Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Important Conclusion

Quick preface: Can I just say...I've never journaled before. But after just these few blog posts, I see why people do it. It is an amazing release to be able to just put your thoughts down on paper (or type them on a screen).  

Starting a blog entry is always a little bit odd. How do I address an audience that I'm blind to? I have no idea who I am writing to on here! So, whoever you are, thanks for stopping by. Now, if you know me, you'll know that I have not been single for more than a few weeks at a time in the last eight years. For the first seven of those years, it was one relationship. While I heard a bit of grief and was sometimes judged for that decision, I did not really start feeling pressure until that relationship ended and I began seeing other people. All of a sudden, I was a needy girl that had to be in a relationship to be happy (not my thinking - what was being pushed on me).

First, I had a fairly short lived (but still very important) relationship that taught me a huge lesson: relationships are between two people. Yes, you can share with others when you're happy or when things are a little rough, but have some control over what you disclose. You don't need to tell anyone everything that your significant other says - good or bad. In fact, you shouldn't. Not even your best friend. This isn't fair to you, your partner, or your friends. You're not giving yourself enough credit to be able to work through situations on your own, you're not giving your partner any sort of confidentiality, and you're dragging your friends into a situation where they will likely be biased and not make sound decisions. Well, I learned that one the hard way.

My next relationship lasted a bit longer - 7 months. This one taught me more lessons that I even realized I needed to learn. And quite frankly, some of which I would have preferred not to learn. To maintain some confidentiality about the details, and out of respect for this person, I am just going to use a quote to sum up the main lesson I learned here:
"Relationships, of all kinds, are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost." 
Despite the fact that I was the sand being held too tightly, the end of this relationship brought incredible hurt. But the end of this relationship is also what gave me the kick in the butt to really look at myself and see what I liked, and what maybe wasn't working. It was then that I decided that the two things I really needed to be working on were patience and giving up control. But we'll get into that in a later post.

Once I decided that I needed to let go of that pain, a new person came into my life, totally catching me by surprise. One thing that was missing in my previous relationship was stimulating conversation. Well, within our first 3 'dates,' this new person and I logged probably 10 hours of (amazing, intelligent, revealing, honest, fulfilling....) conversation. Wow. Again, out of respect for this person, I'm going to stay pretty vague - especially because I will most likely end up in his novel/memoir some day! ;-) What I will say, is that the end of this relationship gave me the courage to really reach the conclusion that I am about to share with you. And not just to reach it, but to accept it.

So here it is: I am a relationship person. And proud. Do I need to be in a relationship to feel fulfilled? Yes. But am I needy? No. Do I prefer to have a companion to share my hopes, dreams, fears, and just general day to day feelings with? Yes.

Some people may still see this as needy. But I don't, at all. My personality is such that I prefer to have someone to have an intimate relationship with, to have someone to take care of, and to have someone that will inspire personal growth. I believe this means I am an extrovert - I get my energy from other people. 

I don't go into relationships with a lot of "me" centered thoughts -  obviously I will benefit from the relationship (hopefully), but the way that I receive the fulfillment is by nurturing someone else. I am caring, almost to a fault. I want to devote my time to making someone else happy. In the still very few relationships that I have had, this has yielded mixed results. I've experienced a good balance of give and take, I've also given until it hurt, and in the relationship that was being held too tightly - I stopped giving all together.

So what does this mean for my Happiness Project? Well...I haven't figured that out quite yet! I want my Happiness Project to be for me, not for anyone else. But I also fully believe that in making others happy, I become happier.

I'll leave you with a song that I happen to love:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Full Disclosure

As I start this blog, and my happiness project, I realize that my thoughts are being put out there for anyone and everyone to see. I am not nearly as worried about what a stranger passing through will think as I am about what certain people closer to me will think. I have many different social circles that I associate with, and they're each exposed to varying levels of detail in my life. Because I am using this blog as a way to document my thoughts and feelings while I formulate, and eventually live out, my happiness project I will probably be tending to the side of more detail. Some readers will not see anything different in this exposure as it is what they are used to getting from me; however, others may read things that they did not expect. Thus, my full disclosure note.

So, as a way to hopefully avoid any uncomfortable encounters with people as I write, I will be sure to label posts that include more intimate details or 'controversial' topics as TMI (too much information). This way,  you, as the reader, have the choice about whether or not you continue reading. The title of the post will also give you an idea about what will be disclosed.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Happiness Project

Those of you that know me at all, even just a little bit, know that I love to read. Those of you that know me even better know that books tend to inspire me and that it seems to be a regular occurrence that I pick up a book that will have some deep impact on me in the time that I read it. Some people would call this a coincidence, but I like to think there's more at work.

In spring of 2009, I read Eat, Pray, Love while on a beach in Mexico. Life was great - I was happy with where I was, where I was going, and the people I had beside me. In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert owns her unhappiness, confronts the causes, attempts to change her life, and eventually leaves for a one year, multi-country, soul-searching expedition. While reading the book, deep down I felt a longing for that sort of freedom - not to take a year off to travel, but to devote a significant amount of time to my own happiness.  However, I was laying on a beach in sunny Puerto Vallarta; I didn't let my thoughts go too far, but the seed was planted.

In winter/spring of 2010, I read American Wife and Committed. My life was nearing a crossroads at this point - I was on schedule to graduate, move to Milwaukee for grad school, and get married. On the outside, I was happy. I had everything going for me. But that happiness was not reflected on the inside, where fear, doubt, and insecurity were growing. I picked up American Wife at Barnes & Noble because I enjoy reading books that are somehow tied to a real person. American Wife is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush. I wasn't expecting anything more than a fun, interesting book. However, very early on I started finding my own self in the book. Alice, the main character, is questioning herself and her relationships. What are her motives for being in this relationship? Does she want her life to go in this direction? I recognized these questions, and was then brought back to that seed that was planted while reading Eat, Pray, Love and I found myself confronting my own feelings. Reading Committed was an interesting choice. It is the sequel to Eat, Pray, Love and Gilbert uses it to explore the history and social meaning of marriage. Did part of me want to read this book to get my life (and feelings) back on the track everyone expected it to take? Or did I read it because I wanted affirmation that I was not ready for this commitment? I'd say a little bit of both. What this book did for me is give my subconscious reason to look for happiness. When I found it, I knew my decision was made. I did not get married. I did not move to Milwaukee.

This is all old news to you if you know me. However, I bought a new book on Friday and started reading it this weekend. I immediately felt a connection to the book. I don't think it's a coincidence that in the last few months I've been reading the blogs of friends, acquaintances, and strangers wishing I could make my life sound like theirs and then finally decided to give it a try...and then I buy The Happiness Project.

The Happiness Project is the story of Gretchen Rubin and her 12-month dedication to finding more happiness in her life. I am a happy person, anybody that knows me knows that and I wouldn't ever say otherwise. However, my life has changed drastically in the last year and I haven't really sat down to take inventory of what I have now. Rubin used all sorts of studies on happiness to begin her happiness project. I'll use some of those studies too. But what came to my mind in the first 25 pages of the book was Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. I studied, dissected, and analyzed this pyramid about half a dozen times in college and always came to the same conclusion: this guy knows his shit. So my happiness project will be centered around Maslow's pyramid. That's all I really know right now. I want my happiness project to have meaning and purpose, so I'm going to take my time formulating what it will look like. But for now, I at least know where I'm starting.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

And so it begins...

 Aside from the obligatory stint with Xanga as a middle schooler, this is my first attempt at blogging. We'll see how it goes.

Let's start with the basics:

A. Age: Twenty two. 

B. Bed size: Queen.  

C. Chore you dislike: Taking out the garbage and recycling. 

D. Dogs: Love. I can't wait to own one. Or two. Hopefully my next dwelling will allow dogs, and I will get either a King Charles Spaniel or a Yorkie. However, once I have a house and a yard - I'll move up to the bigger breeds. Preferably a Golden Doodle. 
E. Essential start to your day:  Brushing my teeth. Even on the weekend when I have nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to see, I need to brush my teeth in order to start my day. 

F. Favorite color: Pink. 

G. Gold or silver: White gold. 

H. Height: 5'0". In the morning. Height most people see me as, thanks to heels: 5'2". 

I. Instruments you play(ed): Violin. For about 12 weeks, in fourth grade. 

J. Job title: Public Relations/Development Director. 

K. Kids: None. But I hope to have a house full when the time comes! 

L. Live: In the Fox Cities. I never really imagined myself moving back here, but Appleton is very different as a 22 year old, and I'm glad I'm here. 
M. Mom’s name: Laurie. 

N. Nicknames: Pickle is my most common nickname. My parents and other family members use it, sometimes Pickle Ann. 

O. Overnight hospital stays: None.  Knock on wood. 

P. Pet peeves: Chewing on ice. I can't stand the sound.  

Q. Quote from a movie: "I think I'd miss you, even if we'd never met." The Wedding Date 

R. Righty or lefty:  Righty. 

S. Siblings: Ben, 20. Justin, 25. 

T. Time you wake up: Sometime between 5:45 and 6:45 during the week. No later than 8:30 on the weekend. 

U. Underwear: I wear it. 

V. Vegetables you don't like: Peas, and most beans. 

W. What makes you run late: Not having my workout bag packed and ready to go, figuring out what to wear, pressing snooze too many times. 

X. X-rays you’ve had: Ankle, knees, back/shoulders/neck, teeth. 

Y. Yummy food you make: I make amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 
Z. Zoo animal favorites: All of them!