Happiness, wholeness, and the search for meaning

Since returning to work post-baby, I’ve been struggling with a feeling of insecurity about my worth in my job — something my achievement-motivated self did not anticipate.

But I suspect that these feelings of insecurity — and perhaps, related questions of my identity — aren’t totally new to being a mom (and a working mom). It’s the same reason I haven’t posted in my blog in a year and have only made a half-hearted attempt at getting my Etsy shop off the ground. In a world where it’s easy to share your opinions at the click of a button, where ideas are reiterated, and where blogging is a ┬ácareer for some, what makes my mutterings unique in the vast blogosphere? If a search on Etsy of “Christmas Card” yield almost 190,000 results, why would anyone pick out mine?

While I certainly don’t have an answer to these questions (besides the suspicion that in reality, it’s only those people who already know me who’d be interested in my ponderings or my creations), I think I could benefit from taking a different approach. Instead of thinking about how others might perceive or value my efforts, perhaps I could focus on why I do these things and how (or if) they contribute to a fuller, happier, more whole life.

I’ve just finished reading The Happiness Project, and while I’m not ready to tackle personal happiness with a year-long project, some of the ideas in the book have been marinating in my mind (ex. “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good”).

One qualm I have about the book is that I don’t fully buy into the idea that the chief end in life is happiness. Not all situations call for a cheery attitude; unexceptional happiness can be be inappropriate, rude, and shallow. Instead, I wonder about the idea of a “Wholeness Project,” one that embraces a wider range of emotional experience as good and right. (I do think Rubin alludes to this type of idea in her exploration of the idea that deeper happiness often comes after an investment in activities that at the outset are not particularly “fun.”)

In thinking about my blog, then, I recognize that:

  1. Writing can be therapeutic for me in that it helps me to process things I’m going through.
  2. Adding personal content and experiences does not detract from, but rather enhances, the uniqueness of my writing.
  3. Dialogue about personal experiences of health and wholeness is in line with my goals for this blog.

So, rather than tailoring this blog to what I think others want to hear (or what I see others writing about), I’m going to continue to write about things that are meaningful to me. I hope you find a connection with my experiences and we can continue to grow in wholeness together!

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Project home weatherization

Today while the little one was napping I decided to “conquer a nagging task”*… or a task that could have easily become a nagging task. I weatherized our windows!

Last fall we spent a good bit of $ on some renovation projects aimed at making our home more energy efficient and healthy. One of the comments from our energy auditor was, “Your windows aren’t good, but they’re the least of your problems.” Great! What a place to start…

We invested in a brand-spanking new and top-of-the-line energy-efficient boiler (replacing our ancient, carbon-monoxide leaking, gas-guzzling one). We got a new roof (turns out letting moisture into your home makes any other updates you do moot… who cares about nice furnishings if you’re letting water destroy the bones of the home?). We had new insulation put in the crawl space in the basement and in the attic. We got a new fan for our bathroom and for our stove. We re-graded the side of our house to keep rainwater moving away from the foundation.

Since those projects more than exhausted our available resources, we couldn’t even think about new windows (although we’ve started to dream about how nice those would be!). The good news is that we did save a hefty sum on our gas bill last winter (in one of the months, the average temperature was about equivalent, we kept the house almost 10 degrees warmer, and we spent $100 less on heating)…. and that’s on top of no longer having dangerous gases leaking in our home. Yay air quality!

The other good news is there are literal “bandaids” that help our drafty windows — those lovely plastic film window kits (like these). I don’t love the process of putting them up — cleaning the window frame, adhering the tape, lining up the plastic, using the hair dryer to shrink the film (okay maybe I like that part), and trimming the excess film (which, by the way, can be recycled alongside your grocery bags and plastic paper towel wrappers at local drop-offs). But the difference is huge — and totally worth it for our heating bills and for the environment.

*This is a reference to Gretchen Rubin’s book the Happiness Project.