Before I divulge my December Happiness Projects themes, let me begin by saying this: December snuck on me like a flea on a dog.
However, I think I have extenuating circumstances.
November packed the end of my brother’s intercontinental trip, five birthdays, a football championship, Thanksgiving, and a trip to California to once again be a doula for my best friend (however, the baby decided to wait until after my departure to make her entrance).
These events are not accounting for working on my Happiness Project, writing for this site, working on various Christmas projects, Christmas shopping, as well as my regular “jobs” of being a wife, mother, and grandmother.
Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT complaining.
My life is full, and I am grateful for being able to enjoy it.
Previous Happiness Project Themes
The First Two Months:
I will continue to work on my first two months’ themes as I proceed with new ones.
December Happiness Project Themes
For December, I decided to plan fewer action steps since this will already be a hectic month. I don’t want to be overloaded to the point I can’t enjoy my family time, and neither do I want to feel guilty because I am slacking on my action steps.
There are two action steps from last month which did not work as well as I would have wanted. Therefore, I placed them back on December’s list:
While my intention was good, my action step was a tad nebulous. “Don’t think negative thoughts” isn’t’ necessarily a well-developed goal since this activity mostly happens in my head and is usually well under way before I catch myself.
This action step is not the same as asking yourself to refrain from saying something negative to someone. In this case, you can keep your mouth shut and bite your tongue. Not so with my – mostly unconscious – self-talk.
During November, I happened to listen to a teaching by Pema Chodron which – I think – will be useful in this case and which I have tested a few times with great success. The practice I am referring to is called Tonglen. I will discuss it further at some point in another blog post.
Abe had a lot going in his life this month and was particularly challenging which makes it hard for everyone.
When I am in a hard place – as well as stretched emotionally – it is best (for everyone) if I do not overextend myself. In short, this means I did not connect with Abe as I would have liked. This also implies my action step is back on the table.
I bought a card game for this purpose (Go Fish) which he loves.
The Actions Steps Which Snuck into November
Additionally, I managed to sneak three additional steps into November’s action steps which weren’t part of my original plan:
- Random Acts of Kindness.
- Connecting better with my adult kids (who no longer live at home).
- One word journal.
Random Acts of Kindness
RAKs are something ongoing with me. I intend to continue with this habit while adding more mindfulness to the mix.
I started calling my two sons who live out of state at least once a week. They text sporadically, and I decided it was not good enough for me. Additionally, I went to connect more mindfully with my older kids still at home.
One Word Journal
One word journal is a misnomer since I usually included more than one word or one sentence for that matter. This is not a gratitude journal. Instead, it is a book in which I daily write one or more sentences listing the most important happenings of the day.
I intend on continuing with these steps in December.
Brand New Action Steps for December
Take a Friend to Lunch
I will fellowship with a friend over lunch: either with a new friend or one have not seen in years.
I have not sent Christmas cards – albeit to maybe five or six individuals (or less) – in years. I made that choice mainly because I saw the whole practice as fake. Let me explain further.
Every year, I would get cards – and additionally – feel compelled to send cards to people I never speak to…ever. I decided to see who would end up sending a card when I decided to stop, as it turns out, not that many individuals continued.
This year, I decided to mindfully pick up the habit anew. I have already purchased my cards.
About a week before Thanksgiving, I saw my father-in-law.
Wanting to ensure he would not be alone for Thanksgiving, I asked him what his plans were. He proceeded to tell me all his daughters – four – would be present and added: “well, we will be all together as a family.” Except that technically, “all together” should also include my husband (his son) and our family, and we had not been invited nor contacted by anyone. So, in this case, “all-together” meant without you.
I would like to say – since this is a recurring theme – this event had no ill effects upon me. This statement would, however, be a lie, since I have sadly been brooding over it since I spoke with “grandpa” (as we refer to him).
I have – embarrassingly – gone “historical” meaning I have reviewed and rehashed all the events in which we were slighted or worse. A habit which has no ill effect on the offenders but plenty of adverse effects on me and which, additionally, is entirely fruitless.
Being held in the clutches of unforgiveness isn’t useful in changing the actual circumstances or the people who did the deed, nor does it contain any benefits for me.
At this juncture, I would like to say I have forgiven them….many times. However, after a comment or a mean deed, everything I ever “forgave” comes tumbling out on the carpet for me to clean up once more. This indicates that whatever I am doing is not efficient.
I have therefore endeavored to study forgiveness in the hope to finally develop an effective method to rid myself of these demons. In this case, namely, my anger.
I intend to start a kindness/gratitude journal about people and actions which make me smile. This idea also came to me from the teaching by Pema Chodron: Be Grateful to Everyone.
Learn Something New
I have wanted to learn ASL (American Sign Language) for years now. I even learned the entire alphabet multiple times only to forget it anew because I never practice it long term.
While I do not plan on taking a course at this time, I want to brush up on – not only the alphabet – but the familiar words I have already learned. I plan on practicing daily even if for a few minutes.
I want to start some sort of meditation practice.