The Happiness Project

ImagePeople tell me I’m so busy. They say that I just “go, go, go.” My response is that we are all busy. Just ask someone who’s watching TV. If they don’t want to be interrupted, they will tell you to leave them alone; they are busy.

Rather, I am active. I am living my life, as alive and purposeful as I can remember to be.

Just read the newspaper or watch the news and remind yourself how short life really is. How many of us plan our last breaths? I want to wring my life out like a sponge and enjoy every possible moment.

In fact, I recently told a friend that I collect moments. My moments with him, specifically, were on my mind, because he is interesting and distracting enough to take my thoughts from the day. After the first conversation we had I felt as though I’d been on vacation for an evening. I’d been totally engaged. That’s a moment to collect.

Which brings me to my Happiness Project.

A little background is in order. I grew up feeling guilty about being happy. Being happy could bring about disaster … why, I don’t know. Laughing and/or having too much fun was practically a misdemeanor in my home. Being baggage that doesn’t make sense, I hauled that with me for years. Then as a high-achieving, career-minded, single mother, I poured my energy into making others happy, forgetting about myself in the process. Yes, part of the idea of making others happy is the contented glow I felt in knowing I’d done the right thing. (Notice I’m not calling this my Contentment Project.)

So, now I’ve decided to do exactly as I wish and pursue what makes me happy. Is not my pursuit of happiness my right?  I’m going for it with all I’ve got.

What am I doing as part of my project?

  1. Reading as much as I can. I’ve finished seven books in less than three months, reading late in bed, carrying my books with me, hanging out at the book store and best of all, joining three local book groups. This leads to …
  2. Meeting more people who share my interests by joining local meet-up groups. So far I’ve met new people in the book groups as well as an urban exploration group that toured an old cemetery so fascinating that I’m going back to spend more time wandering. There’s a hiking group, French language group, movie fans group … I’m already blessed by new friends (still love my other friends, by the way).
  3. Renewed my art museum membership.
  4. Renewed my local botanic gardens membership.
  5. Went to the midnight movie opening of The Dark Night Rises. My son and I chose the marathon package, beginning at 6:30pm with Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight, followed by the midnight movie. We got home at 3:30am. I worked the next day, going in a little late, but completely exhilarated from the fun of it all. My only regret is that I didn’t at least wear a Batman T-shirt.
  6. I really smile at strangers.
  7. I make every effort to call each person by name – isn’t that why people wear nametags?
  8. I’m not waiting for people to call me. I’m not waiting for people to reach out to me first – no, I’m making the first move. That’s how I ended up listening to jazz in the local park earlier this week; I called a friend and he had the great idea. I said yes.
  9. My friend Leah taught me how to do the hustle. Yeah, that one – the line dance that everyone knew how to do but me. I’m getting better with the tricky parts.
  10. I remember that life is short and that next week, month, summer or year may never arrive. I’m finished with putting off what can be enjoyed today, especially when it means time with my son.

And so if I’m busy at all, I’m busy being happy as much as possible. More to the point, I’m actively pursuing happiness. Perhaps some would consider my project selfish. Let them. For me, the self I have to offer is happier, more relaxed, more appreciative. If that’s selfish, I’ll take it, but I will definitely share.

What makes you happy? What would you do as part of your Happiness Project?

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5 thoughts on “The Happiness Project

  1. Finding happiness is somehow not about external factors that contribute to it. It is about how you perceive it. I am happy doing my own simple things, reading, cooking, writing, watching a bit TV, exercise and keeping my thoughts in some sort of structured way. Unnecessary worry is what I am working on.

    But I loved your blog for it brings clarity to the reader and my para came due to that!

    I too blog. Mine is: http://igavekidney.blogspot.com/2012/09/opportunity-knocks-on-each-door.html.

    It is serious, but real.

  2. I’ve recently joined a couple meetup groups and a local Woman’s Club. It is too seldom that I do what makes me happy. In August, I journaled every day and told myself I could rent a movie as my reward. It took me 25 days to get around to it but it sure was fun to sit and watch a movie. I’ve got the work-all-the-time mindset but am looking forward to more fun times ahead. Thanks for your great post.

  3. Enjoyed your blog, Sharon plus Daniel June comment. Seize the moment. I can agree that the more we take in and enjoy, the more happiness we have to give.

  4. You make a distinction between being busy and being active characterizing the first as engagement in something that might not be active, such as watching television, and the second as reading books and such. Busy-ness seems to another way of saying inaccessible, and that probably the basis of your friends’ complaints, if not also envy of the diversity of your activities. I would say, however, that there are different kinds of activity and they can be mutually exclusive. There is social activity, intellectual activity, and physical activity. Any of them can be exhausting. Sometimes having a conversation with a difficult person can exhaust you, though physically you’ve just spoken while sitting still. Likewise study can be exhausting and demands discipline, and in this it is possible, though unlikely, that a man or woman could study television, taking careful notes. Even sitcoms have a structure that can be analyzed. Physical activity is often inversely related to mental activity, at least cocurrently. When cross-country running, we may not be deep into thought, and while studying an essay we are probably holding still. To this effect then, modes of meditation, where the mind disciplines its own movement, can be an “inactive” but profitable way to spend one’s time.

    Unlike you, I do not like to be engaged in many activities, as I quickly get exhausted. I prefer to focus on a few. I suppose the difference is that it takes energy to transition from activity to activity, but power to focus on one for extended for long periods, and I am temperamentally low on energy.

    Good for you for seeking your happiness and health. We are responsible for our own well-being and I think a happy person is better at making others happy than a depressed person.

    1. In the busy vs. active comparison, my point is that we are all “busy” even though we make choices that are active or not. Time passes regardless of how we choose to spend it, so I want to be conscious of my choice of activity. I do watch TV from time to time, and nap on the loveseat if I’m drowsy. The time we spend going to the movies (usually once a week) is just like TV time on the big screen – with snacks. So I’m not against “sitting down” and being entertained, even as much as the hours I spend reading.
      On the other hand, for the last few years I’ve been struck by how much rich experience there is in the world and I don’t want to miss it. Hence one of my common wishes, to be able to go without sleep – just think of how much I could do! I could read an entire book in a sitting, just stopping to eat, drink and take a bio-break. Yet, I relish sleep, and it’s a moot point anyway.
      Thanks, Daniel, as always, for your thoughtful comments.

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