The icing on the cake: What I’ve learned after the first month of my happiness project

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So .. it’s been a month since I officially began my own ‘Happiness Project’. What is a happiness project, you ask? Well, tbh I’m still kind of figuring it out. It was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s own book ‘The Happiness Project’ and for me, it’s basically a year long project dedicated to discovering what things really, truly make me happy and how I can restructure my life to include more of those things. It’s also dedicated to figuring out what types of things I might THINK make me happy, but in fact really do not.

Ultimately my happiness project is teaching me to be more mindful.

Each month I’m trying to focus on one or two specific areas and dedicate my time and energy to discovering ways to amplify my overall happiness in these areas. February was dedicated to friendships, relationships and self-love. (March is dedicated to moving forward and letting go. I’ll write more on that later, but March is set up to be a pretty transformative month.)

For February, I wanted to really focus on the people and relationships (including my own) in my life who really are so key to my overall happiness. I know that for me at least, it’s ridiculously easy to get focused on lack, especially on the tail end of a heart break. ESPECIALLY when almost every couple in February seems hell bent on reminding everyone that they’re in a relationship and it is beautiful and omg all the love. Which .. yes I am happy for them! For sure! I want real happiness and love for everyone!

However, when romantic love isn’t in the cards at the moment for oneself, February can kind of be a raw deal.

This year, because I really spent my mental energy focused on friendships and all the love I do already have it wasn’t so bad. Right around Valentines, I went to Mexico with a girlfriend of mine who is somewhat close, but we wanted to get even closer. She’s the exact opposite of me in so many ways. She’s a decade younger from a very wealthy family. She doesn’t drink and she very rarely dates (even though she’s stunning). We had a very low key trip. Massages and beach reading and leisurely days. In Dallas, I tend to go out and close down the bars, especially if I don’t have to work the next day. What I found on the trip, however, was that though I did drink, I never drank to excess. I even woke up early and worked out every day. Fascinating. Was it the surroundings? Maybe. But I also think it was the influence.

There’s this wildly popular quote from Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you most associate with.” So. True. This has been hard advice for me to swallow in the past .. probably because it sounds almost like you have to judge people, judge their influence. But I’ve come to realize just how true it is, especially for me. I’m definitely influenced by those in my life. And while I seek to love everyone right where they’re at, I have learned that boundaries are KEY for me in certain friendships. Doesn’t mean I don’t love them or that we can’t be friends. Simply means I have to guard my time with them and potentially limit their influence.

So that’s just one of the things I really finally understood during my month focused on friendships and relationships. To increase time with those that are good influences and build me up and to guard my time with those who might not be the best influences. But that was just the beginning.

I also learned that I seem to have severe ADD when it comes to habits and being mindful. I tried my hand at a few habits that I wanted to focus on, then I went to Mexico and when I got back I’d totally forgotten about them. I had to start them ALL over again.

I learned that being ‘mindful’ takes practice. It really does. And a LOT of it.

I learned that I actually do better if I have a calorie counter. It can’t rule my life but it helps me be more mindful of my intake. So long as I don’t try to restrict myself too much by setting a ridiculously low daily calorie goal then I seem to do ok.

I’ve learned that to be a better friend, I really need to take better care of myself. I want to be generous with my time and my spirit but if I’m wearing myself too thin, there’s not much left of me to offer.

I learned to accept my friends as they are and to allow them to flow in and out of my life as they like. Each friend has a place in my life. Some are closer than others. Some I see almost every week, talk to almost every day. Some I have to reach out to and actively set up time to see them. I’ve learned (and I think losing my friend Ray last year taught me this) that it’s important to reach out to people even if they don’t seem as eager to see you. If someone means something to you, you tell them. It matters not how they rank you among their friends, if you’re their favorite or even if they are as close to you as you are to them. It only matters that you care about them. Let them be what they are, enjoy them for what they are, seek to deepen them if the moment arises but if not, just enjoy their presence for what it is.

I learned that just because you set an intention to draw closer to your friends and work on showing them how much they mean, that you can still miss the mark. My best friend and I had kind of a rough day the other day. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of weeks and I think we were both detaching. That may not seem like that long of a hiatus between seeing each other BUT we started having a weekly girls night a couple of years ago and I think we both got really addicted to getting to see each other every week. Her job is an intense one and so recently it’s gotten a bit harder to make it a weekly occurrence, though we keep trying.

Then I went on vacation and needless to say the distance between seemed to be growing. It’s funny, she and I both know when it’s happening but it’s hard for us to say it sometimes. It eventually bubbled up and I realized I was feeling kind of hurt (not realizing that she was also feeling the distance and feeling hurt herself). I’d started to feel like a burden and worried that girls night might be too much for her so I suggested we stop doing girls night for a bit (which … if you’re trying to grow closer to your friends, canceling a weekly night you guys hang out is like the WORST idea just FYI). This lead to her feeling hurt and then to us having a really deep conversation about how sometimes people drift apart. And that’s where our real issue was … we were fearful maybe it could happen to us. Life could get too busy, our distance could grow too wide and we just might lose each other.

It really is easy you know? To lose someone. To lose a friend who’s been close. To lose a lover to apathy. If you aren’t mindful, you aren’t present with the people that matter, you can lose them. And what also hit me? Yes, getting your heart broken by someone you loved is bad. But losing your person? Losing the one human who’s seen you through all your transformations, all the ups and downs? Well, that’s a heartache I don’t know that I could survive. I would, but my life would be so much less if my best friend wasn’t in it as deeply.

Needless to say we decided to keep girls nights and try and increase our time together through ladies lunches. She and I have some big goals and vision for our lives. And we both know how important we are to each other, how pivotal for our growth. And that, again, is the best lesson from focusing on friendships. No, I don’t have a male love interest and right now, that’s 100% ok. I do have a deep deep soul friend that’s been tested through the years. I have my person.

I guess it’s kind of like that scene in Sex and the City, where all the girls are sitting at a diner and Carrie is lamenting about being another year older and still alone, looking for her soul mate. Then Charlotte says,

“Maybe we can be each others soul mates. And then we can let men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with.”

So true Charlotte. So true. This February I celebrated all of my friends. Those that are close and those that might be growing close. And I realized I’m a lucky girl to really have found my soul mate and chosen sister.

Whatever friendships or relationships I am lucky enough to have beyond that really are just icing on the cake.

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