Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I don't want to be happy!

There, I've said it. I don't want to be happy. I know that breaks my husband's heart, but that's not what I mean.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about happiness lately. Too much thinking about it, according to my mother. My mother said (in a comment to this blog) that during all this time I spend thinking about happiness, happiness is happening all around me (my emphasis, not hers).

But I disagree! I think that it is rare for happiness to just happen. Yes, sometimes, you accidentally stumble upon something that makes you happy, like a good book or a nice coffee shop, but most of the time, you have to do something to be happy.

My mother and I do not think the same way. I don't mean we have different ideas. I mean the actual way we think differs. Neither of us are "glass half full" or "glass half empty" people. Presented with half a glass of water, I imagine my mother would say "That's all I get?," While I'd say "Why didn't you fill the glass up all the way?" (My sister would say "Who drank my water?"). Obviously, that analogy just fails in my family.

My mother sees the world through a lens of entitlement. THIS IS NOT A CRITICISM. It's actually a very beneficial way to view things. My mother is very good at getting what she wants. She can convince store clerks to give her free shipping, she throws parties in which she doesn't actually have to provide the food, and proof that miracles actually do happen: she was able to get a full refund from Ticketmaster! (When I tried to get a partial refund from Ticketmaster, I failed miserably.) In fact, if my sister and I really want to make something happen, and we can't convince (fill in appropriate party here...caterer, insurance rep, whoever) to do it, we'll have our mother handle it. On the one hand, it's slightly immature. On the other hand, it is very effective delegation.

Because of all of this, and maybe for some other reasons (e.g. she's retired), my mother is a happier person than I am. She's certainly happier now than I remember from growing up (go figure, a stressful job plus raising two teenagers does not equal happy). Now, my mother travels with friends, teaches sewing classes, and gets to attend the wedding and baby showers of her friends' adult children.

Back in my world, I get to do a lot of nice things, too. Captain America and I went to Europe, we spend our weekends with our family and friends, and since we're not raising kids of our own, we get to pursue our own interests in our free time.

I have a really nice life. I have a fabulous husband, a nice home, a good job, great friends, and some time to do things I like. But I'm not particularly happy. I think by nature, I'm just not that happy of a person. At least, I wouldn't describe myself that way. I have a good life, and I try to appreciate it. I would say that I am fairly content.

In thinking about becoming happier (which was one of my resolutions for 2010), I've discovered that I don't actually want to be happier. Really. When I'm despairing over all of the things I want to and need to do and my husband asks what he can do to help, I lament that I don't want help, I just want more time to do the things myself. (Right, really mature...I know...but if you notice I said when I'm despairing and lamenting--clearly not conditions of mature thinking).

But knowing myself, as I do, I know that if I actually had more time, I'd just fill it up with more things to do. (You would not believe some of the things I think up to do. It is not unusual for my to do list to include things like: bring the stuff on the table to the thing, and let AD know. Yes, that's one to-do. At which point my husband exclaims: Nobody even knows what that means!)

What I'd really like is a more leisurely life. I don't like rushing around, always being busy doing things. I don't like feeling hurried. It makes me decidedly unhappy. So I'm changing my resolution. I no longer want to be actively happier. I want to pursue a leisurely life.

I know I can't just not do things. I don't want to not do things. I just want to do them at my pace, when and where it makes sense to me. And I know this may not work at my job. My boss is not a hand-holder. She expects us to get to work and get our work done. And for it to be accurate. However, there are still deadlines. Sometimes I can't do things at the pace or time I want to. That's life. But when I can control it, I'm going to try.

For example, I hate exercising on Sundays. My trainer in Oregon would schedule short (2 mile) recovery runs for me on Sunday and they were harder than the 12-18 miles I had run on Saturday. I don't mind doing stuff on Sundays (my sister and I frequently walk around farmer's markets and such), but something about strapping on a sports bra and making time for exercise on Sunday doesn't work for me.

For as long as I can remember, I thought that I liked having anything I have to do on the weekends scheduled for Saturday morning, so I can get it out of the way. But I've discovered it depends on what it is. If repair people have to come to the house, first thing Saturday morning is perfect. If I have to be somewhere, it's really less enjoyable, and I always end up rushing around.

In theory, if I have a more leisurely life, I'll enjoy it more, and end up being happier for it. In the mean time, I'm going to work on figuring out how to schedule less, delegate more, and skip the stuff I don't like.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Journaling...about what I eat

I have been getting fat. Don't panic! (That's what I keep telling myself, anyway!) The verb tense is the important thing. I'm not fat. It's just that all of my pants (and not just my skinny jeans) have been feeling a little too tight. The "getting" bit has actually been going on for a while.

In the early fall of 2008, I developed plantar fasciitis, which meant no more running. Up until that point, I had been running 15-20 miles a week, so this created a serious lack of calorie burnage. I was still exercising, and figured that the very gradual climb of the scale would be undone when I could resume running. Which happened in late 2009. Slowly, as I did not want to risk re-injury.

The more alarming bit happened in February 2010, when I somehow gained four pounds in one month! I still cannot figure it out. I was exercising, eating lots of fruits and veggies. I didn't even get a giant box of Valentine's candy. It was unnerving.

But I was going to Europe (yes, I will blog about this!), so I had other things to think about. When I got back, I decided, I'd start a food journal. Apparently this often helps people lose weight for two reasons. First it makes them accountable for everything they put in their mouth, and second, it helps people realize what their "problem" foods are. I think you're supposed to write down what you eat, what time it is, what your mood is, and how many calories are in the food. Ugh. That seems like a lot of work, so I'm just doing the time and food bit.

So far my journal is painfully dull. Every morning between 5 am and 6 am I eat a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, and a cup of tea. Every day at work I have two pieces of fruit, a container of yogurt, and some pretzels as my snacks. Lunch and dinner vary, but I'm sure over time it will read more like, Monday: spaghetti, Tuesday: stir-fry, Wednesday: fajitas...

I'm guessing it's the weekends that are my downfall. How could someone possibly get fat eating fruit and yogurt? (And it's really not that many pretzels.)

So, as dull as it is, from time to time, I'll let you know of any random dietary changes I make, such as if I decided to go gluten-free or become a vegetarian. And if anyone else has just come to the terrifying realization that bikini season starts, like, OMG, tomorrow!, I feel your pain.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trying out electronic checklists

I am a checklist fiend. It's the thing that comes up in my annual reveiw at work as both one of my strongest suits (I am both organized and efficient!) and one of my weakest points (I could use more flexibility. Who wants a flexible accountant anyway?).

So remember how a while ago I said I was going to try to become a little greener? Well, every month, I have a checklist of everything I need to do to complete my month end processes. This month I'm not printing it out. Yes, I realize I'm only saving one sheet of paper and however much ink, but it's a huge step for me!

I really, really like crossing things out. I like visually being able to see at the end of the day everything that I have accomplished, what's left to do, and if I'm on schedule or not.

This month, I'm blacking-out the cells as I complete things, and after close is over, I'll just un-black-out the cells and reuse the sheet. Brilliant? Not so much. I'm pretty sure a second grader could have come up with this system. More importantly, however is that it's working! At least so far. It is only day three of a 10-day cycle!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Atonement: Meh

While in Europe, I read Ian McEwan's Atonement. I had read good things about the book, and an author I enjoy (although now I can't remember who) even recommended it in some interview I read. It was well written, but the problem is, nothing really happens. Or at least nothing happens until page 146, the beginning of Chapter 13, which starts "Within the half hour Briony would commit her crime."

I knew Briony was going to do something...that part was on the back cover. I had just sort of expected it to happen before page 146. I'm actually glad the chapter started this way, because I was beginning to think that perhaps I had just overlooked whatever it was Briony was going to do. The book begins prior to World War II, so up until page 146, I was torn between wondering when the event was going to happen, and thinking that maybe I had missed it because it was a crime of social convention that I didn't know about, or just no longer held true in 2010.

Most stories have a moment when the story becomes a story. Think about the Disney classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What if the mirror never told the evil queen that Snow White was the most beautiful? What if the evil queen decided that she really didn't care what a mirror thought? What if her woodsman killed Snow White like he was ordered to? If any of these things happened, we wouldn't have the story, or the story we'd have wouldn't be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But all of this takes place at the beginning of the story, not the middle.

Even in other stories, such as Jody Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, the bit that make it a story (Anna decides she wants to sue her parents because they've been using her blood, etc, which is a perfect match for her sister, who has cancer), happens in the beginning. Through flashbacks we learn what happens before Anna's decision.

In Atonement, all that happens up to page 146 is a bunch of different characters do a lot of thinking. I can see why they turned it into a movie.