Sometimes life throws a question at me that makes me stop and think for a while. I take so many things for granted and it does me good to pause and take time to ponder. The question that took my fancy this week was ~ what is happiness?
It's a fairly straightforward question and yet it made me stop for a moment and wonder - What does happiness actually mean to me? What does it look like? What do I do to find it? and What do I do to keep it? So I'm going to try to break it down a bit and do my best to answer those questions from the viewpoint of a midlifer who is still working out where the journey is taking me....
What does happiness mean to me?
Happiness is a nebulous term - it morphs depending on your age and circumstances. What makes one person happy may have no effect on someone else. To me, happiness tends to equate with contentment and being centred and settled. I don't like upheaval and angst and stress, I tend to feel happiest when my life makes sense. It might not all be plain sailing, and there can still be a lot of things that I want but I can be happy within that if I feel like my boundaries are in place and "all is right with my world". Also, as much as I know that you shouldn't rely on others for your happiness, I am definitely happier when my family is happy and not going through turmoil.
What does happiness look like to me?
After years of ups and downs, happiness seems to have settled gently around my shoulders over the last year or so. I don't struggle so much with the injustices of life, I try to fret less when I think something is unfair. I'm more accepting of what comes my way and (although I struggle sometimes) I try to look at the bright side and count my many blessings. So many people gripe about their lives, and yet we are given so much - maybe we think it's not fair that we don't have as much as our neighbours, but we all have much more than we need and how we view our circumstances has a lot to do with how happy we are. So happiness, to me, looks like gratitude and acceptance and finding little things to smile about every day.
What do I do to find it?
I think I covered a bit of that by saying that it is about gratitude. Being thankful for all that has been given to me and then getting out there and getting on with it. I'm in the second half of life now and I don't want to sit around waiting for my big moment. I think I find happiness by living my life and not worrying about what others have that I don't have. It's about grabbing moments and finding pleasure in the little things. It's about throwing paint at life's canvas and standing back and enjoying the colours. It's about celebrating other people's victories with them - our children getting jobs, buying their first homes, gaining independence. It's about enjoying the freedom of being at this stage of life and sharing it with friends and loved ones.
What do I do to keep it?
There are no guarantees with this life. Health is no longer something to take for granted, work comes and goes, friends lose contact, children move away from home, life keeps changing. I think it comes down to expectations - not allowing them to reach the point where everything seems to be less than I'd hoped for. Instead, I need to live one day at a time, stay in the moment, appreciate the beauty and the blessing that is life. Tell my family that I love them, spend time with people who enrich my life, try to invest some of my spare time making someone else's life a little happier. Sharing the love and the blessings and also sharing the tough times too - a shared burden is easier to carry.
I want to celebrate life and be grateful for all that has been handed to me so undeservedly. It would be nice to think that all the not-so-fabulous times have given me an appreciation for the life I have now. Happiness is definitely a choice - different for everyone, but still a choice that we make every day and I don't want to forget that.