(I wrote this earlier in the week.)
This morning, I didn’t feel happy. Today my alarm woke me up in the middle of a good stretch of sleep, after a night of waking often. I was due to babysit my nephew, but I felt really tired – the kind of tired where it’s an effort to smile, it’s easy to get irritated and any little thing can make me cry. I was out of sorts and, as I struggled and failed to pull myself back to happy, a thought crossed my mind: If I’m trying to bring sunshine and birdies singing to everyone, then who’s bringing ME sunshine? In other words, who’s making a daily effort to look out for my feelings? My friends and family are caring, but sometimes it feels as if I’m constantly monitoring others’ moods and reactions and trying to keep them happy, but that I’m not getting the same attention. I felt like I deserved some of the same sensitivity and attention to my moods that I try to give to others.
The clichéd self-help response to this is usually some drivel about our happiness being in our own hands. This always sounds too idealistic, as if I can just tell myself to be happy. (It’s the same with the “love yourself” stuff.) When I’m struggling to feel happy, isn’t that what my support network is for? If everyone can just make themselves feel happy, then why am I worrying so much about making others happy? And, if I am making such an effort to make others happy, then surely it’s not too much to expect someone else to attune themselves to my moods and make me happy now and then, rather than always having to do it myself?
Of course, the point is not that there is some magical power to not relying on anyone else, the point is that relying on others simply isn’t realistic. We will not always have the sensitive, mood-attuned people around us when our mood swings downwards. I realised that if I sat around waiting for others to consider my emotions or fix my mood then I would be waiting a long time and would probably get more and more disgruntled at people ignoring my unvoiced unhappiness. So, I looked for other ways to lift my mood. I re-read some of my older posts to remind myself of what has worked in the past, I listened to music and, perhaps most importantly, I stopped expecting myself to feel joyous and helpful all the time and allowed myself to just be feeling fragile and to be the person I was looking after.
So I supposed I learned two things that I hope to remember.
The first is that sometimes struggling to address the discrepancy between how I want to feel and how I actually feel adds more distress than if I acknowledge my mood and try to nurture myself.
The second is that I shouldn’t rely on others to know what I need. It is easy to become upset with others due to a discrepancy between how I want them to act and reality. If I stop expecting so much of others then I stop blaming them and feeling disgruntled and neglected and can turn my attention to looking after myself.
It’s like I tell my students: you can’t control what others do, you only have control over your own actions.