starting point

Harnessing a happy heart

photo by Edward Gonzalez

photo by Edward Gonzalez

I was sad for a very long time. The type of sadness that’s lingering just below the surface, subtle until it strikes, so steady and long-going that you begin to get used to it. The type of sadness that blurs the days, weeks and months together, distorts your perception of reality, makes you think that this is just how life is. I couldn’t tell you when it began, and I can’t tell you that it’s ended, but I can tell you that this past year I’ve learned to control it better than ever before.

One of my favorite sentiments is that you can’t do everything you want, but you can do anything. I’ve always been a very firm believer that anyone is able to accomplish anything they want to, as long as they’re willing to prioritize, sacrifice, and work harder than anyone else to get there. I’ve known this forever yet find that I often have to remind myself, because the pressure to be perfect is sometimes overwhelming, and it’s not realistic to hate myself because I’m not the best at everything there is ever.

I know that creating gives me joy, so I dedicate at least an hour or two a day to creating in any way that I feel, whether it be drawing, writing, painting, embroidering, brainstorming or shooting. I push myself to continue forward (because if I don’t, I will stay stagnant) but I don’t pressure myself to do anything (artistically) in particular that I don’t feel I can put my 100% into. That’s important, too. Learning to delegate my time and energy into things that truly matter, instead of bullshitting and wasting time wishing I was better than I am now.

I cannot deal with cluttered surroundings. Things must be in order and tidy and comfortable for me to even think straight. That being said, I was a messy child, and I wasn’t one to enjoy cleaning much, and that definitely carried over to adulthood. It was hard for me to learn how to live on my own and balance school, work, hobbies and housework (my boyfriend told me he was tidy, but he was lying). I came to find (after months of conditioning myself to just do it (sponsor me, Nike)) that I rather enjoy the mindless hobby of cleaning. I used to loathe sweeping, because I knew that no matter how well I swept, there would be more to sweep the next day. Somehow, I came to enjoy the daily (or every few days, I’m not a consistent as my mom is) and somewhat pointless task. I could tune out for a bit, work to keep my area clean, and I felt great afterwards. It’s like that jog you really don’t want to go on because it’s early and it’s cold but once you do you feel invigorated, and since you’ve already accomplished one thing you didn’t really care to do, why not do more?

I found motivation in the things that used to hold me back. My anxiety has always been a downfall for me. I drowned it out for years with a daily dose of handpicked antidepressants, ones that I knew worked best based on trial and error. But with the lack of stress came the lack of willingness to get anything done. Enough stress pushes me, just a bit, to keep going and keep working and not be satisfied where I am. I realized over the years that managing my anxiety wasn't necessarily about getting rid of it, but rather controlling it. I don’t take both doses of my medication anymore unless I know my stress levels will be abnormally high. I keep a close watch on my mood swings in particular, and remind myself not to let my emotions take control of me any longer.

Sometimes it really is just as simple as not letting yourself stop to be sad. I know if I sit still for too long with nothing to keep my attention, my mind starts to wander, and it doesn’t usually go to the best places. So if I notice a deprecating thought or a worry trying to work its way into my head, I just say No. I’m not doing that today. I’m not going there today. And yeah, sometimes it doesn’t work, but it’s worth a try to take control over my thought process, especially when it’s always seemed to control me before.

I feel powerless a lot, and it takes effort every day to get up out of bed and start moving, yet I’m terrified of wasting time and my day away. The hardest thing I’ve learned about happiness thus far is that no matter how hard I try to keep a positive mindset, no matter how hard I work to let things go and let it be, there will be days that just aren’t good. There will be times when I’m disappointed, let down, hurt, angry with myself and others, and that’s okay. That’s life. What would happiness be if we never felt anything but? I can’t keep looking at these rough moments as failures or as an opportunity to give up and start over. They’re just apart of life, and they’ll come and go just as happiness does. And that’s okay.

We’re only human, and sometimes it seems like we forget that, like we expect ourselves to be perfect beings, and that's just unrealistic. Let’s forgive ourselves for those occasional nasty thoughts, those lazy unproductive days, those small failures that make it seem like the world is falling apart. Let’s study the pieces and put them back together, stand up, and move on. It sounds simple enough, and maybe that’s because it can be.

Anything that we don’t like, we’ll turn it into a happy little tree or something, because as you know, we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy little accidents. If you don’t like it, change it, it’s your world. In your world, you can do anything that you want. And maybe in our world lives a happy little tree over there.
— Bob Ross

I won't ever get to a point where I look around and think, "wow, this is what it all lead up to. I'm finally happy now, and I'm done," because that's just not how life works. It will continue to roll forward on its bumpy tracks whether or not we're ready to go, so we may as well jump on board, hold on tight and give it all we've got.

Here’s to always moving forward.