I think that we need to work on our understanding of happiness. In my mind, contentedness is similar to a point where it’s often unrecognizable. I know that for me, when I am “happy,” it’s a time when things are – simply put – going well. Nothing dramatically amazing is flying around in front of me, but if asked, I can’t think of too many rough things either. Happy means I’m set, I’m good to go, things are good…you get the point.
But what plays into that? Surely its not that I was prescribed a list of things to do to be happy directly before I was asked how if I felt that emotion, right? “Do this, this and this, and you’ll be happy.” *Proceed to do this this and this, and !@#$ there we go.* No. When I was writing down random thoughts I wanted to put forth in a post, I realized that in doing so, I was creating an ingredient list for happiness. There are some greater themes which could encircle the words, perhaps PERSPECTIVE and FAITH are among the most encompassing. But, I digress. I will share a bit about each of the things that flew into my psyche when I decided I wanted to spew some words into cyberspace.
(1) Forgiveness. It’s probably my #5 favorite F word, after Family, Friends, Faith, and Food. 🙂 When you search the term on Google, you receive over 68 million results in half of one second. So, FORGIVE me for adding yet another interpretation. The presented definition – in the handy little “we hope this is your perfect response and the only answer you need” box that Google provides – is “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” Hmmmmm…I don’t like this definition. Though disagreeing with it would suggest I have a new definition, I don’t. But, I do think that forgiveness doesn’t require there to be a VICTIM and I don’t think there has to be an OFFENSE. I think it relates more to the CONSCIOUS DECISION that whatever the “offense” was in the SUBJECT’s mind/heart, is not paying the rent for squatting in their mind/heart any longer. It’s the first of the month, that offense isn’t a good tenant. Move Out.
Now I say that and it makes it sound transactional and easy, which I know would be foolish to try and persuade one to believe. In my life, I have come to realize that forgiveness is a freeing process by which I can let things go and the best part is it’s up to me. I think a VERY important truth of this is the following: Just because you have decided to forgive the other person for whatever the action/inaction was, it doesn’t negate the validity of whatever feelings you had. Does that make sense? For example: One hypothetically is in an office environment, when a coworker says something vile and offensive regarding our main character. It was hurtful and poorly thought out. Now, our subject is upset by this, understandably. Regardless of the offender’s reaction with either an apology or not, the ball is in our subject’s court. She/He can decide that this comment is either worth their stress/anxiety/mental energy, or not. Welcome, forgiveness, you’re now at the party. If and when the subject forgives the person (in their mind or by their words), it wipes clean the offense in the sense that they are no longer suffering from it because they have chosen to abort that feeling. I think it’s an important distinction, though, to know that it doesn’t mean that just because you can decide to forgive someone, that the initial feelings you had at the time of the offense are any less valid or reasonable.
So, forgiveness. Practicing it, working at it (literally done by not-so-simply choosing to do it) has been working wonders in my life. Both with very big things in my past, as well as the day-to-day antics.
(2) God. An obvious one for me so I won’t need to go on for long. But, talking to God keeps me happier than anything else. I have been winding around in “I don’t know how to connect with God” no-mans-land for a while, and then the tried and true method of writing in my journal every night works without fail. It can be short, it can be long, but doing that, putting my thoughts on paper (to God) really feels like the most genuine sense of calm in my day.
(3) Politics. (Insert obligatory laugh here, because WHY IS POLITICS LISTED IN THE HAPPINESS POST?!) Well, I’ll tell you. This Presidential election, no matter how incredibly theatric it is and is portrayed, teaches me something quite exciting. YOU can do whatever you want. That is a liberating feeling. We have a man who decided that he was going to dye his skin orange, his fake hair blond, own hotels, host a TV show, fire a bunch of worthy people, say whatever is on his brain, and, oh yeah, run for Oval Office. We also have a woman who has fallen down and continued to get back up, who has ridiculed others and broken laws, who has represented the people and also been out of touch, who offends fashion sense on a regular basis, and she has decided too, that she is qualified to be the President. I promise, I’m not supporting either one of them. But I will say this. When I see the platform these two people have and the influence they have drawn, I can only be encouraged by the realization that this means we ALL have an incredible opportunity to impact the world. We can each decide to do whatever the heck we want to, say whatever is on our mind, work 54234 different jobs, and still, we could still be top dog (that is, if we want to be). That’s encouraging.
(4) Lists. I don’t have to promise you that lists are constantly made by me, as this post is evidence of it….Zoinks. Well, being OCD about lists has made me happier. Crossing things off. Making personal to-do lists, work priorities, goals, dates of letters I’ve sent, etc. It’s satisfying for me because when I have written something down (usually in a list, haha) it is off my brain. I have room to think about and process other things. It helps me work more efficiently, be more present in the moment, and be happier. Boom.
(5) YouTube. Whew. I was close to omitting this from my list of choosing happiness, but I try to be authentic. I digress. I’ve gotten hooked to a few different YouTubers who really shine a light of perspective and happiness in my life. Some days, it’s because I learn something about that person that I find unappealing, thereby teaching me more about how I want to be, and other days, it’s because I admire a trait or way of acting and it inspires me to work better at that corner of my life. There are moments which just induce laughter, and I’m always grateful for that. By following some YouTubers who share similar passions as me, it makes me feel a little less “woman on an island” at times.
(6) Priorities. This one ties into lists, as my priorities are usually listed somewhere. But I think that there is a huge pressure for people to find BALANCE – it’s nearly a buzzword in today’s society….work life balance, personal time balance, it’s important to find balance…blah blah blah. What I would say to that is this seemingly epic quest of FINDING BALANCE really looks like (1) Identify your required actions. (2) Identify your most pleasing experiences. (3) Prioritize both of them, by treating #2 just as attentively as you treat #1. Does this mean since you love going to the spa, you do that instead of work? No. But it means that instead of checking your email 43 more times in the afternoon, you take a break and get a manicure. Then, checking your email later doesn’t stress you out – plus you get to look at your pretty nails as you type. 🙂 I think that the pressure of trying to find this stealthy balance in life puts you in a place where you’re unbalanced! How about that! I saw a post recently that said “Make a list of things that make you feel alive. Make a list of things you do everyday. Compare the lists. Adjust accordingly.”
(7) Transitions. I work in a profession where moving is a reality of my life. Geographic relocation is impending and not up to me at any time. So, I’ve found that applying my best friend’s advice has been a game-changer: “BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED.” Every place has potential. Every where you live can be an okay place to be. If you decide, as you’re getting to know where you are, that this place is going to be good for you, then damn it, you’re going to seek out (and definitely find) things that are good. It’s a perspective thing again. But transitions that are monumental shifts in your life are written to be bad – usually attached to words like “Coping With Transition” or “Making a Positive Transition.” By qualifying a transition as positive, it assumes that without that adjective, it’s not! Why not? I’ve tried to have a better opinion on transitions so they are less scary and more full of potential!
(8) Traffic. Ugh. Chicago is one giant, beautiful, diverse, bustling, talented, incredible PARKING LOT. And the best part of choosing happiness when this ridiculous traffic exists in everyone’s life is to simply know that we’re all in this together. Let’s all just recognize that it sucks just as much for you as it does for the guy behind you, and by breathing in and out a few more times than you are right now, you would gain some perspective. You’re running late? IT. IS. NOT. THE. END. OF. THE. WORLD. I say this like I practice what I preach…let me be clear. I utter my 6th favorite F word constantly in traffic. But, i try to keep this in mind.
(9) Friendships. Boom, this one need not be explained. Simply put, that text from your best friend? Answer it. In unlocking your phone to see that meme she sent you, or to answer her call when she has a minute, you’re choosing happiness.