I recently had lunch with a close friend and former coworker and as he sat down at the table, he looked up at me and said, “You look…You look…so…so…happy.”
And without pause I said, “I am! At least much more so than when we were working together at this time last year. God, I was so incredibly miserable….um, I mean…not working with you…I loved that…Everything around that I hated…so…yes, everything is still a work in progress, but I am…happy!”
Since that lunch I’ve been trying to nail down exactly what, if anything, that I’ve accomplished this year made me happier…
And as I thought back to previous holiday seasons, I recalled that 4 years ago, right about now, I was sitting in edit room with over a hundred BETA tapes, and a 10-minute script producing the 2009 Year in Review for the morning show I worked for at the time. Producing that gem is an honor, a right of passage, and a way to ruin your holiday season. But you get your name mentioned on the air by the anchors, which is cool…so…there’s that.
Anyway, during this process, I had been in an edit room (sans windows) for 19 days straight, for at least ten hours a day, and the last few days of the project, I was leaving for just a few hours to go home, nap, and take a quick shower…All to boil 365 days down to 10-minutes.
As much as I hated the last-minutedness of the assignment, and the many, many hands in the project, I thoroughly enjoyed looking back at the year to see where we were, we we had gone, and where we need to go.
Okay, there may have been some serious tears when revising the graphics for the umpteenth time (although I felt much better when my I apologized for crying in front of my editor and he told me that every producer he has worked with on the year-ender cries at least once), or eating the 25th serving of quasi-okay take-out. And perhaps I slammed the phone down with more force than entirely nessecary after another question about how much of Beyonce’s performance of “At Last” from the Inauguration we should actually include in the piece (15 seconds? No…30? NO! 18!), but all things considered, few people like a retrospective piece more than yours truly…so when it was all said and done, I actually enjoyed watching it.
The whole year in review thing is everywhere with regards to news events, but personally speaking, this time of year, we have a habit of looking forward to resolutions for the next year, without pausing to take a good look at where we have been and what we have accomplished in the year that is winding down.
Looking back at 2013, I can see that there are a few key moments that really, truly contributed to the boost in my happiness…
1. One of my closest friends surprised me with a quick trip to Los Angeles, to visit our other friend, to celebrate my 33rd birthday and to just…chill…which was so awesome, and really kicked off my whole “return to feeling like me again” thing…a feeling that has really only grown as the year went on.
2. I took a risk and left my decade long career in network news and pushed myself waaaaay beyond my comfort zone to do so. In order to do that – I finally allowed myself to listen to some of my champions and believe that I was actually smart enough to make it outside of the place that was my professional home since I was 20. That was really f**king hard, and impacted my identity a lot more than I had anticipated it would. But it has been far and away, the best professional decision I have made to date. Taking chances and stepping out of my comfort zone is a must for growth in happiness, I am realizing.
3. I was in the delivery room with my sister and her husband when my nephew was born. The love in that room was palpable, and the experience is something I’ll never forget as long as I live. Far and away one of the coolest experiences of my life, and one of many this year where I actually felt my heart grow.
4. I launched a website and finally started to become comfortable with actually sitting at the table, and, as our friend Sheryl Sandberg says, leaning in – which honestly felt really unnatural at first. And I did it all while working from my newly created “home office” – aka, the corner of my bedroom. It took a little while to get used to working from home, without the camaraderie and crazy energy of a corporate office, but, for the time being, working from home allows me to lean into my career a little more, and lean into being a mom a little more. I still wish there were two, or even sometimes three of me, but I am much more comfortable navigating both worlds than I was a few years ago. Which is definitely a huge reason for increased happiness.
5. For the first time in a VERY long time, I accepted the possibility of falling in love again…and I stopped avoiding members of the opposite sex, and laughing when they ask me out or compliment me…this also has not felt very comfortable at times, but I love love and the only way to get from here to there is to put myself out there…so…here we are.
6. Speaking of love, this was the year I fell in love with being a mom…I mean, really, truly fell head over heels in love with my role as mom. When I took Ellie to Disney and saw the look on her face when Mickey sang Happy Birthday to her, my heart nearly exploded. It hit me that I actually love being a mother and that I am no longer constantly worried that I am ruining her, every minute, of every day.
7. I became much more comfortable with change – even though I still sort of don’t like being flexible, at all. Despite that, random curve balls that life throws me are not as incapacitating at they felt a couple years back. The unexpected (and they all are) stomach bugs, fevers, going weeks without mail delivery and having to figure out why, dealing with the average and above average crazy spewed out by those around me…all of it is a little more tolerable and little more entertaining, because if the past 4 years taught me anything, it’s that when you focus on finding a solution, instead of the problem – nearly everything can be figured out…which leaves more room for the happiness.
8. Speaking of things becoming more entertaining, I really stopped taking myself so seriously and became even more comfortable with laughing at myself, which I highly recommend to anyone looking to increase their quality of life, at no cost. Thankfully for myself, there is a lot of material there to work with. A lot. Everything from going to move my car after a snow storm sporting nearly transparent leggings and unwashed hair, only to be helped by a guy that was so attractive that I almost said NO when he offered to help push my car out of the snow…to the amount of times I stub my toe on everything and anything…to my affinity for over-sharing really interesting details of my life…it’s just easier to have a good laugh at my own expense…because I am sure I will never run out of things to chuckle about.
9. This year, I also became more comfortable asking for and accepting help, and it has made my life a hell of lot easier, prompted some great conversations along the way, and reminded me that no matter how alone I might feel at times, there is usually always someone around to lend a hand. And it’s served as a reminder how much a simple compliment or “You need help with that?” can really turn someone’s day around. Paying it forward always increases the happiness. Always.
10. And finally, at some point this year, I started telling nearly every one of my friends, “I love you.” I already say it to my family, and certainly to Ellie (actually I told her I loved her so many times the other day I actually paused to wonder if it is possible to tell your child you love them too much…I established the answer is firmly, no way…) but this year, I channeled my constant neurosis of leaving this planet too soon into making sure everyone I love, knows it.
And with every “I love you” this year, I feel closer to being my genuine self…which I think is where all of my 2013 happiness is rooted in. It’s so freeing to be able to let my edge dull a bit and to let people in to see the circus, to be able to say, “Ouch! That really hurt my feelings” and conversely “I love you more than I will ever be able to explain”…my energy isn’t being waisted in pretending that I am tough, or that I don’t feel, or that I am not totally batty sometimes…instead, the free time and energy I have is spent trying to find more opportunities to share experiences with those that I care so much about.
I’d say…that is a pretty spectacular year.
As for 2014? It’s anybody’s guess…I am still trying to become a better person, to have fewer tantrums in my head when people piss me off, and to just try even more to live in the moment…but I am looking forward to rolling with it this year…and I am looking forward to seeing how everything unfolds.