Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Tuesday / Finding Joy [Part Four]

As I sit reflecting over this day, I am quite pleased. I say this eying piles of clothes that are either folded or waiting to be folded, knowing that the kitchen should be sanctioned off with police tape and a sign that reads: "Danger, leave for your own safety." We won't discuss the bedroom or the layer of grime you only find in New York City accumulating on a bathroom that was thoroughly scrubbed through on Friday morning. Actually, the entire apartment was lovely and clean on Friday.

But the cleanliness (or lack of) is not the point; I am happy and satisfied and feel peaceful despite the current war-zone-esque appearance of our four rooms on the seventh floor of a lovely apartment building in the Upper West Side.

This day was filled with beautiful moments. Hugs from Felicity when I picked her up and held her, kisses from my husband and small moments of joy with him, a fantastic dinner consisting of a really lovely fish chowder*, time reading on the bed with Felicity, going to the French book reading at Book Culture, and now baking cookies while listening to Satie. I mean, really, chocolate chip cookies and Erik Satie, while Ian sits at the table and grades final papers. This is bliss.

I'm making cookies for Ian's epistemology class as their final is tomorrow. I like surprising his class with cookies each semester for their final. It seems the decent thing to do; I believe Ian writes a difficult exam!

*In regards to my fish chowder: "This is some restaurant-grade shit!" Ian McCready-Flora, PhD.

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The prompts (more than one!) of the day from Shelley Sealle's article on Finding Joy are :

Learn to accept the past and move on from it. We can perpetuate our own pain and keep it alive, and stronger, by replaying old hurts over and over. Dwelling in the past will never change it, but only keeps you stuck there emotionally.

Adjust our attitude toward suffering. Hurt, pain and grief are part of life—but our attitude toward these hard times is critical because it affects how we cope with suffering when it comes. What we give the majority of our focus to becomes stronger and more present in our lives; when the temptation comes to wallow in past hurts or even current bad feelings, consciously choose to give mental energy and attention to the positive as well.

These two topics seem to overlap in many ways. The central theme seems to be: be present in the moment, learn from the past, and don't let the negative bog you down. Yes, it is important to recognize and feel bad things, for certainly glossing over them doesn't allow reflection or growth, but there is a distinct difference between recognizing and dealing with hurt or grief, and continuing to live in it for an extended amount of time.

So, full disclosure and all, I feel like I've been festering lately about past relationships. Not relationships as in romantic entanglements, though there was one that really did a number on me, but friendships, or the lack of friendships. Relationships can be so complex, so messy. I was thinking about one in particular today, someone that just friended me on facebook a couple of weeks ago, someone that I have all of these hurtful, messy associations with. I accepted the request (I've been ignoring her friending attempts for years), and then, after thinking way too much about her and the damage that she did, even having stressful dreams about her family, I unfriended her today, even blocked her so she couldn't contact me again. I hope I'm not the one in the wrong, but sometimes it's best not to allow someone like that back in, especially as we are in very different places with our lives.

So I've been thinking about her, was writing about a couple of girls that were mean to me in elementary school, and, even though I don't consciously think about him during the day, and am still having dreams about an emotionally-abusive guy I was involved with for several years. All of this baggage and hurt. I've invested too much time thinking about what would have happened if Ian and I had decided to in Michigan, or what if the University of Michigan would've accepted me into their doctoral program in 2009, or what if I had stayed at Calvin College instead of transferring to Bethel University, or what if I would have stayed in Minnesota after graduation instead of moving to Ann Arbor with Katherine? How does one let it just... go?

What I keep coming back to is embracing the now and what I have in front of me. Gretchen Rubin writes about her "Personal Commandments" in The Happiness Project, and I think this might be one for me: Embrace the now, live in the present (although I firmly reject the title of "Personal Commandments," as well as "Splendid Truths,"  I choose to not dwell in the would've/should've/could've, which means learn from error and move on to avoid festering.

Something else I've been working on is trying to imagine how I'll feel after a particular chore or activity is completed. For example, starting the laundry today. I've been avoiding it for... five days. I literally couldn't/wouldn't shower this morning because the only towel not in the hamper was damp from my husband's shower (I was actually planning on taking a shower and just using it, but when the shower water wouldn't warm up after two minutes, the gods seemed to be against basic cleanliness, so I just wet my hair and did a quick manual wash of my lady pits and bits). While I only started half of the laundry, and folded even less of that, I still feel somewhat accomplished - I actually started it.* And you'd better believe that I have a stack of white (bleached!) towels all ready to go! That and Ian has underwear, apparently this is all we need to keep our household functioning with any sort of order (?). I envisioned myself having clean towels, told Felicity, "Let's do laundry! We'll really enjoy having clean laundry," and did it.

And the same with the cookies. After making dinner and spending almost two hours getting Felicity to bed, making cookies seemed like quite an effort, especially all of the in-and-out of the cookie sheets. But I thought about how good I feel when I make Ian's class cookies, and how good I feel giving Ian a warm cookie from the oven (especially when he's frantically grading papers or working on a project), and then I thought about how much I love to bake, so I did it. And, assuming you read the first section of this insanely long post, you know that I had a blast making cookies.

Highlight of the Day: Today held so many beautiful moments and no clear highlight emerges (!). I had such a nice time baking cookies and just being with Ian, so I'll choose that.

*I don't know what it is about having a baby, it's probably the lingering postpartum depression, but I have an insanely difficult time starting anything that seems daunting. So chores can go awhile without being completed simply because it's hard for me to muster up the get-go. I swear I'm not lazy, I just get overwhelmed really easily, and I sometimes it feels easier to avoid something all-together than feel overwhelmed in the middle of it. Of course, we all know that things that are just waiting to be done haunt you and make you feel terrible. The ghosts of bathroom-to-be-cleaned are wretched, thesis-to-be-written are just terrible!