A very common source of disagreement in the Vasquez household (and many others as I hear) is a difference in perspective on a particular issue. Jon is the prototypical male/husband whenever I am describing a problem, offense, or irritation that I am facing. He swoops in (sometimes before I have a chance to even finish giving the context) to save the day and “solve” the problem. I knowthat he means well and that his intention is to help me to move past whatever it is I am dealing with as quickly as possible. He is genuinely trying in earnest to support me. Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, that is NOT something which I remember or appreciate in the slightest. Not unlike many other wives or people on the receiving end of such “helpful” advice, quite often all I want to do is talk about the problem or issue. I don’t want a solution, I just want to think about it out loud or have him provide a shoulder to cry on, or for him to validate, vindicate, or even question whatever actions or thoughts I had in the situation. So all too frequently, it turns from a discussion about whatever situation “Joe Smith” mishandled that afternoon to an escalated state of mutual frustration and irritation between the two of us. It’s nothing that I haven’t heard about, seen, or experienced firsthand in other relationships, but it still happens too often and it’s a cycle which is hard to stop. And that is a phenomenon that I have noticed often when it comes to patterns, traditions, and routines – for me at least, it’s generally much easier implementing or building new habits than it is breaking up with bad habits.
Jon and I do have a good habit of reading marriage books together. We read, on our own, a chapter per week usually and then orchestrate some time to go over discussion questions, quiz results, or activities outlined in the book (or just our own perspectives and thoughts if there wasn’t anything specifically in the book itself). And currently, we are slowly moving through Happy Together, by positive psychologists Suzann Pleggi Pawelski and James O. Pawelski. At the start of the book, the authors used a helpful illustration to describe the field of positive psychology. If you imagine that you are faced with the choice of having a specific set of superpowers, you might choose the “Red Cape” which empowers one to “fight againstunfair and unjust things in the world we want to discourage or end, things such as poverty, disease, prejudice, hatred, and war.” OR you might choose the “Green Cape” which means you’d “fight forthe things in the world we want to encourage and promote: things like abundance, health, justice, love and peace.” The authors are quick to point out, of course, that either can allow you to be a successful hypothetical superhero since there are both plenty of problems and opportunities out there. And we both agree – Jon loves his Red Cape and attempting to fix whatever is going wrong. However, research has shown that since happiness is not merely the opposite of unhappiness, focusing on the Green Cape activities (the things which positive psychologists study) is more likely to be an uplifting, happiness-inducing endeavor. The same idea is often espoused by many personality frameworks or strengths finding activities. When we focus on developing and maximizing our strengths or things we want to encourage, we are often more impactful than when we attempt to rectify our shortcomings. Based upon my understanding of this situation (and probably innate tendency towards the Green Cape anyway) the majority of my Happiness Project resolutions have been focused on adding positive activities with a definite tilt towards building more good habits as opposed to breaking up with bad habits.
I wrote about this in one of my very first blog posts. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin outlines her “Splendid Truths of Happiness,” the first being: “to be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.” And since reading that a year ago, I have encountered the same idea in countless happiness and positive psychology resources. In order to live our actual best lives we do need to maximize our opportunities for positive experiences. And identifying the types of things that will add enjoyment, meaning, and value to my life, while playing to my own personality and strengths, and then building good habits around them has been extremely impactful. BUT we also need to minimize the negative experiences, which means breaking up with bad habits. I have only one month left now in my year long personal experiment, so this past month I tried to focus on some of the things I know that I need to fix. My May resolutions were centered around the idea of “Cleaning Up the Bad” and included:
- Cut people slack
- Stop gossiping
- Clean up my language
Well. It hasn’t gone too well honestly. Everyday I reflect on each of my resolutions and my efforts towards them throughout the day and unfortunately probably the majority of the days, a big gold star is noticeably absent from each of these rows of my tracker. I clearly have a lot more work to do in this area. And that in and of itself, isn’t necessarily making me any happier. However (as you can probably imagine!) neither is judging people harshly, talking about other people’s business, or speaking out of anger. So the biggest reminder for me personally as I have tried breaking up with bad habits, has been that although it is important to focus on building our strengths, it’s not that we should just totally give up or accept all weak areas. I need to expect and demand more from myself in these areas. And so that’s what I’ll do in June for the last month of my Happiness Project: strap on my Red Cape, dig a little deeper and work on more of the same as opposed to adding anything more or new.
Breaking up with bad habits is hard. And I’d much rather focus on things which I know will add a positive boost to my life like volunteering, joining a book club, or more barre. But I also know that this is worth working on. And so I’m thankful for the things that don’t require as much effort or energy – like this seasonal Whole30 Jamaican Jerk Steak and Veggie Sheet Pan dinner. Finding easy but still tasty recipes like this allow you to maintain your good, healthy habits as you work on breaking up with the bad.
- Garlic Granules/Powder 1 TBSP
- Onion Powder 2 TSP
- Thyme 2 TSP
- Parsley 2 TSP
- Cayenne Pepper 3 TSP
- Sea Salt 2 TSP
- Paprika 1.5 TSP
- Allspice 1 TSP
- Black Pepper 1 TSP
- Crushed Red Pepper/Chilies .5 TSP
- Nutmeg .5 TSP
- Cinnamon .5 TSP
- Steak, sliced into ½" pieces against the grain 1 lb. (400 g)
- Jamaican Jerk Seasoning 1 TBSP
- Avocado Oil 2 TBSP
- Yellow Squash, medium 1 each
- Eggplant, small 1 each
- Yellow Onion, medium 1 each
- Asparagus 1 bundle
- Tomato, 1 medium or 2 small
- Coconut Aminos 2 TBSP
- Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
- Mix all the spices together in a small bowl and set aside. You will have a lot more on hand than you need for this particular recipe, but it will keep for a very long time if kept in airtight storage container and can be used in a variety of recipes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C and grab a sheet pan.
- Wash and slice all the veggies (except asparagus) into thin, ¼" discs and set aside. Break the ends off the asparagus and discard.
- In a large bowl, add the sliced steak, 1 TBSP of the Jamaican Jerk seasoning, and 1 TBSP of the avocado oil and use tongs to toss well, evenly coating the steak.
- Then add the vegetables (except the asparagus) and toss to combine.
- Pour all the meat and vegetables onto the sheet pan, spreading out in as thin a layer as possible then lie the asparagus spears over the top.
- Drizzle the remaining avocado oil and the coconut aminos evenly over the mixtures and add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
- Cook in the oven for about 17-20 minutes or until desired doneness is achieved.