Playing Many Parts


The Key to Happiness

birthdaycakeI turned another year older yesterday.  It wasn’t a milestone of any kind, but after 35, turning another year older can be more and more depressing, if your perspective isn’t right.

I did wake up yesterday feeling a bit glum.  I didn’t have any plans for my big day, my own fault, but still sad.  I had to work all day at a job I don’t love.  And the worst part of all, family and friends were all busy and I was planning a quiet dinner and cake alone.  I do NOT recommend this approach to a birthday.  If you want to be happy, do not spend your birthday alone eating cake.  That is recipe for both weight gain and misery.

However, something kinda awesome happened after I showered and got my first cup of coffee yesterday that kept me from going down a dark hole of self pity and sadness.  I started thinking of all the things I am grateful for.  I literally started counting things I love about my life and was soon overwhelmed with peace and even happiness.  As I got in the car and headed off to work, I kept thinking about more things I was thankful for. And as I was getting happier and happier, nice little surprises started coming my way.  I got a beautiful card from my Mom, my daughter posted a generous note to my FB wall, many friends sent me well wishes, and I even got a surprise monetary kickback from my bank!

I started to wonder if maybe being thankful not only changes how we feel, but changes how others feel about us. Could it be that being thankful opens us to receive more?  Since I was so happy and open, others were able to be open with me. They were free to share thoughts and feelings and I could graciously receive them.  All I know for sure is that when I could have easily gone down a dark road yesterday, being thankful saved my day.  It seems to me that if you are counting your blessings, noting all the things you are thankful for, it is hard to be sad.  If you start to realize all the things you have (it helps to remember that most of the world lives on less than a dollar a day), it is hard to feel sorry for yourself.

So I challenge you empty nesters who are sad, depressed, and looking for ways to make it through another day to start counting you blessings every morning.  Count things like being able to shower.  Clean drinking water from your tap.  A place to live and sleep.  Your next meal or cup of coffee is a real blessing.  You are alive today.  You are probably reading this on a smart phone, computer or tablet.  Are you employed?  Have kids?  Have a significant other who makes you smile ever?  Do you enjoy your freedom?  Are you educated?  Try to come up with a list of at least 10 things you can be thankful for.  Then try 100.  How about 1,000?

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10 Ways to Beat Empty-Nest Blues

Chicks are Cute

Chicks are Cute

My chicks are gone. . .and I have an empty nest.  I don’t mind too much most of the time, but there are days when I get sad and then confused by what my new role in life is.  On those days when nostalgia threatens to darken my mood, I have found a few ways to punch it in the nose and do an about face to get my mood back on the happy track.  Here are some of my tips for remembering how awesome life is no matter where my children are.

1.  Explore old hobbies.  I used to play tennis in high school and love it.  It also helped me keep fit, so I am picking up my racket once again and re-teaching myself to play.

2.  Learn new hobbies.  I always wanted to learn to play the piano.  I am going to do that now, a bit at a time.  I haven’t decided yet how I will do this, so if you have suggestions please let me know.

3.  Read.  I love to read, but often felt guilty when my kids were younger taking time away from them to read fiction.  I now find I have plenty of hours in the day for TV, so I am turning that trap off and reading all those books I meant to years ago.

4.  Take online classes.  I absolutely love online courses.  I can learn about everything from Math to French Cooking through online courses.  I have signed up for free classes and have paid for some too and have enjoyed both.  I took a class on Science Fiction from the University of Michigan and a class on web design from Udemy.

5.  Start an exercise routine.  Now is definitely the part of my life where I can carve out time to get fit before it is too late.  All those TV hours can at least be put to use even if I can’t totally give up my guiltiest pleasure.  I can do plenty of situps, pushups, planks and jumping jacks while catching up on the last season of The Good Wife.

6.  Work on eating healthier.  Since I am only cooking for two now, I am finding it much easier to try new recipes with strange ingredients like kale, brussels sprouts and edamame.

7.  Adopt a pet.  I never thought adopting a dog from the shelter could be so amazing.  There are so many reasons why this is a great idea, but the top two are I now have someone I can still mother, and I have a walking buddy who can’t wait to go outside and get some exercise with me!

8.  Make new friends of all ages.  I have found that spending time with friends from some of my community groups of different ages has kept me feeling younger.  It is awesome to hear the opinions of younger women and I love hearing how older women are redefining themselves as they age.

9.  Watch stand-up comedy.  Laughter is just good medicine.  If you don’t believe me, Google it.  I have also found that in addition to making me laugh and smile, comedy routines are a fun way to keep up with all that crazy stuff that is happening in the world.  Even if the spin is a bit odd sometimes.

10.  Write a book.  Every woman has enough material for a book by the time she has an empty nest.  Childhood and teen years are awkward, funny, crazy times for kids and their parents.  I bet you have plenty of stories to tell that will be very entertaining to others who have similar experiences. . .maybe you can even be that stand-up comic from #9!

That’s it for now, my kinda “tongue-in-cheek” list of things to try if you are having a hard time adjusting to life at home without your kids.  I would love to hear back from you with fun ways to remind yourself that you used to be an entirely different person before your life was turned upside down by kids!


Is Depression Always a Bad Thing?

I have worked with teens and young adults is a few different settings both in my jobs and in my volunteer work, and I have met many who are being medicated for depression.  The more I hear about it, the more I wonder if we haven’t all gone just a bit crazy.  I just talked to a friend who is in her early 20’s who has her whole life ahead of her, knows what she wants to do with her career, is very talented in her field, and she is “clinically depressed” and taking medication.

Why are our kids so depressed?  What does that even mean?  What is happiness and does it really come in a pill?  Or, as I suspect, have we raised a generation of people who only know want and have no sense of what contentment is?  Is happiness always that next thing away?

 I think it is time for me to interview some of the 50-60 year olds that I know and ask them about this seemingly recent phenomena.  Were they depressed as teenagers?  Do they remember going through times when they just couldn’t be happy?  Did people talk about needing to be happy in the 50’s and 60’s? 

Our kids are sad.  I know that, and yet, I want to know why.  I don’t want to give my kids some pills and expect everything will be ok.  I want to know why they are worried and stressed out.  I want to make behavior and attitude changes that will make their lives easier.  I guess I am showing my bias here, but I really do think that drugs should be a last resort.  And I also think that we have a responsibility to find out what is different and what can be changed in their environments to help them.

Can all these kids really be so depressed?  Or have our standards changed?  Do we judge happiness differently than we used to?  I really want to know.  Off I go to gather some information from some older folks I know. . .and attempt to answer some questions.


Is happiness evil?

I am currently reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and I am struck by my intense response to it. I find myself very angry with the overbearing men in the book. I find myself once again upset by the forces in my life that have dictated my dull view of Christianity.

So I am questioning how I have portrayed Christianity to my children? Does it seem dull to them? Are they burdened by the rules and regulations? Or have I shown them grace and love and mercy? Have I explained enough that while the Old Testament focused on tasks and laws. . . Jesus showed us that in those tasks we are called to focus on the people and relationships? For when asked the greatest commandment, Jesus reply was:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40