Monday, 3 December 2012

"A Charlie Brown Life"

Happiness is a warm puppy. Happiness is a fuzzy sweater. Happiness is a pile of leaves.
Happiness is one thing to one person and another thing to another person. ~ Charles Schultz
 
Charlie Brown, well, Charles Schultz actually, was pretty wise. I adore Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang for a few reasons. First, Chuck and the gang take me back to my childhood and happy memories of times spent with my grandparents in particular. Life was simple for me then - I knew that I was loved, I was happy, and I had no worries.
 
As an adult, things are different. Although I am happy and healthy at the moment, an adult lifetime of bouts with depression has often challenged my sense of optimism. But I am able to see the lessons in resiliency that Charlie Brown taught me and his never-ending optimism in spite of disappointment. No matter how many times Lucy whipped the football away from him, he kept trying. He never gave up attempting to kick that ball! Every day was a new opportunity for Charlie Brown to try again.
 
But here's another thing that the Peanuts taught us all: happiness is in the small, simple things in life. As we head into a hectic time leading up to Christmas & Hanukkah, a time that can be fun but can also be terribly lonely and stressful for many, I think it's worth remembering to take some time for ourselves to enjoy the small things that make us truly happy.
 
It's especially important for me, as a person with a long history of mental illness, that I do what I can to maintain my mental health & wellness during a potentially stressful time of year. So how do I do that? I take a page, literally, from my treasured copy of Charles' Schultz's book "Happiness is a Warm Puppy". Quite simply, I focus on the things that bring me joy and eliminate the rest.  
 
Here's a list of "A Few of My Favourite Things":
- An Earl Grey Tea Latte from Starbucks in one of their holiday red cups.
- Looking at the Christmas lights and Christmas trees in the apartments around my neighbourhood.
- Hosting my annual Christmas party (lots of work but I enjoy every moment of it!).
- Riding the Christmas train at Bright Nights in Vancouver's Stanley Park.
- Making my Christmas cards.
- Watching my three favourite Christmas movies: Elf, Love Actually, and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
- Taking my niece & nephew to choose their gifts.
- An afternoon movie matinee with my parents and brother on Christmas Day.
 
These are things that make me happy so I do them. Your list will probably be different but I encourage you to think about what makes you happy and what doesn't, then eliminate the things that just aren't worth your time, or more importantly, worth sacrificing your mental health. 
 
In addition to the above list, I consciously avoid filling my calendar with too many social obligations. I know from experience what that does to me - it makes me tired, cranky, irritable. In short, it brings me down which is not a good place for me to be.

Over the next few weeks, and throughout the coming new year, keep in mind some stellar life lessons from Charlie Brown and his friends:

- Focus on the good things: a hug from someone whom you love, a cheesy pop song, or a cute puppy that you see on the street.
- Believe in yourself and your judgement: Remember when Charlie Brown was given the all important task of selecting the Christmas tree for the holiday pageant? At first glance, it seemed that his selection was awful. In the end it was exactly the perfectly imperfect tree, wasn't it? Kind of like each of us.
- Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again: Keep trying to kick your own football, whatever that may be. Did you overeat at a party? Don't be too hard on yourself and keep moving forward. Each day is a new opportunity!

Although it may appear that everyone in the entire world is happy and joyous over the holiday season, the truth is that is not the case. It's often a difficult time for many people for many reasons. If you are feeling down, one of the very best ways to feel better is to do something for someone else. So give someone a compliment or a hug, bake some cookies to give to your neighbours, or donate some warm clothes to a shelter. And take some time for YOU!

KB xo

 

3 comments:

  1. I signed up and get these through email. I look forward to your posts very much. I just thought I'd let you know that evern though there are not always comments here I read them very carefully and want to thank you. Dave

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    1. Thank you, Dave! That means a lot!

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  2. Great post and a great thing to remember. For me, it means seeing Christmas through my nephew's eyes. He is almost 2 and his viewpoint is amazing. I also like the thought about not being too busy. It's so easy to feel like you have to do everything. And on the note of your post, I am going to take myself to Calgary's Zoo Lights one of these nights. It's beautiful and cool. And go skating downtown...

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