It’s a tricky business, counteracting the insidious negative thoughts that have taken residence in the depths of my psyche. In many cases, the hardest part is identifying them in the first place, for often I’m not even aware of the the negative beliefs that are underlying my emotions and motivations.
Today, I became aware of a negative idea that I hadn’t been conscious of: I don’t believe I’m allowed to be properly happy or to completely enjoy myself unless everything is perfect. I have long been aware that I feel often feel unable to enjoy my relaxation time because I feel guilty for not doing more productive things. Normally, productive things means study, and perhaps exercise and chores of the household or administrative variety. I think I’m so used to feeling guilty whenever I’m not doing something productive that I assumed my inability to really enjoy myself would go away when I no longer had anything that particularly needed doing.
Right now, it is the school holidays. This means that I am on holiday, I have no uni work to do and there have been so many public holidays over the Christmas-New Year period that I couldn’t even have done any banking or made any business-related calls. There are really no demands on my time to make me feel guilty for relaxing and enjoying myself. The delightful thing is that I generally haven’t been feeling guilty for reading, watching TV or doing nothing in particular – yet I still haven’t fully been able to enjoy myself.
I realised today that there’s a little part of me that believes that to feel properly happy is to somehow be irresponsible because I haven’t got my life sorted. If I had a steady income over the holidays (which I don’t, because I only get paid for the days I teach and I can’t teach when school is out!), if I knew what I was going to do with myself next year, if I felt as if I was moving forward, then I would be allowed to be happy. But, as I don’t even have an income for at least another month, I feel that to really allow myself to be happy, even for a short while, means I somehow don’t take these other things seriously.
Because I live with my Dad, I’m able to depend on him for a short while, and I think this dependency adds to my feeling of not being allowed to be happy. If I allowed myself to really feel happiness in something then I would be showing that I didn’t care about my finances and that I took things for granted. So, I do not allow myself to feel happy.
Of course, the other reason is that it’s been hard to feel that anything is truly right and perfect when I know that Mum isn’t around. But this is the year of sunshine and birdies singing. I know that many, many moments will still be tinged with sadness because she isn’t here, but I do know that I can’t be not happy forever. What if I live for another thirty, fifty or even seventy years? This year, I’m learning to carry Mum with me into my happiness instead. But these feelings about Mum also hid from me the negative belief that had been around for much, much longer.
There will always be things to do, things to improve in my life. It often looks to me as if other people have reached certain stages in their lives where they have achieved certain things (good, steady career, home of their own etc.) and can contentedly plateau for a while. The reality is probably very few people feel like that. Most people are probably like me, feeling that their life is still in the rehearsal stage and wondering when and how they’re going to make it to performance night when everything comes together. It’s ridiculous to close my heart to happy moments because I feel that I still have work to do on my life. It’s like all those trite cliches about enjoying the journey. I’m going to try not to hold myself back from happiness, from properly enjoying something, just because my life isn’t perfect and still needs work.
Now that I type it, it sounds really trite and cliched, too.
I’ve been really trying to make a conscious effort over the past few days to feel sunshiney and not weighed down. It’s one thing to focus on not being stressed, but it’s actually quite different to try to be happy. That is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been making a conscious effort to let my heart be light and to infuse joy into the things I’m doing. Everyday things, but things like reading, or eating a delicious meal, that I should be able to enjoy and that should contribute to my happiness, if only temporarily. It’s only because I’ve been making such a conscious effort that I’ve noticed my own resistance to being happy. I can be a bit happy, but I always have to hold myself back from being completely, freely happy. I must always withold a little happiness from myself and remind myself of my responsibilities and unattained goals. As if such an obsessive overthinker as I would ever forget!