It was December 23rd and I was exhausted from both work and holiday preparations when my husband asked if I’d like to have a glass of wine by the fire. I half-heartedly said, “Sure” and grabbed the book I’ve been reading - Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. I wanted to read (I am an introvert and need down time when confronted with a lot of social activity) while my husband was looking forward to a nostalgic conversation about the Christmas’s of our past. His sister is moving to a new home this January and we would be celebrating the holidays in her old home for the last time. No one in the family was interested in having this conversation including myself. After several failed conversation attempts he finally said:
"You don’t seem happy anymore. You don’t laugh or joke or want to have fun. All you do is work and when you are home you are
either reading or working on the computer. When you do engage in conversation you are usually
negative. You never used to be this way.
When I met you, you were happy, laughed easily and had a carefree
positive attitude. What can I do to help you change back to the person you used
This was somewhat of a wake-up call. He is right and the reasons are numerous. Since my bunion surgery last
summer, I’ve gained back all of the weight I lost two years ago and still am not
back to my normal workout routine. I
feel lethargic and remain continuously behind both at work and at home and from
time to time I feel mildly depressed. I don’t take enough time off – nine of my
earned vacation days went unused in 2013 - the most vacation I’ve lost ever. In
addition, I’m feeling old and trapped in my current life and job.
My reading of Gretchen’s book Happier at Home suddenly
took on new meaning, “How can I be happier at home in 2014.” One thing I know for sure is my husband can’t
do anything to change me. If I want to
change my life I have to do it myself. Here are my goals for 2014:
I am re-committing to keeping a
I’ve kept journals in the past
and they’ve been helpful especially when going through a rough time. This year, in addition to writing what I am grateful
for, my focus is going to be on writing about the positive aspects of my day
and if it includes working with someone who is difficult or annoying I need to
write something positive about that person. Also as a way to know myself
better, I am going to pay attention to what I envy and what I lie about. I found it interesting that I was envious of
a friend when others commented on how efficient she is.
Control over possessions and
Make to-do lists:
I’ve never been a big list
maker. I like to keep things in my head and
only write down an important deadline or two on my calendar. Last fall I
attended a seminar called “Getting Things Done” based on a book of the same title
written by David Allen. At the seminar we were required to do a “Mind Sweep” a process
where we were required to write everything we needed to get done both at work and at home on a
piece of paper. The idea is to get these tasks out of our minds. I used this list during the month of December and it helped
tremendously. One of my biggest sources
of unhappiness is missing appointments or remembering a deadline when it is
Implement a new filing system
both at work and at home.
This was also covered in the “Getting
Things Done” seminar. Lost and misplaced items are a huge source of unhappiness
for me. I’ve previously written about my messy desk at work and my files at home are currently packed so tight I couldn’t possibly place another piece of
paper in them let alone find anything.
After having difficulty finding financial
papers at the end of the year, I began implementing
a new filing system both at home and at work.
Suffer for 15 minutes:
I’ve started taking a dreaded
task from my above to-do list and spending 15 minutes a day on it. This is so much better than tackling the
entire list on a Saturday. Setting up a
credit-card payment or renewing our DOT fleet license at work are never fun
tasks, but ones that can easily be accomplished in 15 minutes or less. It is
also much better than waiting ‘til the due date and then frantically
searching for passwords.
Teach and delegate:
When asked a question at
work I need to teach others where to find the information or how to do the work themselves or delegate it. Taking on too much at work is one of my major sources of inefficiency.
Buy what I need and get rid of
what I don’t:
I tend to be an under-buyer and
a slight hoarder. This basically means I have a lot of stuff people have given
me, I’ve gotten for free, are obsolete, I no longer need and not what I do need. I find myself scrambling when I run out of
printer ink or don’t have warm clothes that fit adequately when the
temperatures go below zero.
Stop eating sugar:
I am an abstainer. I’ve known
this since reading Gretchen's previous book The Happiness Project. She describes an abstainer as someone who
finds it easier to abstain from something than to indulge moderately. Abstainers aren’t tempted by things that are
off limits, but once started have trouble stopping.
Moderators, by contrast do
better when they act with moderation, because they feel trapped and rebellious
at the thought of never “getting” or doing something. Occasional indulgence heightens
their pleasure and strengthens their resolve. (Pg. 122)
I’ve given up sugar in the past
and find that completely abstaining is the only way I can keep
from binging. Effective immediately I am no longer going to eat any sugary treats.
Seek out a workout that works
I’m still searching for a
workout that I enjoy that isn’t too strenuous. I plan to try a Barre class in the coming weeks and
will continue to look for new workouts after my foot heals completely. I would like to meet with a fitness
consultant to help map a workout routine that is tailored to my fitness needs and
Finding my Calcutta:
One of my major sources of
unhappiness comes from my life not “being” about anything. I feel as if life is passing me by as I sit in
my office fixing accounting entries all day. I had a conversation with another
male co-worker who feels similar. He is the
manager of one of our company stores and feels he makes a difference in about
30 people’s lives, but that is it. He
thinks the items his store sells are no longer made well and are a huge
headache to sell and service. After he retires in a few years he hopes to do
something more meaningful with his life.
In 2014, I need to stop being so
hard on myself. Perhaps I too can wait
until I retire and have more free time to make my life be about something. I still have this blog which I am attempting
to turn into a mentoring club for women.
I started The Savvy Reader Book Club last year and try to write regular posts
that hopefully help women. One of my friends suggests I work on this blog only when I have they time and not to feel guilty when I don't have time. Family and work come first.
Give gold stars:
For me, this means paying more
attention to my husband. Closing my book
when he wants to have a conversation or moving away from the computer for a few
minutes to actively listen when he tells me about his day. Acknowledge and thank him for doing
something that makes my life easier or better – for having an incredible meal ready
when I get home from work on New Year’s Eve or helping with the cleaning
when I have to work on Saturdays during January. Or
just going outside and spending time with him and our dogs in the back yard instead of checking my twitter feed for the umpteenth time.
Have you made any resolutions to be happier at
home in 2014?
This post was inspired by Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin where she runs a nine month experiment to create happier surroundings. Join From Left to Write on January 6 we discuss Happier at Home. You can also chat live with Gretchen Rubin on January 7 on Facebook! As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.