Oh, Happiness…you elusive beast…

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have a confession. I can be an incredibly negative person. (To those who know me well, keep your laughter to yourselves. Kthnx.) But really, far too often, I find myself wadded in a ball on the couch on the verge of tears wondering why “I can’t just be happy?!” My life is pretty good. I have a family who loves me, a caring boyfriend, a home, a fur baby… And yet, I tend to become fixated on the difficult aspects of life.

I think I sometimes fall into the “happiness trap,” imagining I’ll one day wander into some magical world of emotional bliss. The reality? Happiness takes work and practice. Well, shucks…

Okay, so how does one go about this happiness business? Keep in mind I have certainly not found the holy grail of all things gaiety and rainbows, but I’m fairly certain happiness is the direct result of choosing to see and string together all the “nice” moments in life (a tasty meal, a hug from a loved one, a smile from a stranger, a sunny afternoon, a good book…all those things that make you smile, make you feel content or peaceful) all the while letting the “not so nice” moments drop like stones from your hands.

And like most things, the more you practice happiness, the easier it becomes.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss

You’re Pretty Good Looking…

I recently attended my first eating disorder recovery support group. I’d searched for groups in the past and been unable to find anything in the city, so as soon as I located this one, I knew I needed to make myself go. The small group met in a cozy basement room of a local university building. Overall, the experience was positive and left me feeling welcomed, warm and hopeful.

Later that night, though, as I lay down to try to sleep, I found my brain swimming with thoughts..

“I don’t know why you went to that group. There’s not even anything wrong with you! Good grief. Your weight is perfectly healthy. No one thinks you look ill, so you obviously aren’t. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”

Living with an eating disorder is much like playing host to an evil twin who perches herself on your shoulder incessantly whispering cruel and belittling comments into your ear. You never feel good enough, pretty enough, deserving enough. But though it sometimes feels more comfortable to consider the ED as separate from yourself, I believe this displacement of responsibility could be potentially harmful.

The reality is, all these thoughts are coming from your own brain, not some separate entity. Frustrating? Absolutely. But admitting these thoughts are a part of yourself means returning the power to where it belongs. In you.

Let me say this, as much for myself as for anyone who might be reading: You deserve peace. You deserve joy. And you deserve to not continue to live in a way that leaves you tired, weak, ill and socially-isolated. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

On Emotions

Do you ever have one of those “aha!” moments? The moments when something once obscure and foggy, suddenly becomes clear, precise, tangible? (You know, like when it suddenly occurs to you that AYCE stands for “all you can eat” and isn’t in fact some strange fish in the scrod family. Oh wait, you knew that all along? Nevermind.)

One of these such moments occurred over an incredibly simple idea: Emotions are neutral.

And this changes everything!

When you come to the realization that emotions just are, you no longer experience guilt over feelings of anger, depression, frustration, apathy, etc. It is not the emotions themselves which determine right or wrong. It is how a person chooses to respond to these emotions that is important.

Repeatedly, others apologize to me for what they feel. “I’m sorry for being a downer.” “I’m sorry for venting.” “I’m sorry I don’t feel like hanging out today.” Stop the apologies!

To feel is human and that is a remarkable and beautiful thing! 

On Self-Care and Nurturing

“I like to be surrounded by splendid things.” Freddie Mercury

As children, we are taught not to be prideful, to rid ourselves of ego, not to let our successes “go to our head.” Obviously, this is meant to keep us from becoming conceited, overly self-involved assholes. In some cases, though, I think we lose sight of the importance of taking care of oneself, both physically and mentally. 

As I move down the path toward recovery from my eating disorder, I am continually reminding myself that I am worth the effort. When in the grips of something like anorexia, a voice in your head is incessantly screaming about what a disgusting, low-life piece of shit you are. You feel that you don’t deserve to eat and when you do, you experience intense, irrational guilt. I believe that an enormous aspect of recovery involves learning how to appropriately care for and nurture yourself.

In fact, nearly everyone could use a little bit of self-nurturance. 

Choices of ways to nurture oneself are bound to be a little different for each individual, but the basic idea is to take time to partake in little indulgences and pleasures. I find this is especially important when going through a difficult period of life. When everything feels chaotic, painful or out of control, that is when you need to take a moment to yourself.

My mom always used to say that when I was feeling sad I should take a bath or shower then spread my neck and shoulders with a yummy scented lotion. Such a simple idea! No, this isn’t going to pull you out of an episode of depression or solve a major life dilemma, but something about feeling clean and good-smelling inhabits a person with just the slightest little boost of confidence and the feeling that, “yeah, I really do deserve to be taken care of.”

For me this means: taking the time to use a hair mask or paint my nails, buying my favorite coffee even if it costs a little more, wearing clothes that make me feel pretty, and buying new and flavorful foods.

For more on the topic, I highly recommend a book given to me by my best friend at college, “Transformation Soup: Healing for the Splendidly Imperfect” by Sark.

“…Paint stars on your ceiling; make noises when you eat; put a clown nose on when you drive; wear a flower behind your ear; light candles every night; send yourself (or anyone else) a bouquet of yellow tulips; use your best dishes every day, especially when you eat in front of the refrigerator.” From “When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair” by Geneen Roth