Thursday, January 28, 2010


I wonder why I'm happy.

Is it something in the water?
Is it something I'm doing?
Have teachers just been particularly kind?
Has the harsh Nebraska winter lightened its oppressive thumb?

I seem to live in a state of metacognition. That is, as I learned last semester, "thinking about your thinking." I can't just be happy and enjoy it, I want to know why. In a way this leaves me in a constant state of anxiety in one form or another. When life deals lumps of coal and wet socks, I struggle. When the sun shines at a wonderful 73 degrees and people smile for no reason at all, I still struggle, because I hesitate to accept this joy and instead wonder: How long is this really going to last?

The other day I sat writing about this at the Mill. Coffeeshops provide safe places for me. For some reason I can think less and relax more, and as I did, I realized, I'm happy. Then about two minutes later: Oh no, what does this mean?

I imagine this means, that on some level, I believe that life always needs to be difficult. When life runs smoothly, I cautiously await the next blow. Life is supposed to be hard, tumultuous, and bumpy. Right?

Each time I exited my gate, stepping onto the buys streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I braced myself for the pain. I expected stares. I expected cat calls. I expected to be swiped by a passing motor bike. I expected to be humiliated. And when I wasn't, I expected they (them, those people) were just saving the ridicule for tomorrow. So I protected myself from all possible pain by anticipating the next blow. That way I wasn't surprised or crumbled by it. Back on this side of the globe, my defenses have been less necessary, yet I remember the expectation of difficulty. I wonder if it's necessary or habit.

Happiness is a hard thing for me to accept. I've spent a too-large chunk of my life labeling happy people as ignorant, and the relaxed as lazy. That's not fair. That's not even true. Today, a friend said, "Oh, you're so healthy and balanced." To which I replied, "Huh?" I may talk more about my health, but this girl has friends falling out of her socks at night. She's friendly and social, adaptable and carefree. I may be balanced in one area, but then, that's not really balance at all.

Eighty days from now I will have the most ripped abs and hardcore biceps you've ever seen. Well, that's what the makers of P90X tell me. Seeking a new exercise regimen, I decided to give this program a try. The premise for the work-out involves 90 days of plyometrics, yoga, kenpo martial arts, and upper and lower body strength training. Following phases of 4 week periods, a preferred diet plan comes along with it. For the most part, I'm avoiding the diet plan part, just because I don't need the added confusion. But oddly enough, I feel like P90X has made me slightly happier.

Too often I try to make-up my own definition of "health" and this program has given me a baseline of what other people are doing. Turns out, I've been enduring too much cardio and eating way too many fruits and vegetables. My wise friend Sierra recently helped me see I'm not eating balanced meals. I have a bad habit of eating so that I'm always a little bit hungry. I'll eat all fruit, then all vegetables, then all carbs, then all proteins. It's more a process of getting through the day then any sort of enjoyment of my food. So with her help and this program, I'm learning another way to look at health.

Last semester I woke up at 5am several days a week to attend a kick-butt work-out class that I really enjoyed. But this semester, I thought to myself: What if I didn't wake up that early? What if I got a good work-out at a more reasonable hour? I've been getting more sleep. This makes me happy.

Operating a B level does not come naturally to me. I actually have to remind myself to ease up a bit when approaching deadlines seem to threaten my sanity. I can say: "Making this deadline with A level performance won't actually matter that much in the grand scheme of my life. I'm going to make time for that yoga class."

Lastly, counseling may help contribute to my happiness. Lynn, my new counselor, points out things that someone in my direct friend or family circle could not. Like, "Wow, you exercise a lot. Have you ever thought about cutting back a bit?" Also, as I realized tonight, I can say things to her, that I couldn't say to someone else without offending them. Such as, "I'm afraid to lose control. I hate that I wear a size ___jeans" (Now the only reason I left out the size of my jeans is that I know, some people are reading this looking to validated by that number) .What was most meaningful for me in saying that to her was, I know a friend would instantly think, Well, what's she saying about me? But as a counselor, this is not a friendship. I don't have to be overly concerned with her feelings. This is more of a business deal really. It's less about emotions than it is about gaining tools for life. I'm paying her to help me sort our life.

I told Lynn, "I realized recently, I'm happy."

"Why is that?"

"For right now, life just seems doable."


sabrina said...

my dear Heather, you do not have idea how much I admire you. Keep trying...This week I have been praying for you. Thank you for sharing our humanity...sometimes people seem to be too heroes for me!!! You are a blessing...
sabrina Quadros