If It Makes You Happy

then it can’t be that baaaaad!

Okay, Sheryl Crow aside, it can be pretty easy to feel guilty about some things in these difficult times.

It’s all: why am I eating that and why am I not doing anything and I’ve read this book/watched this movie 1,000 times…why am I doing that?

And the answer is: it probably makes you happy. And happiness is so hard to find in these times that in some ways, it probably doesn’t matter why you’re doing it. If you can find some pleasure in it instead of sadness, or anger, or apathy then there’s probably a good reason for you to do it again.

And if it’s the simple reason that it happens to make you happy, then why not?

Reach for the simple and good things during this time. It can sometimes be all we have.



Running and Crying

Two things you should know about me (if you don’t already know from reading this blog and assuming):

1. I am not an athlete. (I played sports growing up, but I wouldn’t consider myself “athletic” by any stretch of the imagination.) 

2. I never follow through in my personal life. (I have a million and one hobbies at home, and I’ve never finished any of them. I’m looking at you, five adult coloring books.)

So, if I told you that I’ve been waking up early to go for a run these past two days, would you ask if I’ve been abducted by aliens? 

Good, so would I. 

But I haven’t. I’ve just been fed up with how I look, feel, and look. So, for two days, I got up, put clothes on, and went out the front door before I was fully awake. 

And I know, two days isn’t a lot. But see point 2, above, ok? 

So, I was running along today, trying to will myself to keep with it and to go faster when I said to myself, “it’s okay, Bailey. Even if you don’t make it all the way, you accomplished something because you got out of bed to do this today. You’ve already won.” 

And possibly because the pollen has been horrendous and I couldn’t take a full breath without choking and my chest feeling tight, I started to cry. Which looks like I’m a member of crazy town to anyone who is passing by: a girl running slowly, crying to herself. 

But it had been so long that I had been nice to myself, that I had said anything encouraging to me, that it caught me off guard. It’s like when your significant other brings home flowers or does something unexpected to make you feel good. But for yourself. 

So, what’s my advice? Get up every morning and do something for yourself. Break your routine. But really, don’t surprise yourself with kindness, like I did. Practice it daily. 

And even if I don’t get up early enough to go for a run, at least I’ve accomplished something, by getting out of bed. 

You should be proud of that too. 

Hope Floats

Most people’s hope floats. Most people’s happiness is a boat on smooth waters, chugging along until…

It springs a tiny leak. But then that person plugs it right away. And it’s all better and they can keep chugging along, even though the boat is floating a little lower in the water. And everything is fine, until suddenly the cork comes out, and they have to plug it again, although now the boat has really taken on water and it’s wading a little lower. But it’s okay — most people just pick up the bucket and bail the water out. The boat is not the same as before, but they have confidence it will get better (or at least not any worse). 

But that’s most people. And by my tone, I’m assuming you know that that’s not me. 

See, my hope is a submarine. It’s cruising along the bottom of the ocean. It actually belongs at the bottom, so that no one sees it coming. And to get it to the surface, you’ll need a lot of weight pulling it up. I mean, a lot. You can add one weight at a time, pulling on it, but you won’t notice much of a difference until it’s fully up. It’ll just be at the bottom, moving along. And you can see out the windows, but that’s really it. You only have a small space to move in, to see in.  

That’s my day and my life. My hope is a submarine. And a few weights are added each day, a few good things happen, but not much to make a difference. And that’s the hardest part. Because I want my hope to float, in spite of everything. I want to feel bouyant and happy. But I just feel dragged down. 

At any rate, I’m learning that it’s okay to have a hope submarine. As long as your propeller is intact and you keep moving, it’s okay if your submarine doesn’t resurface or if your boat takes on water. As long, as you keep moving, you can still see the world. 

Still A Chance

Have you ever woke up on the “wrong side of the bed”?

Of course you have. You wake up and you’re just angry. You’re not sure about what yet but then the bathroom is occupied, and then you notice there’s no milk, and you drop your keys when you’re heading out the door, and burn yourself on your coffee mug, and you trip up the stair, and now you’re just hulking out. 

And no matter what you do, you just can’t shake the feeling that if maybe, just maybe, you didn’t get out of bed this morning nothing like this would have happened. 

I certainly think about this. And I did, this morning. It was just one of those days that everything went wrong and I wished, and begged, and pleaded for a reset button. For a Groundhogs Day moment. Just once. So I could see where life could bring me if I didn’t have to deal with whatever today was. 

But then, I had a good middle of my day. I saw my friends and my mood lightened. And I had a good end to my day. My fiancée and I spent some time eating dinner together and enjoying each other’s company. 

And I realized, that in every day, in every hour, and even in every moment, there’s still a chance it can get better. Sometimes it most assuredly doesn’t. But still other times, it does. And I love that. I love that you can be so desperately sad at one point, and then the next, something makes you smile. It’s unpredictable and ever changing and it’s life. 

So please don’t give up. This may not be your moment. But there’s still a chance that the next one will be.  

Why Cry?

Did you ever think about the fact that the first thing you do when you are born is cry? And that you cry at all of your most important moments in life? It’s one of those very few, special things that you never stop doing or somehow unlearn. (Yes, that’s right. Crying isn’t just for women and babies.)

And what’s weird is that you never get better at it. It’s not like you get especially adept at wiping tears from your face. It’s not as if it gets any easier to hide your tears once they start.

But whether you’re a baby or not or good at crying or not, we all still cry for the same reason: we need something, and we don’t know how to express that need in words.

I mean, when you’re a kid, your mom or dad or legal guardian would scoop you up and shush you or sing you a lullaby when you cry. And maybe that worked. Or maybe they had to give you a bottle or change your diaper. And maybe that worked, too. And other times, you cried for no reason, and nothing could stop you. And that was frustrating, but your parents knew that you had to do that.

Now, that you’re older, suddenly you find yourself unable to hold back tears, standing in your kitchen alone, eating leftovers and wiping your face with dishtowels because when was the last time you bought napkins? What do you really need now (besides actual tissues)? You can feed yourself and go to the bathroom. Why would you be crying as an adult? You think, I have the ability to communicate my needs, but I can’t seem to at this moment.

And then comes the shame. Shouldn’t we be able to express ourselves in words instead of just crying about things? What an unproductive mode of expression! But laughing doesn’t have a bad reputation. No one has ever called someone “weak” for laughing at something. So, why crying?

As much as I love the written language, I think there are always going to be things that we cannot explain in words. The awesome power of the universe is one thing. Love is another. But the reason that tears are shed may be the most important of all. Because in the end, it is not the act of crying itself that is cathartic. Rather, it is the act of giving ourselves permission to feel. And really, we need that capability from the beginning to the end of our lives.

Anger is a Splinter

When you think about emotions, what comes to mind? What does happy look like? Is it a group of friends laughing together? What does sadness look like? Is it raindrops running down a window? What does fear look like? Is it a dark room with a single door?

And what about anger? Is it more than the color red?

For me, anger is not an emotion in the traditional sense. It is a reflex in much the same way that someone may tap your knee, and it will respond with a kick. In simpler terms, you may notice that anger is first out of you when something bad happens, instead of an emotion like sadness, because you haven’t had time to rationalize or process your feelings yet. Once you have taken the time to think it through, you turn to another emotion to cater to your expressive needs.

On the other hand, sadness, happiness, and even fear are not reactive. They are the product of something, but only after you’ve had time to ruminate. Anger is somewhat pure in that it is not tainted by thought, and actually, it is so strong because it’s devoid of thought entirely.

But of course, anger is problematic as a result of its nature. You may find yourself lashing out because of not being able to form what it is that you want to convey, and so anger beats you literally and metaphorically to the punch.

This is why anger is like a splinter.

Splinters. You will notice when you get one…or at least you think it’s a splinter. It could be just a little bump of unusual pain in the middle of your hand. You don’t really know because you can’t see anything. All you know is that you are hurting and the sharp sting of the tweezers is not making it any better.

It’s the same thing with anger. You don’t really notice that anything has happened until you are crying and honking uncontrollably at the car that cut you off. You don’t really think that you are upset until you are eating your feelings and swaddling yourself into a snuggie. You don’t really know what’s come over you, but you would love to start a fight club right after your book club. Anger is also a generalized, unreachable pain.

Now the trick is to head off your anger. You have to identify the exact issue you are angry at, the exact position of the splinter. Because your pain and frustration radiates and poisons everything else if you don’t. It creates layers and layers and layers until you are shouting at a shadow when you should really be telling a loved one “I’m sorry.”

Simply remember that anger is a symptom like pain, and that it is does not represent the emotion that you are actually feeling. Rather, anger is a substitute, a filler, and until you can identify what you should be really feeling (frustration, grief, jealousy, confusion), you need to root around with your tweezers until you can find the right spot. Ask yourself: Okay, I know the barista getting my order wrong is not what I’m actually cheesed off about, but what is making me so upset? It may be momentarily painful for you, but it will save everyone around you their own anger.

And even more like splinters, remember that anger is pretty much unavoidable. It would be great if it never happened again, but since that is unlikely, it’s simply best if you kept a pair of emergency tweezers nearby. And of course, ask for help when you need it.