It began like a see-saw balanced on its fulcrum.
One might say it could have gone either way, but if you knew the whole story,
you would say – NOT REALLY.
Soon, inevitably, circumstances slid downward like sand on a hill.
When the girl surveyed the situation, she started climbing against the momentum of it.
The climbing made her strong, but it took years for the girl to feel her power.
Even after she had escaped, she didn’t realize it. So even though there was nothing left to climb, she ran.
She ran and ran.
She found paths laid by others and adeptly navigated their trails.
And then, one day, she stopped.
She realized where she was and smiled.
She saw how silly it is to not realize how far she had come.
How silly it is to run from shadows.
How silly it is to follow paths drawn on maps.
She could find her own way. Plot her own destination.
She no longer needed to run, so she sat down.
I admit that happiness is not something I fell into naturally. It was easy to feel tossed about by an ocean of circumstances rather than feel directed by my own internal rudder. Like everyone, I am a work in progress, but the below have helped me find a more resilient oasis of inner happiness and peace.
Happiness is a state of being. Happiness is the canvas of life, not the paint.
Notice that each of the below is an action that originates within yourself, as a choice.
1) Stop seeking the next happiness “fix”. Happiness is not gained through things you have or things you do. Much of what we acquire is not necessary, and only complicates life. Be satisfied with the amazing life you have now, in this moment: air, trees, sunshine – all priceless yet free. If you have personal well-being, the closeness of loved ones, and the time to follow a passion, you are rich indeed. Remember, too, that happiness is a highly individualized experience. Your happiness will look different than my happiness, so, as they say, follow your bliss!
2) Truly let go of things you can’t control. I have a tendency to worry, so honing my ability to “let go” has been a real breakthrough. Let go of worry about the future, because these things might never happen. Let go of regret over the past, because these things are immutable and are no longer happening. Deeply know that anxiety will not resolve a situation, nor will it affect its outcome in a positive way. Instead, redirect energy to focus on situations you CAN change.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” – Dalai Lama
3) Forgive. Forgiving others is a wonderfully selfish act that sets your soul free, even if no one else knows you did it. The passage of time often causes things to become heavier than they need to be. Forgiveness sets down things you don’t need to carry. And don’t forget to forgive yourself.
4) Notice the moment, and live in the moment more fully. Beauty is a quiet thing, and perseveres even during difficult times. Truly, each moment is a mixture of good and bad. Challenge yourself to lift your eyes each day and notice one good and beautiful thing. Goodness and beauty hold at least as much weight in the universe as anything else. Challenge yourself to experience the moment of now, the only thing that is truly happening.
5) Honor your journey. Your path may have been harrowing or treacherous at times, but it was part of the path that brought you to where you are today. Your life experiences rendered a hard-won wisdom, strength, and perspective. I wouldn’t see the sunshine as clearly without the rain. By definition, I have survived every obstacle that has come my way, and the power of that is integral to who I am.
6) Own your happiness. Childhood often tricks us into thinking that life is something that happens to us. It takes a retraining of the mind to realize that we are our own wellspring. One of the great secrets of happiness is that if you believe you are happy, you will be happy, and others will increasingly respond to you as a happy person. Happiness has a tendency to feed upon itself. So start believing!
7) Mellow out. Nurture a perspective of knowing what matters and what doesn’t matter. If it won’t matter a month or a year from now, it doesn’t truly matter. Be the daytime Moon and defy expectation, particularly the unnecessary expectations you place on yourself.
I traveled recently, and of course I missed my family terribly. These precious people are so many things. They are their own individual manifestations of life. They are touchstones for the love I feel for them. They collaborate with me in the ongoing expression and evolution of our mutual love. When we are apart, they continue and I continue, but the touchstone of them is absent. Even so, our mutual love evolves, only at a distance.
These touchstones of them – a shared hug, a smile, the way they do things in their individual ways – are rooted in my heart. Although they express themselves to many people, it is within me that these things are wrapped in love and transformed into something magical. Love is a filter that reveals the preciousness of people.
I carry my family in the home of my heart. The heart holds the memories of love, and is the rich ground from which love grows.
I was the first one to know you, your restlessness interwoven with your capacity for deep sleep. My child, content in your silent swimming…
1) You are a miracle, finally here. Our touch is electric – we are the same skin. I understand your baby-seriousness and your clumsiness. I see myself in you, just as I see you in me. Do you feel the same? Parent and child hold a mirror for the other. We recognize ourselves more clearly in the reflection.
2) Two-years old. Somehow, you have gone from stumbling to running. Your hands are strong enough to exert your will. You have the ability now, but not the understanding of consequences. Oh, what have I gotten into? I love you more each day.
3) This is the moment I can apply what little I know from reading about child development. You are three-years old, contrary and opinionated. I promise I will strive to be consistent. I will be the water that rounds rough edges. I will keep your precious, innate beauty intact. Such a line to walk.
4) Like a light switch, you have flicked on your humanity and reason. Surely, you are the most delightful person I have ever met.
5) At five-years old, you have become self-aware in a new way. You hide that you can read until we trick you by mis-reading words. You say we read it wrong, then tell us the correct word. Now we know for certain. This shows such restraint, just so you can stay a child in the world’s eyes. You are not ready to admit that the tsunami of knowledge is now yours through the written word.
6) In school, you have officially begun your independent life. Each year, it will become more and more difficult to keep up with everything you learn in your hours away from me. You sing songs I haven’t heard. Mention names without faces. Describe games I have never played. Who is this person who knows these things?
7) You are becoming more and more yourself each day. You ask amazing, insightful questions. You undoubtedly are smarter than I am. At seven, you embrace your interests fully: soccer, art, astronomy, fantasy writing, nature. I wonder how soon it will be until the pressures of peer-conformity emerge. I hope you always remember the root of you at this moment. I will.
8) I don’t know what waits for us at eight-years old. We have walked off the map. I will now rely on my internal compass, and teach you to rely on your compass which becomes stronger every day. I will put you to sleep surrounded by hippos and elephants as long as you let me. In a sense, I tuck myself in. I have learned the two sides of the blanket, and experience them both simultaneously. I soak in the sense of being my own child, and wonder how many more times you will let me nurture you this way.
(Happy 8th birthday, Sunboy!)
Since we don’t watch television, we sometimes spend a few moments before Sunboy’s bedtime showing him diverse cultural touchstones. We’ve learned how a variety of items are made, both artisan and industrial. We’ve listened to Steven Hawking talk about the potential for life on other planets. We’ve watched cartoons from my childhood, including Pink Panther and (his favorite) Roadrunner and Coyote. We’ve watched the July 20, 1969 Moon Landing.
Tonight, it was 1930s tap-dancing. Fred and Ginger. He asked if it was real. Real, I said, but a movie, a musical. It seemed odd to him. Black and white film, dancing in the streets, tap-dancing. He asked again if it was real.
As he drifted to sleep, I shared a thought that I was trying to express in 140 characters. I said we’re constantly changing and constantly becoming, and so we should make sure we are becoming what we want to be.
Life rarely allows us to design a path and walk down it unencumbered. Yet, if we conceptualize who and how we want to be, that concept can become a light in the distance. We will deviate, move sideways and backwards from the light, but the light of who we want to be will set us back on course.
Sunboy said he wasn’t constantly changing. He said if he counted the hairs on his head they would be the same yesterday and today. I asked him if he was the sum of the hairs on his head. In the last few days, he’s practiced swimming, been to the aquarium, and been to school. New experiences have moved him along his path. But where does his path lead, in the distance?
Do we want to be someone who shares negativity or positivity? Do we want to make things better to the extent that we are able? If we have an hour to learn something, will it be a good thing or a bad thing? Each of these are part of reaching the light in the distance.
He asked if I thought all knowledge was good. I said for a long time I thought all knowledge was good because it provided information about our world. Now, I said, I still think knowledge is inherently good, but I wish there was some knowledge I didn’t have. A person can’t un-see or un-know things. When the things we know are sad, it can act as a fog filtering the light.
Somewhere during these thoughts, he fell asleep. I wonder how many hairs he will have on his head tomorrow, and what light he will place in the distance to point his way.