Five years ago, if you were to ask me, “What do you love, Lenora? What makes you happy?” you would’ve been met with a rather surprised expression and a rumbling “Ummmmmmmmm.”
Because I had no idea. Oh, I had a few things I liked to eat, but I didn’t know what I, as a person, liked in most other ways. I was as disconnected from my likes as I was disconnected from my emotions. I wasn’t live-live-living…I was just twirling and surviving. But not living.
With healing comes self-respect and with self-respect comes a desire to know what you love so you can do more of it. So you can tailor your life to you…instead of to everyone else. So you can be happy.
But when I got around to that happiness thing, again I drew a blank. What foods did I like? What books did I like? What was “fun” for me!? Where did happiness and pleasure and contentment lie? What did I want my life to look like? I was distressed to discover that I knew more about what my husband liked than about what I liked.
When in distress, make a spreadsheet. That’s my mantra! Make a list! Or to quote Sheldon Cooper, “If there were a list of things that make me more comfortable, lists would be on the top of that list.” Obviously from the picture of Cuddles the Kitten above, like Sheldon I’m also a huge fan of label makers but…moving on. Quickly.
It may sound corny but my spreadsheet/list works for me. I call it “Haute Serenity” because serenity is my goal and I’m a sucker for anything with the word “haute” in front of it. Yes, corny. I know!
I made a list of everything I liked because, call it low self-awareness or early onset Alzheimers, I can’t remember what I like. Here are some of the column titles:
- The Magical Feeling of Serenity: Here I listed all the books, movies and places that have given me a transcendent feeling of peace, warmth and protection.
- Daily Fun: Homey, every-day pleasures like coffee, smoked fish on a bagel, puttering in the garden and stargazing at night.
- When I Need Happiness & Laughter: This column lists quick fixes for when I’m sad. Things that always make me smile like comedian Bill Engvall and watching videos of ardvarks, hedgehogs and hot air balloon raisings.
- When I Need to Cry: This is one of the most important columns on the spreadsheet. To this day, like so many victims of narcissistic abuse, I can’t cry out my own pain. This column lists movies and songs that never fail to make me cry. They get me started so the tears can flow…like priming the pump.
Are you still with me? Oh good!
The spreadsheet then moves on to the senses. I devote one column to visual things that inspire happiness. For me that would be Old Masters as well as motifs like chintz, newsprint and handwriting. Art that features anthropomorphized animals and European street scenes is also a favorite.
Perish the thought that we forget olfactory pleasure! I mean, it’s plain as the nose on your face! What fragrances make you happiest? Calmest? Mine are lily of the valley, lilac, linden and Fresh White Musk Fantasy. You can keep your Chanel N° 5! One whiff of Fresh White Musk Fantasy from that high end perfumier, Walgreens, and my stress level drops five notches.
Do you remember singing a song in church, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear…cause the Father up above is looking down in love”? The next column is about sound: auditory. What do you love to listen to? What songs or sounds make your stomach muscles unclench? My list includes French and Italian café music and the music one hears in Asian buffet restaurants.
Which brings us, very happily, to what should be the happiest of columns: FOOD! I’ve devoted an entire article to the subject of food but, if you’re like me, you even forget what you like to eat. You’re so busy cooking what everyone else likes, you just stuff anything in your own mouth to keep body and soul together. Well, that stops now! Take the time to figure out what you truly love to eat and then stick with it.
If you’re reading this and (duh!) I guess you are, then you may have lost your family, choosing peace and No Contact over continued narcissistic abuse. There’s a spreadsheet column (and an article!) for that. It’s called “Pseudo Families.” When I miss belonging in the bosom of a family, there are a few TV shows that give me that warm fuzzy feeling again.
The next few columns are more active. I included them in the spreadsheet because, given free time, I tend to fritter it away, in the words of C. S. Lewis, “doing neither what I ought nor what I liked” because I simply I don’t know or can’t remember what I like!
So now there’s a column titled “Reading” listing my favorite books and authors as well as items I want to find at the library. Next is “Favorite Movies” and next is the “Things to Learn About” column; pretty self explanatory. Next is the “Places to Visit Virtually” because I may never get to Paris, but YouTube is bursting with wonderful videos posted by those who went…and I can experience it virtually without all the trouble, expense and constipation of actually going.
Many of you have told me that your therapists ask you, “What do you do for fun?” and you draw a blank. The next column is simply title “Fun”…cause I haven’t got a clue either! “Hollywood trivia” and “Scrabble” head the list. Okay, so I’m a geek! Moving on!
“Nostalgia” is one of my favorite columns. Narcissistic abuse aside, we’ve all been blessed and this column lists the times in life when we were really happy and had a wonderful time. List those…and if you’re really feeling nostalgic, see if you can find pictures of those places, some long gone, online. My digital scrapbook of childhood people, places and events I enjoyed is one of my favorite hobbies and surprisingly large. I’d forgotten how much fun I’ve had in life!
Just a few columns remain on the spreadsheet and they’re self-explanatory:
- What I Missed: Maybe, before I die, I can make up for all the things my narcissists wouldn’t allow me to do. Going to a Renaissance Festival tops that list!
- Favorite Childrens Books. The older you get, the more you circle back to what brought you joy in childhood. New children’s books are so insipid and crappy. I may do an article just about the truly great books my parents introduced me to when I was little.
- Bucket List: I may never get to go to Ireland, Vienna and Paris but a girl can dream, can’t she!?
Spreadsheets may not be your cuppa tea so find your own way to collect what makes you happy so you never, ever forget how to take care of yourself and never forget what makes you happy. For you, your list may take the form of a poem, a website, a painting, a collage. It doesn’t matter how you take care of yourself…as long as you do it!