Category Archives: happiness

I’d rather be interesting than happy

My friend M is one of the few people in my life who consistently challenges me to examine and articulate my thoughts, beliefs, and how I perceive the world around me. In fact, he inspires a lot of my blog posts and articles, which is one reason (among many others) that I am beyond blessed to have him in my life.

Recently, he asked me what I thought about life, which is a pretty loaded question. But in that conversation he said something that has since stuck with me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “My goal in life isn’t to be happy. I just want to live. And whether that’s a good existence or a bad existence or a mixture of both, I don’t care. The only thing that matters to me is that I experienced as much as humanly possible in the one life I was given.”

He wasn’t saying he wouldn’t like to be happy. He just acknowledged that happiness doesn’t last forever because human emotions are temporary states of mind. Sadness, joy, grief, sorrow, envy, shame, doubt, disappointment, loneliness, petulance, wonderment, belonging, obsession, inspiration….

Whatever the emotion, we never fully settle into it. Because you know what? Life happens. So why, then, would our goal in life be to attain something that is essentially temporary?

M was the first person to introduce this idea to me and you guys, I love it. Truly, I do. It makes so much sense.

When I think about it, my goal in life isn’t to be happy either. I just want to be interesting.

I’m only 27, though, so really I’m not all that interesting yet. I have a lot of years left to live. But one thing I am confident in (and which maybe I didn’t realize until recently) is that I am persistent in my search for interesting.

When I got done with college and realized I didn’t know anything I started traveling the world so I could know more. I wanted to experience new people, places, and things. I wanted to understand how the world worked. I wanted to not be so freaking narrow-minded or wrapped up in my own small universe. And because of those desires, I’ve had a lot of interesting things happen to me.

I’ve seen the sunrise over Tikal. I was detained because I matched the description of a solo female terrorist traveling through Mexico. I bribed my way across the Guatemalan/Belize border. I sailed down the coast of Belize, camped on a deserted island, and saw (for probably the first and last time ever) the curvature of the earth in the night sky. I went boarding down a volcano. I met and became friends with Keith Colburn from Deadliest Catch. And, I have no doubt, there will be many more interesting things to come because I’m just getting started.

In recovery, you might think my goal is to be happy. I mean, that would make sense having lived in a perpetual state of depression for many years. But truthfully, happiness has never been my goal in recovery. I’ve just wanted to be healthy. To embrace what I was given with open arms and an open heart. To use my pain and experience for something good. To find meaning and purpose and commitment to something greater than myself. To see the grace in those impossible moments.

I have shared these tender, vulnerable moments with you and with the world through my writing. But I always wrote those pieces for me as a way to make sense of everything that has happened in my journey. My mental illness isn’t a burden. It’s a blessing. It makes my life interesting. It adds character and depth to my writing. It’s certainly inspired me. Out of that experience, I’ve had stories published. My pieces have prompted people to write me and thank me and say it has helped them in their own journey. I’ve also had people say they hate what I write and question it’s authenticity but you know what, that makes life interesting too.

Last weekend when my aunt was in town I took her to gallery night and the most interesting thing to come from that was my impromptu sign-up for a 7-week watercolor painting class. The only thing I was doing on Tuesday evenings was sitting on my couch and watching TV. Interesting wasn’t just going to happen to me; I had to make interesting happen. I have no idea how to paint. NO IDEA. But I think it would be kind of cool to learn. And learn I will!

I guess as I am getting older, I find the sort of people who only strive for happiness to be incredibly boring. And I mean no offense because I used to be one of those people. But really, can you not imagine a more remarkable, creative life than just happy?

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Filed under beliefs, friends, happiness, insight, life, self-introspection, values

Sauk County: the Wisconsin river valley

There’s something about driving through the Wisconsin countryside that tugs at my Missouri roots and summer days spent on the family farm.  Between the rolling hills, lush green foliage, water, bluffs, and scenic overlooks this state is beyond picturesque, with the drive from Madison west to Spring Green hovering near the top of my favorite scenic drives list.

I was headed to the lower Wisconsin river valley to camp and visit my friend M who lives in that part of the state. Windows rolled down and wind whipping through my hair, I was belting out the words to TLC’s “don’t go chasing waterfalls” when I realized I’d been here for a year now. A YEAR. It’s strange because that part of my life seems so far out of reach but at the same time like it all happened just yesterday. Time sure does fly. But I digress.

M grew up on a cheese factory farm about 10 minutes outside Spring Green so we took a drive over that way so he could show me where he grew up. Though they weren’t making cheese that day, I at least got my very own personal tour and sampled some of the best sharp cheddar cheese I’ve ever had. Along the inside walls are pictures of the farm dating back to when his grandfather first bought it some 40 years ago. The tanks below were on the farm and they still stand there today so I just had to get a picture with them.

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After the cheese factory we went on a hike to St. Ann’s shrine – a sweet hilltop stone chapel dedicated to the mother of Mary. M and I both grew up Catholic so it had special significance for us. When we got there we took off on foot through the cemetery and past the stations of the cross lining a steep trail that went through the woods. There are only a few pews on the inside but sitting there you could feel a strong sense of spiritual presence in the room.

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Though I love all these hidden gems, there was one super touristy thing I wanted to do in Spring Green, which was visit the House on the Rock. It is just that – a house on a rock. It’s one of the main attractions in Wisconsin and something I wanted to mark off my bucket list for my county-by-county project. Lucky for me, M had left over tickets from last year so while he went to work for a few hours I wandered my way over to the scenic overlook off Hwy 23 and to section III of the site.

From the scenic overlook you can see the Infinity Room of the house (I would totally pee my pants being up there) and you can’t help but marvel at the architectural genius of Alex Jordan. I think maybe because I didn’t go into the house itself I was confused about what section III was actually about but nonetheless seeing the largest indoor carousel and perusing the collection of old, albeit sometimes creepy, artifacts was pretty cool. I only made it through section III but since tickets are good a year from the date of purchase I have plenty of time to head back and check out the other sections.

View of the infinity room from the scenic overlook off Hwy 23.

View of the infinity room from the scenic overlook off Hwy 23.

Nevermind the creepy figurines on the carousel.

Nevermind the creepy figurines on the carousel.

Another hidden gem M took me to is a diner tucked back in the foothills on a small air landing strip. Here you can enjoy breakfast and watch hangar planes fly in and out. It’s the kind of place where no one is in a rush (it took us two hours to even get our food) but with the extra time we could sit back, drink our coffee, and enjoy the conversation and views.

M was a fabulous tour guide!

M was a fabulous tour guide!

A restaurant named restaurant.

A restaurant named restaurant.

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A lot of the activities I got to do were things I would have never even known about if it weren’t for M, which is part of why I love having locals play tour guides wherever I go. One thing I do see as I’m writing this post and looking at the pictures is that I am finally moving forward with my life. It makes my heart full to see happiness in my eyes instead of emptiness and for once in a very long while I know that I’m not pretending to feel that way for the sake of those I am around. Thanks, M, for a great weekend!

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Filed under camping, County project, exploring, friends, happiness, hiking, outdoors, travel

Double-dip feelings

My sudden awareness of being emotionally abused has triggered double-dip feelings: anger and sympathy. Although I know the experience of conflicting emotions is common it doesn’t negate the fact it can be uncomfortable and exasperating. Sure, I imagine this person’s face when I hit the bags at the gym, but the part of me that has an open, bleeding heart wonders what he went through growing up to drive him to treat people the way he does. Recognizing this has beckoned some level of sympathy inside me because, well…it is sad.

When I brought this up to my counselor she indicated that feeling sympathy towards an abuser isn’t uncommon. In fact, it’s perfectly normal and okay. However, there is a fine line between feeling bad for someone and being overly compassionate towards them. My overly compassionate side is what kept me in an otherwise unhealthy relationship for years. Thankfully, that part of me has taken a back seat.

In the last few months it has been easier to digest the trauma of what I’ve gone through by focusing on me (because that’s something I can control) but now that the rose-colored glasses have been thrown to the wayside, I accurately see who this other person is. The urge to rush to forgiveness is no longer there. Instead, I only seek acceptance. In direct contradiction to my open, bleeding heart, I accept the fact that not everyone is good and that some people are just cruel.

Being comfortable with this idea (while simultaneously believing everyone has the capacity to be good) has been difficult and liberating. Difficult because compassion comes naturally, especially towards him; liberating because it holds him accountable. It is the first time I do not accept blame for his actions. It is the first time I choose not to forgive him, ever. It is the first time I realize not forgiving him does not make me a bad person.

Unbeknownst to him (and perhaps even to myself), there is a warrior inside of me fighting like mad towards the light. My anger has been a powerful tool for transformation and self-introspection. It’s allowed me to dig myself out of the deepest, darkest hole I’ve ever known. And although I found sympathy to be a frustrating emotion at first, I welcome it with open arms now because it affirms I am not blinded by rage. It reminds me that my heart is well-intentioned and good.

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Filed under counseling, depression, happiness, insight, love, self-introspection, self-love

Rock county: fearflying aka skydiving

My friend Eric jokingly sent me an email the other day asking if I was going through an early mid-life crisis. In the last two months, I’ve chopped almost 10 inches off my hair (I can’t even put it in a ponytail anymore!) and then I signed my life away to jump out of a plane, or what I lovingly refer to as “fearflying” (aka skydiving). Perhaps he’s on to something here but we all know I’m an adventurer at heart and a sucker for last-minute deals too. Along with my friends Aaron, Selina, and Kelsey, I got to mark another item off my bucket list this past Saturday at Great Lakes Skydiving in Beloit. It was an experience of a life time and since I’ve had a lot of people reach out asking what it’s all about I thought I’d recount the jump here:

Kelsey was the first of the group to go. I saw her squat and crouch to the edge of the door and just like that she was sucked out, disappearing below. It is unnerving to see someone you know and care about sucked out of a door into oblivion. You hear their first scream of “Oh my god” and even before the last syllable is spoken, the wind slices right through it and you don’t hear them anymore. They vanish. And then you become conscious that you’re no longer sitting in the back of the plane and in fact have been scooted so far forward that you’re next up on the chopping block.

At that point, I felt overwhelmingly anxious, fully awake, and absolutely terrified. Before making my jump, I looked up to the sky and closed my eyes. Looking back at the video, it looks as if I’m praying to the heavens above but it was more the instinctive realization that this was a terrible idea and there was nothing I could do about it now. My instructor’s final words before throwing me out the door were, “If you forget to breathe just scream.” I screamed alright. In fact, every second of my free fall I screamed bloody murder. It was the best therapy I could have asked for.

This photo sums up my entire skydiving experience.

This photo sums up my entire skydiving experience.

The free fall lasted about 60 seconds, which feels like a lifetime to spend diving head first into the ground at 140mph, but at the same time it goes quick too. When people ask me to describe this part of the dive, I can only muster up two words: terrifying and loud. Free falling from 14,000 feet in the air is not natural and every instinct in your body tells you to curl up in the fetal position (which you can’t do by the way). Then there’s the noise. I cannot possibly convey how loud it is from the moment you open the door to when the parachute finally opens. Think of a train coming through town or a fire alarm going off in your building. Magnify it by a 100 and maybe you’ll be close. It’s loud and deafening and exhilarating all at once.

So insane!

So insane!

But then something really wonderful happens. Your parachute releases and time almost freezes. The force and loudness of the wind vanishes completely and you are left with complete silence. You glide through the air and make your way through clouds to clear skies for jaw-dropping views. I saw the Chicago skyline and the smoke stacks in Rockford, IL all the way from Wisconsin. It was peaceful and serene and (somewhat surprisingly) I didn’t vomit from the free fall.

About five minutes after the parachute opened, we landed in a green pasture right by the airport. I love the photos from our landing because I just look so happy. I’m still debating whether my look of glee is from how much fun I had or if I was just incredibly thankful to have my legs firmly on the ground again. Regardless, it was a blast and I would recommend it to anyone looking to feel alive. The best part of skydiving is that 100 percent of you lives entirely in the moment.

I'm sooo happy! haha

I’m sooo happy! haha

Me and my instructor post-landing. He was great!

Me and my instructor post-landing. He was great!

From left to right: Kelsey, Aaron, me, and Selina. We all LOVED it.

From left to right: Kelsey, Aaron, me, and Selina. We all LOVED it.

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Filed under adventure, fun, happiness, Joy, skydiving