Happy is a verb – The Morning Chronicles Jan.29

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On one of my morning walks with Largo this week – always a time to meditate – out of the blue a thought dropped into my head.
Probably the consequence of watching the news and seeing nothing but misery, hate, bad financial developments… You name it.
Or watching that documentary about a circus school in Afghanistan and seeing the sparkle in those children’s eyes.

There was never a moment in history – I guess – where we had that much of anything.
That much luxury,
that much technology
and that much books written about happiness.
The how’s, the why’s.
The means to, or not to.
The do’s the don’ts.
Techniques to apply, therapies to follow…
One could easily turn unhappy because it’s impossible to read or do all that.

Me myself feel ever so often
“just not happy”
“Down”
“blue”
“off-day-ish”.

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But there I walked. Precious Largo on his leash in front of me, looking over his shoulder “hey mom, still following?”.
The streets deserted but everywhere nice houses, warm inside.
The weather outside was frightful (!) – heavy bursts of wind hitting my face, rain blowing in all directions.
But, I was walking, free.
Able to wear what I want.
No fear necessary to be harassed or worse.
I can go where I want, when I want,
eat whatever, whenever I feel something we call “hunger”.
Even our dog has more and better food than many children have.

But still everyone is searching for that abstract happiness, promoted in magazines… It became a well paying, commercial topic.

And although you can’t measure your own happiness by the unhappiness of others, this thought popped up: maybe I must start every walk with a little awareness of how lucky we are, being able to do all of the above, freely.
Happiness sits between one’s ears. It is what it is.
You can’t force it.
Neither can you buy it….
Maybe, just maybe, there’s the key… We have become so used to being able to buy about anything, that we turn unhappy with what money can’t buy…. Money doesn’t make you happy, but we have started to think it does.

Happy is thinking of what we do have, instead of what we don’t.
Happy is reminding ourselves to think about that, from time to time.
That’s why I think happy is a verb… You have to work on it.

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Keep calm…

… do yoga, follow a mindfulness class, meditate, relax, ….

As I have a year of blogging behind me, I want to go back to the basics, to that thing that pushed me towards blogging, my burnout.
I suffered from the symptoms long before my doctor ordered me to stay home, told me I was sick.
There were the crying parts, the shouting to anyone and no one in particular as long as they “caught” me in the wrong moment, there was the tiredness, the hyperventilation, the fears, the panic attacks, the “what am I doing” phenomenon, the mistakes, the angriness about these mistakes… you name it, I got it!

It was high time somebody called an end to that.
But it’s much easier said than done, as a matter of fact it’s huge, it’s difficult, it’s suffering, Burnout and mental problems are challenging their victim over and over again. Not in the least because the world around you doesn’t “see” there’s something “wrong” with you…  A mental health problem doesn’t show like, let’s say, a broken arm…  Especially also because people having such problems, most of the time put great effort in not showing…  It’s a vicious circle.

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I’m almost 2 years later now, and time has a healing power of its own.  The memories of the job I wasn’t up to anymore that had caused the melt down, have faded in the meantime. Burnout, meltdown… they go well together don’t you think?
I guess minds are made that way: what’s been horrible, they tend to push away or hang on to, or a mixture of both…
The hatred (I don’t use that word often or lightly) towards the people who did that to me  – for sure I wasn’t the sole responsible – faded too, a bit anyway.
But I will never be the same again.  Not only because I couldn’t anymore, but because I don’t want to go down that hectic, workaholic, manic road again.
When I look at myself back then, I’m looking at “somebody that I used to know”.

Does this mean I’m totally cured now? Not by far.
Things got better, other things came in its place.  The diagnosis Fibromyalgia for instance in November last year.
After a long and winding road, from one doctor to the next, there finally was a name for all my aches and pains.  Did it change much? No, not really because there isn’t a “one cure fits all”.  There isn’t a pill you can take that makes it magically go away.
It’s a learning process and I’m right in the middle of it.  Searching my new me, a new rhythm, peace and quiet.  Getting to terms with the fact that I can’t do anymore what I used to, that everything has to be done in small doses, and that sometimes – many times – there is a huge difference between what I planned and what I can accomplish.

I’ve never been the one who can keep her calm in every moment.  Gosh how I admire people who can.
But, I  have to learn to accept that I have my own temperament, my own dynamics.  I’m a terrible, terrible perfectionist (in case you wonder where the title of this blog comes from…), a control person, and hyper sensitive.
So, in order to cope with the fibro problem in combination with my personality, I have to learn… learn hard and work hard.
Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.  And when fears or worries hit me once again, they hit hard.

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It’s rather funny actually, as nowadays you can’t open a magazine, put on your tv or someone – preferably a psychiatrist – is telling you that mindfulness is the solution to all problems, that you have to create “me” time, that you have to “let go”, relax, go with the flow, meditate, do some yoga in order to be happy…
Did you notice too that we have to be happy like alllllll the time, that we have forgotten how to be sad, that we aren’t even allowed anymore to be sad….  That we get unhappier because we are not able to feel happy all the time…  All that happiness is making us crazy!

Well I think I’ve tried all those things, learned a lot, bought and read tons of books and picked something up here and there that lasted.  There’s the Morning Pages (Julia Cameron) I try to do as much as possible (except when life interferes), there’s the much slower pace for everything (from cleaning to driving), there’s the not trying to panic when work didn’t get done…
And then there’s yoga, that I picked up since December last year.  It helps.  It helps me in a way no other relaxation program did before.  All other stuff started with: you feel heavy, you feel relaxed, you feel your muscles let loose, think of nothing, don’t let thoughts interfere….
My gosh, I felt more insecure, incomplete and a total failure after every exercise.  I didn’t feel any of those things, not really anyway.  My thoughts didn’t just halt, they just kept coming, no matter how many boats I fantasized to float away with them on that river of tranquility…
And when the exercise was “done” and my therapist asked me “And? did you feel the warmth? Did you feel how your arms got heavy?…” I had to say “no, not really”…  Again, I failed….

But yoga made me realize that I don’t ‘have to’ feel anything, that my thoughts won’t stop and – what’s important – that thoughts are normal, they’re o.k., I’m o.k….
What a difference!  I finally feel normal again, people’s minds don’t come with a “thoughts on/off button”, I have thoughts and am allowed to have them, as long as I acknowledge it, and can refocus… even if it takes a hundred retakes, it’s still fine.  Isn’t that great?

Well, I guess I will never become the calmest person in the world.  To myself I picture this as a football career.  Apart from Cruyff, Ronaldo, Messi and a handful other super talented guys, born with football in their veins, there are players who learned to become great.  They learned techniques, they learned to deal with all kinds of stuff and they became world famous players, but they will never become Cruyff, Ronaldo or Messi no matter how hard they try, or learn, or work.

And that’s my lesson for this year and many to come: learn the techniques, practice yoga, meditate and accept that I’m not perfect, that I’m not born with a natural calm and ease, that my  “go with the flow” will get easily interrupted by other flows…  And when those moments of weakness do come, panic might get the better of me again, hyperventilation probably will strike again…  But I will also realize that I have not totally failed.  That it was just another moment and that this too will pass.
For me that will be pretty awesome goals to reach, especially the acceptance part.

Wow, this was a long one.  For those who are still with me here, thanks for so much attention.
But I guess I just had to write this, from my heart…

Thanks guys! Have a nice weekend!

Marleen

A veil of quiet…

As said in my “5 questions”, I would like to seek quiet and calm in a convent.
I live far from one, but – even not being religious – I also find this mood in a chapel or a church when there’s no service.
Not far from my birthplace, there’s a charming little chapel called Laarkapel.  Its earliest records date from the 17th century but it’s certain that it’s much older.  On one side it’s situated next to an abandoned industrial site – the private railroad still visible – on the other side it looks at farmland, a rarity in our region.

Sometimes I go there.  And although as a classified monument it gets its share of interested visitors, I can always find a moment alone in the little building.
It has that special effect on me, as if when entering there’s a veil falling over me. A veil of quiet…

A couple of days ago I needed time out from the daily hustle and bustle and while parking my car, I saw an elderly couple go in.  They were about the age of our parents.
Out of respect for their privacy, I waited outside till they left.
Meanwhile, I walked around the place, looking at the splendid stained glass and the little statues placed in niches and thought about the couple inside… What brought them here? Loss of a child maybe?  A brother, sister?  Or did they need reflection time, just like me?
After a few minutes they left, quietly, no word was spoken.

I went in and sat down, taking the atmosphere in… the white plastered walls, the stained glass that displays its discrete beauty far more on the inside than outside.  I looked at the altar with its handmade, yellowed cloth, the flowers, made of paper, silk, plastic… all put there by visitors.  Allowing the veil of quiet to fall upon me…
The image of the couple’s silent understanding didn’t leave me… And on impulse, I followed my heart and lit a little red candle…

While silently leaving the little chapel, trying to hold on to the veil, I thought: I just wish and hope that when and if my husband and I get older, we will be able to share our moments of quiet together in that same way, saying everything that needs to be said without talking…

Pictures taken with my i-Phone.