Misery Loves Company

Aren't happy people just soooo annoying?

You would think so, but Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project and maintains a daily blog of the same name, says otherwise. According to one of her posts from early 2009...
...studies show that people find happy people much more likable than their less-happy peers. Happy people are viewed as friendlier, smarter, warmer, less selfish, more self-confident, and more socially skilled – even more physically attractive.
If that's the case, then why do I hate my friend, Allyson, so much...

Okay, okay. So I'm only kidding. I don't really hate my friend Allyson. Not even an ounce. (Allyson, sweetie, if you are reading this, I don't hate you. Really and truly.) What I am is majorly JEALOUS of her, but even then, only in a goodhearted, friendly sort of way.

Last week, a big group of us were out for Mom's Night Out. On my end of the table, we were commiserating over the usual stuff: husbands who work a million hours a week, conflicted feelings over trying to find time for ourselves, motherhood, and the madness of attempting to manage it all on our own.

Meanwhile on Allyson's end of the table, she was cheerfully dispensing parenting advice, chatting about her new exercise routine and in her in-laws who not only live down the street and love to babysit their grandchildren, but ADORE her to boot.

Then, to top it off she kept going on and on about her husband's super great job that allows him to walk through the door at 5pm every afternoon...

Did you catch that? Her husband WALKS THROUGH THE DOOR at 5 pm Every. Single. Afternoon.

I could claw her eyes out for that alone, but I won't... For many reasons, of course, but mostly because it's not her fault that my husband's career is so demanding or that my life, for the past year and a half, has been completely insane. And I told her as much as I drove her back to her apartment after dinner.

I see the two of us as being similar places in life. We're both stay-at-home moms to two kids. We're both recent transplants to the area and live down the street from one another. Why does her life look like cake while mine resembles moldy bread?

I've blogged in the past about how happiness is a choice. At the time, I wrote about the conscious decision to look at a situation in a positive light and to make the best of what you have, but sometimes that just isn't enough to sustain you.

It's not always as simple as saying to yourself, "Why yes, I think I will be happy now!" because sure enough, something... anything... could happen to throw things back into a cluster. You roll with it, you deal with it, but the stress still mounts and it gets harder and harder to hit "reset".

As I reflected more my situation (and this post), I realized that Allyson's happiness/my unhappiness is actually a function of a series of choices.

For instance, I didn't hear from Allyson much this summer because she was spending time with family. I spent time with family this summer too, but I also tried to fit in work and other commitments in between. So, it seems she's better about setting boundaries than I am. I could learn a thing or two about that.

I miss being surrounded by family, but my husband and I made a decision to move out of state (and for a time, out of country) to chase his dream job. He also happens to work in an industry that's relentless and hard on families, but I knew that going into a relationship with him and I married him anyway. (What can I say? He's cute and we make beautiful babies.)

On the other hand, Allyson's husband works in a completely different industry and the two of them made a decision to move closer to the family.

I invited Allyson to join my mom's group. On the morning of our huge kick-off meeting, I woke up with a fever, but dragged myself out of bed, took some Advil, and soldiered on. She didn't show up, but later apologized and explained that the group sounded like fun but she really enjoys her mornings just the way they are.

Meanwhile, I'm on the steering committee... and the room parent for my son's class... and up for PTA President... and starting a book club for my other moms' group... and signing up to be mentor for a teen mom... Clearly, I'm just a girl who can't say "no".

Most of these things, I do because I want to. I truly enjoy it and it's a way to socialize. Some I do because it needs to be done and it's a way to be involved. As for the endless laundry, whining, and spills on the kitchen floor I deal with on a daily basis, I just have to do that whether I like it or not... ha! But is any of it making me happy or helping me be a better wife and mother?

My point is that perhaps it's time for me to start looking at what these choices are preventing me from doing. For example, I've been beating myself up over not getting together a weekly meal plan or working out on a regular basis. I just don't have TIME, but ask me to organize a charity book drive and I'll probably say, "yes"...

At the end of the day, happiness IS about choices. Maybe it's not such much choosing to be happy, but all the other choices that get you there.

If that's the case, then consider me a work in progress.

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