Two of the books I’ve been reading this month were by Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. I came to them in a roundabout fashion: the book I most wanted to read was her new one (Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives), but the library first didn’t have it in stock yet, and then, once it was available to put on hold, a bunch of people got their hold requests in before me. While looking it up I came across the other two books and decided to give them a try (I had heard of The Happiness Project before but knew very little about it).
I read Happier at Home first just because it arrived first at my branch. Reading the two of them in quick succession was interesting in itself. I particularly liked how she managed to get two books out of what was essentially one idea (some of her categories in the second book exactly mirrored those in the first, and some issues she struggled with in the first book returned in the second).
And yes, it’s a bit of a schtick, and it’s self-indulgent and earnest to a point that occasionally borders on the embarrassing, and some of the challenges she set for herself made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, but her books touched a nerve.
She sounded a lot like me, especially in the weaknesses she saw in herself as a mother and a wife, the perfectionist nature of her personality, her love for lists and charts and organization, and the way she feels about writing, reading and books.
Her books were a good kick in the ass, a reminder that this is my only life and it is up to me to chart my course through it in a way that makes me happy.
I won’t sugarcoat it: I’ve been pretty miserable lately.
E. is going through (another) highly volatile and argumentative phase. I’m sure it’s developmental, because a number of the children in his birth club are doing exactly the same thing, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with.
I’m short on patience.
I’m quick to become frustrated.
When he snaps and starts yelling at me over something incredibly minor that wasn’t an issue two seconds earlier, I find it very very hard to keep my temper.
And it’s much harder to cope with because I’ve found myself this month really resenting being at home with him. Every time we butt heads, I’m that much faster to snap back at him because I’m bored and tired and frustrated.
Part of it has been this interminable winter. I am SO tired of cold and wind and frozen ground and dragging E. out of the house to run a random errand just so we get some fresh air. I cannot wait for it to warm up enough to make going to the parks fun again. I want to walk through the ravine and look for birds with him.
The winter has not helped, but it’s not the whole story.
I didn’t like not applying for interesting jobs that were coming through my e-mail aggregate lists.
I grouched to Q.
“I think you should apply for anything that looks interesting,” he said. “If you get one, we’ll muddle through.” (Given Q. is approaching the end of his semester this might now have some truth to it. This wasn’t the case in January.)
I grouched to a friend from my birth club, who had recently quit her job because her family couldn’t find any work/life balance in a household with two full-time earners.
“Apply anyway!” she wrote. “Deviate from the plan! Get a live-in au pair!”
But I didn’t want to apply for those jobs.
I wanted to be home with my son for the summer.
I just didn’t want to be home with my son at that particular moment.
The days are long, but the years are short.
In twenty years, will I regret not starting work five months earlier?
In twenty years, will I look back with nostalgia and love on these next five months, the last I will have with my son (in all likelihood my only baby) before he starts full-time school?
When I look at the big picture, I am not in a rush to find employment. I know these months are special, and I want to cherish them.
It’s the day-to-day where I’m floundering. E. and I are spending too much time quarreling and not enough time having fun.
Partly this is because he’s not particularly fun to be around at the moment.
But I’m positive part of it is him responding to my attitude.
If E. gets upset and I get upset too, if I raise my voice, I make the situation much much worse.
So I decided, in the spirit of Rubin’s happiness projects, that it was time for an attitude boot camp.
No one is MAKING me stay at home with my son.
No one is MAKING me miserable, except myself.
No one can make me happier, except myself.
I have five months before E. starts school.
I picked out five areas where my current actions (or inaction in some cases) are sources of stress, guilt, and resentment. They are: Parenthood, Marriage, Self, Work, and Home.
I made resolutions for each of those five areas, and I am going to keep a resolution chart for the next five months to hold myself accountable. I like charts and lists and clear indications of progress (or lack thereof). I am not expecting to be perfect, but I am hoping this will make me more mindful of how I behave/react in my everyday.
Rubin targeted one area each month, but I decided, since this is a boot camp, to go whole hog and start working on the resolutions for all five areas from the beginning. This might seem overwhelming at the start, but I couldn’t think of a good alternative. My resolutions are pretty simple. They’re all things I WANT to be doing now, and they’re all things that I know will make me happier if I do them. And I couldn’t see how to order my priorities: why put E. first (with Parenting) and ignore Q. (Marriage) or my own needs (Self) for a month or longer?
I need a reset.
I figure it’s this or therapy, and I’d like to give myself the chance to sort things out.
Stay tuned for my resolutions…