Why I believe now more than ever you need to make time to do more of what makes you happy.
I’ll be the first to admit this pandemic is wearing on me.
As is the polarizing political climate. I find myself overcome with a heaviness that makes it difficult to see the inspiration in life. So much negativity in the news. So much divisiveness and destruction of our democracy. As the president pontificates that we’ll lose all of our freedoms if his opponent is elected, I honestly feel the least free I have in my entire life.
While I realize I’m incredibly lucky to not be suffering the financial and health challenges many are facing, I am struggling with not being able to do so many of the things I want to do.
Visiting my parents, siblings, and adult children has been put on hold because we all live in different states. My personal comfort level, and my sense of responsibility to help stop the unnecessary spread of this virus, prevent me from traveling to see them. I deeply miss them all.
While we saw our daughter and son-in-law last Christmas, it’s been over year since we’ve seen our son and his girlfriend. We had hoped to visit them this summer, and to help them celebrate their engagement, but chose to cancel those plans when the pandemic hit.
While I’m able to chat with my parents via FaceTime, I had hoped to visit them again this past spring. I worry if this pandemic stretches on too long, I may not see them in person again.
When we made the decision to relocate across the country, leaving my parents in their twilight years was my biggest concern. I overcame it with the help of some perspective from my siblings, and the knowledge I could jump on a plane to go see them at any time. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a time that would not be possible.
My dogs haven’t been able to do their job (pet-provided therapy) since the beginning of March, something I can tell they miss. I too miss the sense of purpose and connection our volunteer work provided.
My husband and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary last Saturday, and even a night out for dinner at our favorite restaurant was not possible–the restaurant is only open for take out Monday through Friday. We settled for takeout a day early, eaten at home. I’m grateful we were able to celebrate, but it was one more reminder of all that’s been taken away.
We don’t get to see our friends, except for socially distant outdoor walks or short visits.
I even have to think twice about running what would once have been routine errands, asking myself is it really necessary? Is it worth the risk?
Lest I sound like I’m whining, let me say I know how lucky I am.
I can’t imagine the struggles of those who have lost loved ones, are sick themselves, have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and are wondering if they’ll have a place to live or be able to pay for even the basic necessities.
While I’m fortunate that I work because I choose to, it’s also my creative outlet. After spending the first five months of the pandemic working a lot more than usual–a great distraction from the chaos I couldn’t control–I now find myself unable to work. The online course I was inspired to begin creating in July quickly lost its attraction as the political chaos heated up and it became clear the pandemic was not going away anytime soon.
Suddenly, my work began to feel tone deaf.
How can I teach about following your dreams and designing a life and business you love when so many are just trying to keep their heads above water? Just trying to get through the day, week, or month? Dreams are nice, but right now it feels like it’s more about just hanging on.
I’m also very clear I do not have all the answers.
I too am struggling to stay positive. I’m finding myself feeling angry and disillusioned. Normally not a political person, I’m unfriending Facebook acquaintances who post angry rants and articles that oppose my views. I’ve always believed we all have a right to our opinion and we don’t have to agree, but quite honestly it’s come down to protecting my psyche. The news is more than I can stomach most days. So the angry discord from “friends” is something I’m choosing to say no to.
I hate that I feel angry and judgmental. It’s not who I want to be. I don’t think it’s who most of us want to be, yet it’s what I see being fostered each and every day. It saddens me deeply. We’re better than this.
While I don’t have any magic solution for all that’s going on, I have found one thing that helps me tolerate it: taking the time to do more of what makes me happy.
Years ago I bought this little sign to remind myself that working all the time wasn’t healthy. That I needed to make time in my life for all the things I enjoy. Now I’m using it to remind myself that happiness is where you find it. It’s a choice. It’s something we can cultivate, even in the most challenging times.
So, instead of allowing myself to get swallowed up by anger and frustration, I’m making an effort to do things I enjoy several times a week, and daily if possible.
One of those things is hiking.
It’s also something we haven’t done nearly enough of since we got here two years ago. After spending the first year remodeling our home, missing the 2019 fall hiking season due to a family emergency that took me away for a month, and sheltering in place for most of this past spring, I realized we weren’t doing what we came here to do.
We weren’t doing the one activity that fuels my soul.
So, several weeks ago I told my husband we were going to start hiking and biking every week. We were going to set work aside and commit to spending one or two weekdays (the weekends are too crowded) out in nature.
And in so doing I discovered something.
It’s an absolute necessity for my mental and emotional well being. It grounds me. It lifts my frustration and anger. It fuels my gratitude. It makes me happier.
No, I can’t solve the problems of the world.
And right now I’m not even sure I feel comfortable trying to teach people how to live the life of their dreams.
But what I can do is share what is working for me. What’s helping me navigate these challenging times. What’s keeping me sane in an increasingly insane world. And hope my sharing inspires others to look for their own light amidst the darkness.
I’d like to leave you with one piece of advice that I sincerely hope will help you if you’re struggling like I am right now.
Make an effort, regardless of your circumstances, to do more of what makes you happy every day.
That might mean picking up a hobby you’ve left behind. It may mean focusing on doing more of what you enjoy in your work. It may even be as simple as turning off the news and playing with your dog or your children, taking a walk, reading a book, or listening to music that makes you want to dance.
Whatever it is for you, I promise, if you make time for more of that in your life, it will lift your spirits. It’s not going to make the world’s problems go away, or even solve your own challenges and struggles, but it will make this time more bearable. It will focus you back on what you have to be grateful for. It will make you feel happier.
And maybe, just maybe, that happiness will spread and begin the healing our world, and we, so desperately need right now.