For the First Time, I’m Becoming Myself (Finding Meaning, Community, and Happiness)
It's time to make yourself a priority again if
You can't remember the title of your last book you read. Either it's been too long or you literally can't remember.
You actually think that you and Meredith Gray, (from Grey's Anatomy) could be BFF's in real life.
You think you might be in a permanent state of dehydration.
Your kids have a sit-down with you to talk with you about your stalker-y texts to them. The last 'crazy party night' you had was you sipping wine while you plucked the grays out of your hair in front of the mirror.
You made sure the dog got his annual checkup, but you're over-due for a pap smear.
So this chapter's really about finding meaning and community and happiness.
Oh, and happiness, like that word. I mean we asked people are you happy, and it was like,
[Trisha and Amy in Unison] happy? What does happy mean, I don't know what it means?
"I'm not sure what that means, "that doesn't apply to me," one woman said.
Am I allowed to be happy?
m not sure I really get that. Like wow, it's a trick word. But really, you know, what does it mean to be becoming yourself in this phase? And we really dug deep and talked to a lot of women who were confused about that and really lacking permission even exploring that.
Well and redefining happiness. You know, we as a generation have tied happiness with success and accomplishment, so our expectations are we followed all of the rules. We, you know, we're educated, we'd had a career, we'd do everything we're supposed to do during the day. We feed the dog, we go to work. We pick up the kids, we do everything, and it's like, okay, we've done it.
And we're confused as to why we're not happy.
Right, why am I not happy?
And we think that happiness is tied to maybe future accomplishments. Oh, well then maybe in a year, or maybe when the kids are out of the house, or maybe when the marriage suddenly,
You have to do more.
magically gets better.
I feel better, I'm fit again. So we're tying happiness to the future. In reality we should be tying happiness to moments of joy, because when we start to do that then the little moments add up into bigger moments and bigger spans of time, and then suddenly one day, it's sort of like, well gosh, I really am in sort of a happy phase. And so really looking at happiness as a string of moments of joy can sort of recalibrate how we think about it.
Well, and it's an interesting time, because studies show that really at this time of our life, we're at the lowest point. It kind of hits you this low, this U-curve of when we're in our 40s and 50s, it's the hardest part, hardest time in our life to be happy. So we have to work a little bit harder to even define it for ourselves.
It's true, and we talked to one woman who did start to meditate, had never meditated, thought she couldn't do it, thought she was bad at being silent, and just started in small ways. But after about a month of consistent meditation, she woke up one day and said, "I think I'm a little happier, and I'm not sure why." But she attributed it to just those little moments.
Well, and those little moments are everything. It doesn't mean that you have to change your career or go away to a ashram for two weeks. It means those little things. For me, I love spending time with my kids in the morning. It's the time that I know they're all gonna be there eating breakfast, and it makes me really happy. I get up a little bit earlier so I can be part of that day. Maybe 'cause they won't be around in the evening, or it's little bit busier for me that week, but that's that time that I really cherish, and it makes me happy.
And those short-term attainable goals, like we talked to researchers who know that when you plan a trip, you're actually happiest and most excited when you're anticipating the trip. And when you get on the trip, it's super fun and it's awesome, but you're here, but you're way up here anticipating it, so kind of make these short term goals for yourself that will give you that opportunity to feel excited, and then all of a sudden a string of these short-term goals add up into this consistent feeling of happiness.
Right, well, and that's why those building years, so those years we talked about previously, those phases in our life, the dreaming years, the building years are so, your state of happiness is so much more powerful because you're looking to the future. It's the journey, it's not the outcome, and we've kind of hit the point where we're like, okay, we've accomplished everything we wanna do in our lives, so what's next, what's more, I want more, and that's the beauty of that redefining thing is to find that next, you know, what makes you really joyful, what makes you really want to get up in the morning--
And to that point, sort of looking at redefining happiness as a state of mindfulness versus a state of being. And so what really learning to live in the moment that much more, or just go on that morning walk with your dog and really, not ticking off your to-do list but really being in the moment and feeling the sun shining and looking at the flowers and just what is that state of mindfulness for you, what does that look like? And it might seem like small things, but really make a difference.
Right, and some of those things too, for some people, we've held on to a lot of things in the past that are clogging our ability to be happy or to be joyful, so forgiveness comes into this. You know, really actively thinking about what's holding you back from being fulfilled and being happy, and some of that's old baggage. Like forgiving yourself, forgiving others, forgiving things that have happened and letting go so you're able to move forward to the--
Right, and we talked to one woman who held onto a job, and she was miserable for 10 years in it, and she couldn't let it go. She was beating herself up so much, and the minute she started to let that go and make peace with it, forgiving herself for it,
it's like, it's okay, you know. The time is now, it's where are you now? And when she forgave herself for that then she was able to move forward in a whole new way, and we don't even realize we're doing that. Another thing that we heard over and over from women is the more they gave, the more they felt like they were contributing in some way to society or to another person's happiness, they were happier, and so really looking at okay, there's the mindfulness piece and then there's the generosity piece.
Well, and we give all day long as women, right? So it's not giving to your immediate family. It's not doing more for them, but it's taking the time to go what can I give to outside of this craziness in my life that actually makes me feel good, that I want to,
And it could be sitting, it could be going
not what I have to.
and sitting with an elderly neighbor. It could be talking a friend through an issue. It could be going to church and--
Could be listening to your girlfriend. It could just be giving in a way that's so subtle, but it makes you feel
a little bit, yeah. And it brings you joy.
In a different way. Right, and brings you joy, exactly. So ways, there are specific ways to sort of make happiness a priority and make it a goal. And ask yourself if happy kind of, does it apply to you, is it a goal? How are you reframing it, how are you looking at it? And happiness seems to be a terrifying word for a lot of women for some reason. So what about the word relevance or meaning? Maybe happiness is too lofty of a word to think about. And some of us just think, I'm never gonna be happy. What does that even mean?
Right, and also kind of drilling, going back to what made you happy before you had so much craziness in your life and before you were tugged in so many different directions. What really made you smile? What made you feel fulfilled? What made you feel happy?
And we can learn a lot from out kids. I mean, look at the way when they're little, or the way that they are now as teenagers or beyond. It's like, they live in the moment and they look at happiness as just moment to moment and whether it's a fun dance party one minute, or you know, just looking at life like why not?
Or sitting alone and reading a book. Maybe that brings you joyfulness just to be alone and take that time for yourself. Yeah, and make a choice. Make a conscious decision to say happiness is gonna be a part of my life. Joyfulness is gonna be a part of my life, and I'm gonna--
And it might be just a moment today, but I'm gonna make it.
Right, exactly. But every moment every day adds up to a lot.
And another thing really is to look back at not only the things that have brought you joy, the people in your life that have brought you joy, and why and how. And so those will kind of inform the future for you. And you might even wanna write it down, you know? These are the moments that I feel pure joy. And it might be singing my guts out in the shower. But what are those moments that you can kind of get back to and infuse in your life? I mean, in our family, it's a dance party every single morning, even if my teenagers are sneering at me and rolling their eyes at me and like late, I don't care, I crank the music, we dance, and it's like inevitably someone's gonna crack a smile. So that's just how we do it.
I love that, yeah.