There’s a saying — maybe it came from Jurassic Park (who knows) — that “life will find a way.” Today, I was reminded that if we are open, look and savor what presents itself that happiness often finds a way, too …
A few years ago, I was part of a “Happiness Project” that had its roots, ironically enough, in some very unhappy and crappy circumstances. I wanted to revisit this, maybe for one day, maybe for 40, to look at happiness. The most difficult part was where to start, and how?
Happiness is tied to being aware, open and marking it when it happens… which, by the way, is a lot easier to write when you’ve written the column than when you haven’t. But today, that process begins with focusing on some small, happy wins (which I saw as an achievable goal for writing) … and ends with the something better than I’d unexpected:
Indulge yourself. Recently, I declared a random Friday a “Mel-a-bration.” Why? Why not is the better question. We spend a lot of time, most of us, doing for the people around us — family, friends, coworkers. But we shouldn’t forget (as I do sometimes) that we do and we live also for life that we were given. To enjoy it and embrace it ourselves. Buy yourself a cookie or a burger or whatever makes you smile. Sleep late. Say yes to the dress (or whatever). Take a day for you. For my Mel-a-bration, I tried a new place for breakfast and tamped down my guilt at buying a $9 biscuit.
Unplug. Social media is less the problem (it’s not all good or all bad) itself and more that it often provides unreasonable and ultra-dramatic outlets for people’s narcissism and anxieties. I’ll give you that it represents people’s true feeling, but social media ramps up our emotional outrage and burns us out emotionally in the long run. Just like a difficult situation, sometimes you just need a break … a few hours, days or whatever’s right for you. Avoiding the negative is almost like embracing the positive … almost.
Find ways to say yes. When it comes to be bedtime, I will do just about anything to get the kids into and headed to sleep. They, on the other hand, sense my desperation and unleash a barrage of requests/demands that would overwhelm an army of hostage negotiators … can I have a drink, can I have something to eat, can I buy a unicorn, can you lay with me … As a parent — and I think as just a member of the human race — we are barraged by requests: do this, do that, get mad about this, buy this, share that, enter this, eat here. It’s exhausting. And often, my reaction is just to shut it all down. But my kids have taught me something, a well timed yes — not to everything but to something — goes a long way to to preserving your sanity … but it also reminds you that saying yes, agreeing, is powerful. As I was writing this, my youngest was asking to sit in my lap as I typed. I told him that I couldn’t type with him there, but he could pull up a chair and sit next to me. He’s next to me now, singing a made-up song about “Twitter.”
Saying no to everyone and everything will wear you down. No’s are necessary but they also creep into becoming the default too easily. And if you’re not careful, the frequency of no will change you and the people asking, and not necessarily in a good way. So … play for five minutes, go to lunch with that friend, get a treat, call that person you miss…
Do. Move. Journeys move us. They are part of our collective memory, and are part of how we process life and stories. And they all depend on moving, starting … doing. Consider all the great journeys and adventures you learned about in your life. They don’t begin with the end. They begin with some step, one removed from where the person started. Marco Polo didn’t start in China. D-Day didn’t start in France. To correct the good folks at Nike, from years ago, just doing it can be overwhelming; why not just start?
Before the sun came out today, I was in the bed, hoping for a return to sleep (not an uncommon position). But this post was also on my mind … what makes me happy and why. I started it yesterday, but I wasn’t satisfied. Without a lot thought or direction, I got up. I made coffee. I turned on my laptop … eventually reaching the words I’m typing now.
For whatever reason, life has a tendency to drag us down, with the weight of responsibility and bad news and just the yoke of depressing crap around us. It makes you want to stay in the bed and hope it all just goes away. But it doesn’t. Instead, DO. Move. Do something, anything. One step begets the next one. Get up. Get moving and see what happens.
Watch and Learn. A few minutes ago, the recently agreed-with child stopped in mid-singing and mid-gaming, looked up at me and said, “I love you, Dad.” He was happy, himself … to play his favorite video games, to be with his dad and next to him … with the neurotic cat, Gus, crawling around him, too. He was safe and content and carefree.
I guess, no more than forcing a column about being happy, you can’t always plan “happy.” But you can — like visiting the ocean — let it happen around you … and accept it like the cat when it comes by in the morning or the child who just wants your attention … or a snuggle or cuddle.