#connections

My Happiness Contract

Today I opened up a fortune cookie and it read, " Don't pursue happiness - create it.”.  Seeing it spelled out so simply made me realize that although I have entered into a contract with myself mentally, it is time to get it down in writing. It seems in general, the older we get, the more sidetracked we become about what leads to true happiness.  Watching my niece and nephews over Easter, I found myself concentrating on what made them happy, especially the 4 year old. When he was rested, a scoop of ice cream or a dinosaur easter egg were reasons for laugh out loud, jump up and down celebration...simple pleasures. Fast forward a few years, and the modern day perspective, so many times, creates a slip…happiness seems to be more expensive and more elusive, when the reality of what brings happiness hasn’t changed, we have.

There are a few things about my personality that I am thankful for that seem to make it easier for me to be happy than the average 43 year old.  I have been tested by real trials, among them having my life drastically upended with the end of my 20 year marriage, and  coming through the other side of that incredibly sad experience confident in my ability to grow through struggle and always find reasons to be grateful. Another trait I am grateful I possess is that I enjoy (even crave) the mundane and find pleasure in the simple things.  Choosing my coffee cup in the morning makes me happy, watching planes take off makes me happy, real connections with everyday people make me happy.  So today, here is my contract with myself, spelled out, so when I need a reminder, I have something to come back to. 

 

1. I will slow down and be grateful.  I have learned through hard times that I can always find something to be grateful for. When I count up and concentrate on these things, I can’t help but smile. Being grateful stops the question “why me?” in its tracks. If I move too quickly, it’s easy to lose track of the small things that deserve big gratitude. 

 

2. I will never compromise my position as the leader of my own life. I will make choices and put in the work that lead to my happiness. My happiness will enhance the lives of people around me. Other people matter, but if I put them first, I get lost. 

 

3. My actions will speak louder than my words. If I am speaking the words but not following them with actions to reinforce or achieve my goals, the void that is left between the two creates a desperate battle with my ego where happiness cannot exist.  My ego stays healthy when it is humbled by the work that needs to be done to create lasting happiness. 

 

4. I will handle conflict with honesty, respect and understanding, but will not compromise for the sake of agreement. Happiness comes with the confidence of knowing and trusting myself. Escaping the need to have people come alongside and agree with me allows me to live freely. My freedom and happiness are inextricably linked. 

 

5. I will seek the place where my mind, body and spirit connect. I will critically select content that has the power to expand my mind. Podcasts, books, articles and even movies can elevate our thoughts and develop our minds. Selection is key, so don’t cram, and by all means, choose things that won’t set you back.  Adequate sleep, healthy food and exercise set my body on track for maximized happiness. Without these I am foggy and unable to manage complicated situations and emotions. My faith and freedom allow me to be myself which feeds my spirit and guides my intuition. My biggest steps away from lasting happiness have happened when I silenced my intuition and didn’t listen to my own gut.  

 

5. Most importantly, it is no one else's job to create happiness for me. No friend, partner or child in my life is responsible for helping me find or sustain my happiness. Creating lasting happiness is not about keeping my ego fed with compliments or pats on the back reinforcing that I am doing the right thing. True happiness comes when my insides and my outsides are a genuine reflection of each other.  It takes courage to find that place…and I will seek it every day. 

Signed with intention,

Wendy

Wisdom Works Both Ways

One of the first times I experienced the feeling of knowing that being a mom is the best experience anyone can ever have was when the nurse took a crying, freshly bathed and swaddled, not so little 9lb 12oz baby boy and laid him on my chest. Instantly, he stopped crying. I had never experienced anything so magical, soothing and empowering in one moment of life before.  

Luke, you are my calm, kindhearted, hilariously funny, March Madness baby.  Although I love having a boy named after a Gospel, if I’m honest, you were named largely because of Luke Walton and the basketball I loved watching with my swollen belly in 2002. I’m having a hard time comprehending how 16 years went by so fast, as March Madness again plays in the background as I write this. How are you closer to the age I was when I had you than I am today? It was yesterday when you were walking with that little blue cast when you broke your foot (you were 17months old!). Then a few days later you were naming every Thomas and Friends train that was ever invented and building tracks for hours, in between Lauren dressing you up like a princess and you having to learn why boys don’t get their toenails painted too (although, we did paint them a few times anyway). Then i tossed a volleyball at you and you just seemed to get it. No matter where you go from here, you have already given me so much joy with all of these memories that my life is blessed more than i could have ever imagined. 

Your calm and fun loving approach to life has taught me so much because even with that calm, when you do something you love whether it’s laughing with your friends or winning a game (be it Fortnite or volleyball) I can see such a fire burning inside you.  I will always have you in my ear with your question “how is stressing about it going to help mom?” Wise words from my boy that I have absolutely taken to heart.

Then one day you walked out of your bedroom, towering over me and even though that face (and thankfully, again that haircut) is the same...my little tan man was a man-child.

You are going to do great things, and great things are both big and small. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and ask the big questions, it’s what leads you to finding your purpose, the why of your life, and it is what gives us the deepest sense of joy.  When you hit a rough patch along the way, don’t smooth it over, but dive deep to find the calm water below where you can find the real answers and then come to the surface again wiser and stronger for having done the hard work. Remember that how we do the small things is how we do the big things...practice that daily. Don’t do (or overdo) things just because you think they are expected, but also know that nothing gives you more satisfaction in life than working hard and seeing success because of what you have invested. Know that you don’t have to make things ok immediately, pain happens in life for a reason, and ironically it is the greatest chance we have as people to grow into the best version of ourselves. Have confidence always. Confidence is the key to having the courage for your thoughts, words and actions to align and when they do, it’s the key to leadership and deep contentment. I want nothing more than for you to than to leave the places you go a little better than you found them. I am beyond confident that you will do that.  You are so blessed in life, honor those blessings with hard work and honest goodness that is such a natural part of who you are and your life will be a beautiful place.

Happy 16th Birthday Lukey B. I love you more than you will ever know.

 

Own Your Energy

Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if we all realized the power we each have to do good, to make choices to challenge each other to be the best versions of ourselves and see what results.  In the past, I could get myself so excited about human potential and then so quickly be let down when that potential wasn't realized.  The truth is though, everyone grows at their own pace and in their own way, not the way I would always say it should be done.  Accepting that people have the same freedom to make their own choices and live their lives as they (not I) see fit, leads to a lot more freedom and happiness for me.  In the past, when people, particularly those I loved, didn’t make choices the way I wanted them to, I got upset and tried to convince them that my way was right.  That action plan takes a lot of energy and slows me down in my own process of fulfilling my own goals and living an independent life. It also gave other people so much power over the energy in my day.  Some days, people brought me great things that revved me up, like a child with straight A’s and some days those same people brought me heavy problems, like sickness or relationship problems.   I would take these things on, even though they were not mine, rolling them around over and over in my head and diminishing my potential to efficiently focus on my own life and what was actually within my scope of choices. 

 

Today, I make it a point to focus on a live and let live mentality that leads me away from needing to pass judgement and rather focus on my own creative path that I work on intentionally every day.  It leads me to create connections with people who have different ways of seeing the world, but similar ways of communicating their vision.  In the end, the best relationships are not about being like minded, but authentic in their communication and discovery of their differences. There is infinite room for growth, connection and intimacy in relationships like these, not the case when everyone is just trying to conform or operating out of a sense of obligation.  Judgement happens, its a natural part of being human, but both how we communicate it (or don’t!) and take it when it comes at us is a choice that I am getting better at making.  My actions today are the ones that matter, my confidence in taking action on my path is what I am building.  Join me, I’m excited to see where it goes from here. 

Seeking and Shining

Writing brings so much clarity to life circumstances that seem so overwhelming before putting them down on paper, virtual or otherwise.   I started The Optimists Journal at a time when I was seeking connection with like minds, to know that there were people out there like me, who were interested in deeper meaning, not just making a list and checking the boxes, but figuring out what makes us all tick and connecting all of this human potential to make a better world.  But there was something so foreign to me about global sharing, and worse, global attention seeking, that I have continually struggled with the blog concept from inception. I am not an attention seeker and honestly one of my worst fears is being seen as boastful, better than or like I have it all figured out…because I don’t, not by a long shot. My daily discovery though is that life’s journey is so fulfilling when I am transparent, real and vulnerable. In approaching my relationships this way, as scary as it is, the freedom and beauty that is unleashed makes conquering my fear worth every deep breath that it takes to get there.  I have lived with the fear of vulnerability my entire life. It's based on fear of failure, confrontation and judgement and also my nature of being a straight up people pleaser for most of my life. This (maybe not so unique) combination of personality traits has made me spend thegreater part of my life purposely trying to stay small and unnoticeable, surrounding myself with people with bigger, louder personalities than me and mastering the art of exiting a room as quickly as possible. I pushed other people around me forward, helping them on each of their journeys from behind the scenes and I was perfectly happy about it. I still don’t regret having lived this way for 40 years because I learned some very valuable lessons. I learned how to listen without responding or judging, I learned to watch for patterns that expose the universal truths in the circumstances that we encounter and that connect us as human beings, and most recently I learned, while going through separation and divorce, that when you expose a struggle to the world, you find connection not condemnation. 

Today, I am grateful that I have learned these things but there are so many more lessons that present themselves everyday, challenging me to master them. The trick seems to be staying present so that I don’t miss them as they come my way.  I’ve started practicing this on a daily basis and have realized once you are on the journey to knowing yourself, there are practical steps like yoga, books, podcasts, and healthy lifestyle choices that keep you on the journey of being a life long learner.  There is always room for growth and improvement in this beautiful life.  There has been a shift in my thinking and here I am sharing my writing.  Today I thank God that the voice that He put inside me is turning out not to be as weak as I had once allowed myself to believe. 

Over the last almost 20 years, I have had the joy, challenge and privilege of loving and parenting 4 amazing kids, the youngest of whom is on the autism spectrum.  I have encountered the near drowning of that same mystical little boy, felt the pain of watching loved ones with addictions fight major battles, and experienced the break up of my family through divorce, a word that still feels bitter in my mouth. And yet, as major and course altering as all of these things have been, they have taught me that adversity provides the building blocks of of a beautiful life if you respond properly. Contrary to how I thought I would handle the bumps and brusies, I learned slowly to lift my gaze to the beauty, not the tragedy of any situation and in this I began to rise and attract like minded people doing life in the most beautiful, conscious way. People who are embracing challenge and turning it into human capacity, exploring their own limits and always seeking to become better at the game of life. As a lot of smart people have said before me, its not what happens to you, its how you handle it. I’ve learned that I can smile through just about anything, but even more importantly, I have learned that my capacity to sustain, to connect and endure life's hardships, still filled with optimism and gratitude, is far stronger than I ever believed. 

So herein lies the bigger message of the Optimists Journal: Our connection is found in our broken stories, not our perfect ones.  We are the storytellers of our lives and I’m just learning how to tell mine.  I invite you to share yours too, its where all the best connections in life are made.