Happiness

Becci McEvoy

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Every year I set myself a reel of New Years resolutions, that by and large, I don’t stick to past the end of January/beginning of March, if I’m doing really well.

But at the start of 2019, I wasn’t feeling it. I was just beginning to come out of the real darkness that the previous year, in particular the final three months, had been. I’ve since spoken openly about the mental health struggles both my husband and I have faced in recent years, and so I won’t go back into that now.

However, those experiences taught me, in a way I had never truly grasped before, perspective about what matters and what really doesn’t. Not least that nothing in life, literally nothing, is more important than being happy.

And so at the start of 2019, I set myself just one resolution; to be unapologetically happy. I’ll be honest, when I set that resolution I wasn’t for a second thinking that the year that has just passed, would be what followed. I made bold, out of my comfort zone, scary and sometimes terrifying decisions.

And now it’s the 1st of January 2020, the start of a whole new decade. And, as always, I find myself reflective. Thinking about whether a year on, I’ve achieved my goal of being happy.

Here’s just some of the things I did in 2019, in the name of prioritising my own happiness:

I unfriended/unfollowed/muted/stopped spending time with people who made me feel like shit:

This was a huge one. It’s something that always made me feel uncomfortable, like I had an overwhelming fear about what they would say or do if I did. But if 2018 taught me anything, it’s that no matter what I did, people will say or do what they want anyway. You can’t control it. But you can control the impact they have on you, and by removing them from my virtual word, their impact suddenly became almost non existent. I’ve finally learned to be okay with people not knowing my side of the story, because I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.

I’ve actively communicated with my husband:

Now this sounds ridiculous, because I mean, he’s the man I love and want to spend my life with, why wouldn’t we communicate? But anyone else managing a relationship whilst raising small kids will understand. It’s not easy. I don’t want to go into the details of this, because it’s personal, but our relationship has been through the ringer these last few years, and some of the rows we had were genuinely near on relationship ending. We’ve talked a lot in the last 18 months, we’ve addressed the themes of what we argue about and we’ve changed things. Don’t get me wrong, we’re both still tired, we piss each other off, I’m sure regularly, but I honestly can’t remember the last time we properly argued. We make an effort and we appreciate each other more, and we’re genuinely happier together than I think we ever have been.

I self referred for therapy, and prioritised self care:

At the end of 2018, a perfect storm of circumstances led me to have a nervous breakdown. I hit rock bottom and I hit it hard. I was in a dark place and it seemed everyone around me wanted me to go on medication. Now I’m not against medication, far from it actually, I mean it quite literally saved my husbands life. But you know yourself, don’t you?

I didn’t want or need medication, I wanted coping mechanisms. In January I self referred for therapy via the NHS, and was put on group CBT. I’d always had myself down as a natural worrier, and that was just how it was, but it turns out that it could be different. It’s still a work in progress, you don’t just stop worrying overnight, but the processes I learned through that course were genuinely life changing, and 100% made me happier, during a time that was still quite difficult this year.

In the latter half of the year, I also started #onethingformeeveryday. Self care is a funny thing, it sounds so simple and obvious, so why is it so hard to do? In part I think it’s because we live in a world where judgement is everywhere, especially it seems, if you’re a Mum. Judgement about how much you’re doing for your kids, how well and how selflessly. And we live in a world where being busy is worn like a badge of honour; where we all seem to be in competition as to who’s more tired, more stressed and who has more reason to complain.

Practicing self care shouldn’t be a luxury, so I made it a priority, not just now and then, not just when there’s an awareness campaign on social media, but every day. Sometimes it was small things, like sitting down to have breakfast before taking on the jobs of the day, sometimes it was having a shower and doing my hair instead of the housework, and other times I went big, and had a childless day out or a night away. Self care makes me a better version of myself, and my whole family benefits from it.

I prioritised experiences over things:

We’ve actually done this for a few years now, but I wholly recommend it. Instead of getting the kids toys for their birthday, we buy them experiences. And, we put the money they get from other people towards the same. Via Christmas and birthday money we would have spent, and that they’ve received this year we’ve signed them up for swimming lessons, gymnastics, ballet and football. We’ve been to Legoland, and on holiday to Palma Nova. They talk about the fun we had there often. Yet they didn’t even notice that two months ago, I sold the paw patrol tower that they literally begged for.

I embraced my emotions and stopped seeing them as a flaw:

I’m very sensitive. I’m super emotional and can cry a lot. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I get genuinely sad about bad things happening in the world, that have no impact on me personally. I’m opinionated and can be fiercely passionate. I used to think that made me weak, I spent a lot of the last few years trying to be less of all these things or apologising for them. But sod that, those feelings are valid, they make me who I am and they make me good at what I do. If other people don’t like it, well fuck them.

Which leads me nicely into my next point.

I stopped giving a fuck about what other people think:

I wholly recommend that anyone and everyone reads The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, by Sarah Knight. I read it two years ago, and I’m finally putting the lessons learned into action.

And probably the most significant lesson that book taught me was that if work wasn’t making me happy, I should quit.

Sarah’s book literally opens on this point, and when I first read it, I remember laughing, and wanting to cry, because that seemed such a ridiculously privileged thing to do. Something I never could, I mean what would I do?

Don’t get me wrong, it is privileged, you need to not screw yourself financially in the process, but it is possible. At the end of April 2019, I finally made the decision I’d toyed with for the best part of 2 years, I left my job without another one to go to.

The pressures of trying to have it all, of succeeding in my career and being the Mum, the wife, the friend and the person I wanted to be was too much. And so I worked out what bills we could strip back, how much we needed to bring in to cover our outgoings, and I left. Our minimal savings and taking the girl out of nursery covered us for a little while, and then I started helping a friend with the social media for her business, and cleaning for her a couple of hours a week to help us out.

I’ll be honest, there were times that made me feel a bit sad, I was well educated, had built myself a good career… and then all of a sudden, I was cleaning to make money.

But actually, 2019 opened my eyes to knowing that my job doesn’t define me. That I didn’t have to have it all figured out, I just needed to do what made me happy more than it made me sad, and take one step forward at a time. And I kept reminding myself why I was doing it, for time with my kids.

And you know what? That way to make a little bit of money so I could stay at home with them a little longer ended up opening the door to me starting my own business! I’ll be forever grateful to Elisa for her kindness, support and inspiration – long before I decided to leave my job, she encouraged me to value myself, know my worth and believe that there was a different path. And when I did finally take that leap of faith, she went on to welcome me in to play a part in the success of Baby Bear’s Den.

So, did I achieve my resolution?

I mean I’m not always happy, that would be weird, and honestly, probably unhealthy. After all, surely you can only really appreciate happiness, if you know what it is to be sad. I’m certainly still stressed, I’m not sure life with two kids will ever not be stressful. But that’s normal, right? And actually, in manageable doses, pretty healthy.

My unhappiness now is the exception, rather than what had rapidly become the rule. My stress is manageable now, and not all consuming. I don’t feel heavy, or weighed down by other people’s judgements. I genuinely, very rarely, argue with my husband. I’m content.

In the words of the utterly iconic One Tree Hill We’re always thinking that someday we’ll be happy. You know, we’ll get that car or that job or that person in our lives that’ll fix everything. But happiness is a mood, and it’s a condition, not a destination. It’s like being tired or hungry. It’s not permanent. It comes and goes, and that’s okay. And I feel like if people thought of it that way, they’d find happiness a lot more often.”

And so when you think about it like that, yeah, you know what, I nailed my 2019 resolution.

Thank you 2019, you’ve been genuinely life changing. Here’s to 2020, where my word of focus will be… health 💖

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