Find a happy place

May 23, 2014

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!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Karla May 26, 2014 at 8:29 am

    I think that having gone through major health crises of my own I can relate to your recovery. A strong will helps with revitalizing your body and soul.. Now I am going through a ugly divorce (but to be fair what divorce is pretty) and was in the depths for a min. Still hurt but less bewildered and lost feeling so I enjoy reading this. You will come out on the other end of this much stronger for it. BTW Big Sur used to be my backyard 🙂 now out here in LA and love it more!

    • Reply This Free Bird May 29, 2014 at 2:15 am

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. It’s encouraging to hear you’re able to weather your current situation because of the strength you built up in the former. That’s good stuff (even in a crappy time). You are SO LUCKY to have lived close to Big Sur! It truly has become my be all end all 🙂

  • Reply Jen May 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Carrie, I am so happy whenever I read that things are better for you every day! I read a really interesting article not long ago about good stress v. bad stress. Good stress is things like short-term hard work to meet a goal, daily exercise, or getting through an challenge that has a definitive beginning and an end. Working through those challenges is generally beneficial both during and after because they give us strength and a positive sense of accomplishment and result in improved strength/endurance afterwards (and sometimes even during the process, depending upon the stressor). The most important of part is having breaks in between where there is calm, rest and relaxation to rejuvenate. Toxic stress is as you describe – long term, unrelenting, and includes negative emotions and energy both during and after the process. This is the stress that saps us all if we don’t manage it. This requires awareness and a commitment to making changes when needed. I’m so happy you have gained an awareness of all of this and you know I am loving those Big Sur posts!

    We live in an environment that not only makes introspection difficult, it discourages it. People can’t do anything without a device or a distraction – TV, radio, iPod, etc. All of this input on a constant basis helps us ignore tuning in to our own thoughts. People don’t know how to be alone any more! So while I’m still amazed and sad that you went through the stroke, the period afterwards where you were basically 100% unplugged from all distractions was clearly not wasted for a second!! Thank you as always for sharing, I can see from the comments that you are helping those around you. Awesome stuff!

    • Reply This Free Bird May 29, 2014 at 2:12 am

      Thank you!! I love reading your insightful comments and appreciate what you have to say every time. I’m with you on 100% unplugged downtime. I truly think it’s the only way to get down deep and let whatever is in there come out either in waves or a full on storm.

  • Reply This Free Bird May 25, 2014 at 3:27 am

    Hey Debby – I haven’t kept up on reading blogs either, so no worries. Glad to hear things are going better for you. They believe my stroke was stress-induced. It’s several posts back if you want to read. No worries if you don’t 🙂

  • Reply Debby May 24, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Oh, Carrie…

    I had no idea you had a stroke. You post caught my eye on FB. I have to admit I have been bad with keeping up with blogs.

    It sounds like you are getting to a really good place and that you have learned from your hardship what is important. My divorce/drama still continues but it’s near the end. I have learned how tough/strong I am and what is important in life. Money is def. not at the top.

    I love your openness and writing in this post so much. Bravo.

    Do you remember I had a blood clot? Did they test you for one of the generic clotting disorders?

    Big Hugs.

    Deb xo

  • Reply Erika ~Tiptoe Butterfly~ May 23, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    we both had an ‘unhappy’ 2013 – but it’s great to realize all that has come from that and make the rest of your life better! – it all means something; sometimes we lose sight or focus on it; but eventually we get ourselves to realize ‘ohhhh that’s why’ …. have you watched the documentary “Happy” – it’s on Netflix – if you haven’t please do; i watch it once a week; it makes me get my happy back whenever i think {or have} lost it!

    {ps and if u ever wanna cry your eyes out; watch ‘A little bit of heaven’ (also on Netflix) .. but then right after you MUST watch ‘Happy’ to make all things right in the world}

    • Reply This Free Bird May 25, 2014 at 3:25 am

      E! I used to watch HAPPY when I was in the tub in a detox bath. I love it!!

  • Reply Erika May 23, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I love this. And I just think because of that video it might be my favorite post to date–ever. And that is saying a lot! Maybe it’s because the woods are my happy place too, or maybe simply it’s because I relate so much to all of this. The bitterness, the frustration and fear. That was me just a few years ago.

    I’m so thankful you are finding your happy place. 🙂

    • Reply This Free Bird May 25, 2014 at 3:24 am

      Thank you, Erika. I’m so glad you’re finding your way, too 🙂

  • Reply Courtney May 23, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    This was really interesting to read – and gives me a lot to think about. I identify in a really visceral, powerful way with a lot of your observations. My problem has always been that I feel stalled on things, unable to move forward and effect change in my life or my attitude, even when I’m painfully aware how necessary it is….

    • Reply This Free Bird May 25, 2014 at 3:23 am

      Okay I felt the same way, without being able to articulate it, for the longest time. I’ll write some more of these and we should email/talk. Not sure I’ll have anything profound, but hopefully can share some of my experiences to shed some light for you.

  • Reply lena May 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    I can’t tell you how much I love this. Or need to find more of it everyday.

    • Reply This Free Bird May 25, 2014 at 3:27 am

      Skipping in the woods? YES!

    Leave a Reply