Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Living the 4th and Beyond - Happiness

It's been a while since I was last on retreat. Each year when that February weekend when the Oratory takes a group to Cape May rolls around, I sit and reminisce about how wonderful that first year was.. A college freshman trying to find my way, I stumbled upon the St. Thomas More Oratory. While I didn't take part in everything they had to offer the change that place has made upon my life and my heart will never cease to amaze me. Liam's middle name is named in honor of it - this is just one example. Oh, and I found my husband there. <3

So life has changed a lot since February of 2002. 10 years later, I have accomplished a number of things that I wanted to do in my life: graduate from college, get married, own a house, obtain a Master's degree, have children. Superficially glancing at this list, many people would say this is a lifetime's worth of goals. Honestly, it is. That's not how my mind works though.. While a happy person, I tend to focus on what I have not accomplished, what I have not succeeded at, and what I cannot do as well as I would like to. Case in point in writing this post: I used to take great pride in my writing ability, yet I look at the last word of the previous sentence and struggle with the fact that I cannot come up with a different word so it will not end in a preposition.

Type A - yes.
Perfectionist - you bet.

Maybe that explains it, but I'm forced to dig deeper. I'm fairly certain I've always had these personality traits but somewhere between high school graduation and here, I've gotten off the path of "happiness". Being the nostalgic person I am, I read my senior yearbook filled with genuine comments from true friends about my attitude towards life and the inspiration it brings. I got inspired just reading the notes! But that person is no longer ME. Am I upset with who I am? Well, not exactly. I know that I'm blessed and I am grateful for all that I have. My biggest "problem" with me is that I feel I don't appreciate these things ALL the time. I let silly, little things get in the way of the big picture - so that is what I am setting out to change.

A friend talked about The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin on her blog and I was intrigued. I got a copy from the library and began reading. While only two chapters in, I could not help to think of myself while reading it. It's like the author is me - with a few glaring differences. You know, not being a former clerk for a Supreme Court justice or having (what I presume to be) millions from writing a book being how to be happy. In the end, I believe Gretchen "found" that she was closer to happiness than when she started. That's the thing about happiness: it's a daily commitment - same with being a Catholic - you can't just say you believe in Jesus and call it a day. You need to continually commit yourself to being a good person, prayer, trying to improve, giving thanks, and so on.

Let me get back to the 4th day. Without ruining the experience for those who may one day go on such a life changing retreat, the retreat lasts for three days so the fourth day is, more or less, your next step. What will you do with all you've heard, read, experienced? To me, the fourth day was always a fresh start - almost like a New Year's resolution. So, I'm going to try my hand at my own happiness project.

[ This picture makes me giggle as a dear friend sent it to our team at work on for May 4th with the caption, "May the Fourth Be With You!" Immediately I thought of retreat. :)  ]

As I finished the book, the quote about the experiencing the journey, not focusing on the destination comes to mind. That already has changed my whole way of thinking. As Gretchen would say, "Where ever you are, that's where you start." So.. this is where I shall begin!

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