I was raised by parents who grew up in the aftermath of the Depression. Both felt the aftereffects of scarcity and fear, particularly my father. When I was very little I remember saying bedtime prayers with my mother and younger sister (my father was still at work) and asking God to please help Daddy get out of the hole. Where was this hole in the backyard, gone by the time the sun rose and why couldn’t Daddy just climb out of it? I agonized about this every night. Of course, now I know that my father had financial worries about expanding his business, and “the hole” was a considerable amount of debt. I inherited his psychic fears and anxieties.
But as a child of the “boomer” generation, I also remember many things in excess - clothing, antiques, cars, and of course food. Three refrigerators and two freezers held enough food to feed three armies with one mini-frig stocked with nothing but chocolate. Just great for a sneak-eating, overweight child who was just too emotional, or so she was told. Anyway, between post-depression era anxiety, intergenerational depression, and the trials and tribulations of everyday family life, home was not a comfortable place for me. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did the best they could, but I was and still am one of those sensitive types, who absorbs the emotional vibrations of others – and I absorbed it all. My family legacy and genetic inheritance did not make me by nature “a happy camper”. However, I had best friends who welcomed me into their homes that were filled with love and laughter. And going to college in Boston provided me with distance and a respite from family struggles. I smiled more and I ate less. After healing from an unhappy and unhealthy first marriage and I won’t tell you how many years of psychotherapy (no wonder I became a therapist!), I learned some important truths about myself: I can feel happy. I can count on myself for my own happiness.
And... I have to work at being happy. As I mentioned earlier, I’m extremely sensitive to the energies of those around me, as well as to my own. So now when I feel myself going down into the valley of anxiety or depression, where my thoughts are not helpful to my mental, emotional, or physical health, I have to put on the brakes. I have to change the direction of my thoughts. Entertaining them only leads to ruminating about problems, issues, and wounds both past and present. When I don’t catch the thoughts soon enough, I can literally feel the energy draining from my body. So over the years, I’ve paid attention to the things that lift my mood and make me smile. One of the things that drew me to my second and forever husband was his light and bright energy. Also, his willingness to play and his sincere desire to understand me were high on my list. Being with my husband makes me happy! Walking with him and our dog Roxie each morning makes me smile. Feeling the rewards of the work that I do makes me happy. A good night’s sleep makes me happy. Reading a good book, taking an afternoon nap, eating good food, visiting Florida in the winter to escape the cold – these simple things make me happy. And how can I not mention my weekly dish of ice cream. Ice cream makes me very happy!
So what do I do when I feel my life force, my “chi”, start to drain from my body or when it feels like an elephant’s foot is on my chest? I stop. I take a deep, cleansing breath in and exhale out the negative energy that’s bringing me down. I ask my husband for a hug and I absolutely do not let those thoughts and resulting feelings take up residence in my mind or in my heart. And sometimes I eat ice cream. I choose to be happy!
The above article is an expert from 'Reflections of A Fat Girl', Ilene Leshinsky's best-selling book. Get your copy on Amazon now!