Ebb & Flow

One of the things many of us forget quite often in our chase for happiness, is that life is in constant flux. I’m not sure why many of us believe that happiness and contentment are just a goal away. Once we achieve X, then life will be good. For a while it is. We revel in our new state and think this will be how life is until we die. That’s why it seems so shocking when sometime later stress piles up and things aren’t going so well. Then you think, “Wait a minute! I had this figured out!”

Nothing is ever static. Whatever you’re feeling today will probably change tomorrow. I’ve been doing better about remembering this. Experience has shown that any time there’s an improvement in life, the euphoria from the improvement lasts about six months. Then it’s back to the same old happiness set-point. Something too many people forget is that “this too shall pass” applies to joys as well as sorrows. So, I watched for this shift after my move. Still waiting…

There were small dips along the way, but in general, my joy and contentment of living here has not faded… until the holidays. There were a variety of stresses going on in life at the time, which led to some insomnia.  A part of me was shocked at how quickly my frustration levels rose again. I thought I was back to my old, happy, chill self. It felt slightly embarrassing that my stressed, less-than-my-best-self came back so quickly.

Then I was surprised again when life settled back down and the joy and contentment returned. I was cooking in the kitchen one night when I was suddenly overwhelmed with the joy of it. I find such pleasure watching foxes, geese, joggers, dog-walkers, drone-flyers, metal-detecting treasure hunters, and today – a flock of turkey vultures, doing their thing in the park across the street.  After having an LA-style 45-minute drive going home in an ice storm, my 10 minute commute suddenly seemed notably wonderful again. With the return of the sun, I feel excitement at the coming spring. There will be thunderstorms, afternoons and evenings spent on my sun porch, fire flies, long walks, and all manner of critters singing me to sleep in a thunderous chorus every night.

It’s the same with my novel. While it’s a constant project that never leaves my mind, it definitely has its ebb and flow too. As discussed in my last post, sometimes I’m slogging, sometimes I’m flying. I’m trying to understand the shift. Does slogging mean I’m off course? Just haven’t had time to daydream so I don’t know where the story is going? Or is it just the normal ebb and flow of life.

I am back to a bit of a slog at the moment. Thankfully I’ve learned to fill that time with editing. It frustrates me when the word count doesn’t rise as quickly as I think it should, but the editing has to get done too. Experience tells me eventually an idea will spark and I’ll be off to the races again.

The trick, I’m learning, is to simply relax into it. It’s like surfing. When the wave is coming in, paddle like crazy and catch the ride. And when the water goes back out, let it take you past the breakers so you can catch the next wave. Don’t worry about either phase. They each have their role. Just relax. Whichever state you’re in, this too shall pass. And so shall the next one. Ebb and flow – that’s just life.

 

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At Last!

Yes, I know I missed a week. I was tired of writing about things that were impending. If I had posted last Wednesday, I still would have had to talk about what was to come. But finally on Thursday, the house sold. Then there was a flurry of paying bills and buying a car. For the past two years I had been working hard to finish up my college degree, and on Monday, all those loans got paid off. Feels great! I have a degree, but no debt. Now life settles into normalcy and I am so looking forward to that. It was a little frightening to have made my leap and not have the safety net in place. Glad it’s there now.

I joined a local a cappella group. It is a bit more of a time commitment than I had expected. The music is very challenging and requires a lot of rehearsal at home as well as the 3 1/2 hour weekly rehearsal together. However, standing on those risers and hearing the voices blend together into beauty makes it worth it. I’ll give it a few months and if it is taking too much time from writing, I may try to find a less intense group to join. There are some interesting personalities, one type I’ve had recent experience with, and it makes me a bit leery of joining. Basically it’s the kind of person who puts on a smiling face and seems like the nicest, most helpful person in the world while consistently placing the dagger between your ribs. Lots of passive-aggressiveness. I’ll do my best to avoid them, but if I can’t, there are definitely other choirs to join. Life is too short.

Now that I’m settling in, I’m a little worried I will lose my attitude of gratitude. The honeymoon phase will eventually end. I can thank that honeymoon phase on my miserable life in LA. Pixar came out with a movie recently called “Inside Out” which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t dozing off because of exhaustion. The American culture is one that only allows for happiness. If you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Stop complaining. Only be happy, happy, happy, happy, happy! And if you’re not happy, happy, happy, happy, then go away! But the truth is, we are bio-chemical machines and those other emotions play a role. “Inside Out” reminded people that sometimes sadness or anger is not only necessary, it’s useful. The misery I had in the last few years of living in Los Angeles did not feel nice, and I didn’t always react well to it, but it was necessary to spur me to change.

Even futher, the misery there in contrast to life here, has unleashed much of the joy and happiness that is required to be an American. Every little things floods me with gratitutde. The short commute. The civil drivers. Quiet movie theaters (I’m part of a movie group and now go see movies regularly, somthing I rarely did in LA). Ample parking. Friendly, helpful people. Fully being a part of the team at work. Using my intelligence and talents creatively at work – designing flyers, social media posts, and working on new ways to bring in more clients. Flexibility at work that allows for a social life. No entitled celebrities. No more entitled people who think they’re special because they work in TV. Car insurance at half the price. Long showers. Green! Thunder. Lightning. The ease of running to the store and it not taking an hour or more. Shorter lines. Lack of competitiveness – because there’s enough for everyone. Watching a guy play with his dog in the park across the street (which I’m doing right now.) Not hearing a Harley at 5:20 a.m. every day as it idles at the stoplight by my old house and then roars off, being audible for well over a mile away. The new definition of rush hour – when an older couple pedaled past my house on their bikes, followed by a pickup truck a minute later. Living on one level instead of having to climb stairs every day. Old growth trees in a big yard. Activities that are easily accessible. Feeling safe. Feeling supported.

The list could go on and on and on. As I said, I feel gratitude for every little thing simply because of the contrast of what I just went through. However, I know human nature, and that contrast will eventually fade. People here complain about traffic. They have no idea, but eventually I will probably complain too. Despite loving rain, after several weeks of it, I was ready for some sun. Just too bad it also comes with humidity. See, there’s a little complaint sneaking in. But, thankfully now that I’m heading in the gratitude direction, it will be harder to turn the ship back around. It will be easier to keep the heading, as long as I am aware, and stay present at the wheel. That’s my goal. Remember where I am, compared to where I was. As long as I do that, it’s so easy to be grateful!

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