Monday, September 5, 2011

Project: Happiness

This summer has been balls. I got laid off. We've been living with extensive home renovations, which has been hard, really hard. Needing to get out of the house for weeks at a time meant living out of a suitcase. Arguments. Tired, off-schedule, cranky kids.

I can usually look at a situation that bites and see (good or bad) what needs to be done to improve it. It's a talent (sort-of) - very useful in a professional sense. On a personal level I've been called ruthless on more than one occasion. But I'm efficient. I'm a problem-solver. I get things done.

Until this summer. I don't know if it was being laid off (sorry, restructured) that threw me off balance. Or not being able to live in my house for almost 3 months. We were there - on and off - but never living in any kind of order, and always under a cloud of drywall, carpet, renovation dust.

Two major life stressors at once. Two children with non-stop summer colds and sore throats and ear infections and fevers and just sickness. Two adults that weren't getting enough sleep or "me" time or sleep.

It all resulted (and is still in recovery stages) of a very "hard" time for our family. One that you'll look back on in memory as "Oh that was the hard summer" or, "Yes, lucky we survived that time". It's a period that requires italics in the memory banks of our brains, for one reason or another.

But we are coming out the other side - renos are complete. Maddie has started school. Fall is approaching. A change of seasons always brings about a change of mindset. And fall, being the start of a new (school) year for so much of your life always has felt (to me) like the true beginning of the "new year".

At such a key time, this past month I have been reading the book, "The Happiness Project" by Gretchin Rubin. I think it was during a regular errand-filled pilgrimage to the local Walmart, where I was walking around zombie-like, with Pampers and dog food piled high in my cart, that I noticed the book on display in a middle aisle. I know I stopped suddenly in front of the display, because I remember the lady behind me giving me a sigh of annoyance as she veered around me. I had promised myself not to buy any more new books (in one of my first efforts to hone a thriftier household budget), but after glancing at the book jacket and "Note to the Reader" I couldn't put the book back on the display. And so, it came home with me. And slowly (about as slowly as possible actually, as leisurely spare reading time is not freely on tap of late) I read the book.

Any time I've tried to explain the book's concept, people have responded, "oh it's a self-help book"... it isn't. It really is just, almost, a thesis if you will, of another person's attempt at making her life happier over an extended period of time. And the premise on which she did that, was to break it into "themes", assign them to months and tackle it as it if was just like any other project. Except this one is completely and utterly self-serving. Selfish, in fact. As it really is her own happiness (not her family's, not her children's) that she is concerned about for the entire book.

And yet - shocking, I know - the result of her being happier of course is her family, her children become happier as well. Be it through changes they make in reaction to her changes, or resulting from the benefits of the changes she makes.

It's quite fascinating - and inspiring. So much so, that I in fact, have been inspired to start my own project happiness. One that I'm going to document here - even just as a behavioural check to ensure I stick to it and at least reflect on any results - good or bad - that I observe. (Don't worry, this isn't going to become a self-improvement blog where I pontificate about how to become a better person. In no way will this be a major life overhaul. But perhaps an interesting way to set some goals - resolutions - and see if it makes a difference in the end if I follow them or not)... And dudes - if there was ever a time where I could use a little dollop of happiness - now is it.

Following the same type of structure the author set, I'm going to assign "themes" to each month. Here is September (hoping the results of it will help me get the rest of my months planned out!)...

Project: Happiness - September - Month of Organization
I picked organization because I have a lot going on in my head and it's hard to be focussed and make progress on anything lately because of so many things floating around up there. So before I get started on making progress on anything, I think I need to get organized...

- clean car (like, really, really clean the hell out of it)
- clean off dining room table (this is our junk/mail/bills/papers depository and just makes everything look messy on our main floor at all times) + keep it clear for entire month
- Kijiji/Freecycle/give away items in garage not returning to basement
- update Flickr + Facebook photo albums, organize and backup photo/videos on computer
- pack away summer clothes, sort through winter clothes - make goodwill donations and reduce wardrobes by 30%
- clear out email accounts, unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists and delete or respond to all incoming emails that day
- create remainder of monthly goals for Project: Happiness

Holy shit, I feel like I've just given myself a lot of work to do. And yet, it's so freeing to ignore a few of those other niggling "to do's" (like the bookcase for Katie's room or printing photos - that's just going to have to happen another month, and I refuse to worry, plan, spend any more brain-time on that).... so now, my "free" time will be spent attempting to bring some order to our lives and clear out some of the chaos, baggage, whatever...

Here's hoping I actually stick with it (my track record with proper "new year's" resolutions is absolute shite) - and if I don't, please feel free to openly mock me. In fact, I realize how loopy this post may sound anyways, so feel free to openly mock me in general.

Aaaaaaand..... away we go!


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Scott MacPherson said...
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