Keys to a Happy Life

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Many blogs refer to this subject: keys to a happy life. Most of them advise things like – taking time for yourself, taking up a hobby, spending time with family and friends, de-cluttering your life, or making life changes that allow you more freedom like starting a .com business or blogging for a living, or travel.

Well that’s all fine and dandy-for most people. But what about those of us who are really in the grinder? Single moms or dads, families with special needs children, families that are either out of work or have so many jobs to make it by they only have time to fall asleep on their feet, soldiers in combat, elderly men and women that have no one?

What about us?

Let’s take it from the top.

  1. Taking time for yourself.

This is the one that is thrown at me a lot. I am the mom of a special needs child and a teenage daughter that has so much going on that her head is going to explode soon. My husband is gone for six weeks at a time and I live fifteen hours away from my closest family. I am on 24 hrs a day alert. I am the sole caregiver and ring master of my circus. My stress is off the charts and everyone pesters me to take time for myself. I try, but mostly I fail. When you have no one to step into your shoes, it’s hard to take that time. I can’t just go out for the night with the girls. I don’t really have “girls” and the ones that I do have are the ones that I would normally trust to watch my son so I could go out. See the problem?

What about time alone for a bath and some candlelight relaxing? Can’t do it while my son’s awake because he barges into the bathroom constantly. He doesn’t get the “door is closed so you have to wait” concept. After he’s asleep is just as bad because he wakes up a lot and once again will barge into the bathroom.

So. time for myself…yeah right.

Time for myself comes in tiny little bursts. If he’s occupied watching a cartoon, I get until the commercials come on again. Sometimes I can get by with sitting on the couch with him and reading while he is chattering on beside me. I’ve come to understand that it’s not the amount of time you get it’s what you do with the time you have. It’s like a power nap. Two minutes of complete abandon while staring out the window as dinner cooks is just as good as an hour of spa time. Well, maybe not just as good but it’s as good as it gets and that has to be good enough.

2. Take up a hobby

Hobbies are great! But if you have the problems I’ve mentioned above or if you are struggling to make ends meet then you start to think that hobbies are for the elitists of the world. Let’s face it hobbies take money. Whether it is learning to paint or knit or learning to play a guitar, it’s going to cost you money. Then you get into the Etsy and Pintrest trap- “if I make this I could sell it, then I wouldn’t be poor anymore!”

Well, if you have the time to dedicate to the craft you have chosen then, yeah, you could probably make a living, but face it, if you can’t get a bath in you probably can’t become a mogul in the hobby area. Plus if you are trying to sell stuff then it’s not really a hobby anymore is it?

The other downside to hobbies is the time it takes. You have to dedicate a lot of time, preferably uninterrupted time, to pursuing a hobby. That is not always possible with a full life of children, jobs, and stress. But I’ve come to understand that a hobby is not an activity to keep you busy, it is merely practicing the art of self distraction. It is the art of finding something to get your mind off your daily grind. It can be something complicated like learning to knit or it could be just starting out the window and daydreaming about the proper way to scale an ice cream mountain. The point isn’t activity, the point is brain escape.

3. Spending time with family and friends.

This one is hard. For the really lucky ones family and friends are all around almost to the point of distraction, but to the unlucky ones they don’t exist. In this day and age people are scattered to the winds and getting together is something that happens rarely if at all. When I was a kid we always had family dinners on holidays. There were about nine of us and it was a big day. However, due to jobs that have taken us to the far ends of the Earth and deaths there aren’t anymore holiday dinners. We can’t seem to make it happen anymore. It is a sad loss.

Plus everyone is so busy with jobs and kids that there aren’t really a lot of times that line us when we can get together. Sometimes I don’t get to see my friends for months. Our lives are just too complicated. So I’ve learned that it isn’t about the quantity of time that you spend with your family and friends it’s the quality. I may not get to see my mom more that once every couple of years but when I do see her I make it count. I may not see my friends for weeks on end but email and text are precious connections that I don’t give up.

4. De-cluttering your life.

This one is kind of self-explanatory unless you don’t have anything to get rid of. This is a country of consumerism. It’s all about buying the next best thing. However, there are many that can’t afford to buy all these material goods, so they really can’t get rid of anything to de-clutter. I’ve learned that it’s not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about uncomplicating our lives. It’s about removing the static that invades our lives and becomes like a fog. It’s about not bothering to keep up with everything.

If it’s causing strife to try and keep up with the news-stop trying. If you are going nuts trying to keep up with all the crazy drama going on in your circle of friends, don’t try so hard. Let it go. You don’t need it. Mental clutter is much more damaging than material goods. That’s why live and let live are such good words to live by. Another good mantra is “not my circus- not my monkeys.”

5. Financial freedom – start a .com or blog for a living

This one gets me every time. They say the key to happiness if financial freedom. Yes, it is, not having to worry about where your next meal is coming from or if you can pay for your son’s prescription is happiness. Sometimes it’s down right ecstasy. But…

Starting a .com or blogging for a living is a big hoopla. First you have to have some kind of contribution to the world, you have to have something that people want or need. Not all of us have that. Second you need the technological know how to execute the plan. Let’s face it, we’re not all computer gods. I know I’m not. Third you have to have the time to posts a million times a day.

For example – there are blogs out there that have thousands of followers after only a few months whereas I have been blogging for a couple of years with only a couple hundred followers. Is it because I don’t have great content? Yeah maybe, but it is really because I don’t have a specific driving force that people need to know about and I don’t have the time to dedicate to my site. It’s taken me nearly three hours to write this post, not because I’m a slow writer but because I keep stopping to play with my son, get snacks or lunch, get him to the bathroom, break up fights between him and the cat, deal with the “I’m sad” phase he’s in, etc. I can’t imaging trying to dedicate enough time to really get this blog going.

I’m also among the population of non-tech savy humans that struggle with the idea of SEO and marketing. I suck at it. I’m trying to learn. I’ve got lots of books that I’m trying to digest that will help me but really I’m getting nowhere fast.

There are a lot of people out there that are poor enough that owning a computer would be the height of riches. The library is where they go if they want to use the internet. I really can’t see those people dropping everything to become the next .com superstar. Not saying they couldn’t if they wanted to, just that it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

So the idea of financial freedom by way of alternative lifestyles…Not seeing it. Sorry. Financial freedom is all about perspective. When you’re poor or just scraping by and you have budgeted the Hell out what little income you have and you get to splurge on your birthday. That’s financial freedom. If you’ve been careful and you can buy someone a coffee, that’s financial freedom. It’s all relativity.

6. Travel

This is one of my favorites. If you want to be happy get out and see the world, travel to exotic places and really live. I always see these pictures of people who threw off the mantle of normalcy in favor or biking or hiking around the world. They’re living the dream, but they always have one thing in common. They’re young and single.

Dude, I have kids!

Do you have any idea how expensive it is to travel with kids? And I have an Autistic son- See my post about traveling with a special needs kid.  Even going shopping takes war strategy! Don’t get me wrong I would love to travel. I would love to go to India, Norway, Peru, South Africa, New Zealand, Italy, Russia…not to mention a thousand places in the United States, the list goes on and on. Will it ever happen? Doubt it. Money and family responsibilities are kinda working against me here.

So I’ve learned that travel isn’t about leaving home and traipsing around the planet. It’s about broadening your mind to the world around you. You may not be able to go to exotic places but you can see what’s on your doorstep. Drive a different route to work. See something different everyday. Shop in a new store. Read travel books or watch the hundreds of shows on TV about other places and people. Anything to get a perspective on how the rest of the world lives.

Get your head out of your trench and look around. There may not be roses to smell but there will be other aromatic experiences that will blow your mind. Not all travel experiences are good. Some are down right scary. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all travel adventures are romantic, but what they will be is experiences.  And experiences are the spice that makes life worth living. Some of the best stories are about overcoming the disasters you’ve lived through. Sometimes you just need to see what’s really there to know that you traveled. Just think about it- you live where some tourist wants to visit.

So let’s recap.

Keys to a Happy Life

  1. Take time for yourself. It’s not the amount of time you get it’s what you do with the time you have. 
  2. Take up a hobby. A hobby is not an activity to keep you busy, it is merely practicing the art of self distraction.
  3. Spending time with family and friends. It isn’t about the quantity of time that you spend with your family and friends it’s the quality.
  4. De-cluttering your life. It’s not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about uncomplicating our lives.
  5. Financial freedom. Financial freedom is all about perspective.
  6. Travel. It’s about broadening your mind to the world around you. 

Keys to happiness are like your car keys. You have them but sometimes you lose them under the stacks of paper on you desk or in the cushions of your couch. You just have to take a moment and find them again and wallah! you’ve got the keys to happiness in your hand. Have you lost your keys?

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