Chasing Happiness aka Not Freaking the F Out

By Lori Welch Brown

Chasing Happiness aka Not Freaking the F Out

Mom—I sure do miss you.  I can’t believe it’s been 14 years since I was able to hug you or pick up the phone to talk.  And, trust me, I have wanted to talk to you so badly.  This past year has been crazy—you wouldn’t believe.  Dad is finally back in Virginia.  He was living with us, but a few months ago, he went into assisted living.  It’s okay.  They’re taking good care of him, and you know Dad.  He is rolling with the punches.

It’s been hard not being able to visit him due to this pandemic situation.  Ugh.  It’s crushing to know that he is so close and yet so far.  Being a senior citizen has never been so scary.  I’ve been trying to stay positive and not worry, but as you know, worrying is part of my DNA.  Thanks, Mom.  Funny, but I think I inherited all the bad parts of my parents.  I got Dad’s bad heart, and your propensity for depression.  Of course, we didn’t really call it that back then, and we never got a chance to talk about it.  I’m sorry for that.  It makes more sense to me now though.  How could you not have been depressed?  You lost your Mom at what 15 years old?  Then your baby brother is killed in a car accident some years later.  Did you have someone to talk to?  Did you give yourself time to grieve?

Fortunately, depression doesn’t have me firmly in its grips like for some people.  I’ve learned a lot about managing down cycles over the years and can usually catch myself.  These days, however, you need to be Mary Poppins or Mr. Rogers not to be feeling some level of depression and/or anxiety.  I’ve developed some strategies that are helping.  As you know, I’m a consummate list maker. I have lists for everything. I store them in Reminders on my iPhone.  I have book club recs, pack lists, bucket list, etc. I even have my funeral play list (if I leave it up to XXL, it will be a loop of All Along the Watchtower). I may have control issues also, but don’t worry.  I’m not blaming that on you or Dad—that is straight up Lori.

We are all in need of ‘happy’ lists these days.  Mine sits after ‘groceries’ and before ‘home projects.’  It was created out of necessity during a time when I couldn’t recall things that make me happy when asked by my therapist.  At that time, I was burnt out, exhausted from a crazy work schedule and running myself into the ground.  Can you believe that someone could forget what happiness looks like?  Luckily, I was referring to my Costco list much more frequently than my happiness list before COVID-19 forced us all into the confines of what are now our beautifully organized and freshly-cleaned homes. Now that my house has been bleached to within an inch of its life, my anxiety has returned.

My mind is spiraling down the rabbit hole of ‘what ifs’. What if this goes on for months? What if we lose our 401k savings? What if all our small-business friends are forced to shut their doors? What if Dad can’t have visitors for months on end?

What if I run out of wine?

My straight friends are making babies. My gay friends are baking bread. My single friends are teaching themselves how to sew masks for hospital workers in New York. And God—Martha Stewart is a frickin’ queen right now. Everyone, I mean everyone, is going to be making custom lamp shades out of turkey carcasses by next week. And, those who aren’t busy being the next Martha Stewarts of the world are busy writing their best-selling novels while prepping for their Oprah tours with Glennon, Brene, and Elizabeth, and well, I can’t stop watching The Good Wife.

Lists help me.  Seeing the things that bring me happiness in black and white grounds me. Sit down. Breathe. Open happy list.

Yoga, books, Podcasts (especially Moth radio!), art supplies (bright color everything), playing with Dozer and Lucy, hot baths, walks, bike rides.  Oh—and chocolate.  Chocolate cake.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Chocolate pudding.  Dark chocolate bars.

Instead of falling down the rabbit hole, I can choose another path. I can put my ear buds in, pull up a Podcast, lace up and go for a nice long walk followed by a nice, hot bath.

By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.—Alan Watts

Be childlike.

Get out of your comfort zone.

Accept what life puts before you.

Note to self:  Create new list, i.e., Pandemic mindsets

It’s not really rocket science, but it kinda is when all your brain wants to do is draw you further and further down the rabbit hole.  The Land of Negativity is easy to find. Like bargain basement clothing, that crap is everywhere and accessible to everyone. Happiness, however, is like a designer blouse on a cramped TJ Maxx rack. Some days you luck out, and it jumps out at you.  Other days, you have to sink your heels in and hunt for it.  Having a list is like leaving yourself a little trail of bread crumbs or a treasure map.    

Chasing happiness is exhausting in itself.  During difficult times, settling for guiding yourself to the land of not ‘freaking the f out’ may be a more realistic option.  Some days that feels good enough, even great.  When your mind has reached maximum capacity with slush and crud, your internal navigation system may need some cleaning out before it can see the forest of happiness.  Good thing I’ve got that Costco-sized jug of Clorox.

Hey, Mom.  On a positive note, I got some of your good genes too.  Thank you for my gifts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.  Also my love of kids, dogs, books, Oprah, Ellen, and true crime shows.  I miss you, but it warms my heart to know that you and Phil are together again.

Please follow Lori on Instagram at loriwritesanddraws or subscribe to her on Medium at Lori Welch Brown. Feel free to send any comments to Lori’s attention to office@oldtowncrier.com or comment on her column on the blog at oldtowncrier.com.

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