Sacrificing Happiness

As the new year looms nearer and nearer, my faith in myself and my plans to make big life changes has already begun to falter. When fear bubbles to the surface, it is so comforting and easy to tell myself I don’t have to change if I’m afraid. I can keep going on the way I have been. But then I realize after a moment of relief, that I also fear that path. Perhaps even more.

It always feels easier to give up on myself before I even try. I’ve done it countless times in the past. But I’ve also forced myself past my limits and surprised myself many time as well. I want 2021 to be part of the latter set of experiences. I just have to keep my true goal in mind when my fears start to tug at me.

My mind has gotten so clouded with things that I’ve decided will give me happiness. A skinny body, endless self-destructive pleasures, distraction from anxiety, a sparkling exterior life. But most of these things I have already tasted. I got down to my lowest weight since middle school this summer, but I was desperately unhappy. I was not satisfied at all. I didn’t view my body any more favorably. I just found new flaws to fixate on in the mirror. Even those around me didn’t give me the attention I expected. My weight loss was noticed, but I was not congratulated. I was looked at with alarm and concern.

Even though that didn’t bring me any happiness, I still fear getting back to healthy eating habits. My mind tells me that I wasn’t attractive thin, but I’ll be absolutely grotesque if I weigh more. I’m afraid. My mind tells me I need my unhealthy coping mechanisms to keep the anxiety at bay. It tells me I won’t be able to face that anxiety any other way.

I mustn’t listen to that part of myself. I have to remember my goal. My ultimate goal was never to “be skinny” or to “avoid anxiety.” My goal has and always will be finding happiness and peace within myself. I foolishly allowed myself to follow this destructive path in a desperate attempt to find some sort of superficial happiness, but I can see there is nothing here waiting for me at the end of the road.

Maybe the next path I take won’t lead me to happiness either, but I still have to try. Because it will at least rule out one more option. It will at least give me new insight, a new direction to follow. Besides, I genuinely believe I know the path to my happiness. If I can only find the strength to pursue it.

Happiness is inside of me. All I need to do is take care of myself, love myself. Stop clouding my mind and my heart out of fear. Stop running from myself. I truly have nothing to lose. I’m ready to nurture myself, listen to myself, allow myself to flourish. I know what I have to do. I’ve just got to believe in myself enough to try.

Excited for Change

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As with everything else in this life, our perception of change is something that we get to choose. I think for most people we have a tendency to fear change or view it as a threat. Humans are, for the most part, creatures of habit. We become comfortable in our routines. Even if the routines themselves aren’t always pleasurable or good for us. We like to know what to expect from one moment to the next. Even when we are expecting the worst.

Better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t

Try to remember back to when you were a child though, before you were set in your ways and developed all sorts of expectations for the world and the other people in it. Change was exciting! Curiosity was a more powerful force than fear. We were desperate to learn and experience it all.

I’m not sure what precisely the ancient yogis intended when they created the phrase “beginner’s mind,” but this is what I imagine it to mean. A child’s mind. A mind that is open to everything, curious about everything. If only we could have all held on to that. Even so, just thinking back to my child self is quite pleasant and nostalgic. I used to be so happy and excited about the littlest things.

For example, I used to love to clean and organize. I even loved washing dishes the first few times I helped my grandmother with them. I paid attention to each little detail. The warm water, the white soap suds, watching the dirty pile shrink as the ones that were clean and drying grew. The satisfaction of completing a simple task. Whereas now my mind is a million miles away as I frantically scrub away at the glass and ceramic, trying to be done and on to the next thing as fast as humanly possible.

We tend to lose that presence, that mindful, curious wonder at everything in life as we grow older. And I think this is why we begin to fear and hate change. We don’t want any changes to force us out of our daze. We worry what these changes will mean for the future. We fear we’ve lost something, leaving our old ways behind in the past. We avoid being present and curiously examining change as it comes.

We take for granted the way things are and forget that we need change. Lest we fall prey to stagnation and decay. Change is the inevitable, beautiful, unfolding of life itself. A constant current that we are a part of. Something we should remember to be grateful for when we get the chance to witness it.

One of the ways I plan on preparing for a new year full of change is to adjust the way I perceive it. I’ve been thinking, “I’ve got to make these changes starting next year” or “it is going to be so hard to stop doing x, or start doing y.” From now on, rather than that, I am going to be thinking “how exciting, I get to try something new” and “won’t it be fun to see how these changes play out, to challenge myself?”

Even now I am getting excited by these thoughts. I am imagining my inner child, eager to experiment, to play, to learn, to experience something new. What a beautiful thing to know I have the power to write my story any way I like. We all do. So if there have been a lot of changes for you this year, or you have a lot of changes to face in the next, get excited! What a dynamic and interesting existence we all share! Let’s be present for it. Let’s enjoy it.

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Small Steps

Since I recognized it within myself, I have been trying to overcome my “all or nothing” mentality. I can say from experience that it is quite a detrimental mindset to have. It is a constant fluctuation between pushing yourself too hard or doing nothing at all. If it can’t all be done, if it can’t be done perfectly, why bother? I’ve been letting this question immobilize me for so long now. I can’t even remember when this feeling of futility began.

I used to at least be able to get excited about the idea of goals or projects to work toward. Making lists and making big plans. However, after over a decade of setting myself up for failure with heaps of insurmountable tasks, I can no longer even find that initial hope for success that used to spur me onward. I guess after repeating that cycle of being unable to follow through again and again has finally worn me down. I feel like I’ve given up on myself.

But I know I can’t do that. I have to keep reminding myself that it isn’t my fault I’ve failed in the past. I always expected too much from myself in too short a time. With the plans I made, no one would be able to succeed. I was overly-optimistic. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. I still think it’s good to have big dreams. I just need to learn to give myself that time and tenderness I need along the way to achieve them.

The goals I’ve set for myself in the new year, have already begun to seem daunting. I shudder at the thought of failing once again. I consider giving up before I even try. But then I remember that I don’t have to completely remodel my life on January 1st. Small steps matter. I just need to break my big goals up into smaller and smaller ones. Until they don’t seem as overwhelming anymore.

Even if in the beginning it seems like nothing. Even the smallest steps will still take me forward. It’s better than not moving at all. I HAVE to remember that this time. I must be gentle with myself. It’s okay to celebrate the small victories. Even if they might seem silly to anyone else. Only we truly know how hard something is for us. And I have been having a really hard time with the most basic things for a long while now. I deserve to give myself credit for what I am able to do. No matter how small.

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Time for Change

I want to use these last couple of months before the new year arrives to really clarify and meditate on what kinds of changes I’d like to manifest in 2021 and why I want to make these changes. Once I’ve got a clear idea of the differences I want to see in myself and the intention behind them, I can begin working on a detailed plan to ensure I will follow through.

I’ll start off by making a general list, then follow up with the reasons each item has been added to the list. I have a tendency to make my lists too long and end up discouraging myself before I even begin, so I’ll try to narrow it down to the few I find most important.

Goals of 2021:

  1. Stop Smoking
  2. Spend more time with friends & family
  3. End disordered eating habits
  4. Start therapy
  5. Be kind to myself

Okay, you have no idea how tempted I was to rattle off like 20 more things I want to accomplish. I know those are all already going to be challenging for me. Focusing on anything more would be overwhelming and inevitably lead to failure and self-criticism.

Now I need to take each one of my new goals and remind myself why this is important to me. Hopefully this will help me see the value in what I’m doing even when it gets hard and I want to give up.

Goal #1: Stop Smoking

I want to stop smoking because it’s a ridiculously reckless and self-destructive habit. It is a huge waste of money. It makes me feel bad physically and mentally. It increases my anxiety. It damages my body. It shortens my lifespan. It will make me age faster. It is subjecting my loved ones to second hand smoke. It will yellow my teeth. It may result in cancer or other serious, possibly deadly health outcomes.

Goal #2: Spend more time with friends & Family

I want them to know how much they mean to me. It will lower my stress levels. It will add more joy and happiness to my life. It will encourage an overall healthier lifestyle. It will prevent me from isolating myself.

Goal #3: End disordered eating habits

I am tired of these unhealthy, insane habits consuming my entire life. I no longer want to concern myself with my weight. I want to show myself love and compassion. I want to nourish my body and make sure that it is healthy. I have wasted too much time and money on these habits already. Even reaching a lower weight than I ever imagined I would did not make me any happier. I was more miserable than ever.

Goal #4: Start Therapy

I want to stop running from my problems and finally face them. I want to get the help I need, the help everyone deserves, even me. I want to learn how to become the best version of myself for myself and for my loved ones. I want to eventually stop taking Paxil.

Goal #5: Be kind to myself

This goal is truly the main overarching theme I want to bring with me into the new year. It is one of the reasons I want to pursue all of the other goals I’ve listed. I am so tired of being my own worst enemy when I could be my closest friend and ally. I want to be happy. I want to live a life full of joy and love and laughter. A life that everyone deserves to live. I want to use my energy, my existence, to make the world a better place and that begins with myself.

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I feel better and more inspired already! This post has been mainly just something I wanted to write for myself, but I hope that it can serve as a suggestion of how to plan some goals for yourself. It has definitely been very helpful to write out the reasons behind each one. Let me know if you decide to make your own list. What are the things you’d like to achieve in 2021? What is the inspiration behind them?

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Setting Clear Intentions

I have always been a very logical person. I never really bought into things like the law of attraction or summoning certain scenarios into being through your thoughts alone. It always seemed too good to be true. However, once my mind started to wrap around the way that such things could actually occur I became very curious. For many people it is enough just to hear that their positive thoughts and wild dreams will come to fruition as long as they believe them and keep their focus on them. In my case that always just seemed unfounded and foolish. This false perception kept my from allowing myself to fully believe in the power of my own will.

When you lay out the idea logically, though, it holds true. If you focus your energy on cultivating a more grateful existence, your mind will naturally begin to find more things to be grateful for. If spent time everyday on a certain goal, you will inevitably reach it. Even if only your perception has changed rather than the world around you, it is still certainly worth the effort. I don’t usually put too much weight in anecdotal evidence, but never-the-less I have seen the power of my positive intentions manifested this past year. The hardest part is setting clear intentions and keeping your focus.

Most of us, I’d imagine, would say that we know what we want out of life, that we have a set of goals. However, once you actually start to organize and verbalize these things it becomes apparent that it may not be as clear as you thought. It’s important to take a step back once and a while to evaluate. There may be things that we are putting energy into that really isn’t that important to us in the long run. There may be goals we aspire to meet that we haven’t really been taking steps towards achieving. It can help to create some means to record your progress in different areas so that you can see how far you have come. Before I began recording my efforts in different areas I would often lose sight of how much I had already achieved in the shadow of how far I felt there still was to go. Another way this can be helpful is to reevaluate a habit that maybe in hindsight isn’t realistic or isn’t helping you to reach your goals.

I am grateful for this shiny new year that has just arrived to give me the inspiration to keep pushing forward. It is an interesting and confusing feeling to know exactly what you need to do to cultivate happiness and fulfillment while at the same time being resistant to the change that requires. I need to remember to be patient with myself. Instead of pausing, paralyzed in the face of the huge changes ahead of me, I need to press onward one step at a time. I need to lean into the tension of knowing that this will take a long time and be mindful as I implement more and more small changes into my daily experience.

I want this year to be even more transformative than the last few have been. I want to calm my chaotic mind be setting clear intentions regarding what I would like to learn, experience, and create in the coming months. For once I feel confident that I will reach my goals and gain so much insight and happiness in the process. My mantra for this first month of a great new year is going to be a Buddhist quote that I stumbled upon a few days ago. I hope that it can inspire us all to be present, grateful, and joyous in each moment that this year has to give us.

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” – Buddha