Nov 10, 2015

Things I've Done Right

I saw this somewhere, but I have no idea who it was so if you recognize your idea, let me know and I'll give credit!

I've made more than my fair share of mistakes.  I'm getting better about this, but I used to be incapable of learning from other people's mistakes, and frequently repeated my own.  Oh, I'd learn, but not until I'd made the same mistake 2 or 3 times.

And I could agonize over those mistakes, but ultimately what's the point?  I can't undo them, and most of them were necessary, because if they hadn't happened, I'd have just done something equally dumb instead.  Learning the easy way is not my style.

BUT lately I've been thinking about how things feel different.  I'm happy more often than sad.  I'm not struggling to get by financially.  When I spend time with friends, I feel good about it afterwards, instead of bad, complain-y or gossip-y.  And then I realized... I've finally done some things right.

To celebrate, here's a list!

8 Things I've Done Right

1. Breaking the Bad Relationship Pattern

Before Ryan, I was in a couple long-term relationships.  I was even engaged once.  And we were miserable.  We made each other miserable.  The best thing I ever did was to get out, pick someone who was supportive and a good match for my values, and then read everything I could get my hands on about relationships and communication.

Ryan is amazing but he wasn't a magical solution or the road to my "happy ending."  I had to learn a LOT to be better on my end of the relationship and then we had to do a lot of work together to improve our conflict resolution skills.  I'm sure there'll be struggles in the future, but I'm pretty confident that we'll get through them the same way we've overcome the past ones: educating ourselves, working at it, and making small improvements until we have a system that works.

2. Letting a Friendship Go

I won't get too cliche and go on about "toxic" friendships, but that's basically what it was.  I derived very little real enjoyment from our time together, and spent far more time frustrated about poor life choices, overwhelming negativity, and manipulative tendencies.  Ending our friendship wasn't pretty, and it took a while for the negative feelings to fade, but I do feel better about it now.

I've been thinking more and more about the saying, "You're the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with."  And you know, I don't want to be around people who are going to influence me in a negative way anymore.  Now I've got one less source of negativity in my life, and the friends I have left make me happy.

3. Getting a Dog

This might seem like a no-brainer to you pet people, but I hadn't had many pets growing up, and dogs frightened me a little bit.  I could not tell the difference between happy and angry barks, had no idea growls could be playful, and was pretty intimidated by the whole idea when Ryan mentioned it.  He really wanted a dog, however, so I acquiesced, as long as he took care of "it."  Pssssht!  I was naive.  Luke is my baby, and no way in hell is he not going to get walked because it's "not my job."

Having a pet, while occasionally frustrating, adds an extra level to my life, with warm, fuzzy cuddles, and the sheer amount of emotion I feel for this animal (jk, we all know he's a people).  I can't imagine not having a pet now.  And that's not even going into the studies that show that pets reduce stress.

4. Becoming More Active

Speaking of stress, being more active has shown me how much my physical actions affect my mood.  I've always had a cycle of highs and lows, and before I'd always just curl up in a ball for a day or five, and wait for it to end.  I still experience slumps, and sometimes they're bad, BUT now I have one more tool to help me fight them.

In addition to that, I've noticed the slumps decreasing in frequency, which is amazing considering how much more I have on my plate now than in the past.

5. Learning to Disagree Respectfully

This goes along with number 1.  I have always hated confrontation.  In the past, I'd avoid it until I was so fed up that I exploded and while the resultant brawl would usually get me what I wanted, it wasn't exactly a source of contentment for anyone involved.  Ryan's helped me a great deal, but reading relationship books has really made the difference.  And now that I know how to do it, it's insane that it wasn't just a common sense thing, but (and I mention this a lot, but I heartily believe it) I don't think we have good role models or resources when it comes to learning conflict resolution.

So when someone offended me, instead of calmly saying, "I'm not sure why you would say that, but it bothers me because..." I'd either retreat, explode, or say something in retaliation.  Keeping a calm tone and explaining rather than accusing works wonders!  And it's made life easier for my (now) marriage, friendships, and even familial bonds.

6. Choosing Happiness Over Obligation, Fear, or Security

This is definitely a work in progress, but I'm sick of filling my life with meaningless things because I "should" or out of a misguided sense of obligation.  I remember realizing at some point that Ryan and Roommate didn't say yes if they didn't want to and didn't even feel bad about it!  So I'm working on turning down activities, events, and even favors if I don't want to do them.  I'm also taking a hard look at my life choices (like my job) and making sure my reasons aren't rooted in obligation or fear.

I've skirted around this issue for a while, but I'd been wanting to make a change at work for a while and finally discussed it with my boss and decided (mutually) to drop down to part time in the winter.  I agonized over wanting to freelance for the longest time, but didn't because I "owed it" to Ryan to keep a steady job, and my boss would hate me and my dad would hate me, and it wasn't the "smart" thing to do.  You know what?  Ryan supports it since it's what I need to do to be happy, and he's even shown excitement over some of the freelance opportunities coming my way.  My boss was perfectly fine and reasonable with it, and we compromised with no tension or hard feelings.  My dad will probably be pissed (haven't discussed it with him yet), but he'll get over it.  It's my life, not his, and I value different things.

7. Finding Hobbies

This might sound silly, but one of my favorite things about my relationship with Ryan is all the hobbies he's introduced me to.  I love our gaming group, and having my own dice bag.  I love watching "nerd" shows like Firefly and Doctor Who, and finally understanding what all the hype is about (plus space).  And, as much as I've always enjoyed reading, I don't think it gives me nearly as much satisfaction as what my enthusiasm of the moment is.  Purging the house?  The best fun I've had all year!

I'm a project person, apparently, and life's just not the same when I don't have a passion project calling me to get everything else done to work on it.

8. Self Improvement

I don't know that I've ever liked myself as much as I do now.  Part of that is getting older and getting more comfortable with myself.  But a huge part of it is reading, and learning, and changing the way I do things.  Some of it is stupid, little things, like reading books about how to be happy and love yourself.  But you know what?  I probably wouldn't have thought I was worth love at one point.  I didn't think I was a "good" person.

Now I know that's bullshit and I deserve to be happy, just like everyone else does.  I'm also more tuned in to my own emotions, and better able to identify the things that will make me happy.  I make better decisions, have more confidence, and handle it better when things don't go according to plan.

I'm going to cut myself off there, because I'm getting tempted to put things like "getting older" and that's hardly a decision I made to do.  (Seriously, though, getting older is awesome.)  It is so incredibly gratifying and blissful to be able to look at my life and realize how much more put-together I am now.  I was such a mess!  And it took a while, but all the pieces have finally come together into something I can be happy with.

What things have you done right?  How do you celebrate your successes?

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  1. This is an awesome post Jenn! Can you share any relationship book recommendations?? PS - I agree, getting older is great in a lot of ways and it is great to feel confident in who you are and just be the person that you want to be (i.e., kind of like what you said - if you want to be nerdy, GREAT, do it!) The only thing I don't like about getting older is that my babies are growing up too! (*sob* emotional mother over here) lol.

  2. I use to have a hard time saying no if I didn't want to do something my mom and my sister thought I should. Now I say no but sometimes still feel bad, I need to work on that.

  3. Oh, this makes my heart so happy to read. Such wonderful things to have done right and makings for a much better life. Proud and happy, over here!

  4. These are lessons that take people a lifetime to learn so you're way ahead of the game. I especially like #6 and I'm trying to do the same thing in my life. I want to do something that definitely rattles the security I'm used to in my life and, so far, I haven't had the courage to really pull the trigger. Good for you for taking that step and going part-time so you can pursue your happiness!

    1. Thank you! My father knows now, and he actually handled it really well. So not only was I doing him a disservice to assume he'd react badly, but I was putting myself under unnecessary pressure. Another lesson learned!

  5. Great list! It's nice to see how you've improved and made good decisions. Yay for finding a good relationship! That is a bad pattern to be in.

  6. i love this post! i totally agree with number 1, I had to learn about improving my side of the relationship. You don't just meet someone and mesh perfectly without zero effort, and I feel like I got a lot happier when I realised that. I also totally agree about finding hobbies. Besides reading, I didn't really have a lot going on and blogging has really given me something that is mine, something that I think about / do, which I feel like made me a better / happier person, you know? I know KC didn't introduce me to that, lol, but I think having hobbies / projects really helps.

  7. I love your list!!! I agree with all of the things you said :) I have been picking up new hobbies the last few years and trying to learn how to say no and not be a door mat!

  8. #8.. I have SO much love for that.

  9. I've never heard that saying before (in #2), but I kinda love it, and it makes sense. I'm currently dealing with letting go of a friendship right now, not because the person/relationship is toxic, but just because our lives have taken very different turns and neither one of us is the same anymore, and the friendship has kind of run its course, if that makes sense. I'm terrible at conflict resolution, though I'm more of a retreater than a retaliator, but I'm working on it! Such a great list, and celebrate successes as much as possible!

  10. I cut a bunch of people that made me miserable out of my life. I can say I have been so much happier since doing that.


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