Friday, March 30, 2012

The Pursuit

Last night, after my Zumba, class a woman (who just finished reading my book) came up to me and said, "You are the happiest person I've ever met."

In shock, I laughed.

She continued, "After all you've been through, it amazes me that you are just such a happy person!"

"Well," I tried to explain, "that book was written four years ago. And let's be honest, when 60 people show up for a booty-shaking work-out, it's easier to put on a happy face even if it's been a really long day."

Her comment made me laugh because I'm sure that if she asked the people closest to me, none of them would call me "the happiest person they'd ever met." At least, I wouldn't. I can be quite cynical. I'm really selfish. I can look into a nearly, clear blue sky and only see the one cloud.

But I've been thinking much about happiness recently. That pleasure. That contentment. That joy. That confidence. That satisfaction. Oh happiness.

Last week, I read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. One day sitting on a city bus in NYC, she recognized that she wasn't happy and set out the next year to identify what was making her unhappy and make resolutions to add more joy to her life. Things like going to sleep earlier, asking for help, enjoying the present moment, singing in the morning, indulging in a modest splurge, and keeping a gratitude journal.

Here's a few things I've learned:
-"They say that people teach what they need to learn."

-"When the student is ready, the teacher appears." -Buddhist saying

-"Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act."

-80% of success is just showing up

-"When money or health is a problem, you think of little else. When it's not a problem, we don't think much about it."

-"There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday." -William Edward Hartpole Lecky

-small children may laugh 400 times a day, adults average about 17

I like this story:
"On our last day at the beach, when we were packed up and ready to leave, Jamie (her husband) and I sat reading the newspaper as we all waited for the ferry. Eleanor (her daughter) had wandered off to practice her stair climbing on a short set of three stairs, so I went to help her climb up and down, up and down. I considered going to get a section of the paper to read as I stood with her--and then I realized, this is it.

"This was my precious, fleeting time with Eleanor as a little girl, so adorable and cheery and persistent, as she went up and down those wooden stairs. The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming, she looked so darling in her pink summer dress; why would I want to distract myself from the moment by reading the paper? She'd already grown so much; we'd never have a tiny baby again." (199)

I've had those moments of this is it.

Of discovering a few sacred moments, sitting in my parked car, as the spring air wanders through the open windows. This is it.

Of catching the eye of a little boy, peeking out behind his father's knees in line at the grocery store. This is it.

Of hunching over a list of 59 things to do before our wedding day and realizing that I will never again plan another wedding. This is it.

Of dancing my little heart out with sixty strangers in a Zumba class that reminds me after a long day: it's going to be all right. This is it.

This is it. This is what we are: a people of highs and lows. A collection of flat tires, birthday parties, sobbing tears, and sunny afternoons. We feel. We experience. And too often we follow the masses and fall in line, we do as we're told and we take on a robotic, auto-pilot motion that makes us unaware, un-feeling, and so often, dreadfully unhappy.

This is it.
This is what we've got: one wild and precious life.
We do our best.
We pull through.
We take a moment to notice, to observe, to look with new eyes.

To choose happy.