finding happy

I realize — I really do — that you need to be generally my age to appreciate music of the 70s, but this came up on my playlist yesterday and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to share it. Remember this great old song?

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Anyway, I was already feeling happy so perhaps it just landed on fertile [happy] soil and my happiness had less to do with that great old song, and more to do with how I was already feeling.

Temperamentally — if in fact this is a thing that stems from temperament — I am a happy person. I find happiness pretty easily, and I think my baseline feeling is content. I’ve known people who were constitutionally at odds, uneasy, out of sorts, uncomfortable, and I’m lucky that that’s not my default state. I am, I’m lucky that way. Yesterday I read this quote, which left me thinking:

What most people wanted was the happiness of having what other people wanted. Then they had brief moments of an inferior happiness when they only got what they themselves but nobody else wanted. This rather spoiled things. Some people made mistakes in their opinion of what other people wanted, but if they didn’t find out they managed to be happy, maybe wondering a little once in a while what everybody wanted this for. Others wasted so much time trying to have what other people wanted that they never knew they were perfectly happy without it. The biggest jolt in growing up was to discover that that you didn’t like what others liked and they thought you were crazy to like what you liked. ~Dawn Powell

What makes you happy? Do you know? Here’s a short list from the extremely long list of things that make me so so happy:

  • knowing my children and getting any moment with them — on the phone, in person, over email
  • my little warbly birds, every single day
  • lots of music
  • an excellent bite of something: a crisp gala apple, a creamy avocado, a crunchy salad, a moist slice of cake, a gooey enchilada
  • friends
  • my little garden
  • my beautiful comfortable bed, all my own
  • my sweet home and the way it reflects me
  • books, writers, poems, poets, reading something that makes me feel known or excited or challenged or moved
  • my own words
  • that first glass of water
  • mastery . . . or amateur playing, either one!
  • learning something new
  • getting to love people, and feeling loved
  • emotional complexity, philosophical complexity, intellectual complexity
  • my life
  • K.C. and the Sunshine Band, always. Mad Men, Breaking Bad.
  • regaining control after I’ve let things slide — every day, a new chance

Yeah, that’s an OK starter list. Every day when I get my gratitude email, I have to sift through all the things I have to be grateful for, and it’s such a long list. I am a very lucky person.

I think Dawn Powell is right about this issue of what we want and what others want. Like that old Sufi story of the man who looks for his lost keys in the middle of the street instead of in his house, because the light is better out there — that’s a lost cause. You have to go inside, it’s an inside job. Who cares what other people want, who cares what makes them happy (unless you’re on the search for how to help someone feel happy of course), you have to find your own. I doubt seriously that listening to the Spice Girls sing Say You’ll Be There makes you giddy, as it does me, and that’s just fine — it’s going to make me giddy every time, whatever you might think about that. It’s my private happiness. But here, I’ll share, just in case:

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Marilyn Monroe and Philippe Halman, 1959. This photo always makes me so happy.
Marilyn Monroe and Philippe Halman, 1959. This photo always makes me so happy.

You’ll have your own idiosyncratic sources of course, which is the point. I think one way to be happy is not to dismiss these little things, not to wave them away as inconsequential. If your only “happy” comes with big giant things — vacation, a new house/car/job/partner, money — you won’t be happy all that often. But opportunities for happiness are right there, all the time. All the time.

Find your happy, chase it, chase it down, grab it, hold it to you, soak it up. Life is hard and trouble is gonna come, no worries about that, so chase what you can when you can. And if the happy is tiny, hold it tight.



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