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Chapter 2 of the Happiness Project is entitled Remember Love. Although the majority of this chapter dealt with marriage, which I'll get to later, the part that I needed to read the most was really about other relationships. This hit home with me because, without getting too specific, I do have a person in my life that I have a damaged relationship with and was a source of unhappiness in my life.
Last year I focused on just letting things go. I had a lot of hatred built up along with other insecurities that really needed to be addressed. This person and I stopped all forms of communication and to be honest - it was for the best. It gave me the time to sort through a lot of feelings and to decide what to do about it with a clear head.
In March of this year we actually began communicating again. It is nowhere near a regular relationship and I honestly can't say at this point if we will continue to be in each others lives, but what I can say is that I'm learning how to deal with it more effectively and when it comes to happiness - that's what matters most.
There are two very important things I have learned this year. The first is forgiveness and the second is that you can't change others, only yourself. For me they kind of go hand in hand. I learned that for my own health I needed to forgive this person even if they didn't forgive me. Without forgiveness, I couldn't free myself of the hatred I felt. Without forgiveness, I couldn't look for a fresh start. Without forgiveness, I couldn't deal with things calmly.
Forgiveness is so much easier said than done. It means that you have to let go of all the thoughts of "but they did this" and "but that's on them" and "well if they hadn't been like this". You honestly have to let it all wash away and that is not easy. It doesn't mean that you have to let them do those things all over again, or even have them in your life, but you have to let go of all the negative thoughts.
After the forgiveness, I focused on the fact that I personally could never make this person change their ways to my liking. The only person I have control of is myself. Through that knowledge I am now able to control my actions better. This person may try to get under my skin and make me blow up as I used to, but now they can't because I am in complete control of my actions. I may not be able to control how they react, but with my new outlook I can better manage myself and control my own temperament and the things that come out of my mouth.
The third thing that I learned from the book is that I should stop expecting people to acknowledge things that I have done. They don't have to send me a card on my birthday just because I have sent them one. They don't have to praise me for a meal I cooked or thank me for something little I have done for them because in all honesty I am doing it because I want to and that should be enough. I used to feel a little bit jaded because I felt like people didn't appreciate me or the certain amount of effort it took me to do certain things, but after reading this I realized that it is true...I am doing it for myself because it makes me happy and there is nothing wrong with that.
Overall my biggest lesson this year is that I have to make the choices in life that I can live with. I have to do things for me, and I don't say that in some individualistic way that I never think of anyone else, I say it because in order to make other people happy, I have to be happy. If I take the time to really think about the choices that I make in life, I can remove all the bad feelings of guilt, remorse, anger, shame and envy. I can really be a happy person and that knowledge is truly freeing!
All images are property of Laura Sager unless otherwise noted.