Friday, April 20, 2012

My Happiness Project

I have been considering myself happy for the past three years which coincides with my diagnosis with type 1 diabetes.  I have made countless efforts to maintain my happiness in the past three years by not letting things get the best of me, especially when it comes to managing diabetes, but not exclusive to that.   In fact many things that have made me unhappy on occasion in the past three years had nothing to do with being a type 1 diabetic.   As much as diabetes is a lot of work other things in my life that seem to linger in the background take more of a toll on my happiness.  

When I posted this photo on Facebook, everyone commented
on how Happy we looked this proves
Happiness shines through. 
To say that I am at my happiest wouldn't be an exaggeration, although I know in the future I will feel happier than I am at this moment because life just gets better, or at least I love to think that way.  I have managed to take my life and turn it into something that most would think was just handed to me.  So many people comment on how 'lucky' I am yet I am attached to a 18 inch tube and plastic box full of insulin.   Luck, maybe, but really I know how hard I have worked to achieve what I have and one of those achievements is being happy. 

One of my very best and close friends let me borrow her book, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and she noted that she had made her own notes within the book.   At first I thought these notes and highlights were the instant response of any professor to do to a book, being that her occupation; however, I found myself making notes (not in her book, but in my notebook) highlighting what I thought was important and for some parts I did highlight similar ideas, but over all I got much different ideas out of the book than her showing that finding happiness is different for everyone.

But, what Rubin did was provid the background for all happiness allowing her readers to find what they wanted and to hum and ha over it for the night or several nights.  At first I wasn't sure if this book was for me because I kept thinking it was designed for someone who had a family and a husband, but as I indulged into it a little more I realized that that wasn't true at all. Just like non-diabetics found light in my blog when they may have never been in touch with diabetes in their life.    Soon, I was filling my notebook with scribbles of ideas that made me smile and think more about what happiness was and how I could not only remain happy, but amplify it.

The first thing I wrote down came a bit later in the book and that was directly related to my blog. WRITE MORE!  I have dedicated readers, I know that for sure, so why not make sure I am providing them with something to read about every single day.  Although, writing every day isn't always ideal and Rubin often talks about giving yourself some slack.  I wanted to do this for my readers as well as myself.  I have a lot to say, as many people know and I also have really identified with my blog.  My blog has become something that I look forward to writing in every day and sometimes I have to hold myself back from making multiple entries - in this case I write what I want to say and then put a timer on it to come out the next day to avoid multiple entries.     

The second thing was not about my blog at all, but about everything else in my life, DON'T NAG! and nagging was something that I was pretty good at.  It is so easy to nag someone about something, but when I thought about it more, I realized that nagging someone to do something just shows that you don't trust that they will do it.  I kept reminding myself not to constantly feel like I need to remind someone to do something, because chances are they have not forgotten about it.   I hate being nagged at, so why would I want to do it to someone else? 

This also worked along with Rubin's ideas of having EXTREME NICE WEEKS, but this sort of made me wonder why I wouldn't just always be extremely nice to the people around me.  I guess it is hard to be extremely nice, but at the same time, like Rubin states, it is okay to fail sometimes.   So, with all my might I do want to try and be extremely nice so that people remember me that way and know that they can go to me knowing that I will be, well, extremely nice to them.

Going by what I have in my note book I instantly must have realized that FAILURE IS OKAY because that is what is next on the list of many.  I am the worst person to take criticism, in fact there is something about me where I usually think I am always right...but I am, really... just kidding.  I do not like when people tell me that I am wrong or that something I am doing isn't okay.  Even sometimes blog comments make me upset as people try to tell me that I didn't really examine the two sides of the coin, when in reality, my blog is the truths of myself and especially how I view diabetes.   I realized that not only is failure okay, but so is disagreements.   It is okay if I do not agree with someone, if they do not agree with me and if in the end it just does not work out.

This next one was something I instantly did as soon as I read it, GET RID OF CLUTTER, I have this weird obsession with keeping things that have no real place within my apartment, like a tiny envelope with my grandmother's handwriting on it, as much as I wanted to hold onto it, I knew that I had plenty of things like birthday cards with her perfect handwriting on it.   I had numerous files and photos on my desktop that made me feel frustrated every time I opened up my lap top. I began working with my desktop and getting rid of what was there to display the pretty desktop picture I have of Vince and I, that was hidden by files before.    I then worked on a few other parts of my room that were not super cluttered, but still needed to be dealt with.  It felt good and even though my room was usually tidy, it seemed a lot cleaner.

GET SMALL PROJECTS DONE this was something that intrigued me. I love projects! I love having something to do and finishing them and with school it is hard to do the things that we love the most, but I guess the reason I am so happy in the first place is because I don't stress about school and focus a lot of my efforts on feel good projects.   When I think about it, really no project I start is small, but the reason I wrote this down was because I did want to conquer some small projects and especially of a crafty nature.   It reminds me of one night when my best friend Michelle and I were bored at the apartment and decided to take a trip to the dollar store and get some canvases, paint and a couple paint brushes.  Here we were, young adults sitting watching Finding Nemo and painting pictures. But, honestly, it was so relaxing and we both got a couple laughs at Michelle's mysterious exploding heart picture that ended up being a nice art piece for our apartment living room for a long time. 

GO OFF THE PATH and I did this running once I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes - boy did I ever.  There is something about knowing your life is precious that kick starts a person to start living more and I relate that to the idea expressed by Rubin, to go off the path.  I was tired of living like the average joe (whoever that is!) for almost nineteen years of my life and to be honest I spent a lot of time previous to my diagnosis  wondering what made me special.   I realized that being dormant in your own life is sad and that there are so many opportunities out there if you just go off the path.  More and more I am pushing myself to do this and with that comes great experiences and this reminded me to keep trekking on the unknown road ahead of me.

A Quotation that I enjoyed. 
I am constantly trying to not only make myself happy, but others and that was something that Rubin pointed out, MAKE OTHERS HAPPY.  I love the feeling of talking to other diabetics and receiving their letters and emails and knowing that I made them happy, but sometimes I forget how important it is and most importantly what lasting impression it can leave on somebody else.  When someone else smiles, nods in agreement, waves, or hugs you, you know that you have done something right and in turn makes you happy - now to remember to try and make others happy, every single day.

BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER by this part of the book I felt like Rubin somehow knew that I would read this.  I began to realize that everything she was talking about, I was somehow doing and maybe that is why I am as happy as I am today.  She obviously knew what she was talking about because with the things she mentions I am living proof that it can put a smile on your face.  When she talked about bringing people together I instantly thought about my type 1 group that I had started in London and I then started thinking about how much I am going to miss everyone once they all finish exams and head back to their families.    The first time, I had about fifteen type 1 diabetics sitting around the table at Jack Astor's I felt so good and I knew that they felt so good being all together, checking their blood sugars, drinking diet coke and dialling up their insulin pumps. 

At this moment, I wrote in my notebook a quote from the book because it made me put it down, lay on my floor, look out my window (a nice view now that the leaves are on the trees) and think about what happiness was and why I felt so happy being who I am and where I was.   

"Happiness isn't something we should consider only when life is going well, also Happiness isn't something we should consider only when things are going wrong"    - my apologies if this isn't 100% correct, however this is what was in my notes. 

This then lead to a rush in reading as I finished the rest of the book within the next hour or so with moderate breaks to snack or just sit there and think.  The next thing I jotted down was CREATE SOMETHING THAT WASN'T THERE I had to laugh as I knew that I had created enough on my plate for now like this blog and the Diabetic Meme Page and a Pen Pal system, but I knew that there was so much more to create and feel good about doing.  I could create whatever I wanted and with exams finishing, I had the time to create things and really think about what I wanted to do with my time.  

The next is something that I had to think about before I wrote it down, in fact I kept reading before pulling out my pen, then realizing that it was stuck on my mind and I needed to write  it down and I would figure what it meant later. This was EXPECT A MIRCLE. I am not crazy to think that things just happen am I?  I have had some weird, but good things happen just out of no where and to say it was a miracle sounds a tad bit artificial, so it is much easier to classify it as something that just happened.   The more I thought about this idea I started to think about chance and how chance is a good way to think about outcomes.  If I put my heart into something, something big and something with risks, that is taking a chance, and with that I just need to, well, expect a miracle. 

Then it hit me, another quote that stopped me in my reading tracks. I pulled out the notebook and wrote:

"The Days are Long, but the Years are Short." 

Anyone who wouldn't agree with that statement is probably under the age of twelve. It seems as you get older it all starts to speed up.  We have those slow days, but before we know it it is Christmas again or your birthday.  I remember asking my mom why this happens.  Of course she didn't have an answer as to why time went by so fast, but she did acknowledge that time goes by fast as you get older.  It made me sad, knowing that I am only 21 years old and I can feel the years flying by.  

The next two things went together and boy, did they capture what living in an apartment of five girls is all about. DON'T GOSSIP and FIND SOMETHING GOOD TO SAY. When I was little I would imagine what it would be like to attend University and have roommates.  My long time friend Sydney and I would make homemade VHS movies capturing what we thought young adult life was like, living in the same room, talking about 'geometry class' and boys that we liked.  As much as I wish all that happened, and hey! sometimes it does, despite the fact I am not sure if a 'geometry class' exists in University.  Living with other people is hard, and has proven to be hard for all kinds of people.  It is way too easy to gossip with texting, Facebook and just plain old talking and it has consumed the lives of many roommates and friends alike.    It hurts my feelings to know that I have gossiped before and have been gossiped about, so as hard as it is to stop it will be something I attempt.  To avoid gossiping, I want to try to start saying good things about people all the time, if I don't like something you do in particular, I will instead find something that doesn't bother me about you.  Sadly, this will be the hardest task that I try to conquer.

PURSUE A PASSION was the next thing I began to jot down after feeling guilty about my issue with  gossip drama.  I had so many passions and really enjoy everything that I am involved in, but I still know there is more out there that I want to attempt.  But, without cluttering my life, I wanted to focus on a couple passions that meant the most to me which was writing and doing motivational speaking - two things I am extremely passionate about.

Well, that is when the next thing Rubin listed made me now truly believe she had Kayla Brown in mind when writing this novel, which was just that, WRITE A NOVEL.  I had been writing stories since I was little, stories of fathers who worked in Kraft Dinner factories and scary stories of haunted house.   Which reminds me how pleased I was when I saw that Ky, (the oldest Maheu boy that I babysit) was interested in creative writing.     As many of my fans maybe know, I am looking to turn the idea of my blogs into a book. I am currently working on this novel and aiming for August to have it published and out there.  This is my passion, this is something that young pre-diabetic Kayla would be so proud to know.   This is a dream and happiness goal that I will accomplish - I promise. 

The last two things I wrote down are a great way to end my thoughts on the Happiness Project, because honestly, I never thought I would take so much from a 200 page book that I borrowed.   The second last note being, BE A KIND SPIRIT. More than ever do I want to be known as the lady that touched the lives of many, that made people smile, that was happy and joyful, brilliant and sweet.  I want to make a lasting impression when I leave a room and know that what I do in my life is important.  I think having this goal is what makes me happy. My goal is not to be the richest in the bank, but the be the richest in my heart.  So badly, do I want to be the person my friends can text or call any time.  I have made attempts to show my kind spirit by urgently responded to fan emails and letters and making sure to give a hug to all those that I meet (sometimes I feel like I must refrain for professional reasons...) but when I do give a hug I want it to be warm and make the other person think, "what a kind spirit...." that is a big happiness goal.

The last note to end on, is MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH. Rubin talked more about making herself laugh, but I have no problem doing that. I always think my jokes are funny and if my I am not laughing at my own jokes I am laughing at the silly things I accidentally do, which is clearly a trait I get from my mother.  But, I have been lucky to be able to do the speeches that I do, because there is no better feeling than hearing the crowd laugh at your jokes.  I want to inspire people when I stand in front of them, but to hear them laugh, now that is amazing and a good way to boost happiness of everyone in the room including yourself. 

And then diabetes appeared...
After that, something I didn't write down, but took a picture of was when Rubin briefly talks about her sister, Elizabeth who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. To be honest, I stopped, looked up and said, WHOA! out loud. I instantly wanted to meet Gretchen and Elizabeth, and share my story of type 1 diabetes and welcome her with open arms to visit all the type 1 diabetics I knew.   This gave the book an extra like from me.

So, that concludes my notes from what I got from reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I know that it has changed me in some small and big ways, but beyond change it has made me realize just how happy I already am and that what I am doing is right, important and most of all leading me to a life full of happiness. 


1 comment:

  1. Kayla -- hello! I'm thrilled to hear that my work resonates with you. Your thoughtful and insightful comments about happiness are so fascinating to read. Good luck with YOUR happiness project! Now I'm off to email my sister about your blog.