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Friday, May 4, 2012

insights: what i've learned so far

Cinco de Mayo. While this holiday means "Yey! Tequila shots for everyone!" to most people, to me Cinco de Mayo 2009 is the day that my life changed forever. It's the day that I was brought into a conference room and told "Sorry, your position has been eliminated." What I heard and what it meant was this: "You are irrelevant." The job (working with movie studios/ record labels/ networks to arrange and host celebrity interviews) that I had loved doing since 1995 evaporated. In one sliver of a moment I lost my job, my income, friends and colleagues I loved working with. This was the job that I thought was so important that I put off having kids because I was too busy traveling somewhere in the world. Dumbest idea ever. Ever.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table that night with L., humiliated and embarrassed. I was a failure. I cried and my husband and I discussed what the hell just happened. I was made irrelevant at 10am and we were signing the papers to our dream home at 11am. We agonized over the new house. Do we? Don't we? We made the decision NOT to buy the home that we fell in love with, the house that we saw our babies growing up in. "What now?" we said. Adding to the sadness in addition to the layoff from a company I loved was our recent miscarriage and an allergic reaction and lengthy healing from from a drug that almost killed me. Losing a baby + almost losing your life + losing your livelihood + losing your friends + losing your purpose in life = a very unfortunate perfect storm of unexplainable sadness. What do you do when you are in the space of wondering if you can even move forward another day? If you're me, you do something unexpected like start a blog called The Happygirl Experiment. It was the hardest thing I could think of doing and I thought if I can discover happiness when I am in the ninth circle of hell, then I can do anything, that I will be OK.

So here we are, three years later and I've learned a few things. In the search to get my happy back I've done things I never expected I would like hiking 7 miles in a hot desert and coming face to face with a rattlesnake, meeting experts from psychology to acupuncture, losing 100 pounds and seeing how far I can push myself. It's been life-changing and I've learned things—some profound, some small but they have all added to my happiness. On Monday, The Happygirl Experiment enters a new phase of hopeful happiness. It's the Happygirl Experiment and the Happy YOU experiment. I hope you like what's coming. Happy is on its way.

As I think back at the lessons I have learned, I wonder if I would change things, the way things happened. Often after someone goes through a "bad thing" the person will say "What happened to me made me who I am today. I wouldn't change what happened." I'm going to be perfectly honest here. Perhaps I am not as evolved but I WOULD change what happened. In the perfect world, I would still have my job and today I would be at a hotel in Los Angeles about to interview someone I admire, while my toddler daughter is out by the pool laughing with her father splashing with her pudgy little legs in the sunshine. THAT is what my life would look like. In some parallel world, I like to that it is. But it's OK because as my very wise husband said on May 5th 2009 "What is important? It is you and I and Emma (our dog). We are a family and THAT is what is important." He's right. I am so lucky.

And so, we're about to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Let's a raise a glass of tequila together to some of the lessons learned as The Happygirl.
  1. When tragedy happens to you, you can't think straight or ahead even. What exists is the just the moment you are in. Don't get ahead of yourself. Call the person you trust most in the world. Call two. When you can't stand up for yourself, build a YOU army to protect you and carry you until you can stand on your own two feet.
  2. When tragedy happens to someone else, reach out. Call, email, text "I am thinking of you. You will be OK. I am here." That's all. It can mean the world to someone. Even if you don't know what to say, say "I'm here for you."
  3. You have an inner voice, you know what's right, you know when you are off course. Listen to it. If you don't change when you know you should, the universe will do it for you. I am not proud of the person I was right before my position was eliminated. I wasn't a nice person back then. I was spoiled and difficult. I knew that I needed to change and it didn't and the universe? Well, the universe decided to do that for me. Trust me, it's much better when you choose this for yourself. The universe is a bitch when she takes over.
  4. Macaroni and cheese does not contain narcotic properties. No matter how much you eat.
  5. When you're crying, lace up your sneakers and go for a run or walk. You can't cry and run. I tried. It doesn't work. You trip and get ugly cut lip. Choose the run, stop the cry.
  6. There is no shame in therapy or drugs (prescribed). I did both. Would you suffer with a burst appendix? No! Then don't suffer with a burst soul.
  7. Stop reliving the past incident. The more you think about it, the more you are creating a strong neuropathway for this thought and the more vivid it will become. Immediately change the thought process. When the thought of losses kept popping into my head I immediately started thinking of my 5th grade ballet recital. For some reason thinking of each step stopped the bad thoughts.
  8. Think outside yourself. Volunteer. Go walk shelter dogs. Deliver donuts to a Veteran's home. Tell someone a joke:
    "Want to hear a joke? 'Why did the chicken cross the road?'
    " To get to your house! Want to hear another joke?"
    "Knock knock."
    "Who's there?"
    "It's chicken!!"
  9. There are people smarter than you are. Seek them out. Stretch your beliefs. When I was sitting in a dark room at night with an elderly shaman shouting at me in another language just inches from my ear with her breathe hot on my cheek, I was terrified but at the same time I wanted to giggle because I thought "Look at what I am doing! This is crazypants fantastic!"
  10. Count your blessings. Really. No matter how hard this is. When I was so desperately sad I was ANGRY doing this list. In fact I wrote in all capital letters but even then, there were bright things in my life. There is always one good thing. And if you're lucky, maybe more.
Thank you for joining me on this experiment. I am so very lucky to be on this adventure with you. It's just getting better.

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