On Happiness

Happiness is a strange thing isn’t it?

According to Merriam-Webster:

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Ahhh, so much information in just a simple definition.

Firstly, even though it’s obsolete, I think the definition of good fortune and prosperity is an interesting one. I’m probably misunderstanding this, but just hang with me here. I think we as a society tend to believe that people that are happy are just people that are lucky or rich or have everything they could possibly want. But actually, a lot of research has shown the exact opposite. More often, the happiest people are actually been people that to the outside world have much less. Maybe that’s why this became obsolete.

The second definitions also speak volumes.

I’m sure many of you (like me) have heard that happiness is a choice. Happiness is the journey, not the destination. Happiness is a mindset. Throw in more cheesy quotes here. I also like that the second part of that definition boils happiness down to an experience. A moment. Possibly fleeting. In which you feel that joy.

I’m sure many of you have realized by now (I’m not sure I’ve ever flat out said it) that my life goal is happiness. I just want to be happy. People often look at me like I’m weird when I say this. Isn’t that everyone’s life goal?! So what if it is?

These last few days I’ve started something new. Maybe I’ll go into more of it tomorrow (I’m a little fearful to share it with you because it’s kind of whacky), but all I can say is, for the first time in a long time I’m happy. Not every hour of every day. But I wake up and all the anxieties that usually fill up my head start up a few hours late and they’re quieter and some of them don’t even come around any more.

I can tell you, every day, when that happiness comes to an end. And sure, it may be a choice on my part. It may be the little scary things of the day building up to a point that they manage to knock the happy wall down. But I think part of it is just plain old exhaustion. My brain can only fight off the anxieties for so long right now. For the first time in my life I try to listen to my body and brain when they tell me they’re exhausted. I mean, I have my limitations. I can’t just get up from my desk and head home if my body decides it’s done at 11 AM. But I can acknowledge it. I can slow down a little. If I can step away for a few minutes and go read or walk outside or maybe to the coffee shop if it’s raining (like today, thanks Portland). But I know now, always, that when I get home I’ll take sometime to let my body and brain rest. Even if it’s just for ten minutes. I’ll lay down with no distractions (I actually put my phone on airplane mode) and I turn my body off.

I think too often we don’t do this.

I think too often we convince ourselves that we have too much to do to rest.

We’ll rest when we sleep.

We’ll rest when we’re dead.

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Clothes Clothes Clothes

This week I suddenly realized that my second capsule season is almost over. Considering how painful my first capsule felt, I’m in awe of how smoothly this one went. I’ll be honest, I didn’t stick to my capsule 100% these three months because I spent 10 days at the end of May in New Orleans, and the weather there was a tad different from the Portland weather that I had planned the capsule around (although after we returned Portland decided to brace us with a heat wave so those clothes I pulled out of storage came in mighty handy).

For my trip to New Orleans I did buy two new pairs of shorts mostly because a lot of my old shorts don’t fit me well (physically and stylistically) right now. Other than those, I stuck entirely to things I already owned. But those two purchases made me realize something: I shouldn’t feel guilty about buying new pieces for my capsules.

While it’s true that a big reason that I’m doing my capsules is for minimalistic purposes, I’m also doing them to gain a sense of my own style and I know that’s changed a lot over the years (about as much as my size has change over the years…). Both sizing and styling are perfectly good reasons to buy new pieces. You want pieces that make you feel awesome, and that’s not gonna happen if something is tight, loose, or makes you feel like you’re in high school again!

What the capsule mentality has helped prevent is my going and buying a bunch of pieces out of boredom, without any thought put into them. For example, when I went shopping for New Orleans I knew I was looking for a specific style of shorts. I didn’t need any new tops. I wasn’t looking for new pants. I wasn’t bored and just shopping to pass the time. I went in with a purpose and came out with three pairs of shorts (two of which were promptly returned).

The truth is, I think capsule wardrobes are much easier when you already have a really well-defined style. But I think they are also a great tool for when you’re searching for that style as well. Since you can only play with so many pieces every capsule, you’re really forced to choose the trends you want to try, and that forces you to put more thought into your decisions. Instead of trying ALL the current trends (which would be expensive and exhausting) you choose to try one or two or three.

I’m slowly working on building my third capsule. I have a feeling it’ll be a few days late because I have lots of time off around the 4th this year. In my process I will be looking through all the summer things I already own. But I already know there are a couple of trends I’d like to try that aren’t in my storage boxes at the moment. I think summer will be my most fun wardrobe but also my most challenging since my summer wardrobe might not necessarily be the most work appropriate one. But another work on “appropriate” dress later. Til then, Happy Summer Solstice (fun fact! this is the first time since 1948 that the summer solstice corresponds with a full moon)!

One Year in Portland

A few weeks ago marked the end of my first year in Portland.

And as anniversaries often do, this realization put me in a reflective mood, considering what I’ve managed to do in my year in Portland.

Personally, my first few months back west were tumultuous. I went through a weird, open-ended break up, I left most of my friends from the recent years, and suddenly, and rather shockingly, I was back living with my parents after not doing so for 7 years. I had no real goals other than “find a job that makes me happy,” which after enough time turned into “find a flipping job you lazy, useless idiot.” My therapist told me the latter was not a great approach, but I think everyone in the midst of a job-search reaches this moment.

But honestly, my months of unemployment, on the occasion I wasn’t stressed about re-employment, were wonderful. I took a class thus fulfilling my want to become a forever-student. I learned to draw like a designer and practiced, practiced, practiced. I got an amazingly energetic puppy who helped force me out of bed on days that life seemed especially bleak. I was tutoring again. And, once some boundaries were outlined with my parents, having them as roommates was actually pretty great most of the time. I had plenty of time to train and eat properly which led to my cutting almost a minute off my average mile, and running my fastest mile ever under 8 minutes. Basically, I had all the time to do exactly what I wanted and had to spend no time doing what I didn’t want (read, go to an office and sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week). With all of that going on I also met an awesome man, and it’s a good thing I was unemployed at the time, because his 80 hour a week work schedule was certainly something to work around.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and as an adult who wanted to keep my status as adult, I knew eventually I’d have to find a job that could sustain me again. My version of sustaining meant being able to move out of my parents’ house – ie afford my own rent.

At the end of October, five months after moving back to Oregon, I started working. When I got the offer earlier that month, I was weary. It all felt a little too similar to the situation I had just left. But I also knew a few things: the offer was good, the company was smaller, and it should potentially be easier to find a job from an employment status. I accepted the offer somewhat apprehensively and tried to remain positive.

In the following months, I wound down from my marathon training, found a roommate and apartment in the city, met my partner’s family, started lifting heavy things, moved myself and Milo into the city, cut my commute drastically, stopped lifting heavy things, and started questioning a lot of my motivators. I was dealt my annual sag into winter-time depression (one that even Portland locals complained about this year), discussed the options of intermittent paid leave to protect my job, and eventually started looking for work again.

At times, I feel like I have gotten almost nowhere this past year – I’m still struggling with my weight, I’m still struggling with my relationship with food, I’m still struggling with my self-esteem, I’m still looking for happiness at work, I’m still looking for friends. But the truth is, a lot has changed.

The most obvious change is my relationship status. I’m still with the man I met ten months ago. Though this is the longest relationship I’ve been in, it’s unique in other ways as well. I actually talk to him when something is bothering me. I share my fears and concerns with him. I share my ideas for the future with him. I try to help motivate him and keep him going, and he does the same for me. My relationship looks nothing like a rom-com, and that’s exactly how it should be (PS this is something I totally resent sometimes, but thankfully, around those times something happens that feels rom-comie enough to get me over the stupid hump).

But there are other changes too. While it’s true I’m still struggling with self-love and my relationships to food and exercise, my goals have changed. Instead of aiming for thinness or fitness, I’m aiming for health. Firstly, a healthy relationship with food. Secondly, a healthy relationship with exercise. What does that mean? Mostly a change in motivation. And it’s hard. It’s hard not to consider certain foods bad and other foods good. It’s hard, for the first time in fifteen years, to let myself eat whatever I want in the hopes of fixing my brain. It’s hard not to stop to look in the mirror and dread the weight-gain and hate myself a little. It’s hard, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. I know I will come out of this able to live my life more freely and happily and easily. And that hopefully I won’t pass this on to my children if I ever choose to have any.

And as for work and friends. I’m just trying not to live my life  out of convenience. I’m trying not to go through life asleep. I’m trying to make decisions that are right for me, even when they’re scary, and they’re almost always scary. When something makes me unhappy I try to change it instead of just accepting it as the way of life. It’s hard. It’s scary. I’m always worried that I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings or gain someone’s wrath. But then I just have to shrug it off.

I’d say the biggest change for me is that I’m learning that what I want out of life might be different than what my family, friends, and loved ones want from life. And, more importantly, I’m learning that that’s totally ok. That doesn’t make my wants any less valuable or acceptable or correct or true or ok. It just makes them different which means that means that my path will look different from theirs and that’s something I have to remember when I’m making those scary decisions that I’m bound to have to make.