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Back from my happiness hiatus

When I launched this blog, one of my intentions was to be much more open and to write from an honest place on my struggle for balance between passion, my quest for happiness and family. I fully intended to report back often, yet couldn’t quite find the words – or more accurately, I couldn’t get them out of me.

I have been distant on the happiness front for a few reasons, major reasons – namely though the lack of happiness. For the last several months of 2014, life was anything but happy. I had nothing to report except the lack of travel, the lack of balance or stability, and most definitely the lack of happy moments.

So in order to get through this, to let these words and thoughts finally escape my head, there is no better forum than the one I designed for it.  Please bear with me while I ramble.

Though 2014 was full of many ups, I experienced some severe downs. I am happy to report that today however, I am on the road to recovery.

It’s the law of life. Before you can go up, sometimes you must go down.

Sometimes it’s down low, much lower than you ever anticipated. I thought I was familiar with the feeling of low, however I was naïve. As someone who has dealt with anxiety my whole life and depression off and on, the worst was yet to come. I hit a new low.

I enter this new year in a new way.

Single after 14 years in a relationship, (eight of those married), I’m now living on my own and sharing custody of my kids. After years of trying to make each other happy, I mean really trying, my partner and I decided to quit making each other miserable. This obviously left me in quite a different place, from the comfortable yet fairly bumpy (and many times unhappy) life I was living the past few years.

I felt though, that I was prepared for it. We had mutually decided this was the way to go, and both knew and still know, it is the best decision for our family. What I didn’t expect however was that my sense of loss would be so immense.

By the year’s end I found myself doubting my gut. The one thing I had learned to trust. I quizzed myself endlessly, second guessing every reason or decision I made that led up to this point.

This is was what I wanted wasn’t it? I used to think so.
Maybe things weren’t so bad?

Maybe we would have worked it out over time?
Could I have made a mistake?
Could I have tried harder?
Why does it hurt so much if this was what I desired?

I found myself going back to those desires to look for answers. And instead, only could reflect on the ‘what if’s’. Surely I thought, they would help me get back the mind set that led me here.

If only I could have more time to myself.
If only I was understood.
If only I wasn’t completely wrapped up in the failure of my relationship.
If only I could pursue my passion and be loved for my success.
If only I was appreciated for who I am and what I give.

If only we weren’t so different.
If only, things were different … Well, they sure are now.

Reflecting back, I had started 2014 like a person holding a laser pointer. I could point it wherever on whatever target and make it happen. I had a firm grip on where I was going and what would work best for me. I was confident, performing well and sure about what was holding me back. I had goals, and was achieving them, even exceeding with a few. I started to find a bit of work-life balance after two years of struggling to follow my dreams, while holding down two jobs on top of trying to be a stellar parent and wife. However, that was from my perspective.

By mid-year, it was clear I was succeeding, but I was the only one celebrating it within our relationship.

As the year ended and we made everything official, the realness of the situation took its toll on me emotionally. What I wanted so badly, what I thought would make me the most happy, seemed so much less important by the year’s end.

I lost that feeling, my drive, all ambition. I became numb. Felt lonely. Like more alone than ever. This wasn’t quite the quiet time I had in mind earlier in the year. Depression took its toll. Poor diet choices, apathy and a full on pity party took over my life. I wasn’t even sure what would make me happy day-to-day.

Not to mention the severe creative block. I couldn’t get words out. I stopped pitching assignments and struggled through ones I had committed to. And I didn’t shoot barely a thing for three months. This coming from someone who regularly takes about 3000 or so images a month. Depleted physically and emotionally, I just kept expecting for my usual pick me up to kick in. Only it didn’t.

I needed a full on manual reset.

Instead of holding the laser, suddenly I was the cat hopelessly chasing that ever moving red light. I looked everywhere to try and figure out which direction to go? I didn’t know where to turn to find happy again.

I thought hard about giving up my passion, which seemed to have been one of the culprits that led to our split (there were of course, many more). I felt guilty and caught up in my own failures as a wife and parent. I was in a hopeless funk and struggled to get through each day.

Over the course of the last few weeks of the year I decided something had to be done. But first I knew I needed to allow myself some time. To be sad, to adjust, to re-evaluate my choices and priorities. I needed to think on it.

Instead of clearly understanding why this was so much harder than expected, I found myself letting go, swimming in and succumbing to, new and unexpected feelings. I admitted defeat, I had no answers and no control. I just needed to let it all happen.

I finally came to the point where I realized a simple concept — that happiness is a moving target. And my focus has evolved, so too perhaps should my outlook on happiness. And happiness after all, is my responsibility.

And although I wasn’t done mourning the loss of my marriage, I knew it was time to shift my perspective and get back to the very optimistic person who had been in hiding. I started thinking about and vocalizing to whomever would hear me out why things are actually on the up and up for me, and my family. After all, these things were true, I just had to make myself believe it over time.

I am so lucky for so many reasons.

Me and my ex probably have a more healthy relationship than ever.
He is a wonderful person who I still care for and love.

We are amicable.
We help each other out.
We are stable parents whose tension doesn’t hang over our family like a storm cloud.
We both have lovely, safe homes.
Our kids are adjusting quite well.
We have our schedules down but are flexible.
Our kids are the centre of focus, not our fighting.

The short of it is, I found gratitude in my heart. For this terrible outcome, I found some silver linings. I’m proud of the things we achieved by making the hardest decision of our marriage – the decision to be apart. Now it was time to work on me again.

Let’s talk transition. I’m in it.

I became motivated to move on. To excel again. It’s just not usually this hard. Sure I have never been in this exact spot, but I have always been someone who viewed change as an opportunity, a new challenge. What’s more motivating than mastering something new? Okay maybe instead of mastering I am going to pat myself on the back for accepting what transpired, my accountability in it, and where I am at. That sounds healthier.

It was time to create some new pathways, simple ones which I could focus and count on to bring me back to a happier place. In 2015, I am committed to doing more of the following:

Breathe.
Meditate. 
Practice gratitude.

Treat my body better – eat well – exercise – laugh.
Enjoy time with my kids more.
Be kind. To everyone. 

Create more. 
Read more.

And now some goals for my passion:

Slow down find the right fit.
Beware of getting too caught up.
Less stress, more excitement.

Write every day.
Write from a more honest place.
Blog more.
Stop worrying about where I fit.
Do what I do best.
Waste less time and energy – quit doing things I can’t stand.
Love what I am doing.

So where am I since committing to this new pathway?

My regrouping from my unraveling is already leading to positive outcomes.

Health has taken first priority in my life for my sake, and my kids. In order to be the best mom I can be, I have to be healthy emotionally and physically. I already feel better, with my energy growing daily. I find myself smiling more. Stress levels and anxiety have lessened dramatically allowing me to better focus on family time.

We all seem happier though it’s only been a short time. I am more present with my kids, not as overwhelmed, distracted or fraught with despair. We laugh a lot more and there is more calm than crazy in the house.

I am not done mourning and some days are worse than others, but all I can do is focus on one foot in front of the other, all the positives in my life, and things that genuinely make me and my boys happy.

In regard to reigniting my passion for what I do, I dove back in whole hearted. In a few short weeks I have secured three new outlets, filed three stories and have some promising partnerships underway. I picked up my camera – this time first to take pictures of my kids. They are such lovely little humans.

And though I had no travel plans set in stone during my September to December lull, I now have five trips planned in the next six months.

I’m happy to say I’m back up on the horse and ready to not only face, but welcome this year of change. It feels good to finally open up, and write again. I feel my words are much closer to my heart than ever before.

Thank you for being here by reading this – by visiting my site.

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44 thoughts on “Back from my happiness hiatus
    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thank you Jodi. It’s just that … a journey and I have learned to appreciate the parts of it along the way, however hard, there is always something to learn.

  1. Such a great post. From such a great lady. I had no idea you were struggling this much and I’m glad you’ve turned the corner and have a plan. And I truly look forward to seeing that room-brightening smile of yours much more.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thank you from the bottom of my heart Amy. Your kind words just brought tears to my eyes. I look forward to seeing you again soon as well.

  2. It takes a really big person to do what you have been through and admitted and ultimately chosen. I wish you nothing but the best for you and the boys and the fur babies. I know that is looks really hard if you look long term but take one day at a time, they get better, I promise. As someone who did the same thing you and have been where you are, if I did it, you can do it, you are such a strong person and you will make it. I look back now and think I would have made the same choice again, my kids and I needed to be healthy and happy first and we needed to find us. All the best and you know where to find me if you need a coffee date or someone to go and shoot some photos with….I love my new Rebel and look for any excuse and reason to use it. Be well Jenn!

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thank you Bobbi for all your wonderful words! Its so nice to have the support and confidence of friends, especially those who have been down this road. I will for sure take you up on your coffee offer. And yes lets shoot some photos whilr we are at it too. Hope you and your beautiful family are well.

  3. Deborah on said:

    I admire your strength, Jenn, both in making and sticking to tough decisions and in being open about them. I know what deep depression feels like and it is terrifying. But you’re right that there are always lessons to be learned.

    So many people are sadly too scared to strive for real happiness and instead content themselves with “good enough”, which is never really good enough. Then they go through their lives feeling unfulfilled and they miss out on true happiness. But not you – you’ve shown courage and you’ve set yourself on a new and exciting path.

    I wish you every happiness. You deserve it.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Deborah, I hope you know just how lucky I am to call you my friend. You have been there for me through the thin and thick of it. Words are simply not enough to express my gratutude for that.

      Being unfulfilled is a terrifying concept to me. I will always work hard to ensure I live the best life I can. I know you relate, as we share that belief.

      Looking forward to seeing you again this year! xoxo

  4. Hi Jenn, I am so so sorry to hear of your situation. I know what you are going through and you will have those days where some are better than others. But sounds like you have a good grip and realize that life is too short, focus on your kids and most of all ‘you’. Focusing on ‘me’ is always so hard because we are women who are nurturing all the time and we forget about ourselves. I like your focus to breathe, to be grateful for who you are and what you have. Take care.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thanks Iris. You are right, it is hard to focus on one’s self, especially once you become a mom. Sometimes, it can appear to others that you are being selfish (which is really sad when that happens) but I learned firsthand if you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.

      I am grateful everyday for what I have and do my best to not take anything for granted. I appreciate you reading the post and commenting Iris.

  5. Glenn Tracey on said:

    That is so beautifully written as I was transposed into your world, feeling your emotions and totally understanding how you must feel from your words. I would wish nothing but the best for you, you are truly a beautiful person and there is many a person that feels exactly the same as me. You take care and reach out whenever you feel the need.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Glenn – thank you so very, very much! I am so thankful to have friends all around the world such as yourself that take the time to read my posts and write such meaningful words of encouragement.

      It’s funny how writing from a completely honest place can really resonate with others. I was terrified to write this post and now I couldn’t be more proud that I not only got it out, but hit the publish button. I feel very loved today and I am immensely grateful.

  6. Jenn , so unaware ! Hugs to you . I see only brightness in your journey , each thing I see that you touch seems to shine bright . Your so very wise and truly talented . May your load seem lighter with each day . Always a friend in me . You shine girl !

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      You are so kind. Thank you Chea for your thoughtful words. I am very fortunate to have the support of friends like you.

  7. What an awesome, honest post! It takes guts to be so open and I know it will bring good things for your future! As a person dealing with “issues” that arise from split families, it makes me happy to hear that you are on the right track and have the kids best interests in mind. Mourn. Be sad. Go through the motions, but BE TRUE to who you are! I can’t wait to see what comes next for you and hopefully we can meet some day! I Know we’d have a lot to talk about!

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      That would be great Christine. I would love to meet you.

      I am glad you enjoyed the post.

      Thank you so much for your wise words. I’m working hard on all of these things, especially being true to me and loving myself as I am.

  8. Miriam Friedman on said:

    Jenn, what beautiful and profound words. I am so sorry that you have had such a struggle over these past months. What an intense journey but you have come through it all with dignity and wisdom. With your creativity, honesty and gift for words you have helped more people than you can imagine. Thank you for sharing what is in your heart. You are heading into a wonderful upswing! May 2015 bring you much joy and many blessings.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Miriam, thank you so much. It was indeed intense and I am still on that journey, figuring it out day-by-day, but choosing a path with gratitude is helping me to let go of the negative bumps in the road. I appreciate your friendship so much. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  9. Jenn, I’M SO HAPPY TO READ THIS. And I love how open and honest you are here. I know we’ve talked a bit about what’s going on but I’ve always sensed your reservation on the topic. There’s something cathartic about writing it all down, isn’t it? Setting intentions. I’m so glad you’re back to finding your happiness. 🙂

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Yes, Candice yes — completely cathartic. Once I actually got the urge to write, it all poured out. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be oversharing here or if I should publish it at all. After all I got it out of me – did others need to know this? I decided to bite the bullet and hit publish completely terrified. After crying for the better part of yesterday, mostly because of all of the support that poured in, I know for certain it was what I needed to do. Thanks so much for being a great friend and inspiration.

  10. Jenn, so sorry to here how tough going it’s been for you. This travel writing gig is not conducive to family life. I’ve had similar struggles and I can only imagine how gut wrenching the last few months have been. It takes a lot of courage to lay it on the line as you have, but once you get it out I bet it feels like a weight off your shoulders. You have so much to look forward to and I’m so happy to hear you’ll be back travelling in 2015. Looking forward to reading about your adventures.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      You nailed it Jody. It is extremely difficult to maintain this type of career with a family, but certainly not impossible. I appreciate you reading my post and taking the time to comment. I hope you have an amazing year as well!

  11. Melissa on said:

    A favourite quote of mine is by Brene Brown and she says “You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” I think you have done a fair bit of walking here Jenn and throughout this journey of yours. So happy and proud that you share your story!

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Many thanks Melissa. That Brene Brown is pure genius. I really do love most everything she has to share. Vulnerability can be super empowering as I learned yesterday. Thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment.

  12. Cathy S. on said:

    So many people go through this, quietly grieving inside, and with poise and grace whilst surrounded in joy, laughing loving families, beauty and happy relationships. Yet I think everyone needs to read more about this lengthy time of, as you perfectly said, mourning the loss of your marriage. It is a true and utter grief, sometimes all the more difficult because of the guilt involved, in certain cases. Thanks for sharing. Glad you are clearly on the upswing.

  13. Jenn – this is such a beautiful piece. Raw, vulnerable, full of emotions and honesty. Your openness, care, and love for self and others will help you through this time. I was really moved when I read this. Thank you for making public something that was once private. It allows people to connect with you and empathize. I know I did. Just think what your narrative will be a year from now. Wishing you happiness, success, and good health.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thank you Terry. The ability to connect with others is something I have been steadily working on since the separation. It really has been an uphill battle some days, as there are many moments I want/need to be around people but cannot seem to make it happen. I have learned that you have to put yourself out there after being sucked up in a relationship vacuum for more than a decade.

      I can’t wait to look back a year from now. I am excited about my new path. Thanks again for your well wishes. I hope your year is also filled with happiness, health and success.

  14. Dean Smith on said:

    Hi there Jenn

    I read you your post with much interest, concern, happiness and empathy…. It was a beautiful article on the the process of life, living, discovery, losing our way and then finding it again, being human…, and just what that means. You are truly on the path (as if you weren’t all along!). I am “back from the dead”, happy and grateful, also to be starting again with a new appreciation for life and to receive and appreciate such wisdom and insight from my little sister. Thank you for this. And… it would be nice if we could get coffee sometime to reconnect and compare life philosophies. Love you Dean

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Dean, I couldnt be happier to read this heartfelt note from you. It means more than you can ever know. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the post and that it inspired you to reach out. I would love to reconnect and will send you an email asap. Love you so much big brother. XO
      Jenn

  15. Wow. I came to this party late. But it’s not a pity party, it’s a celebration of your new life, your new adventures and a positive upward swing. And such a beautifully honest post. Anytime you need to talk, Jenn …. email me. Or … write another lovely blog post.

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Thanks Carol. I would love to chat with you sometime as you always bring a smile to my face. We should meet in S’toon sometime when you are back home. Appreciate you reading and commenting. xoxo

  16. This is a late reading of your post, and yet for the past month your images on Instagram have inspired me with your sense of adventure and joy. To now read what you have been going through is powerful and poignant! Your words are so well written and beautiful. I wish you all the best this year – you really are wonderful & creative! xo

    • Jenn Smith Nelson on said:

      Dawn! You inspire me so much as well! I cannot get enough of your posts and ansolutely love your creations. What a talent you have. Thank you so much for your very thoughtful note. xo

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