I feel like I am starting a new chapter of my life. And in one sense, I am. My mother died in February, and from here on out, things will always be dated in my mind as BEFORE MOM DIED and AFTER MOM DIED. Just as with getting married, having kids, or any other major milestone, there's a before and after. I am learning that I need to redefine myself as a person without a living mother.
I am also coming off of one of the most stressful 16-month periods of my life. I've dealt with major stress before, most of which was in 2006. That was the year my daughter was born and spent 3 months in the NICU, finally coming home and leaving me to deal with a feeding tube and tracheostomy for 4 years, and also the year my husband got officially diagnosed with Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease. Since 2006, many stressful life events happened, but things came to a crisis starting in 2012. In a 16-month period, from October 2012 through February 2014, the following events occurred:
- my daughter, age 6 at the time, broke her neck, requiring spinal fusion surgery and her wearing a halo screwed into her head for a few months
- my mother got diagnosed with ovarian cancer
- my husband had a stroke, as a side effect of a brain surgery designed to help his Parkinson's Disease
- my daughter broke her ankle, necessitating use of a wheelchair while it healed
- dealing with my mother's health decline, and flying back and forth to Houston to visit her
- my husband had a heart attack
- my mother died
I've been thinking a lot since she died....about how I want to live my life. Life is too damn short. She was only 68 when she died. And while I'm only 44 today, I don't know where life is leading me. I can suddenly die tomorrow, or I can live until I'm 110. But I want to be happy. And truthfully, I'm not very happy at the moment. I'm not depressed---I suffered from depression in my 20s and know what that feels like, and I KNOW I'm not clinically depressed. But I'm not as happy as I'd like to be, and I'd like that to change. I'm tired of feeling just "ok". I deserve more than that.
I'm declaring a joyful manifesto.
From here on out, I want to do things that make me happy. Have meaning to me. Bring me joy.
Now I get that not everything I do needs to make me joyful. For example, scrubbing toilets or driving the kids to all their activities don't exactly put a smile on my face all the time. But, even those examples end up with me happy. Having a clean house, or having active kids, bring me joy.
Here's a short list of what I've been thinking of doing in my life to create more joy. It's short because I'm still working on it, and I'm sure it'll be a work in progress. But here's what I've come up with so far:
- Be choosy who I spend time with. I'm sick of making lunch dates and coffee dates with people who I'm not too close to. I only want to socialize with people that I really care about. Yes, sometimes I need to suck it up and make chit-chat with acquaintances. But most of the time, if I'm going to make plans with someone, it's going to be someone I consider to be a true friend.
- Say "no" more often. I have the tendency to over-commit, and say "yes" when I should say "no". This year? I will NOT be the room parent for either kids' class at school. I will NOT be the room parent for their religious school classes either. Been there, done that, and it's someone else's turn to step up. Not that I won't help, of course I will---but I don't need to be in charge. I am being very picky about what I am getting involved in with my school's Foundation, a Foundation that I myself started several years ago. I am still active and involved with it, but I am choosing a fundraiser to chair that really speak to me. I have dropped out of not one, but two, book clubs. No more book clubs for me.
- Say "yes" to things that excite me. I am getting more involved in Girl Scouts. This year, not only am I my daughter's co-leader of Brownies, but I am taking a small role in our Service Unit. Girl Scouts make me very happy. I am helping a few friends train for athletic events that they are only dreaming of completing.
- Purging my house. I have a clutter problem with paperwork, especially stuff relating to the kids. We just got our carpets upstairs replaced by hardwood, and everything had to come out of the rooms. I am purging as I'm putting things back. I want to be a more clutter-free person. I do NOT like cleaning and de-cluttering, but when my house is freshly deep-cleaned, and things nicely organized, I am a much happier person in the end.
- Thinking about athletic goals. I have suddenly, as of this weekend, have thoughts of a full Ironman flitting around in my brain. I am seriously considering doing one, although IF I do, I won't be for several more years, not until the kids are teenagers. I have thoughts of Ironman Texas in 2020. Even if I don't do it, the idea of completing it is making me happy. In the meantime, I want to sign up for more things that challenge me, scare me, and excite me.