This blog contains affiliate links.
I put the needs of others before the needs of myself, and I have for as long as I can remember. I take care of my home, my husband, my two boys, and my students. I know that old southern adage, “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” and yet I constantly struggle to refill my own cup.
In February of 2015 my friend and coworker, Christina from www.montessoriishmom.com told me about the Happier podcast and I started to learn more about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. The Four Tendencies is a personality framework that classifies you based on how you handle inner and outer expectations. If you want to know more about this framework, follow this link to take the quiz. I ordered my copy of her book on The Four Tendencies here.
I could talk about the Four Tendencies all day long. I’ve been obsessed with understanding them since I first heard the Happier podcast. The main point for this post is that I found out that I am an Obliger and by making a few changes in how I approach my own needs, my life changed for the better. I found out that in order to DO for MYSELF, I need outward accountability. Otherwise, I will always put others first.
After listening to the Happier podcast for a year, I finally bought her book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It has helped me on my journey to find time for ME. Similar to Rubin’s story in The Happiness Project, I have everything that I need. I have a happy family, a great job, we’re all healthy, and yet I still felt like I could be, well…happier. In order to find what I was looking for, I used outer accountability to take care of my body, embrace my hobbies and my need to be creative, and to take time to be spontaneous and fun.
I started a bullet journal. It has changed my whole life. A bullet journal is an empty book that you customize to be a planner and then some. It’s not only a way to keep track of the family calendar and work tasks, it is also my outer accountability as well as a creative outlet that I didn’t realize I was missing.
I plan out the nightly dinners. Writing the dinners that are planned is critical when time at home is at premium. I have a page where I write down cute or clever things my boys said. I have a page where I list movies or books that I want to remember. The list goes on. The part of the bullet journal that gives me outer accountability is so simple: I get to cross a task off the list! I have a goal tracker. I track if I exercised, if I drank enough water, if I took my vitamins.
If I get to cross it off the list, I am more inclined to do it. Also, I write down all of the mundane things I am required to do both at home and at work so I get a happiness boost when I check them off the list. If for some reason I can’t manage a task using my bullet journal as my accountability, I look for that accountability somewhere else. Which reminds me, I need to get my car inspected and it has migrated forward week by week through my bullet journal nagging at me. I need to ask for help outside myself. For example, if I make an appointment with the mechanic, the mechanic expects me on a certain day, which is my outer accountability.
Rubin also suggests that I should think about what I enjoyed doing when I was in the third grade, and that it’s likely that I will still like to do a version of those things now. It’s kind of true! “Third Grade Me” liked:
- camping and being outside
- coloring, drawing, and being crafty
- reading mysteries,
- making box-forts,
- and playing school.
Drawing out the next pages for my bullet journal, using washi tape, stickers, insightful quotes and cool markers fulfills a creative bug for me like coloring in coloring books did when I was in third grade.
I didn’t realize that being creative made me feel happy until I started with the bullet journal. I even enjoyed taking notes at my CPR and first aid class, because it felt creative! (I’ll be honest, I doodled a little.) I have started several sewing projects for myself. I was a professional seamstress, and yet, my skills have been used for my lovely classroom and my sweet family. I made an octopus skirt, that took little more than an hour to make, and it is awesome. Football season is coming up, so I am contemplating a knitting project to enjoy while I sit and watch the Texans with my husband.
I love volunteering for Cub Scouts day camp. I spend a lot of time working with the Boy Scouts, too. I still love camping, cooking and sleeping outside. H and I went to sleep-away camp for a week this past July with his Boy Scout troop. It was super HOT. We slept in tents for a WEEK. It was super-duper triple digit hot, and I still had a blast.
Finding time for friends gives me a happiness boost. My former college roommate Kim lives on the other side of town with her husband and three kids. We try to alternate playdates, usually meeting at a restaurant halfway between our locations, and an evening hanging out with just adults. As corny as it sounds, my husband is my best friend. We make it a priority to have date nights. Now that our boys are older, we have ventured out into new territory: happy hour. Once in a while we indulge in a margarita at Chuy’s on a Friday after work. There’s nothing like getting chips and queso out of the trunk of a car at Chuy’s.
The hardest part for me on my journey to pursue happiness is to splurge on myself, to be spontaneous and to have fun (even to let myself be fun). In The Happiness Project, Rubin says to “be serious about play.” I am not really into sweet treats or desserts, so I often forget to splurge on a trip to Amy’s Ice Cream with my boys. Making memories and bonding over ice cream makes me happier, so why do I say “no” more often than I say “yes”? I started a “Tasty Tuesday” tradition this summer. Even if I’m tired from working at Montessori School, I try to make dinner particularly fun like a spontaneous trip to the pool, cooler in tow, with sausages on sticks, watermelon and those yummy two-bite brownies.
My 11-year-old, H, is less and less into playing with mom so when I asked him to play with me he looked up something really cool on Pinterest, if you can believe it. He and I started making a geodesic dome out of cardboard. Instructables is an awesome website! We need a few more boxes to complete it, making it tall enough to get inside. It is going to be so super cool! It’s like an upgraded box fort from third grade. I can’t wait to crawl in with my younger son and take turns reading Encyclopedia Brown.
It’s been a challenge to find ways to play that feel authentic to my growing happiness. When I started this work on myself, I didn’t want to “fake it til you make it”. Although this is still a work in progress, at 43 years old, I feel like I am finally figuring myself out.