What Happiness Looks Like

I have mixed feelings about whether or not I want kids of my own some day. It’s been an ongoing conversation in the back of my head for a long time. And the answer has changed at different stages in my life, experiences change your perspective. While dating someone, the thought of kids definitely flows back through my immediate consciousness. For me, a lot of my decision depends on timing. I refuse to be an old mom, I won’t submit my children to that—I’ve seen it play out to many times and know the pressure that comes with it.

At this current stage in the game I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I want for my life. I’ve made lists of goals, lists of what I want in a potential partner, lists of places I want to see, etc. (I love lists). And it is helpful in keeping my mindset in check. I am not defined by a person, a place, or a thing. I am defined by how I show up in the world and what I do each day, by who I choose to be and by the gifts God gave me. It’s a reframe for sure, and timely to say the least. But I am reminded that I can be happy, in the hear and now (thanks, Gestalt, among others). In each moment, there is something to take away as a positive. Sure, in 1, 5, 10 years there are things I am working towards. But there is a lot to be said for what is happening right now, the baby steps, the experiences, the growth–it is all important and it can all bring joy if I just slow down and recognize it. Though not everything recently has worked out how I wanted it to how I anticipated it would, there are still lessons to be learned. And one of those is that slow and steady is a-okay. There is joy and happiness in this instance. It may not last forever (could be 30 seconds, 30 minutes, 30 days), but it is a spark of positivity and that is enough.

I commented to a few friends recently how my current studies are helping me better myself. The theories I am using are applicable to my life as well, and again sometimes that is in very timely ways. I am reminded that I shouldn’t focus on what was or what went wrong or the negativity I associate with an experience. Instead I should be grateful and humbled by the light it brought to my life, the way it gave me a new perspective, and how it helped me grow.

Just like Goldilocks when she breaks in to the house of the 3 Bears, and tries out their porridge, their chairs, and their beds; so too there are things in life that we must each try on for size. Perhaps it will be too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft, too big or too small. But at some point, there will be something that feels just right, and we will know. Again, that thing may not feel “just right” forever and that doesn’t discount the time and energy spent. It just means the thing no longer serves us. It could be a job, a relationship, a schooling decision, a hobby, etc. That’s not failure, it’s a lesson. Or, if you see it as “failure” I’d say don’t take it in the traditional sense, but rather shift your perspective to see that it provided growth and a new understanding. There have been so many times in my short life I’ve learned that the Universe has other plans for me, plans that are not my own, plans that are not where I felt I was originally being led. But through it all, I have learned–each step has brought new insight.

In true “Shannon form” I’ve been stuck on three things recently as I have tried to better myself, learn, and refocus my overactive mind. I’ve dedicated myself to taking time for mindfulness each day (even just 10 minutes). It’s centering. I’ve started writing more again (not just this blog, but journaling, and writing poetry as well). I’ve been staying off of social media as much as possible–that is to say I’ve deleted both SnapChat and Facebook from my phone. And have put my main energy into Instagram because I’ve found it’s brought me the most positivity.

Mindfulness keeps me present in the moment. It helps me quiet unwanted thoughts that I have. It gives me an opportunity to refocus my breathing, to recognize what my body can do, and puts a positive filter on how I approach the day. It’s a reminder that I don’t have to stay in a state of stress and anxiety when those thoughts inevitably resurface. I can reframe whatever I am going through, and not excuse the behavior or situation, but take a moment to step back and keep my reactions in check. Sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes the thoughts persist or come back quickly. But generally it is a good mechanism to help me focus and dispel irrational thoughts.

You can see by the extra blog posts I’ve had recently that I’ve been writing more. There is a lot of emotion and introspection going on, sometimes it’s just nice to pour it out. Getting the never-ending thoughts and dialogue that goes on internally outside of my body is refreshing and freeing (even if only momentarily to more thoughts and conversations that ensue). There are some posts that stay private, or that show up only in my journals for my eyes only. No matter the venue, writing helps me process in a different way. I’ve even been writing more short quips and poems (that I share on my secondary IG)–almost like mini-mantras. Words that resonate with me and remind me of my purpose and my focus and my goals. I need those reminders, because it can be easy to want what someone else has. But the reminders keep me grounded in where I am in my life and the growth that has happened (and continues on).

“Everyone is on a different and unique timeline”. This is one of the things I keep coming back to…That and something along the lines of “the things that leave you are teaching you and creating space for what is meant for you”. Both have been powerful for me (throughout my life, but I have come back to both hardcore recently). Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on my friends. Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on my sister and mom. Sometimes I gauge my timeline of things based on strangers. None of these are wrong exactly, but reality is that things don’t happen for everyone at the same points in life. Sure, I have feelings watching my youth get married. Sure, I have feelings watching my best friends have babies together. Sure, I have feelings knowing how “successful” certain people are. But I’m not late to the party, I am exactly where I need to be. Obviously there are lessons to be learned, experiences to be had, joy to be found before X,Y, and Z can happen. And where that can be difficult to embrace (I talk often about my impatience) I know that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I was reminded recently of my aunt who got married late in life. The story goes that at the same time my mom called her to say she was pregnant with my oldest sister, my aunt shared that she was engaged. She would have been 45 years old when my sister was born. And she and my uncle had one of the most loving and meaningful relationships I have ever witnessed (and they were married for about 35 years before he passed). There are things meant for me in this life that I am working toward. Wonderful and fulfilling friendships. Great knowledge and career growth. A romantic love that amplifies the life that I already have. I am still working towards those things, but that doesn’t mean that my life stops. It doesn’t make me any less, or any less important, or any less amazing. It simply means the time is not now. And damn, you don’t always understand how things come together until after the fact (whether immediately or years later or anywhere on that spectrum of time). I know that’s obvious, but it’s so true. Much of the heartache we feel is preparing us for something better. It’s easy to feel shame about it, but look at it as growth and learning. Nothing to be ashamed for at all. The hardest part at this point, however, is my lack of patience. I don’t mind working for things, I’m not sold on instant gratification, but patience is a struggle for me.

My time will come. And I’ll be glad for the work that I’ve done to prepare myself. And each thing between then and now will have made me ready for the abundance. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I ached to speed things up a little. I believe in the power of the Universe (not always personified that way for me). I believe there are things that are meant for me that will come in time. I believe I’m not behind or late. But, damn, I sure hope they start popping up soon.

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