Recently, a friend asked me if I was a generally happy person. “Because you seem to be,” he added when I didn’t immediately answer. A rare question, at least when asked directly, but certainly not an unusual one. I suspect most of us have faced variations of this question over the years.
Happiness has not been my favorite topic. It can be taboo particularly when someone has not achieved or chosen happiness. Admitting to unhappiness seems tantamount to admitting failure. And I can’t help but feel that discussions of how happy one is will lead to some sort of twisted pissing contest in which one or more parties begin internally comparing themselves to others (or what they are reading).
I did not ask my friend how he came to formulate this “generally happy person” impression, so I’ll suppose two things. First, his observations are largely influenced by what I post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We don’t see each other often, so these are our primary means for eavesdropping on each other’s lives. Second, when we do see each other, I’m probably super upbeat and positive. (Duh, silly, I’m practically, but not literally, pooping rainbows because I get to hang out with you.)
So back to social media. People constantly curate (and by curate, I also mean censor) themselves online, sharing more of the good and less of the bad. More of what they want others to know about them, less of what makes them vulnerable. Insert the whole side topic of links between social media and self-esteem and depression here.
Unnecessary News Flash: I curate (censor) myself on social media too.
Yup, that’s right, there are things that I don’t share on social. Like that I’ve cried 4 times in the last 52 hours. And here’s why:
- Friday mid-morning – LONELINESS. More specifically, I was feeling the void of non-companionship, and in that void, I’m always haunted by doubt that I will ever find the companionship I crave.
- Friday afternoon – DEVASTATED BY RACISM. In the wake of the Charleston Church Massacre, as with many recent events fueled by racial tensions, my Facebook feed has filled with articles about white privilege and institutionalized racism. There was a time when I would have claimed to not be racist, but I can not learn about such things and cling to that claim. I benefit from circumstances I was born into. I’m torn to bits when thinking about circumstances friends were born into. I feel horribly ill-equipped to alter the course of systemic racism, and this leads to a whole rabbit hole of thoughts and emotions.
- Friday night – LOVE & GRATITUDE FOR MY PARENTS. I get weepy over this one a lot. I f*cking hit the jackpot with my parents (which is weird, cause I’m pretty sure fetal gambling is illegal in all 50 states). Their love and support blows me away. They’re among my best friends. I would hang out with them on the regular if we were neighbors. («– That’s called foreshadowing.)
- Saturday afternoon – AWED BY A FRIEND’S BEAUTY. As I began to comment on how stunning a friend looked in her new Facebook profile pic, I felt familiar nagging discomfort with compliments on appearance and directed my thinking toward non-physical qualities that made this woman beautiful. I also started mentally clicking through the many people I know who are beautiful inside and out, until my awe had little awe-babies and it got a little overwhelming.
Four cries. (It’s been an emotional couple of days.) Two fueled by pain and sadness, and two by joy and gratitude. Two and two. Unhappy and happy (although I think gratitude can have a dark side which I won’t get into here). Checkmate on the teeter-totter.
Four is hardly a decent sample size. It’s certainly not enough to confirm or deny my general happiness. Which I’m not trying to do. So why have I written 650+ words and still not gotten to the point?
I was, as my dad would say, a happy sick kid. I wasn’t sickly, but when I was sick, it didn’t get me down. I’d laugh and smile even while retching into a coffee can late into the night while Elvira hosted campy horror flicks like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. There are few periods in my life I can readily recall as being dark. The darkest of them occurred four years ago. It followed the demise of a relationship, after which, to be blunt, I no longer felt I was interesting as a person. (Brake check. Don’t get caught up on the utter destruction of my self-confidence. It’s still not the point.) You know the quote, “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Sorry, Lord Tennyson. I don’t agree. But “to know true joy you must also know true pain”* rings like a monster gong. The brokenness I felt during my darkest days unlocked magnitudes of emotion I had not previously accessed. It also changed my relationship with happiness.
I want to be happy, and yes, I am a generally happy person, but I’m not fixated on finding, achieving, or choosing happiness. Life is full of ups and downs. The ability to feel all these feels on the great spectrum of emotion with such overwhelming potency – that is a beautiful and magical thing!
*I don’t remember the specific quote, but if you know it, please share in the comments.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
My first #dayinthelife was largely about setting the baseline. I wanted to share a regular day, following the activities and behaviors that I most frequently repeat. Over the next 11 months, and 11 project days (the next of which is Friday), there will be plenty of time to explore detours and variations in the pattern.
A friend that had followed my first day of documentation via Instagram asked me how I would know if the project had been successful.
While conceiving this Day in the Life project, I never saw it as one that would succeed or fail. I had, and still have, a goal, but this may be best described as an exercise in observation and storytelling. Looking at my days through this lens forces me to be more aware of how I move through a day. I cannot rely on habit to propel me forward. I have to acknowledge my activities, routines, and behaviors as well as the motives that drive or inhibit them so that I may better understand how they contribute to my enjoyment of life and self.
The activities that comprised my baseline day are not particularly extraordinary or unique. I enjoyed doing them. I enjoyed documenting them. Aware of them, I appreciated them individually and together. I went to bed kind of loving the day I had, and in that alone, #dayinthelife was successful.
I am disappointed that work – the thing that I dedicate more time to than anything else I do (even sleeping) – is also hardest for me to share. It’s not a matter of confidentiality; I know what I can and cannot disclose. It’s a matter of time. This first #dayinthelife proved that documenting my activities is a time-consuming process. When I barely find time for lunch, it’s hard to imagine finding time to take and post pics of the things that make it hard to find time for lunch.
My first #dayinthelife was over two weeks ago. My next is next week.
When setting out on this project, I had intended to follow each designated #dayinthelife with two look backs. The first was to be a recap of the day, aggregating the day’s posts, wherever they may have been shared, into a single timeline here. The second was to be a reflection on the stories, struggles, and insights that may have emerged for me.
I had also intended that these two look backs be posted on the two days immediately following each #dayinthelife. I still intend to do the recaps, I’m just really late with first. So, without further ado…
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
4:38am » gaming, Marvel World of Heroes
I should be sleeping, but it’s the second or third time I’ve woken up. I rarely sleep through the night. Instead of trying to go back to sleep for the remaining hour till my first alarm, I yield to habit and open up a game on my phone. Marvel World of Heroes. It’s the last day of a raid and I have a ton of RDS yet to use. Plus there’s one card I’m still trying to get via shard exchange.
4:59am » #dayinthelife documentation
5:41am » resisting rise and shine
I’ve already hit snooze a couple of times while playing WoH, but I still procrastinate getting out of bed. I scan new email; browse Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; and hold an internal debate as to whether I really want to get up now and go for a run, or save it for later today or another day. This morning though, I’m aware that I am documenting my day and am eager to make a good impression.
5:52am » alarm #1, snooze #3
I title all of my alarms. #theroadtoBoston references a long-standing goal to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon.
I also set unique ringtones for most alarms. This one is ‘Kung Fu Fighting‘ by Cee-Lo & Jack Black from the Kung Fu Panda soundtrack.
6:10am » pre-run prep
This includes getting dressed and wandering around my house trying to remember where I was when I took off my trainers after my last run. It doesn’t include stretching. It’s a bad habit and one I know that I should probably try to break.
6:27am » running
How far do you run? It’s the most common question once people learn that I’m a runner. The loop that forms the base for almost all of my runs is roughly 3 miles at its shortest. I can easily extend it in a few places to accommodate and 10+ mile run. This morning, however, 3 will be enough.
Getting up to run on winter mornings is hard. I hate being cold and even in these mild Phoenix winters, my core body temp drops so much after a run that I inevitably get chills that last for an hour or more. But the payoff for getting out of bed with an early alarm is knowing that I’ve checked a big thing off the to do list before most people have started their day, and seeing the sun start its rise.
7:03am » post-run documentation
After every run, even if it’s a familiar loop, I map it with gmap-pedometer.com, record it at Daily Mile and Daytum, and share it on Facebook and Twitter. When training for an upcoming marathon, I also record runs in a spreadsheet where I’ve laid out my entire training program and, if necessary, make adjustments to upcoming workouts.
7:25am » so fresh so clean sequence, morning edition
Most days, I need less than an hour, but with the time this #dayinthelife documentation has been taking so far, I know that today I will take significantly more.
The last thing I do before heading out into the day is don a motley collection of accessories. Some pieces I wear everyday. Others I switch up. Most have significance, even if only that I’ve become attached to them as part of how I present myself. Today is dominated by black. The wideband black Nemesis watch, my #Fitbit Force, and a Jolly Roger wristband that my sister gave me and is just plain fun go on my left arm. The clone trooper wristband (because my Beatles band is MIA) and a simple beaded bracelet go on my right. The big turquoise ring that has become my favorite, a black band for my thumb, and my UNM class ring. A cross necklace, because while I am not as close to my faith as I once was, it remains important to me. Birds in flight to dangle from my ears and the same stud earrings I wear everyday.
8:58am » commuting
9:19am » coffee & breakfast
Even though I’m late to work, nothing can progress until I have my coffee. The BK croissan’wich is also a fairly regular fixture on weekday mornings.
9:40am » work
1:34pm » a girl’s gotta eat, lunch edition
Most days at work, I’m far too busy to post updates that aren’t as @RightThisMinute, and today is no different. Let it suffice to say that I am just now headed to lunch.
I barely have time to dash to The Original Burrito Company nearby and pick up a shrimp burrito that I’ll be trying to eat quietly while on a 2pm conference call. This is not unusual for me. I’m incredibly busy. Hour-long lunches are a luxury that I rarely feel like I have time for, so I try to keep lunch short. When I do break free earlier than 1:30pm or take a full hour (sometimes plus), it’s typically because I’m going to lunch with a group of coworkers.
2:05pm » work
The afternoon meeting lineup…
4:54pm » gaming, Marvel World of Heroes
I need a break. My game energy, attack power, and RDS are are full again, having been replenished throughout the day. I’m not a pay-to-play gamer, so it’s taken me a long time to build a decently strong battle deck. This is the first time I have a real shot at earning some of the more valuable rewards that the spendier players earn with ease.
5:04pm » work
5:54pm » commuting
When I’m lucky enough to leave work before the winter sun sets, I like to steal glances of the colors changing in the sky through my rear- and side-view mirrors on the commute home. This was all that remained of the light as I pulled into my drive.
6:30pm » #dayinthelife documentation
6:56pm » gaming, Marvel World of Heroes
7:15pm » putzing around
The time tracking that I’m doing today is not just a today thing. I have tracked my time in this manner for nearly two and a half years. As such, I’ve become comfortable focusing my attention on one activity for a block of time. The better to categorize, you see. There are times, however, that are hard to categorize. Procrastination, indecisiveness, fatigue, lethargy, or hyperactivity can cause mental or physical ‘rambling’.
I’m doing a bit of both now as I try to decide the what, where, when, and how of my evening, and then develop the initiative to make it happen.
7:36pm » wardrobe change
After some failed #selfie attempts (requested by @mspore & @iamchanelle after I posted the jewelry pic), I’ve swapped the sassy black heels for something a little more comfortable for the walk to a nearby restaurant. The round trip should push me over the 10,000 step mark on my #Fitbit.
7:57 pm » walking
8:23pm » a girl’s gotta eat, dinner edition
I don’t cook. I won’t bother with the whys – at least not tonight. My list of
reasons excuses isn’t worth your time to read or my time to type. I just don’t cook. But a girl’s gotta eat, and so I eat out a lot. My most common haunt is the Pita Jungle just over a mile from my house. They know me there. Not by name, but by face, by book under arm, and by request for a table for one. Sometimes, they don’t bother providing me with a menu. And they needn’t. I order the same thing every time.
The wood-fired salmon on a bed of wilted spinach and garlic mashed potatoes, paired with red sangria and a book. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m almost done rereading the series.
9:58pm » walking
10:25pm » so fresh so clean sequence, evening edition
10:32pm » gaming, Marvel World of Heroes
This is my final battle of the raid. I won’t play much until the next event, which will probably start at week’s end.
10:44pm » #dayinthelife documentation
10:52pm » curfew
As I lay me down to sleep… I confess, I sleep with a stuffed animal. Clifford is about half as long as I am tall, and I love him.
11:22pm » sweet dreams
Another year has come to an end, which means people all over the place are summarizing the year. Media companies are recapping the big stories, friends and family are sending annual letters, and social media apps are generating personalized highlight reels.
When I think back on my 2013 (without the help of third-party generators), my first blush impression is of a year that sort of washed together in a “same shit, different day” kind of way. Give me time for reflection, and I can identify stories and memories that highlighted the year. The trip to Havasupai with 2 friends and 160 strangers. A spontaneous July road trip to LA. Time spent with my parents in southwestern Colorado. Learning to ride a motorcycle. Dying my hair blue.
There were 365 days in this year. I feel like there should be more. Getting back into hiking. Saturday morning breakfasts in the company of a good book. Facing my fear of water. A school-girl crush so encompassing that I had to embrace my inner crazy.
These were great moments. I don’t want to underplay them. But that “same shit, different day” feeling lingers. Part of me certainly feels guilty for letting life pass me by, for succumbing to a gray monotonous lethargy that has shadowed me much of the past three years. But another part of me questions whether I failed to grasp the beauty and the intrigue that pervades my inclinations, my routines, my everyday life.
I want 2014 to feel different. I want to reverse the sentiment so that even if each different day does promise more of the same shit, it’s really good shit.
I am fascinated with “Day in the Life” exposés because they set aside the big standout events to better highlight the routines and the in-between moments – in other words, the good shit – that when strung together can weave a rich tale of how a larger entity comes to be.
So I am giving myself a project for 2014, to document a day in my own life. Not just once, but once each month. The goal is to tell the unique story of each day and to highlight the routines of necessity and enjoyment that I return to everyday. I also hope to evolve my storytelling skills, so that I am better equipped to tell the tale of a day next December than one next month.
On these days, I am going to try to throw the doors and windows into my life wide open. I will try to share honestly both what I am doing, what I am thinking, and what I am feeling, even if I feel those things are uninteresting or unbecoming.
And now some guidelines, constraints, and caveats (because creativity emerges from the challenge of creating with constraints and because I don’t want to half-ass the project).
- I will attempt to share what I am doing or thinking at least once an hour, even if it means setting little alarms to remind myself.
- Documentation will occur via social media channels. I’m thinking Instagram will be my primary platform, but Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms will undoubtedly come into play.
- Posts will be tagged #dayinthelife.
- I will produce a wrap-up of each day, aggregating all content produced that day into a single summary here.
- I will do my best to honor the privacy and social sharing preferences of any person or party that I may be in the presence of on these days.
- My thoughts regarding project are still evolving, so it’s possible that these guidelines and constraints will change.
What questions or suggestions do you have as I embark on this project?
It’s not that I don’t like being told I’m beautiful, but I am unnerved when the compliment comes too frequently. In too short a space of time. Particularly, from a single source.
There aren’t really guidelines for how frequently is too frequently. It’s just a feeling. And I’ve felt more unnerved more frequently.
I’ve been asking myself why. I am grateful to be beholden as beautiful by others – it is no trivial compliment – but why does hearing that they do unsettle me?
It’s not that I don’t believe that I am beautiful. In fact, during my ponderances, I discovered that I do see myself as beautiful. Not pretty or cute or attractive. I. Am. Beautiful.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?”
I recently dated a man who asked me this. I’d heard the question before, but this man asked me almost every time we saw each other. And we saw each other at least two or three times a week.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?”
Each time, “Thank you.” And in time, when the intensity of his gaze made it evident that it wasn’t a rhetorical question, that “thank you” was not a satisfactory answer, and that he really wanted to know if I really knew, “There are a lot of beautiful women in the world.”
That wasn’t really a satisfactory answer, either. And so I keep coming back to why. Why does being told I am beautiful too frequently – however frequently that is – unnerve me?
Like for many things, there is likely many reasons. But there is also this one…
Our physical appearance is the first thing that people see – in the most literal meaning of the word – when they see us. Yet
it physical beauty is among the least unique of qualities that any one person can possess.
This morning, I received an email from the WordCamp Phoenix 2011 regarding registration (I’m already registered) and badging up. Being the geek conference groupie that I am, I had to badge up. I added the “Meet me at” section you see over there in the sidebar, but the WordCamp badge was all by itself and looked lonely. I decided I needed to add badges for other events I’m attending, but of the ones I’m currently reg’d for (PodCamp AZ 2010 and Startup Weekend Phoenix), neither has badges. The @podcampaz avatar, however, has the event dates on it, so I thought I’d see if I could make my own.
Before you go thinking to yourself, “Oh, that’s easy!” remember that I am not a code monkey. I’m a groupie. Big difference.
Anyway, long story short … OK, short story short, I made a badge with working link and everything. If you like it, and want one for yourself, you’re welcome to this one (code below), at least until PodCamp organizers publish their own.
<a href=”http://podcampaz.com” title=”PodCamp AZ 2010″><img src=”http://msherrwhenonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Twitter_podcampaz_2010_small.png” alt=”PodCamp AZ 2010″ title=”PodCamp AZ 2010″ style=”border:none;” /></a>
I’m super excited with this little bit of ingenious hacking. No doubt I’m overstating things. Regarding the ingenuity. And the hacking. But I’m not overstating the excited part. Really, it’s the little things.