- Photograph by bell wether interiors
I believe that we are meant to be happy.
We were born happy and I believe that we are meant to stay that way. Unfortunately, layers are put on top of this – expectations, societal standards, parental/family influences – and it’s easy to lose sight of where our happiness lies.
My Mother, for the 51 years I’ve been alive, seems to have been permanently in a bad mood. She complains all the time, is very negative, imposes her own standards on others – and objects when they aren’t met and appears to delight in nagging my Dad. He puts up with it – even seeming to accept it – and I’ve always wondered why he never left such a nagging woman who seemed to find fault in everything he did. But then again, she seemed to find fault with everything I did!
So I spent my life trying to be the person I thought I should be based on her standards. Actually, I believed that her standards were the only standards. Her dominance was so far reaching that I had no conception that life could be any different. I got a job when I left school and met the man who became my husband. I had a daughter. All the things a girl like me was expected to do. I knew I wasn’t happy. I shifted furniture around the house. Bought stuff. Got into debt trying to sort what was wrong. Then suddenly, like one of those focus pull cameras, my perspective changed and I realised that the one thing that was wrong was my marriage. It took three years and another child before I plucked up the courage to announce that I was leaving – and even longer to tell my mother! Once I had moved out, I was on top of the world. I was 32 and a year into a four year Psychology course at University and I felt like I had the world at my feet. But the remnants of the expected standards were still there, and because I felt that I could never meet them, my work suffered. I gained my honours degree, but at a lower class than I expected. By now I had met my soulmate and things should have been wonderful, but we were short of money, struggling to find jobs and then within two years of graduating we had a baby. A hungry baby who didn’t like to sleep! Five of us were squeezing into a one bedroomed flat – life was not easy. All I could see were the things that were wrong. We moved into a bigger house (provided by our local authority), but the area wasn’t the most salubrious and there were times when we didn’t like to go outside – incidents with guns, knives and baseball bats occurred among our neighbours. And so we moved again. A lovely big house with room for us all, in a nice neighbourhood.
But I couldn’t see it. Still all I could see was what we didn’t have – the highly paid jobs, the nice cars. Then depression reared its ugly head. Treatment sorted it and I went back to University to study Nursing. I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse and went into a job that I enjoyed, but Tech Guy was travelling lots for his job so we moved to the town where he worked and I transferred to another hospital where I felt excluded and undermined. My health deteriorated further – both physically and mentally and once again I was not meeting the expected standards. This time medication didn’t work and the depression didn’t shift. I lost my job.
And found my life. When I re-read the above I realise that my life has never been as bad as I’ve made out, but I was unable to see it – I was so busy focusing on what was wrong that I was unable to see what was right.
I hadn’t been able to see that we always had a roof over our heads and food on our table. We may have been five living in a tiny flat, but we were a family together. I was unable to appreciate how lucky I was to have three beautiful, clever, funny, loving daughters and I believed that I needed ‘stuff’ to make me happy.
When the medication I was taking for my depression wasn’t working I realised that I would have to find some other way to get better – and so began my spiritual quest – my journey to find myself. I understood on some level that things could be better – I just had to work out how.
I searched for like minded people on the internet. I explored my psychic side (with not a huge amount of success) and bought loads of self-improvement books. I tried affirmations and I bought (still blank) journals. I had tarot readings and Reiki and Angel Healing treatments. Then, one day I had an experience that taught me that I could trust myself, that my judgement was ‘good enough’. If my judgement was good enough then maybe I was. I found out about Gratitude and began looking at the good things in my life. I tried keeping a journal, but it kept falling by the wayside – it felt like I was just writing lists of the things I should be grateful for rather than actually feeling the gratitude in my heart. But slowly, as I allowed my heart to begin opening I could feel this gratitude. I still compared myself to others, but was able to use this in a constructive way – they may have had a big house or fancy car, but I had wonderful days with my Tech Guy and was home for my youngest daughter during school holidays. I was learning to appreciate the birds, nature, the sunshine and the rain.
As time went on, I realised that I was no longer depressed. Things still get me down – usually about lack of money, but not that ‘black, hide in my bed, run away from it all’ kind of down, and it is relatively short lived.
Over a period of three years I have formed questions that I’m now beginning to explore and find answers to. Answers which are helping me to be comfortable in my own skin and which I am allowing myself to write about. I am coming to the conclusion that, more often than not, I’m happy – and I’m happy with that!
This post is published as a contribution to Amy Palko’s Beautiful Beliefs Project. If you would like to know more about Amy’s Beautiful Beliefs Project, then click here Amy Palko or on the box – it’ll take you straight there!