After many (many) years of searching, reading, asking, listening, praying and pondering, I’ve come to a decision…it was one of those things that slowly (painfully slowly at times) evolved itself into what turned out to be a rather quiet, uneventful decision. Perhaps it’s not monumental to anyone else, because maybe everyone who happens upon this blog will already have learned it themselves and will wonder why it took me so long. Perhaps it will turn out to be life-changing, I don’t know. All I know is that I finally decided that this was my answer.
My happiness is completely up to me.
It took a long time to evolve from the firmly-entrenched belief that my happiness hinged on other people – which would explain the constant roller-coaster of emotions and crippling insecurities for my entire life. I based my measurement of how happy I was by how others interacted (or didn’t) with me, how their love for me was (or was not) manifested on a day-to-day basis, what impact (if any) events around me had on my life and by how I perceived others felt (or didn’t feel) while in my presence. If someone looked at me the wrong way, well, that was it, the day was a total failure.
It’s no wonder that “happiness” was so elusive and fleeting and random and inconsistent…and so impossible to sustain!
But this morning, it finally dawned on me. I mean, I actually felt the light bulb switch on in my head. It really is up to ME to make my happiness happen. And I realized that for me, happiness happens best through many moments containing many simple pleasures. For me, where happiness is concerned, quantity trumps quality…by that I mean that I find it easier to accumulate many small-but-delightful moments throughout the day, then string them together like beads on a thread, and hold them up at the end of the day and say, “wow, that really WAS a beautiful day, wasn’t it?!”
Big happy moments are grand, but they don’t happen a lot in my life. And I’m forgetful. So if I try to use those to define my happiness, I don’t do well because that definition is unsustainable in my somewhat ho-hum day-to-day life. But give me simple delights, and well, I can do those and I can relish them, savor them, remember them at the end of the day – and not worry about having to remember them tomorrow, because tomorrow I get to start all over again with a new thread and new moments to enjoy and savour.
It’s a seemingly simple switch of perspective, but it might prove to be powerful. Because now it’s totally up to me to define how I’m feeling right now, then decide how I want to feel in five minutes, and then choose how I’m going to connect the dots between this moment and that moment five minutes away – by adding to my life whatever it is that will get me there. And then I just continue that momentum by deciding (at any point in the day) how I want to feel by the end of that day, and then continuing to nudge moments of simple pleasure into being, all the while connecting the dots from one moment to the next and to the next, until I reach the end of the day with an entire day’s worth of shiny moments.
So now I just need to recognize what it takes to nudge those moments out of hiding, what constitutes “simple pleasure” for me, ie, what brings that thrill of delight, that sigh of sheer pleasure or that whoosh of well-being…and then add more of those to my daily life.
They really can be very simple pleasures…like a bowl of fresh strawberries with a wee dollop of whipped cream on top; a walk along the river; spending time with a good friend; doing random acts of kindness in my community; writing a newsy hand-written letter to a lonely elderly relative; puttering in a garden of colourful flowers (or yummy edibles too); laughing at silly stuff with online friends; listening to an uplifting piece of music; allowing a piece of really good chocolate to melt slowly in my mouth; sipping a cup of freshly steeped Earl Grey tea; opening the window to listen to the birds splashing around in the bird bath. The possibilities are endless. All I need to do is open my eyes to see and ears to hear and heart to appreciate the simple pleasure pulsing within each moment.
It helps to keep a gratitude journal. I’ve been hearing about the value of a gratitude journal for over 30 years, ever since a month-long retreat at a monastery in Pecos, New Mexico in the early 80’s. That’s where I first heard (over and over again) how vital it was for good mental health to maintain a daily gratitude journal. I tried many times, but depression, grief and illness kept interrupting my ability to feel anything but dark, miserable and futile…in those years, I barely even wanted to be alive, much less give thanks for being alive. Thankfully that has changed, and I’m indeed very glad to be alive, and profoundly committed to continuing to evolve and learn as much as possible to live a joyful, happy life.
So I do keep a gratitude journal now, and it does help to focus on the positive; it’s a valuable tool for remembering to keep my eyes open to see the blessings and richness of life no matter what else is going on in the larger world. Keeping a gratitude journal has helped to internalize a constant openness to receiving and acknowledging the blessings and gifts of each moment, so that the entire day becomes an ever-stretching string of gifted moments of simple pleasures…my day now becomes a never-ending accumulation of “happy”.
Yes, there are lows and dips in the day as well; those are unavoidable. And for some, they will seem insurmountable. I know because I was stuck there for most of my life. But thankfully they’re no longer the total definition of the day for me. The quantity of simple pleasures (which I now decide to make happen) usually either balances or outweighs the quantity of low moments, so for me, the choice is to define my day by the accumulation of happy moments.
Really, what it all comes down to is choosing to fill my life with more of what I want, more of what brings me as many of those moments of simple pleasure as possible…figuring out what it is that I like and then doing whatever it takes to fill my life with more of those kinds of moments…and then connecting the dots, moment-by-moment, blessing-by-blessing, all throughout the day.
It makes the day worth waking up to, don’t you think?!!
Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings Blogging The Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.