Joy: Pursuing Happiness
Get a Critter
I think one of the essential ingredients for happiness is having a cat, dog, bird, hamster, fish, something that loves you first and best. I have a cat named Lucy. She is a fat and beautifully colored calico. My daughter rescued her from under her house four years ago. She has never meowed. She does squeak, however, so she can communicate. Squeaking is good. Animals require very little and they give so very much in the way of companionship and unconditional love and understanding. They are comforting when they snuggle up to you while you're watching T.V. They are reassuring when you're at home alone because when they're there, the house is not empty, and they love you, period. They don't care if you're cranky, in a bad mood, or even if you fuss at them. When you are through fussing because they batted everything off the dresser, they will come with a "hangdog" expression for cuddles because they love you anyway! You are their life! It is a big responsibility, but the happiness they bring is worth every bit of it. I've been a mom to seven dogs and four cats. I feel as though I have a team cheering me on from somewhere across the rainbow bridge! They each took a bit of my heart with them when they left, but a bit of them remains with me and always will. I truly hope you will find a pet that suits you and share your life with it if you haven't already.
Everyone has something they love to do that gives them pleasure and makes them forget life's worries. My husband and I love to go fishing. I grew up in the country and his family lived in a small town and spent a lot of time in the country. I was truly fortunate that I grew up surrounded by nature at its most beautiful in Arkansas: pine trees, bluebird skies, an owl that slept in a tree outside the room my sister and I shared and all the other wonders of living in the country, a gravel road on one side of our house and a paved one in front. What I miss most now that I live in the city is the quiet: Being able to walk into the yard and hear nothing except the call of the birds and whisper of the wind.
My dad took me fishing often when I was a kid. He usually ended up annoyed that my line was so frequently tangled in the branches of a tree, but he always asked me to go again, so I suppose it wasn't that bad. We always caught fish. There were no huge amounts, usually 12 or 15, but I loved riding on the water seeing the shoreline disappear. Joe, my husband, fished often with his parents. They were more serious about it and fished much more than my dad and I did and caught a lot more fish!
We bought a boat a few years ago and take it out as often as work and time allow. We fish for red fish, black drum, trout, flounder, anything that bites when we fish in Louisiana. In Arkansas, we fish for bream or crappie. But it is our "thing." It's what we do that makes the heart beat a little faster, causes us not to sleep the night before, and makes life worth living. Find your "thing" and do it as often as you can. We have had such adventures on our fishing trips, so many things to look back and laugh at and wonder about. There is something for everyone. Everyone needs a special thing to do. I hope you find yours and do it as long as you can if you haven't already.
Take a Trip!
Oxford, London, Paris
We took a wonderful vacation this summer in July. We visited a relative at Oxford, then spent a couple of days in London and on to Paris where my husband Joe attended a Kiwanis convention. It was such a happy time for us. Our relative was able to meet us in Paris and spend the days with me while Joe went to Kiwanis functions. I have such wonderful memories of sitting at a table on the sidewalk drinking coffee with him and watching people for a couple of hours. We did a lot of that, just taking in the city. He has lived in England for seven years now and spends quite a bit of time in Paris and he seemed to know exactly the places I would enjoy. It was the perfect vacation for me. I think trips are good for the soul. They don't have to be long trips. We often drive to another parish or across the river or lake and spend the day exploring. I have photos of a trip I will always remember to the River Parishes, pictures of cemeteries from many, many years ago, ancient oak trees, etc. I remember another trip across the lake and driving around some back roads near Lake Maurepaus. All at once hundreds of huge grasshoppers were crossing the road in front of us. It was amazing, just as the pictures we made were. They are called lubber grasshoppers or devil's horses or, in Cajun French, chevals diable. Trips renew the spirit. I highly recommend them. The most enjoyable ones we have taken were not planned. We just got in the car and drove. I hope you will try it!
Dealing with Folks
Walking the Line
Dealing with people is one of the most difficult lessons we learn in life. I have had ups and downs in relationships over the years. Most of us have. One of the things I have learned is if you value a relationship, sometimes you have to have deaf ears. Sometimes people get lost. You will never know why they say and do some of the things they say and do.. As soon as you realize that the problem lies with them, not you, it will be okay. As cliche as it sounds, be the bigger person. Let it go. And remember, you have your own "stuff." You don't recognize it because it's yours, but it's there and others give you leeway at times too. It's best not to kid ourselves that we don't cross lines and hurt and annoy people like everyone else.
Sometimes it is hard for people to be happy for the good things that happen to others. My funny and wonderful psychologist told me once, "It's because they don't think you deserve it!" We both laughed till we had tears in our eyes, but I think it's often true. It's funny to us that they think they should decide who deserves what, but when your first instinct is to call a certain person after something wonderful happens because you are close to them, remember to ask yourself: Will she/he be excited and happy? If the answer is no or even if you're not quite sure, keep it to yourself. I was talking to a guy friend about this very issue and problems he was having and he said, "But I should be able to talk about anything I want." No, not necessarily. That is not written in stone anywhere. Sometimes we have to put others' feelings first. It's what adults do. Suck it up. It's part of emotional maturity. Keep it to yourself or tell it to someone you are sure will be as thrilled for you as you would be for them.
Treat people with respect and affection. I have a friend of many years who seldom sees me without bringing a newspaper article, a magazine clipping, etc., something she knows I will enjoy. It makes me realize that she thinks of me. It is noticed and appreciated. This is one of the things that makes friendships thrive, thinking of the other person. And above anything else, be sincere. I don't always express myself well, but I do my best to let others know I value them. My husband and I have been married for almost 52 years. When one of us is sorry for something we said or did, we seldom apologize. It's not necessary. Sometimes I get grocery store flowers from him, sometimes he gets a silly card from me. There are a thousand ways to say sorry.
We all muddle through life in our own way. It helps when we have others to make the path a little smoother and this comes about by making theirs smoother also. I used to always argue for my viewpoint because I was convinced I was right. It took me many years to realize that others feel the same way. Their point of view may be egregious to us, but it is still their point of view.
Friends come with quirks. I was talking to a former roommate from college and she had run into another friend who had an obsession with high school when we were in college. She talked about it incessantly. When I asked the roommate if she still talked about it all the time, she said yes, constantly! It made for a good laugh. Who knows why she is stuck in that time in her life! I truly can't remember last week, much less 50 years ago! Accept people and their quirkiness and they will accept you. We think we don't have those peculiarities, but we do. They just don't seem peculiar to us, therefore, we're not aware of our own! A Facebook friend told me she never knew how annoying she was until she saw a video of herself ordering her family around.
Finally, the "You should" folks. These are the people who want to tell us what to say, what to do, how to do it, what to eat, what to drink, how to behave, etc. Here's how I've handled that for a few years now: Listen, smile, then do whatever you want to. There's no need to argue about their unsolicited advice and why it's not what you want to do. Who cares? Why do we put such weight on this sort of trivia? Again, it's simple: listen, smile, then do whatever you want. As far as the motivation, who knows what their motive is? It's possible they genuinely want to help. My father-in-law, who is long gone from this planet, told me once to consider the life of the person handing out advice and unless it's one we would change for our own, we should follow our own counsel. Now, that was very good advice.
In a nutshell, give people a break. Just because you believe you have no quirks, that you never offend or annoy anyone doesn't mean you don't. Self-awareness is an inside job and it takes years and years to be completely self-aware, if we ever are. So realize we are all in this together and most of us are doing the very best we can. Look at others and at yourself with an eye that's ready to forget/forgive.
Spend Time Outdoors
Outside and Breathe!
We are having some of those rare fall days that are gone in the blink of an eye here in a suburb of New Orleans. Right now, it's crisp and clear with a slight breeze and I have a fire going in the fireplace. My husband recently put together a gazebo for our backyard, mainly because he wants to be able to use his grill on rainy days. He still talks about the 270-some-odd screws and bolts it required. Sometime today, I'll go outside, sit in the gazebo and just breathe in the outside air for ten or 15 minutes. There is something about being outside that adds to my day, jolts my system wide awake, and gives me joy. We have a plethora of crazy squirrels who run up and down the fence, a family of squawking blue jays that have built their nest on a limb directly over the gazebo, and an abundance of loud crows that are simply insulted and furious when we come in their backyard. If you live in an apartment with nowhere to go, go to a local park. I do that sometimes, just for the change of scene when work is overwhelming. Because I work at home, I can leave my office/den and go anywhere I want for a break. Take time every day that it's possible to go outside and breathe!
Take Time for Spirit
I have been transcribing my Grandmother's diaries from a period during the 1950s. She speaks to God often during the day, sometimes speaking out loud. I don't do that -- yet -- but I do, throughout the day, find myself thanking Spirit for the abundance in my life. It seems the things I worried most about have worked out beyond okay and have become sources of joy as I age. I don't worry a lot anymore. It takes so much energy and is such a total waste of time. During the day sometimes, I stop and wonder if anyone watches me, if there is that watching presence who knows our innermost wishes and desires and I always hear a resounding yes. We all have a different concept of what the presence is, but we all know we are loved. Sometimes I bring parts of the outside indoors, leaves, dried grass, sticks, small rocks and make an altar of sorts, then burn a candle beside it. It sounds like something sinister to some, I suppose, but it's my way of thanking Mother Nature for Her gifts. If you don't have rituals or if you don't think of Spirit during your days -- and nights -- try doing it. It changes the tone of the day or night and makes it more joyous.
I am going to burn some sage and clear the old year from my house today. A new beginning is coming soon. I hope the approaching year is joyous and full of love for anyone who reads this and that this writing helps you in some way find joy.
And this is a bit of a postscript as I am adding it after the hub is published. I will be 72 in March. Every morning when I wake up, I say a little thank you that I did wake up one more time! I appreciate the fact more than words can say.