How Saying "No" Makes You Happier
Then there was my health. I'd been trying to lose weight for years, and I'd had some success, but at the expense of my happiness (and my bank account). I dutifully joined a gym and then stopped going. Because that wasn't a big enough source of shame, I spend more money to join another—and didn't go there, either. I finally let myself admit that I hated boot camp classes and pounding along a treadmill, so I quit and sign up for $12 Greek dancing lessons. I got back in the pool and swam laps, giving my body a taste of weightlessness. I also stopped counting the calories in blueberries. I threw out my scale. The result: I dropped four dress sizes. When I focused on pleasure in other areas of my life, I had less time to think about food and more desire to get up and move. And it wasn't torture—it was fun.
Once I stopped wasting energy on things I didn't want to do, I suddenly had headspace for all those things I used to say I didn't have time for, like a love life. The idea of dating—the thought of losing my independence, letting someone else see my imperfections—really scared me. But I pushed past the fear and created a profile on EligibleGreeks.com, the Match.com for Greek people. The first man who e-mailed me and didn't seem completely crazy lived across the country in Southern California. There was a time when I would have let his message wither in my in-box. (He's from L.A.! Long distance never works! He wears those weird wraparound sunglasses!) But this time I wrote back.
We traded messages for a month, and then an unexpected work trip brought me to L.A. (Side note: When you invest in your happiness, the universe has a way of matching your contributions.) We planned to meet for dinner; I planned to have no expectations. But once I got over my initial nervousness, I talked more easily with him than I had with anyone I'd met in years. The night went so well, he asked me to extend my trip.
Our story didn't have a fairy-tale ending, but no matter. I had taken a risk and learned that if I needed to, I could get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Even more important, I realized something I think I'd known all along: "I'm not made of money, and neither is my happiness". And I don't need to add to my bank account to invest in my life.
Margarita Bertsos is a writer and editor in New York City.