“Averaging” Your Happy

I started paying attention a whole lot more closely to those I interacted with, realizing that I had allowed a lot of people to come into my little world and really bring down my “Happy Average”

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I read once that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Can that really be true?   That was was a pretty sobering idea at the time; I was in a particularly stressful job situation (though many of my coworkers were lovely), I was mired knee deep, and still sinking, in a custody battle, and other than my beautiful babies, the truth was that those who would filled the other two slots in my average were not really happy, nor positive, folks.

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Maggie’s Trinity Selfie
My three kids are my world, they bring me so much peace and joy among their chaos and I know that they look to me to steer their own internal moods.  So that five people average really scared me.  I started paying attention a whole lot more closely to those I interacted with, realizing that I had allowed a lot of people to come into my little world and really bring down my “Happy Average”, but I really hadn’t quite figured out what to do with that knowledge yet.  But, the first step is admitting there is an issue, right?  So, I was on my way to figuring this out… and then my little world blew apart.  An incident at work left me without the ability to continue in that capacity, leaving me as a shell of my former self.   I gathered my children, my sister, and my one friend close and closed down.  For a quite a while.

I began counseling and was diagnosed with PTSD, not only for that current incident but it turns out that I had lived with it from the issues in my past.  One of the things that my counselor and I discussed was this whole idea of the average.  My fear at that point (I was really good at coming up with a list of them, but this was weighing heavy on my mind) was that was that I would allow my current fears and angers to sully my children’s chance for happiness.  He reminded me that I had a choice in who I allowed into my inner circle, that 5 was not a magic number, but a rule of thumb, and that being happy is a chosen response. This gave me back a piece of hope; I could make changes and rise again like a Phoenix as I regained myself.   I’d found my silver lining.

As I have progressed in my healing (an ongoing process, to be sure), I have realized that the “average” can be in flux daily, weekly, monthly.  I have learned to keep track of how I react to different personalities, those that I feel comfortable with and those that, for one reason or another, grate on me.   I may like someone, but if I need to limit time with them, I do.  Protect your happy.  When you do find those people, places, experiences that bring

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Beach combing for a silver lining

you joy, be sure to average them in, increase that happy for yourself.

I am learning to build those healthy boundaries now, and my experiences have provided lessons for my children.  Together we have reframed our outlook to search for the silver linings, seek the adventure in adversity, and ferret out the joy in each experience.  As I have extended out my circle to bring in new perspectives and new joys, so have my children.  In a quest to create the list of my best 5, I ended up creating a more whole, well rounded version of myself.

So, in honor of school staring here tomorrow, welcome back to math class … Happy Averaging!! 😉

Harvesting From Your Happy

That whole “Reap what you sow” works both ways, so planting good things allows you to harvest them in times of need.

There are some days, some weeks at times, when holding onto your Happiness can be a struggle.  Let’s face it, no matter how idyllic we would like to create the world we live in, there are times when reality just barges through that door, plants itself in the chair and kicks back with its mucky boots on your table.  It’s not that you are frenemies or even enemies, but to steal a line from Mickey Rourke in Barfly you “…seem to feel better when they’re not around.” Not the friendliest of house guests, once settled in and running roughshod over your Happy, Reality refuses all polite attempts to shoo it back out the door.

I have had my ups and downs with that clash between my little world and reality, that fight between what “should be” and what actually “is”.  Some have led me pretty far into received_10154495778800742the darkness, but with the help of counselors, friends, and family I have overcome and learned some valuable lessons that have helped me place breadcrumbs and candles along the path, should I travel there again.

Just like planning for winter or lean times, you can plan ahead for those times when it’s a struggle.  That whole “Reap what you sow” works both ways, so planting good things allows you to harvest them in times of need.    A few things I have learned along the way, things that help me plan for Reality’s visits and create a more hospitable atmosphere for us both are:

  1. We Create Our Own Happiness

I know this sounds cliché, but let that settle in for a minute.  Each and every one of us is responsible for our own happiness!  That is an incredibly powerful thing!!  It means that not only do you have the ability to change your general outlook, BUT THAT NO ONE CAN TAKE IT AWAY!!!  That’s right, think about it.   If you take responsibility for creating your own mood, finding the joy in your day, searching for a silver lining in each shitty situation… YOU OWN YOUR HAPPY.

  1. YOU Get To Choose Your Perspective

It’s a funny thing, when good things happen to you oftentimes you will find that there are the little annoying birds that fly around picking at the big beautiful harvest, trying to steal pieces of your joy in that moment.  I’m sure you have heard something like “don’t jinx it” or “this is great, but…”  And just watch the vultures circle if it isn’t a positive thing.  Remember how I just said YOU own that Happy?  Well, YOU own how you choose to look atreceived_10154514663160742 a situation, too.  Good or bad, YOU control how you react and what you can gain from it.  I spent a long time in abusive relationships where I gave my power away, allowing someone else to control my perception of my accomplishments and stumbling blocks.  When I made a conscious decision to regain that power, I realized I could choose to continue to look through their lens or start to examine MY life thorough my own.  I started to make a concerted effort to find the silver linings in each situation, basically harvesting the seeds of each experience for my Happy garden.  If you can find some tiny positive, even if its “I made it through today and will do so tomorrow”, you are taking power and regaining ownership of the situation.

  1. Stay In The Moment

As a society we tend to live our lives anytime but in the here and now.  Yet the only thing we actually have any control of is NOW.  How we choose to react, to focus on in this very moment, and whether to put that positive spin on it are all within our power. I will admit, this one is probably one of the hardest for me.  Yet the work I have put into changing my focus has helped me deal with my panic attacks more effectively.  Definitely one of the things I harvest frequently.

  1. Celebrate Your Happy

I have filled my walls with pictures of my kids and I, documenting memories of trips and mini adventures where we captured our joy on camera as a reminder of good times.  We have made lake and ocean water jars to bring a piece of our home state to our relocated one.  We have small and silly traditions, both at home and when we travel to keep us in touch with particularly happy memories.  If something made you joyful, celebrate it, joyfully, publicly, and often!  You will find that its infectious when you do!

While this list may not be instantly life changing, these concepts were incredibly helpful once I moved from the nice pasted smile and polite head nod to really examining their worth for my life.  No one will ever have all the answers, but hopefully something here sparked an idea that will help you pursue your own garden to have in times of need.

Happy Planting!

Purpose To The Pain

Pretty amazing what that change in perspective can do for you. When you change the lens you look through, the whole picture takes on a new look.

We have been learning a lot about the addictive power of negative thoughts this week, and frankly given the power that positivity has had in my life, it is hard to admit that I am still one that can easily be drawn to that dark under current all too easily.

As Doreen and I have been prepping for our 30 Days of Happiness event, we have been holding many conversations, looking over research, and frankly having quite a few revelations about ourselves.  The amount of “Aha!” moments I have had in the past week and a half have left me a little dizzy and slightly off kilter, to be honest.  But this journey we are taking into self discovery is pretty amazing, and realizing that intuitively we have been able to find ways to cope with life’s difficulties in ways that have preserved our hope has been eye opening and rewarding.  Hopefully, you are recognizing those same bits of self wisdom in yourself, too.

Something that struck me was the idea that 50% of our happiness is determined by our genetics.   A full half of how happy we will ever be comes not from our level of success, the money we make, the people we surround ourselves with, but from our own unique gene pool.   In my case, I have some great genes to work with and I am lucky for that.  But I also have family traits that include depression, addictive personalities, grudge holders, and Debbie Downers.

I have worked really hard to look for the good in each situation presented to me, to find that one thing that I can use to build from.  At first it began as more of a “Fuck you, I’m going to prove this can’t break me”, which has it’s merits in survival mode.  And then it began to morph more into “If this is how it is, and I have to live with it, what can I get from it?”  Today I “mine for the silver lining” and my kids and I refer to everything, good times and challenging times, as “Adventures”.  I made a conscious decision to change my perspective, to look for the blessing inside the curse.

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Image Sourced Via Pinterest

Truthfully, this process of changing perspective started with my mother when I was a child. I guess I presented outwardly as a bubbly child, would play with my brother and friends when we were out, but after a long day of childhood adventure when my dad would arrive home and ask how our day went, no matter how many great things we had done or experienced, I focused on the one bad thing of the day.  Instead of “We spent the day with our friends playing at the farm, climbing on the hay and feeding calves and then decorated cookies after lunch”, my dad heard “I stepped into a puddle and got my new sneakers dirty”.  This became a pattern, and my mother was worried that this would be my life.  She was  reminded of her own mother, who would focus on the bad things of the day.   So she instituted a new rule at dinner, I could still tell my “daily tragedy” but I also had to tell three good things that happened that day. She told me one of her great moments of success was when I stopped at a puddle in the parking lot, pointed to the oily layer on top, and said “Mommy, look at the pretty melted rainbow!”  Pretty amazing what that change in perspective can do for you.  When you change the lens you look through, the whole picture takes on a new look.

My backstory includes being molested as a child, surviving rape, and several abusive relationships.  I viewed myself as a victim, as dirty and worthless for a very long time.  My low self worth from the early traumas made my choices in relationships continue a pattern that would reinforce that self view.  Receiving professional help through counseling helped me to change my self portrait from victim to survivor.  By changing my own perspective, and accepting that these events have worked to forge me into the woman I have become, I have experienced an explosion in self growth.

Because I no longer feel that I have to hide from my past, I have become a mentor to several young women who have suffered similar issues, grown deeper friendships, have grown closer to my Mom and Dad (telling them the truth recently after hiding the molestation for over 30 years), volunteered with organizations working with Veterans and children in the hopes that I can give a “purpose to my pain”.

My strength has come from my struggles, and the fact that I never lost the ability to search for that silver lining.  My hope is that we can help you this month discover your happy, make the most of your genetic 50%, and help give you some ideas on how to mine your own silver linings!