It’s Easier to Be Happy When…

Rainbow Quilt from  the Jolly Jabber

Rainbow Quilt from
the Jolly Jabber

It’s easier to be happy when we get rid of the “shoulds” in our life and begin replacing them with “want tos”. Midlife is the perfect opportunity to shuck the things that are not working and get down to the business of enjoying life on our own terms. In my case, it meant emptying out a whole passel of drawers and closets, literally and figuratively, and starting from scratch.

I felt so stuck, so seemingly unable to figure out what was wrong with my life or how to fix it. All I knew was that I was not happy, or living the life I wanted to be living. Even worse, I could no longer will myself to keep doing the things I thought I should be doing. My essential self, my true self, had had enough; enough of pretending, enough of living for everyone else, enough of not doing the things I loved to do.

One of the first books I picked up was Simple Abundance, by Sarah ban Breathnach. I had read it once before, but I decided to read it again. I stuck it beside my bed and every day, usually in the morning I read the page of the day. This time the author’s guidance began to really sink in and I actually began doing some of things she suggested. My favorite exercises, one of the first I began practicing with regularity, was her suggestion to begin replacing things in your home that you hate, with things you love.

Money was tight, and I hated almost everything in my house, but finding the thing I hated the most was not difficult: a factory painting that I bought for $15 in some discount store because it matched the colors in my couch. It had absolutely no sentimental value, nor did it bring me an ounce of aesthetic pleasure. Taking it down and carting it to Goodwill was like going on a mini-vacation. As luck would have it, I found a replacement piece that I did love while I was there. My $3 replacement still gives me warm fuzzies.

Sometimes its the little changes we make over a period of time that brings about the biggest changes in our life. Creating space in a room, or in our day, is a necessary precursor for  to adding something better.  As we look for those things that bring us joy and stop giving our attention to those things we do not enjoy, our lives are transformed.

It’s a whole lot easier to be happy when we let go of the shoulds and the ought tos and replace them with love tos and want tos.

© Dorothy Sander 2013

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Gratitude is Essential to Aging Abundantly

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About Dorothy Sander

Writer.

7 Comments

  1. Your replacement piece is such a great example that it doesn’t take a lot of money to create a nurturing environment for yourself. As I look around my little home, I’m pretty happy with almost everything here. I think it’s very important to feel good about what we surround ourselves with, whether they are material things or just ideas–as you wrote, getting rid of those “shoulds” in life opens the door for wonder possibilities.

  2. lucindasagemidgorden

    Dorothy,
    I can relate to everything you wrote. We have a friend who says, “Should is a four-letter word.” My husband and I have to remind ourselves of that often.

    I loved the story about the painting. Money is tight for us right now too, but we have lots of lovely artwork in our house because of trades. My husband is an artist and has traded his work for that of others. It’s wonderful to be surrounded by all this original artwork and not have spent loads of money to acquire it.

    Thanks for your post.

    • I’ve lived most of my life without money. Part of that time I lived in despair, part in terror and then there’s guilt, shame, deep feelings of less-than. All of that was a waste of energy and attention. Separating ourselves from the culture and the subtle influences of the world around us that tell us we should be someone other than we are frees us to be exactly who we are, even if that means being a “starving artist” or a struggling business owner. Years gone by the world seemed to admire the artists among us, but now I think there is a subtle belief that if you are truly good at what you do you will be a commercial success — like J.K. Rowling for instance. It has been my experience that society does not often notice, or reward, the truly gifted among us — until after their death perhaps. It’s wonderful that your husband’s creativity spreads outward and that you support and enjoy the work of other creatives. Thanks for your comment.

      • lucindasagemidgorden

        I can relate to all those feelings of less-than and shame. Of all our siblings, we are the poorest, at least monetarily. Since I quit my teaching job five and a half years ago to devote myself to writing, I’ve learned that I am not my bank account, the car I drive the home I live in, my weight, or looks. I’ve learned something else too, that I write for myself. I write to express something that’s going on inside of me that yearns to get out. If only one person is touched and helped by what I write, that’s okay. I’m still going to keep doing it, no matter how much or how little money comes from it. Thanks for your lovely post.

  3. I find that a concomitant of replacing shoulds with want-tos is coming to a place of self acceptance. So long as one feels one has to prove anything to oneself or to others, a cascade of shoulds will follow. When what one is, is enough, the gifting of want to, like and love can begin.

    • Well put! Yes, self acceptance, and self-esteem, is fundamental to beginning to enjoy and appreciate life. I think sometimes we think we have self acceptance when it is actually a stubborn refusal to look beneath the surface. Slamming the door on the opposition and digging one’s heals in can actually just postpone the inevitable. There’s a fluidity, an up and down to developing self-esteem that is firmly rooted in who we are. Thanks for your comment. It gave me food for further thought! 🙂

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