Choose Happiness

This is a story of surprises and taking chances. Or rather, not over thinking. Or not thinking at all. Chances are really just moments when you’re not overthinking, aren’t they. Either you do something immediately or you weigh the options and decide to go with the risky one despite the downsides, which would usually drown you in anxiety.

I met a new person the other night. (this is an anomaly. I keep to myself, as we’ve established. Not coincidentally, most of the friends I have also keep to themselves. So I have a very dear but very exclusive, in the purest sense of the word, group. The few more sociable friends I have don’t have male friends in abundance who aren’t husbands or gay. So it’s rare to be out and meet a new male person.)

This person asked me what I’ve been doing all summer and I blurted “I’ve been having so much fun.”

Wait, what?

Just a few days ago another person asked me when I last really had fun and I couldn’t think of it. I was searching for a memory of a crazy-night-out-omg-this-is-so-much-fun fun. The “lets go to another bar because it’s so much fun” not “oh it’s almost 11 we should go home” fun. The fun where it hits you that you’re really blessed to have this life with these people in this place.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had that kind of fun, yes. Honestly though, after age 19 how much does that fun really come around, especially unaccompanied by drugs and/or alcohol? It’s so overwhelming because it’s so rare. You can’t plan for it. And you can’t assume the lack if it means a lack of fun in your life.

I was shocked by my own admission Id been having fun because I haven’t been spinning around to the music screaming this is so much fun. But this IS so much fun. Every day I have my tea outdoors with a breeze off the ocean. I wake up and my dog is sleeping next to me making the faintest snore. I can go float in the ocean, or read a book, or take a nap, or wander around chatting with new people. I go out a few nights a week with family or friends new or old. I have nothing immediate to worry about.

I think my expectations for happiness are too high. Everyone’s are. If my goal is to be happy, I expect to be happy all the time. When I feel sad, explicably (new word) or inexplicably, everything plummets. I’m so alone and I hate my job and everything is ruined with no solution. There’s either excited anticipation, rare acceptance, or disappointment.

And how could there not be. I’m constantly being inundated with posts on how to achieve this luxury budget vacation or what 19 kitchen gadgets I thought I could live without but can’t. There’s daily updates from friends, acquaintances, and frenemies about kids and husbands and the meal delivery service you can’t get because packages get stolen from your city apartment that you live in because you’re single and are afraid to buy a house in the suburbs alone because no guy would want to move into the girl’s house. Or worse, the emotions spiral of the update about the close friend being on vacation or seeing a show or being pregnant that you see on social media, cutting that much deeper because you don’t talk to them as much since they became real adults. The “what a single person sees on facebook” joke is everywhere, but it really does hit home. You deal not only with your own worries but the unavoidable comparisons that weight heavy and are hard to avoid.

The goal, I think, needs to shift to contentment. Each day, some laughter, some comfort, some gratitude. Some concerted effort at being positive. Am I happy with my life right now? Maybe not. But I can be content in each day and take action to appreciate what I have and seek out what could be better.

As my TJ Maxx dogs-in-pants pajamas say: Choose Happiness. I’m not the first to suggest these magic words–plenty use them for profit in all those ads and sponsored posts that pop between the 1st birthday pictures–but I’m the one that needs to put them into action.

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What I Really Meant to Say

…was I’m scared.

Writing is scary because it has feelings and judgement.

If I write people will be able to see things about me and know what I care about and how I feel.

And that’s Scary.

The best way I’ve gotten around that is being self-deprecating, which is funny and not all bad but also not really real. Even talking about wanting to write is scary because it reveals something. It reveals real dreams and goals that aren’t happening and why?

Because of me. Either I’m not trying or I’m not good enough but either way it’s on me.

But if I never reveal anything–writing or otherwise–will I ever really feel settled and fulfilled? The fear of judgement keeps me from so many things. My other hobbies are weird/quirky but they’re things I put fractured time into, not my whole self, so it’s ok to joke about them being weird.

Writing is time, and emotional energy, and feelings, and truth, and if they’re not accepted how can I be accepted?

 

(5 minute prompt)

Fishing for Wisdom

A man set up to fish in the surf at the water’s edge just a few feet from my chair. I never usually see these men catch anything. Which is reassuring because fish are yucky, and they can’t be in the ocean where I swim.

However, within a few minutes he reels in a small fish, about eight inches head to tail at most. He throws it back after showing it off to his kids. A little later another one. Maybe the same fish. Fish aren’t known for their mental capacity.

I walked over to inquire about this killer creature and he told me it was a kingfish. Then I asked how far he casts out.

He said just past the breakers.

Just past the breakers is just past where I swim.

“Don’t tell me that! I don’t like to think about fish being in the ocean.”

“Oh there’s a lot of fish out there but these don’t even have teeth, don’t worry.”

Sure, don’t worry. As if the absence of teeth could keep me from a slimy collision with a deadly bait fish.

Image result for kingfish

note the many sharp teeth


 

My love of the water is one of the few areas of my life where I embrace blindness. Bodies of water are dangerous! Waves, currents, deep ends, stinging amorphous blobs…you can drown in a teaspoon of water yet I jump in headfirst. The rest of my life is an eyes-wide-open minefield of anxiety…

If I apply for this job it’ll be awkward if I get it and I have to tell work I’m leaving on short notice and I have this trip planned and might not be able to take vacation so soon after starting and I wonder where the bathrooms are…

I tell others “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” but involuntarily maintain the opposite mentality.

 

Maybe the murky depths actually shield me from my fears.

 

They say seeing is believing but sometimes it’s easier to believe what we don’t see. I can float in the ocean all day until I see or feel a fish, then I can’t go back. At least for a few minutes. If you can’t see them they’re not there. A child pulling the covers over her head to hide from a monster. If you can’t see them they can’t see you. If you don’t check your email, work doesn’t exist. Closing your eyes as the airplane ascends to pretend you’re not hurtling through air in a metal tube.

 

It’s easy to make yourself blind to reality if you want. Look, he’s not sick, he still likes his favorite ice cream. He went down the stairs by himself that one time without falling, everything must be fine.

 

Maybe being blind to reality is what we all really need to thrive. At least for some of us. Every time we get in a car we risk our lives. Riding a bike is a delicate act of balancing inches away from a bloody curb. Tripping on a curb could end up in a concussion and blood clot in the brain.  Who could step out of the house acknowledging all that’s really there with us, teeth or no teeth. Indoors, under the covers, away from monsters is the only safe haven.

 

But then there would never be the chance to be enveloped by warm water, drifting softly on the swells. It’s a tightrope act teetering between hiding from danger to enjoy the beauty on the other side.

 

 

 

photo credit: http://www.floridasportsman.com/2012/08/02/stop-and-go-kingfish/

Cultivating Creativity

Do not be alarmed.

You might start to notice some actual feelings and ideas appearing on this site.

We’re heading for a slight shift…there are still plenty of complaints to be made about dating and navigating the world as a dreaded 30-something singleton. But there will also be some new musings on navigating life in general. And maybe just some musings in general on nothing in particular.

My life has some holes.

Sometimes it’s hard to discern the symptom of the hole from the cause of the hole, not to mention the solution to the hole. But regardless there are holes that have been there for some time. I’ve been unhappy with them, but I haven’t come close to finding a solution. Things I’ve tried have been band aids or wrong turns or maybe just dead ends, sometimes self imposed.

Little by little, self care, that oh-so-trendy term, has given me tools to start to figure out where to start to fill the holes. (This description is going against all my rules of “revising sentences for clarity,” but it symbolizes the speed and track of this journey.)

I’ve taken some steps towards therapy and I’ve doubled down on exercise, especially yoga. Mediation is still a struggle for me, but I’ve at least accepted the idea of living with intention. I mostly fail, but I think about doing it.

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Thanks to Bart Simpson for my life’s motto.

On a whim, I responded to a offer for Wisdom Coaching with a yoga teacher who really resonated with me. It sounds crunchy and kinda weird, but I needed a kick. I have all kinds of things I wanted to work on this summer, and the days were/are passing without any effort, meaningful or otherwise, devoted to them.

Out of the many goals I mentioned, the coach zeroed in on my desire to write. (She’s good.)

Writing has always been my secret dream. Teachers and family told me I was good at it from early on, even when my early writing was just a crime series pitting my brother as the murderous main character. Despite my being painfully shy (or maybe because of it), teachers forced me into challenging myself–working with the grade ahead of me, entering contests, joining the newspaper… And it always came easily. In a few lines with a few choice words I could say what others took pages to say. I loved finding the right turn of phrase or going back to remove that errant comma. And yet I was and am afraid and stuck, so I just help other tiny people learn to write.

What’s that cliche? Those who can’t publish force grammar on tweens?

The glaring takeaway from my wisdom conversations was that I just needed to do something if I really wanted to write.

Duh.

But sometimes it takes an outsider to make that clear.

Writing is scary. Going after something you really want is scary because what if it doesn’t work out? If I try and fail, I can no longer say it’s not happening because I didn’t really try. It means I really don’t have any choice but staying in my stinky job and and being only sort of happy.

And writing is work. If I want to write in any real way I need to seriously commit to it. Not in my usual “I have to get this off my chest so ill blog every 4 months” way. In a “schedule dedicated writing time every day even if you have nothing to say” way.

Which I did.

For 10 days, I completed 12-minute writing immersions. Some were based on prompts, some got skipped, some were based on thoughts and feelings of the day, some were based on random inspiration, some were based on the book topics that have been floating in my head searching for permission to land.

It was HARD. Some days what I wrote stunk up the place. A couple times I felt really good about it. There were a few teenage-flashback journal-y days too. But the key was I did it. And having to do it every day for a prescribed amount of time meant I did it without agonizing over word choice or sentence construction or what people might think. Writing for the sake of writing meant words on paper was the only goal. (Paper and pen like an old timey lady of the manor.) And I want to keep doing it, even though it’s been sporadic since the coaching ended…

But I’ll be continuing to work on this and debuting some “pieces” here. Anyone who stumbles by can feel free to add some constructive criticism. One day I may be a famous author and I can thank you, but if nothing else I can be a person who writes to cultivate the creativity that we all need to thrive, if not survive.

Really Real Hiking

So after being in a few Midatlantic parks and wandering adjacent to mountains in Colorado, naturally I thought “I am one with the hills. My vacations shall be built around the purple mountains’ majesties.”

Thus a trip was planned to the Hudson River Valley, a place renowned for its fall foliage with some historical sites I could visit on the way back. I selected Bear Mountain, as the reviews promised a moderate hike, which I thought would be a challenge full of sights but doable because moderate means medium and I am a fully medium person and I would ignore hiking terms like rock scrambles because how bad could they be.

So I drove right to Bear Mountain’s Major Welch trailhead and was on my way in my adorable hiking outfit of a questionably practical fuzzy Patagonia vest with running capris, no map, and 20 oz of water for a few hours’ walk in the woods.

About 30 minutes in I come to the first of the scrambles. Turns out scrambles means walking straight up slippery rock.

Related image

Photo Via Things You Must Know, a blog that did not exist when I researched this hike.

And up some more…

Image result for major welch trail scramblesvia tripadvisor.com

And…

Image result for major welch trail scrambles Tripadvisor

You get the idea.

This was hard and scary. But what are you going to do but keep going? And thank goodness I did because 1100 feet later:IMG_2141IMG_1980

Panorama of the Hudson River and the trees of the valley. Of course turns out it was a particularly poor year for foliage, which I had not checked out before I left either, but it was worth it. My ignorance about hiking meant I took on this totally scary thing that I had to finish and would have never done otherwise.

Of course this euphoria was before I made a wrong turn on the way down and had to climb those 1100 feet a SECOND time…

And before I came the right way down and realized I could’ve gone up a side with stairs.

Related image Via outdoorfest

But hindsight is 20/20 and my calves forgave me after a few weeks.

Moral of the story is to probably pay a little more attention when researching things but also maybe not because how else will you find adventure!? And also I definitely recommend this area for its beauty and also its challenges. Scary does not always equal bad!

 

Real Hiking

After some dabbling in uphill walking, a trip to Colorado provided the opportunity to do justice to the word hiking. This is a state literally built in and around mountains, with songs about the mountains in it. So of course an amateur hiker could just hop on a trail and be fine.

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Walk out the door and that’s what you see in Colorado

False.

 

But surprisingly enough, my outdoor encounter was quite manageable! No scaling sides of rocks; the state has done a great job of having well-marked paths to follow. The only problem is you’re witnessing the majesty of nature then witnessing some more and then you’re like “oh now I have to walk back those 3 miles I came.” But it’s downhill so everything’s fine.

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Getting close to but not climbing big rocks

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Just like the pioneers saw

So much majesty.

Hugging Trees

I never voluntarily stepped foot near a tree as a child. There were a lot of trees near my house and once in awhile we walked through them, so I guess there really wasn’t any need to go to a park. My neighborhood was decidedly suburban but wooded enough that if we went to a park it was a playground park, and even that was relatively infrequent.

As a city dwelling adult with FOMO, I started exploring activities and turns out, lo and behold, parks are amazing! I’ve even become a low-grade hiker, if you count walking medium distances on mostly flat, wooded terrain to be hiking. The history of our national parks is well worth a gander, but the parks within our cities are just as amazing, perhaps even more so because of the ability to be within a city of hundreds of thousands and not see (or often even hear) a soul.

My first entree to parks will always have a special place in my heart: Rock Creek Park in Washington DC. I started out just taking my dog for some walks and discovered the multitudes of options. Some sections are very secluded and others are quite well maintained with blazes and clear trails offering everything from a picnic to a 5-mile hike along rapids.

Here’s the Couch Pup looking over the central section of Rock Creek near Mt. Pleasant.

The park is one of the main things I miss about DC so I returned there on a recent trip to the area in Upper NW around the Nature Center (which is worth a stop). This area contains the only rapids in the park as well as a section of stone left over from the renovations of the US Capitol 50 years ago (what!?). My 45-minute hike included these things as well as some short but steep inclines and lots of solitude.

10 years ago if someone told me going outside anywhere but a beach would help my mood and outlook, I would have punched them. (In my head. In reality I’d smile and silently judge.) And now I’m the one trying to convince people and being silently judged, but it’s worth it.

Sweet sweet silence/murder trap

“Rapids”

Totally normal storing US artifacts in a field

Thoughts of a white supremacist…

I avoided blocking this one for a few hours hoping to get a response but no luck. Now the account is deleted.

Yeah it’s dick of me to not respond promptly, but I generally associate that with my general laziness and ennui over dating not my white supremacy. I guess that could be my white privilege…thinking my own time is more important than tending to the ego of someone I’ve never met of an undetermined race living over 60 miles away…

The Streak Continues

Saw a guy on Bumble a few days ago whose profile mentioned a LOT of running. So my opening message mentioned running, and we exchanged a few back and forth with me mentioned my difficulty in training for an upcoming race.

Then he asked my BMI.

I thought: “Weird. Maybe he knows a training trick based on BMI.”

So I said “Um I have no idea, how about this?” and threw out a number that sounded vaguely accurate from a buzzfeed quiz or something months ago.

He responds with “Nice! Here’s my number, let’s get together.”

My Spidey Sense buzzed and I decided to ask why he wanted my BMI.

Jackass Jackpot:

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*&@(%*&$(&%@*&%@*(&%(*$&%@(*%&@(*&#

I’m still enraged reading it.

Level 1 Rage: He’s a jerk but I get you have a personal preference.

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Level 2 Rage: You’re gonna tell me you can’t tell if I’m OBESE from my pictures?

michael-scott-angry-stare-at-toby

Level 3 Rage: The only reason I wouldn’t want to go out with you is lying about my size?

200

The masochist in me wanted to keep pushing to see what else he’d say but report and block, hopefully saving another girl from him, while I go back to the couch.

(Also, besides the point, but plenty of super healthy people have high BMI!!! Or plenty of skinny people who eat crap have low BMI!!)

Hi My Name is Couch…

and it’s been 140 days since my last date.

Actually that doesn’t sound like that many days written out.

It’s been 5 months since my last date.

That sounds a little more significant.

Tonight someone did the “here’s my number let’s hang out” and I’m already trying to think of a way out.

I don’t wanna go on a date. Dates are hard. It’s cold out. I like knitting. There’s a stressful amount of tv to catch up on. TV like Lifetime’s The Good Mistress, in which a lovely girl goes on a first date that ends in sexy time and the realization that the date is her “best friend’s” husband. What kind of best friendship allows you to have never met your best friend’s husband, I can’t say, but suddenly she’s a mistress, and a good one at that, except she just tries to stay away from the guy while he threatens to kill her. I also don’t know what kind of friendly small town harbors a politician known for killing people, but I am not a screenwriter. And also reality star Donald Trump is our president and America is harboring him.

See, is it really worth a drink and an awkward conversation if I have to miss that?