Written By: Elaine Disbro
When my friend Tricia first contacted me about writing for her new blog, a project about happiness in various forms, I was skeptical. It’s not that I don’t love to write, although a busy work and school schedule keeps me from writing much beyond required academic papers. And it’s not that I don’t see the value of this space. I think Finding Felicity is a beautiful idea. Honestly, I was hesitant to write something for this blog because, for quite a while, I haven’t felt all that happy. I have a supportive family, great friends (although most live further away than I would like), and a stable job. I have been lucky enough to have some amazing life experiences, including the opportunity to live and travel in China, for which I am incredibly thankful. So what gives?
Last week I was on vacation at one of my favorite places in the world, my great aunt’s cottage in northern Michigan. My family has been going to that cottage since I was a little kid and some of my happiest memories are from trips “Up North”. I don’t know if it’s the cool breeze across the lake, the warm sun on my face, or simply the feeling of being away from it all, but I breathe a little easier at the lake. Life moves a little slower Up North. It gives me time to think.
One of the things I got to thinking about last week while sitting down by the water was what it means to be happy. I’ve always thought of happiness as the ultimate prize, a blissful state you reach when your life is perfect and things are going your way. You wake up happy, go through your day feeling happy, and fall asleep with the same feeling of contentment. Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect. I don’t know about you, but my life rarely seems to go according to plan, despite my best efforts. I don’t wake up happily in the morning. I want to sleep another 30 minutes, not get ready for work. I sit at my desk doing my job, but I’d wouldn’t call the work my life’s purpose. I don’t enjoy the day, I survive it. There is a moment of relief when I crawl into bed each night, followed by a slight dread of knowing what’s coming tomorrow. While it’s tempting to write off these feelings as a few years of mid-20s crisis, it’s more than that. I wondered, caught in this perpetual cycle as I am, would I ever reach that grand state of happiness?
Then I got to thinking about the Old Man of Higgins Lake. A local legend, the Old Man disappears for long stretches of time. People talk about him when he’s gone. They wonder when he’ll reappear. “No one’s seen him recently,” my aunt informed us when my family arrived at the cottage. Known for walking along the road that circles the Lake, the Old Man wears a hat, a neon green safety vest over his zip-up sweater and sometimes walks with a cane. He is instantly recognizable, but it isn’t his looks that have made him a local celebrity. It’s what he does. As the Old Man walks, he waves at the cars that pass him. OK, big deal, right? But this isn’t just a timid, old person, shake-of-the-hand kind of wave. When the Old Man sees an oncoming car, he stops, turns to fully face the road and puts his arm out for a sweeping wave, his face beaming all the while. Once the car has passed, he continues walking. No one knows his name or his story, but the occasional sightings of him only fuel the legend. A few years ago someone even created a Facebook page for him. The Old Man is always happy, and his happiness is infectious. Whatever else is going on that day, a simple wave and smile are enough to make you forget the other bullshit, if only for a moment.
I guess my point is this, HAPPINESS, the overwhelming kind that I’ve always imagined yet thought was so far away, maybe it can be found in the small moments, too. The little joys and triumphs of the day, like when I get to the bus stop just as my bus pulls up. Sure, I’ll still be late for work, but why not relax and enjoy the trip? Maybe it’s time to start finding happiness in the little things instead of taking happiness as a whole and being constantly disappointed because every part of my day wasn’t filled with bliss. I do believe that someday I’ll find that grand happiness, the overwhelming, all-consuming joy I’ve always dreamed of. But for now, like the Old Man of Higgins Lake, I’ll keep on walking, smiling and waving as I go.
Us happy people gotta stick together.
I depend heavily on my family and my friends who I ask to submit anything on happiness, motivation, how they find it all in the name of life and being able to live it. I am very grateful to them for their participation. If you’d like to do so please…drop me a line.~FindingFelicity