… I’ve stopped looking at disappointment as an inevitable downswing triggered by happiness and have come to understand that sometimes disappointment follows happiness not because I don’t deserve happiness but because life is ups and downs, and we have limited control of when those ups and downs fall. The relationship between happiness and disappointment is not one of causality; they merely throw each other into relief.
My friend sent me this link to a teaching her church did on happiness. It includes a list Pope Francis made of ten things that we need for happiness. So I thought I’d share my own list of what I think I need to be happy. I am, of course, a little terrified. What if I list the wrong things and appear shallow? What if I forget the most important things? But I’m going to go with the theory that this isn’t an exhaustive list nor is it written in stone. It’s just the 10 things I can think of right now at 8:29 pm Eastern time on Tuesday, January 13.
What I Need to Be Happy
Time by myself on a regular basis. While I’m a particularly social introvert, I’m an introvert nonetheless. And I need alone time to recharge.
Time by myself without an agenda. See reason #1. Also, so much of my life is about output and schedules and what I have to do, that it starts to feel oppressive. I think it’s part of my hidden perfectionism. (I say hidden cause I continually tell everyone I’m a slacker, and far too many people are like, uhm, you’re actually a perfectionist. Sigh…) And I can make myself crazy trying to hit all the deadlines and follow all the rules and arrive places on time because my natural state is chaos. So I guess actually #2 should be I need time by myself to just be chaotic.
A room of my own. Are you sensing a trend? I’m a nester. Always have been, always will be. I’m grateful to have a whole big apartment to myself filled with books and “my treasures,” but even if I really only did have a bedroom, I’d need to feather that one-bedroom into my own safe little nest.
To be able to put things in perspective. It’s not about being a Pollyanna or always seeing the silver lining. It’s just about right-sizing things. It’s easier to be happy when you’re not letting yourself be overwhelmed by all of the overwhelming stuff.
To feel connected to people. Not in a barnacle on a boat kind of way, though some times that’s nice though eventually that comes into conflict with #1. But just having a general sense that I’m loved and cared for. That there are people in my life with whom I share a love of Benedict Cumberbatch, for example, or emotional and physical DNA, or a deep understanding of what it was like to attend a soccer party at BU between 1987 and 1991. I’m being a little flip with my examples but the point is that I need to affirm that the pitch lake doesn’t exist inside me, that I am someone people want to hang out with and on those days when I can’t find anyone to hang out with it’s about circumstance and not about who I am as a person.
To laugh every day. There’s nothing like laughter to put things in perspective and/or to help you feel connected.
To write. In my journal. Poems. Lists. Texts to my sister. Just to somehow put language around whatever I’m experiencing. And as a corollary, to read.
A relationship with God. This list is not in priority order but if it were, this would be at the top. I know, I know, religion is the opiate of the masses. But really, if you’re looking to be anesthesized through a relationship with God, then you’re not doing it right. Because it’s about relationship not religion. It’s about having that one friend who never ever ever EVER lets you down. And that’s something.
Money. I don’t need to be a millionaire, but anyone who says money isn’t important is lying. It’s not just about buying stuff for myself, though I do enjoy that—at the most basic level (rent and groceries) and at the indulgent level (a million different types of mascara till I find one I love, more art to hang on the wall). But it’s about being able to support my local theater company, to treat a friend to dinner, to buy people I love gifts that will delight them, to help out my mom.
To make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t think I’ll cure cancer, and I may never have a wide readership as a poet. But if one person gets something out of something I’ve written, or if I make a stranger smile because I compliment her outfit, or if I help a friend get an interview for a job or if I make someone laugh or as the poet Karen Craigo put it on her blog today, if I practice “focused kindness,” then what’s better than that?