The Way I Live, Part 3: If There are Relationships or Circumstances in Your Life That are Not Working, Get Rid of Them. Have the Courage to Be Happy
Although you might not think it, it really does take a lot of courage to be happy. As I pointed out in my last writing, being happy requires much more than simply proclaiming yourself to be so. Saying you’re happy if you aren’t is as big a trap as remaining stuck in an unhappy life. In fact, that will increase your unhappiness. Very few people discover the secret of being truly happy, and it really isn’t that difficult to figure out.
In the past few years, I’ve been motivated by influences from both without and within to reorganize some aspects of my life. I suppose it really began when my grandmother passed away in 2003. For a while I tried to carry on as I had before her death, but this didn’t work out because she was gone. You see, I’d devoted most of my adult life to her. As she got older she needed more help to remain independent and I spent a lot of time doing everything from taking her shopping to balancing her checkbook to keeping up with what bills were due and when. Once she was gone, those needs went away with her and I was left with a lot of hours to fill and nothing at hand with which to fill them.
When I’d recovered from the shock of losing her, I began to realize that I had to change along with my circumstances. Fortunately, I was beginning to get involved in writer’s groups on the internet. This put me in touch with a great many people who had something in common with me. They all loved to write and they all loved to read. Through this interaction I began to redevelop my love of writing. The desire to become a writer came back to me and this time I could really pursue it because I had the time to devote to it. This was my start.
Putting things in order is always the first step you must take if you want to be happy in your life. This is a process that has to begin with an honest look at your life. Situations that are not working out will be easily recognizable to you. So will the ones that are. The way you’ll know the difference is by taking stock of which ones bring you contentment and growth and which ones don’t. The ones that don’t will need a closer inspection to ascertain two things: exactly why you are involved in this situation and whether or not you can make any impact on it to bring it into a state where it is more tolerable to you. Sometimes you won’t come up with any solid reasons for being in a bad situation and oftentimes you’ll realize that there is nothing you can do to make yourself happy with it. This is when you must make decisions that can be very difficult.
For you see, here comes the crux of what you are doing. If something in your life is bringing you down, no matter what it is, your job, your house, your car, your partner, whatever it is, you’ve got to get rid of it if you can’t turn it into something that brings you contentment. There is absolutely no sense in fighting a losing battle or in beating your head against a brick wall. You’ll only become even more unhappy trying. So you have got to dig down deep into your soul and find the strength you need to shed anything that takes away from your happiness.
I see so many people who are truly miserable in their lives. They don’t have to say a word to explain it either. You see it in their expression, their posture, the way they go about doing the things they have to deal with in everyday life, and ultimately in their physical health. Their entire existence tells the story without them having to say a word. This is particularly disconcerting when it is someone close to you. If you know their situation it is easy for you to see what needs to change to make their lives better, but sometimes they are so close to it they can’t see it for themselves. Or they do know the problem but can’t find the courage to take care of it. They may think they wouldn’t be able to have a clear conscience if they left their spouse or quit their job or stopped supporting a deadbeat loved one. They may have a lot of fear about going their own way too. In fact, they probably will because it can be a scary thing to start over.
While this is true, it is also only a temporary excuse and they know it as well as you. It probably will hurt to leave a loved one if the relationship has become a source of unhappiness for you. Ending or changing the dynamics of a relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t love the other person involved. I don’t think you can ever stop loving someone once you’ve developed that kind of bond. You can still love someone even if you’re not with them anymore. In the long run, they will probably be better off by your decision too, because if the relationship was bad for you it must not have been great for them either.
It can be risky to leave a job unless you have another one to go to. I don’t recommend quitting your terrible job willy nilly. You’ve got have some way of earning a living. Just go out and find yourself a new one. Take as long as you must and don’t stop until you’ve found the one that is best suited to your physical and emotional needs. You’ll feel better about yourself for planning this sort of change and the job you’re in that is bringing you down won’t seem so bad anymore because you know that you won’t have to put up with it for very much longer.
The future is what you have to keep thinking about. And not just the immediate future either. You’ve got to think in terms of years down the road and ask yourself how you’ll feel and what you’ll be if you stay in a life that isn’t bringing you contentedness. That answer is always the same: you’ll be miserable. Only this time it will be worse because a big part of this misery is going to come from the knowledge that you are mostly responsible for the life you’re living.
There were a lot of things in my own life that I had to let go in order to begin living the life I wanted for myself. Some relationships had to be ended, some had to be curtailed, some things I’d held on to for years had to be let go; it all was a very hard transition to make but I knew I had to do it or one day I’d wake up and hate myself. I had begun to envision a future for myself that I wanted to attain. I wanted to grow older with things in my life that I enjoy and which bring me happiness. I knew I’d never have that if I didn’t make some big changes to my present situation.
The difficulty in letting go of people and things is only short lived pain. You get over it because there are things to take their place; things that you want for yourself and that make you happy, content. You start small. Maybe it’s your furniture that you aren’t entirely pleased with. It’s too dark or it’s too light or it doesn’t match the carpet. So you get new furniture. You might even decide to paint the walls or put down newer carpet. Then you have a room you can walk into that looks comfortable to you and that is pleasing to the eye.
Your home has to be a place where you feel entirely at ease. Your home is a reflection of you. The colors you choose and the furnishings you acquire and the things you use to decorate it are all expressions of your personality. That’s why you can have a block of apartments where each one is identical to the other in structure but are completely different places to live because the people who inhabit them bring their own style and their own taste. Your home has got to be a place where you enjoy being. It has to give you a sense of comfort and security. It also has to be a place where you enjoy having your friends and family into. If your home isn’t one of the most nurturing spots in your life then you aren’t going to have contentment in a lot of other areas. You should also keep your home neat and tidy. Nobody likes to come home after a day at work and walk into a mess! You’ll feel better about it and yourself if you give a little time each day to keeping things clean and put up where they go.
I like a lot of light. I don’t mean yellow light bulbs either, because they can be too harsh. I don’t mind paying a little more for the white or fluorescent bulbs that give more an aura of natural light. I feel very good in a room that is well lit. Dark places make me feel depressed and hemmed in. Bright colors are also something I find uplifting. They give me a sense of happiness. So I have a lot of light in my home. I got rid of some things that had been given to me by parents and my grandmother because they didn’t fit in with the motif of my home that I needed to feel very comfortable. Did I feel badly about getting rid of those things? Some, yes, some, no. But I did it.
Once you’ve begun to make changes to the small things in your life, you’ll find that the courage to make bigger changes will follow. You’ll see that doing what has to be done is the only way out of most unpleasant situations. You’ll have begun to enjoy the contentedness you’re getting from the smaller changes you made and you’ll yearn for the same feeling in all other aspects of your life.
Putting a balance to things is another big ingredient to making yourself happy. You must give yourself the time you need in all areas of your life to be at ease with them. We all know people who spend too much time at work. I think that is one of the unhealthiest things you can do for yourself. If you’re routinely spending more than eight hours a day at your job then there is one of two things wrong there: either you have too much to do or you aren’t the right person for the job because you can’t get it done in the time allotted to you. You won’t be able to fool people into thinking differently either, at least not for long. People will notice the amount of actual results that come out of your office and they’ll begin to keep track of how often you give excuses instead of results too.
Most of us have jobs that require a lot of our attention when we’re at them. Scheduling and planning your time is the key to getting done what you have to accomplish in a day or a week. If you set aside a certain amount of time to do a task you’ll get it done a lot faster than if you try to juggle it with a dozen other things. You have to put first things first and let everything else fall into place alongside them. Microsoft Office has a calendar feature in its Outlook program that is excellent when it comes to scheduling your time. I couldn’t get along without it. I schedule my entire day, every day, right down to when I’m going to check and answer voice and emails to when I’m going to have lunch. And unless something comes up that absolutely cannot wait I don’t stray from my schedule. Chaos is untidy and it also makes a very unattractive you. It tells people you can’t manage your situation and you can’t manage your time.
When you have two careers as I do, scheduling your time is essential because you have to give the proper amount to each one in order to be successful at them both. I’m a dynamite organizer. I like to go to bed early and I like to get up early. So I do. I go to my day job for eight hours a day, sometimes a half longer if something comes up, and then I come home to my office here because I have responsibilities and obligations to the people involved in my writing career, myself included. During the week I set aside the same amount of time each day for my writing and also an additional block of time to answer emails and other correspondence. The TV goes off, the phone goes on voice mail, I put on some nice music, and I work until the time is up. Then I move on to the next task. The only weeknight I do things is differently is Wednesday. (Survivor, you know.) On weekends I do more at writing but the same at answering correspondence. Same rules too. No phone, no TV, just the tasks at hand.
You also must allow yourself some time for you. Whether it’s reading or watching TV or making personal calls or listening to music, having company or visiting people, seeing a movie, attending a lecture, or going to an art exhibition. You must have that time to devote to yourself and your personal needs. I give myself two half hours per day for meditating and chanting in order to maintain a spiritual self that is in alignment with my world. I give myself another thirty minutes every day for physical activity. I pamper myself with things that make me feel good too. I just schedule that time along with everything else. Am I a slave to my schedule? No, on the contrary, I embrace it because it allows me the time I need to live the life that I enjoy and that makes me happy.
You must take care of yourself physically as well. How many times have we all said that we should eat better or that we should get more exercise? Probably more than any of us care to count. Eating better comes from learning to see food in a different way. You’ve got to realize that the food you eat is what you’re consuming to give you the energy to get through your daily life. A few tips on acquiring better nutrition: don’t eat anything that comes in a wrapper, its likely full of preservatives and high in carbs and/or starches, thus high in calories. Buy fresh or frozen meats (fish included) and vegetables. Canned meat and canned vegetables are put up in oil that is also loaded with preservatives that are mostly bad for you. The same goes for fruits, buy fresh or frozen. If you must buy canned fruit then open it into a colander and rinse off the syrup that it’s packed in. Don’t fry things. If you have to batter something, bake it. Eat most of your food baked or grilled, broiling or boiling only certain things and only on certain occasions. When you use oil make it olive oil.
The food you eat should paint a picture. If you prepare a meal and see that it’s all mostly the same color then you’ve goofed. The colors of your food are just as important as the types of it. Don’t eat seconds either. Another thing, when you eat you should enjoy your food. Take the time to chew it up properly and don’t just gulp it down. This is difficult on your digestive system and it also encourages you to overeat. If you thoroughly chew your food before you swallow it you’ll control your portions better because you’ll get full faster.
Three items you should strictly limit or completely eliminate are bread, potatoes, and pasta. These are loaded with starches and carbohydrates and your body turns them into sugar almost instantly. Another thing, your body can’t tell the difference between sucrose, lactose, or fructose. To your brain it’s just sugar, so don’t overeat on fruits or dairy products and try to avoid table sugar at all costs. Have a dessert only occasionally and, if you have the choice, use Splenda.
Want to turn up your metabolism? Go for a thirty minute walk at least three times a week. Also, drink plenty of cold water every day, all throughout the day. Your body will increase its metabolism in warming the water when it hits your stomach.
Sodas are bad for you, even the diet ones. The diet ones have as much sodium in them as the regular colas and they all have nitrites in them that are not good for you. Try to eliminate caffeine from your diet as well. Gradually switch to decaf coffee and tea. Drinking water is much easier now that those sugar free mixes in the little pouches are available. Milk, even skim, is only good for adults in small amounts, because it’s loaded with lactose and fat. Fruit juices are to be limited as well because they’re high in fructose and most of them have a lot of acid in them.
You should also put a great deal of effort into looking your best. When you walk out your door into the world, you should look like you’re happy to be a part of it. Spend ample time on your personal grooming. Find out what hairstyles look best on you and don’t use one that doesn’t. And keep your hair clean, by all means. Nothing looks worse on a person, man or woman, than dirty, unkempt hair.
Find out what colors are suited for you and buy your clothes in those colors. (Remember, you can never go wrong with black, but you can with white if you’re too tan or too light skinned.) The colors you choose ought to match your mood, your personality, and they should also bring out your eyes. When you purchase clothes, pick ones that fit you properly, even if you have to have them altered if something isn’t quite right. Nothing makes a person look worse than wearing something that is too big or too small. Shoes are especially important. They must not only fit your feet well but they should feel good when you wear them.
Giving your appearance the attention it deserves tells people that you care not only about how you look but also about what they think of you. We’ve all been out early in the mornings, maybe for a grocery store run, and seen people in there who obviously got right out of bed and left the house without washing their face, fixing their hair, or brushing their teeth. I’ve even seen some women out early who are still in pajamas! They look awful and everybody who sees them thinks the same thing. Salespeople don’t want to serve them and you don’t want to be too near them in the aisles or in the check out line either. So don’t do that to yourself. Give the impression that you’re out not only because you have to be but because you want to be, and your appearance tells the tale better than anything else.
Posture is also very important. For your personal health and your body’s sake, your posture will go a long way in conveying how you feel inside and out. Stand up straight, with your shoulders at the same latitude as your hips, and your head held at the proper angle. Your chin should never be any higher than nature put it but you can straighten your neck so that your chin is almost perpendicular to your feet. To help you keep a good posture, two or three times a day stand with your back against a wall, your feet together, and your hand in the small of your back. Then straighten your spine until your hand can’t fit in between the wall and your body anymore. Straighten your neck as well until the back of your head is firmly against the wall too. Don’t slouch when you walk and when you’re standing up don’t have your feet too apart; it puts your hips out of alignment with your shoulders. Achieving and maintaining the proper posture makes your build look right and it adds to your body’s longevity when it comes to moving the way it should.
All this is meant to convey that being a happy person is about the way you live your life, the people you share your life with, and the circumstances in which you put yourself. When things aren’t right, you aren’t right. You must develop the character and the courage to bring about changes which make you happy, content. You’ve got no one to turn to but yourself when these decisions must be made and you’ve got only yourself to blame if you don’t do what’s right for you. Most importantly, you’ve got only yourself to face in the mirror when you don’t do the right thing. You are your worst judge because nobody knows you better than you know yourself. If you don’t love who you are, then how can you expect anyone else to love you either.
Be your own best friend. Do what is right for you. You’ll find life a nice experience if you do.