I’ve been meaning to write about this for two weeks but got a bit caught up in the recent “Boobie Wars,” for lack of a better term. I make no apologies for that but want to get back to my original plan. I’ll admit I also want to pull back, and I’m not apologizing for that either. Stepping back is sometimes necessary, whether you’re taking a day off from an ideological battle or a day off from cancer.
So I want to call a time out and talk about what makes us happy. I’ve found it’s so often small things that seem to come from nowhere.
I remember driving to work one day while I was in the middle of my cancer treatment. The sun was shining and the birds were singing and I suddenly felt like a character in a Disney movie. And I couldn’t come up with a reason, except maybe that it was great to be alive and driving to work.
I’m not sure trying to come up with a reason is such a hot idea. I’ve also found, and bear with me if you’ve heard me say this before, that if you try to chase happiness it will outrun you every time. If you don’t worry too much about how much you have or how to get more, it will find you.
William S. Burroughs put it a bit differently. He said happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose and conflict, and those who seek it for its own sake seek victory without war. I don’t buy the war aspects but I’ve found some truth in the function and purpose part. Part of that for me lies in creating. I can completely lose track of time when I’m working on a poem or a blog post.
A big part lies in being helpful. One example is a couple of accidental wildlife rescues, with a grackle and baby bunny. My retirement daydreams include volunteering for the Wildlife Rescue team and getting a golden retriever that can be trained as a therapy dog. Critters make me happy. Being able to help them is a bonus.
Another example is breast cancer itself, oddly enough. When I started writing about my experience for my local paper, I was humbled and amazed when women told me how much my essays helped them. I still am when women (and men) respond to my blog and book. It’s so important to know you’re not alone, and it feels so good to think I may have helped. I tell people I haven’t felt like that since I was a mental health worker in a former life.
But like my Disney moment, not everything that makes me happy is purposeful. A good cup of coffee and watching birds at the feeder is better than Ativan. So are hugs from people I care about.
If you give it some thought, I bet you’d be surprised by just how many things make you happy, and how simple they are. But don’t be surprised if some of them come from places you least expect.