Author’s Note: This is the first in a regular series of Being Me Mondays. Check back each Monday to see what I discover.
“Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring. So I go back to being ME.
In a corner of my bedroom sits a white plastic laundry basket. Buried beneath layers of clean whites and yesterday’s discarded Union sweatshirt and my oversized “fat” jeans, is a a copy of “Manic” by Terri Cheney, “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean and Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project.”
They’re on my reading to-do list … along with about ten others strewn about the house and downloaded on my Kindle app waiting for me to find the time to dive in..
I gathered those books prior to beginning my Oprah Project sixty two days ago and set them on a bedroom lounge chair. That “chair” has since been united with the sectional couch it once belonged to, which is why the books now lie in a heap with the unfolded laundry.
“The Orchid Thief” I haven’t read before and picked up at a festival featuring local writers and those with close ties to the Berkshires. It’s been five years and it still goes unread, but I am determined to get to it this year.
“The Happiness Project” I have read, but I pulled it from its dusty home on a bookshelf recently because it motivated and inspired me to take action and accountability for injecting more “happy” into my life when I first read it, and since my Oprah Project is in all reality, a Happiness Project of sorts, it seemed appropriate to give it another look … someday.
On Day 6 of My Oprah Project fate gave me a little push, and brought my attention back to “The Happiness Project.” And guess who reintroduced me to Gretchen Rubin? Why it was Ms. Oprah Winfrey, of course.
I’ve tried to make it a routine to watch one recorded episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday each Sunday, but sometimes I’ll sprinkle them throughout my week. On March 5, I opened my playlist of about 10 recorded episodes and immediately the name Gretchen Rubin (Season 6, Episode 20) caught my eye. I remember you, I thought, and knowing to follow a sign when it presents itself, I clicked play.
Oprah, as usual, opened with some profound words of wisdom, and a quote: “To say yes to life you have to start saying yes to life experiences,” which reminded to revisit my Yes Project from years ago. And then after a brief back to forth with Rubin, Rubin began breaking down her approach to her happiness project.
And what stopped me in my tracks (or pulled my wandering eyes from my Instagram account), was when Rubin began discussing the 12 Commandments) to beginning a happiness project:
1. Be (insert your name)
2. Let it Go (keeping things in perspective)
3. Act the way you want to feel (because we feel the way we act)
4. Do it now. (stop thinking about it)
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process (and the outcome won’t matter)
7. Spend out. (stop hoarding and trust in abundance)
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done. (just do it)
11. No calculation (don’t keep score)
12. There is only love.
Rubin described the “Being (Me)” phase as …..
A simple concept, and an obvious one, but how many of us simply spend life just being ourselves.
I thought I did, but in actuality, I’ve realized that I’ve spent 25 or so years trying to be the me I thought I should be — and that is an impossible ideal and forever disappointing task.
I was the psychotherapist and School Adjustment Counselor, and took great pride in having a career that sounded important and impacted lives.
I was a former athlete who, until recently, continued to describe myself that way despite being a few pounds overweight and not committing to a consistent exercise routine in nearly 20 years.
I was a stay at home mom who protested that title for years, because I felt I should be out there contributing to the world and bringing home a paycheck. I wrote grants for our PTO, I took writing courses, I wrote a few articles here and there and got paid, just to prove I wasn’t just a stay home mom, yet i was really enjoying the role.
I helped my husband plant a vegetable garden and a flower garden so we could eat fresh, organic vegetables and a have a beautiful, picture perfect, Better Homes and Gardens yard, yet I detested digging in the dirt, picking out weeds, and gardening in general, but it sounded and looked good.
I even started a short-lived blog titled “Mama Verde” (Green Mama) because I really, really, wanted to live a greener, more organic lifestyle, with organic meals and food products, and composting piles and a home recycling center. But that crashed and burned when I found out my husband was pacifying my attempts and sorting the cans and the papers and glass inside the house, and then throwing them all in the back of his truck and secretly depositing it all in his dumpster at work. Oh and did I mention my penchant for chocolate, and guacamole and tortilla chips, and Fritos. Find me an organic Frito and I’ll love you for life.
The list goes on.
So it seemed like one of Oprah’s “Ah-ha Moments” to me when Gretchen Rubin reminded me on that Super Soul Sunday episode that the first step in being happy was just to Be Me. It was refreshing and freeing and a little unnerving, because somewhere between elementary school and age 44, I had forgotten who “Me” was.
So I began to really delve into the reality that was RM, and continued to ask the age-old cliched questions, “Who am I?” “What do I like to do?” “What am I passionate about?”
And slowly, I have begun to find the answers, and I’m sure more will present themselves as I continue upon this yearlong adventure to live my life “according to Oprah.”
So far I have discovered (or shall I say finally admitted) that:
I hate to garden, but I love fresh organic vegetables in the summer, so I will either join a CSA this summer or shop the local farmers markets and organic markets.
I will continue to encourage my family to recycle, because I believe in it, but I know it’s more feasible when my father returns from Florida in the summer and picks up our garbage when he heads to the local dump, because he will put the recyclables where they belong.
I won’t squelch my soulful side because some of my family and friends think mediating and getting in touch with my true self is a little hokey. Instead, I will surround myself with like-minded soul sisters, and embrace the “crunchy side” of me, that would have never be caught in Birkenstock’s, while eating whole food organic meals, in a recycled earth-friendly t-shirt years ago, and that really, really wants to wear a flower wreath made out of daisies on the top of its head.
I will stop berating myself for not being the athlete I was in high school and college, and slowly get back to an exercise regimen that doesn’t feel like exercise, that includes long hikes with my dogs, kayaking, and regular walks and with my family and friends during which I can chat and de-stress and get in my 10,000 or more steps a day.
I am also going to stop telling myself I’m not worthy of trustworthy, caring and meaningful friendships, because I am and the people who currently make up my small intimate group of friends from all phases of my life foster those kind of friendships. They’re the people I can laugh with and cry with, vent to and downright bitch to, and I know they won’t judge or betray my open heart.
So on that sixth day of my Oprah Project I decided to just Be RM (OK seriously, I decided to just Be Kelly), and thus far, I’m keeping that promise to myself, no matter what that brings.
So no, fair readers, I have not abandoned my Oprah Project, and yes, I have truly lived the past 62 days with “O as my guide.’ I’ve just decided to give myself a break if I can’t always write about it in a timely manner (Commandment #9; Lighten Up),because Being Kelly, also means …
Having spurts of OCD-like control and organization, and living some days in chaotic, disarray.
Being laser-focused and ultra-productive – completing a week’s worth of work in a single day, while preparing nutritional and tasty meals for my family, attending a plethora of sporting events, juggling booster club responsibilities and even getting in daily walks and meditation sessions – or spending several days depressed and unmotivated and snuggled up on the couch creating my own Hallmark Movie Marathon from the recordings on my DVR.
So thanks for being patient with me, and accepting this blog and me … warts at all!