Here I go – my best and probably not last attempt to put together a cohesive and conclusive post on this vague topic. I’ve been saving ideas, reading articles, and even pulled out my last two weeks of notes from church on the topic. This is apparently the most important thing for me to do at 3am on a Tuesday. I joke that on my off-weeks from treatment, my body shifts to 100% ‘go mode’. It subconsciously is saying, “okay, I know you feel fine now and have so much to do. Go do it, NOW!”
I can’t shake this evolving line of thought. I think most people strive to answer this as well – what makes for a happy life?
I think our society continues to push us to want the best of everything. The most expensive clothes, flashiest cars, hottest spouses, exotic vacations, even best posts for social media. If you can’t say it better than someone else, is it even worth saying? It’s like have all become hyper competitive with everyone we associate with to the most minuscule details.
Last Forth of July, I came to the realization that Americans are offered the promise of freedom… To work as hard as we want. Which is a good thing, but also comes with a burden: if you don’t succeed, it’s your own fault. If you can’t fulfill these ‘best of’ expectations, obviously it’s because you just didn’t do a good enough job at being a person, right? It’s an exhausting concept.
There is this really inspirational TED talk from a woman who came to the US at age 13, and wanted to achieve the American dream of being “really, really happy”. Two decades later she found herself exhausted and miserable. Until, the day she surprised her daughter with blueberry pancakes.
She realized happiness doesn’t revolve around long-term success and big purchases. Happiness is an accumulation of little things you do everyday, but you have to acknowledge their importance to your happiness.
I’ve spent the last week or so thinking about what my blueberry pancake is. I’ve tried to focus on at least one good thing a day an acknowledge it’s importance to making it better. It doesn’t have to be the same thing, but something I can do to indulge myself and feel guilt-free about it, simply because I’m doing it to make me happy.
Honestly, I really love coffee. I love everything about the experience. I have four favorite coffee shops in town. I love stopping in before work. I love settling in for the day with something sweet and hot at my fingertips. I love that it’s so easy to buy an extra for someone else. I love feeling like I’m treating myself every time.
We’ve all read the articles that tell us we could save thousands of dollars a year by cutting out coffee shop trips. Well, I can think of a lot of different ways to blow through a grand that won’t bring me so much pleasure on a daily basis.
I’m beginning to have a deeper understanding of living for each day and appreciating each one for what it is. I think the people who spread ideas like “make each day better than the last” and “only do what you love” are full of crap. Some days are really good, but know that some days have to be really bad. Also, most days are just okay. Okay is good, it means nothing bad happened. Okay is simple. We all need to cut the expectations of having the best and be happy being simpler. An account I follow on twitter preaches “A matter of simply Being.”
One of my stress management DVDs from mayo exercised child-like examination. In their example, they took an office pen and just focused on the pen for ten minutes. “Don’t evaluate it, just examine the pen. Notice things about it.” This practice reminded me that as a child in my most desperate ‘OMG I’m so deathly bored’ trials I’d entertain myself by counting things. Particularly one day when my mom was getting her hair cut. I counted the number of nailhead trimmings on an armchair, something I would never have the patience or energy to focus on now.
I’ve found this to be a good practice too slow myself down and remind myself to live in the present. Being able to fully focus on one simple thing without evaluation, whether it’s something physical like a pen or an event like watching tv with my parents on a Friday night, leads to a lot less anxiety. I’m not focusing on having the best pen or best plans, I’m simply appreciating each for what it is.
I’ve decided that happiness is a vague term. An article I read claimed that happiness is too reliant on external forces. The internal feeling is referred to as bliss. Bliss is a state of mind that changes the interpretation of how you experience life. It’s a state of mind that assumes the best in any situation and gives the benefit of the doubt. It’s opening your eyes just a little wider everyday and loving everything you see. Bliss is having joy fulfilling your calling each day, no matter how big or small that calling is.
Bliss is what I’m striving for.