Way Back When

When was the last time you remember waking up just bursting with energy, filled from the depth of your soul with a pure and genuine happiness, an undying curiosity as to what this day may hold in store for you, not a worry, not a care, not an inkling of your “to do” list anywhere in the Penumbra of your brain? When was the last time you opened your eyes in the morning feeling completely in tune with yourself and everything around you? Let me guess. For you, as for me, that was way back when. Way back, when you were still a child. Before life removed all the innocence. Before you fell into the trap of “growing up”.

Children in the morning

 

 

 

 

Our lives are one giant ball of hectic – social media, responsibilities and schedules; we don’t make our agendas – we live inside of them, like Alice who fell down the rabbit hole, we fell into the spiral of adulthood. As much as we haste and run to get from one appointment to the next, blogging and tweeting and texting while we rush along, we are on the constant search for that elusive feeling described above. In short, we all look for simple, pure and untainted happiness as we only knew it when we were young. And most of us spend a lifetime in vain trying to recapture this joy.

 

I wonder does that happen to you, too? Do you occassionally come across pictures that were taken during various moments of your childhood and you wonder what the hell happened? What happened to the kid with the mile-wide smile that hang upside-down from a tree branch? The kid that gazed up at his/her parents with eyes full of trust and love? The dare-devil kid on the skateboard just wearing shorts on a hot summer day with skinned knees and  a cloud of ecstatic joy ? What happened?

Life. Life happened.

Some of us got hurt pretty badly, even as children, and lost that joy and innocence way before adulthood even came around the corner. Most of us grew up through more or less annoying puberty into our teenage years and emerged on the other side of school and university as young adults. Lets face it, we all thought we owned the world. Way back when? We still believed we could do ANYTHING. Life may have already taught us some lessons, we may have lost friends along the way, learned how to lose competitions, get bad grades, lose the unconditional trust in adults; but we still believed in ourselves.

However, life had more in store, didn’t it? We started to make choices. As we exchanged run-down student dorms for apartments and eventually a 3 bedroom house in the suburbs, the cool motorcycle for the boring minivan, the nights with little sleep because we were hanging out with friends for the nights with no sleep because the baby won’t quit crying … as we exchanged all that, we also seem to have exchanged our joy, happiness and most of all our belief in ourselves for the constant struggle of staying on the treadmill of mortgage and child support.

It is funny in a weird, conflicting way that even though we all know this to be true, most of us recoil from the mere notion of admitting that we used to be carefree and purely happy WAY BACK WHEN and we really aren’t now that we lead the life everyone expects us to lead. Admitting that not everything in our lovely little lives is PERFECT and makes us REALLY HAPPY seems to be one of the capital sins of society. What terrible fate would befall us if we sat down and wrote down all the things that SHOULD make us happy – but really don’t? What would happen if after that, we’d sit down with our wives and husbands, our boyfriends and girlfriends and actually opened up about this? OMG. Just the thought makes you feel guilty and slightly nauseous, doesn’t it? We have been taught what is and what isn’t proper, what is and what isn’t socially acceptable. Being UNHAPPY  living the All American Dream – that surely isn’t acceptable….. or is it?!

I believe that we start losing our pure joy and life energy the second we start worrying about what others expect of us – and try to fit ourselves into that mold. It starts in childhood of course when we start modifying ourselves so that parents, friends, teacher etc “like”, love and appreciate us – but a lot of that modification still comes naturally and doesn’t change our core self. The older we grow, the more modification. We are expected to behave; expected to get good grades; expected to earn scholarships, learn a profession or get a university degree; we are expected to want to be successful; to want to meet Ms. or Mr. Right, get married, have a family. We are expected to build or buy a house, become loving and devoted parents – and somewhere along the line forget who we once were; the little boy or girl who loved to play in the mud, manicure be damned.

I love my life. But I haven’t always. Just until a few years ago I was caught in the same spiral from above. I did things because they were expected of me; because I didn’t want to hurt people I loved – or believed loved me. I wanted to become a military fighter pilot. I couldn’t because I was myopic – but joining the military was out of the question anyway because my parents wouldn’t have approved. I studied medicine. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t regretted being a doctor a single day in my life. I can’t help but wonder, though, whom I tried to appeace and impress with that decision. Myself? Or my parents?

I realized I was gay when I was still a child. Yet I waited until I was almost 20 to come out to my parents. Why? The fall of grace, of course. I knew that they expected something different of me. However – being gay was probably the “thing”, the deciding factor, that actually set me free from those expectations; I knew that this was a moral and core part of me that I couldn’t and wouldn’t deny or modify or adjust to the expectations around me. It was so life-changing; and I felt that if I am not loved exactly for who I am, I don’t need the “fake” pretense love of people who don’t even want to know the real me.

Now? I love my life. I don’t love my minivan; I know its the sensible solution with two kids and a lot of animals 🙂 but I really, really don’t love it and it sure as hell doesn’t give me joy!

Nissan 390 ZA Nissan 390 Z would give me a lot more joy 😉 – pure, untainted, childlike – but knowing that and admitting it makes me feel less resentful that I can’t have that right now – and hopeful that one day when the kids are a bit older I WILL get that for myself :-).

I love my life but I don’t love the fact that as soon as you are parents, making love to my wife isn’t something anymore that can happen literally all the time anywhere :-). Does that bug me? Sure it does! Who of us doesn’t get frustrated when we just have an intimate kissing moment in the kitchen that could lead to much more – and boom! one of the kids barges in (of course without knocking on the closed door….), loudly announcing that they are STARVING! 😉 It frustrates me and bugs me and because I can admit that it does it loses it’s oppressing weight and I can manage to turn the potential negative energy into a positive excitement because at some point the kids WILL be in bed ;-).

What I am trying to say is this: dare to admit to yourself and to your spouse all the things that bug you or that you aren’t happy with. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your spouse, your kids, your life – it just means that you also haven’t forgotten to LOVE YOURSELF and to value what is important to you!

I will let you in on a secret. I try to remember things that used to make me happy as a child and occassionally, I let go of all adult decorum and just join my kids in their chaotic riots :-). In those moments I try to see life from their point of view and try to forget whats considered proper and what isn’t.

 

I will play with them in the mud, get dirty, start food fights, fill balloons with water to throw as bombs (cleaning the windows be damned); we all know burping isn’t proper but it makes my children roll on the floor with laughter if I let one rip after drinking a coke; I “wrestle” with my son and we claw at each other, pull hair and sure, spit at each other; and after when we are exhausted we just shower and all’s proper again 😉

I am the parent. I am responsible, I protect them and I’d never engage in anything that could hurt them in any way. But I believe in letting them gift me with their pure joy while I allow them a glimpse of the person I used to be before LIFE happened, before I got modified and updated. My kids absolutely love that.

So in a world where we just stress to meet everyone’s expectations I advice you to stop for a minute and re-evaluate. Compromises are part of life. So is fulfilling responsibilities. The question is: do you do that at the cost of YOURSELF? I advice you to go looking for that kid you were way back when and try to learn something from him / her. And who knows? Maybe you will wake up one morning sometime soon, actually looking forward to the day, filled with love and hope and joy and happy to just be!

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below! I’d love to hear from you and what you think about the “inner child idea” 🙂 Let me know!

Deb

How To Do What Makes You Happy

Happiness is one of the most individual universal feelings or states of being. Everyone wants to be happy; everyone wants happiness in their lives and hearts. For everyone of us, happiness has a different meaning; more than that even, that meaning can change in the course of our lives time and again. What used to make us happy at the age of 15 sure isn’t the same as what makes us happy at 40. And figuring out how to do what makes you happy – thats the great, big mystery.

Happy woman

Today I would like to ask you all for your help. I am trying to figure out what happiness means, trying to figure out if we can create something like a “happiness quotient”, if happiness can somehow be measured. Basically, I need to know what makes you all happy and if / how you actually manage to do those things that make you happy – or if you let time, schedules, responsibilities etc get in the way. What is happiness? Lets have a look:

What Is Happiness?

Most of us probably don’t believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it, and we often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude.

But to understand the causes and effects of happiness, researchers first need to define it. Many of them use the term interchangeably with “subjective well-being,” which they measure by simply asking people to report how satisfied they feel with their own lives and how much positive and negative emotion they’re experiencing. Happiness thus would be measured by the “amount” of positive feelings we experience at a certain moment in timespinning girl

Where Is Happiness?

The ancient Greeks were among the first to explore the link between the physical body and our emotional responses. They created the concept of the “four humors” – yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm – to explain the differences in personalities among humans. All four humors are present in each person; too much or too little of one created an imbalance that formed the notable personality traits in an individual.

Although the effects of phlegm and bile as humors have long since been dismissed as theories, after 2,400 years, the link between the physical and the emotional has come into focus once more. In the 21st century, the field of neuroscience proposes that happiness – like every other emotional experience – is the result of electrochemical reactions in the brain brought on by stimuli.happiness

 

This revelation is part of the 5 neuroscience revolutions:

  • the theories of Copernicus
  • Charles Darwin’s theory of Evolution
  • the theories and findings of Sigmund Freud
  • the discovery of DNA
  • Francis Crick’s happiness hypothesis: you, your joys and sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated neurons

Happiness is linked to a reward system in the brain associated with the release of pleasure inducing chemicals, a neurotransmitter / hormone called dopamine; Research has also implicated other hormones, like progesterone, oxytocin and testosterone, in producing other aspects of happiness, like a sense of well-being and connectedness with others.smiley and the brain

 

So – I guess most of us would say when being asked that they feel happiness in their hearts and not their brains. Maybe it is a combination of both?! The concept of happiness is obviously one of the huge cornerstones of neuroscience – the science of the brain; it is also without a doubt a matter of the heart. But the biggest question of all is: What is it for you? What makes you “happy”? How do you define happiness for yourselves? What are the little things that make you feel good? Is happiness a materialistic measure or can it never truly be achieved by materialistic means like money? In other words, can happiness be bought? How in your routines, your hectic and stressful everyday lives do you manage to do what makes you happy?

I am SO MUCH looking forward to your answers! I’d be happy to share thoughts and ideas with you all and I am excited to find out what happiness means for YOU! So please leave a comment and let me / us  know? I will certainly get back to you!! Thanks a lot and have a great, happy day –

Deb