Journal entry from June 5, 2013:

I wish I could be a happy person.

I don’t even remember what that is.

I spent the majority of winter 2013 laid up on the couch recovering from a stroke. As a busy person who’s not used to a lot of downtime, it was weird. And difficult. I wanted things to go back to the way they were before I got sick: busy, busy, busy without so much as a care in the world.

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about things, it was my life was so filled up with deadlines and demanding people that I didn’t have time to care about anything else. In fact, the only time I realized something non-work related was really bothering me was right before I was about to drift off to sleep. But then when I woke up in the morning I’d have forgotten all about it.

Being incapacitated leaves you with a lot of time to yourself. I couldn’t scroll on the computer, iPad or phone, so that distraction was out. An interesting thing happened when I tried to watch television: most of the trash programs I used to watch (The Bachelorette, Real Housewives, Bravo in general) made me sick. I don’t mean a little queasy, I mean my brain would literally start to ache and I’d have to shut it off. That caught my attention. Those shows seemed pretty harmless, but I guess not?

So there I was, lying in quiet, alone.

Slowly but surely, I came face-to-face with myself and it was pretty off-putting. Most of my thoughts were not all that positive. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they were pretty negative. For years I’d called myself a realist, but somewhere along the way I’d crossed over into pessimism. Here’s an example: I’m self-employed so when work wasn’t coming in steadily my immediate train of thought was I’d never get a client again, have to fold the business, abandon my life and move back to Canada. Nothing too excessive.

Or there was the time a friend asked me to go to China. I hung up the phone and shook my head, if that person had work ethic they’d understand I can’t just ‘run off to China’ for 3 weeks. Meanwhile deep inside I was seething with anger/jealousy because I wanted to go so badly, but was too afraid to take time off in case there wasn’t any work when I got back. Not only was I mad at myself, I had a lot of bitter feelings towards the person who (high five to them), without a full-time job, had figured out a way to go to friggin’ China and wasn’t one bit worried about the future beyond it. How’d she do that? And why couldn’t I figure it out, too??

Those are just two work examples, but I’d say a limited outlook dominated most of my thought life back then. Somewhere in the past 10 years, fear had snuck up on me and snuffed out my joy. I was so unhappy.

One night I flipped past PBS (one of the only things my brain could handle) and a lady was talking about brain regeneration, how the brain CAN regenerate if introduced to new thoughts and experiences. She mentioned things as easy taking a different route than you normally walk or having someone read a book to you instead of reading it yourself. She spoke passionately about the power of positive thinking and filling your mind and life with encouraging, uplifting thoughts and people. It made a lot of sense and I quietly cried watching her. It was like someone had, for the first time in a long time, shone a light and helped me start to see what had happened in my life – and that I could change.

I won’t sit here and say I have all the answers because obviously I don’t, but I think I’m going to take a few posts and write down every way I can remember about climbing out of the hole I was in. I’d say I’m about 75% out and looking for new ways every day to keep moving forward. I hope it’ll be an encouragement to anyone else who might be feeling stuck or maybe not even realize they’re in a dark place. At minimum, it will be a great reminder to me that I can come out of hard times and have come a long way.

Chris took this video of me when we were in Big Sur. It might sound crazy, but I watch it almost every day and sometimes more than once. It makes me SO HAPPY to see myself so filled with joy I felt like I could burst, especially when only a year ago I was wondering if I would ever remember what a little happiness even felt like. There weren’t any new shoes or clothes or a piece of business that came in. Nope, it was pure gratitude at being alive and able to enjoy life. The location didn’t hurt either 🙂

If you’re out there near some woods, I highly recommend running barefoot through them. Disclaimer: beware the poison oak!