The Make Somebody Happy Challenge

Monday, December 30, 2013

In 2009, I created the Happiness Booth, a weird and wonderful pop up shop of performance art, baked goods, theme music for shoppers, and random acts of happiness. The Lovebooth was the lovely follow up. The unexpected takeaway from this? To promote it, I created the Happiness page on Facebook. You like Happiness? I control the page. Maybe not as powerful as love or sex or chocolate, but Happiness! Me! Mine!

And I've done nada with it.

Happiness, waiting to be shared. And not just liked. Sure, everyone likes happiness.

Click. You liked happiness.

But what about being happy?

You like that, right? When you're happy, you more inclined to make others happy.

But when was the last time Facebook or any other social media page made you happy?

Like that time you got sucked into a friend of a friend's supernaturally perfect wedding?
Wow. Jenny's on vacation. Again.
F--- the Bahamas.
Fabulous. Dan's celebrating his new job by skiing in Zermatt. I don't even know what that means.
Why wasn't I invited to Claire's party?
I don't need to see your abs. Stop it, duckface.
Yes. Your kid is perfect. So is your dog. And your husband. And your g*ddamn Pinterest pie.
F-- my life.

Sometimes, social media makes me feel like being anything but. So why not harness it for good? Why not use Happiness instead of letting it just sit, taking up space.

Yes! You're on board? So how do you do it?

Take the Make Someone Happy Challenge.

******January 1, 2014**********


Take the one day traditionally reserved for making yourself the ideal person you wish you can be by telling someone else how freaking awesome you think THEY are. It could be a Facebook friend, it could be your best friend who needs to hear it, but what about that acquaintance who would be blown away if they knew how you really felt about them? A stranger you always wanted to meet. The blogger you've been to shy to send comments to. Your mom. Your mentor. Your kid's teacher. That mom at your kids' school you secretly think is the coolest person you've ever met but they seem a little shy. The mailman. Your favorite podcaster. Louis CK. Ok, maybe not him. He gets shit tons of fan mail.

One day. Maybe 5 minutes. 10 minutes top. Pick one person. Pick 10. Use social media to make that person a little happier than they might have been before. Post it on their timeline, tweet it, write them a message or comment on their blog. If you feel a little doofy, attach the Happiness Badge to your post, saving this finally gave you the opportunity to say what you felt and ask them to pass the happy on. Jan 1. Take the challenge. Jan 2 you can go back to secretly hating that food blogger's perfect shot on Instagram.

The Sweazys

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Like the cobbler's son, my kids don't have much in the way of official family portraits. Thanks to a loverly swap with fellow photographer Erin Jaffe, Caleb and I are actually in a photograph with our kids.

Well, kind of.


Ask me about my sexy depression

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

(ed. note - I have wanted to take this down ever since it went up. I've felt relieved and unburdened but also raw and exposed.  But taking it down would complete defeat the whole point. What I do want to clarify is that this was posted in response to a Facebook post making the rounds, a woman writing how she felt like she could never live up to the life she sees day in and day out on social media, everyone's perfectly curated, photoshopped life. I'm in a really great place now, but not long ago, I was not. I've heard the argument that because it was in the past, perhaps it should stay there. But I wanted to honor the ugly, the messy, just as much as I share the wonderful, the glossy, the good. One simply doesn't exist without the other to balance it out.)

I have approximately 46 unpublished posts that I have started over the past 24 months, with titles like, How Zumba Saved My Life, The One Where I Shit All Over White Privilege, and Remember When I Used to Write? Each title summed up the same post I had tried - and failed - to write over and over and over.

But this time was going to be different. I sat down, jerryrigged the computer to keep the internet at bay, and starting writing about the past year of my life. A life undocumented here because I increasingly didn't know how to talk about it, how I should talk about it, or if I needed to talk about it all. It was embarrassing. It was messy. The thought of posting about it made me afraid. But this past year was so much about fear, and I was tired of being afraid. I wanted to write about it because that is what I do. Or namely, it's what I used to do. I wanted to talk about it, because if a life falls in the forest and no one is around to blog about it, did it make a sound?

So I wrote. And I shared. I talked about how I felt I had lost a year of my life to depression, self-loathing, and overwhelming failure. Our financial situation had gone from comfortable to precarious. I wasn't writing, and everyday I didn't, I felt a tiny part of me crumbling. My son would rather scream and hit me, so I shrank from him. And wrote The Baby Psychopath Quiz. And talking about all of it made me feel icky and overshare-y and all the things that are supposed to happen when you strike a nerve, and then I took a break and went on Facebook and clicked a link and found myself reading one of the funniest, most clever, moving pieces of depression I had ever read.

Now even my depression felt mediocre.

There was no freakin way I was going to hit publish and talk about my little brush with depression now. I was miserable, but clearly not miserable enough.

The truly shitty thing? This wasn't the first time it happened. I felt moved to share my story and found myself reading about a woman's nervous breakdown and how she ended up in a hospital. There was the glamorous blogger who once was a mess of alcohol abuse and eating disorders and a book deal. That other divorced writer who ended up in a hospital. The mother with searing prose and pain who was driven over the edge after the death of her son.

Here I was with my marriage intact, my two children healthy, and my nightly two glasses of wine and vague notions of wanting to end it all at the height of my post partum depression just seemed...embarrassing. Like not so bad it's good but genuinely bad Lifetime movie embarrassing.

So I didn't click publish.

And I didn't write much.

And a lot of life happened in between that I was too busy and lazy and scared to write about.

I'd pop up on Facebook here and there with a quip or two and then scurry back into the dark. I was guilty of curating my life just like everyone else. I experienced some fantastic personal triumph, and I was moved and pleased from my core to share it.

But I didn't share the rest.

How my husband took on three jobs to support my writing and film makings dreams at the expense of his own. How we were working harder and harder and making less and less money as my day job business struggled.

How I withdrew from friends because of social anxiety.

How I was supposed to be way more at ease as a mom the second time around but feeling like a big fat fraud with a kid I couldn't even begin to understand.

And as constant as a heartbeat, my mother was always offering support and encouragement  and articles and self help books as only mothers can.

And one of these books was about shame. About how most of our misery can be summed up by the age-old dick measuring contest.

See, I was supposed to be Something by now. My peers had gotten their shit together. What was wrong with me?

I was supposed to be Someone. I had the degree and the hair and the button-cute blonde children. But my Someone was a miserable, failing, self-loathing mess. Here I was at the rest of my life, having hit all the major milestones, done with having kids, ready to truly live my dreams, and here. I go.

And then I would hit a creative wall and

emerge unfinished
hating myself

and find myself back at square one, wanting so desperately to have finished, to have achieved, but completely blocked as to how.

If I had gathered the village around me that I so desperately needed, had I had the courage to share more about these failings, I would have been asked this most important question:

How old is your son?

I would have said almost two.

And then there would have been sage nods, and a "yup," and a hang in there, sister. It'll get better.

And it did.

Because he is now almost three*, I have a son who tells me he loves me and snuggles...when not screaming and hitting things. Zumba did indeed save my life, when I stopped judging long enough to fall head over heels for the moves and the women who made up those classes.

Because my mom found the courage to send me a book I would most surely scoff at, I found myself moved by the author's struggle to combat her own shame, and I'm starting my own experiment battling shame by hitting "publish."

My depression might not be as sexy as some other lady's, but it's mine. It's just not all mine anymore, because I'm not scared to share it anymore. Not *as* scared. Okay, still scared. But doing it anyway.


*My daughter at age three was proof that there was something much, much nastier and fearsome than the terrible twos. I'm holding out hope his three is a gentler, kinder version.

Rachel + Matthew

A boy, a girl, and their dog on a stunningly lovely afternoon at Shelby Farms. I'm gonna shut up now and let the images talk for me.