Friday, September 11

Make Time For Friends / The Happiness Project

For those of you who do not know, I have decided to read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and follow along on her journey to find Happiness right where we are in life. I will be posting every month in response to the chapters topic that are set up in her book. You can follow along in my journey here.
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June (September) : Make Time For Friends
When I found out the subject matter for the Month of June I was really happy. I feel like I can become extremely introverted, so the thought of a friendship "challenge" made me rather excited. Ideas were already popping into my head that I hoped to include in this challenge such as "write a letter" and "hang out with a friend even if I have work to do." I even went so far as to start writing a few letters out.

Life, however, had other plans for me. Without much warning, I was hit with a very bad cold which lead to be being completely and ridiculously exhausted. I didn't even have the energy to stand up and play with my daughter for an entire week. Going to the doctor we found out that it was the worldwide issue of thyroid problem and I was immediately put on medication for it. Three months later, and still tired, I am in much better condition than I was before.

So, with all of that rambling, I am so eager to be back, to pick up the Happiness Project for where I left it. It was so nice reading Rubin's words again - I think she has a lovely "voice," and to get back into the mind frame of being happy. I do need to rewrite those letters (a lot can change 3 months in a Toddler's life) and I need to remember that I do, honestly and always, "feel happier when (I) am with other people."

Remember Birthdays
"Don't let perfect be the enemy of good." 

You know on Facebook how it reminds you when one of your friends is having a birthday? Yeah, I used to love that feature. So much so that I was wishing people happy birthdays whom I didn't even know. Of course, over time, I drifted apart from so many of those friendships, and even though we were still friends, it was hard for me to wish a happy birthday when it felt like we could spend hours catching up with each other. Lo and behold, I stopped writing happy birthdays. It just got to the point that I felt bad saying "Happy Birthday" when I felt like there needed to be a "hey, how are you, how have you been, what is new, this is new with me" type of conversation as well. And since I needed to catch up with so and so, I wanted to have a moment where I could actually give my undivided attention to that letter / email / Facebook message, to focus on what news I wanted to tell them or enquire about, and to have a heart to heart. Since I rarely get those moments of peace where I can just write out whatever it is I want to say, the messages never get formed and never get sent. I stopped saying happy birthday on Facebook because I felt like it wasn't good enough. 

I love Gretchen's "don't let perfect be the enemy of good" statement that she gives in the book and it perfectly sums up what I have been doing. She talks about how often we put off good tidings simply because we want it to be perfect or full. We want to have time to relate all of the news, to spend hours talking on the phone, to write a note of care, thought, and love. Why am I robbing my friends a Happy Birthday simply because I feel it is not good enough? It is good enough. It shows that I care and that I am thinking of them. It can be a note of love and it can even be a way to ease into a "catch up" conversation. I need to stop striving for this idea of perfection that I have in my head and just spread the love around - even if it comes in a "simple" Happy Birthday.  

- start writing Happy Birthday on Facebook walls. 
- write letters even if it isn't full of everything I want it to say.
- text people just to say hi & let them know that I am thinking of them. 

Be Generous
"Generous acts strengthen the bonds of friendship ..." 

One of my favourite things about this chapter is that Gretchen explains that she does not enjoy buying gifts for people, yet that doesn't excuse her from being generous. She reflects who she is (Be Gretchen) and she figures out four different ways that she can give to her friends: help people think big, bring people together, contribute in my way, & cut people some slack.  I love the freedom and creativity behind finding other ways that I can be generous to people without needing to buy them anything. Don't get me wrong, gift giving is probably one of my favourite things in the entire world. However,  there are times when we frankly cannot afford to buy anyone anything for holidays or celebrations. The idea of thinking outside of the box actually makes me quite happy. 

- reflect on ways other than gift buying that I can be generous.

Show Up
"Familiarity, it turns out, breeds affection." 

One of the things that I am currently working on right now is the idea that I am "allowed" to bring my work when I go over to visit other people. I work from home and because of that I have a lot of time that I need to spend on the computer. Or on a craft such as knitting. Both of these things are easily moveable and flexible as well.  The idea of visiting and working together or apart with a friend sounds so much more appealing to me than the idea of turning on my television for background noise. The reason I have been focusing on this more is because I often feel like I always decline offers to hang out because of all the work that I need to get done. If I can get into the habit of bring my projects, my writing, and other computer work with me so that I can do it while we are watching a show or knit and chat, I can get better at showing up for my friends. 

Another thing that I have been trying to be more okay with (I am an introvert) is the concept of hanging out with my husband's friends also known as people I don't really know. My husband is a gamer and an extrovert who recently made a lot of friends at work. They have been getting together a lot to play games. I have only been once, but I do know that it is important for them to get to know me and its important for my husband for me to be apart of it as well. Every single time we go out for a social gathering I 100% of the time enjoy myself, even if I grumbled about not wanting to go beforehand. 

I want to be a better friend, a more approachable person, someone who others can talk too. I realize that I cannot do this in the comfort of my own home. I don't want my friends to forget me and I don't want people to think that I don't enjoy being in their company. I want to try harder to be more spontaneous, to just say yes, whenever people ask for me to join in on the fun. I have regrets of years past of saying no, I want to learn from my mistake and start getting to know people better. 

- say yes to spontaneity. & bring my camera - perfect photo opportunity. 
- plan projects that are easy to pack to friends homes.
- get a morning routine so that I can do the computer work before Bug wakes up. 

Don't Gossip
"It wasn't until I tried to stop gossiping that I realized how much I did, in fact, gossip." 

Gossiping is the absolute worst but it is one of the easiest things to do. I always feel horrible after someone shares their tad bit of gossip news, and I try my hardest to remain as neutral as possible - seem uncomfortable as possible. Usually my lack of encouraging the story allows it to die off, but I do need to stay stronger when it comes to the start of the situations. 

"I shouldn't poison his mind with criticisms." The last thing I would ever want is to say something negative about a person and have everyone in the room feel the same way about that person. That is not my goal and that should never be my intent. How unfair and how unjust.. 

Make 3 New Friends
"New friends expand your world by providing an entrance to new interests, opportunities, and activities ..."

There have been a couple of times now, when out and about, that I ran into someone, usually another mother, who have been so sweet and nice. Usually the conversation would start with a question; "what baby carrier are you using," "do you like your stroller," etc and before I know it we have been chatting for longer than 15 minutes. In the back of my brain a voice calls out, "ask her for her number, see if she wants to be a mommy friend." Yet something always holds me back. I never ask for her number and, I am positive, that I missed out on three amazing friendships because of it. Even if they said no or didn't want to follow through, at least I wouldn't have the question of "what if" floating through my brain. 

It amazes me how closed off I can be. There are days that I feel so settled in what my life is, content, and that is unfair to anyone. I am closing myself off to possible friendships, opportunities, events, community, and life. Any excuse (exhaustion is my big hurdle right now) can keep us from having the time of our lives, for living our best life, and for expanding our horizons. 

- expand my horizon.
- try something new (every month?)
- stop being afraid, ask them for their number! 
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I would love to hear from you, readers comments and discussions are always welcome. Have you read this book before? What are some of the things that you found challenging or easy? What was your favourite thing to learn? Without even reading the book, have you discovered these challenges in your own life? 

It is never too late to start a happiness project. If you would like to join in on it with me, I would love to hear about your journey. xoxo 

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