I found myself pondering this issue when I was found on the floor, where I had crumbled beside my bed sobbing uncontrollably and my kids running in to comfort me. While there is comfort in your children hugging you and caring about you, there also is a sense of shame that comes with that... shouldn’t I be comforting them? This was at one of the worst times of my life, when I was trying
desperately to keep it together every day for their sake and it just all came out that night. I thought they were all in bed and wouldn’t hear me, but apparently they did. After I reassured them I would be okay and put them back to bed, I told myself that I had to be okay. But I wasn’t really sure how to get there. I reflected on a day in a parenting class mandated that you take when going through a divorce where the teacher asked everyone to write down if they were happy or sad. I couldn’t answer because my feelings changed by the minute. I —being the rulebreaker I often am— wrote the word ‘stressed‘ instead of sad or happy. He then went around the room and asked what we wrote down. I gave him my answer, “stressed”. To my relief, he accepted it and continued around the rest of the room. When he was done—he got to his point and told us; “if you wrote ’sad’, then your children are sad. If you wrote ‘happy’, your children are happy. And if you wrote ‘stressed’, then your children are, in fact, stressed.” He basically explained that no matter how we try to present and mask ourselves to our family, our energy is all connected and they still feel that energy, regardless of what we say or do. That it’s important for us to truly be happy, so we can share that gift with our children. That was a huge moment for me. I’d been trying so hard to make my kids happy, while exhausting myself. I wasn’t happy so no matter how many places I took them, I was running around like a stressed out momma. And guess what? They were feeding off it. They were always fighting, nitpicking and annoying each other. It was ALWAYS stressful when we were together. What was I doing wrong? Why weren’t they happy? I realized that night after some long thought that it’s much like the oxygen mask scenario. You as the adult have to put the oxygen mask on if you’re going to help those relying on you. I had no oxygen. None. That’s why I broke down into nothingness that night. I grabbed a notepad and started making a list, promising myself I could do better than this. What was the list? It was my Happy List (I didn’t know this was a thing when I did it, but as you can see from the pics I found below, people are doing it—it’s thing. Get on the bus). I started thinking hard about things that brought joy to me, big or small—-and I promised myself I would make time for these things, I would make an effort to do these things and I would start giving ‘happy’ to me, instead of attempting to ‘serve’ it to others. What I discovered after a few weeks of this was a better ’me’. I freed myself from the cage I had allowed others to put me in and I became childlike and adventurous again. I sought out new experiences and promised myself I wouldn’t walk away from doors that were opened for me that I might typically shy away from. I felt like myself as a teenager, but with so much more knowledge about the world. I found myself feeling like my truest self. And it was a happy self. Guess what else I found? Happy kids. Really happy ones. At first, it took some adjusting for the kids to learn their “new mom”... because I literally became a shell of myself serving them all their lives. But once they learned who I truly am, they adjusted and became happier and freer little souls themselves. I taught them to explore more and to let things happen naturally, instead of me trying to create happiness for them, they found it. Now.. are we happy all the time? Of course not, we are human like the rest of you. We suffer from a long family history of mental illness/depression. But we have learned to let the little things go and to focus on positive experiences that feed our soul so that we have the strength and the coping skills to get through the dark hours. This list is my toolbox. I go to it often.
So... in short, I don’t believe you have to go through a divorce or something terrible to come to this understanding of finding your true, happy self. In fact, I encourage you to start before you lose yourself if at all possible. It’s less shocking to others around you and it’s just better for you to get a jump on this than when you’re finding yourself on that floor in tears, asking yourself—‘what happened?’ Start with that list and start putting it to work. Make time for things on your list and don’t ignore them or put them off for ’another day’ because ‘another day’ never comes. Nourish your soul and you’ll be a better parent, a better friend, a better spouse/partner and a better you. What nourishes you? What things bring you joy? Start that list, then pull out your calendar. Go to your local events pages and look for experiences that align with your happy list. Here are some ideas that are on mine that might be on yours to get you started. 👇
😱no social media day
📞call a friend (not a text)
🎸🎻🎼 listen to live music
🚴♀️🏊⛹🏽🏋🏽♀️15 minutes of exercise-running was easy and good for me
🙏🏻🧘🏽meditate (use Calm app or your Alexa for guided meditations)
🌸🌺🌼put fresh flowers on your table
🤗hug someone you love (tight)
🎢Go play at a park and REALLY play with your kids or your friends.
🥰do one small random act of kindness
🤪🤣🎬watch a funny movie or series
💃🏻🕺🏼dance to happy music - be a fool -it’s okay! (Young kids especially like to join you on this one!)
🤷🏻♀️ 🌈🍋🍹no complaining all day-find the positive in it every time you almost complain.
🍷🍫🥓go get your favorite treat
🖍🎨🖼color a picture
💋doll yourself up--feeling good on the outside does make you feel better in the inside
📕📘start a new book
🚶🏾♂️take a walk and don’t worry about where you are going
🐶🐱play with your dog (or cat)
💅🏽get a pedicure
👯♂️spend one on one time with your favorite person
🌿🌷plant flowers or fruits and veggies
🚗go for a drive with no destination
🍪bake cookies from scratch
😴take a nap (especially when you’re feeling stressed)
📝write down things you’re good at
🏡declutter the busiest room of your home
🎁buy something you’ve been wanting
🚤visit a lake
🥟go out to dinner-try something NEW!
🛫plan a future dream vacation
🎢take a day off from work and do something fun
🎁buy a gift for someone you love 🧗Seek out new experiences through local event pages-there are some weird and fun events out there—Be adventurous!
👭Make new friends that align with your vibe-surround yourself with people you admire or want to be like-their energy is contagious!
🧑🎓Learn something new -a new instrument, a new language, a new craft—take a class (online or in person)
🛁Take a hot bath with amazing scents/bubbles
These are just some of mine! Got any good ones yourself? What’s on YOUR list?! Add them in the comments below! Get to work on your personal happy list and commit to doing at least one a day to serve your soul! I promise, you’ll thank me! 🙌