Leap Day!

First of all, happy February 29th! I find the idea of a day that occurs only once every four years very intriguing. In my mind, it’s far more special than some of the other reasons we find to celebrate (Valentine’s Day, I’m looking at you–and no, I’m not a curmudgeon…I just think you should celebrate the love you have everyday).

Second of all, and this is a related point, how is it that we’ve already arrived at the end of February? I realized this morning that I haven’t posted in over two weeks! I’m not entirely sure where the month went, though I will tell you that it involved enormous amounts of kale, lots of Anna Karenina, being too sick to move for several days, and a weekend trip to see my folks.

The other thing I did a lot of this month is actually quite central to my objective of Life Improvement. You see, I started this blog after having one of those miserable moments when you realize your life feels like someone else is living it, and in striving to build a better and more authentic life for myself, I started walking the walk.

For years I’ve dreamed of being a writer. I started things, put them aside, and went back and forth, dancing around it. In the meantime, I focused on my education and then I focused on work. I think that I never truly saw writing as a viable option for me. It wasn’t a professional career. It was based on creativity. I can’t rely on that. Fast forward a decade and I see now that I was doing nothing more than surviving the life I convinced myself I wanted to live.

How do you change that? Well, for the past two months I’ve been writing everyday. I wake up, write, go to my day job, work 10-11 hours, come home, write, and sleep. It’s a pretty intense routine, but mostly it just feel like I have a purpose, a calling. I’m happier than I’ve been in years. Hurray!

So, in short (ha), I have been neglecting Happier because I’ve been making myself happier. I find that this new life of mine takes some balance, and so I will strive to keep this blog in the mix because it, too, makes me happier, and that’s what this is all about.

In the meantime, have a wonderful Leap Day, and I’ll talk to you again soon!

Advertisements

YotRN: Anna Karenina

Good morning! How are you lovely folks doing on this Friday morning? I started my day off with a bout of productivity, followed by enough yoga to relax me (which was the point) and to make me feel moderately virtuous (which is a nice little bonus). Now I’m sipping at a mug of soy-milky coffee (with a dollop of hot cocoa mix, just for fun), and getting ready to throw down a long-overdue update on my Year of the Russian Novel (previously discussed here, now to be referred to as YotRN, because I like acronyms and because I will get sick of typing out the whole thing very quickly; in fact, I already have).

You see, I’ve been holding out on you. I know, I know, shame on me! But I come in a spirit of contrition and will try to make it up to you now…

To recap, after the triumph of reading Doctor Zhivago in its entirety in less than 2 weeks, I found myself wanting to dive right into another massive Russian novel. But here’s where things got complicated.

My Voice of Reason waited in the back of my mind until all the brain cells fired up from the adrenaline rush of Doc Z quieted down, and here’s what it said: You said year, which makes this a marathon, not a sprint. If you start up another big fat book right away, you’ll burn out, never finish it, and give up the entire project. Give yourself a bit of rest, and then continue on your merry way. [Note: Perhaps merry is not the best way to think of Russian novels. As far as I can tell, they tend to be on the depressing side. Hrm.]

Now, as tempting as it was to ignore my Voice of Reason, I knew it was right. And the fact that I sometimes pretend it sounds like James Earl Jones just means its messages are better received. (Like Becky, I believe my internal dialogue can sound like whatever I damn well please.)

Almost two weeks ago now I quietly started my second entry in YotRN. Anna Karenina.

Unlike Doc Z, my desire to read it was not borne out of affection for movie adaptations (although apparently there’s a new adaptation coming out later this year with Keira Knightly…news to me). Therefore, I’m coming at this pretty clear of expectations.

In the interest of full disclosure, I already know how it ends (you probably do, too; in fact, I think its modern title is “that book where the woman [redacted] at the end”). But at more than 900 pages, I think the story will have plenty of twists and turns along its journey, and so far (at about 1/6 of the way through), I’m enjoying the story, the style, the whole thing. Turns out that it’s a Classic for very good reasons!

So there you go, now you know the truth. I’m sorry I kept that from you, but it does feel good to clear the air!

Here’s a question for you: what are you reading these days?

Wednesday Randomness

1. It’s supposed to snow today. Hooray! (The forecast is for less than an inch, but this winter I will happily take whatever I can get!!)

2. Awesome work friend K.F. brought me a present:

20120208-100721.jpg

Chock full of soy protein goodness. Thanks, K.F.!!!!!

3. On the complete opposite end of the snack spectrum, it turns out that a handful of M&Ms at 6:30 in the morning is not a good pick-me-up. Note to self: stick with coffee next time.

4. I cannot stop listening to Peter Gabriel’s cover of “Book of Love”…it’s becoming pathological. But whatever gets me through my day job, right? (Be kind and just say yes!)

5. May everyone have as good a Wednesday as possible!! (I like to keep it reasonable on Wednesdays. Pre-dawn M&M snack not withstanding.)

Month of Kale: Week 1

I’ve been remiss in updating, for which I apologize. I have not, however, been remiss in making or eating kale, so fortunately I have plenty to talk about on this topic. When last we spoke about this, I had just procured a Very Large Bag of chopped kale. Two pounds of it. You’ll be happy to know that I put that kale to good use and spent last week eating lots of good yummy greens.

Lately, I’ve been cooking a lot from Appetite for Reduction, which is full of improbably spectacular recipes. I say improbably spectacular because the premise of the book is low-fat vegan. Three-quarters of you probably just cringed and clicked away. I don’t blame you. But seriously, I haven’t found a dud yet, and these are not just ho-hum recipes…there has been craving going on. If I were less ladylike (snort), I might mention drooling. So, it made perfect sense to me that I should choose a recipe from that book to start off my month of kale on the right foot. Enter Chili Verde con Papas.

Let’s recap. I tinkered with the recipe just enough to align it more closely with my tastes. In other words, I scrapped the potatoes in favor of double the beans (yay for more fiber and protein!), and I put in extra cilantro. The verdict? Delish.

There’s a full pound of kale in here. That’s half of that enormous bag. Don’t worry, though, it cooks down quite a lot, as I discovered…

           ——————————————>               

This was lunch all week. Good stuff. As a veteran of the “I’ll just throw some spinach in that” approach to life, I’ve found that kale is less slimy than cooked spinach, but it’s also chewier. Perhaps the word chewy makes it sound unappealing, but I find myself appreciating the extra heft. The word I always want to use is toothsome, but I don’t know if that’s better or worse than chewy in terms of scaring you off.

Dinner last week, for the record, also involved kale. Sauteed with mushrooms and more garlic than is advisable for anyone who does not live alone. It was also delicious, though I will say that the kale figured much more prominently here, and perhaps it was a bit too soon for me to approach it so boldly.

So there you have it. Week 1 of my month of kale. I’m learning. And since I bought another 2 lb. bag of kale this past weekend, I think we can conclude that week 1 didn’t scare me off!

But now I have a question for you: Any kale fans out there? If so, how do you like to prepare it??

Living in 3-D

Here’s the deal. This post is very personal, and it’s going to be messy. So if you’re not really into that or don’t particularly care, feel free to turn back now. I’ll still welcome you back with open arms when you want to read about kale or Russian literature or whatever other crazy schemes I come up with. But since I started this blog to help myself build a better, happier life, I think it’s important for me to share with you the reasons why I need to build a better, happier life.

I also want to say, before I really get into it, that I do not mean to sound as though I’m whining about the circumstances of my life. I have been very blessed to be surrounded by a group of truly loving and supportive people and to have had many opportunities and advantages. I am tremendously grateful for these things. My problems are truly First World Problems. Also, they have led me to where I am today…and that is something I will never regret because the rough times make the good times even sweeter.

So with that rather lengthy intro, here we go:

Several weeks ago I had a bit of a breakdown. I had been unhappy for a long time, but the kicker was that I wasn’t feeling better even though the primary source of my unhappiness had ended. That was devastating to me. My bad situation had turned into a hangover that made me feel even worse. It was at that point that I realized something had to change.

I started doing a lot of thinking. About where I was and how I got there. What decisions did I make, and why did I make them. I was trying to pinpoint the true, deep-down truths about what was making me feel so bad. (Pause to give a massive shout-out to the wonderful people who have been listening to me work through this as much of this thinking has been aloud.) In a way, it was like therapy without a licensed therapist.

It was during one of these conversations that I considered a pattern. In early life, there are socially defined paths. More than that, they’re legally defined. We go to elementary school, then middle school, then high school. At that point, the legal construct drops away, but where I came from, the social construct continues. So there’s college. And when my time in college was waning, I made the decision to continue my education and attend graduate school right away. When grad school ended, I ended up taking a professional job with a well-defined career path.

But after nearly five years on that well-defined career path (and a period of such intense misery at work that I survived by the sheer determination and strength of will that is possible only when you know there’s an endpoint), I found myself emotionally, physically, and mentally depleted; completely miserable; and lacking any motivation to do anything. In short, I was a mess. Hence the breakdown.

Then came all this thinking I refer to above. And a pattern emerged: my life has followed a series of paths that were determined by large forces (law, society, education, professional organizations). I gave myself over to these paths first because I had to and then because it was what I knew and felt comfortable with.

My realization? I don’t want my life to follow a path determined by someone else. In fact, I don’t want it to follow a path at all.

From here on out, I will live in 3-D, make choices because they’re right for me, find my center and radiate out from there. I will make mistakes and then make things right. I will not to be so afraid to fail that I don’t even try. I will thrive rather than survive.

And so, just like that, my breakdown turned into a breakthrough. (Cue cheesy rainbow picture…)

Hello, life. I’m just getting started with you, but we’re going to have such adventures, you and I!

*******************************
On a lighter note, those of you who stuck with me through this entire post get a gift of sorts: a preview!

There will be updates on the Year of the Russian Novel and the Month of Kale. Check back soon, because we’re making progress on both fronts here at Happier, and we want to share it with you!

(Please note the use of the royal we. We are feeling rather grandiose this evening 🙂