Grief as a Thief of Joy

Grief is sticky. It is thick and messy and has a way of clinging to you that can feel so heavy it's suffocating. But it's also warm and comforting, it wraps you in its embrace so tight you wonder why you should ever leave. Grief is a lot like honey; golden and warm and thick. It tastes sweet, but it attracts flies. If grief is honey then my depression is the flies that it attracts, and let me tell you, together they create a perfect storm. They come swarming around, drowning out the sounds of life until all I am left with is a roaring buzz.

Over the past few months since my last post, that buzz has become the soundtrack to my existence, draping itself over everything that I do. It can be hard to hear past it, until every day becomes a waiting game until the next. Bleeding into each other, dripping slowly. Pretty soon you have lost a whole span of time, and the thought of that can be exhausting. Everything is tiring. And so you try to push yourself past it. If you can just force yourself to do some work, to be productive, to finish that project, then maybe you can push yourself out of grief and back into reality. But it doesn't work. It's overwhelming. Everything is too much and the buzzing gets louder.

The thing is, grief isn't just something you get over, it's something you have to move through. It moves with you until you adapt past dependence, past the comfort that grief provides. Like honey, grief is viscous. It is resistant to fluidity, but it will flow all the same. When we allow it to remain stagnant within us, when we push it down or off, that is when it begins to steal our joy. That is when the flies come to play. Of course, I can only speak from experience, but living with my grief, feeling its ebb and flow, and allowing it to take its natural course is the only reason I have found the strength to write today.

So, here is to reclaiming my passions and all the joy that comes with them. Hopefully it won't slip so easily through my fingers the next time.

- Tiffany 


Last time on the blog I talked about mindfulness as a way to deal with stress, and about how much I suck at it. This week I have been reading Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger and was reminded about reframing and how important it is to a healthy mind and body.

Jessica recounts the story of her adoption journey and the chaos that was dealing with international adoption while also struggling to keep a start-up afloat. She was wrestling with so many different factors at once and it felt overwhelming, but she was bringing home a beautiful baby boy. That is what reframing is all about. Life is hard and it gets to be too much sometimes, but it is also wonderful and full of surprises.

Reading Jessica's story reminded me of how I was letting stress wreck my week. February has been insane. It feels like once one thing has resolved, something else comes up. It has been overwhelming at times, and all consuming at others. There have been many times this month where it felt like life as I knew it was imploding. It isn't. In fact, I have a wonderful life. I have an amazing boyfriend, an unexpected miracle that has fulfilled my life in ways I could never imagine. I am surrounded by the kindest people I have ever known, a supportive community of friends and family. I have been blessed with the opportunity to engage in community work, to work with children who are growing up in much of the same ways I did. I have found a life path that aligns with who I am.

Happiness =  reality - shifting expectations. The happiness formula. Creating new comparisons can shift our expectations, reframing negative experiences into positive ones. So, the next time everything feels like it's a little bit too much (because there will definitely be a next time) I am going to remember all of the ways my life is going right, instead of the ways it could potentially go wrong.

The Chaos Descends

February: Mindfulness 
Goals: Meditate, Journal, Reframe

This month, I skipped the obvious lovey dovey theme and instead decided to focus on my mental and emotional well-being. The universe must have heard my call, and decided I was up to the challenge, because chaos immediately descended. Or the appearance of chaos, at least.

The key to dealing with chaos? Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is just a fancy, academic term for being grounded; for taking what comes and remaining in the present moment. I suck at it. When stress arises, I tend to get pulled between the "what ifs" and the "back thens" leaving no room for the right now. It completely wrecks my day. Anxiety over the past and future is a normal human reaction to stress, but it isn't constructive. In fact, it's quite the opposite. My mother phrases it so much better than me: "if you have one foot in the present, and one in the past, you're gonna piss all over today". She's right.

If mindfulness is the key to chaos, then how can we better practice mindfulness? I don't know that I have the answer, but I can say that meditation, journaling, and reframing are all practices that have been shown to help. I hope by the end of the month I will have some more definitive answers.

Here's to trying!

- Tiffany

One Month Down, 11 to Go

We've officially reached the end of the first month. Cue the confetti!

I started this project with one of the things I was dreading the most --- physical health. When I attempted this same sort of thing last semester, I failed miserably. I couldn't keep my hands out of the junk pile; going it alone was much harder than I thought it would be. Having the support of another person has helped tremendously.

Gretchen Rubin, author of the Happiness Project I am modeling my own after, has coined several types of habit forming people. I am an Obliger, meaning I am more apt to accomplish a task for someone else rather than for myself. This has meant having the accountability of a partner, and this blog, has allowed me to stay on track.

Starting the project with a focus on health and energy is the best thing I could have done for myself. Beginning the year on the right foot feels amazing, and giving up sugar has felt like an accomplishment years in the making. It is still mind-boggling just how much it was weighing me down. I feel happier this month than I have in a long time.

It feels like this whole crazy adventure is working. The numbers would tend to agree. My life satisfaction survey came in at a whopping 3.79/5. That's about 76%, and an increase of nearly 16 percentage points. I feel like we could use some more confetti.

Overall, I'm proud of where this project is taking me. I can't wait to tackle February!

One month down, eleven more to go.



January: Energy
Goals: Eat better, exercise

If there are any steadfast rules to a happiness project, it should include beginning with a focus on physical health. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with low energy. The older I get, the more I have to do, and the worse it gets. A large part of this, I have come to realize, is due to all the crap I put in my body.

I am sure I am not alone in my battle to cut ties with unhealthy habits. Fast food is convenient and pop tastes good. Instant gratification is the best kind.

This month, my happiness focus is increasing energy through a better diet and more exercise (which, for me, means any exercise. at all.). Lucky for me, I have a wonderful partner who has much better self-control. At the beginning of the month, he decided to resume a ketogenic diet. Hopping on board was an easy decision, and the transition was less painful than I thought it would be. What this means is cutting out all sugars, including from foods like pasta, bread, and worst of all, potatoes. The result is a ton of amazing food without any of the drag that comes afterward.

I honestly can not remember the last time I felt this good.


The Happiness Project

What is a happiness project?

In 2009, Gretchen Rubin published a book detailing her experiences with happiness ---- a year-long project culminating ancient wisdom and modern research to explore what really made her happy. The project was broken into twelve categories, each tackled within a month. The idea is to increase happiness, so anything goes.

In the fall of 2018, I enrolled in the sociology of happiness, and entered what became the most valuable experience of my education journey. During that time, I met the most amazing group of people, who became more like family than classmates, gained invaluable skills, and noticed a measurable increase in my personal happiness. It is because of such a positive experience that I have been inspired to carry the torch, and begin my own happiness project.

The beauty of a happiness project is that it's a free-for-all. Each one can and should look different. There is no correct way it should be done, and in the end you do not even have to succeed. I have broken mine into eleven different categories, with the month of December dedicated to them all. It is my hope that the habits and lifestyle changes I make during one month will carry on into the next, so by the end of the year I will have mastered each category. My progress will be measured by regular blog posts documenting the journey, as well as a life satisfaction survey taken at the end of every month. Currently, I have come in at a 2.83/5, which is just a little under 60%.

I am excited to see where this journey of self-discovery and growth takes me, and I hope you will join me as I take on this new year.

- Tiffany 

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