New Year’s Resolutions

I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. Must now, quickly and with no time to waste, contemplate the meaning of life, the new year, the holy grail of balance, and life goals.

Ready, set, go.

I’m a driven person. I always have several long term and dozens of short term goals brewing. Life with small children means that many, if not all, of those aspirations are on hold. Panic waxes and wanes, with the sensations that life is passing by and that life is exactly what it needs to be as other things wait.

And I was pretty sure I was unhappy in this limbo until I read a series of articles on happiness in Southwest Airline’s in-flight magazine. I should have been reading one of the dozens of books on my nightstand, or writing something compelling, but the bags were overflowing with boring wooden, BPA-free, phthalate-free, battery-free toys, and there was no way I was packing another bag just so I could have something to do. My whole life is about filling every nook and cranny of time with something productive, and, dammit, this holiday vacation I was going to stare aimlessly out windows.

Of course I can say that but can’t really do it, so while Butter was sleeping in my arms (after four hours in the airport waiting for a delayed flight) I was reading article after article on being happy. And during the course of 30 minutes, was interrupted 17 times (I counted) by my delightful children. So I figured, what with the inability to have two freaking minutes to myself, the deferred goals, the lack of comfort in my own older-and-not-springing-back-from-pregnancy skin, and the predictable winter mid-life crisis that makes me want to move, get a job, quit a job, go back to school, sell my soul, and run away from home all in the same day, that I’d score more than a few ticks below happy.

Shows what I know.

Apparently, since I find joy in something every day, since I’m still compelled to make progress toward those goals and dreams, since I’m frustrated as hell but interested and engaged in what I’m doing, I’m actually quite happy. Above the 50th percentile, anyway, which shocks me.

[Aside: how Eeyore does that make me that Fair-to-Middling seems impressively upbeat?]

The nature of the questions asked in the Authentic Happiness Inventory point out what I’ve known for 5 years: though it’s important to me to raise my children myself and defer fulfilling my needs and desires while they’re small, I would probably be happier working in a situation in which I am skilled, respected, and see direct results of my efforts. It’s the way I’m built—this steep learning curve, 30-year deferred feedback game is not my strong suit. I’d be more engaged and interested in and proud of my work if it were not the trying-hard-to-be-patient and doing-my-best-to-be-gentle direction of small children.

Yet refusing my near-constant need to follow my avocation is actually reminding me almost constantly of my current purpose in life.

Frustrating as hell though it may be to do what I believe in rather than what I crave, I know why I’m happier than I perceive myself to be outside the smattering of joyful moments in each day.

Because as stupifying and frustrating and scatalogical as my job is, I genuinely believe it’s important. And research suggests a sense of purpose and usefulness is one of the most important factors in feeling satisfied about your life.

So, sure I’ll eat more vegetables in 2011. And write more. And eliminate the stuff that isn’t necessary so I can do more of what I, personally, thrive on (housework and corn syrup). But I’ll also spend a fair amount of the time I was budgeting for blinking on recognizing that I’m a happy frustrated, agitated, unfulfilled person.

See how I’m already looking on the bright side? Way to go, 2011.

11 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions

  1. ha! hny to you, nappy. i sing the “we’re late, we’re late” song to the girls every morning as we’re always late for the very important date of school. perhaps i should refer to you now as ‘happy nappy’?

  2. Your job is THE most important one in the world. It’s pathetic that we have to be the ones to remind ourselves of it. Keep in mind that this early investment will pay off in the long run. I see it with my own kids. Giving them all of you in these first few years is imperative. It provides the foundation. Soon enough they won’t need you in the same way and you’ll be able to fly as far and as free as you want. I only know you through your writing but it sounds like you’re doing a kick-ass job.

  3. Oh Nap! In the wise words of the Rolling Stones, you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes, you get what you need.

    Glad travels were safe…Hoping you get more of what you want in 2011!

  4. Daily I try to remind myself, “this job is important, this job is important, this job is important…”

    But it’s hard, because laundry and dishes and tidying up seem less than monumental as far as world achievement is concerned.

    However, as a dedicated Eeyore, I admire your tenacity and your search for the positive. Send some my way, would you?

    ps: you are an amazing mother. I love that you counted how many times you were interrupted. I once tried to keep count of how many times my kids said “Mama!?!” during the day but stopped at 87 and just poured myself a drink, waving a white flag.

  5. This post is what I love about being a mom that blogs. I find amazing women like you who think like I think and do as I do (counting interruptions) and contemplate what it means to be a better mother, a better person. Posts like this push me to evaluate/reassess/improve. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Well, as you can see over at my blog, I’m very frustrated with my life, and I have been for a very long time. I think what it comes down to for me is that I honestly believe my kids would be better off if someone else were raising them. I have many, many faults and shortcomings as a mother. I’m impatient. I hate art projects. I don’t want to go to the park. I don’t want to have play dates. I mainly live for naptime and preschool. I feel like nothing I do around here is important. And I really have never liked children. (There. I said it.) I’m pretty much the worst kind of regular ol’ mom you can have. (Meaning, I don’t beat the kids. I’m not a heavy drinker. And I self-censor a LOT. But I’m certainly not happy or engaged.) I really, really need a job to feel good about myself. And, for me, I think that my kids would probably be happier if I were happier, even if that meant that I was only around for three-four hours a day instead of six-eight, or more.

    I don’t know. Everyone has their own way of coping with this time of life. I’m glad that what you’re doing is working for you. Me? I need a change, or I might die. That’s how depressed I am.

  7. Pingback: Special Edition Post – What She Said… « So what's normal anyway?

  8. It’s official: We are twins. So much so that I have written a special edition post entitled “What She Said” with nothing more than a link to this post.
    Perfectly said.

  9. I love this. I can send you some extra corn syrup and housework to keep you afloat, if you like. ;)

    I feel fulfilled, and often happy, but regularly incompetent and always exhausted. How weirdly we’ve built our society, that parenting turns out to be experienced this way. (How’s that for bizarre passive sentence construction?)

  10. Hey, great post. Great blog. It is fresh and to the point. I just read literally dozens of blogs, because I can’t sleep, and yours is by far the best quality. You know it is rare to find decent content on these things… Most of them are cheap and spammy.

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