Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What Makes Me Happy

A monk celebrated for his wisdom regarding happiness shares his top ten list today on Wowowow.  These tenets fly in the face of what most of American culture tells us will help us reach this elusive state. 

Adversity, criticism and not getting our own way, according to Matthieu Ricard, can get us on the path towards it. Riches, fame, pleasure and revenge, not so much.  (Pretty sure he won't be getting any guest spots on Real Housewives.)  Check out the full list here.

Fairly regularly, my son the philosopher and I have a talk involving lists of important things.  He thinks a lot about happiness and what he wants his life to look like later, and so we puzzle over matters together.  He is wise and gets me thinking harder than usual. Even so, I am bit frivolous. So unlike the esteemed monk, my list is only five things and isn't filled with deep insight.  It's about the little rituals that punctuate what must be done--getting places on time and making deadlines and filling out forms--with moments of lightness.  So, in no particular order, here are my happy places:

Grinding my own coffee beans.  It's loud for a minute, but the smell is heavenly when I grind them, and then again the next morning when I get back from my run and turn the coffeemaker on.  I'm mostly awake by then and have found my soul and (usually) a better mood on the trail.  A little cream and the first few sips later and I am ready to wake the kids and head into the steeplechase called a day in modern life. This method is cheaper than Starbucks, plus I have a great caffeine buzz by the time I start my commute. 

Sitting on my deck.  This falls into the category of things I don't do enough.  It's been a hundred degrees for about two months now, so this has been curtailed of late.  But we're heading into fall in Texas, which means sitting outside without sweating for a few months before it gets cold. My favorite time is early evening, closely followed by Sunday morning.  Even in the middle of the city, my yard is private and mostly quiet, and it's lovely just to sit and be. Solving the problems of the world with friends is also pretty darn great.

Clean sheets.  Usually these are combined with a clean house, but even when they are not, there is something about climbing into a clean bed that makes me feel safe, comfortable and cared for.  Even
though--or maybe because--I do it for myself.  They don't have to be fabulous sheets.  Many years ago, my Great Aunt Annie gave me a set of flannel sheets that were a ghastly print in mustard and green.  But they were soft and warm against the bitterly cold Canadian nights. Especially when they were clean.

Suicide hill.  There aren't all that many hills in Fort Worth, but there is one close to the trail near my house that is a whopper by almost any standard.  On my typical early morning trek down, I often see an elderly lady very slowly traversing the road that crosses halfway up this summit. (It undulates.) She has a walker, but she's out there.  So after my two mile loop of the park, I head back up and give it all I've got, on my brave days more than once.  As I feel my limbs burn and my heart pounds, I remember to feel gratitude for the strength in my legs and my heart and my lungs.  I am almost forty-four years old, and I can do this.  No small thing. 

Singing in the car.  Among my most guilty pleasures in having a teenager is listening to frothy pop songs and cranking up the radio to sing.  Of course, I never do this when I am alone; it is only a sacrifice for my children. But it does make me ridiculously happy.

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