Feb 092011

Wow. I can’t believe it’s February already. Well, I have to be late with this because I can’t travel in time yet. So months later I’ll finally write about my “year of happiness”. To recall, last year I decided to attempt a “happiness project” inspired by Gretchen Rubin. Basically you try to become happier by sticking to some rules of your own devising. So doing a happiness project is a very personal thing, and the rules might be different for each of us.

So I set out to achieve happiness (or at least being happier) by changing small things in my life. Not a sweeping gesture, or major life changes, just small, simple changes. The plan was to add a new rule each month but in the end I only had these rules:

  1. Go to bed on time. I already knew that this is a big must for me. The instant I get enough sleep I feel like a different person. The minute I’m sleep-deprived I’m all crazy, befuddled, and I never stop eating. Still going to bed early enough isn’t easy because it doesn’t work well with my work-schedule. Again I find myself needing nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. I can go down to eight if I must but anything less than that has me only half-functional. I get up at six because I need a bit of time to myself before getting my son ready to school. That means I would have to turn out the lights at 9 pm. My son’s time for that is 8.30. I would have to put him to bed, get ready for bed and that’s that. There are quite a few days when I work until 7pm. Get off work, make dinner, eat, put son to bed, and then it’s time for me as well. As a compromise right now I’m aiming for 10 pm. Still gives me eight hours of sleep but I can watch something on TV, or read.
  2. Pick up after myself. Having a tidy, well almost tidy, home not only makes me happy but the rest of the family as well. As an added bonus it’s easier to find things. That bit of kicking myself to not leave my stuff strewn over the house really pays off.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week. Also, surprisingly happy-making. Even if I don’t like what I’ve written, or feel stuck. There’s a small part of me that thinks when I’ve already been somewhat creative just after breakfast it’s a good day. Regardless of how the rest of the day goes.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends. Really, really helpful but surprisingly hard. I still have a tendency to find fault and criticize. But when I manage to concentrate on the things I love about the people around me – I et instant happiness.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more. Also much more mood-boosting than I would have thought. These days when I feel like retreating in a corner with a bag of potato chips and a book under a blanket I try to – again – kick myself, get my running shoes on and run for a bit. Even if it’s only for a few minutes I always feel better afterwards.
  6. Play the piano every day. This I didn’t manage at all. I remember a time when I did, though, and even forcing myself to do scales made me happy over time. Not always while I was doing it. Today I did play the piano, and I really plan to do it on a regular basis again. (You have to understand that the playing I do while teaching doesn’t really count for this. It has to be fun piano playing, playing for me.)
  7. Wear clothes that make me feel good. Definitely important. And I definitely need to buy new clothes soon.
  8. Eat like a sane person who enjoys food. Still working on that one as well. But I can say from experience that eating real food sitting down at a table with loved ones makes way more happier than binge eating while sitting in your bed, hiding your chips under the covers. (Which, by the way, I haven’t done for year and years. I managed to gain all this weight without falling back into my binge eating ways.)

I can tell you that following these rules really made me happier. And even more so when I really did those things and a little less when I only wanted to do those things. I’ll get around to that tomorrow for sure, ahem. And I have to add “act the way you like to feel” to the list as well. Excellent advise, and works astonishingly well.

I already knew it but still, small things make a notable difference in happiness. Happiness is not a state of perfect bliss, one big moment like the kiss after saying yes on your wedding day. Which, by the way, is only a moment of true happiness in movies, at least for me there have been many kisses before and after where I felt happier. Many moments where I could focus on the kiss itself as well, not on the fact that two dozen people were watching me plus a video camera.

So the happiness project definitely works and I can only encourage others to try it as well.

The other thing this project brought home to me was that all my mental adjustments, and rules, and stickers, and behavior changes still didn’t cut to the root of my unhappiness. Throughout that year I found out that a big fat part of my unhappiness is – physical. And this time I don’t mean my weight, though I still think that I’m overweight because I’m unhappy. But I’m also unhappy because there are things wrong with my body. And as a wise online friend reminded me a few days ago, your brain is part of your body.

And that is why this year, 2011, I’m concentrating on getting well not by changing my attitude but by getting to the physical reason for feeling unwell. It might seem a bit mundane but still, those rules that you see above aren’t looking that spiritual either. And I already found out some things but I better make that into another post.

The great thing about all this is that one can indeed become a happier person by following quite mundane rules. You don’t need to find the man of your dreams and ride with him on your pink, sparkly pony into the sunset. You can be happy now, in the life you live right now. Don’t need a million dollars, nothing.

Oct 072010

That’s what being back to school does to you, all of a sudden you do things almost on time. I hope this goes on for a while, about a year would be nice, and then it could start all over again.

I find that these “happiness reports” depend very much on how a feel in the moment I’m writing them. Which is what everybody will tell you, that happiness is fleeting and can’t be fabricated. But I still think there can be a thing like lasting happiness, and no, I don’t mean contentment.

Yesterday I had one of those dreary teaching days where I felt that every student was slow, and clumsy, and a waste of time, and then I remembered one of Gretchen Rubin‘s mottos, “Act how you want to feel.”, and I was so successful in telling myself how much I enjoy teaching, and what nice and brilliant students I have that by the end of the day I was positively beaming.

Now you might say, “But those weren’t you’re true feelings!”. I have to confess that I’m not that sure about feelings being true at any given moment any more. With all those hormones racing around in my body, and with things like being hungry or tired making such a huge difference it might be hard to get to the bottom of a situation. Slowly I understand what buddhists mean when they say that feelings aren’t permanent, and ever changing. I have days when something tiny like taking a nap or reading something or deciding to act how I want to feel can turn my whole day around. So, since it’s possible to do that why not use it to my advantage. And in my case I had the additional advantage that my students are really lovely people, and so I know that it’s me when I feel like I can’t stand to hear another mangled version of a tune that’s not that great to start with. I don’t complain, I know that comes with the job. When you’re teaching people how to play an instrument you mainly sit there all day and listen to people play things they can’t play well yet. And every time they master something you go on to the next thing.

I only have to remind myself to sometimes listen to some music that’s played by a master to remind myself where we’re all going with this.

But back to my report. As you know by now I made yet another list of things that I want to change in order to become a happier person:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.
  7. Wear clothes that make me feel good.

Usually I add something to this list every month. But this month I didn’t. I’m still thinking about the part where my mood is bad because of hormones. It’s now definite since my mood has been much more stable while I’m on chemical birth control. This is not a permanent solution since I have no desire to have a stroke in the near future but it helps isolating the problem.

  1. Now for the part where I tell you how I did. There’s no surprise there, I’m doing mildly blah again. Still I feel better for trying:
  2. Going to bed on time hasn’t happened much but as long as we were still in summer break I managed to get almost adequate sleep. It’s still the same, every day I have slept enough is much better than the ones I have after only six or seven hours. For the past few days I managed to go to bed almost on time, a step into the right direction. I’m also giving myself stickers for that again. (So far: 2 stickers in 8 days. There still is room for improvement.)
  3. I have been getting much better at picking up after myself, and my husband just told me yesterday that he has the feeling that housework is currently divided equally between us. That is great news, Finally some improvement. Of course, right now I’m sitting here typing while he is cooking…
  4. The writing of the fiction hasn’t happened. But again I managed to write today and on Tuesday. I’m hoping to get into the groove again.
  5. The exercise has happened. Not exactly three times a week but at least two times. I also have been going to the pool twice already so that my son can work on his swimming skills. The first time I even managed to swim a few laps in the kid’s pool. There have been an astonishing number of times when I did my walk/run-routine for an hour or more. And I can proudly tell you that I can now not only climb stairs again without getting out of breath instantly, I can even run them up if I want to catch a train, then jog about 50 meters, and all of that without keeling over or thinking I’ll die the next minute. That thing alone makes me very, very happy.
  6. There was no piano playing whatsoever apart from what happened while teaching, I’m sorry to say. But my husband and I played a couple of songs in front of an audience, and learning how to sing a new song and performing it with my husband made me very happy. I’d like to do a little more music with him in the near future. Without going back to trying to emulate a cover band if possible.
  7. Buying new pants has made dressing much easier. The funny thing is that I bought both pairs a size too big. They don’t really look all that great but the comfort of un-pinching waistbands is almost worth it. One of these days I’ll even make myself a new denim skirt. I love wearing my corduroy one. The only thing I haven’t solved yet is how to wear a skirt with leggings and woolen socks while teaching without looking ridiculous. I don’t wear shoes indoors and I have yet to find a stylish slipper-boot. Maybe I’ll compromise, buy a nice pair of Birkenstocks and wear tights. We’ll see.

The other thing I have been doing is to think about the way I eat again. I have been starting to re-read “Outsmarting the Midlife Fat Cell. Of course I did remember most of what Debra Waterhouse wrote about in that book but seeing it again was very good for me. I found that some of my new habits that I started in order to lose weight were quite counter-productive. Also that I don’t exercise enough. And that my portions are way too big. The thing is, I have been going to eating frequent small meals, and drinking like a camel that reaches an oasis after weeks in the desert, and all of a sudden my weight seems to creep downwards again. We’ll see how that goes in the long run, especially since I still tend to counter exhaustion with too much food, but I’m optimistic.

So eating like a sane person who enjoys food is my new goal for October.

The other thing that I started, and you surely have noticed by now is my knitting podcast. It’s in German because there is dire need for a German knitting podcast out there. Doing it makes me ridiculously happy. Especially since people seem to like it. I have plans of doing a sort of “best of”-edition in English at some point, we’ll see when that might happen.

Phew, that was a long one, wasn’t it? Anybody else out there striving for more happiness by making rules?

Sep 042010

Woops. I bet you all thought I had given up on this (if you remember at all). So I set out to make this the year of my very own happiness project. I gave myself a bunch of habits to change and practice in order to become a happier person.

These are the things I have been working on:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.
  7. Wear clothes that make me feel good.

Again, I did some of these things, never all of them, and then there was something else which I’ll tell you about later. First, how did I do these past months?

  1. I tell you, “go to bed in time” is still not really happening. I did worse, and then better, and then much worse, and now better again, but frankly, if I can’t get enough sleep during summer break it will get even harder once school starts again. This said, the link between getting enough sleep and being a happier person is totally clear to me. Even if I enjoyed myself staying up late and thought it would be totally worth it I’m still grumpier and without much energy the day after. If I manage to sleep nine hours I’m feeling like myself again. So this is still top of my list.
  2. I’ve been doing a bit better with picking up and housework. My husband said he had the feeling that “sit” was my default setting, and he is right. By the time I get up from breakfast he has been down to the basement and over to the annex ten times already. So I continue pushing myself towards being a tidy person. I feel much better when my surroundings are pleasant and tidy so I will have to continue working on this.
  3. I did really, really well with the fiction writing until mid-July. Then the madness of the two weeks before summer break hit, and I was stuck on my current story, and with one thing or another I haven’t been writing at all since then. I definitely need to get back into that habit, though, when I do it I feel much, much better. What I did do was start writing morning pages in earnest again, and that helps a bit. Still, fiction writing is fiction writing, and I quite like the story I’m working on so I will have to find a way to ease back into it.
  4. Thinking about things I love about my family, students, and friends, well, it went very well with my family. As always I enjoy spending time with my son and husband, we really enjoy our time off from school. Having a little break from students is also quite nice for a change.
  5. With the exercise I didn’t do as much as I wanted but even during the time when I thought I wasn’t exercising at all I managed to do something once or twice a week. Since the middle of August I have been walking and running at least three times a week. While I had managed to get my fitness up to the point where I could run for half an hour some time in spring I had to start all over again. Which I did about three weeks ago. So far I’m still in the “run for two minutes, then walk for three” – stage, and only barely make it through my one hour of work-out but over all it makes me feel much, much better. Being on the verge of becoming a runner makes me feel much more confident, and I love my body better. It might be overweight, pale, have chubby knees and varicose veins but it’s tough enough to run. Not for that long but if I keep up I will be able to run about 10k at some point. Me. I would have thought I could never do that. I’m just not built for running. Ha! Definite happiness boost there.
  6. Play the piano every day? Who? Me? Somehow this gets pushed back constantly. One thing is that my piano is horribly de-tuned again, and I’m secretly waiting for heating season again when it will magically pop back in tune. I hope. If it doesn’t I will have to get the piano-tuner to come over again.
  7. The clothes part. That one was weighing heavier on me than I realized. I managed to pack away all the clothes that don’t fit me anymore at some point but then I was left with a closet that was quite empty. I don’t have a pair of shorts, I only have one pair of jeans (that is sporting a hole), I only have one faded hoodie cardigan, and about five tees, most of those black with funny phrases on them. An outing with my husband in May to buy a suit for him resulted in me getting a pair of linen pants that don’t fit very well, and a coat that I really like. (We also got a suit for my husband. He is really easy to buy clothes for. Just today we went into a store and an hour later emerged with a winter coat, pants, two shirts and two t-shirts. The only things he tried on were the coat and the pants, and they just fit as well. I wish it were as easy for me.) But things are looking up, I went clothes shopping yesterday after not wanting to spend any money for months, and I got two pairs of pants, a new winter coat (I still had one that worked perfectly fine so I didn’t want to spend money on one, ahem. That one is seven years old…), a pair of yoga pants, everyday sneakers, and next week I’ll go to another store and get myself a couple of new t-shirts as well. I will continue to work on this because it really makes a difference. Clothes that fit do lift my mood tremendously. Also at some point I will have to learn that buying new shoes and coats every five years is not over-indulgence.

Well, it’s better to try and fail than not to have tried, isn’t it?

One thing that I realized through this project was that while all of these habits help making me happier they still didn’t help enough. Most days I was just sitting there depressed without energy. So I did some serious thinking and found that mostly the problem was my mood swinging back and forth almost daily because of hormonal shifts. And while things like getting enough sleep and exercise do help with that as well it’s still not enough. So I decided to go back on hormonal birth control for a short time. Just to make sure that it really was hormones. And, lo and behold, my mood and my energy levels have been much more constant for the weeks since I started that again. Now, I don’t really like the way I feel, it’s like a low-level meh-feeling. Not bad but not good either. I can’t take the pill for a longer time because I’m too over-weight and old for that. But for me this is proof that there is really something wrong with my hormonal system (and I know that thing is called peri-menopause), and I will make an appointment with somebody specializing in this kind of thing soon.

If I had to name the single most important thing on the list, though, it would be the exercise.

May 122010

As I said in my last “year of happiness”-update I’m planning to look through my clothes, see what still fits me, and then eventually buy new ones. Well, for several weeks in a row now, I haven’t been able to find the space and time to pull all my clothes out.

Today I went and bought myself some new shoes, and when I came back with not only one pair but two I suddenly realized that I have done the thing most women do when they have gained weight, and are unhappy with their clothes. They buy shoes because their feet haven’t gotten bigger, and so it’s easier to find something that fits and looks nice.

Only I have been buying a pair of running shoes, and a pair for hiking. After almost three months of running at least once a week, and after my knees started hurting because I’m running in an old pair of sneakers meant to be used for step aerobics I thought it was finally time to commit to real running shoes. (What do you mean you don’t own step aerobic shoes? Really?) The new shoes aren’t really pretty but very functional. And the hiking boots were on sale, and for years now I have wanted new ones. You know how it goes, you get pregnant and your feet grow bigger, and then every time you go to the Alps to hike you put on your boots, and you find that your toes hurt, and when you come back in the evening they feel like someone has repeatedly hit them with a hammer, and then you think that you really would like to have new boots, but then you think about the fact that you need three other pairs of shoes first (walking shoes, black Mary Janes, and sneakers for indoors), and that you only go hiking once or twice a year, and you don’t buy any, and this goes on for years and years.

And then you see hiking boots on sale just when you received the money from teaching one of your knitting classes. And somehow it feels very good to take the money from the knitting class and put it into athletic shoes. Those boots aren’t pretty either, so no pictures today. But I can’t wait to try them out. And I’ll go for a run outside tomorrow. Even if it’s raining.

On another note, I have been knitting things like crazy, and am still waiting for the sun to make a re-appearance to take pictures of those things. Right now it’s either light or I have time, never both.

And who knows, maybe I’ll tackle my closet this weekend. Stay tuned.

May 042010

It feels like the year has been going on forever, doesn’t it (and I know it’s already May, sorry)? And now we enter that phase where resolutions start to fade, and everything goes back to normal. So to counter this I renewed my commitment to become happy, and started over. So here are the things I have been doing to become happy:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.
  6. Play the piano every day.

Well, I had, let’s say, mixed results. Still, even trying has made me a bit happier. It’s not about succeeding all the time, it is about inching my way towards a happier me. So let’s see how I did:

  1. I didn’t do well with the “going to bed on time” again. You could say I should just give up on this resolution but still I know that this is key to feeling better. When I manage to get eight hours of sleep or more I feel so much better. Of course, today I’m feeling smug because I managed to get enough for two nights in a row. I really hope I can continue this streak. I’m planning to give myself stickers again for every day that I manage to turn the lights out before 10.30. Wish me luck.
  2. The picking up after myself goes really well. I even do the kitchen, and have managed to tame the laundry monster. I give myself a pat on the shoulder for that. Now I’d like to add some cleaning into the mix. That would be fantastic. I only don’t quite know when to do it but I fear this has to come out of my computer time.
  3. I’ve been writing constantly, and I’m really happy about that. There was a point where I was totally unhappy with my story, and didn’t write because it felt all so arbitrary, and made up. And then I found that what was really bothering me was that I had all these characters at the beginning of the story that got abandoned, and then it all went somewhere else. So I decided to bring them back in, and now the writing is flying. So far I have written about 45,000 words on this. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? And all I do is spend about twenty to thirty minutes a day on this. The thing that I’d really like to do on top of this is edit another story of mine. I can’t seem to find the time to do that as well. May I’ll take that one along when we travel at the beginning of June. We’ll see. For now, while I’m mostly writing “only” five days a week I’m really happy with that.
  4. Think about the things I love about the people around me. That’s quite hard to do for me. But I’m slowly getting there. Every time I feel myself dreading to teach I remind myself of what delightful people my students are, and then my work seems less of a drudgery and more enjoyable. Every time I think, “Oh, and now I have to get my son to bed, I’d rather watch TV.” I remind myself how much I love reading to him in the evening. Every time my husband goes on my nerves I reming myself of the things I love about him, and how much he does for me, and this family. And that makes me happier.
  5. The exercising. Well, the good thing is that I am exercising. I exercised ten times in the month of April. Not quite the “three times a week or more” quota but still way more than last year. Again, I don’t quite know where to fit the exercise into my day. I usually have a bit of time after lunch but really, I don’t see myself going for a run on a full stomach. Still, I’ll be getting there.
  6. The piano, well, failure. I blame others, of course. You see, there it is, my shiny new piano that I love. A few weeks after getting it I decided to have it tuned. I got a complementary tuning with the purchase. You’re supposed to let the piano sit for about three weeks before having it tuned, so I did. It was mostly okay, only a few notes out of tune here and there but there was a slight problem with one of the keys, and so I asked them to send a piano tuner over. The tuner came, he asked me how I wanted it tuned, I said, “Please, tune it to 440 Hz.” He said he probably couldn’t do that because it was a new piano, and a little “high-strung”. (One of these days I’ll get my piano tuned to 440 Hz. One day. One day when I switch from guitar to piano I won’t have the feeling that everything sounds shrill and out of tune.) So, this nice little man tuned the piano. He spent more than an hour on a piano that was almost in tune. Then he played a few chords for me, and left, and I felt all happy that my piano was finally in tune, and ready for my husband to record something with it. Until my husband stopped me that evening and said, “You know that your piano is completely out of tune, don’t you?” Well, I didn’t, and he was right. The piano sounds much worse than it did before the tuning. There are keys that play two different tones simultaneously, and obviously that tuner must have had a very bad day, and a problem with very high and very low notes because those sound horrible. This has somehow taken the joy out of my piano playing. I toyed with the idea of having him come back and tune it again but then I just decided to have my regular piano tuner come in, never mind the 100€ that will cost me, at least the piano will be in order afterwards. So I’m looking forward to this Thursday very much when he will come in, and care for my poor piano. While I didn’t play the piano that often I did start to practice guitar again, so things are looking up.

The thing foremost in my mind this month, though, was how much weight I have gained. I’m feeling quite unhappy about that. When thinking what part of it made me unhappy the most it is not how I look, or feel, it’s how my clothes fit. And the fact that I’m taking up more space than I think I do, I’m constantly bumping into furniture, and if I am in a tight space, and somebody wants to get past me I have to flatten myself against the wall. Also I’d like to become a bit fitter; but mostly it’s my clothes.

Last year I thought I’d be back to a normal shape in no time, and I wasn’t going to buy a whole new wardrobe but by now it’s about 20 kilos I want to get rid of, and if I manage to get in weight-loss mode again, and lose weight at my usual pace of about 300 to 400 grams a month, then – well, let’s just say, I definitely need a few bigger t-shirts until I’m back in shape. So that’s the thing I’ll concentrate on in May. So far I have been trying to sort my clothes into what fits and what doesn’t, and I haven’t quite been able to make time for that. Not even on the two ‘free’ weekends I had. Of course everything will be getting even busier as usual in the next two weeks so we’ll see how that works out. At least I went out shopping with my husband who needed a whole new wardrobe too (because everybody needs new clothes every three or four years, not because he ‘outgrew’ any of them), and now at least I am the proud owner of a second pair of pants that almost fits, a really great new jacket, and a blouse. Onwards and upwards, then.

Mar 302010

Of course I had wanted to write these update posts at the beginning of the month, not at the end but since it’s still March if just barely – and anyway I can’t help it. I didn’t get to write this earlier so it’s late.

The third month after a new year’s resolution is always a bit slow. Most years this would be the point where I gave up. Like most people I start with a lot of enthusiasm in January, fall of the wagon in February, and in March I’d be giving up. But not this year. As I told you before I’m making these resolutions to become happy. So far they are:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  5. Exercise three times a week or more.

And I can tell you that I feel like I’m playing this party game (it’s German) where somebody starts by saying, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat.” And then the next person says, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat and an umbrella.” and the next, “I’m packing a suitcase and I’m taking – a hat, an umbrella, and an elephant.” and so on. Good thing the year only has twelve months, don’t you think? So here’s this month’s report:

  1. I’m still not going to bed on time! I can report, though, that sleep is directly related to happiness. It’s very easy: if I sleep enough I’m easy-going, nice, patient, and happy; when I don’t sleep enough I’m cranky, irritable, forgetful, prone to mistakes, and don’t get anything done.
    Still, every single day at 9.30 I think, “Oh, it’s not that late, I can still watch something on TV, read, write, knit, whatever.” at 10.15 I think, “Well, I should be in bed by now but if I hurry it’s not that bad.” and then I just sit a little longer only to go to bed at 11.30.
    I’ve watched myself, I do this every single night. Any every night I think that something else is at fault. It’s my husband who wanted to watch an episode of DS9 with me, it’s my son who went to bed too late so that my evening routine got screwed, it’s the knitting project where I just want to knit one more row, it’s the fight I had that made me unable to calm down, it’s the book that was so gripping, it’s the e-mail that came in (and why I’m checking e-mail at that hour is fodder for yet another post), well, you get the drift.
  2. I’m better at picking up after myself. As always when I become aware of it, the minute I do it I feel better. This doesn’t mean that the house is all tidy or clean but there are less small messes lying around, and that’s a very good thing. I have to keep working on it, though, already there’s a stray ball of yarn on the dresser, a half-empty water glass on the desk, and assorted papers all over the house. I also would like to find a solution for the stuff I’m currently keeping on top of the fridge, like my PDA, and it’s keyboard, pens, cables and such. the kitchen has become my second office/studio since I still have to spend my evenings there. My son is sleeping in his bed all right, but he still wants one of us nearby all the time. I don’t really mind spending my evenings there but I do mind the stuff I put there.
  3. I will have to change that resolution to “write at least 500 words five times a week” because that’s the most I can get to. I’m still stuck with my story, and therefore I haven’t been as enthusiastic with my writing as I had wished for but I did write. Most weeks I wrote about 2,500 words, and today when I printed my story out in full I ended up with an impressive stack of paper. I think my problem with being stuck results from the fact that I only ever have written very small increments of this story, I don’t have chapters or scenes or even lists of characters. And because I’m acting under time constraints every single day I never find the time to look up the name of that tall blonde woman that keeps reappearing. And that’s just stupid. I downloaded a writing software and will use Easter break to go through what I have.
    I’m happy to report that writing those measly 500 words makes me happy every single time I do it. And it doesn’t matter if the writing is good or bad, or I’m feeling stuck or not, it never fails.
    Also, I remember when writing the one NaNoWriMo first draft that I still like I had the same feeling of being stuck and boring through most of it. And when I read it I couldn’t tell.
  4. I’m struggling with the ‘”think about the things I love about the people around me”-resolution in a massive way. But every time I remember and try it it makes me happy. Instead of thinking about the fact that I have to work now, and sit there listening to the same pieces played badly over and over again I think about what I like about that student, and how he or she has come a long way. And by this little trick of the mind I find myself anticipating the students instead of dreading the work. This tool also makes me realize how much I still love my husband after all these years. We both work on being nice and polite towards each other, and of giving each other and our son frequent hugs. Definitely a win-win.
  5. I’m especially proud to report that I am actually exercising three times a week or more. I have been doing my running and walking thing for six weeks now, and I’m actually able to run for twenty minutes straight (well, very slowly) without keeling over. I’m still doing this in the safety and comfort of my own room which is a bit silly, but when I ventured outside into the garden last week I found that, yes, running in the grass is very different of running very small laps inside, and that it’s hayfever season. So for now I’m staying indoors. After finishing my nine weeks of training I will go outside, and hopefully even run with my husband. He is very patient with the unfit.
    In related news I did lose about a pound of weight, not that much but still a very exciting new trend. And if I ever manage to get enough sleep I hope to maybe lose another pound in the near future.

I also went to a really nice tap dancing workshop one day, and did some yoga on two days. Seems I’m moving again, which makes me very happy, indeed.

My new resolution for this month is to play the piano every day. So far I’ve been playing and not playing on and off but I’m making a bit more time for it, and that’s a very good thing.

The other things that made me happy were that I bought two new spindles, and my new project of spinning and knitting a cardigan. I had been all sensible and told myself not to buy any new spinning fiber before I had spun up all that I had, and then I sat there spinning the same oatmeal colored roving day in and day out. This has been an ongoing project for years now, and while I will finish spinning that eventually I started to feel a bit down looking at that oatmeal brown especially when the weather was not at all spring-like. I went wild, ordered some new roving, and now I’m busy spinning bright orange silk and merino and I love it.

Sometimes it’s doing the sensible thing that makes me happy, and sometimes it’s doing the wild thing. As you know, “It’s not easy being green”:

Feb 102010

So, yes, I am definitely happier than I was last year, I’m doing something right here. Of course, I’m writing this now after a night of completely uninterrupted eight hours of sleep. If I had written it yesterday it might have turned out a bit different since I had 4 1/2 hours of sleep that were interrupted four times.

As I told you last month I made a bunch of resolutions. Those were:

  1. Go to bed on time.
  2. Pick up after myself.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
  1. And again, I didn’t manage to go to bed on time very often but still I have slept more than the months, or years, before. I find that I have to cancel watching DVDs most evenings. In order to get enough sleep it’s a very good idea for me to go to bed very, very early, and just read a bit. That’s seriously cutting into my knitting time but still, every single day I manage to sleep enough or nearly enough I feel happier the next day.
  2. I’ve been doing very well on the “picking up after myself front, and that makes me happier as well. There are still heaps and piles in some areas but I’m getting there. And I manage to do a bit more housework which my husband appreciates very much.
  3. I did write 500 words of fiction (or sometimes more) about five times a week. It seems that there’s always something coming up, and that six times a week is very hard to accomplish. But still I have several thousands of words more of my story than I had before January. It’s great.
  4. I didn’t do that well on the “thinking about the things I love about my family, students, and friends”-front. Especially with my son I got decidedly cranky. But I can say that his sleeping is getting better. It did take a bit of a threat, though, I have told him that he is not to come to me at all until morning. Since he wants me to leave both his and my bedroom door open all night so I can hear him I told him if he so much as calls me throughout the night I will not only close the door but lock it. Apparently that was just the thing it took. You might want to wish me luck, we’re currently working on the “debate everything your mother says”-issue.

The other thing that makes me happy is that I’m starting to lose weight. Well, to be honest I’m down by 100 grams over the last month but still that’s something because over the last two years my weight has been climbing up every single month. Losing weight is something I hope to achieve through becoming a happier person but I’d say the goal of happiness is much better than the one of getting slim.

The thing that makes me even happier than losing a hundred grams is that I might be starting to exercise again. I did some yoga on Sunday (very slow, very easy yoga that made me realize how much out of shape I am), and yesterday I did my very first ever “Couch to 5k”-workout. See, I’m decidedly not a runner. I’m not built for it, not even when I’m a normal weight and fit, and I have never been able to run for any length of time. But when I was thinking about what kind of person I want to be I found that I’m really envious of people like my husband who just put on their running shoes and then go off jogging through the fields for an hour or so. And then I thought about what Mel had started some time ago, and then I read Kris’ post about how she managed to run a marathon, and that got me motivated.

I didn’t know whether I should talk about it here because all I’ve done so far is alternately walk and jog for a total of thirty minutes once, and I did it at home just staying in one spot (and I know that’s not quite the same as moving forward while doing it, but trust me I did work out and I can feel every single muscle in my lower body right now). I’m not about to go out on the street with this anytime soon, and I’ll never run a marathon for sure, ever. But still. I feel pretty amazing having tried out something new. I plan to do the next session of walking and running tomorrow in the morning.

So this will be the fifth resolution in my “happiness project”, exercise three times a week or more.

Jan 132010

You could say I have started my very own “happiness project“. I was not feeling happy in 2009 and the same in 2008 which I only recalled when I looked up my word of the year for 2009 and found out that a) the word wasn’t “healing” as I had thought, and b) in 2009 I was seriously disappointed with 2008.

I don’t want to go on adding one unhappy year to another. The question of course is “why so unhappy?” and there isn’t really an answer. My life isn’t particularly hard, all my loved ones are healthy and safe but you can see that I’m unhappy, you see it when you look at me and there are about 16 kilos of unhappiness on my frame that weren’t there before. Of course my first impulse was to focus on “do better, use more willpower, never eat sugar again”-plan but then that one never works. A case in point being that the two words I chose for 2009 were “discipline” and “abundance”, and by august I had already forgotten about them. Though I have to say, the “abundance”-part did happen. So that was nice. And I did find out what was wrong with me which helps with the healing (word of the year of 2008).

So, while I’m obviously doing something wrong with the whole word of the year concept I still want to chose one, like a motto for 2010 and I’m focusing on happiness. I have this feeling if I concentrate on being happy the rest of my life will fall into place as well. Now, first thing I did was order a book – well, okay, several. I bought “The happiness project“, of course. I have been a longtime fan of Gretchen’s blog and with that theme I had planned for this year, how could I not? I also bought “Refuse to Choose. A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love”, and for good measure “Unclutter Your Life in One Week“.

I also made a couple of resolutions because only thinking yourself happy is not enough, I know from experience that there will be some doing in the process, and that the road to feeling happier is also plastered with tiny little baby steps that might make me feel worse in the short run. So my resolutions so far are:

  1. Go to bed on time: (Yes, I know, what else is new.) I know that this has been on my list forever. But I actually managed to sleep enough during winter break. Since school started, though, I had one night with adequate sleep. Out of seven or so. But I’ll do better, I promise.
  2. Pick up after myself: Already my own room (maybe I should start calling this my studio, sounds so much better) looks almost civilized and my husband likes this new/old habit of mine very much already.
  3. Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week: This is working great. That’s because there is a group, or at least a banner, so every night when I think that all I want is to sit and watch “Torchwood” for the fourth time I push myself to write my 500 words or more. And – surprise – having written them makes me really happy.500words-250w
  4. Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends: I tend to focus on negative things, like most people, I feel much better when I happen to remember how much I love my husband and son, for example. Generally I try to focus on the positive rather than the negative. And it is working already.

So, I wish you a very happy year 2010. Have you made any resolutions? Broken them already?