Where Logic Meets Love

The Pursuit of Happiness

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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The Pursuit of Happiness | Faith Permeating Life
Recently, I came to a realization.

Genealogy is a hobby, not a project.

My life is driven by projects. I sent a goal for myself, something I want to accomplish, and then I work toward it doggedly. And I love that. I don't always love the process, but I love the feeling of accomplishment.

I had this notion in my head that I was going to get all of the people into my family tree, the bare bones, and then I would be able to go back and add detail about their lives that I found from letters, books, etc. What I came to realize lately, though, is that my family tree project was not enjoyable for me anymore because it was never-ending. I could work for hours and hours and not get anywhere closer to a finish line, because there isn't one. There will always be more branches, more children, more lines to trace back and forth. I've started spending more time on the stories, reading letters, just enjoying learning about the people whose lives led to mine. And maybe everything on my tree is not accurate, but it's a lifelong work in progress.

This might seem like a small paradigm shift for me to make, but it's an important one. As I'm in my sixth month of mono, I've started to get weighed down by the depression that comes with being ill for this long. Mono doesn't cause depression, but it's not uncommon for people who have it for a long time to experience a lot of the same symptoms that come with depression. And so I'm making a concentrated effort to channel my energy not into never-ending, life-sucking "projects," but into activities that make me happy.

There's a lot in my life that should be making me happy, but it's somehow tied up with things that are making me unhappy. For example, my job responsibilities are changing at work to allow me to do less scheduling and more data analysis, which is exactly what I wanted. A few responsibilities have already been shifted, but the major change was supposed to happen Sept. 1, and that has been pushed to Oct. 1. I'm not 100% sure it's going to happen then. And my fear is that once it does, there won't be enough evaluation projects to fill the gap, and I'll just end up with more downtime, which is probably the worst part of my job. I like to be doing something. And yet, lately, with exhaustion and now a head cold, I haven't had the energy to really focus on any big projects. So what do I want? I think it's this uncertainty that's most upsetting.

Things at home have been really good, too. Mike finally made peace with the fact that I wasn't my old self and he couldn't be disappointed when I didn't want to do activities that took a lot of energy. The past few nights, he's made us both tea and we sit and do Sporcle quizzes together. He's really stepped it up with taking care of the apartment, so I don't have to constantly face the choices of a) stressing out about living in mess, b) exhausting myself by cleaning it up myself, or c) nagging him. He's started learning to plan ahead for a week of meals so he can do the grocery shopping and cook dinner every night. And he makes me smoothies every night so I can take these packets of Vitamin C I need to get stronger.

At the same time, though, the reason he's able to do all of this is that he doesn't have a full-time job yet. He's been out of school more than four months and applies to a job every few weeks. He keeps changing his mind about what he wants to do and what kind of jobs he wants to apply for. He paid $50 to get a substitute teaching license only to see that no schools around us were hiring subs. And when he's home, he doesn't accomplish as much as I would. He does a lot of errands, but he plays a lot of video games. I'm starting to look into a future where he never has a full-time job.

Now that I write about this, I guess what's causing me the most stress and unhappiness is a complete lack of vision for the future. We want to move to Seattle, sure, but then I look at the schools out there and see that they don't even have the kind of jobs I want. So what would I do there? And how long do I have to stay here first, in this uncertain set of responsibilities with who-knows-what job title, before anyone else will consider me prepared to be anything but a secretary? We talk about moving somewhere else first, where Mike can do Teach for America, but that would be somewhere other than Seattle, and then will he just be a waiter until then? Where do kids fit in? When will we get a house? What about building our own house? And on and on.

So my goal, for right now, is to find a way to be happy while being completely and utterly unsure of what our life is going to look like one, two, five years from now. My hope is that if I focus on doing small activities that make me happy, then I will be at peace knowing that I can be happy wherever we are and whatever my job is.

Now to figure out what makes me happy...

Why Don't YOU Try Living with Mono?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

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Why Don't YOU Try Living with Mono? | Faith Permeating Life
In our household, the phrase "Why don't you..." is banned.

I'll admit that I can be overly sensitive sometimes about the way things are worded. Mike has accepted this and says he doesn't mind saying something differently if it's going to make the difference of whether I get upset or not. In this case, though, I think that this change has actually had a profound impact on the tone of our conversations about sensitive topics.

The problem, simply, is that "Why don't you..." is generally used to introduce a suggestion, whereas I hear it, literally, as a question. My brain apparently has trouble bringing in a "Why" question and producing anything other than a "Because" answer.

Meaning that if you'd asked me two weeks ago, "Why don't you go back to the doctor?" giving that I'm going into my sixth month of chronic fatigue, I would have answered, "Because mono is viral, so I don't feel like paying $15 to have my doctor tell me to continue to rest and drink fluids and let time heal my body."

On the other hand, if you'd substituted Mike's magical phrase and asked me, "Have you considered going back to the doctor?" you would have gotten a much different response. Yes, I've considered it. I consider it every morning when I wake up and don't think I can get myself out of bed, every time I come home from work and collapse on the couch, every time I fall asleep at 7 o'clock at night. Every time someone tells me a horror story of being misdiagnosed with mono and I remember that I was only diagnosed on my symptoms. I wonder if maybe there's something more I could be doing, or at least some new information I can tell all the people who keep asking, "When will you get better?"

As it were, I did go to the doctor a week ago and got the blood test that proves that I have mono and have had it for some time. My doctor added vitamin B and a probiotic to the collection of pills I'm already taking every morning, and he told me about a roommate of his in college who had mono for three years. And somehow I feel better being able to say that YES, I have mono, and NO, I don't know when I'll be better and neither does my doctor.

In any case, I think how a suggestion is put forward can make a huge difference in the conversation. "Why don't you..." makes assumptions. I assume you haven't done this. I assume that the cause of your problem stems from your not having done this. I assume that this is a good option for you because I assume that I know best.

"Have you considered..." is an invitation into the conversation. Have you done this already? Have you thought about it? What are your thoughts on it? Do you think this would be a good option for you?

In a marriage, especially, where (I believe) decisions should be made jointly and power shared equally, it makes a big difference when you don't try to imply that you know best.

Or maybe I'm just weird. :)
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