Week Insomnia and Random Smile Faces

I don't know what it is, but smile faces make me smile. If you put a smile on a lobster and attach it to a bag of nails, I will think about buying that bag of nails. (To be clear, I do not need a bag of nails.) It makes me feel like an elementary kid again, how your teacher would put a smile face sticker on your paper and you felt like you just won the lottery. My students are the same way. Smile faces just make you smile. And even if someone puts them in a dumb place, like a bathroom stall or on the back of a race horse, it's still smile-inducing.

I had some pretty intense insomnia nearly a week after returning from Tahoe. Here is what I tried:
Hot tea
Reading before bed
Countin' sheep
Watching movies before bed
Running around like a crazy person as to exhaust myself into a coma
Putting my probs in a bubble and watching them float away

Nothing worked. Miserably, I just couldn't turn my mind off. The minute my eyes started to get heavy from reading/watching, I hurriedly turned off my bedside lamp and closed my eyes. And the minute I closed my eyes, I started thinking:

How am I going to make money?
How much do I need to make?
What if I don't get a job?
How am I going to pay my car payment?
How am I going to afford goat cheese again?

This went on from Sunday to Saturday. Every night, no more than 4-5 hours of sleep. It was driving me crazy. My driving was questionable, I would forget if I brushed my teeth 10 minutes after I had, forget my coffee in weird places, and I still can't find my water bottle.

I was getting obsessed with how to land this amazing California teaching job that solved all the problems. Sometimes I would daydream about the job that would double my income....
I could shop at Ann Taylor!
I could pay off my student loans!
I could buy a newer car!
I could get better at croquet! (Honest moment: I could learn what the non-sandwich version of croquette is....)

One of the movies I watched before bed on Friday was "Happy." These genius people set out to research what makes people happy, from India to Japan to Africa to the States. They found that people who generally focus on extrinsic happiness, like acquiring wealth, status and popularity are found generally less happier than people who focus on intrinsic motivation, like having positive relationships and caring for others who need it. Also they talked about this thing called "flow" which I really connected with. You know those moments when you feel like you have no worries and nothing matters but being in that moment? No surprise, the more people stay in "flow" the happier they are. And it was also very apparent that Americans were among the most unhappy people in the world, mostly because we are chasing down material goods that only make us satisfied temporarily, but it doesn't bring us closer to really being fulfilled.

It's amazing to me how important nice cars, nice clothes, nice houses, nice stuff are to people. In some circles, having these things seem more important that having a job you don't completely loathe or having good relationships with others. It seems like everyone points to earning more money as a goal, but this just brutally highlights the hidden message that people think money will bring more happiness. I know everyone is used to the whole "money can't buy happiness" but I'm not sure people actually believe that. Otherwise, more people would be content with less and I just don't think that's true. Everyone wants more and everyone strives to make more so they can have more.

"We want more, like, you really like it, so you want more."

But in the spirit of one of my favorite Pinterest quotes, I counter the cute ATT&T commercial with this:

"If you're not happy with what you already have, what makes you think having more will make you happier?"

We are the richest nation in the world, possessing more than anyone else on the planet and yet we can't seem to be happy with that?

Well, because maybe we're all in love with our stuff more than we are with our friends, our husbands, our jobs, our life. Maybe we have put money first, staying at a job we hate because we have bills to pay, because we want to keep our stuff. Maybe we married Prince Charming for money and shouldn't be shocked when we aren't "Cinderella Happily Ever After." Maybe having the nicest biggest house, car, airplane isn't the answer, okay?

I get really sad sometimes. Life makes us sad. There are things that happen to all of us that makes us cry and go into a dark place. But instead of buying a sweater to make us feel better, I think the answer is to focus on "flow," that place where you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and you cry or you smile so wide your face hurts because you're just used to fake smiling; go there instead of the mall. Let your grandma make you pancakes and sausage and eat one too many (okay, eat two). Let the good in and let it affect you. And seek out strange smile faces in strange places. Even leave one or two. Because we don't need any more stuff, we just need to love what we already have. And smile at smile faces on lobsters.

I slept last night and it was the best sleep of my life. It was only for 8 hours but it was intense and I didn't wake up once. I didn't think about job interviews, if I needed new tires for the mountains or how to say goodbye to my dad, I just closed my eyes and slept, because my life is good and the day was over and I did the best that I could. And in order to get to the next place, the place I am supposed to be in, and let go of the place I grew out of, I need to change the way I'm thinking about this.

And in an effort to do so, here is my life lesson squeezed out of lingering insomnia and a whole lot of clarity:
I hereby let go of all the what ifs.
I'm going to be happy in this place,
with or without money to throw at Ann Taylor,
with or without a brand new Range Rover,
with or without a cashmere blanket for Oatmeal to poo in,
because all that stuff is temporary and unimportant.

Because what if I sold my car and rode my bike, Mabel, to my coffee shop job? And what if, in the winter, we shared the Jeep and went everywhere together? And what if me and Paul and Oatmeal shared a studio apartment on the lake and ate ramen noodles and camped for vacation? Isn't that the life we want to lead anyway?


My life is good because of who is in it, not what is in in.

(That should be a lobster-smile-face billboard.)