And we sang and listened to the song a million times: Let It Go. It’s good advice, and if you listen to the song it’s about letting go of fears, expectations, and the past.

As I said in my blog last week, I’m reading The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Kondo writes about how purging and cleaning out allows you to let go of the past and live in the present. Being someone who has suffered from depression for most of my adult life, I have problems with living in the past. I go through times where my past seems to haunt me, almost a present-being within my life, absorbing and sucking all the joys from today. I think we have a lot to learn from the past, but I also think some people, including me get stuck trying to relive the moments that made us happy.

I cleaned out clothes this past week. And I must have had 8 or 9 bags full. I threw out American University t-shirts I hadn’t worn in years. When I held them in my hands, I felt the memories sitting in them taking up space in my life where new memories could be made. I hesitated, and then tossed them. This was a milestone because for me, I have a hard time letting go. When people leave me or move on, and as life moves on, I mourn the past joys, excessively. Recently, I read that happiness is a moment. Those glimmers of sunshine where you know a memory will stick. Humans have a want to hold onto those moments and try to make them permanent when really the beauty in them is their impermanence.

I look at happiness as an action. Happiness has to be created. One has to stop living in the past or the future and focus on finding happiness every day. This can be done by influencing your happiness. Surround yourself by people you love, exercise, smile, laugh, find a sense of humor, be accepting and loving and giving. These are all ways to make yourself happy through action.

I haven’t gotten to the hard part of cleaning out: mementos. Last time I went through all of my writing and letters from the past, I ended up severely depressed. I’m thinking of scanning the letters this time and throwing out the originals. I have letters from my grandparents at camp when I was a kid. I have letters from ex-boyfriends and ex-wannabe-boyfriends. I have letters from friends who are no longer friends. Perhaps the funniest thing I kept was a fax from my mother when I ran out of funds in Spain asking me if I had drank all of my money away (I had). Boy, she knew me!

Since I started purging, my creativity has blossomed again. I don’t think it’s coincidental. I think the act of purging is redefining my desire to be a full time writer. I know writing makes me happy and defines who I am, and in purging I’ve realized the more I run away from that thought the unhappier I am.

How do you focus on the present? What are some tricks you have for letting go? What’s your dream in life?

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Writing the Feelings

Today is my 37th birthday. Not too young. Not too old. But it’s gone so fast. Actually, the first twenty years or so went super slowly. Then it took off. I don’t even remember the last ten years of my life. They were mostly filled with dirty diapers, grades, too much to do, spousal spats and reconciliations, gaining and losing friends, and kids growing up at the speed of light.

I’ve been down this week. And I think it’s because I’m not doing what I expected to do with my life. Plus, I started cleaning out my closets yesterday and stumbled upon pictures from college and when the kids were little. Nostalgia always makes me feel down. Not regret. But a sense of loss to a certain extent. I attach myself easily to people, and I feel such a sadness when they are no longer in my life.

But depression is a liar as someone told me yesterday. Depression tries to tell me I’m worthless. It tries to tell me I can’t and won’t achieve my goals. Well that’s total bullshit. And I know it. Deep down on the inside, I know I have it within me to write and to lead the life I want. Happiness is not elusive. It’s a decision.

I’ve told you before, but I HAVE to write. I have to write to get all the bad feelings out. I go through life smiling, because mostly I am happy. And I can find the positive in my life every day. But sometimes I feel so down. And this just happens to be one of those weeks.

The one thing about feeling down is it energizes my writing. I can type and hurt my characters. I can twist their souls with angst, guilt, anger, sadness. All of the above. All of the things I can’t seem to express that feel stuck inside. You see, I’m a better writer than a communicator. And it hurts me when it comes to real life relationships. People have always thought I was so cool because I didn’t give a damn what people thought of me. And perhaps this is why I tend to have more close male friends than female friends. Girls seem to get caught up in the small bits without looking at the bigger picture. And I’ve always been a bigger picture type person. I love and care about my male friends. But I need and want female friendships. I’m just not sure how to go about making them and keeping them.

I think I’m open and caring, but I feel like I can’t express my deepest wants and desires to others. In the past, I let the fear of intimacy rule my life. I didn’t tell certain people I loved them when I did. I didn’t tell them my wants and desires. I expected them to read my mind. And I became sullen and angry when they didn’t. Instead of expressing those emotions to them, I let them walk out of my life. Eventually I learned how to express all of that in my writing and it became an outlet for conversations never had, wants and needs never lived. Fear stifled my creativity and became a thief of happiness in my life.

But I’ve reached the point where pretending to make other people happy isn’t worth it anymore. I’m tired of living in a pretend world. I want the important people in my life to know what I think. I want them to know when I feel disappointment, sadness, love, excitement. I’m tired of being stuck in a box of despair, at the whim of my moods and emotions. And so, I’m trying to make a change. Once again. And feeling a little stuck in the muck.

It’s hard to change a behavior and a way of life I’ve been living for years. It’s hard to stop hiding when things get tough. It’s hard to stop shutting people out when all I really want is to let people in. As I work through these heavy emotions and feelings, I’ll be writing more for sure. But I also plan to be listening more, engaging more, and cleaning out my closet of all the emotional clutter that only serves as an impediment to my happiness.

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PS: The Devil Within is only available until May 31, 2016. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

Forgiveness

Maybe I’m just sappy and sentimental, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my life this past week or two and how much I’ve grown this year as a person. My life has not always been easy, and I’m sure those of you who know me personally know how much I’ve struggled in the past few years. I’ve struggled to find myself. I’ve struggled in my marriage. I’ve struggled in my relationships. I’ve struggled with the ugly “D” word: depression.

Today as I drove to work I felt happy and fulfilled as I reflected back on my year. And I realized the reason I felt happy was because I intentionally chose happiness.  As I lay in bed last night, talking to my husband, I said, “I love myself so much. And if you can’t love yourself then you can can’t love anyone else, right?” “Right,” he said. He’s not much of a talker. But I’m sure his mind was thinking something like, here she goes “self-philosophizing Lauren again.” But it’s true. It takes self-love in order to make yourself happy and in order to be able to give back to others.

A couple of days ago I posted on a few boards I’m a member of asking people to state the theme of their year. The answers were insightful, interesting, painful, sad, tragic, funny, happy—all rolled into one. And it made me think about how all of those adjectives describe life and are what make it worth living.

My theme of the year was forgiveness. First I forgave myself.  Then I forgave my husband, my parents, my siblings, my friends, and anyone who I have ever perceived as doing me wrong. But it started with ME. I forgave myself for all my faults. I forgave myself for feelings of love I can’t control. I forgave myself for living in the past too often. I forgave myself for yelling at the kids, having a short fuse, not saying no enough, being too busy, not reaching my goals when I wrote, and for failing to clean my bathroom often enough. I forgave myself all those little strings of self-hate that build up inside of us and make us unhappy with ourselves. And it was hard. Self-doubt crept in. Guilt crept in. Sadness lay sickly sweet right below the surface of my skin.  It was a process—much like grieving and moving on. I back slid. I fell into depression, but I realized where the depression came from, worked through it, and didn’t let it trap me.

I wrote with a vengeance for the first time in years. I soaked up everything I’ve learned in my meager 36 years and put it on paper. I made new friends. I lost a few friends. I missed old friends. I reconnected with old friends. I grieved relationships whose seasons had expired but found happiness in the temporariness of those relationships as well.  And through it all, I realized forgiveness is key. Letting go of the need to control. Losing expectations of others while maintaining expectations of yourself. Making yourself happy and choosing to live in a way that’s giving to other people without feeling the need for reciprocation. Telling myself that I’m doing the best I can and loving myself for it. That was my lesson for 2015.

What is forgiveness you may ask?

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

I don’t want to be a victim of myself anymore. I don’t want to blame others for the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t want to not pursue my dreams because pursuing them is hard. I want to be able to let go of the negativity and stop living in a permanent state of self-hatred. I want to love myself for who I am and realize that flaws are what make us beautiful as humans. I want to love other people, all of their flaws and scars and human-stuff and realize the only person I can control is myself and be okay with that.

This year, I decided to stop feeling guilty for my own feelings. Instead of embracing guilt, hate, and anger this year I chose to embrace love and it changed my whole perspective on life.

If you can’t forgive yourself then you can’t forgive others. We all have baggage. We have all been hurt by the people we’re closest to. We can use hate, guilt, and ugliness to drive stakes into our own hearts, our marriages, the lives of our children, or we can turn it around and be compassionate, loving, and we can give to others even when it’s so hard to do. This is forgiveness.

Live your life with love and you’ll be rewarded with love. Live your life with hate and all you’ll get back is hate.


 

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Top 10 Tuesday Goals

I’m in the full throes of NaNoWriMo this week. I meant to blog yesterday, but even waking up at 4:15 (thanks to Fall Back), it took me the whole morning before work to get in my 1649 words.

Excuse any typos. I’m going to try to re-read this to make sure I pluck them all out but it’s hard with this dang splint.

Broken metacarpal

I’m feeling behind the eight-ball this week, which could be due to how crazy my day job felt last week. Or the fact that I feel like I’ll never finish editing Little Birdhouses. Plus I’ve been binge-watching Scandal, which isn’t good for me. But, damn, that show is so good. I mean who doesn’t love the chemistry between Olivia and the President? And that’s some good writing, although some of the shows have become more predictable to me lately. No spoilers please. I’m watching it on Netflix.

So today, I thought I’d list some goals so I don’t get sucked into Netflix-land. These are goals just for today:

  1. Smile: Yep. I put this on mt goal list. Maybe I’m suffering from SAD, but my overbooked, overwhelming schedule is driving me nuts. I’m about ready to escape to anywhere but here (but preferably a place where there’s a beach and a cocktail in my hand). Smiling helps me feel better and it makes other people feel good too.
  2. Edit Chapter Four of Little Birdhouses: I’m on the 4th revision now, and for some reason whenever my schedule fills up, I forget I ought to be revising this. I need to edit it and send it onto my readers.
  3. Write 1650 words on The Cape: At least that’s what I think the story will be called. I shared the beginning of the story here last week. It’s taking off, and now I’m writing two novels at the same time. Tell me when I’ll fit all that in?
  4. Run: It’s 3 mile Tuesday. I’ll try to get in 3 miles this AM or 30 minutes. Running makes me feel sane. Plus, I can listen to All The Light We Cannot See while I’m hitting the pavement, which is more productive than watching Scandal.
  5. Clean Out My Desk: At work. I’m on an organizational kick, which only happens to me about once a year, so I need to take advantage of it while I can.
  6. Write a newsletter: For PTA. Due this week.
  7. Talk to a friend: Friends are so great to keep us motivated and grounded. Tonight is gymnastics/TKD night, which means I’ll be sitting on a bench for about four hours. I love the gym moms. It’s so nice to have friends who understand the craziness of gym life! I love all my friends. You guys rock!
  8. Breath: I can’t do yoga with my broken hand, but I can practice my deep breathing when I’m overwhelmed.
  9. Laugh: Laughter is the best antidote when I feel down. It feels us with endorphins. Sometimes laughing at the disaster of living makes you realize how small your problems are in the big scheme of things.
  10. Have Fun: I started writing because I enjoyed it. Writing’s my dream job, and so it’s important to me that I still have fun when I do it. Creating worlds, characters, analogies is amazing and makes me in awe of what the human brain is capable of.

What are your goals today?


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Expect Less, Live More

When I went to Midwest Writer’s way back in July (it now feels like eons ago), someone said to make a name for yourself you have to blog. She/he (all the faces blurred together-sorry for vagueness) said readers like to hear from authors consistently, so set up a blog schedule and stick to it. Well, obviously I’ve fallen short in that category. I intend to blog three times each week, but sometimes things happen (like lice, or vacation, sick kids, sick me, anxiety-ridden can only sit on the couch and watch seventeen episodes in a row of How I Met Your Mother type days). But it got me thinking about expectations.

A few years back, I felt unhappy. And during that time, I found my love for writing again. I started writing for catharsis, to heal old wounds, and new. I wrote to rid myself of feelings I deemed wrong or inappropriate. I wrote to find solace from within myself. I wrote so I could function every day and not curl up into a ball and rock back and forth in a corner even though some days I wanted to. Back then, I held myself and everyone around me up to sky-high expectations. And it was a nightmare.

Unrealistic expectations of others only serves to further unhappiness in yourself. When one has expectations of other people that those people don’t meet, then one is stuck in a state of disappointment. How can you be happy when you’re constantly disappointed with others? Expectations become a little like mind-reading. Come on, we all say we’re not mind-readers, but the truth is many of us expect others to read our minds. Many of us expect others to fill the void within us. Many of us expect to achieve happiness from other people, instead of searching for it where it really exists: inside ourselves.

When I really thought about this—letting go of expectations—I thought it was ridiculous. I mean come on. My whole life, I’d been trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, to my bosses’ expectations, to my teachers’ expectations, and to my own unrealistic expectations of achieving perfection. I wanted my marriage and life to seem perfect, and in the end I had set unrealistic expectations for myself. When I realized this, I sank further into the dark pit of oblivion called depression. And I had to pull myself out, one layer at a time. I had to realize by letting go of expectations that I had what it took to make myself happy and to spread that joy around.

You see, having expectations for yourself is okay, as long as you don’t set the bar too high. I have goals and expectations for myself on a daily basis, but I’m not afraid of failure anymore. I know failure is an opportunity to learn.

It took me a while to learn that pegging your expectations on others, well, that doesn’t work. It destroys relationships. It destroys friendships. It destroys happiness. Now when I reach out to a friend, I do it because I want to. Sure, in a perfect world, it’d be nice for my friends to always reciprocate. But I know when they don’t, it’s because they got busy. I’m not catastrophizing about all the reasons they don’t like me. I’m done obsessing about where they disappeared to when they didn’t call. Because all these things—they’re crazy-making, not happy-making! If you really want to know whether someone is your friend or not, then be there for them, and see if they give back from the deepness of their hearts. Talk to them. Put the phone down and meet them for lunch. Tell them how you feel. Stop guessing and expecting other people to read your mind!

The only person in this life who can make you happy is you. Let go of your expectations for others. Give because you want to give, not because you want someone to give back. I promise, if you do this you’ll see the world differently and it might even make you happy. Hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Have you found happiness? Have you found ways to let go of your expectations? If you’re a writer, do you write for happiness?


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