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Finding Happiness in the Muddle

In my head there are four versions of today. There is the day when I got out of bed early and focused on book design and layout work with only brief breaks for meals. There is the gardening day where I spent all my hours outside rescuing my flower beds from the dead masses of last year’s weeds. There is the day where I cleaned all of the things, setting our entire house into order. There is the day where I relish the fact that my kids are out of school and we go do something fun. There is a hidden fifth version where I run off to visit Antelope Island or hide and write all day long.

The day that I had was an unfortunate mish mash of parts of all four days. (Sadly that fifth day remained illusory.) Because it was a mish mashed day I arrive at the end of it feeling like I did not use my hours well, which is not my preferred feeling at the end of a Monday. The truth is that I always have four days worth of stuff that would be useful to do in each day. I can only thin out the tasks by eliminating things which truly matter to me, so mostly I just bounce from one thing to another trying to make sure that each thing gets some attention during the week. It sort of works. Except when it doesn’t.

Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to acknowledge the importance of the things I am getting done rather than only seeing what they cost me. For example, there is a writing retreat that I would love to attend later this year. At the moment it looks like I will not be going. This makes me sad. I could focus on that sadness and make a huge list of all the events I have to miss for lack of child care. But the reason I miss them is because ensuring proper supervision for my kids is more important to me than any event. I am not willing to settle for less, so I have made a choice. When I feel trapped by my life, it is often because there is something more important that I’m not willing to give up.

I apply this knowledge to my task list. I try to see the value in the things I get done rather than the long list of things that I did not. It still wears at me. I don’t always succeed. Particularly when I see an urgent task and note that the due date was a month ago. I never get around to priority number five because I’m constantly handling the things that rotate through priorities one through four. I’ve stopped believing that I’m going to catch up, because this constant stream of things is my life right now. And it is a good life. I choose it in the moments long ago when I chose to have four children and then to support Howard in being a cartoonist. I chose it when I decided to start a blog and to self publish picture books. I chose it when we kickstarted projects. Granted, at the moments of choosing I didn’t really understand how these things would converge all at once to give us some really busy years. There are also other things that add to the stress of my life that I did not choose, but had to deal with nonetheless. I would really love to have a few winters without major illness. That would be nice. We have ongoing mental health issues with several family members. I don’t get to choose all the things.

But of the things I did choose, I could un-choose some of them. The un-choosing would have far-reaching consequences, most of which would make my life more difficult and far more miserable. So I muddle along and try to find happiness in the muddle, because when my life is less busy (and I will have less busy times eventually) I do not think that happiness will just be sitting in the midst of the empty hours waiting for me to collect it. I will only find happiness in empty hours if I brought it with me. This means I must learn to live in happiness now, while my life is busy.

It is not easy, particularly at the end of a mish mash day, but I shall continue to try.

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2 comments to Finding Happiness in the Muddle

  • Eliza

    Finding happiness in the life I’ve chosen for myself is a skill that I’m continually working on. I have found that the more consistently I work on it, the more rewards it brings. When I stop focusing on it, the easier it is to slip into envy and unhappiness (my big weaknesses).

  • Hannah

    It’s funny. I don’t think I actually notice happiness itself. I identify happy times by noticing a lack of sad, grumpy, or discouraged feelings. I have on a couple occasions (both while at contra dances) had people compliment me on how happy I looked. Both times the realization that I _was_ feeling happy completely startled me. I had been unaware of it before they’d mentioned something.