Once you've established what is happiness, it's time to start collecting it. I don't know, collecting happiness during infertility sort of sounds like scouring under the sofa cushions for spare change. Whatever you find won't be enough to buy what you want, and sometimes there is a handful of coins and sometimes there's nothing but dust. But maybe if you keep at it over time, gather enough coins, you'll look down at the jar one day and realize you have enough to buy something to make the wait easier.
Maybe this analogy isn't working.
But I think that it's hard to be kind to yourself when you're feeling angry with your body. I think it's hard to remember to do something nice when you're scrambling to balance injections, work, blood draws, cooking, semen samples, phone calls... Infertility is like having a second job and I couldn't work things like bubble baths into my life when I had only one job.
But Tal Ben Shahar's first exercise is about pausing. Slowing it down. Making that time for yourself. And his second exercise is about reflecting, recording, and remembering*. So this is the first 30-day challenge that I'm throwing out there. It will take place formally from September 1--30, though you can start beforehand to get into the groove. The second (which I'll talk about later) will take place from October 1--30. Haven't read far enough yet to know if we'll have a challenge every month!
Challenge One: Ritual Breaks
- Think of a daily/weekly ritual that would make you happy--a place you like to visit, an activity you like to do, a person you like to see, a food you like to eat. The idea is to choose something that can be sustained over time (in other words, going to Tahiti, while nice, is not the best choice unless you have thousands to burn. And if you have thousands to burn, consider sending some to me care of my clinic). It should be something that doesn't create more problems for the future (for instance, eating sticks of butter even if butter-eating brings you joy). It should be something that you can do frequently--if not every day then at least three times a week.
- Schedule this new ritual into your day. Literally place it in your planner or write a reminder to stick on the refrigerator. If you can't vacuum or prepare dinner one day, that's fine. But don't drop your ritual.
- Write and tell me your ritual for the Challenge Post and send a link for your blog. If you don't have a blog, send me your name and the ritual. You don't need a blog to do this--I can post your response for you in the Annex. You can either leave a comment or email me directly. You can join now and set your ritual later. It just needs to be chosen by September 1.
- Keep a running post about your ritual that you will publish on September 30th. Keep it in your draft folder, but add to it over time to talk about your ritual--how it makes you feel, whether or not it is bringing you happiness, whether you had to change your ritual mid-challenge, whether you'll keep at it indefinitely. If you don't have a blog, keep your thoughts on a Word document that you can send to me right before September 30th and I'll post it for you.
The point is to choose something that will make you happy regardless of how it sounds when you put it into words. It's not about choosing the most challenging ritual or interesting ritual. Just a little moment that will make you happy. And again, if you can do it daily, all the better. If you can only do it once a week, there is more of a chance that it will slip through the cracks.
Once you've decided to participate, let me know so I can link to you. And tell me your ritual so I can add it to the list. Keep tabs on how your ritual is changing your day or level of happiness (damn, and drop your ritual if at any point it is making you unhappy). Feel free to blog about it over the course of the month, but also post a summary of the exercise on September 30th (and you know I'll be sending out reminders for that post).
* A lot of this is my interpretation of the text and my response to his words. I'm also skipping over anything that hasn't been directly helpful for me (isn't it always about me? Selfish bitch). Which is not to say that it wouldn't be helpful for you or for me at a later date. So if this stuff is resonating with you in any way, shape, or form, you should read the book from cover to cover because there is a lot more there.
Curious and want to read more? Come on get happy...