So, the party is over. The holidays are done. Now what? Ahh yes! the cold January blues have just about to set in. The holiday buzz is gone, the weather is less than ideal and the bills from the past are coming due. Realising your mindset right now and reacting appropriately will set the stage on your happiness for the rest of the winter and year. So for the next few weeks, I shall be on high alert not to allow myself to slip into the winter blues. Identifying what makes me anxious now is key to avoiding the sadness.
Over the holiday break, I had a chance to reflect on what really makes me happy. As I was putting together my New Year’s resolutions, I pondered on the events that will lead me to a fulfilling life. What do I need to accomplish to lead me where I want to go? After much debate, I wrote them down and published them for added accountability. Problem is, I omitted a resolution! When I ask myself what makes me happy, what I should be asking myself: What makes me sad? In fear of pushing my family and myself too much, I avoided committing myself to something that I know deep down, must be changed.
My wife knows when I am stressed or anxious about something. I have a tendency to pick our house apart and feel the need to clean every square inch of it. It has taken some time, but she knows to just stay out of my way and let me clean until I get whatever it is out of my head. Over the years I have noticed that I get into these moods when I feel most anxious about our financial situation. Deep anxiety is something that I have battled with for a long time. Only recently have I identified the triggers and effective coping mechanisms. Making my wife and son irritated by my excessive need to clean the house is not an appropriate coping mechanism. While we end up with a clean house after my anxiety filled shit-storm, I end up making those around me miserable in the process.
But what is it that makes me the most anxious and sad? My things! It has been said that the things you own will eventually end up owning you. As I grow older, the more I look at the stuff that surrounds me, the more I begin to resent them. My wisdom has allowed me to appreciate experiences over collecting stuff. I have learned to appreciate relationships more than personal wealth. For years I believed that owning a house, a car and collecting sports memorabilia was the only life I ever wanted. Then something changed, I now want to live with less and experience more. When I die, the only thing that I will leave behind is the created memories and not the things that I had accumulated. Last spring I hastily sold my Mustang and didn’t even shed a tear when it drove away. I was so relieved to be free from the anxious energy I spent on that car. Sure, it was “fun” to have, but I became obsessed with cleaning and fussing with it that I eventually I grew to resent it. Selling it was an instant relief. The car no longer owned me. Now I am turning my sights on the house that we “own”. It has become too much for what we really need. Is it time to take the big step to downsize now?
I have learned that my anxiety fuelled house cleaning is my brain’s way to appease my possessions. By keeping them clean, I somehow manage to regain control over my house and the things within it and my stress eases temporarily. I have dreams of owning a tiny condo with little or no maintenance. I dream of travelling the world on a whim and not worrying about the pressures of interest leaches picking away at our bank account. I dream of experiencing life instead of owning any of the stuff in it. I dream where money doesn’t have to matter to our family; not by winning the lottery or by getting that big promotion, but by living within the most basic of our needs. I dream that my family can actually experience whatever it is that we want to experience. I dream that someday my son will be able to dream too and that his stuff won’t possess him.
I think I may have omitted the biggest New Year’s resolution of them all to my happiness. In 2017, it is time to make less become more.