impending doom

This blog post might be a little cryptic and that is because I want to avoid sharing another person’s journey/struggle without his/her permission. Instead, I am going to try to write about my experience as I witness the journey.

It is so hard to let someone do their own thing when I think their own thing is going to ruin their life. I am learning how to let go of control on a whole new level. There isn’t really anything I can do in this moment to help that person. I don’t think. Usually, when a friend is going through something hard, I have learned to validate feelings. That’s all I can do. “Oh, wow, it sounds like you feel angry and lonely,” “I can see how you think that and I understand your feelings of worthlessness but I want you to know that you are worthy of my love just by being alive,” that sort of thing. And I say these things even when I am thinking, “what? How could that possibly make this person angry?” I say them, because it is so important to meet people in their reality.

I used to think that my family didn’t love me. And when someone would say to me, “wow, you’re so wrong,” I would then think, “okay, this person doesn’t get it, I can’t talk to them about this anymore.” Because of my experience with that and from the advice of others, I have learned to meet people where they are.

Usually, as a result of validating someone else’s feelings, I also get an opportunity to give suggestions that have worked for me. For example, “Okay, so you’re angry and lonely right now. I’ve found that when I feel that way, I can write about the situation from the point of view of the person I am angry with. I’ve learned that sometimes people are trying to show me love, and it comes out wrong so I get mad at them.”

I’ve never been in a situation where not only do I not get to share my experience, but any mention of my experience only pushes them further into the shell. My friend already knows my experience. And trust me, he wants no part of any of my suggestions. If I cease communication with this friend, all I would be doing is making him feel even more alienated than he already feels. And I know, I know, I’ve been told one thousand times that I am not responsible for another person’s feelings. I have to take care of me first. But I really care about my friend’s feelings!

Let’s just go with my truth that stopping communication is not something I am willing to do in this situation. I care about this friend so much and I want to be there for him even if this is going to be a complete shit show. So what am I supposed to do? The way I see it right now (and the way I see it is from a very murky and emotional place) I have a few options:
1. Start a huge argument by telling my friend that he is full shit and thus pushing him further away from the truth
2. Smile and nod as all hell breaks loose
3. Support someone in the lies they tell themselves but then say, “I told you so,” at the end of all of this, potentially causing further distance

I don’t know what to do, but I will keep you all vaguely informed as I go through this process.

another year, another happy jar

While making my happy jar this year, I couldn't find my purple permanent marker or my pink duct tape. I'm trying not to be annoyed about it.
While making my happy jar this year, I couldn’t find my purple permanent marker or my pink duct tape. I’m trying not to be annoyed about it.

My favorite thing about January 1st of each new year has become making my first entry in my happy jar. I have written about my happy jar before, but I’ll write about it again here because I think it has been a while.

In 2013 a friend told me about his idea, and I totally loved it. It seemed like a challenge, but one that I could take on. So when 2014 came around, I made my first happy jar. Making a happy jar really isn’t difficult. I buy a mason jar. I write the words “daily happy things” and the year on an index card, and then I tape it to the mason jar. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.

At the end of each day, I write down (on an index card that I tear in half) one happy thing that happened that day. This can be challenging in a number of ways. Sometimes I want to write down everything I did that day, because it was such a happy day. However, I prefer to be specific and pick just one moment- “I had a nice conversation with a stranger,” or “I held hands with Jonny.” Instead of, “I ate pizza and watched a movie and hung out with my family.” Sometimes it is difficult to pick just one moment but I like it better because while I am writing it, I go back to that one specific moment and I feel that warmth again.

On the other hand, writing in my happy jar can be challenging when I have a really shitty day. Like, really shitty. Like, if a friend died that day. Or if I am depressed. Or if I just think happiness is a made up thing. Or if it was one of those typical Monday’s where everything went wrong and I messed up, or didn’t get out of bed. On those days, I pick something pretty general, such as, “I opened my eyes and saw my cat,” or “I breathed oxygen,” or “I didn’t burn my toast,” or “I stayed clean.” Even when it’s really hard, I try to be grateful in the moment for these seemingly small (but really very beautiful) things.

In my book I will expand on all of this and I provide research that supports the idea that taking at least one moment each day to be grateful can actually change the way your brain thinks. I really don’t feel like doing that right now, so you’re just going to have to trust me. I’ll provide some personal examples.

I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is list three things I’m grateful for (sometimes I list more than three), and every night I write in my happy jar. This has changed my life. I have noticed that I can get to place of gratitude all the time. Sometimes it’s automatic.

Lately, I’ve been having a case of shitty PTSD nightmares that wake me up at very inconvenient hours. When I wake up, I am terrified and very tense, and then I am immediately grateful. Two years ago, my immediate reaction to a nightmare was rage. And there is certainly still some anger that comes up around my PTSD, but the first thing that comes is gratitude. I think this is a direct result of practicing gratitude daily.

Another way my happy jar has helped me is in the times that I mess up. I mentioned that I didn’t do well in school for my last semester of classes. I was so grateful the whole time, it was hard to be hard on myself. I noticed that my self-talk was encouraging and compassionate (most of the time). I would bomb a test that I studied really hard for and be bummed about that, but as I walked out of the classroom I would think, “I’m grateful that I really care about this subject,” or “I’m so grateful for my education.” Instead of, “wow, you’re so stupid and you can’t do anything right,” which was the theme of my self-talk two years ago. In talking about this example I have to mention that I look in the mirror and say, “I love you” to myself everyday, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.

The really cool thing about my happy jars is that now I have two mason jars full of happy memories. I date one side of the half index card, and I write my happy thing on the other. Think of how cool it will be ten years from now to have these artifacts of happy moments to look back on.

I like to start my happy jar on January 1st of each year, but if you happen to stumble upon this post in March, you don’t need to wait until next year to start this. You could start it in March and then start a new one the next March, or the next January. Whatever. I’m just saying that you can do this at any point, and you don’t need a new year to give you permission to start.