One of the things that I love about being a teacher is that every summer, I get to read stuff that is not required for teaching, school, or my job. This summer, I picked up Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. While I consider myself a relatively happy person (she considers herself happy too), I liked the advice and the mindfulness to be happy that is the focus of the book. One of the things that she does is list her "commandments," rules and advice that she lives by. Her very first one, "Be Gretchen", is probably the best and hardest advice to take.
So, I have been thinking about my own "commandments." And I decided to share what I came up with. The list is certainly not exhaustive, nor do I harbor any fantasies that it will stay the same as the years wear on. Sadly, I wish I always followed my commandments, but like the ones in the Bible, they are ideals and NOT always easy.
So, here they are. They may not be yours. You may think they are crazy or unrealistic (some I'd agree). But they are what's in my head today.
1. Be happy and be grateful. I think this is the hardest one. I am not always happy. I am not always grateful. However, last summer's reading (a book called Magic by the same author as The Secret) inspired me to start a gratitude journal. I try to write 10 things for which I'm grateful everyday. It is not always easy. It doesn't always happen. However, I am finding that it keeps me from dwelling on the bad things in life, the disappointments, the negativity. And who isn't happier when there is positivity in your life? There is a trending hashtag on Twitter called #firstworldproblems that makes fun of the things we think are tragedies. (Example: "I had to wait 20 minutes in the bank line and now my friend is mad at me #firstworldproblems") While I do not believe that I never have the right to feel sad, it keeps some things in perspective.
2. Don't cry over spilled milk, but for goodness sake, wipe it up! If you have kids, you know what I'm talking about. My kids are messy, and they spill. I nag my children regularly to clean up after themselves. However, when I screw up, I tend to either beat myself up for it ("Another bounced check? I'm an idiot!") or not learn from it ("Another bounced check."). The "crying over the spilled milk part" I think I have under control. It's the "wiping it up" part that seems to get me regularly.
3. "Carpe diem" but not every diem. I hear regularly from people that they are amazed at all the stuff we do--sports, scouts, tree plantings, school functions, etc. I got into the habit of feeling very guilty during non-busy periods of my life. Why? This is something both my husband and I struggle over. My kids are not going to be irrevocably scarred because they missed a soccer game. Not everyday has to produce some kind of greatness. At the same time, we can go through very lazy periods (probably brought on by exhaustion and poor planning) where we do absolutely nothing. I think there is a balance.
4. Be kind. I have at times had a sarcastic sense of humor. When I look back at some of my social media posts, I am not always very nice. My husband and kids are quite frequently the targets for sarcasm, complaint, or otherwise. In my personal life, friends who get on my nerves can warrant less-than-compassionate responses. I have really made an effort to be kinder and gentler. Gretchen Rubin talks about "cutting friends slack" and I like that idea. Meeting people where they are is usually a much happier method of dealing with things. That does not mean I take abuse or allow meanness back. There's a shirt in a lot of novelty stores that says "Mean People Suck" and they do. But I do not think all people are intentionally nasty or hateful or directing their baggage at me on purpose. Kindness can help, even if it kills 'em.
5. It doesn't last forever. In bad times, this is a good thing. In good times, this can be a rather sad thing. I will never have my kids' infancy and toddler years back. Any time that I wasted wishing those years away cannot be undone. My parents are both gone. Losing them has given me a keen sense of how fleeting time is. However, in the bad times, this thought gets me through because I know it will change or get better.
6. Accept criticism, accept praise. I used to be the queen of the "Yeah buts..." Here's what I mean. Friend: "You look great." Me: "Yeah but I need to lose x pounds."; Boss: "You could have done x to improve your teaching." Me: "Yeah but you caught me on a bad day." I am really working on responses that don't include excuses. Criticism? Give it some credence if it's valid. Praise? Just say, "thank you." I have enough "but(t)" already!
7. It's ok to be a quirky nerd mom who does not fit into a size 5 any more. This advice is similar to Rubin's "Be Gretchen." I find as I get older, I like me. I am not perfect. I have a big blue Tardis in my basement. I know more about Star Wars than most people I know. I have to pluck chin hairs out of my face. But I find if I don't compare myself to others, if I don't worry about how others see me, I am happier and others seem to like me more anyway. It goes back to Commandment #1. I am grateful for who I am.
That's as many as I can muster today. Do I always follow my commandments? Nope. But I do find value in writing them down. I hope that you find value in reading them, but if not, that's ok too. Below is the link to Gretchen Rubin's blog--free advertisement for her, I know, but inspiring to me.