Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Pursuit of Happy

"I'm not sure why I never assume I could use a break. I never stop long enough to think, Huh, I deserve to take it easy."

I'm listening to my friend Katelyn at the Mill. She goes on, "I was just talking to my dad about taking on full case loads after I graduate on Wednesday. He told me I should take it easy and just ease it into it slowly instead of jumping right in. Why can't I do that for myself without someone suggesting it?"

One of the best books I've ever read is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. In it she writes about American advertising that encourages us that we "deserve" to take a break, that we've "earned" it. She writes:

"Such advertising campaigns would probably not be as effective in the Italian culture, where people already know that they are entitled to enjoyment in this life. The reply in “You Deserve a Break Today” would probably be, Yeah, no duh. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon to go over to your house and sleep with your wife."

The word "entitled" really jumped out at me. Well, the part about sleeping with someone else's wife kinda hit me too, but that's besides the point. Entitled.

I've never, ever believed I was "entitled" to enjoy my life. I thought that joy, happiness, leisure, and pleasure were all things I'd have to spend my entire life "earning". Maybe I should move to Italy, or just stay here and pretend I like I live in Italy.

What if I lived my life believing I was entitled to the enjoyment of it? What if I spent my days doing things I thoroughly enjoyed instead of those that I should just to get done? What if instead of scheduling all the appointments and tests and responsibilities, I scheduled in joy?

Dancing. Climbing trees. Reading. Yoga. Drawing. Cooking. Learning something new.

Ahh, yes, I remember. If I were actually to schedule joy into my day, I would end up feeling guilty about it. That's the problem.

This morning I woke up with a sore throat, a stuffy nose, and an aching body. I've had a nasty sinus head ache all day long and every time I stand up, I get dizzy. I didn't do the best job at giving myself a break, there are after all some things that just have to get done, like studying for my Psychology of Religion exam.

But tonight, without apologies, I went and crashed on Jeremy's couch and did nothing at all. I drifted in and out of sleep while he watched the Cowboys game on TV. That was exactly what I needed to do, so I did it. I didn't feel guilty for not studying, for not working on my book which is due Wednesday, and I didn't feel guilty for not being especially fun, sociable, or necessarily at my best. I just was. Article 24 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights goes like this: "Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay."

I have a right to rest and leisure. This is not something I have to earn. Rest is not something I have to work for to hopefully deserve it someday. It just is. It is my right.

I realized something pretty amazing a month or two ago: I'm happy. I haven't been genuinely happy in a long time, at least 2 years. Part of me starts over thinking: first of all, Why am I happy? then, Well, it probably won't last.

Sick isn't it?

I'm happy. I have my hunches. But resisting all urges to analyze exactly why, I realize I can't guarantee happiness or joy or pleasure every day for the rest of my life. I'll just keep showing up with what I've got from where I'm at. I'll do my balanced best and give myself a break at my less than graceful fumbles along the way.

After all, it is my right.

Elizabeth Gilbert, "Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, 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."


Anonymous said...

john 10:10

abundant doesnt really sound all that bad......

how bout them cowboys?!

Carley Brown said...

I want to read that book. I think I will now cause of this blog