Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Secret of Happy

Remember how I watched that Happy documentary on Netflix and decided to be happy full time?

Well, I only actually watched the first 10 minutes or so. And then I got interrupted.

(It's the story of my life. If I were the type of person who wanted a headstone, I'd want that headstone to say, "And then I got interrupted.")

But I was really taken with the statistic that happiness is 50% genetic, 10% situational and 40% what you do to get it. And there was a story about a poor guy who lived what looked to be a miserable life but was happy and I realized that maybe I'm kind of a lazy jerk sometimes, and then I got interrupted.

The other day I dropped little kid off and I started thinking about my 40% happy project and feeling kind of guilty even though I think I'm doing pretty well.

Not so much at the exercise part, though -- my personal record last week was a whopping 6500 steps in one day. I had a stomach virus for a few days, and I'm a writer and we don't move a lot, my foot hurts and I have a zillion excuses, but really, I think it's time to recognize that level of inactivity as impressive.

And not so much with writing for fun. You know that whole "Love what you do and you'll never work a day in your life" thing? It's true. I love work so much that it doesn't feel like work. Lately I've been fortunate to be working a lot and if it comes down to love or money, I'll pick love AND money. And naps. If it's writing for fun or naps, naps win. Every time.

I've been back to my meditation practice and that's been great but slower going than I had planned. I even signed Big Kid and I up for a Transcendental Meditation talk, which I'm pretty sure might be a cult, and we're both even more excited to go now that we suspect it might be. I am confident I'll be back into that one way or another soon-ish.

Part of my happiness project is going to be giving ALL OF THE THINGS a chance. I'm even going to a goddess/tarot party with optional belly dancing on Saturday, people.

So anyway, I was thinking about how I'm really only accomplishing the whole "hang out with your friends and do what you want" part of the happiness project and wondered if that was really so notable, even if it felt impressive to my introvert self. Then I remembered that I never did finish that movie and thought maybe I should watch the rest. Then, because I always think weird things alone in the car, I got paranoid that maybe it was a mockumentary or something so obviously ridiculous that my 40% thing isn't even worth believing, and watching it felt pretty urgent.

And I'm so glad I did. It didn't have a very high production value but it added so much value to my life.

Also, and I don't think this is a spoiler at all, the moral of the story strongly implied that it's human connection and the freedom to be our most authentic selves -- all ridiculous and imperfect and bold about it -- that makes us happy. That's exciting because I can do that!

Tonight I went to an art exhibition and barely saw any art because I was busy drinking wine in the courtyard from plastic cups with friends until the incredibly classy staff managed to shoo us into the parking lot so they could close, and then we hung out for another hour or so on the sidewalk and laughed loudly and often.

I am adulting so successfully, even if the laundry will never be caught up and my taxes are never filed without an extension, and folding fitted sheets is voodoo. It's like I don't even have to exercise anymore if I don't want to.

I mean, I will, but only for extra credit.

I'm just going to play with my friends and work for fun and take naps and pet cats and go to the beach until I get interrupted and that's the best life plan ever.

I'm so glad I thought of it.

(I'm a member of the Netflix Stream Team. I'm lying in bed right now wearing a Fuller House shirt that says "I'm Stephanie" on the front and "How Rude!" across the back.  I get fun perks and free Netflix, but that doesn't influence my opinion because nothing ever does. I'm super stubborn like that.)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hair Color Karma

So, I decided to cheat on my hairdresser.

This was not a decision to be taken lightly. I love her, I'm just not in love with her anymore. And it's not her, it's me; we've just grown apart as of late, and maybe I take her for granted. I do that sometimes.

Also, I wanted something sexy and new. I was going to do that whole balayage thing because I thought it would be so forgiving between visits and I'd look like a super model, probably.

I explained the situation to the new hairdresser who waited patiently and then pointed out that a lot of my hair is gray and that going darker is actually not the answer. We decided to keep it lighter and add some depth and darkness to the top so I could skip salon visits guilt free.

And the end result is that I look more like a Waffle House waitress who's a month behind on the rent than a super model. This is not due to a lack of skill on the new stylist's part either -- I got exactly what I asked for and it turns out that I don't like that after all.

My anniversary dinner is on Saturday and my old hairdresser could and would fix this like the emergency that it is even though I created it myself, but I can't and won't ask, so that's a little bit of karma right there.

I love the new hairdresser, she is funny and authentic, affordable and skilled.

"Am I cutting your hair today, too?" She asked.

"No, I just got a hair cut, it was not a good situation."

"You just got a hair cut? When did you just get a hair cut?"



"It was really short though and I hated it."

"So, you did not just get a hair cut. Would you like me to just...trim it back into a hair shape?"

I allowed it and there was no associated trauma. I love that she already knows I have to be gently coerced into haircuts.

So, I had to confess that I've come to the realization that I'm too old to have dark roots on purpose, even if those dark roots are skillfully and beautifully done and that I was over the "less maintenance" thing now, hours later.

I go back on Tuesday. In the meantime, my hair looks like it did before, just in prettier shades and with less gray.

There is probably a life lesson in here about not betraying people who have your back, or about how I already have exactly what it is that I think I want, or maybe that what I think I want is not actually what I want, but I'm really too busy hating my hair to get all philosophical about it now.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pride and Joy

"I can't believe how white your blanket is now! You did such a good job!" Big Kid said about a formerly dingy down comforter I restored to whiteness.

(I have been domestic-ing up a storm, people.)

"Thank you. It's one of my greatest accomplishments," I answered.

"Of your life?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Getting a comforter white again is one of the greatest accomplishments OF YOUR LIFE? Really, mom?"

"Probably. Yeah. I did an amazing job."

"You're looking at your wedding photos right now."  (It's my 15th anniversary.)


"While speaking to your son. About your greatest accomplishment being this comforter."

"Uh huh. It's really super white though, isn't it?"

"I guess you've had a pretty boring life."

It is lovely, guys. It's bright white like I live at the Marriott.

It's like I have a super power now.

I also chalk painted a metal headboard with birds on it and I'll tell you about that later, but rest assured that I'm crafty this week, like if Annie Sloan and Martha Stewart had a baby that was funny but had crippling self-doubt.

And I sleep in a beautiful bed, in a room often cluttered with laundry.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ashley and the 40%

So, last week I decided that I was going to start doing happiness full time on Monday.

It's not that I'm particularly unhappy right now but I am chronically frustrated -- my whole life seems to be a push of "Yes you can!" and a pull of "Well, no, not actually right now, you're gonna have to wait."

Everything I want or need requires some other step; from unpacking to relationships, every good effort seems to be met with a roadblock and I am ready to go outside and scream at the sky, "UH, HELLO, UNIVERSE? Could you not? See me trying to do all of this shit? If you could just, you know, not make it all impossible at every single turn that would be great. 'kay. Thanks. Nice sunset last night, by the way. Good talk."

Lately I've been researching happiness. (What? I research things, it's what I do.) It started for some writing I'm doing but gained some momentum as an idea. I watched "Happy" on Netflix and was struck by a statistic that said happiness was 50% genetic, 10% situational, and 40% the things you do to get it. Those are decent odds.

It reminded me that I know what needs to be done, perhaps more than most thanks to my research and yoga teacher training and meditation experiences and constant pursuit of the subject.

I do know how to be happy, other people just keep messing it up. And yet I know, from my training and experiences, that other people can be annoying without annoying me.

In theory I know this.

I've been told this, at least.

Look, I am not claiming to understand how that works, it's part of the practice, I suppose. It would be super helpful if people could quit being annoying, but I know the real work lies in being unfuckwithable.

So I was going to start doing that 40% on Monday.

And Monday was a disaster of epic proportions (maybe "epic proportions" is hyperbole, but the day sucked), where literally nothing could be done until something else was dealt with first. When the guy at the Genius Bar said that the hard drive on my one year old Macbook was on the brink of catastrophic failure, I thought that maybe Monday was a metaphor for my whole life.

It was already late afternoon and I couldn't back up my computer until I bought a new external hard drive and I couldn't get a new hard drive until I submitted some work and I couldn't submit some work until I picked up little kid and I thought, "Well, damn, it looks like I don't have time for the whole happy thing today. I'm going to have to postpone until Wednesday."

And I literally laughed out loud at the absurdity of that. I know how to be happy, I claim not to have time to be happy, I will start happiness later.

I am a total lunatic. It's actually a huge relief to realize my own ridiculousness.

I don't even know what version of New New New Life Plan: Rough Draft: Second Copy: Third Revision we are on these days but from now on I will be:

Meditating. Even if it's two minutes. Even if "go to hell" is my mantra. Breathing will be an acceptable alternative to this on days it's just not happening, but it has to happen more days than not. I have some great meditation apps on my phone that I enjoy, I know for a scientific fact that it's good for me, I have no excuse not to do this. Not doing this is like refusing to brush my teeth -- weird and not good for me, and scraping all of the spiritual plaque away later is just going to hurt.

Going to the beach. Again, even if it's just for long enough to feel my toes in the sand, I will go and stare out at the horizon and feel small and remind myself that nothing else matters. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have this as an option. I don't need a book and a chair and a raft and a towel and sunscreen and three uninterrupted hours. I need a car and legs, still have both.

With my friends. I love them. They are the therapy I can't afford. I'm doing awesome at this already this week and I'm going to force myself to keep it up. It's also a nice way to add drinking more wine to the list. My friends are a good barometer of how I'm doing in life -- I can't be too terrible if these wonderful people like to be around.

Selfish. There's a whole lot of selflessness in mom life/wife life/woman life/human life/pet owner life. I give so much there that I can afford to save some for myself. I will not take away from others, just do more for me and not feel bad about it.

(I've thought about deleting this part three times already because it makes me sound like a bad mom/wife/friend/cat owner/person but the first step to being selfish is being unapologetic about the need. You know how you have to put on your own oxygen mask first when the plane is going down, in order to help others? Yeah, hold your breath for a sec while I get situated, people in my life.)

Moving my body. Yoga, walking, chasing food trucks. Just kidding, we don't have food trucks and from what I understand they don't work like ice cream trucks which is exactly what they're doing wrong. I don't like exercise, and whatever, I don't need to do squats. Walking on the beach with a friend will be movement and happiness multi-tasking. In fact, walking down the pathway to the beach in order to sit with a friend will count.

Writing for fun. Maybe not for you and maybe not for money and maybe with no sense of obligation or concern about being commercially appropriate or hurting someone's feelings or not being funny. It's going to be glorious. And hard to do. I don't even know what I will write about but I am giddy at the prospect.

So my new life plan is looking like a good time already. This is way better than the other times when I wanted a clean house or ab muscles.

Last week after deciding that I was going to do my 40%, someone from Spire, a wearable mindfulness and activity tracker, reached out and asked if I wanted to do a product review. You know how the universe often drags me in the direction I need to go, even as it conspires against me? It seemed like that sort of thing. This post is not an ad, just a reminder that serendipity happens.

It will arrive on Thursday, but I started doing my 40% on Monday even though the deck seemed stack against me. The truth is that I really don't have be unhappy. So now I am going to do the fun stuff on my to do list first.

And other people are still annoying but we're working on it. Well, I'm working on it.

Monday, April 4, 2016


Yesterday I woke up surrounded by piles of clothes on hangers and leaving my room required plotting a careful path around stacks of shoe organizers. One scraped my leg and it hurt.

The last residents of our new home didn't understand the concept of closets, so ours have no hanging rods or anything else that makes sense and we attempted to remedy it over the weekend.

"I have an announcement," I told the family over breakfast. "I'm running away from home."

No one was particularly concerned. "Where are you gonna go?" Big Kid asked, sounding bored.

"Well, I found a really cute RV on Craigslist. Someone re-did the whole interior and its all aqua and white and super cute. It's 31' long, so I think I can drive it. I'm just going to drive around I guess. Or maybe I won't drive, maybe I'll just park."

"That's awesome! I want to come!" little kid declared.

"No. Sorry. It's like a writer's retreat, me in my RV. No people or stuff allowed. You can come on holidays?" I offered.

"You're only going to see us on holidays?"

"Well, not EVERY holiday. There are a lot of holidays. I will Facetime you all day long though."

"You would come back. You couldn't make it a year." little kid said.

"I know. Maybe I should only go for three months. That seems very reasonable and we should have closets by then for sure. Then we could use it for a family vacation."

"What about naps and laundry while you're gone?" Mr. Ashley pointed out.

"Uh, that thing is a napping machine. Are you kidding me? All cozy and quiet, AC booming, naps can only improve, really. With laundry, I'm only packing 3 pairs of yoga pants and 3 shirts and a bathing suit so no more laundry either. I need this for my career," I said solemnly. "I also need $23,000 to buy it and living expenses."

"Well, good luck with that," he said.

"Thank you. Can I have $23,000?"

This morning I awoke to the sound of glass breaking and Mr. Ashley cursing at the cats.

"Can you get that?" I yelled from bed. "I have to go."

"Where are you going?"

"I'm running away, remember? I have to get started on that."

So far I have $23, so according to my math, I'm only three zeros away.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

From April Fool's Day:

New neighbor kid outside my window: Uh, did your mom just call us poopfaces?

little kid: Well, we did try to give her an Oreo filled with toothpaste...

Luckily I knew not to trust a randomly offered Oreo.