Normal Does Not Equal Happy
I’m reading James Altucher’s book Reinvent Yourself and thoroughly enjoying it. In his interview with author Judy Blume* (y’all remember Judy Blume, right?), Altucher talks about how Blume’s “normal” life—marriage, kids, suburbs, picket fence—started making her sick. Although doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with her, Blume was at times bedridden with a series of mysterious illnesses.
Time went on, and Blume started turning into her inner voice that was telling her that she was not living her life authentically. She started to question what she was doing and why she was doing it.
As soon as she stopped living the life that was supposed to make her happy and started living life her way—for Blume that meant writing—her symptoms and her illness disappeared. Blume needed a creative outlet, and living her life solely for other people and other people’s expectations was not giving her that outlet.
Living by the rules is something that a lot of us do. We look at our lives and say “I have a good job, my husband has a good job, I have 2 children whom I adore, and a beautiful home. Why aren’t I happy? I should be happy!”
Are you in that place where you feel you should be happy, but somehow you are not?
It’s easy to go from “I should be happy” to “there must be something wrong with me?”, but please consider the idea that nothing is wrong with you. Maybe you just don’t want what everyone else wants. Maybe you don’t want what everyone else thinks you should want.
That’s what happened with Judy Blume. She grew up in the 1950s (born in 1938) and did exactly what she was supposed to do—she got married at age 19, stayed home while her husband went to law school and then became a lawyer, kept up the house, had 2 children, and tried her damnedest to be the kind of self-sacrificing mother that her own mother was—and it didn’t work for her.
Finding out how to live your life in a way that is meaningful to you is the key to happiness.
We live in a culture that doesn’t encourage or support us in finding our own path if that path is different from the norm.
Some people love the challenge of having a high-status/high paying job that requires them to eat, sleep, and breathe work. They thrive on 80-hour work weeks. Some people don’t.
Some people find enormous pleasure in being able to stay home with their kids. Others find it stifling.
Some people adore suburbia and want to live in a neighborhood where the kids can ride their bikes, and moms and dads can have a drinky-drink on the porch with the neighbors. Others find that lifestyle soul-sucking.
It doesn’t matter which you prefer. There is no right answer. It only feels wrong if it goes against the cultural norms (which are a moving target anyway).
The important thing is…if you are not happy, change something. If you are not happy and you try to deny, ignore, or gloss over that fact it will come up in other ways maybe in the form of depression, or anxiety, or a mysterious physical ailment.
The mind and body are connected in ways that we do not fully understand. Our feelings are messengers. So if you are feeling dissatisfied, disconnected, and/or disenchanted, listen up—there is a reason that you are feeling this way.
Make sure to give yourself time—everyday even!—to reflect on and create a life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.
How do you express yourself creatively? Do you allow time in your life to just *be* without concern about doing? If you had all the time in the world, how would you spend your time?
These are great questions to journal about it--journaling allows you to be both reflective and expressive and its a great tool for tapping into that wise inner voice that all of us have.
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*I read many of Judy Blume’s books in elementary school—including Deenie, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret—and then Forever and Wifey (with the booked wrapped in a paper bag cover) in junior high. Good stuff!