Last Monday was the reminder of what would have been our third anniversary and I completely distracted myself to avoid feeling sad. Well, the rest of the week I found myself in a foul mood- I lost my patience with the neighbor’s dog that kept getting in my face when I was trying to take pictures, I got in the slowest lane at the grocery store and ended up switching lanes to an even slower one, I got behind the most annoying drivers and I’m convinced my allergy shots hurt worse.
At least I feel like I’ve learned a tiny bit on this happiness journey because I was aware of my bad mood and stopped to assess what was going on. Through some RAIN meditation and journaling, the obvious became apparent, I was displacing my anger and pain over my marriage ending to everything and anything else in my life.
Then I did what I’m not sure I should have done, I got out the wedding and honeymoon album and had my pity party. The good is that I only spent about an hour crying over the past. Perhaps I should get rid of this album, but the problem is I made a photobook of our entire Costa Rica trip and there’s some really good wildlife photos in there! It was weird to look at those pictures, it seemed like another person, living another life. Crazy how much life can change in three years.
A combination of a pity party, meditation, journaling and cleaning my house made me feel much better. For some reason, a clean house makes me feel better about life. When I’m in a depressed mood, I tend to not have the energy to clean, which makes things spiral out of control. For me, cleaning gives me some control and order in my world and makes everything a little bit better. With these strategies, I felt much better. I still get sad and angry, so it’s not like I suddenly forgot the past and the pain, but there’s a little bit less clouds and a bit more blue skies in my world.
To try to clear out more clouds in my world, this month I’m working on finding activities that engage and to better under this topic, I’m reading the book Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (so glad I only had to type that name and not pronouce it!). Being in flow is the state where you’re completely engaged in an activity and nothing else matters. It is all about challenging yourself to do things that require skill to become engaged in living. When you do activities that engage, you are more fullfilled and content with life.
The first step is to figure out what activities I find myself in this state of flow and so far my list includes: writing, reading, taking photos, gardening, teaching and planning all sorts of things. Although these activites don’t always engage me, sometimes I’m flipping through a book to see how many more pages I have in a chapter or while weeding I find myself ruminating on some negative thing or during a lecture I’m looking at the clock as much as the students are, so the next challenge is to figure out the factors that are more likely to get me into the flow state.
One of my flow items is planning, specifically I’ve been planning houses and gardens. In the past I would get annoyed with myself for wasting time creating plans that have no purpose, but now I see that these activities put me in a state of flow. To me, planning is an elaborate puzzle that engages my mind. I’m reading another book, Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway, which is all about permaculture . In it, I discovered keyhole gardens that maximize planting space and minimize paths. Currently I have a very large garden with many wide paths that constantly fill with weeds and are expensive and tiring to keep filled with mulch. Anyway, I decided to give in to my love of planning and printed out graph paper, got myself a ruler and planned away. I’ve always gardened in either rows or rectangular beds, so I had a challenge to figure out how to deal with curves along with plant height, direction and what crops do well together. I lost track of time and realized my neck was hurting from sitting too long in a weird position, so I’d say I hit that flow state.
Here’s my keyhole garden plan (which I’ve found that this design is called a mandala garden) for a garden I don’t currently have and may never have, but while I made this plan I wasn’t ruminating or worrying or feeling sad or angry, so I’d say that’s a good use of my time: