Today was the culmination of several weeks of lightening.
a life half-lived
in ten boxes
not to be opened for
one more year
I will begin again.
Today was a day when I could have complained a lot, let the stress of life get to me, focused only on what wasn’t getting done. And then Vincent did this. He found a small piece of tape on the floor and was so fascinated by the way it stuck to his finger that he began sticking it onto everything, finally deciding that sticking and unsticking it to my shirt was the most fun ever. He giggled with joy each time the tape unstuck from his finger and stuck to my shirt.
The sheer joy with which he experiences life is infectious. We stayed this way—me in my chair, Vincent snuggled between my knees—for twenty minutes while he focused on the amazing sticking properties of tape. When it would cling to my shirt he would look up at me and laugh asking me to laugh with him, and I did.
The mess around us, dirty dining table, books on the floor, dust and cat fur in every corner, blurred into the background like a moment of selective focus through a camera lens. Twenty minutes of focus, presence, simplicity. Twenty minutes of happiness that lasted all day.
When I got up this morning I thought “I need to figure out what makes me happy today and make sure to document it.” My type-A personality immediately turned my 100 happy days pledge into a task. I started putting pressure on myself to take a meaningful, artistic photo because in my mind I was in competition with everyone else participating.
And then I stopped myself.
This is a big deal. It means I have gained self-awareness, an ability to be present instead of chasing an illusory future moment were everything will be perfect. I started doing my crazy thing and then I stopped. I had breakfast with my baby boy. We shared a bagel with cream cheese while I tickled his feet and made him giggle.
This is what I love about my little snapshot. It isn’t glamourous or arty or technically interesting in any way, but it reminds me of that moment. The simplicity and beauty of that moment. The photo only shows part of my Mother’s Day mug. It is a photo of both kids in the bath, covered with bubbles, and it reads “Happy Mother’s Day… and thanks for washing our butts.” And that is everyday happiness. Two bubbly kids in the bath and a mom who is happy to be there to wash their butts.
My experience with my first day of the 100 happy days challenge reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
~John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Indeed. And do good, too.
This morning a friend of mine who has a chronically sick baby, who will only sleep if she holds him while sitting up in a recliner, posted this message on Facebook:
We create the reality in which we live.
She is one of the most positive people I know, even in the face of adversity, but this stopped me cold. I’m sure if she could create the reality in which she lives, she wouldn’t choose to have a sick baby. What the hell could this really mean? How could she think such thoughts in the midst of such troubles? I read a lot of Buddhist philosophy, so I’m familiar with the concept of illusion and the importance of how you react to situations in your life, but I’ve always had trouble with the idea that our attitude could change reality. There are some things you can’t change, no matter how sunny your disposition. And that was true for Jill’s friend Kelly. She couldn’t change the reality of her cancer and the fact that it was killing her, but as Jill puts it in this post, she never gave up. Not in the sense of fighting a “battle” or “war” with cancer, but in that she kept living her life in any way she could. And this makes sense to me. This is what my friend with the sick baby is doing. She is choosing not to give up on life, on happiness, on the fact that she, we all, have happiness as a birthright.
I’m pretty lucky really. I have healthy kids and Richard and I are doing pretty good in the health department too. We have enough money to pay the bills. We have friends and family who love us. So on days like today when I feel depressed and overwhelmed, I need reminders like the one in Jill’s blog post. Not a reminder that “hey, you don’t have it as bad as that person over there, so stop whining,” but a reminder that happiness is a practice—something we must work at every day. Sometimes those days will include sunshine and rainbows. Others might include a broken water heater or a flat tire. And one day, someday, might include a seriously ill child or cancer, but if we practice happiness every day we will be ready.
So I’m in.
And come along for the ride. Are you in?