Cultivating the Seeds of Happiness

I’ve been feeling pretty out of sorts the last few days. Apparently my post on Mental Illness Awareness Week took me down with it, as well as a few of this blog’s followers. I know it’s a numbers game, but it does feel like rejection on some level. Of course I “un-followed” an artist’s blog last week, once he veered into several postings involving fantasy artwork. I’m down with dragons, but I don’t need to see enslaved maidens with breasts bigger than their noggins. To each, his or her own. And no, I’m not posting the link to that blog here.

The “grand career epiphany” of last week was followed by the inevitable let down – the realization that things will remain the same for awhile. I’m still working and juggling and there are no outward changes to my life. I did compulsively buy some new quality pens and notepads to signify my commitment to focus on writing. And they sit, pointedly, in their packages on my desk.

I usually recognize when I need to lift myself up and a question arose that’s been with me all day long. What does my happiness feel like?  What does it look like? I immediately thought of back floating this summer during a sunny day on a clear Canadian pond. I couldn’t hear anything. I only felt the buoyancy of the water gently rocking me and the sun warming my face. It’s a moment when I am perfectly happy.

I asked my husband what makes him happy. We’ve been married 12 years, but sometimes you have to look at someone you know well, with curiosity and openness. He said “I’m happiest when I solve a problem, especially a problem that I’ve been tangling with for awhile.” He’s an inveterate inventor, a jerry-rigging, modification-making man. Our house is often one giant lab of computer parts, soldering irons, table saws and lots and lots of PVC pipe. I love that I could ask and he could answer so quickly – that his own joy is so familiar to him.

Sometimes we lose touch with what our happiness feels like. I have been wracking my brain for more moments. If we don’t remember what brings us peace or joy or happiness, how can we ensure that it comes again and again? Here are some of the moments that I came up with for myself:

  • Gardening in the hot sun, with sweat dripping in my eyes, dirt ground into the knees of my jeans and catching the smell of lavender or mock orange blossoms.
  • My first cup of coffee in morning. Seriously, that first sip is nirvana. Or caffeine addiction, but I’m staying on topic, dammit.
  • Laughing with my daughter when something strikes us both as funny.
  • Finishing a really good book and sitting there in awe of the author. This, of course, is shortly before I think, “I will never be able to do that.”
  • Sitting out on the front stoop with my family, shooting the breeze, freaking our neighbors out a little (we have a very solitary/sedentary neighborhood).
  • Editing a nearly finished piece of writing.
  • Sleeping with the window open and hearing the wind blow through the trees.
  • The first notes of a live music performance. They send chills up my spine.
  • Crawling into a comfortable bed at the end of a very long day (oh yeah, I am SO middle-aged).

Like a lot of people, I’m multitasking constantly, switching gears and diverting my attention onto the next thing. Happiness can only be felt when it is noticed and remembered. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the simple things that give us that feeling, however brief, of contentment and bliss.

And now I’m going to crawl under the covers, taking note of that little happy moment when I lay my weary body down and hope to dream of floating in a warm cup of coffee as the wind blows my daughter’s laugh by on a lavender breeze.

What are your happy moments?

20 Comments on “Cultivating the Seeds of Happiness

  1. My happy moments are usually with friends or family on an adventure – or any time I can spend behind a camera. It’s hard to find balance between work and real life though. Sometimes you have to plan for bliss.

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    • You’re absolutely right about planning for it. Or sometimes simply making room for those moments to happen – scheduling times when nothing has to be done, just whatever strikes your fancy.

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  2. A big squeeeezy hug is a moment of joy and peace for me, so here’s one for you. H–U–G! 🙂
    P.S: ‘Finishing a really good book and sitting there in awe of the author. This, of course, is shortly before I think, “I will never be able to do that.”….. oh yeah!!! 😀

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    • That’s so funny that you mention the hug, because a lot of people really like hugs. I am a bit prickly about hugs (just comfortable with my immediate family), but sharing a laugh with someone – that’s joy to me.

      Yes, the reading awesome writing is a double-edged sword. Appreciation and slight jealousy!

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  3. Ahh, such a simple question but it gets you to think about your life…sigh. Well right now, I can think of two:
    1. Preparing the kids for school — I’m happy doing that.
    2. Seeing my father seemingly relaxed on their porch reading the paper
    =>

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    • I love watching my daughter and her grandma, who is hard of hearing, play card games together. Or seeing my cats, not fighting, but sprawled out together in front of a sunny window. Sometimes those moments are so simple!

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  4. I love your writing and won’t be playing the numbers game 🙂 If it makes you feel any better, I wrote a post last week about my cat passing away and 5 people unfollowed me. I understand some people hate cats, but come on… 5?! Ugh. The numbers game is never fun — so I’m sending you some positive thoughts!

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    • People do seem to have strong feelings about cats. I have very mixed feelings about mine, but the loss of a pet is always difficult. I appreciate you reading and commenting on my blog – thanks!

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  5. Pingback: Random Thoughts: Unfollowing. | The Siren's Tale

  6. Happiness can be a moving target.Much of what makes me happy now is significantly different than what made me happy a few years ago. And I have found, for myself, not trying to find or create happiness frequently leads to it. When I expect something to make me happy and it doesn’t, that is a significant let down. When I stumble over happy and take the time to touch it, smell it, and wrap it around me like sunlight, that’s the most satisfying feeling imaginable.

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    • Awesome response! I like that statement: “Happiness can be a moving target”. I think that is true as well and that most of my happiest moments are unexpected and unplanned. I think being able to recognize “it” is one of the best skills to have. When I wrote this post, I was trying to wrap my head around what that “feeling” is, but it’s easier to describe what creates it.

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  7. I agree about finishing a great book. And maybe you won’t do “that”, but that’s the great thing about writing – you”ll do it your own way. (As if you’d do it any other way!)

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    • I think this is why you hear some authors say they won’t read someone else’s work while they’re working on their own projects. It’s either intimidating or they have to fight off imitation in their own work.

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  8. I don’t believe happiness can be ‘caught’ but is often ‘stumbled upon’ unexpectedly. I think we have to be open to those moments when they catch us unawares. Happiness to me is having nothing to do except write, or go on a ‘photo safari’ with my partner. Even then, I’m not sure if that is happiness or contentment. I am perfectly happy to be content most of the time with some giddy moments of happiness thrown in to mix it up a little.
    🙂

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    • I think sometimes we confuse happiness with cinematic moments, like winning the lottery or meeting the love of our life. Most of the time, I do think it is contentment that can be found in everyday life. I am in complete agreement about having the time to do what I want being happiness. I am looking forward to that soon!

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  9. One of my very favorite quotes starts, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” It is not a matter of the things that make me happy; it is a matter of my being happy. External events help or hinder, but ultimately happiness comes from within. Finding that state of being happy involves peace of mind, acceptance of life, self-knowledge and a sense of place.

    You have a wonderful list, so it sounds like you are on a happy journey. As I think I’ve wondered before, it seems sometimes like you have a hard time accepting your own happiness.

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    • If happiness is a journey, as you say, then it’s a pretty individual one. You take a very Zen approach. I, however, have not yet found my “inner calmness”. And I’m pretty moody. But it does give me lots of fodder to write about!

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      • Oh, yes, it’s absolutely an individual path. Isn’t everyone’s path through life individual? You can see the variance in the replies and even in the variety of things that make you happy!

        Consider: you’re healthy, you have a home, you have a good marriage, you have children that are fine, your home life is good, you’re not impoverished, you don’t even have to “work for the man.” In the spectrum of all human experience, where would you place yourself?

        Moody is fine, especially for artists; great art can come from conflict and pain. And certainly your earlier life seems filled with material to inform your art and your sensibilities. I’m just saying that, as lives go, yours seems pretty damn good from where I sit. 🙂

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