Even before I started this blog, I was trying to tell myself to choose happiness. I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a little over a year ago now, and before tragedy struck so early in the year, I had modeled a series of new year’s resolutions for each month off of that very book.
Recently, I turned back to Gretchen Rubin, who is well known in the field of happiness, if you can call it that, and started reading some or her blog posts. I found one that really stood out to called “To Be Happier, Write Your Own Set of Personal Commandments.” I read through the article and read Gretchen’s own commandments, but I didn’t make a move immediately to write my own. In fact, at that point, I had not even started this blog yet, but I still thought it might be a good exercise for me to do.
But of course, life got in the way, as it always seems to do, and I shoved the idea aside for a while. The other day though, as I was brainstorming ideas for new blog posts, I found myself returning to that idea of personal commandments or mantras, as I like to think of them, and I thought it would a great exercise to share with y’all. If you want to read Gretchen’s full post on what she considers a commandment to be and suggestions on how to come up with your own, you can do so here. I’m not really going to go into all that in my post here, as much as I’m going to tell why I think I felt so moved to create these mantras/commandments and what each personally means to me. I think it is helpful to have a set of guiding principles to live your life by, and since my parents died, I have kind of been floundering without the feeling of some sort of guidance. I also really like the idea of distilling down the idea of the things that are truly important to you and making some sort of agreement with yourself to live your life by them as best you can. And for those days we have a tough time, I think it might be helpful to repeat some of these to myself, to remind myself of the ways in which I want to live my life.
1. Love always. Not long after Mama died, I found a letter she had written to me while I was at Girl Scout Camp one summer, and at the end of the letter, she signed it “Love Always, Mama.” My sister and brother and I had already talked about getting some sort of memorial tattoo in her honor already, but when I saw that in her signature handwriting, it seemed like the perfect message. It is both a reminder to me that my mother will always love me, and a reminder to myself that I should always spread love out into the world rather than hate or negativity.
2. Choose happiness. So I think if you’re on this blog you can probably figure this one out on your own without my explanation. 😉
3. Choose kindness over being right. This is a condensed version of a note we found in some of Mama’s personal items that it seemed she had written to herself. I think so often we are worried about getting the last word in or proving ourselves right, that we don’t think about how that might affect the person we’re interacting with. I want to choose kindness more.
4. Take it bird by bird. If anyone has read the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, you should know what I’m talking about. This book is about the craft of writing that I read several years ago, and for anyone interested in writing, I highly recommend it, but the title and this mantra is essentially another way of saying take things day by day or one at a time. That is all I can do.
5. Leave it better than you found it. To me, this really spoke to me in terms of the sustainable side of things, with the idea of trying to leave the environment (or at least my personal environment) better than I found it. However, I think it also applies to other things as well. If you see trash out in the community, even when you know it’s not yours, pick it up. If you have an interaction with someone, try to leave them in a better mood than they were when you first started talking to them. That is the way I aspire to live my life.
6. Give yourself grace. I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, and I can tend to put a lot of pressure on myself when things don’t turn out perfectly. I am trying to do better about that, to acknowledge what I have been through, and to understand that I am a human that makes mistakes. That all of that is okay.
7. Live in this moment. I, and I am sure I am not alone in this, tend to focus on the past or the future. Looking back and wishing things had gone differently or trying to plan for a future that is uncertain. I want to repeat this mantra to myself when I am doing that, to remind myself that I only get one of these moments. That I can’t go back, and I don’t need to wish them away.
8. Enjoy the life you’ve been given. This goes hand in hand with the previous mantra, but having had two close loved ones die so young this year has really impressed upon me the need to take advantage of and enjoy the one life I’ve been given. I don’t need to do things because someone else wants me to or not do something because of what someone else might think. It is my life to enjoy, and I will not get another one.
What are some of your personal mantras (or commandments, whatever you choose to call them)?