The Magic of 11.11.11

11:11 a.m. on 11.11.11

I’m a dreamer. Always have been. As a child, I would lie in my bed at night and let my imagination run wild like tiny movies, each one creating even bigger hopes of what my future would hold. And boy were they creative. You know those silly chick flicks where the guy speeds across town, runs through the airport and stops the girl just as the plane is going to take off? Yeah, I could have written one of those bad movies before I was even old enough to date.

On a separate but related note, I also had a big-time fascination with the number 11. Being the 11th child in my family was just the beggining, I would choose 11 any chance I got, so much so that the number 11 became part of my identity, at least within myself. I would make a wish at 11:11 each day, wear #11 whenever I played sports and can even remember how disappointed (like to an unnatural level) I was as a senior playing high school softball when a teammate grabbed #11 before me and wouldn’t give it up.

So take my over-the-top dreams and the love of those double ones and what you get is a girl who would put more energy (i.e. pressure) into hopes that the number 11 would make her dreams come true. I remember as a 20-something single girl convincing myself that my knight in shining armor would arrive on 11.11, bringing eternal love, affection and babies along with him. Year after year, I would publicly announce how special 11.11 would be, just for me, because that was my number and I knew that something life changing will happen.

Then this year came around. 11.11.11 is a date that will only come around once in our lifetime, it needed to be a day to remember for all eternity, right? While I no longer look at the world the way I did as a young, naive girl, I couldn’t help but hope that something — anything — would happen to make the day just a bit more memorable than the others.

Being Veterans Day, the kids were off from school. The mere chance to have a day free from all the usual chaos of a quick breakfast, getting kids dressed, teeth brushed and the hurried collection of jackets, backpacks and homework folders was quite lovely. For Jeff, not needing to drop Lucy off at preschool and the promise of lighter traffic gave him a few extra minutes to sip coffee with me and toss around some plans — for the day ahead and the immediate future.

With the kids home, there was no chance I was going to get any work done. I resolved to spend the rest of the day running errands, feeding the kids. and attempting a dash of “me” time, translated as a little P90X yoga workout in the privacy of my bedroom while kids played loudly and occasionally asked (see: screamed) to get in and talk to me (see: referee the latest disagreement).

But it was right there, smack-dab-in-the-middle-of getting Lucy’s glasses fixed, taking the kids out to lunch and getting flu shots that the magic of 11.11.11 appeared.

I love my life.

The husband who wants to have coffee with me and looks at me like I’m the prettiest girl in the world… the kids who cry when offered special time because they don’t want to be without each other… the ability to work on projects I love while having the time and flexibility to juggle activities, homework, behavioral aids, etc. — I’m actually living the life my 20-something self could only dream of. Because happiness is not about grand gestures and over-the-top moments, it’s about being with those you love and loving the life you’re living.

A magical realization that came to me on 11.11.11.

The Chuck It List

You’ve all heard of the Bucket List, made famous by some actors that used to be insanely respected. According to IMDB, the movie is about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward (who knew one had to “escape”?) and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.

Back in 2001, I had a similar list. Before I turned 30, I wanted to live on the edge a little. I made decisions that were normally a bit out of my comfort zone, took my little sister on a quick cruise to Mexico and treated my brother to a sky diving excursion, which was made that much more incredible (and terrifying) by the breathtaking view of gorgeous green broccoli-like trees on the way down.

Now in 2011, my lists have been tweaked a bit. There’s really only one thing on my list to do before I’m 40, something I will share very soon. But for the most part, I’m more interested in recognizing the things in my life that make me feel super happy inside (look for my Top 40 list coming out February 21) and working on making positive changes in order to create that same feeling in other areas.

I’ll first work on what I want to remove from my life before I turn 40.

THE CHUCK IT LIST

Making Chex Treats (think Rice Krispies but with Corn Chex) under the ruse of doing it for the kids.

Eating said Chex Treats for breakfast, convincing myself it’s like having a bowl of cereal.

Getting dressed to exercise, only to end up out of shape and unshowered at the end of the day.

Feeling guilty for taking time to exercise, instead working, performing tasks or doing household chores while the kids are at school.

Spending a fortune on the search for jeans that don’t zip up to my arm pits or show off my goods when sitting.

Saying “yes” to things I know are spreading me way too thin and making me less productive.

Random hairs on my chin.

Spending time / energy on things and people that don’t positively affect my family, including myself.

Expectations of other people.

Cutting my own bangs and/or eyebrows between appointments.

Stressing over small stuff.

Forgetting what’s really important.

Taking life too seriously.

Using “working from home” as an excuse to avoid a shower, razor and hair brush.

Impatience.

Buying “motivation” clothes.

Beating myself up when motivation clothes don’t fit.

Not spending enough time with my friends.

Losing my car in a sea of silver minivans.

Negative self-talk.

Frowning.

Letting fear get in the way.

What’s on your “Chuck It List”?

   

Do We Have the Right to Be Happy?

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

According to the Declaration of Independence and my good friend TJ, we’re all entitled to it. But how far will you go to get it?

“Happiness” is a common buzz word, often used by those looking to justify their less-than-stellar actions.  A guy leaves his wife after 20 years for his office assistant. Why? Because he wants to be “happy.” A mom leaves her kids to move in with her new boyfriend? It’s all in pursuit of happiness, don’t you know? Just last year, I got into it with Ryan Seacrest after he, with no real understanding of the situation, told a caller (a father of four) to walk out on his wife because he “deserved to be happy.”

But what exactly is happiness and how do we even know if and when we’ve found it? Society certainly doesn’t help. Calling one’s wedding day “the happiest day of your life?” Sure, the day Jeff and I were declared husband and wife, celebrating among friends and family, was wonderful, but it certainly wasn’t even close to the happiest day of my life. (Was your wedding the happiest day of your life?) And don’t even talk to me about the days I gave birth to the boys or was united with my daughter. While they were momentous for sure, it’s those ordinary days that followed where family time just clicks and Jeff and my eyes meet over the sounds of the kids belly laughing together. That is pure happiness.

I can imagine there could be a rush of pleasure after leaving a long-term committment to start a new, exciting relationship. But is that happiness? We all know, after time, even that excitement will dissipate–what happens then? Is happiness something we should continue to chase, no matter how fleeting it is or how serious the consequences?

Maybe it’s actually the term “happiness” that needs to be redefined.

Like many of you, I’m a parent. I have three kids who test my patience every single day. I juggle a full plate, overflowing with work, bills, issues and responsibilities, just like everyone else. I’m up to my eyeballs with deadlines, IEP meetings and extracurricular activities. Am I happy every second of every day? Absolutely not. (In fact, sometimes I am certifiable.) There has been more than one occasion where I’ve thought about running away to hide out in a hotel room, order room service and make someone else clean up after me. I’ve had moments when I’ve questioned myself, and days filled with wonder, “how the heck did I get here?”

It’s easy for me to judge, right? Because when push comes to shove, I am truly happy. I’m happy that I have been blessed with three beautiful children who are sweet, generous, smart and spirited. I’m happy that my husband still looks at me with interest and sometimes even listens to what I’m saying when rambling about my day. I’m happy that at night, when I glance into the mirror while washing the day off my face, more often than not, I actually feel good about who I see looking back at me. I’m happy and I’m lucky and I’m blessed.

But it hasn’t come without a lot of hard work.

I’m not saying that there aren’t relationships that need to end or circumstances that are so unique, anyone on the outside could never understand. I’m just saying that maybe happiness is actually a state of mind, directly connected to one’s self esteem. And if that’s the case, you can make huge life changes til the cows come home, but you’ll never truly be happy within when you’re disregarding and disrespecting those you supposedly love.

How do you define happiness?

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun