Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project was my inspiration for this blog so I’m kicking off my Life After Divorce by creating my own happiness project. Basically, I’ll create twelve months of resolutions that more or less follow the pattern in Gretchen’s book. If you’re interested in doing your own happiness project, you can find some great online resources here, including a chart to track your progress.
Gretchen wisely decided to start her happiness project with resolutions to boost energy:
In a virtuous circle, research shows, being happy energizes you, and at the same time, having more energy makes it easier for you to engage in activities—like socializing and exercise—that boost happiness. Studies also show that when you feel energetic, your self-esteem rises. Feeling tired, on the other hand, makes everything seem arduous.
Works for me. Energy is something I dimly remember having about eleven years ago, before kids and a decade of insomnia.
Now that I’ve got the theme for this month, I need to set resolutions that are concrete and measurable. Anyone who’s spent anytime in corporate America will immediately think of S.M.A.R.T. goals. Basically, effective goals are:
I’m not going to drive myself—or you—insane by putting all my resolutions in a chart the way I did my work goals back in the day. Let’s trust we’ve all got the gist.
Get enough sleep. My insomnia is cured, but I rarely get the full eight hours of sleep my body needs. Back in the olden days Before Kids (B.K.), I got eight-and-a-half hours of sleep a night and more on the weekends, but that was the halcyon era of yon twenties when I thought a job, social life, and karate kept me crazy-busy. Eight hours a night is Holy Grail enough for this forty-something mom.
Resolution #1: Go to bed at 10:30pm each night, except on nights I don’t have the kids when I shall go forth and party with my divorced, middle-aged peers as long as I can stand it. Let’s say 11:30pm on those nights. Speaking of which, anyone else seen the Tina Fey-Amy Poehler movie Sisters?
Eat healthy. Have you noticed Oreos come in different colors for every holiday and season? I turned up my nose and sniffed at these Faux-reos every year until this past Halloween when I tossed a package of Oreos with bright-orange filling into my Target cart. These Oreos were dee-licious. Way better than normal Oreos. Maybe it’s the added chemicals from the food coloring. Maybe it’s because there’s more cream filling than in regular Oreos but not as much as in Double-Stufs which have a bit too much stuff for me. Whatever it was, I was hooked. I limited myself to three Oreos a night for a few nights but then I lost control. Soon I had to run back to Target for another package. I breathed a sigh of relief when Halloween and those Devil Oreos were gone … only to be replaced by red-cream-filled Holiday Oreos. The appearance of Holiday Oreos coincided with a short-lived attempt at reconciling with The Ex. When he left again after the holidays, I happened upon three packages of unsold Holiday Oreos at Wal-mart. Around this time, I also decided I was going to eat whatever I damn well pleased. Long story short, I’m straining the seams of my fat clothes and it’s time to put the brakes on the food-loving free-for-all. Possibly every self-help book I’ve read in the last eleven months has cautioned against using sugar and carbs to numb the feelings of grief and despair that swamp us after divorce. You’ll slow your healing and you can’t afford a new, wider wardrobe on top of your legal bills.
Resolution #2: Eat five servings of vegetables each day. Cut out the junk food and the sugar. I’m not counting those six mini-chocolate donuts I just ate. That was a little happiness hit I needed and I’m okay with that. Especially since I had a giant salad for lunch and I resisted the Spring Oreos beckoning to me from the grocery aisle.
No alcohol. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to numb your feelings with sugar, carbs, or Sauvignon Blanc. Who knew? Besides, wine makes me sleepy, which is the opposite of energetic, so booze gets the boot.
Resolution #3: No alcohol. Except a one-drink max at parties. And a one-margarita max at my favorite Mexican restaurant—two if someone else is driving. Those margaritas are the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. This is a happiness project, not a deprivation project.
Exercise. Gretchen’s resolution was to exercise better. Sure, she’s got a happy marriage and exercises already. If she wasn’t such an inspiration, I’d hate her. (Kidding. Mostly.) My original goal was to exercise five days a week: two hip-hop classes, one yoga class, and thirty minutes on my stationary bike two days a week. Plus push-ups and sit-ups every morning. Yesterday was my first hip-hop class. If I make it through tomorrow’s hip-hop class, I’m going to celebrate my badassery with another six mini-donuts.
Resolution #4: Do two hip-hop classes and one yoga class each week.
Take a walk every day. Sunshine, fresh air, cardiovascular benefits, blah, blah, blah. We all know about this one. Plus, I have a dog (she’s my Divorce Dog—I highly recommend a trip to your local humane society if you miss the resentful lump that once hogged all the space on your couch) so this resolution is both a no-brainer and an easy win.
Resolution #5: Walk the dog every day. Done!
Declutter and Get Ready to Sell the Marital Behemoth. This one is a two-fer. The Gospel According to Gretchen says, “I’d dreaded doing the clutter clearing, because it seemed like such an enormous job … but every time I looked around and saw the extra space and order, I registered a little jolt of energy.” After divorce, you’ve got to get those little jolts however you can. And like many people getting divorced, I must sell what my attorney calls “the marital residence.” I call it the Marital Behemoth because The Ex and I bought this house back when we were planning on three children (instead of two) and at least one of us planned to live here and celebrate holidays and host family get-togethers until she died. We bought big. We put a ton of time and love and money into remodeling. And as happens in most too-big houses, we stored stuff we didn’t need. Now I’m getting ready to downsize. The clutter must go and the little things in the Behemoth that fell apart along with the marriage must be put to rights.
Resolution #6: Spend fifteen minutes a day decluttering somewhere in the house. Shout out to Flylady for the magic fifteen-minute rule.
Tackle nagging tasks. My desk is covered with piles of bills and papers and books and a winter purse and boxes from Amazon. I have a little tiny space where I’ve wedged my computer and keyboard.
Resolution #7: Clean this shit up. Pay the bills. File the papers. Shelve the books. Stop ordering stuff from Amazon I don’t need.
That’s it. Seven resolutions to boost my energy and my happiness. Gretchen had a resolution to “act more energetic” — basically, a fake-it-’til-you-make-it resolution. But thanks to the divorce, all my dramatic talent is going to acting as if my heart wasn’t dug out with a spoon.
Doing a happiness project of your own? What resolutions would boost your energy? I’d love to hear what you’re doing to build your post-marriage life.