Happiness is a Choice You Make
Truth be told, we’re in a rut. Sometimes these come along the sides of roads, and sometimes they come into your daily life without explanation. Hasn’t it happened to you? You have a sudden realization that you seem to do the same stuff every day, every week, and then all throughout the year. Is it Monday? Well then it’s food shopping and weekly meal prep. Is it 9:30 pm? Well, you better make sure the coffeemaker is set for tomorrow morning. The dishwasher needs loading. It needs unloading. Did you call the gutter guys to come out? And, don’t even get us started on laundry.
Most times these little touchstones of life roll along without consideration. Do your daily stuff and move on to other things. Other times, they seem less like touchstones and more like stone walls. You know, in your deepest heart and, of course in your mind, that none of these is really a big deal. But, looking at them as a whole, can sometimes feel like a wave larger than you feel like riding. At least, that’s true for us. They call these things “mundane” for a reason, and sometimes mundane stands on your last nerve. Oh, and did you remember to stop for gas?
To pull ourselves out of these doldrums we decided on an experiment. For a few days we timed the little things we found bothersome. Boy did we have a thing or two to learn. We didn’t realize that it takes under three minutes to set up the coffeemaker. Stopping for gas came in at under four minutes. Loading the dishwasher? That was an estimated total of about 15 minutes throughout the day, at most. Unloading took 12 minutes, and turned out to be no big deal while the coffee brewed. By quantifying what each of these little daily rituals actually required, we were able to scale them back to a more reasonable level of annoyance.
A book we recently enjoyed helped, too. The book is Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a year among the oldest old. The author is the award-winning John Leland of the New York Times. He spent a year visiting and getting to know six individuals above the age of 85. He learned about their lives, their families, the history they’ve seen, and their philosophies. Contrary to what many younger folks think, he found these elders to be among the happiest, most peaceful, and contented individuals he’d ever met. They came from very different socio-economic backgrounds. They all had seen family struggles, hard economic times, and loss of many types, and every last one of them suffered one infirmity or another. No one uses a body for at least 85 years without having some of the parts wear out!
But, they all shared a sense of well being and satisfaction with what life had left for them. They enjoyed their days, their families, and the routines that had come from years of navigating the world. Sure, there were things that they needed help with at this point in life. That’s true to some degree for each of them. But, what life has left them to enjoy brings great satisfaction to each day they have. They know that time is not on their side, so they don’t spend too much of it thinking about what’s gone wrong. They forgive old grudges and slights. They take what they can and let go of the rest with grace and dignity.
So, tonight as one of us sets the coffeemaker, the other will make a note to call the gutter guys. The laundry will get done and the dishwasher tended. Tomorrow will bring another Monday’s shopping and food prep, but this week we’ll look at the task as the blessing it truly is. To be in this moment, able to care for and provide for our family while we enjoy their company is enough for anyone to want at any moment on any day of a lifetime. We’ll stick to the advice of those “Elders” we met as we read this remarkable book, and we’ll go about the rituals of taking us from one day to the next, one week to the next, and year after year as we make the journey toward joining their company. At least that’s the way it looks from where we sit.
Who's Afraid of a Thunderstorm?
As I (that would be Deb) writes this, the eastern part of the United States is experiencing treacherously high temperatures and miserable humidity. The thermometer reads 104 degrees with a heat index of 115. Not only that, there’s a storm coming over the western mountain threatening 60-mile-per-hour winds and quarter-sized hail. The trees are beginning to sway, and we have no reason to doubt the National Weather Service this time with the severe thunderstorm warnings they’ve issued. The air is tingling with the ozone that precedes a big storm, and we’re starting to think about where we last had that flashlight. Although I may have to shut down the computer and move away from the window before we’re done here, I’m not in a hurry to miss the display.
As a child, my mother lived in fear of thunderstorms. Her own mother was terrified of them, so whenever one approached, she’d gather her eight children and make them all stay on her bed with her until the storm passed. My mother, being among the oldest, took this as a very bad sign and decided if her mother was this frightened, then there must be a real reason for panic. Once she reached adulthood and learned the real dynamics of a thunderstorm she felt a little cheated. She vowed that none of her children would grow up fearing a natural phenomenon that, while certainly potentially dangerous, was also, with proper preparation, a spectacular show. At the first sign of a storm, she’d load us all into the back of her huge Buick and drive us a few blocks away to watch the storm on the ocean.
My brothers and I have many happy memories of lightning flashing into the sea and waves crashing in tune to the thunder. With the surf wild and the sky spewing fury, we felt at the heart of the universe. So, sure, don’t stand under a tree, go out on the golf course, or continue to swim, when you see that storm is rising. Gain shelter to ensure your safety. But, at the same time, don’t allow fear to spoil the joy of experiencing the power and majesty that come from safely watching the storm rise, roll, and remove itself in its own sweet time. We can’t so easily get to the ocean to watch it anymore, but we still treasure the memories of those times spent safely sharing the spectacle, safe, warm, and happy. Plus, we all still enjoy the storm from exactly where we happen to sit. Thanks, Mom.
Copyright 2011, UTA Industry Watch
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