So I think we can all agree that 2020 has been A YEAR. Besides all the general yuckiness of the last twelve months, here are some other things that happened in my life:
-My mom fell and broke her wrist and elbow
-My uncle went into a coma
-At 29 years old, I was diagnosed with a diminished ovarian reserve
-The person I’ve been dating for the last 14 months ended things with me
That last one happened about three days ago, and you know what? I feel fine.
Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely disappointed. I cried when he came over to talk, I cried on the phone to my friend for an hour after, but by the time I hung up I felt mostly okay.
That’s not because I didn’t care about him or I didn’t want to be with him. I did, and wanting to be with him had been one of my greatest desires for the last year. To give you a little context, we met three weeks after I just had stopped seeing someone else. I lived in New York and he lived in San Francisco. We met up and I was smitten from the start. We ended up spending the whole day together and then he flew back home. We stayed in touch, texting and occasionally talking on the phone. I saw him two more times over the next ten months when he came to visit the city, and then he finally moved here. I was so certain everything was going to fall in place when we were in the same city, but it just never worked. He was always busy with work or other obligations, we discovered we weren’t on the same page with our intentions, we didn’t communicate our needs often enough.
When he came over for The Talk, I wasn’t exactly surprised. I’d hoped I would be wrong, but things more or less ended the way I’d expected. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I should have done differently, the things I could have done if only we had more time together.
When my last relationship ended, I fell into an unexpected depression. I didn’t get any sleep, negative thoughts cycled through my head all day and night, I didn’t have an appetite or motivation to do the things I loved. My family got so concerned they encouraged me to sign up for virtual therapy.
For a long time, the fear of falling into that depression again was the main reason I didn’t end things, even when I started to think that maybe I should. I cared about him and I wanted to be with him, but I spent a lot of time unhappy.
I recently started reading Expectation Hangover by Christine Hassler, and it made me realize that it wasn’t the circumstances or the other person who’d caused my unhappiness. It had been my own expectations.
During our talk, he said to me, “we’ve only hung out a few times over several months and there’d be weeks we didn’t even talk to each other or know what was going on in each other’s lives.” That just sounded all wrong to me, until I took off the rose-colored glasses and realized, it was true, we hadn’t spent much time together at all. I had dedicated so much of my mental space towards my expectations—imagining what a relationship together would be like, introducing him to friends and family—that he’d been this constant presence in my head every day for 14 months. Meanwhile, he’d been focusing on his work, his friends and family, hobbies, dating other people. He had a whole and fulfilling life outside the two of us, something I had neglected because I’d unfairly pinned all my hopes for happiness on him.
Luckily, a few months earlier, I started taking active steps towards focusing on my own happiness. I started meditating, practicing gratitude, took Dr. Laurie Santos’ online course on happiness, started listening to podcasts like The Happiness Lab and Hidden Brain, that focus on the psychology of happiness, and because of those things, I didn’t fall into a deep depression this week.
In the past, a disappointment like this would have devastated me, but here I am. Still full of hope, going through my regular routine, and able to find the joy in the everyday.
The experience opened my eyes to how much our happiness comes from within. In my previous entries, I documented my progress towards goals that I thought would bring me happiness, but if this year has taught me anything, it’s that happiness isn’t something to chase, but a thing that’s there all along if we can open our eyes to it.
As I learn more about happiness and the psychology behind it, I find myself wanting to share my experiences and lessons with others, so that’s what the main focus of this blog will be going forward. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and that together we can all learn how to be a little bit happier.