Sculpture by Anne Mimi Sammis. Located at Narragansett Beach, RI.
Lately, I’ve been working on HAPPY — that elusive state of being that people are always trying to achieve. Seems like a good summer project to me. I’ve been on antidepressants for fifteen years, and I recently decided to wean myself from them. I want to see what difference fifteen years of living and learning has done for me. So far, so good.
As an exercise in mindfulness (or as mindful as my over-active brain will allow), I’ve started making a list of the things that bring me joy. Sometimes, I surprise myself.
(By the way, my list is not numbered. If you want to know why, it’s because I hate numbers. They are so often used to measure worth, as in too old/too young/too fat/too thin/too short/too tall. They grade and degrade you. Numbers do not make me happy. Ever. If I were a mathematician I would probably feel differently. But, I am not.)
MY HAPPY LIST
Always put butter on your bread when making sandwiches. Because who really wants dry bread?
Stand up straight. Your spine will thank you. When I was in my early twenties I took beginning ballet lessons for a couple of months. It was hard, but exhilarating. I know what a plié is. The ballet teacher taught us to picture a puppet string sprouting from the top of our head pulling us upright. I still imagine this.
Swim in creative waters every day. See a rose in the dandelion; a butterfly in the wasp. Paint a word picture. Sing a story. Make some noise and call it a song.
If you are lucky enough to have stairs in your home, run up them whenever possible. Taking them two at a time is even better. Move your body. Shake it, wiggle it. Dance your feet off. Promote yourself to the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Take time to daydream. Revel in it. If someone says you’re a dreamer, say — Thank you. If they point out that your head is in the clouds, tell them — Yes, I know. (I’ve had this whole daydreaming thing pretty well mastered since about second grade.)
Always taste the ice cream as soon as you get it home. The amount of pleasure you get is commensurate with the meltiness at the top of the container.
Be satisfied. If you can’t be that, be patient. (I’m holding out hope that eventually I will own a car with four doors instead of two. It doesn’t have to be brand new.) Stuff has a shelf life. Memories last a lifetime.
Embrace your fear. I am afraid of heights. This does not bother me. I don’t believe I am missing out by not conquering this fear. I have no need to climb mountains, parachute from planes, or bungee jump from insanely high bridges. If anything, I’m increasing my chances of avoiding serious injury or premature death.
Laugh. Because, endorphins or something. It’s easier on your shins than running, and doesn’t make you sweat.
Be kind. Because, duh. Kindness is as simple as smiling at a stranger. It reverberates through the universe.
Read out loud, even if it’s only to yourself. If you have them, read aloud to kids. The happiness quotient raises exponentially with the number of kids.
Also, just read. Read for the words. Roll around in them. They are lovely. Read for the story; the escape; the characters. Read for the child you used to be who got scolded for reading at inappropriate times. You are an adult now. You can read any damn time you want. (Whoa . . . just writing that last sentence released a whole swirling cloud of endorphins. I can tell.)
There. Wasn’t that fun? Now you do it, go out and create your own list. What makes me happy is not a panacea. Happiness isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Keep adding to the list. That’s what I’ll be doing. And if you’ve a mind to, feel free to share the things that make you happy, too.
We’re all in this together.