Thursday, July 14, 2011

Finding Joy in the Journey

It's hard not to constantly anticipate the happiness you expect to experience when you finally get that positive pregnancy test. As a couple trying to conceive (or TTC) it can be in the forefront of your mind. "If I could only get pregnant, then I'd be really happy." Of coarse it's something to look forward to and anticipating a pregnancy is part of the fun (and part of the heartache) of TTC. Now, I know I will be excited when I am able to have another baby but I soon found my self consumed with wanting a baby and focusing on how happy my life could be instead of how happy it is. I decided to focus the past couple of weeks on finding joy in the journey and finding happiness in my life right where it is.

It all started with conversations at work. I have a co-worker who is an early twenties bachelor living at home with his mom. He has minimal living expenses so he loves to spend his money on designer clothing and he drives an expensive car. (Seriously just thinking about his car payment makes me sick.) On a Monday morning we have our usual "What did you do over the weekend?" conversation where he tells me all about the latest parties he attended or girls he is interested in, etc. This particular Monday he comes in talking about how he went to a friend's lake house and went boating. Then he goes on to talk about how happy he would be if he finally had a boat or an ATV or motorcycle. I literally started laughing. I told him how lucky he is to be able to have all the nice things that he does! He just can't seem to be satisfied unless he has all the trivial, material possessions he could ever want. I just don't get it.

After work I was relaying the conversation to my husband, still shocked that he could really feel like his happiness depended on acquiring toys, and it hit me. I am guilty of that same mindset. It occurred to me in that moment that I've been too focused on wanting another baby, I haven't stopped to smell the roses myself. Sure it's one thing to look at the life of my co-worker and see how easy he has it and wonder why he could ever want more, but to look at my own life that way? I don't have all the material possessions that he does, nor do I want them. But I do find myself from time to time waiting to be happy. I'm waiting for a baby to be happy.

I can't keep looking at what I don't have in my life and expect to be happy once I have it. Of coarse material possessions and longing for another child are two very different things, but the idea that I won't be happy until I have what I want is the same. I don't want to wait to be happy. I'm ready to be happy. This is a lot easier said than done. Especially since I have struggled with depression throughout my life. On more than one occasion I have reached a point where I have actually sought medical help from a doctor for my depression but then I always end up chickening out and never even start the prescribed anti-depressant. (Note: Everyone is different. There is nothing wrong with needing or taking a medication for depression. It's just not something that ever felt right for me.)

While I am certainly no expert, I was able to make a few changes in my life that certainly helped elevate my mood and helped me to be happy. The first was finding a support system. When hard times hit, I need someone to lean on. I need someone that can empathize and at least be a shoulder for me to cry on, but at the same time not enable me to just wallow in self pity. The most significant support system I have is my friend going through a similar situation. I can text her anytime and vent about another negative pregnancy test or that sometimes I just don't want to try anymore and she gets it. It's really nice having someone who can understand my situation and who shares some of the same feelings I have regarding TTC. A friend or friends who "get it" can be found just about anywhere. This blog, twitter, facebook and other social media sites are great for connecting people. I know a lot of people who would feel lost without their "tweeps" or twitter friends. I have felt that way a time or two myself.

The next thing I did find happiness in my life was to schedule a weekly family night. This was the easiest and most beneficial thing I could have done. On a random weeknight, I said to my husband and son "It's family game night. What should we play?" This turned into a weekly event and something we all really look forward to. My son especially loves getting to have a special night just for playing games. He is only 3 years old but has already started planning for future family game nights. He planned a treasure hunt and we were all a band of pirates trying to find it. Creating memories like this has been priceless. It's been so fun to put more focus on family fun time. We spend a decent amount of time together as a family, but having a special, scheduled game night has been something that has drawn my family even closer together. It's the best night of our week.

The next thing I did to find joy is look for more opportunities to serve others. I just started with my own family and slowly expanded from there. Everyday I wake up and the first thing I think of is TTC as I take my basal body temperature. It's hard not to be consumed with wanting another baby when the first thought every single morning revolves around trying for another baby. So now when I wake up and take my temperature I think about what I'm going to do to serve others. While I wait for that thermometer to beep, I plan something to help someone. Whether it's making plans with my handicapped Uncle, taking my SAHM friend's kids to the park so she can have a break, or making a special breakfast for my husband, I try to think of new ways to help people.

Another thing that helps me to be happy is setting personal goals. I especially love this one. I am big on goal setting. It helps me evaluate my life as it is and look for things I can do to improve myself. The goals I set are a wide variety of goals from saying something positive about myself each day, to making healthy eating decisions. Then I use a dry erase marker and write the goals on my mirror. I usually have between 3-5 goals for the week and I see them everyday. Sometimes it's a goal to try out a new recipe, make a new friend, or speak kindly to my husband. It can be about anything. It has helped give me something worthwhile to focus on instead of only thinking about another baby. And if I improve myself along the way, it's even better.

While my life is far from perfect, and I am no expert on happiness, I have enjoyed the small changes I have made to find more joy in life. It's a never ending struggle to stay positive. I know, for me it's something I will always have to work at, but it's worth the effort.

Enduring challenges of any kind can take the focus off just how happy and fulfilling our lives already are. What are things you do to help you remember to stop and smell the roses? During challenges in your life, how do you remain positive? What do you do to ensure your own happiness?


Tacey said... [Reply to comment]

What an uplifting post. Thank you so much. I've been struggling with similar feelings. A friend wisely told me to imagine every child you have is your last. That way you're living in the present and seeing them for who they are instead of hankering after the future.

I love the idea of taking the time to think of ways to show kindness to others. I'll be starting that straight away, and hopefully stop navel gazing (literally!)

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Good stuff to remember!! When TTC, you hit a point where it stops being about having fun and growing your family and turns into a thing that you can't seem to stop concentrating on. Remembering that there are other things to do, especially if you have other children, can bring you back to earth a little bit at a time :)

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