Monday, August 8, 2011

What Make Us Happy?

Life's interruptions give us the opportunity to press the reset button. We can draw courage and inspiration from others who experience setbacks and refuse to let it destroy their spirits.

Today's night musing is a treat from a young friend who has just returned from Johns Hopkins after summer brain surgery with a very good prognosis and an inspiring outlook beautifully expressed in her words below. With her permission, I'm delighted to share her words with you. She was pursuing her doctorate in English when her plans were interrupted. I'm thinking there is some writing in her future still!

I love the way she puts it! We may say we believe that we don't find happiness in our external circumstances, but we reveal our true selves when we keep living frantic lives desperately seeking after an elusive happiness somewhere else. I hope her words lift your spirits too! Have a beautiful day!


Another Midnight Ramble
So many people on the highway just go too fast.

And so many people also speed through life too fast. Or at least that is true of me.

Having brain surgery certainly forced me to slow down and live more in the moment.

I’m still a very active and motivated person. That has not changed. I even started a new job this past Monday! Simon and I are having so much fun caring for and playing with another little boy a little younger than Simon. They are becoming good friends already.

When I was strolling these sweet boys around the neighborhood the other day, I ignored the heat and humidity and thought about times in my life when I have spent so much time racing around, being too busy, thinking about the next item to check off my to-do list, and I have not stopped to be in the moment or really think about whether my actions were making me happy.

You see, I had a bad habit.

I would tell myself lies.

I will be happy when I buy this outfit.

I will be happy when I graduate from college.

I will be happy when I get married.

I will be happy when I have a baby.

I will be happy when I find my ideal job.

I will be happy when I make a certain amount of money.

And I found myself doing it this summer, too.

I will be happy when the brain tumor is out.

I will be happy when I am finally home.

Hmm, not cured.

There is a problem with this kind of thinking. If happiness is entirely based on the exterior circumstances of my life, then I probably won’t find lasting happiness.

Now, I should say that my life keeps getting better the older I get (Turning 30 next month suddenly doesn't seem quite so scary after my recent experiences). I am so happy as a wife and as a mother. But my lasting happiness shouldn’t depend entirely on two people. And what a hard burden to place on those two people I love so dearly!

So I started to think about some things that make me happy in the moment. Here’s what I came up with off the top of my head:

Being helpful to others

Breathing the salty air at the beach

Feeling the sea breeze on my face

Swimming laps at the pool

Sipping iced tea on a screen porch

Picking apples at an orchard

Cuddling under warm quilts with my husband and son

Walking around neighborhoods full of historic homes

Getting absorbed in a novel

Reading stories to enthusiastic children

Eating chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven with cold milk

Going on dates with my husband

Talking around a campfire

Waking up in a tent to the sound of birds

Listening to Simon laugh

Visiting new places and trying new things

Wearing clean pajamas

Eating lazy pancake breakfasts


Taking hot showers

Washing dishes after a dinner party with friends

Browsing used bookstores and libraries

Finding treasures at yard sales or consignment sales

Drinking hot tea

Holding human babies (and animal babies)

Visiting farms

Singing anything from hymns to silly songs

Being a passenger on a country drive

Pulling on warm socks in winter

Riding on trains

Contemplating Italian Renaissance paintings

Experiencing new children’s museums, zoos, and aquariums (and old favorites)

Opening a new box of crayons

Listening to Simon talk

Camping in the mountains

Putting words on paper

Making plans

Wandering farmer’s markets and natural grocery stores

Watching Simon play with wooden toys that will last for his children

Receiving letters in the mail

Being awake in the early morning before anyone else is up

Decorating real Christmas trees

Carving pumpkins

Cooking for my family

Sewing practical things made from beautiful fabric

Listening to street musicians

Capturing my family's life on film

Eating picnics by the water

Lying on a blanket, looking up at the trees

Drinking fresh orange juice

Many of these are very accessible joys, but sometimes I am moving so fast that I forget to be in the moment and truly appreciate them.

This past week has been a bit stressful. We received the extraordinary gift of movers to help us move to help minimize our stress. And yet, lots of various things have gone awry. The moving van didn’t fit all of our belongings. The moving van wouldn’t go into our driveway. The renters didn’t leave our house in pristine condition. The air conditioning needed multiple repairs. The bookshelf wouldn’t go where I wanted it to. We couldn’t find our modem. The foundation still needs repairs. We have multiple stacks of bills that need to be paid and letters that need to be answered, and I don’t know where all the stacks are anymore. There are boxes everywhere. I still owe a lot of people thank-you notes, and I am not even sure that my list is complete. I am not sure that I know where my stamps are. My old computer with lots of important files on it didn’t survive the move. The windshield on my car is cracked, and the rearview mirror fell off. There is a mouse living in the wall.

I could go on.

But I won’t.

My physical and emotional endurance are still slightly lower than my pre-surgery self, although they are greatly improving every day. I have had so many insights about my life these past months, but that doesn’t mean that I always act on them. I am a normal person. Sometimes stressful things are overwhelming to me, even when I put them in the perspective of having had brain surgery several weeks ago.

Every once in a while, I just feel tired, and I want to crawl into a hole.

Most of the time, I keep calm and carry on.

It is true that I do feel so much happier now that we are finally home and I am able to be increasingly independent and active. I am happy to be working and spending time with Simon and settling in and reconnecting with lots of people.

That’s not the point, though. The point is that I need to savor each day, regardless of what that day brings. I need to live more in each moment.

Even on the day of my brain surgery, there were joys to be savored. Laughing along with an incredibly kind and funny nurse who put all the nervous patients in the pre-op room at ease. Waking up and being able to see. Soothing my throat with a popsicle.

That is one of the great wonders of spending time with very young children, watching them experiencing joy in the present moment, without much thought for the past or the future.

For the record, I have experienced at least 19 of the joys on my list already this week, and it is only Wednesday. I must be doing something right!

In the meantime, I have stayed up way past my bedtime, and none of this makes any logical sense in my head anymore. We had a very productive evening after Simon went to bed, and now the majority of the rooms in our house are liveable, organized, and lovely. So now it is time to sleep.

(Photo a delightful sight of mine: farmland in the Amish country of Pennsylvania)

1 comment:

  1. i still can't get enough of these words!! i'm glad you posted them :)