After I promised you a more lighthearted post today, and then promptly buried you in heavy details of the last 1.5 years of my life, (surprise!) you’re probably wondering where I’m headed with this! And also, how the heck does the name “Gretchen Rubin” come in to play? Well, let’s get to the happiness!
I wanted to get better again. Not just temporarily feel better, but to actually heal from the inside out. But how was I going to find the time to do that?!! I barely had time to shower most days, between regular mom-of-3 stuff, Evy’s various appointments, and Lydia needing me so much yet. Was I going to find a genie in some lamp and wish for extra hours to appear in the day? Well, like the old father on “Grumpy Old Men” once said: “you can wish in one hand, and crap in the other, and see which gets filled first”!! I obviously knew I couldn’t magically create time, so I had to get really honest with myself about exactly how I was using the time that I DID have. The first thing that had to go? Facebook. It created undue anxiety for me (it doesn’t for everyone, I realize, but it certainly did for me!), and it became an unhealthy way for me to get lost in it’s newsfeed to try & escape my anxiety. Such a vicious cycle! Account deleted.
We headed off to Winnipeg towards the end of October for our first round of specialist appointments for our darling bug, and on our first morning there I was so anxious that I was nearly sick all over my sister in laws bathroom floor (her brand newly redone bathroom floor…wouldn’t that have been special?). I gulped heavily, pushed myself to get myself ready to go, grabbed my makeup bag, looked in the mirror…and without really knowing why, I felt drawn to my phone. I remembered all of a sudden that years ago, when I was still a BeachBody Coach, I would often listen to podcasts. While I cleaned, cooked, got ready, ran, almost anytime was a good time to be filled with new knowledge & inspiration that podcasts offer. I needed a mental distraction, so I searched iTunes Podcasts, selected one (even though I was sure it would be absolute crap), and pressed play…
The one that I chose that morning, “The Anxiety Guy”, changed my life. Its’ host/creator is Dennis Simsek, an NLP/CBT practitioner & coach, and let me tell you that if you are looking for true ways to change your identity (little bits at a time!) and overcome anxiety disorders, he is an amazing coach to go with!! (check out his podcast, or go to anxietyexit.com for other info on him). I began making 1 small change a day, then chose to do Dennis’ full program, and soon my recovery was well underway!! I felt so much lighter of spirit! When the program ended, and I had listened to all of hid podcasts and seen all the videos, I thought “what now?”….and a soft, yet clear, inner voice answered “keep on growing”. (As hokey as it once sounded to me, meditation has helped me quiet the outer noise so that I can hear my inner voice, my higher self, with much more clarity!)
So, that’s what I set out to do. I set myself up with an “Audible” account (a part of Amazon, in which you get one free audiobook a month with your membership), and began searching. I love Audible, because you can return a book at any time if you don’t love it, and you immediately get to use your free credit to try a new book instead. I tried quite a few books, but none resonated with me until I got to Mel Robbins “5 Second Rule”. LIFECHANGING! You know how sometimes you know what you should do, but you just can’t seem to simply do it? Well, Mel teaches you how to use her 5 second rule to take action, whether big or small. Scott & I both listened to that one, and began making positive changes to our daily routines (5,4,3,2,1, get up when your alarm goes off, 5,4,3,2,1, do that workout, 5,4,3,2,1, have a difficult conversation, etc.), and we both saw immediate results. Brilliant! I got a hit of what I call the “growth high”, and I wanted more!
Just after 2018 began, we were getting ready for yet another trip to Winnipeg, and we knew that trip would be heavy with appointments, and likely be emotionally heavy as well. It is also a loooong drive, about 9-10 hours in winter with little children who need to stop along the way, so I knew that I needed a damn good audiobook to hold my interest while I drove! I sampled a few, and none rang my bell. Then one day, as I was listening to another podcast, an interview with a writer named Gretchen Rubin came on, and I just knew I had to hear one of her books! I went straight to my computer and sampled her book “The Happiness Project”.
I knew right then & there that Gretchen Rubin would change my life.
“The Happiness Project” is about what it sounds like: how to be happier! But not in the way that you need to do a total overhaul of your life in order to find said happiness. Nope. Gretchen is about “finding happiness in your own kitchen”, as she says. Finding small ways and moments in our daily lives to focus on the skill of being happy. Yes, I think happiness is a SKILL. It doesn’t come from any external source, it only comes if you believe that you ARE happy, and take steps to be so. Gretchen tells us about her personal commandments, how she went about making a “Resolution Chart” for every month of that entire year and tracked her progress, and what she calls her “splendid truths”.
After we left the neurologists office that morning in Winnipeg (when we had found out about Evretts brain abnormalities, whoosh, what a heavy day!), as I was driving loops around the hospital in an attempt to keep Miss Lydia happy while Scott took Evy for more bloodwork, I finished listening to the entire book, and came to a revelation: it was the prime time for me to start my OWN happiness project.
But why on earth would I choose to do something like that literally in the middle of one of the most heartbreaking days of my life? After everything that I (Scott, and the kiddos as well) had already endured over the last year and a half, to then find out that Evrett had such a rare brain condition to contend with was practically soul crushing. How overwhelming it was that morning to learn all that we did!! We really don’t know what the near future has in store for us, or our darling Bug. So why then, would I undertake an additional PROJECT?
Because that was exactly the time when happiness was most needed, and I was determined to cultivate it within myself.
I went about identifying my OWN “commandments”, as Gretchen calls them, which are (in my words) the rules that I choose to live by, that I feel reflect my authentic values, and will help guide me along the way. Some came directly from Gretchens’ own list, some are inspired by advice given to me by loved ones, and some are just from me. Thus far, they are:
1. Be Lacey. Meaning be true to my authentic self. So often, we spend such a great portion of our lives trying to be who we think we SHOULD be, or do what we think we SHOULD do. Nope, not anymore. I choose to BE. LACEY.
2. Find the Fun. I find myself too often focussing on what needs to be done, when is Evys’ next appt? What time does Lydia need to sleep next? Etc. I need to slow down, and relish in the goofiness of Cody, especially. I need to laugh, and play again.
3. Nurture what matters, forget the rest. I realize now that I cannot properly nurture tons of relationships, and give each one what they deserve, if there are too many things on the go. I choose to slow down, focus on WHAT and WHO matters, and put real effort in to them.
4. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all (this one speaks for itself. Thank you, Thumper ;))
5. Do good, feel good. The quickest way to change your emotions is to make a physical change. This is true!
6. Identify the Problem. This one was Gretchens’, and it is brilliant! Often if we break a big problem we are having down to the bare bones, we can pinpoint exactly what the one root issue is. We identify it, and then we can actually solve it. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak.
7. Emulate Minimalism. As Gretchen says, “outer order = inner peace”. Clutter has alllllways added more fuel to my anxiety. It may seem tough to adopt a more minimalist type of lifestyle with 3 kids, and a husband who prefers to keep almost everything, but day by day, I am getting down to the minimum. I know that it’s not feasible for me to become a pure & total minimalist, but damnit I can get close. And WOW, is my house ever becoming so much more manageable!
8. Do what ought to be done (& when something feels daunting, break it down)
9. Breath & Hug Bug. This one came from a dear friends’ mother, who feels like a family member of my very own! When I am flooded with feelings of sadness about Evy, and bombarded with thoughts of “what if”, I vow to take a deep breath, and go hug that sweet angel.
10. The Only Way Out is Through. I cannot reason my emotions away, I cannot squash them down or attribute too much merit to them, either. I need to experience them, acknowledge them, and let them pass. I need to work THROUGH them, sort of like a labor contraction, ha!!
I then took a look at the different areas of my life (marriage, parenting, friendships, family, career, physical health, financial health, emotional health, etc.) and took inventory of how I felt in each category (this part of the process came from health/fitness/bussinesswoman Chalene Johnson). I went about brainstorming ways to improve each category, and used that list to begin creating my February resolutions. I chose 5, as it seemed a manageable amount to track daily, each one of them from a different category, and made my first “resolution chart”. February’s resolutions are:
*track & spend frugally (too often we lose track of where our dollars are going to, this will help us be more mindful of how we spend our $$$ and adjust as necessary)
*hug Cody (after school, before school, when he wakes up, when he comes upstairs, anytime!)
*Give proofs of love (this one came from Gretchen. I am taking the time to show Scott every day that he is loved)
*give 1 thing away (every day, I give one thing away to someone else who needs it more than I do)
*no nagging & refrain from useless questions (when did I start this? It must have been years ago, because it is a deeply ingrained habit now. I might ask Scott repeatedly to get Lydia dressed-nag nag nag-and then when I see she isn’t dressed a few minutes later, I say something like “well? did you get her dressed yet?…clearly he didn’t, why did I have to ask something so pointless?! Both hilarious and exasperating of me!! Funny how when you become mindful of something, you notice how very often you do it. Sorry, Scott. Ha!!)
I’m so much more mindful of these things now that I am tracking them daily. Although there are “x”‘s as well as checkmarks, I am making progress, I am growing. And growth is an essential component of happiness.
Gretchen, and her sister Elizabeth, also have a Podcast called “Happier”, and that is chalk full of what I affectionately call “happiness rules” that I implement to add even more joy to my daily life! Here are some favorties:
*the 1 min rule–if something can be done in under 1 minute, don’t put it off. Do it now!
*leaving on a high note–don’t wait for things to go sour before you end a visit. For example, saying “well the kids are still happy, let’s stay a bit longer”. Until they get overtired and we have to drag them out? No! End a good visit on a high note!
*Do something for your future self–reframe mundane things, such as doing the dishes, by telling yourself that you are actually doing something nice for your future self! It feels much better doing it for that reason than simply because, to your utter annoyance, someone else hasn’t touched them.
*finally one of my favorites–remember love. Remember Love refers to the fact that the vast majority of the time, people don’t want to cause you pain or sadness. They do what they do, and say what they say, from a place of love. This has helped me immensely, as I navigate different conversations about Evrett. Things are still so new to us, we are still waiting on a firm diagnosis, and conversations about it can be very tough for both Scott and myself. I find myself often thinking things like: “why would he/she say that? Don’t they know how serious this is?!!”, or “I wish he/she wouldn’t have said that, now I’m afraid it’s even more serious than I realize”, or “you think he/she could have showed some concern”, or “geez, doesn’t he/she know it would be easier not to talk about it?”. I gravitate towards different responses (in my head, of course) depending on the circumstances of the day, and how I am feeling emotionally. Well, how is ANYONE supposed to know how I am feeling emotionally at that given moment in time? Are they mind readers? Nope! Would I feel better if no one reached out? Nope, I’d feel worse! So, why should I feel anger, or resentment, or sadness, etc at what they say or don’t say, or how they say it? Are they trying to say anything to upset me? %99 of the time that answer is no. REMEMBER LOVE. And just like that, my feelings wash away. Thank you Gretchen, for that happiness tip.
In the midst of this uncertain time on Evy’s journey, and amidst the craziness of everyday life, I am creating pockets of happiness. I am playing board games with our family weekly, hugging my babies so much more, reveling in the beauty of breastfeeding my last baby, realizing that I do indeed have collections that I care about (books, mugs, tea) and am mindful of growing those, reading more (I LOVE to read!), dedicating more time to exercise & clean eating, spending time with friends who truly matter, singing to my babies every morning, reading with Cody every night, reorganizing & decluttering 1 thing at a time, enjoying this blog immensely, and even going to write my own book (Lulu.com!).
Are all of my tiny tweaks & changes making me happier? YES. I still feel the unsettling emotions that naturally come in waves when you are waiting on a big diagnosis for one of your own children, but those emotions pass, and a sense of underlying & secure happiness prevails. Like a steady ship taking me through a storm.
That is why I say, with all of my heart, thank you for the work you do Gretchen Rubin. The world needs more people like you!!