What it feels like...
…to not be happy.
When I originally started The Happy Project I thought about the word happy. I wanted to feel happy. I still want to feel happy, but over the past few days I feel like I’ve been doing a disservice to all my other emotions by trying to keep the idea of happy in the back of my mind.
To put it plainly, I’ve been in a depressive episode for 4 days. I haven’t felt this way, depression without anxiety, for a long time. It is painful, disheartening, and hard to navigate. The earth feels far away from under my feet, my heart feels heavy in my chest, and my head feels full of fog. There have been no racing thoughts, no overwhelming feelings, and no “I’ve got to fix this” thoughts. Just heavy and down. Imagine being the most tired you have ever felt, then when it comes time when you can lay down, you stop yourself and keep moving around. Everything feels slow, drawn out, and difficult to navigate.
Today I feel lighter and better, but still not my mediocre. Mediocre is what I am striving for at this point, and because of that I wanted to talk about that thorn in my side, happy. Happy comes with the connotation (at least for me) that everything needs to be good. That there is no bad. But in our everyday lives, there is bad. There is sad. There is heartache. There is hard.
Yesterday I decided to listen to my favorite podcast about mental health - Jen Gotch is OK… Sometimes, and it wasn’t until I was driving home (after listening to multiple episodes throughout my work day) about the word joy. Not everything has to bring joy, but the CHOICE to find joy in things is what she talked about. The word HAPPY can be a poison, at least to me in a state of depression. Happy can be misleading, it can diminish our other feelings, and give us false hope. What we THINK life should be like for us and WHAT it ACTUALLY may be for other people are two different things - something very heavily connected to social media (in my opinion).
Not everyone is happy all the time. No one. So why should I hold myself up to that standard? Why should I think about life only in terms of feelings of happy? The Happy Project is becoming so much more than being HAPPY. It’s about me learning how to FIND joy in all of the things around me. ”Does it spark joy?” is a phrase that was started by Marie Kondo in the popular Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Let’s take that physical practice of connecting a memory to an object, a thought to something that exists around us, and challenge our mind to think of those things that we want to “keep” to help spark joy.
In support of my mind, and what I am learning about myself - here is my list of things to help me spark joy, for when I am feeling down…
A hot cup of coffee
Giving Ender a hug when we wakes up from his nap
Standing in sunshine with my eyes closed and feeling the warmth of it
Decker putting his head on my shoulder after I’ve been at work
Sprinkling parsley on a bowl of anything that warrants parsley
Doing research about something I am interested in
Going for a walk
Wearing wool socks
Counting the stars in Ender’s room at night while he gets sleepy
Washing my hands in warm water
Taking care of my houseplants
Watching a baking show
A hot cup of tea
Cleaning out the refrigerator
Making the bed
Eating roasted potatoes
Riding a train in a comfy seat by the window
Walking into an airport terminal after just getting off of a plane
Finding something that is “lost” for my family (toys, shoes, etc)
Maybe I should change my project to The Joy Project, but I don’t think I will. I think there is still a lot of merit to being happy. But maybe I can think about happy as a stepping stone on the journey, not the end result.