Lesson 32, reason 482: Bravely confront your issues/fears/demons. Everyone has them, despite the fact that we as a society have made everyone hide them and pretend they don't exist. There is healing in acknowledging them, learning about them and overcoming them by dismantling them. When the stigma is gone, freedom begins.
Lesson 30, reason 480: Savor special moments, for you will look back in a week, a month or a year and wish you remembered every sensual aspect of them -- the look, smell, taste, sound and feel. (My December Daily project taught me this.)
Lesson 31, reason 481: Every moment has the potential to be a special moment. The trick, then, is to live in the present; to forego our worries about the future and our regrets about the past in favor of savoring this moment, right here, right now.
Lesson 26, reason 476: Less is more -- particularly as it pertains to pleasure.
Lesson 27, reason 477: Feelings of peace and contentment are not guaranteed; they must be cultivated. (This requires viewing difficult times with equal measures calmness and fortitude, and viewing pleasant times with equal measures humility and gratitude*. (No portion of this recipe for success may be omitted.))
Lesson 28, reason 478: Every moment of every day is a chance to start again.
Lesson 29, reason 479: Happiness is within your grasp. (You can find it "by reframing your expectations and embracing an imperfect life. You can be happy without being perfect." (My thanks to Alice Domar and Alice Lesch, whose brilliant book, Be Happy Without Being Perfect, has been teaching me how to do just that.))
*I think it's instructive to review these terms here, as it sheds light on why they are so necessary and important.
Calmness: the mental state of being free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance.
Fortitude: strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.
Humility: the quality of being modest and respectful.
Gratitude: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation, as for gifts or favors.
Lesson 23, reason 473: There is no shame in being broken, burdened or otherwise in need of support or assistance. It's what makes us human.
Lesson 24, reason 474: You must strengthen and nourish yourself, even and especially when you don't see the need for or point of it.
Lesson 25, reason 475: When you approach people humbly, gently, lovingly and affirmingly -- that is, not insecurely -- they trust you enough to let you in.
Lesson 19, reason #469 = There is no such thing as a perfect job or a perfect relationship.
Lesson 20, reason #470 = There is such a thing as an unhealthy job, as well as an unhealthy relationship.
Lesson 21, reason #471 = A bad work environment is an obstacle to avoid.
Lesson 22, reason #472 = A difficult time in a relationship is a learning experience.
I want to stress that these are lessons I've learned, and they apply to my unique set of circumstances. Over the course of the last year Mr. Wonderful and I have come full circle, and things have never been more solid and, therefore, better. But that is only because he decided that he, too, wanted to make this work. If he hadn't decided that, I would have continued on without him. Many people have had to make that difficult decision, and I don't envy them. I wish them peace, love and grace in return.
It's a shame that it's not until the end of this year that I've stumbled across and begun to read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. But, now that I have, I can tell you that she more eloquently sums up lessons 16 - 18 than I do, so I'll do as I promised and let her words speak for themselves.
Lesson 16, reason #466: "The days are long, but the years are short." [Think about it. And then think about it again and again...]
Lesson 17, reason #467: "I grasped two things - I wasn't as happy as I could be, and my life wasn't going to change unless I made it change. In that single moment, with that realization, I decided to dedicate a year to trying to be happier."
Lesson 18, reason #468: Life is one long, continuous happiness project. Okay, so those are my words. Here are more of hers:
"I needed to think about this. How could I discipline myself to feel grateful for my ordinary day? How could I set a higher standard for myself as a wife, a mother, a writer, a friend? How could I let go of everyday annoyances to keep a larger, more transcendent perspective? I could barely remember to stop at the drugstore to buy toothpaste--it didn't seem very realistic to think that I could incorporate these high aims into my everyday routine...
I had a brief vision of myself living for a month on a picturesque, windswept island, where each day I would gather seashells, read Aristotle and write in an elegant parchment journal. Nope, I admitted, that's not going to happen. I needed to find a way to do it here and now. I needed to change the lens through which I viewed everything familiar."
Yes, yes, yes. Amen and amen and amen.
Lesson #15, reason #465: You can't fight fire with fire, selfishness with selfishness or bitterness with bitterness.
When your world falls apart – when you lose a loved one, a job, a home or something else that meant a great deal to you and that you deemed vitally important to your existence – your will is tested. You don’t just wonder who you will go to for guidance, when you will get a steady income, where you’ll live or how you’ll replace that certain item; you wonder whether you’ll ever recover and if you’ve lost a little part of yourself. You’ve heard me say this again and again.
But what you haven’t heard me say is that I am realizing, a year later, that I did. I lost a portion of myself. It was an idealistic and naïve portion, to be sure, but there’s something to mourn in the midst of that. I’ve become a wiser, kinder, stronger person as a result of that loss, but I will never recover that portion again.
As it pertains to the professional world, I’ve learned that I have to take care of myself rather than expecting others to have in mind my best interest and, sadly, that not everyone can be trusted. This is what everyone eventually should learn, I suspect, but I had to learn it the hard way. The fact that everyone should be kind and generous doesn’t mean they are. In fact, they frequently aren’t. And with regard to the struggles I've faced in my relationship, I’ve had to learn that Mr. Wonderful’s needs and struggles are as important as my own, sometimes more than. And that, too, is of critical importance, as there is no place for ego in happiness. You can pound your fist and say, “I deserve this, and you’re not giving it!” but there’s a fine line between what they are able to give and don’t and what they aren’t capable of giving at that moment. We have to be sensitive to those things, and we have to be compassionate in those moments. We can’t demand that our partners be super human.
But as I’ve come to grips with these losses – the loss of innocence on one hand, the inability to always get what I want on the other – I’ve reached another conclusion: neither of those losses requires that I be bitter. In the crucible of our lives and in our most painful experiences, we can either grow as a result of the lessons we’ve learned or resent the fact that we’ve had to learn them. There are no other options. The first requires my oft-stated openness to acceptance, the latter thrives on a cynicism that believes life is a series of constant disappointments.
Fourteen months after I lost my job and a year after grief threatened the foundation of my relationship, I’ve run the full gamut of grief. I’ve encountered shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, the upward turn, reconstruction and, finally, acceptance. I’ve fought for control, screamed at the heavens, studied the theoretical reasons behind certain developments, battled loneliness and come to grips with the new life that I now live as a result of the aforementioned losses. And now the clouds have lifted. The only thing left to do is to rebuild, to take the next step and the one after it...
This has been the hardest part of loss for me: figuring out what’s next. When there is no longer an external crisis to fight, life can feel painfully empty and meaningless. But that doesn’t mean it is: it just means it’s another step in the process. And we can't demand, in turn, that equally good things happen. I now have finished that obstacle course as well, and I’m rebuilding in the space that prior tragedy left vacant.
It feels good. It feels gradual. It feels necessary.
With that, I am closing out the commentary portion of this project. You may get a little more explanation from me, but not much – because I don’t feel the need to dwell on my past losses anymore. I’ve survived them, I’ve mourned them, and now I’m moving past them. I am really, really proud of this development.
That doesn’t mean you won’t hear my last 40 lessons or be able to see me finish out my 500 reasons. You will. It just means that I’m going to let those lessons speak for themselves.
Thank you for supporting me on this journey to healing. And when you go through your own struggles and pave your own way through the pain you've suffered, I would encourage you to keep going, and I would say this:
PS: It has come to my attention that the post for lesson #8, reason 458 was accidentally deleted. It was this: There is no place for ego in happiness.
Wrote my way through finding 500 reasons to take stock and give thanks in 365 days. That's about it.