The Happiness Connection  

Find peace in exhaustion

I’m exhausted and puzzled.

After these all-consuming few months with my parents, I’m giving myself three weeks of down time to recuperate.

I’m one week into this recovery period, and I’m still feeling incredibly tired. Shouldn’t I at least notice some improvement by now?

It’s strange that it can take weeks, months, or even years to get to a point of extreme exhaustion, yet we somehow expect to recover within a few days.

It’s like taking an hour to walk somewhere, and then believing you can travel back on foot in five minutes?

If you spend a year depleting energy, why should you think you can replenish it in a week?

There are lots of life events that can bring you to a place of extreme physical or emotional exhaustion. Work, parenting, relationships, and caregiving are common reasons.

Once I realized that energy might move in and out at the same rate rather than seeping out and flooding in, these are three things I’ve encouraged myself to focus on.

Accept what is

Our current sunshine and warm temperatures usually make me feel invigorated. Not this time. I’m loving the weather, but I mostly just want to sit in it, not take my dog for a walk, clean up my house, or weed.

That’s OK.

You don’t have to keep moving forward and push through your tiredness and lack of motivation. Don’t judge yourself or expect things to be different. Simply allow your life to be as it is.

Take as much time as you need to recover

Just because I decided to earmark three weeks to focus on recuperating, that doesn’t mean I’ll be completely recovered at the end of that time.

It’s OK to feel tired. It’s OK to need more time. Don’t pressure yourself for it to be different.

I’ve been exhausted before, but not at this age or from this situation. I can only guess how much time it will take.

I’m still helping my mother. I visit every few days bringing items she wants, getting signatures on documents, or finishing tasks I haven’t managed to do yet.

These all require energy, which slows the replenishing process.

I remind myself daily that recuperating will take as long as it takes. Setting a recovery date is unrealistic.

Choose a healthy lifestyle

Eat well, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and try not to add unnecessary stress to your life.

There’s a lot to do to get my life back on track. My home is a disaster and more cluttered than usual with the arrival of things from my parents’ house.

Rather than sinking into comfort foods and relaxing drinks, I’m choosing to be healthy.

I walk my dog twice a day, regardless of whether I feel like it or not. I’m eating nutritious foods and making sure I drink lots of water.

The biggest difference is that I’m paying more attention to how I feel.

When a feeling of tiredness washes over me in the middle of the afternoon, I rest or take a nap. If something feels stressful or hard, I leave it.

To help with this, I’ve chosen not to make to-do lists.

That doesn’t mean I have no awareness of what I want to accomplish. There are things I want to get done, but I’m not pushing myself with a specific timeline.

Currently, I have a pile of items I want to put into the basement. I gathered them together yesterday. I hope to get them moved today, but if I don’t, there’s always tomorrow, or the days after that.

It’s good to remind yourself that life isn’t a race. There’s no link between the speed of your recovery and how good a person you are. There are no extra marks for how quickly you bounce back from physical or emotional exhaustion.

Find peace in this situation by listening to your body, accepting your situation, and enjoying what is.


Enjoy what is

Everyone’s life is full of ups and downs.

Optimists try to focus on the ups and remind themselves that the downs have a purpose and won’t last forever.

It’s a good technique, but recently I’ve been wondering whether there isn’t an even better way to approach life.

I suspect that this change in thinking has been at least partially encouraged by a saying I was introduced to by my friend Ross Freake. He returned from an extended holiday in Asia, with the sage expression, enjoy what is.

I immediately liked the phrase. It appealed to my belief in the power of positivity and the importance of living in the moment.

But has time has gone on, I’ve begun to consider that there’s greater depth in these three words. Maybe that’s part of its beauty. There’s more to it than initially meets the brain.

What does, enjoy what is, mean to you? I encourage you to take a minute and think about it.

Is it possible to enjoy what’s happening to you, regardless of what that might be? Enjoying what is can’t possibly suggest that life will always be fun, can it?

Sometimes words like joy and happiness cause misinterpretation because emotions don’t mean the same thing for everyone. You and I may have very different visions appear in our heads when we think about enjoyment.

I have to remind myself not to get caught up in words. Enjoyment is about appreciation, peace, and gratitude, just as much as it may refer to delight, amazement, and joy.

Everyone has times when they experience negative emotions. It’s unrealistic to think you can create a life that’s devoid of sadness and frustration.

Being a happy person doesn’t mean you’ll never be unhappy or that everything you do will be pleasant.

However, you don’t have to be in the perfect place to experience a sense of peace or contentment. You can find these feelings in the darkest corners if you accept all types of emotions as part of life.

As I tape together yet another box and begin to place carefully wrapped items into it, I wouldn’t describe myself as enjoying the experience of helping my mom move into a new home.

I can’t remember when I last felt this tired, or when my body has ached this much. I am, however, totally at peace with the situation.

I chose to help my mom. I don’t feel obligated, or annoyed. I feel moments of frustrations and exhaustion, but that’s OK. It’s all part of the experience I volunteered to be part of.

Rather than waiting for a better time to start appreciating your life, or thinking you should always feel good, maybe it’s time to stop trying to banish negative emotions.

Perhaps the less all of us resist unhappiness, the greater our chances of being happy.

You don’t need to wallow in negativity, but acknowledge it with curiosity and acceptance when it appears. Maybe that’s how we enjoy what is.

I’m sure I’ll continue to ponder this phrase for some time to come and I’ll probably uncover new levels of understanding.

Whatever this expression means to you, I hope you enjoy what is.

Don't lose faith

Recently, I was reminded yet again of how other people’s reactions to things you say and do, often have absolutely nothing to do with you.

I try to find moments whenever I can, to go into my garden. There’s always tidying to do, dead leaves to gather, and weeds to remove.

My gated community doesn’t use the typical green cart system. Instead, we leave clipping and such out for the landscaping company to remove.

We’re using a different firm this year, so I wasn’t sure if the designated day had changed.

When I was out walking my dog, I spied one of the strata council members. He’s been very active in choosing who got the new contract, so I was confident he’d be able to answer my question.

I called out and innocently inquired which day the landscapers would be coming this year.

I hadn’t expected his reply to be so brusque. I was also surprised by his comments about people’s lack of ability to read the sign that was posted by the mailboxes.

From my point of view, I was asking a simple question. It only required a one-word answer.

It would have been easy for me to walk away muttering under my breath, or for me to respond in an equally annoyed way.

It might even have caused me to decide I didn’t like this person and would do my best to avoid him in the future.

Instead, I chose to explain that I hadn’t picked up my mail in over a week because I was busy trying to cope with everything that was going on in my life.

The last time I’d walked past, there hadn’t been a sign, because I had looked.

It became apparent in our conversation that we had both provided a last-straw moment for the other one.

From this man’s point of view, I was only one in a string of people who had been asking the same question. He was also getting some grief about another landscaping situation.

Together, these things were causing him to feel fed up.

His patience was thin by the time I asked my question.

For me, being expected to figure the answer out for myself instead of simply asking, felt like one more item, on a very long list of things that needed to be figured out.

My dad had only just died and there was and still is a lot to do.

I didn’t appreciate someone suggesting I simply couldn’t be bothered to figure it out for myself.

None of us really knows what’s going on in someone else’s world. When they snap at you, are they really annoyed with you, or is it simply the culmination of a lot of things that have been going on?

I think it’s important to remember this when you get an unexpectedly harsh reaction from someone.

If it’s your partner or best friend, you may think you know what’s happening in their life, but you only know what they choose to share with you.

They might not even know themselves why they’re feeling annoyed or disgruntled.

Instead of believing they’re deliberately trying to hurt you, give them the benefit of the doubt. Accept that you’ve probably been caught up in something that has absolutely nothing to do with you.

I can think of times when a situation has caused me to feel so annoyed that the person I’m speaking with gets lashed with my harsh tones and angry words.

I try to remember to apologize to them. I know it isn’t their fault, but I’m too worked up to speak calmly.

Not everyone has this awareness. When you find yourself on the receiving end, try to accept there are probably other things going on.

As you continue to have your normal life interrupted by COVID-19, you may find your frustrations spilling into seemingly unrelated areas of your world. Remind yourself, that this will be happening to others, too.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is an act of faith. It’s a chance to demonstrate that you believe the world is full of good people.

This belief makes it easier to be kind. That’s something we could all use more of right now.


Death dues

I love this time of year. I look closely at my garden every morning to see what new buds are forming. I enjoy watching everything spring back to life.

This habit feels even more rewarding this year as I deal with the death of my father. He passed on March 7. Although we started the process for medically assisted death, he didn’t need it.

One day after I submitted the paperwork for MAiD, he died peacefully in his sleep.

I miss him, but it’s hard to mourn his passing. It’s what he wanted. He wasn’t in pain and he was at home. He would have been 93 in May.

I’m blessed to have had both my parents until they were in their 90s. My mom is adjusting amazingly well and has decided to leave her home and move into an assisted living residence.

My dad didn’t want a service or wake. He simply wanted to be cremated and put into the niche he had purchased for him and Mom many decades ago.

As my parents reached their 90s, I knew the years remaining for them were shrinking. I began to think about how I’ll feel if I reach that age.

What comes to mind when you think about death? Maybe it’s a subject you don’t want to ponder.

None of us can escape it and yet we tend not to spend much time thinking about the nitty gritty details of death.

The transition of the soul and whether to bury or scatter may come to mind. But what about all the endless notifications and next steps that have to be navigated by those left behind?

My dad felt he had taken a weight off our shoulders by buying a place for his and Mom’s ashes. It was a lovely gesture, but only a drop in the bucket of things that need to be done.

My father was in charge of all the financial and legal documents. My mom was a typical 1950s housewife. She tries to help as much as she can, but as a bereaved 90-year-old, she struggles to answer my questions.

She told me the name of the funeral home they had made their arrangements with. I contacted them. We made an appointment to speak with them the next day and for them to collect the body.

I picked Mom up at the agreed time, and she directed me to the location of the funeral home. As we sat in the car outside the building, something didn’t add up. The name on the sign was different than the company I had contacted the day before.

I felt somewhat embarrassed as I called them from the car to ask if they had Dad. How do you word something like that?

As I suspected from the moment we pulled into the parking lot, their answer was no.

Yes, you guessed it. We sent Dad to the wrong place.

It took a few phone calls and some extra fees, but we got the body transferred to the correct company.

The next unexpected hurdle resulted from Dad’s lovely gesture of buying the niche such a long time ago. The dimensions of it aren’t common any more.

It took the funeral director some time to find a place that sold urns that would fit.

I bought one for Mom at the same time. Just to be sure she’ll fit in when her turn comes.

I laughingly tell my mom that this is just a trial run for when I have to take care of everything for her. That’s the sort of thing we joke about.

In some ways, dealing with the funeral home has been the easiest part of this process. I expected to be involved. I remember helping with the arrangements many years ago when my mother-in-law died.

What I hadn’t considered was all the other stuff that has to be dealt with when someone dies. I had no idea there was so much paperwork involved.

Honestly, I don’t think I expected to be the one who had to deal with that side of death. I’m not sure who I thought would do it, but it didn’t occur to me that it would be me.

Everyone who has an account with Dad’s name on it needs to be notified of his death. Some places are obvious, others less so.

I can find lists online, but they’re general, not specific to my father. Even if I know what needs to be changed, I often don’t know who to reach out to.

For example, I know his name needs to come off the property taxes. I started by calling the City of Kelowna. They weren’t sure who to put me through to, but eventually I discovered that they get their information from BC Assessment.

BC Assessment told me they got their information from the BC Land Title Office. It often takes me multiple calls before I arrive at the correct destination.

I’ve been lucky that almost everything my parents had was held in joint names. Because everything passes to Mom, that makes things a lot easier.

I’ve had to make these calls with Mom sitting with me in case they need her permission to speak with me.

To make this easier in the future, we’ve added me as an authorized contact to as many places as possible. This means I can contact them on her behalf.

I started this process of notification three weeks ago. The end is in sight, but it’s not as close as I’d like it to be.

Another thing that hasn’t turn out the way I’d imagined is my mother’s decision to move out of her home. I thought she’d take some time before she made any big decisions.

Her choice means downsizing, and then clearing and selling the house.

We found a place she likes, and a moving date has been set. Of course, that means I’m going to have to start contacting many of these places again to cancel services and make changes to contact information.

It’s a good thing I’m in a place of laughing rather than crying.

This experience has given me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. It’s reenforced my belief that you never know how things will turn out until you get there.

Be cautious of thinking you know how something will transpire and be prepared for the unexpected.

I’m taking notes so when my mother passes, I’ll be more prepared for the resulting tasks. I’m also hoping to make things easier for my kids when their turn comes to follow this process.

If you have aging parents, or you want to help your children, I’ve included a list of things you may want to consider. This isn’t inclusive and will be different for everyone, but hopefully it will be a good start.

  • Make a will and make sure there is a note that says where it is.
  • If you’re married (legally or common law,) put everything applicable into joint names.
  • Gather together and leave instructions as to where important items are. These may include: Birth certificates or residency documents; Marriage certificate if applicable

We spent several hours hunting for the original wedding certificate because my mom had no idea where it was. The funeral home and Service Canada needed to see it and make copies.

  • Social Insurance numbers
  • Passports
  • Safety deposit box keys and where the box is if you have one.
  • Safe keys or combinations
  • Recent tax returns

Make a list of:

  • Bank accounts
  • Pensions, life insurance policies, etc.
  • Current subscriptions that need to be canceled.
  • Auto payments that are being made from your bank account or onto credit cards.
  • Accountant and lawyer names
  • Investments

Don’t rely on your memory. Even if your mind is clear and active, grief takes its toll.

The death of a loved one comes with duties for someone. Instead of ignoring this fact, consider lessen their load by getting your affairs, or the affairs of aging relatives in order.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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