Monday, March 22, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

I recently spoke to a friend of mine. He was stressed. Tired. Overworked. Lots of bills, lots of taxes, and his only recourse is to work more hours. I totally understand that. He's a responsible father and husband and has a family to take care of. But it made me sad to hear him so discontent.

The next morning I was in my car, heading out for a 45 minute drive to my grandma's in Sun City. I popped in some good tunes and I danced in my seat as I zoomed down the 91.  The day was beautiful, traffic didn't faze me. It occurred to me that I used to just get in my car and drive. I'd drive to think, to relax and I loved spontaneous road-trips. Then marriage and kids happened, time bottle-necked and driving became a routine chore fraught with tight timelines and frustration. And cussing.

In my reflection on those times, I realized that at that very moment I was doing an act of happiness for myself. My mini-roadtrip to Grandma's was a throwback to peace, time and freedom. And I was in an amazing mood! It was such a profound a-ha that I wanted to share it with the world. Naturally, I texted my tired friend:

"Need to figure out what makes you happy then go DO it or GET it, big or small. Hope your coworkers are alive. Have a great day."

Then I thought, wow, how preachy am I?!?. So followed up with, "You know me, I speak my mind. If I ever overstep, just tell me to shut the hell up." Actually, I'd probably cry if he told me to shut the hell up. I'm sensitive.

His response was "Thanks, it's all good, thanks for thinking of me, have a good day."

Aw. He's so sweet. Then I realized, damn, he says that to me a lot. It was so non-committal that it took me a few minutes to decipher his diplomacy.  He had very nicely told me to shut the hell up. But he did it so well! And I didn't have to cry.

The whole thing got me thinking  hard about all the little things that make me happy that I can do or get for myself on a daily basis. It's easy to give my soul jolts of energy like espresso shots of joy in a demi-tasse cup.

I also realized it's not actually the possession of The Big Things, really, that will or do bring me happiness. It's perfectly fine and dandy to want and work for nice things, but I think lots of times I wake up and then go to bed and realize I didn't really laugh at all during the day, or spent the entire day tired and frustrated.  So what's the point of all that crap if I don't have time or energy to enjoy it anyway. 

And here is the really, really weird part. If I'm truly happy, I mean beyond a doubt, smiling, content happy...then the stuff won't matter. Weird. Simple and weird. Profound. Deep. If I'm happy for real, then bigger, better and more won't make a difference. Because I don't need it to fulfill me. I'm already fulfilled. Fact is, I can still garner happiness today in my old car, small condo and lots of times for free. Anything bigger, better and new is like icing on the cake.

So I asked myself: "Kris, what makes you happy? What experiences, sensations, actions or events bring a feeling of lightness to your soul, make your heart sing and carry your spirit to higher planes? Besides the headlights of an oncoming car, what lights up your face? What makes you smile so abruptly that it takes you a moment to realize you're smiling?

Then I turned that preachy text on myself: "Figure out what those things are – big AND small – and then GO DO THEM. GO GET THEM. And when you feel that level of joy...take a mental/spiritual snapshot of it. Savor it like you would your favorite food or drink. Absorb it so that the sensation of it gets stored in your brain for the very next time, perhaps sooner than you think, you're gonna be not so happy."

Because those not-so-happy days, hours or moments come whether I'm ready or not. I used to think I had to have things, people and specific situations – reasons to be happy. If I didn't have (fill in criterium), I wasn't happy. Today, I realize it's really all in my power to feel good or bad, happy or sad, depressed or upbeat. And, like just about everything else in life, there are tools I can use to promote those emotions.  

Before I get into the "what makes me happy" part of this spiel, I do have to say there's no certification, degree or diploma, no credentials that I have to tell anyone how to be happy. No, I think actually, it's my expertise in unhappiness that makes it easy for me to identify it in others. I spent so many years in angst, depression, anger and misery, that now, out of that negative frame of mind, I cringe when I see others having to go through tedium, frustration or unhappiness. 

Not to say bad days don't happen. I am – as are we all – human, and you know, crankiness is allowed here and there. And there's always a "good reason," right? Here's some icky facts: I have daily chronic back pain and get bad headaches, some migraine-level. I'm single and sometimes I feel quite lonely demmit; I miss the companionship of a man. I am going through a lot of financial difficulty, trying to save my condo, bankruptcy (which means daily phone calls from not-so-nice creditors).  Blah, Blah, blah. While bad days ARE allowed, wallowing in the mire needs to be avoided like the plague. 

What I need to remember is when these things give me pause to feel sorry for myself or worry, there are tools I have identified and can use. By simply giving myself a dose of joy, I can bring peace to my soul, pull out of depression (if only for a moment), ease my anger or put my worries into perspective. The great thing is, the more often I do this, the easier it is and it happens more often.Thankfully I'm learning how to create more happy days than unhappy days and here are some ways I do that:

Yep, a spontaneous trip to somewhere I haven't seen in awhile, if at all, is always fun. It's an adventure!

Enjoy What Nature Has To Offer
The wildflowers of Spring and the smell of rain in the Fall are intoxicating. I delight in rainbows, giggle at clouds and marvel at birds in trees. Right, laugh it up chuckles. I'm just saying, there's truth in that old adage "Stop and smell the roses."

Music can enhance or change any mood I'm in almost instantly.

My Girls
My girls give me unending joy that outweighs the frustrations of single parenthood.

Quiet Time
Reading outside or inside by the fire, or simply sitting and meditating or writing is cathartic

The Great Outdoors
What's around the corner is exhilarating. How am I gonna find out what it is if I'm constantly sitting on my couch, behind a desk or computer? I make a point to be outdoors whenever I get a chance. Even if it's a 15 minute walk or eating a quick dinner at an outside cafe.

A Sense of Humor
It's hard when you're depressed or angry, but if I find something to joke about even sarcastically, then I can pull out of my bad mood. Watching a funny movie or show or listening to comedy on my iPod helps too. Even in my writing, if I find that I'm getting angry and negative, I try to twist it up with humor. 

Make a Gratitude List!

It's difficult to worry or be depressed or stay angry when I make a conscious effort to be grateful for what I have. Writing a "gratitude list" can change my perspective fast. My gratitude lists often consist of items like: Family, healthy children, money, a car that runs, chocolate, Starbucks, air, music and sexy shoes! Seriously...don't limit yourself to what you think you SHOULD be grateful for. Hey, I've written "vacuum" on my list before, because I was so happy to have a nice, clean carpet that day. 

Positive Thinking Resources
I enjoy gleaning certain bits of wisdom from sites like; I listen to Mike Dooley audiobooks; I get positive-thinking "Notes from the Universe." A also have a friend who is a motivational speaker and I enjoy reading his blogs for new insights or "oh yeah, THAT!" reminders (Chris Rausch, Achieve Your Dreams at 

So, what makes you happy? Then GO DO IT for pete's sake (Oh, that's another good song I like to listen the Monkees!) Besides, if the Founding Fathers of our great nation considered happiness an inalienable human right, far be it from me to argue with them.

Rock on.

1 comment:

  1. You always amaze me! I'm so proud of you.



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