Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed. Like a drop of ink that swirls eerily through a beaker of water, some mornings I am met with a seed of doubt that creeps across my brain. This seed grows into questions. Hard questions. Am I doing it right? And by it, I mean life. Am I following the right career path? Am I good enough to go further as a photographer? Am I going to regret not having children (or risking leaving it so late?). Should I be traveling more? Am I doing my best? Am I making the most of this life I’ve been given? Am I happy?
Then I wonder if the fact that I’m asking these questions means that the answer is no. No I’m not good enough, or doing my best or making the right decisions. Because if I were, would I be laying in bed asking them? Would I be waking up in this shadow of regret? Regret of decisions I have and haven’t made. Things I have and haven’t done. Tip-toeing along the edge of an imaginary fence, ready to dive head first either way but paralyzed because the grass looks equally as green and lush on both sides. So suspended I remain. Aren’t the answers supposed to come more easily with age?
But then I do get up. I go downstairs to a ready-made cup of tea in my favourite mug. Or, at least a kettle that has already been boiled so it will boil more quickly for me. A small gesture that speaks volumes. I sit at the kitchen island, holding love in my hand, and look out the window as the blue jays and chickadees tumble through the trees. Then I feel ashamed. My life is overflowing with blessings. And sometimes, I can’t get out of my own way long enough to see them.
Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, any occasion earmarked as the ending of one chapter and the beginning of something new fills me with a sense of soaring hope ever-so-delicately threaded with quiet dread. I peer into the future with glistening eyes at all the potential. The blank page, the freshly fallen snow, the road that stretches before me. The possibilities seem endless. I will be the best me I can possibly be. I set about creating a to-do list. It generally reads something like this on the top: spend more time making/creating, maintain and grow personal relationships, contribute value, achieve financial security/independence, be more grateful, find contentment/peace. Then it shifts from over-arching goals to specifics: learn french, learn to weave, go to church weekly, exercise every day, clean up diet, sleep eight hours a night, drink more water, revamp wardrobe to be more current/stylish, fix up house, plant vegetable garden, take a class, volunteer.
This list (in all its incarnations over the years) represents sky-high expectations. It’s overwhelming. That’s when the quiet dread slinks in through the back door. It curls it’s fingers around my shoulders and whispers in my ear, you’ll never be her.
My parents are strength and faith. They believe in a way that would make the stoutest atheist question. So when we talk, God inevitably enters the conversation. Sometimes it annoys me. I want to believe and often I do. Occasionally, I don’t. One day, we were chatting in the living room and I was wondering out loud for the hundred millionth time what should I do with my life? I’m not sure if it was Mom or Dad who said it but one of them answered, do what makes you happy. I laughed. If only it were that simple, I said. Dad said, it is. He said God put us on this Earth to be happy. By using the talents He gave us and living a joyous life, we honour Him. On that day, in that moment, I believed.
Five days ago I started another list. I wrote 2014 at the top and underlined it twice. Number one was spend more time making/creating. Number two was figure out a career path that contributes value to society. I wrote number three but didn’t fill it in. It was all too familiar. It was the same list coupled with the deep-seeded belief that I can and will figure it out mingling with my inner skeptic asking what will make this year any different? So I poured a glass of wine and sat with my unfinished list. If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got. Then I remembered the conversation with my parents. Do what makes you happy. I looked hard at my list and saw that everything on it was an attempt to move me towards a single, specific goal: happiness.
I’m not going to say I had an epiphany. Or even an a-ha moment. What I will say is that all of a sudden, something felt right. I ran upstairs to my craft room and gathered together a print, a bottle of glue, pink glitter, some embroidery floss and a needle. This year, there would be no list. Instead, there would be a word. A mantra. A phrase. Something to meditate on and work towards. Something to fill up the space in my head that is normally cluttered with what-ifs and hard questions. Before I knew it, the glitter was glued into place and the words were scrawled across the sky. Choose happiness.
And for the first time, in a long time, I seem to have locked the door on that creeping, sneaky dread. I wake up and wonder what 2014 will bring and rather than lay in bed and worry, I simply put on my slippers and think to myself, happiness. There hasn’t been enough time for my new mantra to completely fill up that space where the questions used to bounce around. They niggle away back there but their voices are becoming increasingly faint. I hear them question how? But for once in my life, I’m not actually concerned with the how. I simply know that 2014 will be the year that I choose happiness.
Do you struggle with getting out of your own way? Do you sometimes forget to count your blessings too? Have you made any resolutions for 2014? I happened upon picking my word quite organically but then quickly discovered that I’m not alone. My dear friend Lori (and some of her friends) choose words to help navigate a new year too. See Lori’s thoughts on 2014 here.