Its Not Like Normal Happiness…

I would say that its a pretty safe bet that ‘we’ (humans in general) strive for happiness. Most parents say that what they want for the children when they grow up…’happiness.’ We spend a lifetime working and building relationships to achieve it….’happiness.’ But how do we measure happiness? It is a tangible goal that is the same for everyone? What makes you happy might not be the same that things, events, situations, etc. that make me happy. Does that make your happiness or my happiness any less valid?

Abraham Lincoln said, “Folks are about as happy as they set their minds to be.”  In my opinion this is accurate…. However my uber geek boyfriend would tell you that I “cherry picked” information to suit my needs…. The boyfriend…. we will call him ‘Mr. Metal-Skull’ says that he is too Brutal to be happy…  in any case I liked the quote so I am using it!…and supporting it.

I am going to let my inner nerd out as well…. and actually admit that I have been known to read Psychology Today. I am not a science nerd by any means, but I do find a lot of their articles interesting…and I can’t only read lifestyle magazines…. Mr. Metal-Skull would gag. Anyhow, in Psychology Today there was an article, “The Role of The Brain in Happiness.” The article talks about the work of Dr. Richard Davidson in field of neuropsychology and positive psychology, and his book, The Emotional Life of Your Brain. In the book Dr. Davidson describes the biochemical interaction between the limbic system and the frontal lobes. He says that the frontal lobes are involved in both higher level thought and emotion… suggesting that our thinking affects the way we feel and vice versa. That article goes on and says “The implication is that we can use our thoughts to change our feelings in a very important way – that is toward happiness… The power of positive psychology lies within the process of intentionally using thought to change emotion.” The article also talks about the roles of the left and right prefrontal cortex… but I wont go into all of that.

Suffice it to say that I am going to use this blog to share what I have done and will be doing to invoke positive thoughts… Some things within the realm of normalcy (though normal is relative), and some things that will make you wonder… WTF?

In any case…..My life is a happy life… I work hard to share that happiness everyday. But its not a normal happiness… It so much more brutal than that.

Welcome to my Brutal Bliss



When it Rains it Pours

I just took three ibuprofen trying to ebb the tension headache that is pounding behind my eyeballs.  So while I wait for my skull to return to normal I am going to do a little therapeutic blogging. To say that the past couple of days have been emotionally draining would be a drastic understatement. I have cried in the privacy of my room for two days. I have gone between anger, sadness, and calm reserve on a roller coaster ride that has left my nerves shot.  So What happened? What happened to all of my positive “You can do anything talk?” That hasn’t gone away completely, but sometimes it gets hard to keep the positive going when you are hit with one thing after another… and the feeling like you are drowning takes over.

I take pride in my work. I want to excel at what I do, no matter what it is. I want people to walk around and say “hey that girl has her stuff together!” I am my worst critic, and I tend to view even constructive criticism as a negative. Is that rational? No not at all, but I never claimed to be the most level headed person in the world. That leads me to my story.

So I was sleeping off my vacation in Yogyakarta (another blog post to come) when my phone buzzed to life. It was a staff member from Peace Corps saying that she had just talked to one of my co-teachers and that she would like to talk to me. I immediately went on alert trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Upon talking to her, I found out that my co-teachers felt like I should be doing more and being a bigger resource to them and their teaching methods. I immediately got angry. I am a decent teacher. I love my kids, they enjoy their class time with me. What was she talking about that I wasn’t doing enough!? Then I thought about all the meetings I tried to hold that were canceled and all of the ideas I have presented that were not deemed acceptable… and my anger just grew. Then I thought about how my co-teacher and friend went directly to Peace Corps to voice her complaints instead of talking to me directly… and my anger grew. Now I am the type of person that when I get really angry… I cry. I don’t know why, but I always have. And I am the type of person that tends to freak out first and then go back and problem solve. Its a little backwards I know, but like I said, I never claimed to be the most level headed person. So I got off the phone after my brain shorted out and I started to give clipped one word answers to the Peace Corps staff, I went to my room, and then proceeded to have the most glorious freak out of my life. When it was over and I could breathe again, I started to think about everything that was said, and really analyze the situation or situations as the case may be.

Situation 1…. Why did my co-teacher / friend go to Peace Corps instead of first talking to me about her concerns.  My first thought was that she must secretly hate me and wanted me to get into trouble. Possible… but maybe a bit melodramatic.  Then I thought about it from her point of view… She speaks English as a foreign language. And when she and I talk we do not always understand what the other person is saying. Peace Corps offers staff members that are fluent in both Indonesian and English. So it possibly could have been more comfortable for her to voice her concerns in her native language and then have Peace Corps be able to relay those to me in a way that I would understand… with nothing lost in translation. Ok. Makes sense. Am I happy about it. No. But I understand.

Situation 2…. What is the issue with my teaching skills?  First reaction was to be like.. “My teaching skills… lady what about yours!” But resorting to being a 5 year old wasn’t going to solve anything. So thinking about it all, I decided… Am I perfect? Hell no. Do I have all of the teaching answers? Definitely not even close. Can I improve on my teacher to teacher communication and lesson planning? Definitely. Does her concern say I am a terrible teacher? No. It says that she wishes that I would give her more teaching ideas and strategies. Understandable. I am only here for two years, she will be teaching much longer after I am gone. So for sustainability purposes adjustments need to be made. So I am going to push to have weekly meetings to lesson plan and talk about what our goals for the week are. We will go from there… I will hear what their expectations of me are, I will share what my expectations of them are, and we will compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. Does this whole thing suck? A little, but it can be tackled and solved.

So with all of that brainstorming I woke up this morning feeling so much better, and ready to start the day. I went to school, to plan and prepare for the radio show that I was doing with my co-teacher and a student to talk about learning English with me. I was still a little worn out, but things didn’t seem impossible.

Then my phone started buzzing this morning at 10:30 and it was Peace Corps, telling me that they would like to have a conference call with me. Again warning bells went off and I started to freak out and get sick to my stomach. So upon reading the message  they said that they would call at 11:30. I had an hour to wait and imagine the worst scenarios possible. When the phone rang I answered to discover that a couple of new issues had popped up in the middle of all of the stuff from the previous day…  1)My host mother would like me to move out and find a new place to live. I immediately felt hurt and betrayed. I thought that we had a very good and close relationship. 2) The school is a bit tired of having to pick me up every morning to bring me to school. Since I got hit by the truck I have been unable to bike to school due to the back injury. So what I thought was a good arrangement apparently is leaving people bitter that they have to be my chauffeur. Again I felt hurt and like I was a burden that no one wanted to deal with.  The tears started flowing again, this time from sadness rather than anger. And I said something that I didn’t think I would say: “I am just done. This isn’t worth it anymore.”I went home and cried in my room again. Calmed down (sort of) and then went to go talk to my host mother. She started crying as she explained that she loved me and that I am family, but the house was very crowded and all of my host siblings are preparing to move back home. So there just isn’t enough room for everyone. I told her that I understood and that I was just sad because I was really happy living with her and her family. She apologized more and I reassured her that it was ok. Then I went up to my room, and screamed “This sucks!” into my pillow.  Then I figured that I can solve both of these new issues with one move. I will move into a home closer to the school.  That way I can walk to school and my current host family has the room they need for their expanding family. It this ideal?Not at all. I hate it. I am very sad and still a little hurt that I am being booted out of what I have come to feel is my home. But I am not going to let it affect my relationship with a fantastic family…. I hope that I am able to continue to be close with them for the next year I am here.

So this brings me to my current place.. Laying in my bed with a pounding head… feeling a bit weepy, and trying to figure out if I have what it takes to hack it for another year.  I hope the answer is yes.  Though I am ready to throw in the towel I know that I have come too far now to just quit… and if I am honest… I would miss my students and Indonesia terribly.

I know you can’t always have 100% positive days. Some days just plain suck the big one. The past two days have been those kind of days. I am emotionally drained and very much frazzled, but I am hoping that tomorrow is better and this rain cloud that has settled over me starts to dry up and I can get rid of this drowning feeling.


I remember sleeping-in… The weekend rolled around and all I would want to do is rest like I couldn’t do during the week. Well, that was true for me when I was still living in the States. Now in Indonesia… the call to prayer opens my eyes at 4am every morning. There are some days that I can sleep through it, and there are others when it seems as loud as the singing rooster alarm clock I had growing up. But regardless if I sleep past the Mosque’s wakeup call or not, my feet hit the floor by 5:15 every morning. Needless to say it took quite a bit of adjusting when I first arrived.

Indonesian Sunrise

This morning was definitely a day that I couldn’t sleep through prayer. I decided to get a head start on everything and maybe eat breakfast with the family (normally I am walking into the kitchen as the rest of the household is finishing breakfast). I went through my normal routine of stumbling to the sink outside of my bedroom door to brush my teeth, wincing in agony as I swish Vanilla Mint Listerine in my mouth for the recommended 60 seconds, and then heading into the washroom where I bravely chant “Wake up and embrace the day!”as I plunge the blue bucket into the freezing cold water tub and then throw it on my body over and over in rapid succession (each splash is usually followed by a gasp or scream), lather, and then repeat.

After I was washed, dried, dressed, and was thawing out; I ventured outside to listen to prayer and take a moment to look at my village as the farmers head out to the fields and the women start their daily chores of laundry, sweeping, cooking, and washing. A couple of kids could be seen running around outside, some naked as they had gotten away from their mothers in pure refusal of taking a bath. It the midst of all the happenings the sunrise became more prominent and it absolutely took my breath away. I found myself smiling like a fool and taking in a deep breath. It felt refreshing and renewing. I automatically felt like it was going to be a wonderful day, and I couldn’t see myself being anywhere else at that moment than in my tiny village in Indonesia.

Later I found that my smile lasted all day. My morning portion of rice tasted pretty good, and my classes were even more enjoyable… I didn’t even get upset with my students for not paying attention, and I had a little more energy to teach than normal since my accident.

I have seen my fair share of beautiful sunsets… picture perfect.. with colors rich an beautiful. Yet this sunrise had a bit of a deeper effect on me this morning. Maybe it is because instead of the day ending as it does with the sunset…. I was welcoming the start of a new day. Who knows. Only one thing is certain… It was a bloody fantastic day!

Good Morning