Happy New Year to everyone! May 2017 be your best year yet!
We are certainly hoping that our 2017 goes well and is a year of great happiness. To make it so, we’ve been tossing around all sorts of ideas for the past month on where to focus our attention for the next 365 days.
First, we thought about a no-spend year. In fact, Angie loved this idea. She thinks we spent too much money this year. I’m pretty sure we spent the same amount of money we usually spend (with the exception of car repairs, which were more). It just seemed as if we spent more because much of our spending was not for ourselves.
We also talked about a zero-waste year, until I explained that zero-waste meant absolutely no non-recyclable packaging whatsoever. Since we don’t have a bulk store within 30 miles of us, we thought this might be more stressful than it was worth. Instead, we decided to continue recycling, composting, and being mindful of the waste we produce.
Our next thought was a vegetarian year. That was nixed too since my mom is making ribs today and not eating would hurt her feelings. We care a lot more about showing appreciation for her efforts than we do about eliminating the already minimal amount of meat we eat in our diet. Plus, her ribs are out of this world (and she only makes them once a year).
So what did we choose?
Be advised, this next part deviates from my usually posting style. It is honest and contains some language. However, in order to fully understand our focus for the coming year, it is important to explain a little of the background leading to our decision.
On Thursday, I was leaning toward declaring the no-spend year the winner when something happened that changed my mind. My sister, her mother-in-law, and my 2 nephews came over to pick up their Christmas gifts. There were no thank-yous from anyone. Rather the visit was spent listening to my sister and her mother-in-law slam my niece for a variety of perceived offenses (most of which were grossly exaggerated or totally inaccurate). This was nothing new. It happens every time I see or talk to my sister. Finally, in a headache-induced haze, I blurted out something that sounded like, “Our New Year’s Resolution this year is to focus on our own happiness. We can’t be involved in this back and forth drama anymore.”
Sadly, instead of taking my words to heart, my sister took it as a jab and immediately went home and posted an awful comment on Facebook about our visit, how I didn’t belong here, and how her own daughter was a piece of sh*t. That’s a quote by the way. Who does that?? And why was she a piece of sh*t this time? Because she overslept on Christmas, of all things. My niece (and my mother, for that matter) both overslept but still made it to dinner. My sister didn’t even show up.
My sister is a sociopath – not the kind that kills people but the kind that simply has no conscience and manipulates every situation for their own benefit. Now before you think I’m calling her names, this is her actual clinical diagnosis (and her own description of herself). When she first told me last year, I was in disbelief. Sociopaths are the folks you see on Criminal Minds, not your own sister. Then I read The Sociopath Next Door and realized this was pretty dead-on accurate. All of her life she’s done things to manipulate others and has never felt an ounce of remorse.
Sociopaths always have an end-game but for the life of me I can’t figure out why she did what she did. Her actions pretty much ruined the rest of our day and only succeeded in making my niece feel awful and unloved.
Following this little incident, Angie and I spent the rest of the day and the next talking about our own path in life, how we had allowed ourselves to repeatedly be sucked into drama since moving to TN, and how that drama was impeding our own happiness. We didn’t have these problems when we lived in Florida. Our time was our own and with it we pursued only those things that made us happy. Now, each day starts with dread…dread of when (not if) the phone will ring and someone will want something from us. It’s awful to feel this way and even more awful to look back on an entire year of our life and realize how unhappy we have been (compared to what we used to be).
My harried declaration to my sister has now become our actual resolution for this year and we are launching a Happiness Project for 2017.
I first read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in 2010. In the book, Gretchen spends a year studying happiness and applying what she learned to her own life. At the time, it was inspiring and a lot of what she said really resonated with me. Today, it makes even more sense to me. To her quote above, I’d add the negative emotions of frustration, disappointment, and anger – all the things that I’ve felt this year. Something indeed has to change and by refocusing our attention on happiness, we aim to make 2017 a year of gratitude, triumph, and peaceful joy.
A lot of folks resolve to be a better person in the new year and set various milestones to achieve this goal. We just want to be the people we used to be – the nutty, happy couple who could do anything they set their mind to. Happiness for us begins with regaining control of our time and doing things for ourselves again, so to kick-off our project, Angie and I both made a list of the things that make us happy. The commonalities were:
- Enjoying quiet time together reading, writing, coloring, or watching TV
- Being outdoors
- Being resourceful – figuring out how to do things for ourselves
- Saving money and finding bargains/freebies
- Cooking and/or trying new foods
Around this happiness list, we created some specific goals for 2017. Those goals are posted here: Our 2017 Happiness Project Bucket List
Over the next year, working this bucket list will be our focus – not my family, not their drama, and definitely not the unhappy year that is now behind us. I invite you to follow along as we take a proactive, positive approach to achieving happiness on our own terms.