July 23, 2014

Wall of Happiness

Year's ago (2000, yikes) on the original Payson Road online support group, which essentially was the catalyst for starting Payson Road, I asked everyone to do a homework assignment.  "What Makes Me Happy" - an essay if you will on what it is that makes everyone smile, or feel good. It could be anything from taking a walk to watching the colored leaves fall from the trees to a favorite TV show.  Anything.

The point I was trying to make was that many of us who suffer from eating disorders tend to take on the identity of our disease and get so caught up in that identity that we're unable to see who we really are.  Defined by our hopes, our dreams, and what makes us happy.  Instead we see ourselves as victims.

The responses were very mixed.  Many of the group members said they didn't know what it meant to be happy. Yet, when they all interacted in support of each other, things just kind of poured out.  And I'm not sure they even realized it themselves that there were in fact many things that made them happy.

I want to share those things with them and with you.  Their honesty will touch you and it may make you think about what makes you happy as well. 

I decided I should do an updated of my list. And I have to admit, it was hard! Much harder than I thought it would be. I wrote it prior to looking at what I wrote back in 2000. There were a lot of similar entries but new ones as well. Some of the differences reflect the sign of times, and changes in my own life. In the time since we originally put this out on Payson Road, there's been books on Happiness Lists, all kinds of articles, discussions, morning show segments. It's been fascinating to watch because when we were talking about it, nobody was. Or maybe they were but we didn't have the accessibility to content that we do today. It's as valid today as it was then, finding your Happiness, and writing down the things that make you happy, is a great first step!

My original list is the final one on this post if you scroll down. My current one, 2014, is below.

If you wanna share yours, please do! Post in the comments. 

This is what makes me Happy!
  • Writing, writing, and more writing
  • Summer nights in Boothbay Harbor, ME, fire in the fireplace, roasting marshmallows, sitting on the porch 
  • My fat kitties they make me laugh and comfort me
  • Jake, he makes me laugh all the time and fuels my creative spirit
  • Having fan chats with Jake about Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, and other favorite shows
  • Traveling to new and favorite places
  • Finding new coffee spots !
  • Paris
  • Going home to Boston and hanging at my Dad's house, having long discussions and watching old movies
  • My family 
  • Connecting with my friends and people who I really value
  • Anything with pumpkin in it -- pie, bread, candles, room spray, color, I love pumpkin!
  • Autumn in New England, the gorgeous and colorful leaves, driving up route two to buy pumpkins or go apple picking 
  • Halloween! Favorite holiday
  • Listening to music and discovering new music
  • The smell of Balsam fir and Pine
  • Dewy or Morning-after-a-rain walks in the New England woods 
  • Hearing about how something I wrote, or said, or contributed to really helped someone 
  • Doing things of value, that have a positive impact on people, the community, the world and trying to seek out new ways to achieve that
  • The Daily Show and Colbert, Vice, Real Sports -- smart, funny, journalism and editorial commentary
  • Movies, love going to them, love discussing them, love reviewing them
  • Really, super awesome customer service. When people go the extra mile and treat you like a human.
  • Peppermint stick ice cream with jimmies on top
  • Hugging my brother and sister after not seeing them for awhile and hanging out laughing for hours about stuff that only the three of us get
  • Really crazy awesome chocolate brownies
  • Stories, love reading and discovering new stories and characters.
  • Wine, learning about the origins and the process of growing the grapes and I love wine tasting.
  • Sitting on the dock, in Boothbay, looking out at the harbor, listening to all the sounds, smelling the sea air, and reading one of my favorite books. Kinda like this pic.

Original Wall of Happiness from Payson Road, 2000

Things That Make Me Happy
I love the first day of spring, not march 21st, but the first time you walk outside then go back inside to leave your jacket.

I love summer time thunder storms and sleeping to the sound of rain.

I love the way that children feel in my lap and their cheeks look when they can't stop smiling.

I love having conversations with people that make me think, and I love staying up late at night, in the silence of the sleepy hours listening to my thoughts wander.

I love long runs on hot days, and stomping through snow knee deep in the winter time.

I love laughing so hard that my stomach wants to crumble.

I love New Hampshire in autumn… I love New Hampshire in the spring and summer.

I love the idea that sometime I will have the chance to love New Hampshire in the winter.

I love letting the music take over, letting the music write me, my mood and my freedom.

I love sitting in silence with someone when you feel so close that the silence is more filling than words could ever be.

I love sun sets, sun rises, the color of the sky during the spring time at precisely 8:30, when sun set is well past, and the sky is not black, but a deep, sleepy, radiant blue.

I love remembering my dreams in the morning, and even more, I love it when my dreams answer the unanswered.

I love seeking answers and the questions they provoke.

I love mountains, from the bottom looking up and from the top looking down.

I like the way an ice cream cone melts slow and sticky down your wrists on the afternoon of a summer scorcher.

I love campfires and inside fires.

I love the smell and the taste of fresh bread.

I love being awake when the night moves from evening slowly into a timelessness and then a new day with dawn.

I love home made art and pictures on the walls.

I love reading letters, writing letters and staying in touch with old friends.

I love to teach and I love to learn.

I love driving, anywhere, everywhere, for so long that its become no where.

I love spontaneity and independence.

I love listening to music when I'm wide awake in the middle of the night with all the lights off so I remember that music isn't something you can see… and then you feel it, everywhere, anywhere.

I love how I feel when I write new songs, and how people can smile and feel touched when I play them.

I love performing, and I love my audiences.

I love inspiration, admiration, uncertainty and determination.

I love other peoples ideas, even when I don't agree with them.

I love youth, not age, but the innocence we associate with youth; the innocence we try to insist is naïve because we are so petrified to live our lives with our hearts.

I love the idea that success can be anything that makes you happy.

I like city views and rural calms.

I love artists, and anyone who is willing to let themselves be artists… because we all are you know!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love surprises, climbing trees, doing things I didn't think Id be able to.

I like diners that donut look like everything that is starting to look the same everywhere you go because our society is allowing itself to conform.

I love black coffee, stale cigarettes and late night caffinated conversations ( the artist cliché, essentially!)

I love anyone who follows their heart, even if my heart feels differently.

I love anyone who is willing to fight apathy.

I love that failure is only possible when you give up… and there is never another minute when you cant start again.

I love listening.

I love being heard.

I love watching children grow.

I love catching bubbles on my tongue, getting bubble gum stuck to my lips, lying in the grass with a four year old and discussing the cloud-t- rex flying into the cloud umbrella in the sky.

I love cooking big dinners and celebrating for no reason.

I love the reflection of the moon over water/of trees over water/ of the stars over water/ of white puffy clouds over water!

I love it when I stop for a minute and realize that I am sincerely lucky to be here, a person enveloped in a vast, magical and mysterious world.

I love it when I remember that everyone who tells me they've figured it out, the purpose, the meaning of freedom, success and life “to the fullest” is full of shit.

Because the greater purpose, no matter how many hypotheses have been posed, is simply an unknown to all of us, and regret should belong only to those who never got to taste the air they breathe, feel the grass they stepped on, find whatever it is that makes them happy and live entirely for that. 

by Nikki

1.      the mountains make me happy, outside camping, the smell of the trees,
the smell of the dirt, the sound of the cold water rushing by.
2.      a massage
3.      my husband stroking my hair
4.      bodywork out (yoga, running, toning, weight lifting, and walking) I
truly find these things enjoyable, most of the time.
5.      my daughter opening up to me as her closest friend.
6.      the first snow of the winter
7.      springtime, opening windows and hearing the birds chirp, makes me
want to clean.
8.      being able to help a friend who is truly in need
9.      having friends that love me unconditionally, friends who never make
judgment on my bad choices, who still love me no matter how many times I
screw up.
10.   the sound of ocean waves, makes me relaxed and sleepy..
11.   playing ball with my dog because he prances and its cute
12.   watching Kandice do cart wheels
13.    listening to  Eli laugh at something funny on TV
14.   watching other  people see and enjoy Nicolas’s sense of humor, when he
is being a complete goofball and they find it funny.
15.   watching my kids play baseball (my favorite sport)

What makes me happy…

The truthful answer to this question is I don't know.  After much thought, I
 have come to the conclusion that not only do I not know what happiness is, I don't think I would know what to do if I was "happy". It's frightening to think that I have always thought of events and situations in terms of what will make me less unhappy.

I have spent so many years trying to avoid pain that I rarely let myself feel pleasure. While I can think of small things that make me happy, such as my cat snuggling up to me when I am sick, it's the "real" things that I am unsure of.  I really think that is confusing comfort with happiness. I know that I do feel happy when I know I've done a good job at work. I also feel happiness when I can make someone else smile. However, when I really look into those things I see that in reality it is that I am making someone else happy and "feeling" happiness through them. It is their approval that is making me feel good.  Someone else saying that I am ok/smart/beautiful, can temporarily take away some of the pain.  I don't think that is what happiness is. It must be more than the absence of pain, right?

Something else that I have realized is that when I could be happy, I don't think I allow myself to be. When there is no drama going on in my life,
 self-created or otherwise, it is uncomfortable for me. I am so used to letting something make me feel bad, that when there doesn't seem to be anything there to do it, I create something to make me feel that way.  Pain is what I am used to.

So, I guess I am not sure what makes me happy at this point.  It is pretty odd to me that at this point in my life, I truly don't know.  I spent all those years trying so hard to find happiness, and was not able to do it.  That thought alone can make me sad. All that effort, and all the pain that I put myself through, and what am I left with?  A woman that does not know how to be happy.  It sounds so simplistic and childish, but it is true.  I can look at this another way though.  The person that is here now is also a woman that can no longer use her past defenses to get by.  She is a woman that can no longer convince herself of the lie that "if only _____, then I will be happy."

I have realized that for the majority of my life I equated other people's happiness with my own.  If my parent/friend/boss/boyfriend was happy with what I had done, then I was happy.  I have yet to be able to find happiness within myself.  So, I guess that is what I am searching for now.  The ability to be happy because I am happy with myself. The ability to let myself be happy.

I told myself to read and answer some of the other posts while I try to figure out ONE thing that makes me happy.  I am so far removed from who I am, I don't even know what makes me happy. I could give you a list of all the things that make me miserable....that would be easy.

Happy. Happy. Happy. Ugh...the only thing that made me smile today, not necessarily happy, but that made my lips attempt a smile, was the rustling of the leaves in the street and the fact that the colors of autumn are so beautiful....for today, and it is noon now, that is the only thing. So don't freak out, I can't think of much either. But, I bet if we try we can both think of 1 thing that we could do for ourselves tonight that would make us happy.

Is this happiness thing about looking around and going, Well - c'mon, make me happy already or is it more about paying attention to things we would like to do??? I think I'm on to something here for myself...hope it is helpful to you.

When I was a little girl, I thought the key to life was just to be happy. How I knew that so young I am not sure.  But that was my belief for as long as I can remember.  I didn't want to be a big career woman, or be rich, at the expense of being happy.  Having all of that would be nice, but I didn't expect that existed actually.

I have always described losing myself somewhere along the way. Who the hell am I?  I have a few childhood and adolescent memories that I label as the death of the Cinderella dream....I'm somewhere back there in time....but to survive I have also created the mask.  I have worn as many as 5 a day.  It has gotten to the point where I can't remember if I have one on or not.

You know I have been living the past few days in increments of 15 minutes. Well for more than a decade, I have lived my life in two twelve hour cycles.  The first twelve hours, making lawyers happy by being the dutiful secretary (and totally wasting my ability to do better for myself, year after year) and the next twelve hours taking care of the boyfriend, apartment, family, whatever would come up and seem so important that I would put aside anything to do for myself until it go so late, I would just go without.  And I suffered. I still suffer.  I don't think anyone living that lifestyle would find too much to be happy about.

Well, this is getting kind of long, but my main point here is, like you, a big part of this struggle is definitely trying to figure out just who we really are. And only then can we figure out what makes us happy.  Because right now, the way we live today, I believe that no one really knows, even us. 

I tried in many ways to overcome my depression and anxiety.  I tried writing (which can help) and thinking and getting to the root of it (thoughtfully) but I can say that nothing helps me feel better than physical therapy of a sort.  I am talking about yoga, about deep breathing, about dancing and singing, about biking in the forest etc...  The mind needs to rest.  It's the only way.  And that is very hard for me, who wants to control it all.  The body wants to speak, to relax, to express etc... but that, I have found, is where happiness lies.  Of course, when you are deep in depression, none of this feels "good" (at least it didn't for me) but that was partly because I couldn't let go, (and I still have trouble)...

I have to tell all you guys... there's this one thing that's really making me happy at the time;  I have no idea what you call the thing when leaves start changing the color right before they fall out of trees, but in Finland, and especially in northern part of Finland (Lappland) that is the most beautiful thing in the world!  I've been watching the fall coming, and even though it's supposed to be depressing, I can't help but to be but amazed of all the colors...

Things that make me happy:
~Horse back riding
~Wildlife Rehab (no, wildlife does not come in for drug rehab! Hehe)
~Just being w/ animals
~Partying (too bad bad things come from that that upset me later)
~Being w/ my friends
~Talking to my online friends and reading/writing things from this
~Playing floor hockey (we played our first floor game tonight!!!! It
was GREAT!!!!!! I haven't played in about 8 or 9 yrs... but it was
sooo much fun!!!!)
~Talking to Chris... that is probably the only thing that I do that
makes me TRULY happy... I am generally happy when I am doing the
other things, but I am always happy when I talk to him... :) I even
woke up happy this morning cuz we had such a great convo last nite,
and I even ate breakfast willingly!! (AND kept it down!! Even when
the food made me feel sick, I didn't throw up!!)

It all boils down to the fact that we have two choices (me included, I haven't eaten a thing all day because I am so afraid of food- that's not right and not how it is supposed to be) and those choices are life or death. in some moments that feels so dramatic and unrealistic, but then you have a moment when the world is caving in and you have no idea whether you want to tuff it out or if life is that important. well, i have to say to myself out loud all the time "i choose life" it's silly i know, but it helps a little and I say that because I think of what makes me happy and what I miss out on when I'm frantic...........

Things that make me so happy 

firm hugs that last longer than five seconds
laughing so hard i lose control
my friends
a starry night
a spectacular view
running on the beach
laying on the beach
walking on the beach
sleeping on the beach
swinging on vines at the park

Oh my gosh how cheesy is this, but it's really true.  Imaging all of those things together and knowing that I have the capacity to experience all of them because they are so simplistic really makes me feel like everything will be fine.  I challenge you to choose life. It's a scary thing cause then you have to be someone besides your eating disorder. If I can have moments when I'm not just bulimic, then I certainly have it in me to have a life like that. 

What Makes Me Happy... 
Sarah Mason (2000 edition)
What makes me happy?
Reading all the messages on the board and watching in wonder as everyone rally's to support each other with open arms and open hearts
Getting an email for someone telling me that for the first time in their life they feel hopeful that they will get through this.
Fireplaces in Maine on a cold summer night with roasted marshmallows and a game of scrabble
Walks on the beach at night in the late Fall
Everything about the Fall - the colors of the leaves, the crispness in the air, Halloween!  The beauty in all the changes
Sledding down the Rez in the winter with a cup of my mum's hot chocolate waiting for me inside
Animals, all kinds - they make me laugh and smile
Kids!  My beautiful nieces and nephews and all their charms
Writing Writing Writing
Dancing Dancing Dancing
Jackie Chan movies!  Yes, really.
Pizza! Lots of it.
Paris.  Ahhhhh Paris.
The smell of my grandmother's perfume.  I still remember it.
My grandmother's house in Maine
Walks around Rock Road and sitting out over the Rocks watching the ocean
Trips!  and Perks!
My family.  My friends.
Music Music Music....Singing Singing Singing
Sex! (sorry mum)
Boat rides and horse rides
A great back rub
Hanging in a cafe in New York having lengthy discussions over politics and fashion
Baseball Baseball Baseball
Peppermint Stick ice cream with Jimmies on top - that's Boston for chocolate sprinkles
Christmas Eve and the St. Paul's Choir
Running around to all my friends houses on Christmas night
Egg Nog with cinnamon and hot apple cider and playing Jingle Bell Rock over and over again while dancing to it with my kitty
Seeing the incredible smiles on my brother and sister's faces after not seeing them for so long and spending a day laughing with them and telling stories
When it comes right down to it, all in all, despite its circles and turns and fist clinching moments, Life makes me happy. 
Big long hugs from Alex.
Alex's warm inviting smile and his incredible spirit that never dies!

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