317/365: First Popsicle

IMG_1805 copyShe had to get used to the icy cold thing and the vivd lime flavor (I bought those uppity real juice ones), but once down with that she was a fan.

The hot weather finally broke some time in the night, and we woke up to a perfect fall preview kind of morning. I feel like a new person. Like anything is possible. Like I need to start a new fall board in Pinterest. (Those things go together, right?).

Yesterday I sent Carl a text pic of Iris on the couch in her pajamas at 10am eating a sugar cookie and watching cartoons. This, I typed, is what giving up looks like.

But that was yesterday. This is today.

FURTHERMORE, I am half way through the documentary Happy on Netflix, and I’m all jazzed up on positive psychology now. Did you know, for instance, that circumstances—whether positive or negative—only account for about 10% of people’s happiness? That’s kind of crazy when you think about it. I’m so used to imagining how much happier I would be if I could figure out how to get Iris to “sleep in” until 6:30, or when she’s done teething, or when I’m not pregnant, or when I have enough mental space to get my writing schedule back together, or whatever. But 10% isn’t that much.

(50% is genetic according to studies involving identical twins, leaving about 40% resting on factors within a person’s control—although, obviously, not necessarily easy to identify or change).

The other thing I found kind of inspiring about the documentary was how relatively simple many of the factors are that relate to happiness. Variety/novelty is actually kind of huge. The brain is a “differential” instrument; changes provide context for it to identify, and allow you to feel, happiness. This explains why I feel so chipper when I get my hair cut. Even those seemingly non-profound changes—new bangs,  new recipes, a jog in the park instead of on the treadmill, a type of art you’ve never tried before, or the accomplishment of a task that’s escaped you far too long. These have real, measurable effects on your happiness.

Physical activity is one of the other major, natural highs.

So too close relationships with family and friends.

And all of those activities that allow you to lose yourself in the flow—gardening or writing or painting or whatever type of hobby you do purely for the love of it.

…. I was jotting all these notes down on my iPod yesterday while Iris snoozed on the couch next to me, and it suddenly whomped me how utterly unsurprising it should be that there’s an almost inevitable crash-and-burn period after the birth of a baby. I admit, this is the thing that sobers me most as I think about Little Man’s arrival. Those first few months with Iris were rough. Like dark night of the soul territory. And, yes, I realize there are major hormonal changes in the newly post-partum body, and obviously having a tiny person who is totally dependent on you is kind of daunting/awe-inspiring, and not getting enough sleep is its own category of ouch.

But also the little stuff, you know?

Like the fact that you do the same three things all day every day for months—feed the baby, monitor diapers, try to get the baby to sleep. Variety count? Zero.

Physical activity is also nonexistent. First because your body was recently ripped apart and stitched back together. Also because you have no time. So there’s that.

Flow activities also tend to fall by the wayside. And even though family and friends are being their supportive selves, bringing dinners and cleaning up the digs, it’s hard to have those connecting conversations that require time and the ability to process.

I’m not exactly sure what to do about that, but it does give me a framework of possibility at least. I can’t really control how much sleep I’m able to get, and the hormonal stuff is what it is, but the thought that there might be a few strings I can pull—that gives me a place to start.

I’ll take whatever I can get.



3 thoughts on “317/365: First Popsicle

  1. This is really insightful! Thanks for sharing. I’ve just put it as “Number 1” in our Netflix cue!! Glad you’re already thinking through how to cope with Baby Boy. I’m sure preparing will help some! XO

  2. Love this post. So interesting. Might have to check it out. I read Moonwalking With Einstein which is about memory but also other functions of the brain (I reccomend!) and novelty was also mentioned as important for our memories. They talked about that phenomenon adults always moan about where summers go like the wind and time passes at a gallop…and research has proven that our minds mark the passing of time via novelty events. The fewer new things we do, try, see, eat, hear…etc. the less our brain tells us has happened and so there are large blank spots that just get chomped and suddenly summer was two minutes long. Interesting, no? I always kind of thought it was just pessimism but it was super enlightening to me to learn that there is more to it. I have been working on trying to do lots of interesting, different things over the summer this year. Cool to hear happiness is also connected.

  3. Well, after a whirlwind read-through, I am all caught up on your blog. This post was really interesting to me in light of my own post-partum strategy. All the books go on and on about rest and making everyone respect your need to be alone. But I have never wanted to be alone. Even though, I’m normally an introvert who finds alone time restorative, post-partum I like to have projects! friends! adventures! We’ve gone on a couple of crazy trips and embarked on chicken raising all before my six-week check-ups. Maybe this is a little of the novelty you were talking about?

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