on happiness

Sepia Keys

“…people universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descent upon you like fine weather if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, you strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it. If you don’t, you will leak away your innate contentment. It’s easy enough to pray when you’re in distress but continuing to pray when your crisis has passed is like a sealing process, helping your soul hold tight…”
– Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I’ve gradually come to the realization that happiness is something that needs to be tended, cultivated, nourished; and so I now work at being happier. I’m usually cheerful, and a few patrons at work have even asked me if I’m really, truly “happy all the time?” Not wanting to be a downer, I tell them that I usually am. Now, just entering my 24th year, it’s something I am working on. John and I have so many things going for us right now – our love; our health; our finances; our home; our strength and faith, for starters. It’s just the little, everyday things that sometimes keep me from enjoying happiness, or being the happiest, most content person I could be. Working with people who drive me crazy; or an angry, rude patron; or the fact that my shoes hurt my feet; or the fact that my face broke out. Silly, inconsequential things in the grand scheme of things, but things that bluster in and try to crowd out that happiness, making it “leak” out even faster.

In order to drown out those ridiculously loud, nasty elements, cultivate my happiness, and seal it in, I’ve begun making room for the more beautiful, wonderful things, and focusing on them – no matter how big or small they may be. Running over to a piano on my 15-minute break from work to practice Bach; spending an evening writing to a friend and elaborately decorating the envelope (I had fun, and I know how much it will brighten her day to see it, too); cleaning the house before I go to bed so that we can wake up to a beautifully calm home; helping others, to brighten their day; – I’ve found myself giving out more and more compliments these days, and I love to see people’s faces light up; wearing “special occasion” clothes on a random everyday sort of day, just to feel put together and beautiful; doing yoga; coming home on my lunch hour, even though it takes forty minutes on the shuttle (it’s free), and I end up with 15 or 20 minutes at home – it’s still worth it; stepping out of my way to plant my food right on that crunchy leaf; posting beautiful pictures on my wall at work to give me something inspiring to look at, rather than a dull wall; going for a bike ride with John in the evening; researching and making lists of things to do and places to go around here (I have three lists: one for places in this immediate area; one for things to do in the capitol; and one for daytrips); making room for creativity and music again – I cannot believe how invigorated and refreshed I feel after playing piano, drawing, crafting, or messing around with fabric up in the office/studio. I feel happier and more balanced when I do these things.

Here’s to the next year; to cultivating happiness, helping others seal in their happiness, and seeing beauty in even the small things.

1 Response to “on happiness”

  1. 1 Karim October 4, 2008 at 4:23 am

    Happiness is also a bit serendipituous, even when you strive for it… that’s why I think the humbler people are, the happier they become: it takes a lot of guts to recognize that happiness is a gift and not something life ought to give you.

    Good luck with your “new” blog. :-)

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