One thing I have to keep learning over and over again is that life will become what we fill it with.
Over the last few years my family is as busy as ever with three boys ages 10,12,14. We have a rising high school student, a middle schooler and one still in elementary school. We have sports most days of the week and my husband coaches most of their sports teams during the school year so he is always busy going from work to coaching and coordinating the games, practices, and parent questions.
Add in a few camping trips, weekend get aways, summer camps, and a vacation and our year is booked. It is mostly good stuff but the pace is exhausting.
There never seems to be enough time in the day, the week or the month to get our lawn looking like a plush green carpet, (we have an “organic lawn” otherwise called weed infested but we use limited chemicals). And it seems I cannot donate clothing, and games, toys and household item often enough or get rid of enough stuff to make a dent in the 19 years of stuff we have accumulated in our home. I need a month just to get rid of all the stuff that is mentally weighing us down. It is exhausting organizing stuff that has no place in our house any longer like the toddler toys, and outfits that no longer fit anyone (that stuff is in the attic), or the pile of shoes collecting dust in plastic bins in the back of the garage, I mean how many old pair of shoes do we really need to keep? Yes much of it is in the attic or shed but they are both overflowing with stuff. It sort of makes me sick.
All this stuff and all of the busyness makes me keep thinking about our life. I keep wondering, are we creating the life we want. Are we focusing on the right things, and teaching our kids how to find real satisfaction and contentment as they move into adulthood? Are we doing it wrong?
We don’t buy the newest xbox that comes out, we hold on to our old electronics. We try to value things for as long as we can. We buy new clothes, but we also will hit up a thrift store to look for newish treasures (outdoor furniture, a few shirts for the boys).
I’ll admit- our spending needs to come down, I have not been a good steward with our money. I try, but I always seem to go over what we should be spending. I need to hunker down the financial hatches and make better, more honest choices. It is hard work. But I know deep down, the excessive spending even if it is on things like food, and family outings, and even though we say no to plenty of other things, is part of what adds to our stress each month.
And once again I hear that little voice whispering to me- there is a better way. Things don’t matter, only people and how we love them and treat them does.
So fill your life up with the good things. The things that make you love your day and excited for tomorrow. Don’t put off making time for the things that matter like calling your best friend who lives across the country, or having your neighbors over for a cookout, or taking your son to search for shark teeth or fossils. Make the important things in your life the priority. Working to pay the bills, and cleaning your house are necessary, but they are not what life is about.
Life is meant to be about people, about relationships, about love, and about helping others. Don’t prioritize the things that won’t matter above the things that do matter.
We have to make space for the good things. The things that make us smile before we even know why. We have to make room for the things that make us laugh and put such joy in our hearts we can’t even stand it. It’s just so good.
I’m on vacation in Orlando with my family this week. We didn’t pick Orlando because we are going to wait in painfully long lines as we sweat through our clothes in the middle of a hot August day at Disney or Universal. We’ve been there and done that. We came to Orlando to relax. We usually pick a beach resort if we aren’t going to a theme park, but sometimes the boys tire of the beach as we go at home and there is less to do at some of the beach condos, so we decided to stay at a Hilton Grand Vacations near Sea World as it has lots of outdoor activities in and near the pool area.
We go to regroup as a family and spend time together without the pull of our home or home town. We got away so the only thing we could focus on was each other. We got away to leave the lawn, and weeds, the volunteering, and work back at home.
And wouldn’t you know it, we are in Florida during a week they are calling for up to a foot of rain during our stay. What??? How did we come to Florida one of the few weeks the sun hasn’t shined, and the temperatures are below 80 this morning. The grey skies make me think we are in Seattle or Chicago. But I have to remind myself, I’m not here for the sunshine. I live 20 minutes from a beach at home. I go to the beach every week or two and I already have a tan. I have to remind myself that I am here in Orlando to reconnect with my kids because we are spending 6 days together with no outings with friends, or soccer practices, or meetings. And when I remember that I tell myself, hey grey skies – We are still going to have a blast. We will still play at the pool and run around outside searching for new pokemon, and playing games even if it’s raining.
This is when it hits me. We have to Make Room for Happiness. Happiness will not just happen. We have to create happiness. We have to make time for happiness to happen. And we have to be willing to go through the stuff that pissed us off, or boils our blood and get it out the door. There will be lots of moments that our happiness is stolen by moments of our kids fighting, or being disrespectful to us, or a miscommunication with our husband, or the crazy number of activities we have to drive to in a single evening that will make us want to scream.
But if we keep focused on all the good things- our sweet babies (ok maybe my boys aren’t babies and are closer to men than babies now, but they are still my babies), and our friendships, and all we have, and all the opportunities in front of us, and just how blessed we are, and maybe even for ice cream, and caramelized onions, and a good slice of pizza. If we keep our focus on the love in our lives, and good people, and the things that are worth keeping, and we get rid of or do less of the other stuff- life just gets better and our happiness grows.
Room for Happiness
We have to be intentional with our time and remember to choose happiness. To choose our attitudes towards life, and towards the moments we find ourselves in. We can choose to see our life as a beautiful adventure and the moments that upset us as just moments and opportunities to take life a little less seriously- to remind ourselves that those moments aren’t really that big of a deal.
On our way down to Florida we booked a Hampton Inn right off of I-95 to crash for the night so we could get an early start and break up the trip since our middle son had a birthday party that night and we could not leave til 8:30pm. As we arrived at the hotel around 12:15am we were tired and ready to get to sleep. When my husband went to check in and we were given our key the manager told us they were basically sold out. All five of us grab what we need and head up the stairs to our room. Before I put my key in the door, I see the light is on and from the bottom edge of the curtain it seemed there were a few things in there. I would not go in. I was afraid someone was already in the room. I waited and told my husband my concern. He opened the door and fortunately there was not someone in the room, but it was not a pretty sight. The the beds were not made, there was an enormous wet vac in the room, and a fan on to dry out the room and stuff completely out of place. There was no way we could stay in the room. So we all piled back into our car and my husband went back to the front desk. He took a picture so she could see the state the room was currently in.
I was frustrated and tired. I just prayed they still had another room or a solution for us. Time was ticking by. Twenty more minutes passed and my husband is texting- what about a smoking room. Ugh. I said I’d try it if it was the only room available. I have gotten stuck in a smoking room for 3-4 nights before and the smell is just horrible. Fortunately after about 20 minutes I adjust and the smell doesn’t bother me as much as when I first walk in but the thought of making my whole family sleep in a room that reeks of smoke made my stomach turn, but it would be better than the car or some other options.
Fortunately after the security guard and my husband walked around the hotel to check a room or two, they found a non-smoking room. I was ecstatic. We quickly brought our necessary things up to the room and tried to get to bed. The manager, fortunately gave us back our points we used to book the room and gave us new points to make up for the whole situation. The situation started out terrible, but my husband stayed positive, and polite. And appreciative and it paid off in the end. The next morning the sweet manager even gave the boys bags of goodies on our way out of the hotel. Apparently two new employees did not change room numbers in the system when someone changed rooms, etc. So the manager had a mess of a situation going on that night, but she knew in the end that her customers satisfaction was of the utmost importance and she fixed the situation. We left impressed with how she handled the situation instead of upset with what happened. This is how we can decide in those messy moments, the moments when we are upset, or angry or want to cry that we can choose to see them as moments of inconvenience and keep a positive, loving attitude. We can choose to change the end of the story by writing a longer, happier chapter that doesn’t end with those moments that are ugly, or frustrating or make us upset. We have to show up in those messy moments and stop ending the chapter on a bad page and write a few more sentences to finish the page or chapter after we fix the bad moments or after we allow others to come to our rescue because one thing I’ve learned is if we are honest in our vulnerable, weak moments or we cannot do something on our own, good people will come to our rescue if well share our struggles and our stories- especially the messy, hard moments.
Here are 5 Ways to Make Room For Happiness in Your Life
1. Purge – Remove the Excess from your life
This may seem like a strange thought to add more happiness to your life but here is the thing- when we remove clutter, when we remove the excess of physical things from our homes, from our closets, and from our offices, we can create beautiful spaces to allow ourselves to breathe, and dream, to create and to think. When we remove the clutter, work or keeping our homes clean becomes less effort because we have less to tidy up, because we when remove the junk, not only do our spaces lighten up, but so do our thoughts. A cluttered space does create a cluttered mind. Sure we can work through a messy office, or a space with too much stuff but I have felt the weight of such spaces on me over time, and I have felt the difference when I freed myself of the stuff and could finally breathe.
Make a Plan to clean out and purge a different area of your house each week (month if you must). I promise life feels more hopeful when we only keep the things we love, the things that comfort us, and the things that we need. Get rid of the rest. It does nothing to add to your life or your happiness.
2. Spend time Praying and add in a Daily Devotional
Those quote sums it up perfectly by Saint Francis de Sales, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”
3. Begin to Change Your Internal Dialogue- Work on Thinking Positive Thoughts
I’m a pretty positive person. I normally see the good in people and in situations. I try to see all perspectives, or reasons for the way someone acted or how they respond to stimuli. Don’t get me wrong, I get upset, I get bothered by people and things that happen to me, my kids can frustrate me, but most days, and in most cases I stay positive. But we all have to work on keeping our thoughts and our attitude in check. I remember years ago having to train myself not to think worrisome thoughts on occasion. And even today, when something does get to me, I have to work hard to process the feelings, and work towards letting it go through acceptance and changing my thoughts.
We think mind over matter isn’t important but it is. What we think we become is true. Don’t allow fear, anxiety or anger to control your thoughts. You must work on a positive attitude. It is a learned skill. Sure some of us might have a cheerier disposition, but we all have to choose how we will process the circumstances of our day, of our life- what character do we want to play in our own story? Do we want to be the heroine, or the victim?
Will we choose to keep fighting, to show our kids we will try again tomorrow, and realize that at the end of the day- we are blessed beyond measure, and the troubles of our day are merely a moment of inconvenience, or frustration, but we will get by. If we have negative thoughts floating in our minds, we must slowly begin to tell ourselves different messages. It starts with catching ourselves, when we think negatively of ourselves, or others- it begins with saying, I am capable, I am strong, and I do love myself, when the only thoughts you keep hearing are I am not good enough, I look terrible, and this day sucks. You must stop those thoughts, and remember to be easy on yourself. It may take time, but you must begin to switch the negative internal thoughts and replace them with love.
4. Schedule a Time to Meet with a Friend Weekly
Talking and sharing what is going on in our lives is another way to relax, relieve some stress and feel connected to someone. Seriously we must live connected to others in order to truly live. We are social creatures and without friendship, without affection humans do not thrive. We have all heard of the babies who are not picked up or touched, have a failure to thrive, they are struggle to survive. Remember that- we need other people. We need hugs, and hand holding, and to share our story with someone. Don’t make excuses that you are too busy to meet your friend, or sit and talk with your husband, really your job, or whatever busyness you are filling your days with is not as important as human connection. Please make visiting with others a priority. Your happiness quota and health will both improve.
5. Get Outside and Bring the Outdoors In
We were meant to be in touch with nature- to feel the warmth of the sun on our shoulders, to feel the wind kiss our cheeks, to see the sun set as the sky is painted in reds, and oranges, purples and pinks. We were meant to watch the waves lap back and forth and feel the water tickle our toes. Taking a walk daily can have a big impact on your attitude and improve your health, not only physically but by lowering your stress levels. Nature has power- it moves the human soul. It calms the spirit. It is magical. A great way to bring some of that magic into out lives is to bring plants into our homes. And try diffusing essential oils- they are known to relive stress, improve our breathing, and so much more. Also, bring the fresh fruits in, especially those beautiful and aromatic citrus fruits- a bowl full of lemons and oranges brightens a room with nature’s sweets.