Life Reimagined:  Be Happy

Personal Introduction:
I am planning to retire in just over four years. Since I was divorced at 40 after a twenty-year marriage, I’ve been reinventing myself and discovering what and whom I want to be part of it. I’ve always loved reading and excelled at writing for school. I’ve journaled off and on over much of my life and recently started blogging as “the Practical Bohemian.” I am interested in finding motivation for the next phase(s) of my life which I think will include becoming an author and volunteering. I also love to travel.

Journal – Happiness Score and Self-Assessment:
14 – The below average score didn’t surprise me. I’ve worked for emotional equilibrium and value reason and objectivity. I was a highly emotional child and thought about death and suicide a lot, but I never told anyone until much later. I’ve come to value feeling content and I can usually maintain that status. I find it hardest to do activities that I dislike or find monotonous because “there’s really nobody else it matters too.”

Journal – Hedonic Adaptation:
Dating – After my divorce, I came up with a mantra to guide myself into the next phase. It took me about a year to be ready to apply: Does it/he/she help me feel young and happy? I changed several areas of my life and then I started dating. I dated methodically. I joined a singles events group, several dating websites and practiced. It took me about two years to find a person that I thought I could be happy with. My plan was to live alone but connect to someone in a relationship where we shared our lives and could rely on one another for help and companionship. My boyfriend wound up moving in instead. I was excited, but sharing was hard and then I began resenting the compromises and demands.

Happiness Strategies
– Expressing gratitude and appreciation
– Practicing acts of kindness
– Coping well with stress and adversity
– Nurturing optimistic thinking
– Learning to forgive
– Avoiding social comparison
– Savoring the present moment
– Investing in relationships
– Committing to significant life goals
– Practicing your religion
– Meditating regularly
– Engaging in physical activity or exercise

Journal – The 40% Solution (50% Genetic/10% Circumstances/40% Choice)
I wasn’t really surprised to learn genetics and circumstances played a role. I encountered this when dealing with stress-related health issues. My family has a genetic tendency to pessimism and depression. It isn’t easy for me to maintain happiness, but I am pretty good at maintaining contentment and distracting myself with most of the Happiness Strategies. Exercise and physical activity is the hardest for me. I usually focus on:
– Expressing gratitude and appreciation
– Practicing acts of kindness
– Coping well with stress and adversity
– Nurturing optimistic thinking
– Learning to forgive
– Committing to significant life goals

Journal – Gratitude Letter  (You gratitude score is 29 .  Your gratitude score is below average. You may want to work on this happiness practice.)

Dear Mom,
I want to thank you for taking care of me through so many illnesses, especially when I broke my arm a couple of years ago. You’ve been taking care of me since I was born with a heart defect, experienced all the normal childhood illnesses, and demonstrated that I shouldn’t try to walk and chew gum at the same time. You made me feel special rather than defective. I knew you liked spending time with me and never begrudged the things I’m sure you had to give up. You’ve laughed with me and never at me.  Thanks!

Journal – Your Best Possible Self  – Retirement (Your optimism score is 20.  Optimism is a strength for you.)

I want to be retired and living a simplified life by the time that I turn 60 years of age. I want to live in my own small townhouse or condo with a great view from the patio or balcony where I’d have coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night. Ideally, the view would be of the ocean. I might even be in California attending Pacifica Graduate Institute.

I would meet friends for activities a couple of times a week. I might have a romantic partner living nearby, but he wouldn’t live with me. I would volunteer, probably at a library or craft center, read, write, study/learn, and craft to fill my days. I’d have no more than two pets, probably a parrot and a dog-or-cat.

Journal – Identify Barrier Thoughts

If I don’t make my current romantic relationship work, I won’t have another. I have to have another or I’ll die alone and be eaten by my cats. I’d decided not to live with anyone after my divorce, but wound up doing so out of compassion for the person that I was dating. I’ve had to confront my issues with sharing my personal space and compromising in day-to-day activities and associations. I had to look for the positive aspects of living with someone. However, I’ve become more conscious of my boundaries and have come to accept that I can have other kinds of relationship if this one doesn’t work … and they don’t have to be romantic.

Journal – Appreciate Being Forgiven (Your forgiveness score is 19.  Forgiveness is a strength for you.)

I try never to be deliberately hurtful. It is really hard for me to remember the last time that I was. On the other hand, I’ve sometimes been abrupt with co-workers and critical of friends and family. When I am approached for advice, I warn others that I will be truthful. I am also careful about my phrasing and I omit things even when they are truthful if they won’t change anything or somehow benefit that person. The last time that I was deliberately hurtful, I commented on someone’s skill at a new activity with a qualifier: You gotten really good, but it would be more … if you weren’t overweight. She forgave me … I think because she knew I was struggling with my own weight and aging issues at the time and she was significantly younger than me. I think she gained self-acceptance and we remained close. She helped me learn not to say the “qualifiers” that won’t be helpful and to look at my own motivation if I do.

Journal – The Apology Letter

Dear Richelle,
I am sorry that I seemed to disappear from your life. When I entered into a serious romantic relationship, I stopped attending events and activities that we used to share. I was reluctant to attend if my partner couldn’t or wouldn’t. Over time, you made efforts to keep me involved and to maintain contact. I was sometimes drawn back, but I never maintained that. You were a crucial resource to me at a time when I was going through a lot of life changes. I apologize for not nurturing that relationship and making you do nearly all of the work to revive it.

Journal – Random Acts of Kindness

My ex-husband and I had been divorced about three years when very late on a Sunday night, while living alone, I had what I thought was a heart attack and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. With the hospital stay and recovery, I missed quite a bit of work and was going to have a significant bloc of unpaid leave. Without any prompting, he donated some of his own accumulated leave to me and greatly alleviated the impact of my illness on my life. However, the most important aspect was that I felt like the time I’d invested in him and our marriage hadn’t been such a waste of time. I’d shared all that with someone who was worthwhile and who still appreciated me despite our marriage ending. And, that’s what I would say to him now. I thanked him then too, but without fully understanding all the reasons it pleased me.