Do you ever wander through nice suburban neighborhoods looking at all the lovely homes? Do you wonder if the kids fight, or if your child is the only child who ever put a bean in his nose? What's going on behind closed doors?
I spent my teen years in a newer home in suburban America. I lived in a perfect family, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighborhood, in a perfect town and attended a perfect church where everyone did everything perfectly. The sky was always blue and everything was perfect, except me.
My father was sure I was a troubled teen. My crimes included liking boys, tight jeans and staying out too late. I was simply not perfect.
I will never forget when my father took a volunteer leadership position in our neighborhood church. As the neighbor’s newest confessor, he learned what was behind the closed doors of the perfect homes that lined our street. He heard about incest, sexual and physical abuse, addictions and a newly formed cult.
After only a week, Dad was called to help when a neighbor pulled a gun on his wife and 11 children. When the SWAT team left, my father staggered into our kitchen exhausted and made an announcement I will never forget. Whatever problems he thought we had, were nothing. We were perfect, compared to what was happening behind closed doors up and down our beautiful street. I remember looking at him and in my best snarky teen voice saying something like, “It’s about time.” He finally realized not only were we in pretty good shape, we were perfect. Perfect for him.
According to Forbes, America’s world ranking as a happy nation has slipped to 12th from the top 10 countries. If you live in America 3.9 million of your neighbors have been in foreclosure, but you may have thought their grass was always greener than yours.
In Psychology Today, Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D., psychologist said, “Troubles in life come when we believe the myth that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. We are taken over by envy, believing that other people have the good stuff and then feeling depressed, anxious, and persecuted by the belief that we have so little. We are taken over by greed, wanting more and more and more, feeling that what we have cannot ever be enough. The reason this attitude undermines mental health is that it leads us to turn away from the main task of life, which is to make the most of what we have."
The truth is sometimes when you are single, it can feel like everyone is part of a couple. When your car is old, it can feel like every car on the road is newer than yours and the very model you wish you had. We tend to focus on what we wish for, or want, instead of being content with what we have.
Here are some tips for being happy with your own lawn and its green colored issues
Choose the troubles you know
. Realize that it is better to have your own problems, than to open the can of worms that someone else’s problems may be. When we face what we really have head on, we can decide to stay the same or change. If we continue to wish we were someone else, living someone else’s life, we are forever focused on an unattainable goal. It is like looking in the mirror at beautiful brown eyes and instead of being happy with them wishing they were blue. True you could wear tinted contacts for the rest of your life, but at what cost verses return?
Be wary of the, “If Onlys.”
If you find yourself saying, if only I had more money, if only I were thin, if only I had a better car, you might be failing to enjoy what you currently have. I am not as thin as I want to be, but I can run forever without feeling pain. Choose to celebrate and have gratitude. I show gratitude to God for my ability to run, strong legs, healthy lungs and a beautiful beach 200 feet from my front door. Don’t let the, “if onlys” keep you from seeing what you have.
Happiness is cheap
Recognize that more money will not make you happy. More money comes with its own set of problems and different bills. Happiness does not come with ease. A sense of accomplishment can be had with a good garage sale find, as well as a real estate deal well done. True joy can be found when you knit a scarf, fix your own car, paint a painting or write a song that shares your soul with the world.
Positively see the half cup of water, instead of the half cup of air
By accepting what we have, we can be content and find happiness. Is your cup half full or half empty? Look at the blessings that are already in your cup clearly and with a positive attitude and you will be more likely to be content.
Don’t play the shame, blame game
When we are unhappy with our lot in life, our children feel we are unhappy with them. They are our life, and if we don’t like life, they will feel like it is their fault, even if it isn’t. Because young children are inherently self-centered, they believe if the sun sets, it is because it is their bedtime. They also believe if you are mad, sad or happy it has to do with them, or is their fault. They will feel shame and take the blame, whether you give it to them, or not.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh