How Facebook Has Royally Screwed With Our Happiness Meter

I have a bit of an obsession with happiness – what causes it, what makes it stick, what can obliterate it all together. Perhaps this is the reason why I have an urge to ask complete strangers whether or not they are completely and totally happy with their lives. Because let’s face it – most people aren’t, and most have perfected the art of hiding it.

Why hide it? Well because happiness has become a measurement of success of sorts, a real indication of how well you’ve been at living. Hate your job? Can’t stand your spouse? Then by god, what have you been doing with your life? Not being happy is a sure sign that you just don’t have your shit together – or so we have come to believe.

It’s also a pretty damn good way to measure ourselves against those around us. If, for instance, your relationship is bobbing like a half-dead fish in the water when your BFF calls you up to let you know how her new beau bought her a ridiculously disgusting spread of exotic flowers – well, then chances are you’ll be feeling a bit like a failure. And how can you possibly compete with those people who seem to be thrilled with the idea of waking up in the morning, have their calendar filled to the brim with exciting happenings, are enthralled with how perfect their families are, and have prince charming to share their magnificence with?

Those people exist, right? Well, according to Facebook they do.

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of a Facebook whore. In fact, I probably spend more time Facebook stalking than attempting to find a decent paying freelance job. However, that simply makes me an expert of sorts (because I like thinking of myself as an expert). Which has led me to notice a few things:

There are two types of Facebook personalities:

  • The type that always has something utterly depressing to say and will passive aggressively attack those who have “wronged” them (the ones you want to block from your news feed or just punch in the face).
  • And the type that always has some exciting weekend to look forward to, the perfect partner to gush about, and the most amazing job they could have ever hoped for – you know, the perpetually happy type.

So one day I, in my unhealthy obsession with dissecting happiness into little manageable bits, discovered that Facebook had given me the sense that a huge portion of my peers (some 400+ of them) were far happier than me (minus the Debbie Downers, of course). It was obvious after browsing through thousands of pictures of smiling faces and sorting through status updates, each with the underlying message of: “Look at me and my fabulous life!”

Funny thing is, I have those pictures too. And I’ll admit to writing one or two status updates that boasted of something I have had to be happy about – because each of us chooses the side of ourselves we wish to show and the parts of our lives we want others to admire.

That is the reason why Facebook has royally screwed us over. All those people whose profiles tell us they have their shit together? They have bad days too – they just don’t take pictures of it and plaster it all over for the world to see.

Facebook is our way of entertaining each other and should be taken as nothing more. That’s just a little hard to remember when you are sleeping on your parents couch and brooding over the fact that your life seems to have veered off into a ditch. I’m just sayin’.

Dreams? Yeah, I’ll Save Those For Tomorrow.

Before leaving home to bake in the sweltering sandbox that I currently reside in, I had concocted a list of things I would delve into once I got here. You know- those things we believe deep down will make us happier, healthier, more whole versions of ourselves, but are better left for another time or place. Yes. I have lots of those.

I figured that being in a town so far removed from regular Starbuck’s drinking civilization would inspire me in some miraculous way to be…different. And at the end of those six (or five if I have anything to say about it) long months I would have become a yogi, accomplished magazine writer, meditation guru, master chef, brilliant photographer, organization expert, blogger extraordinaire, etc. etc. etc. Seriously – my goals were that lofty.

Three months into my time here and what have I got? Sores on my ass from spending six to eight loooooong hours a day typing diligently on my computer that I can only use on the couch because the wifi refuses to cooperate. And the closest I’ve gotten to being a yogi? Completing a 30 minute candlelit yoga practice from a DVD via the Xbox.

Oh, and did I mention I’ve become an expert complainer and pity party thrower?

So as the boyfriend and I attempted last night to make plans for a life ATM (after the military) I found myself returning to that place of “once I get there things will be better.” I’ll have a group of girlfriends again, a real live place outside of the house to do my writing, my family a quick drive away. Funny thing is, that’s what I was all gung-ho about leaving in the first place.

My twenties thus far seem to have been an exercise in finding a place to be. A place that warrants a sigh of relief, while simultaneously pushing me to be something greater, do something bigger, and step out of the me I thought I was. I’ve been convinced at certain times that it’ll come with settling down – picking paint colors and a bed set to match. Then, I’ll suddenly feel as if I could only feel it somewhere as far removed from my comfort zone (and country of origin) as possible. Now, neither seems to fit just right.

It’s not my environment. I’m convinced (at least in this moment) of that now. It’s a matter of starting today those things I’ve reserved for another place and time.

Anyone else have a storage closet full of things to tackle another day in another city?

I haven’t disappeared, I’ve just been baking in the heat.

Blogging, like most other areas of my life, used to be something I scheduled. (Because even inspiration can be placed on a timeline for someone as by the book as myself.) Then, when things started to get a little crazy, I stopped cold turkey. But what used to be an issue of priorities has now become another bout of perfectionism gone haywire.

Let me just begin by saying this- when I was younger and writing in a diary seemed like something every little girl should do, I used to tear out entries if I didn’t like how they sounded. Granted, I had a placed a massive lock on the outside to prevent anyone from reading my innermost thoughts, but the point was that I wasn’t satisfied with anything short of perfection. Thus, it was only a matter of time before I began judging the writing I was putting up for all of the online world to see (or at least the meager audience that I had acquired).

Inspiration, it turns out, is also a problem when leaving my house has ceased to be an everyday occurrence. No, it’s not depression, it’s an absolute hatred of the god awful heat. Heat meaning 100 degrees IN THE SHADE. Seriously. I’ve never before felt as if my skin was cooking two minutes after stepping outside.

I can blame my writing hiatus partly on the fact that I’m in the midst of a series of processes. Learning to live with my honey, for one, is a PROCESS (capitals seemed necessary for that one). How could it not be when I’m used to being comfortable and he’s used to a lifestyle of survival? My challenge this week: getting him to agree to a rendezvous at the farmers market this weekend. For some reason, he’s completely against fresh produce. Go figure.

Another process: accepting and recognizing the perfection in everyday life. After the homecoming was over, and I settled into a “routine,” I began to forget what both of our lives were like when he was away. I’m reminding myself to feel a little gratitude for the shopping trips, the movie dates, and even the arguments that we couldn’t have had if the deployment would have ended differently.

Most of all, I’m learning to redefine the individual me while still staying connected to this relationship I’ve waited so long to fully experience.

I’ve missed you blogger world. Here’s to checking in more regularly.

Yes, I Eat My Feelings

Lately I’ve been stuffing my feelings down with copious amounts of artery clogging fast food style burgers and early morning milk shakes. I follow this by an alcoholic beverage or two and a desert sweet enough to wash it all down. Needless to say, my lethargic body hates me. With a passion.

Despite my naturally small (and by small I mean short) size, and a metabolism that leaves me starving come 5am, I have always had an up and down relationship with food. It’s not all that strange given the fact that I’m in my early 20’s living in one of the most superficial countries in the world. But I’m smart enough to know that more often than not I treat my body as if it were my worst enemy- one I’m trying to punish with a slow and painful death. Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you catch my drift.

It took me twenty years to finally warm up to the idea of exercising because I tend to avoid all things that I don’t think I’ll be good at. I was even able to skirt those pesky P.E. requirements in high school by offering to help with the special needs kids. Seriously. Then a few years later and fourteen pounds heavier, I decided that my small stature would inevitably leave me looking like an oompa loompa if I didn’t tweak my habits.

Yoga proved to be my saving grace in the effort to stay zen while kicking my ass in to shape. But despite my dedication for those few months and my success in convincing my body that anything was possible, I stopped. Cold turkey. I could say that I got too busy (lie) or that it became too expensive (truth with a little lie mixed in), but the truth is, like many things, I just stopped caring.

After nursing my post-Sonic stomach ache this morning and brooding over how large I felt, I had a fleeting moment where I realized how counter productive my actions were in creating a healthy, happy existence. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about being in tune with what my body is telling me. And unfortunately, I put a muzzle on it a while back.

My life has changed drastically in the past few weeks, and my celebratory eating (yes, my preferred bonding experience is over hot dogs and chocolate chip cookies), has turned into avoidance eating. I have felt my career begin to lose momentum before fully taking off, and filling in the voids of ending an old routine and beginning a new one has made food look oh so appealing.

I’m excellent at setting intentions. I’ll say, quite matter of factly: “Come Monday I won’t be eating donuts the size of my face or topping a heaping plate of nachos off with a margarita. Nope, I’ll be munching on tofu and snacking on almonds.” In reality, come Monday I’ll be setting a new intention for a later date while ordering some more french fries.

All things in moderation, I know. It’s not about depriving myself of the foods I actually enjoy eating, it’s just depending on food more for sustenance than entertainment. Or comfort. And that is far easier said then done.

I’m Ready

I’ve never really been a procrastinator. Sure, I avoid certain conversations, errands, and menial tasks, but when it comes to the big stuff I never hold off the inevitable. Even in elementary school I would write book reports a month in advance and complete group projects on my own if everyone else seemed to be shuffling their feet. And now that my compensation comes in the form of money and not praise from my teachers, I don’t even recognize procrastination as a viable way of being.

I suppose I could read a million self-help books that would confirm that this behavior is positive, that I am being proactive in getting to where I want to go. But in doing things today so that I can enjoy tomorrow, that illusive day off just gets pushed farther into the future. If running a thousand miles an hour opens up even a small window of time for nothing I will find something to fill that hole.

Rationally I realize that I’m avoiding stepping on the brakes simply because I know that silence will follow. I have been avoiding standing still out of fear that I will have to listen to my fears. How ironic. And in the midst of it all, I’m angry that planning for the future has left me floating above the present moment with no real connection to either.

As uncomfortable as I am with the prospect of moving to a new town that can’t offer me the lifestyle that I’m used to, I’m also relieved by the fact that distractions will be few and far between. There is something refreshing about the idea of stripping down to the bare essentials and allowing life to be simple again.

I could say that I just want to be able to truly live, but in all honesty I’m not even sure what that means. After all, what does living really constitute? Breathing? I’ve got that covered.

No, I want to sit in the middle of life and experience everything exactly how it is- not something that needs to be changed, manipulated, or fixed. I want to see life in tiny moments instead of always taking in the bigger picture. I want to avoid planning and allow everything to unfold exactly how it was intended to. I want to let go of who I think I am and become who I never thought of becoming.

I am ready to just be.

Creature Comforts and Cable Negotiations

I think I’ve found the place. Well, maybe not the place as in “this is the place I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life living in.” No, more like this is the place that seems to require fewer hours to clean, and not quite as many bugs to herd out before becoming hospitable. Although the one area of contention that might just be the sole cause of a few breakdowns: no dishwasher. Wait…what century are we living in?

Yes, I know- not a big deal. But I have come to discover that I am one of those people who depends greatly on creature comforts. I gave up on that tiny glimmer of hope that we might actually have a washer and dryer, but a dishwasher just seems like a give in. Like running water. (Maybe I should check on that one too.) And then while I was breaking out in a cold sweat over hand washing dishes, my honey says to me, “We aren’t getting cable, we really won’t need it.”

Umm…hang on. I think that one just gave me a heart attack. Quickly, and a bit too defensively I quipped “you want me to live in the middle of the desert with no freakin’ cable?!” This was about the time when I started to run through the list of things that we might not agree on. Like how many covers to have on the bed or who will scrub the toilet. All of which is a little too much for someone who has pretty much lived sans roommates for the past 2+ years (I figure my parents don’t really count).

I won the cable battle after a very compelling argument and probably more whining then my honey really wanted to listen to. However, all of this has made me a little too aware of how much readjusting this move is going to require. Last time I trucked out to that corner of California I think I was a bit more moldable and pleasantly unaware of what I was in for. Luckily the gamble paid off and I loved it. Really loved it.

Once the dust settles (actually I don’t think it every settles there…) I know I will be able to find my niche again. Even if it is with basic cable and no dishwasher.

Please Get Out of My Room…Thanks.

Cohabitation, in my “this is my space, please kindly remove yourself from it” mindset, has never been an idea that I snuggled up to. Not only does my sanity depend on the fact that I can remove myself from all other living, breathing, and talking beings, but my experience with roommates has been severely limited to family members who (I’m hoping) would never pour bleach on my clothes or steal my pricier belongings (I suppose I’m channeling the Bad Girls Club here…). I’m stubborn, picky, and am prone to noise induced panic attacks. Crazy? Just a bit.

While my post-high school living situation did include a brief stint with my honey in the deserts of California, I feel like in knowing our time together was limited (he was in the midst of shipping off to Iraq), I was able to not let (all) of my anxieties get the best of me. But this time, as I prepare for his homecoming and a 2nd move, cohabitation has taken on a kind of permanence that makes me giddy with excitement and sick to my stomach all at the same time. Our communication over the past 6+ months has been limited to skype chats, 3am text sessions, and facebook messaging…so how on earth can that be translated into bed sharing, chore sharing, and overall life sharing with the simple flip of a switch?

Although I’d like to site his lack of cleanliness and attachment to video games as the main reason for my concern, in truth I am dreading those issues that will point to me being the one that needs to shift, change, and cave just a little bit to let him in. Deep down I know that as long as I stay attached to my way of doing things and closed off to sharing anything in my space, the more I can convince myself that I am right and everyone else is WRONG.

Despite these little butterfly jitters, I have begun thrift and craft store shopping so that we can have a champagne inspired pad on a PBR budget. I’m convinced (since signing on to write for Calfinder) that this is absolutely possible. My first project that I have attempted to tackle: fixing up picture frames and removing the pictures circa 1999. Next up?….Not entirely sure.

Got any suggestions? Wine bottle candle holders, film strip curtains, I’m up for anything. Give me your best tips and I will be sure to post pictures of the finished product.

Crowds Give Me Hives

Crowds, unless I am pleasantly inebriated, give me hives. While I generally like to find the good sunshine-y side of most everyone I come across, being in massive groups of people causes me to spew nasty “I hate the world energy.” It’s quite hypocritical, I know, because I can be a big fat pain in the ass slipping in between people who arrived earlier than me, or chatting on my phone loudly at inopportune moments. (I am also the kind of person that threatens to ram pedestrians with my car if I’m driving or saunters slowly in front of inpatient drivers while I’m walking. But that’s a whole other can of worms.)

Somehow forgetting this little issue of mine, I agreed to brave the 200,000+ crowd of bead wearing, green adorned, celebrants at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Denver. Of course it was only appropriate that I found a spot smack dab in front of a pair of raspy voiced older ladies who had something to say about anything and anyone that happened to pass by within a one mile radius of us. The highlight? A younger girl walks through the crowd to cross the street and the louder of the bunch obnoxiously says, “Oh honey, you really shouldn’t wear a sweater that tight.” Really? It took all I had to not wish that one of the bulls (yes bulls- not sure how that isn’t flagged as a safety hazard) passing by us in the parade would pummel her.

As I stood there seething about how irritatingly annoying complainers can be (again, yes, I’m quite hypocritical), I realized how crowds are breeding grounds for releasing anger in a passive aggressive manner. Case in point: the half head turn or obnoxious seat reclining normally practiced in movie theaters when a fellow patron is talking, chewing, or kicking our seat in a manner we don’t approve of. When we would really like to just tell someone to “shut the hell up or stop touching my seat god damn it” we attempt to annoy them in return or use body language to announce our disgust.

Let’s be honest- the vast majority of us resort to being mean before we will take the high road and simply ask politely for said offender to quiet down, move over, or stop doing any behavior that is affecting our own sense of enjoyment. It is, after all, far easier to go into a crowd of nameless people and expel negative energy then to endure the consequences of channeling it towards the people and situations that are actually causing it. Still, it’s just not nice.

As much as I don’t really enjoy elbow room only occasions or the people who come out to enjoy them, I couldn’t stand the self-entitled nastiness coming out of these two ladies mouths. In reality, their hatred towards everything even remotely pleasant going on around us made them look far more haggard and ugly then they really were. It was as if those string of comments were merely a testament to an entire lifetime of self-loathing and mediocre life experiences. And it made me say a little prayer that at that age I would learn to shrug off the little things and keep everything in a perspective that only living a full and happy life can give you.

Another (non-related) Plea:

While I am generally not the best at asking for help or assistance of any kind, I’m desperate.  Really desperate.  If you have yet to do so, please please please vote for my trips on Trazzler.com.  All you have to do is sign up, and find user kayla 33. (After signing up you can retype the address to read http://www.trazzler.com/users/kayla33) Click save under each one that I have written (Dining with Drag Queens under the LGBT San Francisco contest is the most important) and that’s it.  At this point EVERY SINGLE VOTE COUNTS!

And yes, I will be forever grateful.  THANK YOU!

Cashier or Stripper: It’s All a Matter of Perspective

I woke up in a drag yourself out of bed and curse at the world kind of mood. I’m not entirely sure where all this bad energy sprouted from considering I drifted off to sleep repeating the mantra “everything is right in the world and good things are coming my way.” Maybe my brain just went into overdrive with all the fantastic things I was creating and it blew a fuse. Just a thought.

Today I allowed myself to be sucked into that “let me turn on everything with the ferociousness of a rabid dog” mentality. I picked out a few choice situations that were nagging reminders of how my life wasn’t playing out exactly how I had intended and ran with them. The result? An hour-long reprieve from the work that I should have been doing in order to look up secluded retreats in odd corners of the world with the intention of escaping it all. Bad choice for someone who already feels a festering pool of lack in the financial department.

The thing is, what was nagging me was nothing of significance. Worry makes me do ridiculous things- like not looking at what I already have and paying attention to the plethora of signs that say everything will work out just fine. And despite all the amazingly progressive things I was taught growing up in a family that embraced spirituality with open arms, I tend to be archaic in how I label things. Yes, I am a label whore- but not in the Louis Vuitton and Coach kind of way. I am the queen of deeming things bad, horrific or even life-ending. To top it off I am brilliant at going into crying frenzies that make even me feel sorry for me.

Often times, once the storm has passed, what I was so quick to label as “bad” unravels itself into something that was probably even better than what I had hoped for in the first place. I have gotten into knock down drag out fights with friends that were only a smidgen away from turning into full-out brawls only to notice that our friendship blossomed from it. I have fretted over job hunting that made me feel as if I would end up living in a box down by the river only to realize that the perfect situation just wasn’t available at that very moment I was looking.

So in keeping with this idea that all of life’s situations are a matter of perspective I thought I’d share this email that my dad sent me. Hilarious yet appropriate..

A first grade girl handed in the drawing below for a homework assignment:

After it was graded and the child brought it home, she returned to school the next day with the following note:

Dear Ms. Davis,

I want to be very clear on my child’s illustration.  It is NOT of me on a dance pole on a stage in a strip joint.  I work at Home Depot and had commented to my daughter how much money we made in the recent snowstorm. This drawing is of me selling a shovel.

Finding Balance (via a hazmat suit)

The potential of earning a paycheck and lessening the intensity of my money-induced panic attacks causes me to grossly overestimate what my mind and body can handle. So last week when I was offered a three-day stint in a hazmat suit for a little extra cash, I quickly accepted without much thought as to how it would fit in to my already busy bee of a work life. (And somehow the outfit didn’t serve as a deterrent either. God I would look good as a meth dealer.)

Being a card-carrying member of the promotional job market I often times agree to promote products or other such things I know nothing about. This time I was pushing the 3rd season of the television show Breaking Bad (involving a meth dealer thus the appropriate outfits)- one that I had never heard of before but will now most likely be hooked to like a multitude of other shows I DVR.

The cherry on top of this little adventure was that it took place outside the RV, Boat and Travel Show. Two of said days were on a Thursday and Friday- both prime days for the 60+ crowd to peruse the fantastic display of trailers and sign up for RV clubs. The problem? We were handing out free iTunes download cards to a massive group that either didn’t have computers or were blissfully unaware of what constituted a download in the first place. Oh the joy.

While the event served its purpose of paying off my debt to the IRS (yes, I blame taxes for the hazmat suit), my tendency to fill my plate with unnecessary obligations needs to stop. ASAP. My week was already filled to capacity with writing assignments and SLEEP when I said, “what’s one more thing?” Balance, I am learning, does not mean juggling twenty projects at once but only accepting the projects that I can complete without pulling out large chunks of my hair.

But where I used to BEG for new opportunities to float my way, I now feel as if I am firmly rooted in a stream of opportunity abundance. I am grateful that I have plenty of money-making jobs to choose from- now I just need to learn to say no. Or at least learn to only take the jobs with the attractive outfits.