What is the one thing you cannot do without? I don’t mean life’s essentials: food, water, loving relationships. I’m talking about that essential ingredient in a day that helps ensure that you will be the happy, relaxed version of yourself instead of the cranky, irritable version of yourself? Do you know it? Has anything come to mind? Mother, know thyself!
It was only recently that I discovered what my essential ingredient for a happy day is: It is solitude. On the 4th of July this year, we had a fabulous day planned with our closest family and friends. We went to two separate, fabulous cook-outs. It was nice out. I didn’t have to work. What was there not to like? Yet, despite all of these great ingredients, I had a really awful day. My little girl was driving me crazy; I had no patience for her. I was crabby to my husband. And, I couldn’t really enjoy the wonderful opportunity I had to hang out with my sisters and my two best friends. What in the world was wrong with me?
As I lay in bed that night reflecting, my temptation was to beat myself up emotionally: “Wow, you can’t be content no matter what! What’s wrong with you? You have serious issues.” But, instead, I took a step back, and I asked myself what had been missing. Why did I feel so irritable the whole day? It was because it was a day full of people and mothering with no break. I hadn’t had any “me time”. Now, under most conditions, time spent with my sisters and best friends is a kind of “me time”, but not when I haven’t had any time all to myself.
It doesn’t take much—unless I’ve done without it for too long—but I do require a minimum amount of solitude each day. I need some time to center, to pray, to remember that I am loved and loveable—even before I accomplish a thing! That’s my essential ingredient—solitude.
Do you have an essential ingredient for a happy day? I have thought up a few tips for helping others gain this fabulous piece of self-knowledge. I hope they will be helpful for you!
- Experience: It may require a few years of experience under your belt to discover your essential ingredient. I didn’t know too much about myself right out of college. It also may change with the changing seasons of your life.
- Experimentation: If you don’t know what you need, plan some experiments and then intentionally reflect on them. Plan some time with friends and some time alone. Try a date night or a girl’s night out. Make some space to pamper yourself before bed and after the kids are asleep. Try listening to your favorite music or dancing or hiking or reading. Try things that you can easily incorporate into your life. If your essential ingredient for a happy day includes being on a tropical island, you may have some trouble achieving that!
- If self-reflection is a challenge for you, that’s OK; you may just need to find the right avenue for reflection. Do you prefer to process out loud or in your head? Do you need to bounce ideas off of people or write them down?
- Whatever reflection method you choose, here’s an exercise for you: Compare two very different but equally bad experiences you’ve had with your family when you were irritable. Are there common threads? Next try comparing two different but equally good times you’ve had with your family when nothing could get you down. Again, look for commonalities. What was it that put you in such a good frame of mind?
Good luck to you as you seek this hidden treasure—the ingredients that enable you be the you that you love to be!