Another birthday has come and gone and it was wonderful. I did have the time of my life! After the fact, it got me thinking about all the things I have learned. In the past year, I have learned that I have a lot of power to change and shape my life and how to be kinder towards myself. While many of these things I have learned over time I feel it is really within the last year (and even last few months) that I have started to truly internalize a lot of this and these all have contributed to my being much happier and calmer.
Self-care needs to be the top priority at all times.
One of the things about self-care is that it should not just be special treats you give yourself and really isn’t focused on spending money (not that you can’t also treat yourself in that way, just it isn’t the main focus). It should be part of your daily life.
Redefine chores as self-care. I already figured out that running and yoga and other forms of exercise are therapeutic and self-care. This year I have learned that I absolutely love cleaning and cooking. I moved and I love my new home. In fact it is the first time I’m actually proud of the space I am creating. I love getting home and seeing dishes are done, the bed is made, and I have a nice clear space to make some food and the pride that I took that time to make the home peaceful. That may not sound like much, but it is the world I live in and I want it to be beautiful and take pride in what work I have done to make my space calming.
I also take more pride in my appearance again. I’ve had some setbacks with being able to be as physically active as I like, but now I have taken up meal planning (just starting) and easing back into daily physical activities. I set aside more money and time to do simple kind things for myself like get a nice hair cut and color or to get a massage.
Now I look to myself to create daily joy in my life through ordinary daily tasks and occasional treats. I look to loved ones to enhance the happiness I am creating for myself, not to provide it. I have a lot of work yet to do, but listening to the The life-changing magic of tidying up : the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing really struck a cord with me. Some of it is quite corny (telling my shoes thank you?), but the spirit behind it is helpful.
Happiness doesn’t happen overnight.
Give yourself time to reinvent your life, to get past hurt, and to shift how you think about your experiences if you have had a rough go. I remember this time last year I was pushing so hard to have things just be okay. They had been so very not okay for so long I just wanted so much to be in a settled and happy state of mind. I learned a lot about myself in this past year about just giving myself time. I had a lot of anxiety and just wanted things to be settled, to have closure on the past few years, and to start over with a fresh and happy new life. Here’s the thing though. I needed to give myself space to transition from all the pain and hardship. I needed to be okay with the fact that you can’t flip a switch and everything be okay. Sometimes you need to work through emotions — painful emotions — to truly be at a space of forgiveness, freedom, and happiness.
Don’t worry so much about people judging and accepting you.
I never viewed myself as someone that had a problem with this. I was always “weird.” I am unique and I love myself for it. I’ve always had a strong sense of self in that way. However, I found that I had a bad habit of worrying if people liked me and I wanted to be accepted (even if I found that I might not even particularly like the person that much myself).
The act of feeling rejected would trigger ugly feelings and make me want to try hard to be loved/accepted most especially when I couldn’t understand why I cared. It is okay to want to be liked, but in the past I’ve let my desire to not be alone get in the way and cloud my judgement.
I like me. I’m not so certain I could say that a year ago. If I feel blown off by someone instead of ruminating on it I just let it go. In many cases they are just busy and don’t mean anything by it. In other cases they are being passive aggressive and no one needs that. Truthfully, I read an article years ago that basically said “hell yes, or hell no” meaning if someone isn’t excited about being around you than you should say “hell no.” I guess I just wasn’t ready yet for that then.
One version of this is worrying that while my life was going to hell that people might not like me for the version of myself that they were seeing. This is in my head of course. It might be true, but as much as I want to tell everyone ‘hey, give me a break okay!’ I also just want to close the door and move forward. The fact that I not only survived, but also at the same time as everything felt like it was falling apart I still was able to get up in the morning, work, and get a Masters degree makes me proud. I made mistakes, but I’m legitimately proud of how much I overcame. The thing is I don’t owe anyone an explanation for not being perfect.
Reinvest in genuine existing friendships.
One of the most important of all lessons I’ve learned this year is the importance of putting in effort to stay connected to those amazing friends that just get you and like you for all your weirdness and you love them right back for theirs.
I recently had an 8 hour phone conversation with one of my best friends who lives on the East Coast. 8 hours! We only hung up as we both needed to sleep. I went up to Duluth/Superior for an impromptu visit up north and ended up staying at my friends’ house talking until ultimately I had to tell them I had to leave if I was ever going to get to bed and wake up in enough time to get to work. I got huge hugs…real hugs…huge and full of love and years of friendship and plans for more getting together and not waiting so long. I talk to another friend of mine on Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook/email almost every day and I am so thankful for her love and support and am fully inspired by her in so many ways.
These are just but a few of my dearest friends that I have connected to recently. The truth is I have never had to force anything or try hard to get them to accept and love me (and neither did they). The truth is that it is hard with busy lives to stay connected in meaningful ways especially with social media. I have taken to making a list of friends new and old that I want to make sure I connect with and invite to go out or catch up online. It may seem odd to do that, but with friends (and family) spread all over and with all of us having lives apart it is important to make each other a priority.
I’ve heard from more than one person about feelings of loneliness and so it is quite silly in a way that we haven’t been reaching out more to these existing friendships. For a friendship to survive adulthood is pretty amazing when you don’t live nearby so for the people that there is real love there it is worth making sure you carve out space for them.
And the more time you spend with your people, the easier it gets to let go of worrying that other people are judging you or to feel hurt when something just doesn’t work out (or just isn’t ever going to be a close friendship). Because there are people that love you. You just have to make space for it in your life and not take for granted those amazing people you already have in your corner. When you let go of trying to make everyone love you, you make more space in your heart for those that you never had to convince and new ones that can come along at any moment. A friendship or any relationship not working out is not a failure. Holding onto ones that don’t matter while taking for granted the ones that do is a failure. Embrace the love that comes naturally and freely without judgements or doubts.
Do more of what makes you happy (even if you have to do it alone).
Although I’ve just made a point of saying spend time with friends and family that understand you, alone time is also important. I have gotten a lot more comfortable with doing things alone or inviting new people to do things just us without the safety of another person I know well to carry the conversation. I also have made sure to invite old friends that are very busy to do things and reconnect, because there is nothing wrong with inviting a friend for coffee or whatnot, but you shouldn’t hold back on what you want to do just because you might need to go solo. I have found that sometimes I actually enjoy doing things alone more than if I went with someone. I’d love it if one of my friends decided to volunteer at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with me, but it is okay if it is just my thing. I’ve also been thinking about having one of my pets get certified as a therapy animal to bring to senior residences, hospitals, and libraries. This most certainly will be something that I do on my own.
You can sometimes make new friends or just enjoy the experience differently on your own. It doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship or single. Alone time is valuable.
I do get anxiety sometimes and want to go to something and end up staying at home vs. going alone, but more often than not these days it is due to my simply asking myself if I don’t want to go out of fear or being tired or if I really just don’t want to go. I am getting a lot more at ease with not depending on anyone else wanting to do what I want and not judging that I genuinely like being alone sometimes. Sometimes I do skip out on things, because I just don’t think it will be fun alone and I’m not feeling up to being extroverted. But lets be real. Sometimes you just want to stay in bed and not bother. And that is okay too.