I have written a little about why I’m embarking on this happiness project. But I believe there are other reasons as well. At the most basic level, I’m simply interested in ideas of self-improvement. In college, I majored in Communication Studies, though I have been told that I missed my calling and should have majored in Psychology. Many areas of both courses of study overlap, especially psychology and the non-verbal communication area of Communication Studies, which was my concentration within that discipline.
Anyway, since starting this project and since stating my purpose, I have thought more about it. I think partly, I am doing this as a form of control. I don’t exactly know how to handle my current health issues since I have not had any on-going issue up until now. And so much of it is out of my control. It tends to make me a little anxious, to say the least. This project is one way of turning this whole thing around into a positive thing.
Imagine my surprise and somewhat delight in finding that I’m not the only one who does this. Gretchen Rubin also discusses this idea of control in regards to her happiness project. “[My husband] told me what he thought. ‘I think this happiness project is all about you trying to get more control over your life,’ he said. Was that true? Perhaps. The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness—a better predictor of happiness than, say, income. Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happens in your life or how you spend your time, is crucial. Identifying and following my resolutions has made me feel far more in control of my time, my body, my actions, my surroundings, and even my thoughts. Getting control over my life was definitely an aspect of my happiness project, and a greater feeling of control gave me a major boost in happiness.”
I don’t know if this project really makes me feel more in control of my health situation, but it definitely puts a positive spin on it. If it weren’t for the issues I’ve been having, I might not have started on the path to reading uplifting, happiness books, and therefore, might not have started my own project. And simply working on the project makes me happy and gives me something else to think about. That’s always a good thing.
A part of my control issue is the thought that everything has to be just so. I wouldn’t say “perfect” because I know that nothing ever is, universally speaking. However, in my world, when something is out of place, it makes me uneasy. And an on-going health issue definitely makes me uneasy because it is something I cannot control at all, no matter how I might try. Rubin states, “I remember reading that the Shakers deliberately introduced a mistake into the things they made, to show that man shouldn’t aspire to the perfection of God. Flawed can be more perfect than perfection.” This statement reminds me of something I once wrote about—wabi-sabi. While I originally attributed this Japanese art to my planner, it can obviously be attributed to life as well, which is, I’m sure, more of the original intension on the part of the Japanese (and not planners, if you can imagine such a thing).
It’s true. I shouldn’t focus on the fact that my life is no longer health “perfect.” I need to accept what is, especially since I cannot control it, do what I can and need to do to make the best of it, and move on in life. I may not be the picture of health but I’m far from being an invalid, and my current experiences can be a learning lesson in so many ways. This happiness project is indeed a learning lesson for me, a reminder to take time out of my (sometimes ridiculously) busy schedule to stop and smell the roses.
I recently read a book called This Is Not the Life I Ordered, authored by four different people. One of the authors discusses how her husband’s illness changed their lives, hers in a specific way. “Before…illness, I was quite an impatient person, always pushing and striving to make things happen as quickly and succinctly as possible. Surrounded by to-do lists and calendars and planners, I believed that I could control and manage everything that life threw my way. I’ve learned now that control is an illusion and that patience is the virtue your mother always told you it was. The things we think we have control over in life often have a sneaky way of showing us our lack of control. For, in just one moment, entire lives can change forever.” I know this is true from my past and my father’s illness but I tend to lose sight of that because at the time, I didn’t realize it until it was too late. For myself, I’m in the position of being able to recognize it and appreciate it before it happens. And while I will never give up my planner or my lists, I need to remember to use them only as organization tools, rather than striving to control my life with them.
If for no other reason, this project is very important for me to do. I am very hopeful that it will allow me to accept what is, let it go, and move on in life with the positivity that I should have had from the beginning.