Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's Your Focus?

"There is reason for everyone to be unhappy. 
There is reason for everyone to be happy. 
What's your focus?"

Today, I read these words on Kelle Hampton's blog and almost through up my arms with an "Amen sister!". Perhaps I would have done just that if I had not been sitting in a classroom of thirty other college students who are quietly paying attention and taking notes on the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.

Perhaps its the photographer in me but the idea of focus provides such a perfect analogy here: a shallow depth of field and the correct focus is all you need to blur an ugly background and make your subject pop in an image, and our happiness is selective in the same way.

The idea that we all control our own happiness has been a thought pressing on my mind for the past few weeks. If you didn't know, after a persistent shaking in the right side of my body, a Sunday morning fainting episode in my boyfriend's kitchen and a trip to the Emergency Room, my family doctor determined that I was suffering from generalized anxiety.

This post isn't about the anxiety in and of itself. Someday I'll sit down and write about the reasons why I hate Zoloft, the intimidation I feel at the thought of starting therapy and the goals I've made myself to overcome this but right now? I'm not ready to do that. You see, I didn't take that "diagnosis" well.

And that's why at the beginning of this week, I decided I needed to change my focus.

It only took a slightly irritating hint from my boyfriend, "you're making yourself more problems so that you have something to fix." Thankfully, he tucked it into a supportive and loving text - he's good, I'm telling you. At first, I was angry. Bitterly angry. I quickly and effectively typed a rude text back to him, telling him that he couldn't possibly understand, that he wasn't the one dealing with countless doctors, a full schedule and a job he didn't love.

And then I realized that perhaps he was right. Perhaps, I had my focus on the wrong things.

With my sweet tooth, it's should come as no surprise that when I first took this photograph,
 my focus was on a case of baked goods in the background.

I've done everything right as far as my health goes in the past few years. I go to the gym at least every other day. I do yoga. I don't eat wheat. I eat mostly organic foods. I avoid red meat, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup and Trans Fat. I only eat whole grains. I eat vegetables or fruit with every meal. I take a vitamin every day. And yet, I'm still sick. Not horribly sick, just sick to the point of being annoyed or exhausted constantly. And I've had to except that there's nothing I can do about it - But, I can control the way that it affects me.

For months, I've been angry. I've called my mom crying probably once a week, demanding why doctors couldn't figure anything out. I snapped at my boyfriend regularly, demanding to know why I was twenty and sitting in a cardiology office. And for a while, I was perfectly content to live with that attitude.

But after starting a new semester of classes, I felt overwhelmed by those emotions. I felt like I couldn't handle school, that I had no friends, that I couldn't possibly work a full schedule this spring. Then, I had a panic attack and had to drop a class because I was so embarrassed. And that's when I first realized that my focus had to change.

Ultimately, what it comes down to is that you are the only one who controls your happiness. Yes, other things may affect it. If you're like me, it could be your health, your schedule, the people in your life. But in the end, you're the one who decides wether to keep these things in your life or not and if you do, how to react to them. The sooner you accept that responsibility, the happier your life will be.

Today may only be day four of my new focus but for each of those four days, I've woken up with the attitude that it was going to be a good day. I went to bed believing that the next day, I wasn't going to be sick, I wasn't going to be tired. And I'm not going to lie to you, I've still been sick and I've been tired but the belief that the next day would be better was enough to improve how I felt, dramatically. 

I can't say that I've been entirely positive this week, I'm still learning. I can't say that I haven't complained at all. But I've at least given up my end of the day "ugh, today was awful" texts to my boyfriend.  In fact, even after shattering the glass front to my iphone and ending up crying at work last night, I simply told Trevor that I was trying to stay positive, my day wasn't bad, it was just a test. And that is truly what it was, a test of my focus, a test I'm determined to keep passing.

I guess the point of this discussion is to challenge you to shift your focus, too.
You never know what you'll see when you do.

P.S. I am also sharing the photo featured in this blog with this week's You Capture challenge, Still Life, over at "I Should Be Folding Laundry." If you've never heard of Beth's "You Capture" feature, check it out & feel free to join in on the fun!


  1. I JUST stumbled upon your blog, but reading this post I felt compelled to comment. I wish you so much luck in keeping your focus on controlling your happiness. As someone who struggled with depression and anxiety a few years back, I can tell you that shifting your focus to more positive things really DOES do a world of difference. It definitely takes a while to train the mind, but it'll come. Finding exactly what gives you a sense of peace helps too... as soon as you feel some of the bad emotions coming on, go do the peaceful thing (ie- for me, taking a walk outside alone, a good cup of tea, etc).

    Sorry for the preachy comment, just offering any help I can think of. Lots of love and luck to you! :)

    1. Please don't apologize for your comment. As it came up in my inbox last night, I grabbed my iphone and showed it to my boyfriend "Look, can you believe this? A complete stranger! Such great advice and support!". He laughed at me and was not the least bit surprised that someone would take the time to be so kind. Thank you so much for your wishes, I think this might take a lot of luck and love but it's working so far! It's so good to hear some reassurance from someone who has battled the same things. & I completely agree with you on so many things, especially a good cup of tea!


  2. Keep focusing in this new way. You are on the right track. I love that first shot!

    1. Thank you so much, it's one of those shots that reminds me that even silly little things can be beautiful! :]

  3. The pictures are beautiful, and I'm so glad you've written honestly about your focus. I do know that you get what you focus on~focus on what you want. That means focus on the health, not the illness. While general anxiety can cause a slew of problems. Focus on the feelings of calm and happy and healthy and act like that's how you feel. I bet it will help. :-)

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and for your sweet comment! Though I do yoga, i've always found it so hard to focus on calm!! My friends and family will tell you that I never relax but hey, I'm trying!! Thank you for being supportive of this new found focus, the kind words make it a little easier!

  4. Got here via Beth and You Capture - it's taken me many years to figure out "you are the only one who controls your happiness" and you've got a good handle on the concept, MissJen.

    As a lifetime sufferer of a debilitating disease or disorder or whatever (FM), I can commiserate and assure you that even though we can't control what our bodies do to us, we ARE the only ones who control how we deal with it.

    Good luck.

    1. Jackee, I wanted to thank you for your support! It's so good to hear it from someone else who has dealt with a chronic problem. Someone who understands that sometimes your body has other ideas for you than you do. Thanks for taking the time to check me out from You Capture!! xo.