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The Happy Book: A Blogging Book Club

I had the pleasure of participating in two of Jamie Ridler's book clubs, The Next Chapter, for bloggers last year. I first read The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women and later read The Joy Diet. I preferred the first book, but both made clear impacts on my life. From them, I learned a great deal about myself and about the importance of listening to my inner voice.

I am part of The Next Chapter once again and the selection this time around is called The Happy Book by Rachael Kempster and Meg Leder. What is different about this time around is that there is actually a mail-around. More than 100 bloggers across the globe will also be enjoying the book for a week, writing their thoughts, drawing their feelings, just sharing in general, etc. I will receive the mail-around book in the coming weeks and I'm part of the "Mirth" group. Unlike the others, it is also very much a journal, so you are extremely interactive page by page.

I am a week behind in posting for the club, so I do apologize.

I can recommend this book already. This can really be for anyone--whether you wake up bubbly and full of glee or whether you're working on finding that happiness.

What makes me happy? Quite simply, my family. They bring joy to my heart each moment of the day--my husband and my boys fill my heart with joy each day.

I am truly happy. I am so blessed to be able to say that I am, because it was not always this way. I was going to just post a picture of my kids or the dog or a great piece of dark chocolate as my "Happy" picture, but I feel it necessary for full disclosure here before I am giddy and joyful each week. Most people who know me think I am a very positive person with loads of energy and thinks I have always been very "together."

I need to be completely honest before doing The Happy Book so it is truly authentic each week.

If you are someone who knows me pretty well, you know that I am a happy person. I love life. I love my life. Has it always been sunshine and rainbows, though? Honestly, I have not always been the happiest person on earth. You may not even know this because I was able to hide it pretty well. I was really good for a while at just gliding along.

My dad died when I was pregnant with Benjamin and I was grief stricken to the core. My heart was broken in a million pieces, but I also had a one year old at home and I made everything happy and wonderful and "normal" for him. I was given a bad piece of advice by someone in my life that "you shouldn't cry in front of Nicholas. It's not healthy for him." I ignored my heart, thought I was a bad mom for being sad, and put on a happy face. I was anything but happy. Nick was a preemie so I was scared I would go into preterm labor with Ben as well. I thought If I allowed myself to feel my pain and loss that I would harm my unborn child. So I kept cramming my feelings down even deeper even though it was hard for me to function each day.

Then Ben was born and between the hormones and my bottled up sadness, I nearly fell apart. I was so sad and so depressed. I had battled depression years before when I was in college and talking to a counselor managed to help me. I was OK for a few years. In 2005, though, I could no longer hide my sadness and ended up on Prozac. Yes, Prozac. It is OK. I can hear some people now, "How could you tell the world such a thing?"

Depression is an illness like diabetes or cancer. One does not choose to have depression. It is an illness. If you need medication to treat it, then by all means, I am not opposed to it. I told that same person in my life mentioned above that I was depressed and told my doctor I needed help and she scolded me and said, "Do you cry all the time? You seem fine to me. You cannot cry in front of your children."

So when the clouds started to lift a bit again, things really did improve. I experienced joy and felt whole again. Actually that is a lie--I felt almost whole. I still was trying to be the best mom to my boys and best wife to Tom and the days were fine, but once they went to bed, there was still something deep down I did not want to address and that was the profound sense of loss I was feeling from my dad's death. I forced myself not to cry, not to feel that pain in an outward sense.

I could have talked to my husband. I knew that. He is a very patient and understanding man and I know that he so wanted me to just say how I was feeling. I was afraid if I started with a simple, "I am still sad" that the floodgates would open and never stop. I had to find a way to deal with the whole in my heart without dealing with it.

I devised another plan. I have been known to come up with a few hair-brained plans a time or two. What does every exhausted mom with a 1 year old and an almost 3 year old do? Well, start a business of course. That's the silly plan I came up with anyway. I think I told myself that I was already making some skin care, so I might as well sell it. I told myself--and everyone else--that I needed some Karley time, that I was so immersed in being Mommy that I wasn't doing something for myself.

It took me until recently to realize it, but I threw myself into starting a business because I wanted to be so busy in those quiet moments the boys were sleeping that I wouldn't have time to think about my grief. I convinced myself that it was what I wanted to do so I had something that was mine that was separate from being "just a mom."

I poured all of my spare time and energy into something all to avoid dealing with my grief. I literally was sleeping 3 hours a day once my business got going and I was too tired to address those feelings deep down. Looking back, I was a tired mom with two babies and should've been relaxing or getting a manicure or vegging out in front of the tv, not throwing myself into something else. My mind was in a fog some days--I was so, so tired trying to be Superwoman all the time.

My business at that time was making skin care and candles and week, I even added cookies. Seriously--cookies. I actually had someone buy 4 dozen cookies, a bunch of tarts and some soap. I barely had energy to make dinner, but I did, and I managed to get those cookies done, too. I kept adding more stuff to make sure that I didn't have time to feel my pain. It was one of the dumbest plans on earth, but it did allow me to avoid that grief for a while, so that goal was accomplished. I think that my mindset was, "If I am busy all day and night every single day, the feelings will just disappear."

Wrong I was. The feelings were still there. I couldn't push them down anymore. The truth of the matter is that I kept having chance after to chance to push the feelings down. When my face cream was featured in Body & Soul, I was given another free pass to avoid my grief because I was so busy--more tired, working harder, just drained--that I could tuck those feelings down a bit more.

Yes, I experienced happiness through those years. Please do not think that I was just a bundle of sadness for these years. That is not the case. My family brought me joy, I laughed and played and had fun, went out with friends, was content, proud of my achievements and the like...and when Nick was about to enter kindergarten, I stopped soothing myself with my nightly pint of ice cream, started exercising again, lost weight (46 pounds and am now considered "normal" on my doctor's weight chart, but do aim to lose a few more) and just put the puzzle of myself back together. It wasn't until last February, though, when I started having health problems that I was forced to take a step back and relax and just be. That was one of the key things that woke me up.

In this year, I have grown so much in terms of facing my feelings. I actually started making notes of what was making me happy vs. unhappy and that is when I chose to follow my heart. Always. No more excuses and no more avoidance.

Since then, I started to once again feel true, down to the core JOY and HAPPINESS once more. Closing the door on my skin care business was that final step for me. I closed the door on avoidance. I closed the door on doing things that I didn't enjoy. In doing so, I have opened the door to experiencing even greater joy and happiness because I am doing what I want to do, what my heart says I should do, what makes me smile.

I have said this before, if you are hearing your inner voice tell you something, please do not avoid it. Listen to it. Heed the advice of your inner voice and you will find your path to happiness.

Now that I have confessed my dark clouds in my life that were here until the sun came back out, I leave you with this: go out and do something this weekend that makes you happy!

Next week, I will be back with a lighthearted HAPPY post for the book club :)