Friday, July 4, 2014

Joy and Happiness Part 2: Finding good in the bad

Welcome to the second installment in a series of posts about happiness. The first installment can be found here.

This isn't exactly the post I had planned, but the status I posted to my personal Facebook page this evening lead me in this direction. Shortly after dinner, I wrote the following summary of my day:
Lets see: Fidget's puppy lovey is missing in the house, Sunshine accidentally thawed the whole contents of the deep freeze, the kids jointly put a small crack in my iPad screen (which may have voided the warranty), and Papa Bear is on his 3rd job of the day with no clue when he will be home. This is one day I will be happy not to repeat!
I *think* maybe I found a replacement lovey on ebay??
To say it's been a difficult day is an understatement. Fidget's had a number of big meltdowns, Sunshine fussed about needing to do some school work (we still need about 15 more school days before I call the end of our year), and little interruptions kept preventing me from meeting some of my goals for the day. By the time I posted those thoughts, I had fed us all dinner, and was now cooking a roast in the crock pot, browning some ground turkey, and sauteing some crab meat and crawfish tails. Both kids were still bouncing around like it was the middle of the day, and I was aggravated and tired. 

When Papa Bear finally made it home from work, and I began recounting our day, I realized that I had become my own worst enemy. I was allowing all those frustrations to overpower and make me forget all the good things that happened today. So before coming here, I made another FB post:
I hate to go to bed with a negative attitude, so here are some happier thoughts to end my day:- Papa Bear working late means that he has a steady job, and all of the OT he's worked recently has helped pay for a lot of Fidget's treatment expenses without dipping into savings.- The freezer was not very full when it got left open, and I was able to salvage most of the contents. All of the uncooked meat is now either cooked or marinated, so as a bonus I've got a lot of my meals for the next week already done!- Fidget did a great job with his first working ABA session. We identified some problem areas to monitor or add to his behavioral plan, but there were also areas he did better than expected. And he pooped on the potty twice today! In a couple months the ABA team will throw him a "potty party" for intense potty training, for now we're just offering it as he asks. Thankfully, he went down at both nap and bedtime without a meltdown over his missing lovey. He was definitely asking for it, but since he has his bear blanket he was willing to settle for that. - Everyone in my family is going to sleep tonight in a comfortable bed with a full tummy. Regardless of what frustrations I dealt with today, that simple fact alone makes us extremely blessed.
I could have easily gone to bed in a foul mood, and probably woken up the same way in the morning. But by writing that second post, I made myself focus on all the positive parts of the day. Now I can go to bed with happy thoughts, and wake in a good mood ready to celebrate the holiday.

The Pit of Despair
Having battled depression off and on for the last 10-12 years, I know that it's not always easy to find the good in the bad. It is much easier to let ourselves fall into mental despair, and the further into the Pit of Despair we allow ourselves to fall, the harder it is to find our way out. Yet my history of depression has also taught me just how important finding the good is for my well being. Perspective is such a valuable gift, and it is one which we can give ourselves.

Because where does all that pouting get me? Nowhere. I still have all the same challenges as before, but now I've put myself in a bad mood and wasted time and energy that could be put to much better use actually dealing with my obstacles rather than whining about them. Just as I said in the last post that fear is not a good place from which to make choices, neither is frustration or sorrow. It's not easy, but coming to a point of acceptance is crucial in changing our perspective from despair to joy. Our problems aren't going to disappear on their own; we have to accept them for what they are so we can begin the hard, messy work of either solving them or learning how to live with them. In time we discover how to find the happy bits in the midst of all the turmoil; and eventually to push the turmoil into the shadows and realize that we have more than just happy bits - our lives are full of happiness.

I could get angry about the food from the freezer we had to get rid of tonight. But I know it wasn't intentionally left open, and there was a lot of food we were able to save. Also, food in the freezer means we had the money to put it there. And hey, it's even trash night, so I don't have to worry about spoiled food stinking up my trash can for days. Those are all things to be grateful for - with the right perspective.

I could pout that Papa Bear has been working so much, that we haven't had much time for each other lately, and that I'm having to pick up some of his duties around the house. But at least he has a stable job, he is a hardworking man who gets up every day to provide for his family, and the overtime has helped us meet some unanticipated expenses. I've been blessed with such a great husband; he is a tremendous source of strength in the places where I am weak. Part of my job as his wife is to show him how much I appreciate him, so how can I do that if I'm busy complaining? The answer: it can't be done. I have to let go of the frustrations - and change perspective - in order to acknowledge and thank him for his efforts.

In many ways, happiness can be a choice. Everyone has struggles and bad days; there's no way to completely eradicate sadness from our lives, but we can choose how we let it affect us. Negative thought is such a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're looking for nothing but the bad, then the bad is all you'll find. But fortunately positive thought can work the same way. If you remember that there's good out there somewhere, and make the effort to find it, pretty soon you'll be finding it everywhere.

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