My One Year Pursuit of Happiness
My pursuit to find happiness started around 27 years old right after ending a long relationship. I even stated it in my ‘Dear John letter’ that it was time for me to focus on myself, to pursue what makes me happy and to put myself back on my priority list. There I was after 7 1/2 years feeling like I had lost my own individuality in the marriage. Terribly sad, I made my first short-term goal list.
1. Walk To Work
2. Focus On Health
3. Learn A New Activity
4. Go Back To School
5. No Men For One Year
6. No Drinking
7. No Meat
8. Read A Book Per Week
1. Walk To Work
At the time walk to work meant moving from the suburbs to the much more expensive Vancouver area of Kitsilano. A move, looking back 10 years later, was the best decision of my life. I rented my first place on my own, something I had always wanted to do. It was a dive to say the least but the owner was a very nice man. I fixed it up as best I could, invited people to visit each week, and tried to make new friends around the neighbourhood.
The key was walking to work. I retired my Mazda Miata to the weekends and walked and explored everywhere. No commute changed my life. Not realizing what a huge drain driving to and from work 45 minutes each way was on me until I stopped. It felt like an enormous secret was let out of the bag, that your morning commute was not a necessity, but an obstacle. From one day to the next, I had extra energy and time to do the things that made me happy.
On my journey to find happiness there were many ups and downs. My lowest moment was curled up in bed in early fall, and it was so cold in the basement suite that I could actually see my breath. It was damp, my hair was sticky, and just as I thought life couldn’t get any more dismal, a mouse ran across my covers. I had to laugh at that point knowing it will never get any worse than this. I was at rock bottom.
As optimistic as I tried to be the next day, I bought myself a portable heater, which would eventually be the end to my rental agreement. The owner’s girlfriend decided I should freeze, and turned the heat off at night to save money. I would turn on my heater, arriving home around midnight to a cold house after my shift to warm up my bedroom. The electric bill was probably astronomical. They asked me to leave, but not before I told them through tears, that it was actually against the law for them to raise my rent more than 5% and only after the first year. I was already paying a fortune, and they wanted me to pay an additional $150 more. I said I would leave no worries. I did mention that the single paned windows were very cold and drafty, ice formed on the inside, that I lived with mice and heard rats as well as smelled them rotting in the walls. I paid $750 for that tiny bachelor that was completely underground with no heat! I was 10 months into our rental agreement when I moved out and broke it. I left on pretty good terms with the chap however, but the truth, she wasn’t very nice. They broke up since… no surprise. Unhappy people can move along…
I got myself a lovely roommate and we paid $950 for a very nice second story 2 bedroom apartment on the hillside by 10th and Sasamat. Even though the distance was much greater to work, it wasn’t just across the street like the other one, I stuck with my goal and managed to either ride my bike or walk down and up the gigantic hill each and every day. It took me 40 minutes but it combined exercise and travel time. When I worked mornings, I would hall my groceries up the big hill after work. I felt such a part of the community I worked in. I even cut out my gym membership at this point and saved even more money. I simply loved my single years.
2. Focus On Health
Happiness is the best revenge! I was determined to look the very best I had ever looked in my life. Each morning I went to the gym as soon as I woke up. I worked out 2 hours of cardiovascular, and weights, then I would sauna, stretch and shower. I would walk home to eat and get ready for work. I would work a full 8 1/2 hour shift and walked home afterwards to crash hard onto my mattress laying on my floor. It was my therapy. I would envision bumping into my ex looking the best I had ever looked in my life, and he would be sorry I left, or at least say he was sorry for the bad times, or at least say something. But slowly my motivation shifted and it became about me. I was feeling so much better than I did before, I started to wonder what my body was capable of doing. I pushed myself hard, took up running, sailing, yoga, walking, bike riding and even swimming. I trained as if I were preparing for a marathon and in return my mind became clear. I met myself about 6 months in! What I mean is I was truly who I was supposed to be at the moment I realized I was going to be okay on my own. I made it through this horrible break-up, I can pay my bills, save money and live for myself. And I was happy with who I was becoming, and felt comfortable in my own quirky skin. I enjoyed the view from the top of the hill on my way to work and home each day but metaphorically I was on top. I could shower, eat and sleep whenever I wanted. There was no one controlling me, taking my money, building their portfolio off my back. I saw the lights of the city, walked through the trees as I descended to Broadway and watched the birds sing. I focused on happiness, what made me happy and nothing more.
3. Learn A New Activity
Yoga was the most beneficial thing I learned to connect my body and mind. I found the breathing techniques helped me get through some of the most challenging low sleep days when I worked more than one shift and one job in one day.
A friend of mine was a member of the local sailing club and I joined to learn not only how to sail but how to kayak and windsurf as well. Learning these new activities changed my whole life. I focused on the things that I have always wanted to do. It brought me great pleasure and made me feel capable.
I had been writing each day in my journals since 12 years old but I wanted to write about more important things, and started my happy thought journal mentioned on the Oprah show. I joined a local writer’s group. I went on to produce many travel articles and sailing stories, and loved to share my work and listen to others share their stories. It was a eclectic group of writers with similar interests, writing issues who supported each other’s attempts. It was a fun way for me to keep writing even through the darkest of days. I had taken writing courses in the evening for years and knew I loved to write. For me, it was another form of therapy during this time of transition.
4. Go Back To School
Real estate is something that interests me. I bought my first place at 19 years old, and knew I was too young then to become a Realtor. I thought I lacked credibility especially when I looked 13 at 19. However at 27 I really wanted to know the laws and regulations behind my purchases and to become the Realtor I had always wanted to become. I had suffered great financial loss in my first apartment purchase during the leaky condo scandals of BC, my ex took every penny I had ever contributed to our house because i did not know the laws that protected me, and wanted to find better ways to purchase and flip homes. I enrolled at UBC to take my Real Estate, Property Management and Mortgage Brokers course. It took me a long time to finish, with two jobs and all my activities but I did it. Completing the course gave me a great sense of accomplishment. In the end I realized that selling real estate on weekends and evenings was not going to make me happy. My actual passion was buying and re-selling homes and I started looking right away. And here we are twelve years later in Europe doing the same thing, buying, renovating, and managing properties.
5. No Men For One Year
(The Dr. Laura Rule)
I had decided this, sadly, 6 months too late. Shortly after leaving my first long term relationship, like many others before me, I grabbed for the next vine before I had totally let go of the last. Are we all this pathetic, scared to be alone for too long? Looking back I could have saved 6 months of heartache, both my own and the poor chap that came along the roller coaster ride of emotion with me. If I had made this rule a priority as soon as I had moved to Kits, happiness would have happened much sooner. No worries, I was on a learning curve. It was the first time alone my adult life, and i will forgive myself for my errors.
Surprisingly when I deleted men from the equation, and started focusing on myself, I couldn’t believe the amount of energy I had. I gave myself the time I needed to heal, to reflect on what I had gone through and asked myself, what is it that you want from your next partner? I knew exactly what I didn’t want! For one I didn’t want a long term boyfriend which in reality is what I had the first time around. I was looking for a husband to father my kids. I wanted someone that shared my values about family and culture. And I needed a good friend, one that’s got my back at all times, who I could trust has our best interests at heart. i never had any of these things before, and I wasn’t going to accept a dud again.
During those long months completely alone, I wasn’t alone at all. I had my friends, my family and my work. I had my workouts, my education, and my books. I could have easily been content with no conflict for the rest of my life if I didn’t want children. It was getting easier to be alone than going out in the scary dating world to find my match. But the desire to have children grew stronger and I wanted a family of my own.
My celibacy was the best emotional cleanse. I got back my control, and was reintroduced to myself after 7 1/2 years. When Alfonz came along, he thought he was innocently visiting an old friend. I was ready for the next part of my life, and so was he. The time was right, and it all happened so quickly. The best was yet to come.
6. No Drinking
Of course there were times, especially in the first few months, that I cried for days, and drank myself into oblivion. Crown Royal on the rocks was my new best friend, until I added to my list, No more drinking!
Partly due to finances, and party wanting to prepare my body for conception as soon as I found mister right, I stopped drinking. No prescription drugs including painkillers and no alcohol. Nothing would enter my body that would somehow hurt me.
Without drinking I had to learn to deal with my emotions through meditation and yoga stretching. I used exercise as a huge source of ventilation, both mentally and physically. I found if I were mentally and physically exhausted each day. I slept better and could deal with the healing. I needed this after my not so great relationship ended.
I would love to share the ins and outs of my relationship but there are always two sides to the story and it wouldn’t be fair to bash anyone. Don’t they say, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. I can only hope everyone finds their match and their happiness.
7. No Meat
I decided to cut out meat, and most dairy products as well. My moods became so consistent, I could start to plan my life. A life filled with the things I wanted and I felt ready for it to begin. I wanted a husband and children, a nice home, and I was determined to be ready when they entered my life. Luck is preparation meeting opportunity, and I was prepared.
It was part of the growing process for me to stop eating meat. On the yoga path, meditation, learning about what makes me happy, I really thought that my body needed cleansing. I joined the vegetarian group with utter zeal, and loved it. I didn’t think I would ever enter the meat section at Safeway again. It was only after I had found my love, and got pregnant with my son that my hunger for meat returned. And with a vengeance!
8. Read A Book Per Week
Not watching TV, not having someone to cook and clean for each night and not dating; freed up a load of time to read, one of my favourite pastimes. I challenged myself, over and above my regular school work to read a book a week. I can get through a good book in a few hours, and with my workouts and work schedule I calculated a book a week would be plausible. I started with the Oprah selections, but quickly started asking friends, family and coworkers as they read on their coffee breaks, what is your favourite book? Some suggested classics, others suggested the most recent book they were reading, and I always read them. Some of my favourite books came out of this exercise. The Alchemist, The Poisonwood Bible, Like Water for Elephants, plus classics my dad suggested, A Tale of Two Cities, and science fiction books like the Book of Jobe and Pillars of the Earth. I felt like I was really focusing on things that made me happy.
You really find out a lot about a person when they give you their favourite book to read. I like having more in common with the people in my life.
After 1 ½ years of focusing on myself, and not looking for anyone, I was sideswiped by the love of my life. When it happened for me, it happened very quickly.
Alfonz and I met in high school 10 years before. I had a dinner party every Monday night for friends to come by, meet singles, eat and drink. Alfonz had just come back from traveling around Europe on his motorbike with his buddy Adrian, and Alfonz stopped in for dinner. I was trying to set him up with one of two girls from work. Well thank god neither Alfonz nor the girls had any attraction in the slightest to each other or my life would have turned out very different.
We hung out as friends for months before I realized he was courting me. 6 months in, we basically moved in together, got pregnant, got married, bought a house, then a business, had another child, bought our apartment in Europe and of course eventually moved to southern France. We were more prolific in our marriage than most people are in their whole entire lives and we knew it. The energy we have together is pretty amazing and I am truly grateful. We were ready for this experience, on the same page at the same and did our own version of preparing for marriage. Although his preparations were totally different and involved abundance of alcohol and the sewing of oats… everyone’s different.
It was a whirlwind love affair, learning and adventure; enough for any girl!
And the adventures continue!
Once I started to find happiness, I realized the pursuit never finishes. I kept up with my own desire to better myself year after year, with different lists as my life, my family, and the things that make me happy changed and grew. Where once I felt happiness sweating in the gym all day long, I now love walking, and reading but most of all writing and traveling.
Not everyone will sell off their life and travel with their kids across the world to pursue happiness, but some might and others, like my girlfriend L, will paint a wall in her front family room in a bright red. Enough of a change to make an impact towards her own happiness. I love it!
Everyone will have a different version of what his or her own happiness is. I decided to share my backstory to our adventure to show that anyone can be happy no matter where they begin.