Designing a Happy Life. It sounds so lofty, so grand, so attainable. It simplifies the complicated chaos of life and relationships and home and family and the pull of work and home and the desire to just be, into something which sounds so very much more manageable. Design the life you want to live, then go ahead and live it. Ta-da! Problem solved, next!
Once upon a time I had this brilliant idea for a healthy lifestyle book - decide who you want to be (healthy green smoothie eating yoga superstar), and behave as if you are that person. Lo and behold, your newly adopted behaviours, over time, will create a new reality for yourself. Ta-da, problem solved, book deal please.
There's something in this of course, we are the sum of our actions and all that. But, I suppose I found the cake baking, newspaper reading, coffee drinking lifestyle infinitely more appealing than the lure of kale because I never did become a smoothie toting yoga fiend, despite my (admittedly very vague) good intentions.
I wanted the end result (and the book deal), but I obviously didn't want to embark on the journey. I wasn't motivated enough to really care. Somewhere between idea and execution the plan fell apart; It just didn't matter to me enough.
We want things and we want them now. We want instant gratification if we can just find a way to make that happen. The endless search for the perfect planner is symptomatic of our craving for one simple solution to too many things going on at once. So many of us believe that if we can just find the One Perfect System, our problems will be solved, and we will wake up one day and be bilingual, love running, go on date nights, pay all our bills on time, be effortlessly marvelous at work and home and still have the energy left to whip up a delicious home cooked meal which we enjoy with our delightful kids followed by a Pinterest-worthy family game night. With decorations, of course.
The reality for most of us, is that life is messy. Designing a Happy Life isn't about impossible ideals and standards, it's about pointing yourself in the direction that you want to go in, and doing everything in your power to keep moving forward, even if you're only managing to move a couple of millimeters each day.
It's about taking all the bits of life which compete for your attention and making them manageable enough that you have space to breathe, to be you, to remember who you were before your lists of to-do lists threatened to submerge you.
It's about the bigger picture and the smaller details, it's about making massive changes and tiny ones. Sometimes it's about deciding to emigrate, and sometimes it's about tracking a habit you're desperately hoping will stick. It's about living this one life that you have with intention so that you don't forget who you are while you're busy making things happen for other people.
I bought the domain name for Designing a Happy* Life in 2012 when we decided to leave New Zealand and return to the States only 16 months after we arrived. I wanted to chronicle our situation as we chose to abandon the life we found ourselves living to make the life we needed to thrive as a creative family.
In my mind, we were embarking on a beautiful linear journey, from idea to execution. If we plan it, and do it, then it will inevitably happen. There may be bumps in the road, but we will emerge triumphant, living the dream, and probably growing our own vegetables.
Of course the reality has been less of an epic movie, and more hours and days and weeks and months of mundanely shuffling around in tiny circles. We have really been focused on making things work logistically and financially, while making sure the kids have what they need to get through the days. We have been putting one foot in front of the other plodding forwards. Except it turns out that we have been walking in a spiral.
Blogging about our journey slowly fell off my radar as my world view got smaller and smaller. The last three years really have been focused around my desk; finding clients, working for clients, panicking about a lack of clients, finding more clients... But life really is too short not to follow through on the dreams that nag at you when you're trying to fall asleep.
I still crave that sense of balance, we were looking for when we left New Zealand. I still want to feel alive and fulfilled by art and design and family and work. I want to make this house a home and I need to feel like we are living a creative life. I need to step back into a bigger world, one which doesn't just revolve around the daily reality of work and childcare, and I need to remember to value me.
Designing a Happy Life is about creating the tools to help do just that. Find your own happy, make it work. Keep on going even when you can't see any progress at all.
I am relaunching the site with a line of wall planners which have literally been kicking around in my mind for years. I need the space in my head so it's time for them to be set free. Now they're out, maybe I will start remembering the kids' names more often. (I have discovered however that no matter how exhausted I am, I can still remember their birth order... and for the most part they will respond to either One Two or Three, so I think we're going to be ok even if the names don't return....).
Down the line I may bring back some of my retired wall art line, and I am investigating the idea of a subscription box, and of course I am working on creating The Perfect Planner (the one that'll make sure that my life is The Perfect Life).
The thing about walking in spirals, is that each time you pass a familiar point, you know a little bit more than you did the previous time you visited. Every now and then I feel like I look up from my rabbit hole and I am surprised at how far we have come. How much we have made happen already. How we do live by the sea - when for many years that was all I ever wanted.
Can you design The Perfect Life and then make it happen? Perhaps not all at once, but you can make massive changes. Can you define your own sense of happy and make more of that happen every single day? Absolutely. Is there a balance to be struck between the two where you work towards something new yet appreciate exactly where you are? I would definitely say so. Care to join me?
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