"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity". Albert Einstein
I am on a quest to find happiness and joy. As I have mentioned in other posts, it has been an extremely difficult four years. I sought help, hell, I begged for help, searching for an answer to why I felt so miserable and why things just would not or didn't seem to be changing. It was a dark place. The more I tried to crawl out of that darkness, the more I felt myself sliding back down. I have to admit that my doctors and counselor gave me many great ideas, but in all honesty I did not always listen to their advice, or follow their guidance. If I'm really truthful about it, I wanted a quick fix. What they told me to do just seemed to darn hard, and I wanted out of the pain NOW. I did write what they said down. Now that I am in a better place, I reread some of the things they told me to do, and I wanted to share them with you, in the hope that what they shared with me may help you too. From what i read on this site, and hear from others, your pain and suffering is so much like mine.
Gratitude: For 1 week, take some time every night before you go to sleep to reflect on your day and write down 5 things that you are grateful for. Writing it down helps you to really reflect on the day, and helps you remind yourself of the moment. It also records the memory, so you can go back to it and remember that there were good things that happened to you today, last week, month or year. I have to admit that this exercise does work. Some days you have to dig really deep to find even 1 thing - but they are there. Focus on what You are grateful for, not what someone else should be grateful for. If this exercise works to bring you any happiness, then keep doing it. A grateful heart does bring happiness and joy!
If you are in a relationship that is causing you pain or even if you are happy, then ask your partner to do this too. If they do it great! If they don't, try not to see it as a reflection on you. Share what you are grateful for. Share it with yourself, by reflecting on the good things. Put a post it note up that you can see to remind yourself of the good moment. If you are grateful about something your partner did then share it with them. If your partner won't share, that is ok. Maybe they will catch on, or may be they won't, but when is it ever bad to say to someone something about them that is good. If you are like I have been for so long, you may tend to always point out the negative things, and not the good. Honestly I was so much in the negative space with my husband, that I could not even imagine that there was something good.. If your partner shares something with you, try to not take it personally. For example, they may say "I am grateful that you didn't nag me today, or that you didn't talk to me.". I can see that such a statement may hurt your feelings, but instead of feeling bad about yourself, maybe the hidden nugget is that your partner appreciates the peace that comes when there is no conflict. I think we all can value that - after all, who likes the feelings associated with conflict.
What brings you happiness? Write about the positive things that have happened in your life. Write about the most wonderful moments, those happy moments that brought you glee or joy or made you just laugh. In those moments ask yourself, what did I feel. What was it about what you did during that time or moment that led you to thrive and/or be happy? What can you learn from what you were doing then, and can you apply it to what you are doing now? What rituals or practice from those moments can you incorporate in your life today?
Lessons from pain. Write about the painful times in your life. What were you feeling then? On a separate page, write about what you learned from that time. Again, this is not easy, but if you dig deep you will be able to see that you did in fact learn something about yourself.
For example, during my illness, I learned that I am a survivor. I can and did fight to get well. I also learned more compassion. I look at people that are suffering in a new way. My husbands addiction - I can better understand what it must feel like to have absolutely no power over something. It must be extremely difficult to let go of something that has such a grip on your life. That takes courage. I also learned that I did, in some way, enable him. Yes, I set boundaries, and demanded and screamed for him to stop, but if I'm honest with myself I have to say that I did cushion his consequences. I did allow his behavior to affect me. I took some of the pain that he should have experienced on myself. I did learn what is not acceptable behavior for me. The lessons are there. Take what you have written about the painful experiences and burn it. Do something with those painful memories, to once and for all, let them go. Give it to God. Take the list of things that you learned and remember the lessons! Record it, post it, do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that something valuable came from that pain.
What do you value? Write about your good traits. Bury those treasures in your heart. Look in the mirror and say those things to yourself. I know it sounds corny, but it does really work. I found that it was really hard to just look at my reflection without down casting my eyes. We tend to tell ourselves so many negative things. Sometimes we get so lost in all that, that it is hard to remember there is good. Keep doing it, and you will fill your mind with those positive things. Now your spouse/partner. For a moment, try to put all the bad stuff aside and remember something good in them that you value. You may have to dig REALLY deep for this one. I know I did. The first thing that came to my mind is that my husband is a hard worker. I know many of you struggle with this issue, because your partner does not work, loses their job, which is painful. Fortunately, I don't have that issue. I have had many other issues that were equally painful for me. Nonetheless, i have to acknowledge that this quality is true for him. I also admit that, that one positive quality has also been a source of strife for me. To me, that is all my husband does, sometimes 12-15 hours a day, and it seems that when he is home, that is all he can talk about. If for a moment, I can look at the positive of that quality, some of that pain dissipates. I also know that my husband has a desire to be a better person, even if, in my view, he does everything in his power and control to sabotage himself in the process. But if I can remember that he does have the desire, then I can take that nugget of truth and honor that. If I'm truthful with myself, I acknowledge that I, too, sabotage my desires at times. Every person has value. Finding value in him has become a fun quest. Now I look at him (well we are separated, so I don't literally look at him) but try to find a nugget of truth about him.
I am not these exercise because I want our marriage to succeed, rather, I do them because I want to get back MY happiness and job. I'm tired of hanging on to the anger and resentment. Whether our marriage ends for good or not, I don't want to live with bitterness, anger, and resentment in my heart. After all, i did marry the guy, so i hope that there was something good about him that i can take away from our time together. Otherwise, I'm just a masochistic, and that is an entirely different issue that I would have to tend to! My journey for happiness and joy continues.
Remember to take baby steps. I have to admit that actually following some of the above exercises has helped me - actually a great deal. It has only been a short time, but I am happier! The fog of depression and pain has lifted. For that I am wholeheartedly grateful! Godspeed in your journey, and I'd love to hear about your success and what has worked for you! I have a thirst for being a better me, and I can say that your stories and posts have helped me immensely! We are all in this together!