I woke up Friday morning to a text from a dear friend, in which she said “…you seem to be your happiest and healthiest right now…” . Given the heaviness of adjusting to the possible diagnoses thus far for Evy, as well as the life-changing traumas we have faced since the end of 2016, a text (or voicemail, email, or any kind of contact with others!) as purely uplifting as this is not something I’m accustomed to any more…and quite frankly, it took me by surprise!
You know what though? She was RIGHT. She was BANG. ON. It was as if she lifted a heavy, dark drape to reveal a radiant ray of light.
You might be wondering (as I did!) how it is possible that at such a trying time of life, I am also somehow at my happiest?? Well, I’m not exactly sure how to put it in to words…Do I feel happy every day? No. But am I happy every day, with the life that Scott & I have made together? You bet. Do I ever feel happy that Evretts brain works differently from ours, because of a rare disease? Absolutely not. Am I happy, though, that we have been blessed with this absolutely exceptional little human? HELL YES.
Nonetheless, this HAS been the hardest year & a half of my life; there have been many other periods of time when things were easier, and chalk-full of joy….so…why am I at my HAPPIEST right NOW???
What an odd paradox indeed…I began to mull it around…
All 3 of our children bring me such joy, in their own ways: Evrett with his supreme gentleness & encouraging progress; Lydia with her strong abilities & cackles of joy (yes, I said cackles!!); and Cody with his tenacious yet extremely kind nature. Evy had his first big-boy sleepover away from home on Friday night at my best friends house-Auntie “Jo”. (Of course she’s not his aunt by blood, as I have no siblings, but that girl is my sister. I love & appreciate her more than words could ever say. She and I are so very different in many ways, but yet oddly the same. I love her for that! She isn’t afraid to tell me when she thinks I’m a bit [or a LOT] off-the-wall, which is a quality you don’t often find in a friend. She is there to be goofy with me like we are 11 years old again painting our nails [likely getting a bit high from the cheap nail-polish fumes in the 30 degree summer heat!], or drink wine with me [because we are, in reality, 2 over-done mamas, who are tired of “adulting” for that given week], cry with me, or listen to my venting. Anything. She is there for it ALL. And I have had the privilege of having her as my “BFF” since we were 7 & 8 years old, WOW. Honestly, how blessed am I?! Ok….mushy side note over, ha!!) Neither Jo or I were sure how little Bug would do that night….would he fall asleep ok? Moreover, would he stay asleep ok, and not wake up screaming (as he does even at home sometimes!)? Cody had dropped the sippy cup, so Evy didn’t have his usual cup (which is the only cup he can successfully drink from, so far), how would he stay hydrated? Etc etc etc. Not too different from the questions almost every mother asks the first night she hands her child over to someone else for a sleepover….only in Bugs case, he cannot verbally articulate what he is missing, or what he needs. But for us, there would be no better person with whom to take that first big-boy-sleepover step than his Auntie Jo.
I think that both Jo & I were pretty unsure of how that night would play out…but he did BEAUTIFULLY!! He had a great time time, a pretty darn good sleep, AND he even learned to drink from a big-boy cup!!!! Something I had been attempting for MONTHS with not much success. But for his Auntie, he actually took held the cup with his own 2 hands, and successfully took sips!! YAY BUG!!!!!! (Of course, the moment he got home, he refused our regular cups & went straight to the cupboard to get his regular sippy cups. Little bugger! But hey, I’ll take whatever progress I can get. At least I know that he can physically accomplish it!!). Just now, he also successfully opened doors for the first time ever! As if this progress wasn’t exciting enough, he has been attempting more verbal communication than EVER since Fridays’ sleepover, !!!! (Look out Auntie Jo, if you keep helping him this much with his development, you’re gonna find yourself with a weekly Friday night sleepover buddy!!) I still don’t understand everything he is trying to say, but the point is that he is at least TRYING to say it at all!! Very different than ever before.
Hold the phone…we all know that it is easy to feel happy when things are going well…but not so easy when things are tough. So it may be natural to assume that my feelings of happiness are circumstantial…however, I know that this new exciting stage Evy has entered since spending the night at Auntie Jo’s is not the root cause of my being so happy. How, you may ask? Well, that’s easy: because it hadn’t yet happened. My girlfriend (let’s call her “E” for privacy purposes) texted me early Friday morning, and Bug didn’t even have the sleepover with Auntie Jo until that night. And yet I still knew in my heart that “E” right; I was at my happiest, even before all these new advances. So….once again, this brings us full circle to the question of why I am at my happiest point in life (thus far) right now??
Is it because we now have Lydia, who really feels like she completes our wonderful family unit? She is so strong, bright, opinionated, independent and demanding, ha!! She is everything we could have ever hoped for in a daughter. Or, is it because Cody is growing in to such a wonderful young man? He & I love to read his Dragon Masters chapter books together each night before bed, his love for his baby sister & brother is enough to make any heart melt, and he still possesses his high-pitched squeal of delight when he’s really having a great time (which reminds me of when he was just a wee little dude). He is everything we had ever hoped for in a 1st son. All 3 of our angels, with their different challenges and personalities, are everything we could have ever hoped for, so naturally, they contribute beyond words to our happiness. They are my lifes purpose (which is another insight that my friend “E” pointed out in her text Friday morning…this girl is amazing!).
As wonderful as all 3 kiddos are, they are also the source of much…how do I put this kindly…stress (Says every parent. EVER!) They are sometimes even the reason that I feel unhappy in a given moment; such as when Cody gives me that look that makes me feel like we need to find an exorcist asap! Or Lydia screams bloody murder simply because I forgot to hand her the beloved hairbrush she adores while I try to change her tushy…or Evy cries at the top of his lungs because I turned the water taps off. Ha!!! So, yes, they monumentally add to my happiness level, but I know there is even more to it than that.
I continued pondering why I am at my happiest throughout the weekend….and “By Jove, I think I’ve got it!”: It’s all in the little things.
The “little things” always mattered more to me than the “big things”. I remember telling Scott when we were dating, and approaching our 1st Valentines Day, that I didn’t want us to do anything special that day because the little things we did every day mattered more to me than some random occasion. (Some people LOVE V-day, and good for them!! I speak only of my own self here). It was true a decade ago for me, and it is even more true now. And somehow, without even being conscious of it, I began slowly altering seemingly minuscule details of my daily life.
These baby steps added up to huge changes in me.
My identity has evolved.
It began many months ago, probably around September, when I cut my very long hair off in to a short bob and dyed it blonde. (Just to be clear, I didn’t do it, my stylist did 😉 Had I ever attempted something like that, eeeesh, what a disaster it would have been!). I remember thinking that I no longer cared to spend so much time doing my hair every morning with 3 littles around….but that I still wanted to feel good, to feel put-together most of the time. Within a couple of hours, the appt was made, and the next week the hair was chopped. “Big deal, it’s just HAIR”, some may scoff. But little did I know that chop sparked the beginning of my being happy in my own skin. I began being very mindful of what moments added to my joy in my daily routine and in my life as a whole, and which brought frustration or negativity.
What kinds of details am I babbling about? Well, for instance: I noticed what a treat it was to wake up to a close-to sparkling clean kitchen (I have 3 kids, so let’s face it, it’s never totally sparkling, ha!!), so I made it a habit every night to clean it up, no matter how much I don’t feel like it. (Scott also helps with this, it’s not always me 😉 ). I noticed how much any external clutter suffocated me, and cluttered up my mind, so I began giving away 1 thing every day. I did this for well over a month, and still do whenever I come across an item that has lost its usefulness in our home. This meant less waste in our home, and also contributed to others’ happiness. According to author Gretchen Rubin, one “secret of adulthood” is that: “one of the best ways to be happy is to make OTHER people happy”. Although I didn’t donate these items simply to glean joy, it is a welcomed side-effect, I must admit! I noticed which objects in our home brought me joy, and which carried a negative energy; and I set about getting rid of or replacing almost every object that did NOT bring about feelings of joy. For example: if a picture on our wall reminded me of worrying about losing Lydia during the pregnancy, it was switched. If the mess of papers disorderly pinned to the unattractive bulletin board made my head feel cluttered, I used a different solution (which happens to be a stylish file box with hanging files in it on the corner of our counter). If the bowl of fruit taking up counter space, and space in my mind, was undesired, I ordered a hanging basket for the wall instead in order to keep our counter tops, and consequently my mind, clear. I had an old jewelry box that no longer suited my style, and no good place to keep it, so I ordered one that fits neatly in a shelf in our closet and reflects my personality moreso (and of course, I am donating the older one). You see what I mean? Not major changes– it’s not as if I said “I don’t enjoy this couch anymore” and wastefully switched it out for a new one; none of these changes required much money, they simply required my mindfulness, attention and creativity to change.
I also became mindful of how things could function better, how my days could go more smoothly, so that my energy and time could go more towards the little ones. Spending countless extra minutes each day attempting to round up various clothing items from around the house and put them in their proper laundry hampers felt like a waste; so instead, now when a dirty item is left out, I put it straight in to the washing machine bin and leave it there until more items accumulate. Then, I simply close the lid and hit <start>. I didn’t enjoy the hassle of finding an outfit that “worked” every day, I have enough decisions to make as it is!! In order to save my mind-power for the things that truly matter, I spent some time creating what is known as a “capsule wardrobe”, and I’m so pumped about that! For those who don’t know, I’ll give a brief definition: a capsule wardrobe is either changed according to season, or is a straight-forward yearly one, with a set amount of items in it that ALL go together. Everything can be mixed & matched to create over a hundred outfits! You do not buy anything new until another item is worn out: living according to a 1-in, 1-out rule. It eliminates the thought of “ugh, what do I wear today?”, or “does this still fit me right?”, etc. More on this in another blog post, but I had to at least mention it! It always irked me that I didn’t have a proper way to store my 2 purses and 2 scarves, so I ordered specific hangers for them from Amazon, $3 each, and now they hang as they should, and I don’t risk damaging them. I dislike scrubbing our bathrooms when they get all scuzzy!! Yuck!! So, I ordered 1 extra Norwex Bathroom Mitt (for those who don’t know, it requires no chemicals, only water), and now keep 1 upstairs & 1 downstairs; I simply wipe down the showers and sinks every few days. It takes maybe an extra 1 min of my time as I wash up at night, as opposed to 15-20 mins of scrubbing each weekend. I dislike the feeling that with me being a SAHM that I am not doing enough to save for our future. So, I made a piggy-bank out of a jar (that’s right mom, I kept your jar!!) and put it in a highly secure location (Ha!!!); each day I empty our spare change in to that. I’m not sure what I intend to use it for, but just the feeling that I am doing small bits each day adds up and gives me a more secure feeling. Meal planning is NOT my forté, so instead of allowing feelings of inadequacy in that department creep in and pollute my mind every darn day, I got a magnetic board for our fridge and I plan each weeks suppers in advance. I also coordinated our grocery lists on an app called “Google Keep”–for anyone who hasn’t heard of that, it’s similar to a google doc: it is an online place for Scott and I each to add an item we need the exact moment we think of it…because honestly, how many times do you think “oh crap, we’re out of eggs! Oh well, I’ll add that to the list later…” and then you forget, OR YOU remember, but your S.O. doesn’t have the updated list so he/she misses it!! Seriously, those tiny details can be such a buzz kill. With Google Keep, we each always have the updated lists at any given time. Oh!!! AAAND we can tick off the items as we shop, so we don’t forget anything. BOOM! DONE!!
I was mindful of, and made changes to, likely about 25 more things than the ones I mentioned in this post, but I think you get the gist by now, ha!!
Would making all of these small alterations make everyone feel happier? Definitely not. In fact, I know so many people that doing these things would drive them absolutely BONKERS!!!! It would seem tedious, pointless, and maybe even exasperating!! But as I know now, the best way to be truly happy is to BE LACEY. These changes mean: more decision-making power to research & try out new things with Evrett; less snapping at poor Scott (unless he actually deserves it , lol. Love you sweetie!); more time to PLAY with my kidlets; time for the relationships that matter; time for personal growth; time to phone my momma just to chat; time to read; time to write this blog (which I seriously love doing!!); and allows me a general sense of calm deep in my soul that I have honestly never felt before in life. As you can see, for myself, and for our family, these many tiny changes have added up to some MAJOR boosts in our happiness!
Another secret of adulthood, as Gretchen Rubin says, is that “the best way to make others happy, is to be happy yourself”
It’s all in the little things