In recent years I’ve been learning (forced as a matter of sanity is more like it) to embrace self reflection. It’s a coping mechanism for me when it comes to Mom’s dementia and it is precisely the type of thing that would’ve given me the willies four years ago. Being still and asking myself questions: why do I feel the way I do? Why’d I make that choice? Why was it right or wrong or good or bad? How do I feel about the consequences (intended or otherwise) or positive impact? What can I take from it etc. You get the idea.
A Little Help From My Friends
I didn’t think of this as an important self care strategy on my own. It was friends and a therapist who urged me, insisting I’d benefit from taking these steps. The urging became stronger until I took the plunge and agreed to give it a try. It’s a seemingly small and simple thing but carries an outsized impact (for me anyway). I liked it enough the first time I tried, which led me to the second time. Then I was hooked.
So far, I’ve found it to be a lot harder than it sounds–but worth it. It might be five minutes, it might be twenty, but I feel mentally lighter after. In some ways I can equate it to a good workout. Not easy but worth it for the feeling I get from knowing I’ve done it. Becoming increasingly clear to me the more I reflect is that I’m generally…..happy.ish. Let me explain.
Somewhere in the Middle
I’m not one to perpetually carry around a big smile. I wish I were. I love people who are and feed off of them when they’re around. I have few friends like that but it’s just not me. For whatever reason scientific or otherwise, my resting face is well…..let’s say neutral. Some might say less than neutral. I know this because I’ve been told often, in a variety of subtly backhanded ways.
There’s a popular phrase for something like this that you might be familiar with. People have told me I suffer from that. I get a lot of You look pissed, is everything ok? I also get a healthy and regular dose of You look tired. I probably hear that one the most. These are nothing more than innocuous comments from a place of caring (I think) made by friends or acquaintances or family. Yet they’re still bothersome to hear.
I don’t dismiss the importance of body language or facial expressions (or posture for that matter) and appreciate that the comment makers care (I think). It’s all important and all within my control. I should be better and I do work on it. However, the unsolicited commentary takes a toll over time. Almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He said I look tired/pissed/upset therefore I am tired/pissed/upset. After a while I began to believe it.
The Point is…
My point in all of this is that in my newfound affinity for self-reflection, I’ve learned I’m generally… happy…ish. I’m not over-the-moon happy by default. I’m not eternally down in the dumps either. I’m somewhere in the middle but if I’m being really honest with myself, I’m closer to the moon than I am to the dump. And I’m at peace with it.
Life isn’t perfect. Not for anyone under the best of circumstances. We all have standard life stress (work, rent, mortgage, school, family) and then the added stuff. In our case it happens to be aging parents with dementia and Lewy Body Dementia. In spite of it all, life is G-O-O-D.
I have much to thankful for. A ton to be happy about. And I have a fair amount of pain and sadness and frustration too. What matters most, though, is acknowledging and owning all of it. For me that means I have to work hard at accepting the good, bad, and ugly as part of our story. And to enjoy the journey. I’m getting better at it every day.
Life won’t ever be perfect and I’m cool getting cooler with that. I’m happy…ish.