Are your happiness buckets being filled?

Are your happiness buckets being filled?
Image cred GetStencil.com

Lately I've heard myself complaining a lot that I don't have enough time. Not enough time to exercise, do laundry, do the dishes; not enough time for anything. But the kids are back in school, and for the first time I have 6 hours to myself every day. I'm done with work at 2:30. I thought by this point I'd have MORE time, not less!

It turns out it's all a matter of perspective. (So...basically how it always is.)

My second-grader has this thing at school now called Bucket Filling. Every day, the class looks for ways to fill each others' buckets — happiness buckets, really — by giving hugs, being kind, helping out and saying nice things. We talk about it every day at some point: how our buckets are doing, what buckets are being filled as we interact in the afternoon and evening, etc.

So when I was laying in bed last week trying to figure my shit out, I realized it wasn't really about time — it's that my buckets weren't being filled.

Moms, I think, especially get this. Because we are, without a doubt, always filling other peoples' buckets. We're wiping away tears; we're reading stories; we're stocking up on favorite foods; we're encouraging friendships and helping out with homework.

We see needs, and we meet them — sometimes to a fault.

Because have you ever thought about the last time someone filled YOUR bucket? I hesitate to compare it to the 5 Love Languages (which annoy me), but that's what it reminds me of: what are my buckets, and how are they filled?

After giving it some thought, I realized that I need a lot of quality time. That's a "bucket" for me. Mornings and evenings with the kids are often rushed, tense, stressful and angry — it's go-go-go, and that does not a bucket fill. Quality time equates to not rushing; it's sitting down and talking, making eye contact, ACTUALLY LISTENING to what the other person has to say and caring about it. {Example: When my 7-year-old rushes outside to tell his aunt he fell down the stairs, that's important. She listens. She shows concern. That fills his bucket.}

One of my other buckets as a single mom is feeling like I'm accomplishing something. It's all on me now — I have to be the responsible one, the organized one, the healthy one, the energetic one. And when my autonomy feels hijacked by the wildebeests that call me Mom, I get bitter and defensive. And that's a hard bucket to fill, when really it also comes back to how I prioritize my time.

So from there I wondered about logistics. Like, who am I supposed to rely on to fill my buckets? It's not like I can count on someone else to say Girl, you need a spa day. Get a pedicure. Go for a run. Work on that side hustle. Do something to make this house feel more like a home. No one can do that for me. I'm in charge, no two ways about it.

Frazzled and empty, I bought a copy of the bucket book for inspiration. To my chagrin, however, the bucket book says, "Your bucket has one purpose only. Its purpose is to hold your good thoughts and good feelings about yourself." Wait what? I'm not good at good thoughts and good feelings ABOUT MYSELF. I can ignore the worst and celebrate the best in anyone — anyone except MYSELF. After all, isn't it human nature to always focus on the worst about yourself? Isn't this is why we have psychiatrists, self-help books and martinis?

What it comes down to is this: Your issues follow you wherever you go. If your bucket is empty at one job, it will follow you to the next, unless you identify and repair the leak. It will be empty on ladies night, at church, in your relationship, with your children — unless you learn to see the hole, wave at the hole and ignore the hole. (Dare I say love the hole?)

It's not worth my time to sit around complaining. Every day it's more and more evident, unfortunately, that life is short, and we should spend it LOVING the people we love — filling their buckets, making them smile, spending quality time, whatever you want to call it. I don't want to be bitter. I don't want to complain about my empty buckets. So I'm going to try not to, any more. I can fill them myself, and I can notice when other people do it for me. It's really just akin to deciding, I'm not going to be in a bad mood today. My second-grader might not have the emotional intelligence to do that yet, but I do. I know how to flip the switch. And if I have to flip it 17 times every day, I can do that. I'm in charge. No two ways about it.

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