This afternoon I listened to the latest episode of a podcast called Empower Her that my friend Lexi recommended to me. This is the first time I’ve listened to this particular podcast and it was basically a 20 minute blast of hard truths, but things I (and probably many women!) needed to hear. The episode topic was on boundaries, which is definitely something I struggle with. But the thing that really jumped out at me is how many times the host, Kacia, said the words “what I need to do to be a FULL COMPLETE HAPPY PERSON.” That description really got me thinking about what I need in my own life to be a full complete happy person. I decided I definitely needed to make a list to help me remember these things when life starts feeling tough. I challenge you to write one as well!
Time to Myself
This is probably the biggest one. The biggest truth for all introverts, right? We need time alone to recharge. Not enough time to ourselves and we basically implode. This is the number one reason why summer is so hard on me. Even though my kids aren’t in my face and needing my attention every minute of the day, they’re still HERE. I crave quiet and solitude like I can’t live without it. I think the most important time of day for me is right when I wake up. I’ve always been a very early riser and I revel in that 30-90 minutes I often have before anyone else comes downstairs. But there are also days where a kid gets up early and follows me down the stairs. Those days my heart immediately sinks because most of the time it’s the kid that wants to talk talk talk and is doing his own reveling in some one on one attention. The one little extrovert of the family. Don’t think I’m terrible because I’m glad to have the bonding time with him too. But it sets me up for emotional exhaustion from the get go and it’s so hard to recover from that. I also really need time to myself in the afternoons to read and rest. It works out perfectly during the school year. It’s much harder in summer. And I always end my day alone, reading in bed. I essentially need a good chunk of time all three points in the day to feel the best. If I’m not getting those regularly, then I need to get out of the house and find it elsewhere – usually at a bookstore or movie or dog park or walk.
Daily Connection with Greg
Greg and I don’t have a ton of things in common. And we don’t honestly spend a whole lot of time together because he’s usually doing something with the boys whenever they’re all home (which is basically all the time). But I still feel like most of the time we have a pretty strong connection because we make a point of talking to each other throughout the day. He’s at a computer programming and is usually able to message with me throughout the day. I can tell him any random thing that comes to mind without feeling like I’m bothering him too much. Though I try not to be TOO annoying. We also end almost every single night watching a tv show together while he rubs my foot and ankle. It’s not a lot of time, it’s nothing extravagant, but it’s a routine that I think we both depend on to be in touch with each other despite all the distractions of family life. And we usually have one night a week where the grandparents take the boys, and we can spend more together. Once or twice a month we usually have a date night out of the house, which I think is our best way to connect.
I don’t think I could survive without my books. I’m pretty sure a day has never gone by in my life without at least a few minutes to read. I NEED THEM. Reading is my greatest escape from reality and my all time favorite way to spend any available down time. Even when I’m not actually reading, I’m always on the hunt for more books, researching new authors, checking the weekly new releases, following bookstagrammers, meandering through bookstores, contributing to bookish conversations on facebook, tracking all of my own reading habits. It brings me such unadulterated joy. A day with little time to read is never a very good day.
Fortunately for me, being creative is my job. I love the thrill of creating something new. It’s how making ragdolls became such an obsession that turned into a pretty lucrative part time job. I hold that creativity so tight that I often struggle with accepting custom orders or remaking dolls that I’ve already done because it so strongly stifles my desire to always be thinking of something different and unique. Most of my creative energy is funnelled into doll making these days, but I used to direct it toward baking. Which I also still really enjoy, I just don’t have as many people or places to share the finished products with, so I try not to bake as often as the urge might strike. I also love being creative with decorating my house and putting together gifts for people.
Writing really is the greatest fuel for my emotional well being. It’s so cathartic as I gather my thoughts and spit them out into the world. Most of my writing is actually in the form of daily emails to my best friend. Which certainly helps maintain our almost 30 year friendship. But I do wish I could put more of that energy toward other writing projects. It’s just nice to have a response! I also go through spurts of writing journal entries, I just find it hard to get in the habit of that because there are always so many other calls on my time. I went through something really tough last fall, though, and writing extremely long journal entries is the only way that got me through it.
This is the biggest hole in my life because it’s the hardest thing to accomplish on my own – I really need another person to have a fulfilling friendship! I think if I could design my perfect friendship life, it would be to have a standing weekly night out with maybe 1-3 other moms. Not enough of a demand on my time that it feels overwhelming, but often enough to really connect with a few people and truly feel like we care about each other. It feels so tricky for me because during the school year, the moms that are still available during the day almost all have young children and are only interested in getting together for play dates. I have no kids at home anymore, so of course I’m not asked out. I’m almost always available at night because Greg is a super parenting partner and our kids are rarely involved in things, but everyone else is SO BUSY. It’s nearly impossible to schedule something, especially once you get more than two people involved in the planning. Spontaneity is nonexistent and when it takes over a month, sometimes more, to actually get something on the calendar it ends up feeling pretty depressing. The last time I tried to get together with two of my closest friends it took us five months to find a time that worked. FIVE MONTHS. Even when I do get things scheduled, someone almost always cancels. And then I feel rejected. Honestly, I think of all my attempts to gather people together in the last year, I’ve been fully rejected at least 75% of the time. And maybe people just don’t like me! So I need to find the people that do. Female friendships, even in the busiest season of life, are so important. I truly believe that.
Close Extended Family
I think this is pretty important for general family happiness. We’re so lucky that our kids are growing up with grandparents so supportive and immersed in their lives. I’m so happy to have my mom, who I text totally ridiculous pet pictures to all day long because she’s the only one who would appreciate them. She’s probably the only person in the world I actually have a ton of things in common with, so I’m glad we have that bond. I do wish I were closer and relationships were easier with all our siblings. There sometimes feels like a lot of strain in those relationships and I honestly don’t think it’ll ever go away unless we spend a lot of time together just living life. And…that’s not going to happen. But it would be nice!
Good Food and Lots of Variety
I spend way too much time thinking about food. I honestly wish I didn’t. But…it’s also a great avenue for creativity and personal pride. I love finding that perfect cookbook that is going to provide me with a plethora of incredibly flavorful meals. I am obsessed with walking through every grocery store I ever come across, searching for unique chip flavors or spice blends or ethnic sauces or hearty breads or smoked cheeses. Whenever we go on vacation I spend so much more time searching for restaurants with delicious food than looking for things to actually do. I’m also constantly on the hunt for great new coffee companies and flavors, and most recently – hard candy companies (because hard candy helps me eat less!). I really love food, especially spicy food. And I love new and special treats. It adds a lot of joy to my life.
Exercise and Dogs
These go together because I basically don’t exercise without Annie at my side. (More accurately – pulling me down the sidewalk.) In those few months after I broke my ankle last year, I was LOSING MY MIND not being able to go on walks with her. In part because I know she didn’t understand it and was overly hyper and it was so frustrating not being able to do anything about it. But also because walking really is a great way to get fresh air, burn some calories, and just generally be healthier and happier. I’m struggling this month because my allergies are just so terrible I’m avoiding long walks at all cost. It sucks to know that as summer goes on the mosquitoes are also going to get even worse. But I’m definitely happiest getting a really long walk in first thing in the morning. I just need to be a whole lot better about actually doing it, even when it’s tough.
Space of My Own
Much like needing time to myself, I also need space to call my own. I’ve honestly been pretty selfish about it since we moved into our house three years ago. I have the entire dining room as my sewing room. Which I genuinely do need the space for because it is my real job and I spend every day there. But I’ve also basically claimed the living room as my own as well. It’s definitely the best room in the house. And everyone else is welcome to be in here, but there are no electronics in this room (except my computer). They like electronics more than an awesome room, so it’s mostly mine. Last year Greg bought me an amazing huge and cozy chair, and I really went all out making it into the best book reading corner of all time. I love it there. I can’t say this for my sewing room, but I do put a huge amount of effort into always keeping the living room clean. It’s a sacred space I can always count on to offer peace and quiet, even if the entire rest of the house is in disarray.
This is something I started maybe four years ago, when I decided to take a winter weekend trip to Galena on my own. Since then I’ve gone to Door County, Chicago, and Minnesota for solo vacations. Coming up in August I’m going to Texas on my own for six days! In November I’m going to North Carolina for five days. Honestly, even if it’s just a single night in a hotel room an hour away – it is SO WORTH IT. I see it as an absolutely necessary retreat for my soul, to get away from my life and to do lists and constant stress, just to spoil myself with great food, awesome shopping, beautiful nature spots, and endless time to read and relax. It might feel hard to justify the expense of a vacation by yourself. But it’s honestly about my favorite thing in the world. I can guarantee you it’s really helping me get through these harder days of summer, knowing I have an amazing trip coming up in less than two months. It’s going to be the perfect reset that’ll leave me refreshed and ready to tackle those final weeks of summer and the crazy pace of September.
Lots of Treats
Okay, so maybe I sometimes go overboard on this. But I try to keep myself motivated to get through the hard times with plenty of treats to bring me up. One of my favorite things is to get lunch at Qdoba or Chipotle almost every week after I’ve run all my errands. I also like to take special shopping days to my favorite stores when I know I need a break from life. I enjoy treating myself to a new book if something comes to my attention that sounds amazing. I sometimes splurge and order myself some special chocolate or candy that I won’t have to share with anyone. I am obsessive about taking an afternoon break every single day to read, at least try to nap, and then make myself an amazing cup of coffee when I wake up before I get back to work. I enjoy looking for little things that I know will make me happy – my most recent discovery is Maybelline Baby Lips. They’re so cheap and every single color makes your lips look amazing! I mentioned this a month or two ago, but gifts are my love language, and I’m not getting many gifts from other people (Greg got annoyed with me for saying this, but it’s the truth!). Which is fine! But it’s also why I gift myself things. It may sound super selfish if this is not your thing. But it’s a form of self love that truly keeps me happy and motivated and better equipped to deal with life when things are hard.
Well, this turned out to be quite the list! If you made it to the end – congrats! (lol) Now write your own list and refer back to it when you need a reminder of how to reset your life to become your own full complete happy person.