Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Soul Clean-Up: When Being Happy Takes Work
Why do we shy away from doing the things that will make us feel good?
Taking five minutes to pay my bills (instead of frantically transferring money the day before it's due) makes me feel good.
Reading a book or contributing to my neglected blog gives me a zing of happy satisfaction.
Having a clean house makes me feel really good. It's nice when my things are put away and easy to find; it's more comfortable to lay on crisp sheets than tangled ones; a shiny and clean-smelling bathroom is nicer to get ready in than a dingy one. But in reality, my house is trashed more often than it's not. I'll collect a messy pile of shoes at the door for days -- despite the fact that I relish seeing all my lovely shoes lined up in their boxes and sorted by occasion.
The list goes on. Regular exercise makes me sleep better and enjoy more energy. Whereas playing DrawSomething on my iPad for two hours can make me feel tired, sluggish, and ashamed of all the time I just wasted. But there is a 90% chance that I will be tired tomorrow because I will stay awake scribbling pictures tonight.
So where is the disconnect? If I know how to make myself happy, why don't I? Is it just sheer laziness?
I don't think so. I'm definitely not lazy at work; I get shit done all day long! In fact, I've risen up the ranks at my job because I complete projects and create procedures and lead a productive staff.
So why, when it comes to my personal life, am I apparently sabotaging my happiness? It seems all too easy to fall into lazy patterns...the wide, easy grooves I've thoughtlessly worn into my daily routine.
It never bothered me when the issues in question were minor (Why don't I paint my nails more often if it makes me feel so darn pretty?). But today it dawned on me that I have been doggedly returning to a relationship that doesn't really make me feel good. In fact, it makes me feel bad pretty consistently.
I've been raking my heart over the coals by dating the same man, unsuccessfully, on and off for three and a half years. At this point, it's pretty laughable how often we split up...my friends have got to be sick of holding my hand through breakup after devastating breakup. But every time I find myself in the depths of such despair (the weepy, sick, I-can't-go-on-like-this part), I call him. Many times, I'll call him repeatedly, never relenting until we work things out.
And before long, he and I are status quo again, and I've switched from regretting our demise to lamenting a relationship that leaves me feeling unsatisfied and lonely. This is somehow preferable.
I never saw this routine as a reflection of laziness. Quite the contrary. I always felt confident that I was working hard to salvage something wonderful: a relationship! But if I really try to identify the good parts of our relationship, I start to realize that they were few and far between.
In fact, I think I confuse feelings of longing with feeling good.
When I think about times that I remember as happy, the highs that apparently cancelled out our lows, I remember times when I loved him. I remember staring at him on the couch or in the car, thinking that he looked so handsome, and I was so lucky to be able to shower him with adoration. I remember times when he was funny, and I responded with a swelling of affection... It was a feeling that came from deep within ME.
I love to love him so much that it feels good even to remember it.
But while I have been good at loving him, he hasn't had the stamina to keep up with my devotion. This relationship has left me feeling uncute, unhappy and unloved. Even though it really did, one or two or maybe three (yikes) years ago, it definitely doesn't make me feel good anymore. Now I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall.
So, now that I know this, I guess I have to do the work.
Taking care of my day-to-day happiness requires work: chores and clean-up and discipline.
So I have to do the work of clearing out the crap in hopes that soon, my life can feel comfortable and good.
Here we go...