I was miserable for too long.
I know that now.
I regret it.
When asked about their greatest regrets, a lot of people say, “I wouldn’t change a thing”. But I would. I would change being miserable. Because I know now that I wasn’t a victim of circumstance. I made myself miserable by doing just a few things that kept me standing still. And it wasted so much time.
But now that I know and have made the changes, it’s easier to spot it when others are going through the same thing and making their lives SO miserable. I want to reach out, to comment on social media posts, to send them huge BOLD signs that say–“But YOU have the power to change it ALL!”
It’s the truth–you really do have the power. Despite circumstance or health issues or where you live or the family you were born into–you can change it all just by deciding to.
I woke up this morning pretty early because of the wind on the shutters. I rolled over slowly–hand on my belly (which is making it harder to move about now thanks to a wiggly son in there)–and I smiled as soon as I saw my husband. He was fast asleep, one hand tucked under his face, the other across his pillow, his wedding ring against his chin. And for a moment it all came over me. The peace. The overwhelming love. The joy that filled my whole soul as my baby moved a little and my husband’s eyelashes fluttered against a dream.
Thank you, I said to the soft morning light.
And I meant it with all my heart.
Life isn’t perfect, obviously. We have our moments and our disagreements and we can fight like cats and dogs. Being a step mom and dealing with all that comes with that overall situation is NOT ideal in the slightest and I still harbor insecurities and pain and days where I have just HAD IT. I have troubles at work like anyone else and really hard days where a tub of ice cream seems like the only antidote. But it doesn’t compare to the life I lived when I was outside of the driver’s seat. Not at all.
I remember the days when I would wake up in the morning with a heaviness in my chest and get hit with the realization that I was in a situation that was painful and ugly and unhappy. I remember the days when I’d soak my pillow with tears as I fantasized about a life where I’m happy. Married to the right person, working in the right career, mothering my own children, and taking control of a life that is far too short. I remember missing Jeff–my best friend who made things better, but was a state away. I remember the days–not too long ago–where I thought that perhaps I just had to get used to things exactly how they were. I was preached to time and time again to just find joy exactly where I was at. And I’d beat myself up when I just couldn’t find it. I gained weight. I was tired all the time. I stopped looking outside myself because I was too preoccupied with all the mess that was within. I didn’t like myself anymore.
But then I learned an important lesson–making your own happiness does not mean accepting things exactly as they are. It means taking control, making necessary changes, and allowing yourself the things you desire and deserve.
There are several reasons that make us miserable.
Banking your own happiness on someone else–or on circumstance.
I see people who bank their joy on who they’re with. That’s all fine and good until a fight happens, or a break up takes place–or your very “human” significant other falls short. If we place all our happiness in another human being, we will always fall short of the happiness we deserve. This is also true with our jobs, our homes, and our circumstances. Don’t base your entire self-worth on something that should instead be just vital pieces to the overall mechanism of your joy. I know my marriage is much more beautiful when I have solid joy in myself and my choices and my worth–not only in his. It creates a much more fulfilling and beneficial relationship and I find myself finding ways to serve him better. When he gets drawn down, I don’t go with him. I’m there to help him rise again–and vice versa.
Counting your misfortunes.
It’s easy to do. I find myself doing it from time to time. I’m so tired. I feel misunderstood. I have a health problem that is bringing me down. My kids are driving me nuts. My boss is making the days hard. We can probably all fill up a notebook with the things that just make life hard. And then, while we’re busy scribbling over the lines with our woes, we forget–my kids were so hard to come by, but they’re here now, like little miracles. I have a job I worked so hard for. My husband is the love of my life. It’s sunny today when the forecast said rain. I woke up early enough to exercise. I was able to help someone who really needed it today.
The little things–count them. And the misfortunes–those are dead weights. So forget them.
Comparing your life to others.
One of my favorite quotes is: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.”
From Facebook to casual chats with friends to what we talk about at work and at get-togethers, we often find ourselves wishing we had the relationships, the bodies, the kids, the jobs, the luxuries of those around us. I can’t even count, since getting a divorce and eventually marrying Jeff, how many people have said to me “Your life is so perfect! I want your life!”
Oh boy. It makes me laugh–and it makes me sad all at the same time. I wish I could tell them about the journey. The daily struggles I still have. The therapy sessions I’ve sat through. The hospital walls I’ve stared at and the surgeries I recovered from well before my pregnancy test ever turned positive. My highlight reel is genuine and amazing and so is my family–but my behind the scenes is what really has made me me. And it isn’t always glamorous.
You gave up control.
For me, this was the biggest lesson to learn. I have a habit of “rolling with it”, even now. I’ll take the punches when they come and adjust myself accordingly. But we owe ourselves more. Choose happy. Each day you open your eyes take control of how that day will proceed. Control who you choose to love and how you choose to let them love you back. Control how you parent and how you are as an employee. Control what offends you and what you allow into your heart. Control what you watch and listen to and who your friends are. Slip into the driver’s seat and regain power over your one very short, very quick life.
Yes, you have the power to have joy right where you’re at. But you also have the power to move your feet.
Dwelling on how it began and how many times you’ve had to restart–rather than how it will end.
My husband reminds me of this when I slip back into the bitterness, heartache, and bad memories of the past. He’ll remind me that how things start and the hurdles in the beginning doesn’t matter nearly as much as how we’re going to end up. Your past sucks–I get it. And who knows how many times you’ve slipped back into old patterns, old routines, and old addictions. But each time you start again you have to remind yourself that none of that matters as long as you’re working to make sure that in the end, you progressed to where you’re supposed to be.
It’s okay that you messed up. It’s okay that you said things you shouldn’t have and became a person you didn’t like. It’s okay that at one point, you chose wrong.
You have power over the rest of the story–and frankly, that’s always the part of the tale that everyone remembers anyway.
This isn’t meant to be preachy. Actually, as I wrote this I found me saying to myself–Yeah, I’m bad at that one too. Yikes. But since deciding to take control of my happiness I realized that it never hurts to share what works. And this morning, as I watched my sweet husband sleep and was reminded of everything I had to endure to get to him and to our family and to the many desires I spent years praying for–I was also reminded that at times the biggest roadblock was me. I had to move around myself.
Live the life you deserve and stop being so miserable.
Someday you just might open your eyes in the early morning hour and thank yourself for choosing yourself.
Because with that choice–all good things tend to follow.