January 9, 2017

We come into this world woefully unqualified for what life has to throw at us. It’s not our fault. It’s just the way it happens.

But never have I felt so ridiculously unqualified as I have as a parent.

People have been doing this for how many years? And yet……nobody has put together a comprehensive ” how to” guide. Yes, many have written self help books on parenting and I have read them all (mostly) but none of them have really resonated with me as being authentic.

I feel like at this point in my life I should have enough life experience to be able to handle this. So how do I take my experiences and the knowledge that I have gained from them and pass it on to my kids in a relevant manner?

This is not going to be a post with a smart, well written, Best Things in Life ending. This is a real question.

How do I take my life experiences and pass them on to my kids in a meaningful, educational way that will benefit them?  Without driving them crazy.

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Happy?

happy face

What makes you happy? It’s different for everyone I suppose. The easy response would be, perhaps, a sunny day, a warm hug, an unexpected windfall, a great glass of wine. It’s a pretty loaded question really. It could be something life encompassing or it could be something tiny and seemingly insignificant. This morning listening to the Eagles Live album really loudly in the car made me happy. Sleep, chocolate, a new pair of shoes.  Those things seem so fleeting though. What sustains happiness, long term?

Over the years I have discovered that my happiness is very closely tied to my physical well being. If I feel good physically I am happy. If I’m tired, have an upset stomach or haven’t worked out in a few days, I can feel myself slipping into an unhappy place. I think this is true for most people and really it’s just simple biology. The act of getting your heart pumping and the endorphins flowing, puts a smile on most people’s faces. So why can’t we just spend our days out running or hiking on the trails? There. Problem solved. Happiness all around.

Then there is the saying money can’t buy you happiness. No, it can’t. But it can alleviate the anxiety and stress that go with a mountain of debt. I’m not ashamed to say that I am happier now than I was a few years ago when we were struggling to make ends meet. We don’t have any more “things” than we did then, but we argue less and worry less and in turn, are, I believe, happier. Do I envy people who have more than I do and think that having all that would make me happy. You bet. I know it’s materialistic and there are many people who have nothing and are extremely happy. I’m just not one of them.

When I reached out to friends to see what makes them happy, without a doubt, the most common answer was friends and family. Kids laughing, connecting with friends, time with spouses are all major happiness factors.  In no particular order here are a few examples of the responses I got.  They really are some of The Best Things in Life.  Sunshine, nature, wine, travel, napping, sex, cold beer on a hot day, love, chocolate, exercise. Of course one of my friends turned if around on me and asked me what made me happy. On that day? Seeing my inbox full of happy emails. Learning more about my friends and their joys in life.

An old friend commented that she was happiest when she knows that her interests and ideas are being supported by those closest to her. But then in the next breath she wonders if it’s right to leave her happiness in the hands of others. “I shouldn’t rely on others to make me happy”. This is something I struggle with as well. I have tried not to be a “gold star junkie” as Gretchen Rubin terms it in The Happiness Project. When you rely on others to pat you on the back or give you a gold star for your achievements you are, in essence, keeping score, and rarely come out on top. Am I successful in this? Let’s just say I’m working on it.

100 Happy Days is an on line project that has been around for a while. I was hiking with a friend a few weeks ago who was on day 56. The premise is that you email an image to their website every day for 100 days that symbolizes happiness to you. I would imagine that by the time you reach 100 days it would have become a habit for you to find something each day, no matter how small or insignificant, that makes you happy. A bit like a gratification post. I think that I’m going to try the 100 Happy Days project. It may be a good reminder to me of how many great things I encounter each day that make me smile. I also find that “having a clear vision and taking steps towards it every day” makes me happy as well.

Can you be happy all the time? I don’t think you can and I think that’s totally okay. Of course it’s not okay to be unhappy all the time either. The key is to find the right balance for you. The right mix or percentage of happiness . Over thinking things makes me happy too. It’s an odd thing, actually, to stop and really think about whether you are happy or not. People have made billions in the self help industry telling us what we need to do to be happy. Why do we need to read a book about it? Shouldn’t we just BE happy? Can it be that simple?

So at the end of the day did I find my answer? No. But I did start thinking more about my happiness and the happiness of others and that in itself is good.   One of the surprising emails I received was from a friend I hope to meet with very soon to talk about her passions. I totally expected her to say decorating cakes and being on my bike with my dog. What did I get instead? A great quote to close my post .

“I am happiest when I am continually striving for my potential in life.”