We have a funny story in our family about that quote. Gracie saw it on my iphone not too long ago and said quizzically, “mommy, why should we be Leo Tolstoy?” When I said…”errr???” she elaborated, “it says here on your phone: if you want to be happy, be leo tolstoy.” Ah punctuation. You are everything.
Nerdy punctuation jokes aside, I have such a love hate relationship with that quote. I first saw it when I was a kid and I loved it, it answered all my problems. If I was miserable, I just had to decide to be happy and BAM! I would be. Then I got older and more jaded and realized that it ‘aint that easy and that this Tolstoy fellow was in fact, a moron. But recently I realized that he probably just didn’t mean to make an attitude change and everything would be golden. We can decide to be happy, but for some people it does take more work than for others. At some times in our lives, it’s going to be a harder row to hoe. But the choice is ours. We may need to get help from others, lots of it,but the decision to do that has to start with a desire to be happy. Being happy can begin with consciously and deliberately making the choice to follow that path.
I have to tell you that last week, building up to this challenge was so rough. I totally adopted the “fake it ‘til you make it” mantra. I was soooooo NOT feeling it. If I hadn’t been promoting the Community Challenge so very publicly on every form of social media available to me, and people weren’t enthusiastic and counting on it, I would have told myself to shove it Pollyanna, and taken to my bed with a package of Snickers eggs. Many times over. I was feeling so tired, so low, so over it before it even started. I wanted nothing to do with it.
But Monday came, as Monday’s are won’t to do. And people were on board and so I had to be too, and so I went through the motions and did what I said I would do.
And amazingly enough, I am happier already. So much happier.
Following a few very simple and basic goals has drastically improved my quality of life in less than a week. The difference in my energy level is absurd, the sense of peace in our home has increased dramatically. My kids are nicer to each other, nicer to me. The effects of small changes have been unexpected and far reaching.
I was telling the people on the community challenge board that a couple of nights ago, one of my kids said, “mom you laugh differently lately, it’s weird”. Aaron pointed out that I was just laughing more genuinely, more heartily and that was the difference. And it is so true, I am laughing more, much more. I am less stressed and irritable, I am struggling with depression less. The best part of this exchange was being able to say, “yes, you’re right, I am laughing more, and it’s because I am happier”. When the kids asked me why I was happier, we were able to have a discussion on the choices I was actively making to make myself happier. I think that’s a really powerful lesson for kids to learn. We may not be able to control every circumstance but we can make choices to improve our happiness, we can take very simple but very profound steps to improve our happiness. Discipline does lead to an increase in happiness and contentment. We all teach our kids these concepts, but they are often so abstract. This week mine have seen concrete, real proof that this stuff we blather on about is real.
Life is not perfect by any means and even though I am only in week ONE, I have not had one single day when I have achieved all of my goals perfectly, or even close to perfectly. But I have been living intentionally and because of that, I have gone to bed with a sense of satisfaction and peace each night.
The sense that I CAN be who I want to be again is becoming more and more real. Since my epiphany, I have felt more and more confident that this is true. If you want to be the person you used to be or the person you’ve never been but want to be, you have to do the things that such a person would do. Whether you feel like it or not. The more you do those things, the more you will feel like doing them. It’s very simple really. But we make it really complicated.
And this is where group support/pressure comes into play. Accountability, encouragement, just having a place to think out and verbalize what you want to change, and then figure out how you’re going to do it, has been the key to me making it happen this week. And I believe it will be the key to making it stick. I know I have a long way to go in feeling like I am the best me I can be, but it has been a long time since I felt like I had it in me at all, and that feels good.
Do you want to join us? We are working on everything from healthy eating to budgeting to being a better parent. It’s not to late to jump in! Send me an email: kirstyDOTsayerATgmailDOTcom and I’ll get you hooked up. If group scenes are not your bag, don’t feel intimidated. Not everyone chimes in on the board, some people email or message me, at least one person is reporting in on her own blog but none of us are alone in it.