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.

Photo by vi Media on Pexels.com

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.

FOLLOW LAUREN GREENE

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

Reflections on Death and Life

Recently I read an article about the importance of “me” time in everyone’s life. I also read an article about the importance of silence. I’ve been doing a lot of heavy thinking lately. I had a friend die suddenly about two weeks ago, and let’s face it when shocking events take place in our life it makes us look more closely at how we’re living.

I had a conversation with a co-worker at work about how I like to lock myself in the bathroom, take a bath, and read a book. This co-worker could not believe it, and it became the butt of all her jokes in regards to me. She’s probably reading this blog right now. But it griped me. Not because I don’t think I deserve the me-time (I do, and so do you), but because there is this perception in the United States that people don’t need, don’t deserve, or simply don’t have time for me-time. Well, this my friend, is a mistake, or even a travesty. Everyone needs alone time. Everyone needs me time. Everyone needs time to recharge. It doesn’t matter if you’re a working mother of three like me, a single parent, a non-parent, a man or woman. It’s simply a biological necessity. It’s as essential to humans as touch and love, but it’s something that we do not make time for in our chaotic world.

We’re constantly bombarded by information: cell phones, people, activities, kids. And because of that, sometimes we forget that we are connected human beings. When we feel overwhelmed or tired the best thing we can do for ourselves is stop and reflect. Stop and enjoy a little bit of solitude. Look for the inner peace that can keep us going.

Since my friend died I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we live. Our family lives are dictated by schedules and technology. I sit on the couch in the evening, and my kids stare at a television or their own handheld gadget. I write in the morning or at night, making the computer one of the main gadgets in my life. But we’re missing out on a huge part of human connection. As a mother, I want my children to remember that I took time to play UNO with them. I want them to remember that I laughed with them…and cried with them. I want them to remember my presence in their life, not that I was always staring at my phone, my computer, or that I was too busy to spend time with them.

The way I can best be there for my children is to be there for myself. I know that I don’t have a traditional family life. My husband works from home, so he’s capable of making dinner and picking up the kids, dealing with homework and doing most of the “traditional” housewife jobs. Since my job is away from home, I come home and get to be the “fun” parent, traditionally assigned to the “Dad” role. My husband and I both value our alone time, our rest and recoup time, as a time that we can sort out our feelings on life and come back to our children more well-prepared to handle them and all their idiosyncrasies.

As I process the emotions regarding my friend’s life and death, and help his wife—one of my good friends—find her new normal, I need my silence. I need the time in the evening when I lie in bed and try to figure it all out. Some people can put all their faith in God. But in times like this questions arise. Silence helps me sort through those tough questions. My alone time helps me come to terms with decisions I’ve made in the past and what decisions I need to make in the future. We all have a finite time on this earth, and we don’t know when our time is up. I want to live my life the best way possible and leave an impression on my children that I was there for them, because we never know when our time is up.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

 

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.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

 

 

Letting Go

DIGITAL CAMERA

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?

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

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.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

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

Parenting and Expectations

DSC_0172

Kids. Guilt. Expectations. They go together like three peas in a pod. I probably read every article I come across about parenting. Some serve to judge. Some serve not to judge. Some ask people not to judge while they are then judging other people. Judgment is just human nature. Taking all the information in, processing it, and then finding what works for me as a parent is what I normally attempt to do. It isn’t a fine science.

A few years ago, I found I felt angry a lot. I took it out on my husband and my kids. I yelled and I snapped. I snipped at people. And it only made me feel worse. It took me a while, but I found a way to control that anger, especially when I realized it made my kids act like me. They took on all my anxiety and anger, and they began to express it. They expressed it in their play and in the way they interacted with other people. And that was not something I wanted, because I knew it was one of my major flaws. It prohibited me from appropriately relating to other people. It caused a cease of communication, when all I really wanted was to communicate.

I still have a temper. Sometimes I get so mad I could hit something. Instead, I write. Or do yoga. Or I go for a walk. Or I take a hot bath. I try to push a pause button until I feel better.

I thought taking the anger away was enough. I wanted my children to avoid feeling like they had to please me and their father above themselves. You see, for a long time I felt that way. My parents had HUGE expectations of me, and everything I had striven for in my early adulthood I did for them instead of for myself. I couldn’t figure out why it was so important for me to make them happy. And that feeling made me unhappy. Trying to please others above yourself always makes one feel unhappy, because you never know if you’re succeeding at it and because you’ve placed your happiness in the hands of another person who you have no control over. I felt like I had to be a superhero to avoid my dad’s criticism or to mold myself into their idea of success. And I don’t want that for my children. I love my parents, and I don’t blame them at all. They’re good parents, and they’re there for me, and everyone should be as lucky as I am to have been born of such wonderful, loving people. I know my parents are proud of me. I know it’s my own life to live, and I know that they didn’t mean to heap their expectations on to me. Parents should expect a lot from their children, but children should also expect more from themselves. They should be taught that success is driven by achieving their expectations of themselves, not by reacting to others expectations of them.

I read this great article yesterday (from April 2014) titled What to Say Instead of Praising. Praising brings conditionality into a relationship. In fact, saying “Good job,” implies that you expect them to be good. Instead of “Good job,” say “You did it!” and match your child’s excitement. This is one of the hints from the article. This also allows your child to realize the value of what they did, without feeling like they have to do a good job to please you. Instead, they learn that working hard reaps benefits for themselves. It in fact, leads them to succeed without having the burden of having to please their parents.

I think I say, “Good job,” more than any other phrase to my kids. And this morning, I changed that. I sent Hailey to the car while I went to the bathroom. I said, “Hey, if you try to buckle up while I’m in the bathroom it’ll be a big help to me.” She beamed at me.

When I came back from the bathroom, she was in the car completely buckled with a huge grin on her face, “Look Mom!” And I had to bite my tongue. My first instinct was to say, “Good job!” but I didn’t. Instead I said, “Look. You did it!” and I grinned back at her and gave her a love pat.

Like consciously stopping my anger, this is something I’ll have to work on as well. But I think like the article stated it will increase my children’s self-esteem. It will show them they have the power within to succeed in the ways they want to succeed. Instead of trying to understand and live up to my expectations as adults, they’ll live up to their own expectations and create happiness from within. At least this is what I hope for them.

Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts

PS: The Devil Within is only available for the next three weeks. Don’t forget to get your copy while you still can at Amazon.

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?


Follow Lauren Greene:

Facebook: www.facebook.com\laurengreenewrites

Newsletter Signup: http://eepurl.com/bo4ILP

Twitter: https://twitter.com/laurenegreene

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109867402293227201728/posts