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.