Dancing in the Street!
Happiness is an inside job but it takes work. There are clinical studies that have shown being grateful leads to gratitude. I love that. All I have to do to be happy is figure out what works for me, do that and be grateful. Oh yeah, and don’t do what doesn’t work. It is that simple. Only figuring it out and doing it can be super hard.
I have found physical activity, personal connection, prayer, meditation, acceptance, and being of service make me happy. If you’ll notice, money isn’t on the list. Money can make things easier, but it isn’t the answer to what makes me happy, us happy. If money alone made us happy, the super-rich would be dancing in the street. But in the real world, I’ve only seen poor people doing that. The truth is I am happiest when I am giving of myself without thought of what I get in return. Which is confusing, and complicated. But the action is simple, I just have to do what I mostly don’t want to because my natural state seems to be selfish and self-centered. So I just have to behave not like me to be happy being me! Confused yet?
What is guaranteed to make me unhappy is simple though. I need only to start thinking of myself, comparing myself to what others have, or look like, or act like. That is dangerous territory for me. I’ll share an embarrassing example: I am fortunate, as a contractor and a professional interventionist, I have a flexible schedule. I live a nice life in a nice house with a nice pool. One day not long ago, I had a half-day in the middle of the week. It was a warm and pleasant day and I decided to tend to my pool. Shirtless, skimming leaves, I noticed my backyard neighbor. He was doing exactly what I was. Even down to skimming his pool. But instead of smiling at the coincidence, my head said, “Look at that lucky bastard. He has time off in the middle of the week, to enjoy his backyard with no shirt on… THAT guy has it made. If I could only…” Cringeworthy, I know. Poor me. I am not exaggerating in the least. We were doing the exact same thing at the exact same time and I assumed he was more fortunate/happy/satisfied than me! And truthfully, my pool is nicer! It’s still head-shakingly embarrassing to tell this story. To admit to my ‘internal victim dialogue.’ Fortunately, I can recognize this false narrative in myself if I remain aware that I occasionally have bizarre thinking. The “itty bitty shitty committee” in my head. I caught the absurdity of my thoughts and laughed out loud. Looking to the sky, to my higher power I said, “Sorry God, I can really be an ungrateful schmuck…”
For me, it is all a matter of perspective. Consider this story: A man flying across the country looks out the window and sees a farmhouse below. He longs, deep in his chest, for home. Meanwhile, a farmer below looks at the plane in the sky and yearns to get away. Both men certain the grass is greener, that the answer lies somewhere else. Outside of themselves.
For me it’s simple. I wake up, have coffee (coffee first and then I do the things), meditate, pray (to a God I sometimes don’t believe in). I say thanks twice a day for my life, sobriety, wife, family, friends, and more than I can know. I have become convinced my higher power is pulling for me in ways I can’t see yet, and may never. I then ask to help, if I can. That’s the only thing I ask for, for myself. I try to never ask for selfish things. Things others seem to have. Comparing my insides to others outsides only serves to make me vain or bitter. The answer is being happy with what I have. The key is acceptance… the solution, gratitude.
My answer now is always gratitude. I don’t always remember to be grateful at first, but when I do, it always works.