Tag Archives: stress

Happiness is a Choice

flower picking

Happiness is a choice we make every day.

We say it’s stolen, but that’s not quite true. It’s only taken if we don’t guard it.

Usually we give it away.

Likewise, happiness isn’t exactly something that appears on your doorstep like a surprise delivery of flowers.

You have to open the door and sign your name on the line in order for it to be yours. Then you can take it in, put it in a crystal vase or a beat up bucket, whatever you have available, and let the fragrance fill the house.

I’ve been worried that I was losing a part of myself that I really liked because of the recent Perfect Storm I call ‘Life.’

I kept thinking, “I’ll be happy when _______.”

  • I get a job √ (I got two)
  • My car is fixed √
  • My car is registered in my name √
  • I turn in all my visa paperwork √

But the problem is that there’s always a list.

Sometimes we have good things on it like parties or birthdays or trips to the beach.

Unfortunately, bitterness can slip into your system easily–and it can happen anywhere.

But happiness–like anything of real worth–you have to fight for that.

I went to a party without my kids, and it was a struggle for me to NOT feel guilty about having fun. It didn’t matter that they didn’t want to come with me, I still felt I was breaking some kind of unspoken Maternal law. For many years, fun has been a frivolous word in our familial vocabulary. Everything had to be practical, educational, or otherwise edifying.

But there is value in fun.

There is value in joy.

There is value in happiness.

We might not be able to calculate it or weigh it on a scale, but how we interact with the world and the people around us matters a great deal; and part of that mysterious formula includes a heavy portion of fun.

I feel like a patient who’s been in a coma for a long time. Or, as my son might depict, an alien exploring a new world, where I am ill suited and awkward, yet slowly finding where I fit in; discovering the good things the world has to offer, instead of remaining in the cold darkness above.

Life has become therapy.

Whether I’m standing at the German DMV behind mountains of paperwork or digging my toes in the sand at the lake while my kids sling seaweed at each other, happiness is there.

Each piece of paperwork is a step towards a new life.

Each burst of laughter fills the soul.

So open the door. Sign your name on the line, and make it yours.

Happiness is a choice.

 

 

 

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Love Like a Barbell

barbells

Sometimes I wish love were more like a barbell: something you could wrap your hands around and make it do whatever you want. It could be heavy and slow, or light and fast.

You could hold it to your chest or feel the cold weight bruising your bare shoulders; you could throw your entire body under it, and if you have the strength, it wouldn’t crush you.

If you drop it, you can pick it back up and try again. With steel, you inherently understand that the more you work with it, the higher you can go. Your technique and strength improve with practice.

The barbell cannot be destroyed and is unlikely to be taken away from you while you’re holding it. Nothing anyone says can make it vanish. It’s never hidden or cloaked or suppressed or masked. It cannot die or dwindle or be extinguished.

The barbell is predictable. It does not change. It is always there for the taking. If you get hurt, it’s never the barbell’s fault.

But love is  a different beast.

Unless you’re clinically narcissistic, love involves another living, breathing human being. And human beings, as we all know, tend to make messes wherever they go. But that’s what makes love, love.

Its unpredictability thrills you or breaks you. You never know which it will be.

The interplay of mind, body and emotion is far more complicated than the sleek, sturdy silhouettes of iron.

That’s probably what draws me to the iron. Whether it’s the barbells or the kettle bells, the heart races, the blood flows, chemicals are released in the brain that make you feel good, elated even. And isn’t that what love is supposed to do?

The barbell is simpler.

Cold, yes. Unfeeling, yes. But simpler. And sometimes we need a break from the emotion, the drama, the heartache, the uncertainty of love.

Sometimes we just need to lift heavy shit.

For all the differences, however, there is one way in which love IS like a barbell: if you are lucky enough to have it in your hands, you can hold on tightly and do something great with it. 


Pure Unadulterated Stress: How to Cope

BOL barbell

I was standing amidst a pile of rubble and cardboard boxes, which once was my room, when I realized my son had an orthodontist appointment that day. Like a good mom, I checked the time five minutes before I thought we were supposed to leave, when SURPRISE, I had already missed the appointment.

When I called, the receptionist said we could reschedule for 15:30. We walk in at 15:15, and they look at me like I’m crazy and then tell me I was SUPPOSED to have been there at 10:30 (zehn and funfzehn sound remarkably similar when you can never hear on the phone to begin with, usually because of kids and dogs disturbing the peace, but mostly because I just can’t frigging hear on the telephone; and when you are second-language impaired).

We reschedule.

I revert to speaking English because my brain has completely SHUT DOWN. Even when she used short, slow words to help me, I could not process them. It was like she was speaking yet a third language.

The receptionist, who is now somehow speaking English (and I hope that I am as well) patiently works out everything I’ve messed up (including making arrangements for my son to see a dentist?!! before the next orthodontist appointment), pins the note to my overcoat, puts a lunch-pail in my grubby little hand, and shuttles me to the bus stop.

Just kidding on that last part, but the attitude was the same–plus it might’ve helped.

Food. My son needed food. But I was still trying to work out appointments and replaying conversations in my head in German. Should I have said this? Should I have said that? HOW do you say this or that??? Do I have time to make it to Crossfit? Ugh! Brain overload!

Meanwhile, my kids were home taking screws out of furniture to prep for the move and my husband was at the doctor having vials of blood drawn to test for scary diseases.

There were more stress layers flaking from this day than paint on a midwestern farmhouse.

*author is not responsible for the accuracy of metaphorical language.
*In fact, the author is not certain her metaphors are even making sense at this point.
*author does not care.

My son and I went for Chinese food, and over a plate of chicken fried rice, I regained my senses (somewhat).

I always used to say that stress is a reaction. But sometimes, it builds up to where your brain simply shuts down.

Usually, Crossfit helps me to relieve this kind of stress, but of course with the move, I hadn’t been to the box in three days. Despite the fact that I’ve been lifting boxes and carrying furniture downstairs, the lack of WODing has taken its toll.

I don’t know exactly how Crossfit works its magic. It seems so simple: lift something heavy. But how does lifting something heavy clear your mind? I can’t answer this. I only know it works. It’s my form of meditation. I come away relaxed, focused, de-stressed, and a little high from endorphins, or whatever chemicals wake up in my brain.

Plus there’s the added benefit of multiple hugs from my friends and the occasional emo purge while we stretch.

I’ve got a lot on my mind this week. What if my husband’s tests come back badly? Does it suddenly change all of our marital problems? What if they can’t diagnose anything, and he just goes on feeling crappy all the time? What if I forget another appointment? How will I get my old house cleaned out by the end of the month? Will my couch fit down the staircase at the new place? What about my daughter’s birthday? Or my anniversary? Do you still celebrate when you’re barely communicating? Do I post a ‘happy 20 years, darling’ on facebook, because that’s what people expect? Or do I say, ‘i hope we make it to 21’? What if he has cancer? 

Fears.

Stress.

Negativity.

I need to let it go.

Crossfit is the master reset button.

So, instead of packing more boxes today, I’m taking a time out.

I need to think about nothing but the steel in my hand, so I can loosen the grip stress has on me.

It’s time to let go.