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I Must Be Doing It Wrong

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That might as well be my mantra.

Because if everyone else loves something and I hate it -- or even if I'm just "meh" -- I assume that my technique must be lacking, that if I tried harder I would get it, and I would love it. So I must be doing it wrong.

Here's what I mean: When I scroll through my social media feed and see people raving about something (you can insert practically anything here -- I've fallen for ALL of them -- diets, workout trends, essential oils, supplements, parenting strategies, career strategies, and on and on and on) -- I give that thing a solid go. I am all in.

After I had my youngest child -- and I mean right after, when I was still in the hospital -- I cinched on this incredibly uncomfortable corset thing over my hips because I'd read that if I wore it after giving birth, when my hips were still adjustable because of a hormone amusingly called relaxin, I could get them back down to their pre-baby size. The catch was (besides it being really unpleasant) I had to do it for eight hours a day for at least six weeks.

And despite having a newborn and two other kids to care for WHILE PCSing AND preparing for my husband to deploy, I did it. I gave up the precious few hours I might have slept comfortably for the promise of smaller hips. And it didn't work. But even as I write this, I'm loathe to say that corset was a scam because my brain is telling me that maybe it really does work, for someone out there.

Maybe (despite following the instructions to the letter) I did it wrong.

And so it goes with other things I see people raving about. One after another, I embrace them because they hold the promise of making me skinnier-happier-smarter-stronger-more rested-more patient-more productive.

That parenting strategy that will change my life? It turns out to be neat idea, maybe even worth repeating, but it's definitely not going to alter my existence. I'm looking at you, magnetic chore charts and light-up timers.

That product or tip that will make me more [fill in the blank]? At best, it might turn out to be not awful. But do I then decide that the product/tip/strategy was a waste of my time and money? Oh no, no, no.

I decide that I must be doing it wrong.

Because if so many people are so into this thing, if so many people swear that this thing has absolutely changed their lives, then the problem is clearly with me. That's how my thinking goes.

Another example: I hate running. I soooooo hate running. I have a sticker on the back of my car that reads "0.0." And yet, every couple of years, I decide that I just need to conquer my hatred of running because if millions of people around the world love it so much that they pick "RunnerGrl" as their Twitter handle, buy 26.2 gold necklaces and run ever-increasing, ever-more-ridiculous distances for ever-less-reasonable reasons, well, then clearly I'm just not doing it right.

I've read whole books (plural) on running techniques. Really boring books, by the way. Really boring because they're books about running. I've taken classes (plural) on running. I have paid people to teach me to do something that every 3-year-old just figures out for himself because I am so certain the problem is in my execution.

And still I hate running.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the U-Bend of Happiness theory, a theory that thankfully requires no effort or purchases for me to embrace. It says that most people start off in life as happy children and then their happiness steadily declines until they hit the nadir, the bottom flat part of the U, in middle age. Then, after middle age, their happiness steadily increases for the remainder of their lives.

I floated this theory by a few elderly friends and they all agreed that, yes, they are happier in old age than they'd been since they were children. Their skinnier-happier-smarter-stronger-more rested-more patient-more productive wishes hadn't necessarily come true, but they'd stopped beating themselves into submission to try and make those things happen. They were grading themselves on a curve, if they were grading themselves at all.

(Also, consider this gem from the 10th paragraph of that Economist story linked above: "People with children in the house are less happy than those without." So there's that, too.)

As that Economist story notes, "Perhaps acceptance of ageing itself is a source of relief. 'How pleasant is the day,' observed William James, an American philosopher, 'when we give up striving to be young--or slender.'"

In other words, I'm not doing it wrong -- I'm middle-aged and neck deep in the U. I'm not doing it wrong, I'm looking for lifelines to pull myself out of the nadir (just like everyone else.)

I'm not doing it wrong -- running just sucks.

For me. It sucks for me. Cool your jets, RunnerGrl. You're still allowed to love it.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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