Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cultivating Happiness

It was the middle of the morning and I was doing the dishes. 

You know, scrubbing the cereal bowls, reheating my cup of coffee for the third time and trying to catch up on my "Moth Radio Hour" listening while simultaneously paying attention to my three-year old who is the perfect mess of a ballerina endlessly twirling in and out of the kitchen screaming, "MAMA...mama, I want chocolate milk...A, B, F, Q, R, S...Twinkle, Twinkle, Glory to God in the Highest, Itsy Bitsy..."

My life is loud and its forever full of multi-tasking.  I'm dead in the water if I try to do one thing at a time.  Raising three little ones and managing the daily in's and out's of it all is loud, busy, and incessantly messy.

And then she called.  My friend.  I love her.  I sort of feel like we were separated at birth.  She's smart.  Beautiful.  Sacrificing for her kiddos at every turn.  And always making time for my stuff.

And about once a week, she does her dishes or cleans her bathroom or vomit off the rug and I do mine and we fancy ourselves mini philosophers taking on topics that enter our consciousness and won't let us fully digest them until we've garnered the input of the other.

On the docket the other day was happiness.  Do you luck into it?  Can it be chased? Pursued?  Or, does it organically emerge?  If you force it, is it ultimately, illusory and bound to fall through your finger tips?  And what if you're unhappy, is it okay to reject your current life station and pursue another, even if there's residual collateral damage along the way?  What is happiness worth?  Is it a worthy pursuit or is it just an ethereal notion?

Post our conversation, I stumbled upon a quote from one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda. 

"Someday, somewhere - anywhere, unfailingly, you'll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.”

And I think his words sum it up.  We're all searching for purpose, meaning, a sense of belonging, an authentic knowing of ourselves.  We want to know that we're where we're supposed to be.  And when something feels amiss, whether it's in our interpersonal relationships, our workplace, our career, our health, our spirituality, or in general, the quiet moments when we're real, brutally honest with ourselves because no one's looking over our shoulder...we realize that it does matter.

Happiness doesn't emanate from the collection of things.  It emerges when we're being who we're supposed to be.  And the journey affords us multiple opportunities to decide, is this right?  And when we gut check, we find instantly whether we're joy filled or just getting by.

So, as I shared with my friend, being a full-time stay at home mother is fraught with exhaustion, frustration and isolation.  It's not easy to do the same routine day after day after day knowing that your children are not going to provide you with a performance appraisal, a raise, an annual bonus and a promotion.  Nope, but what you will get is time.  Time that you can't get back.  Time that involves story telling, singing, baths, parks, bikes, painting nails, and lots of hugs. And, I'm also hoping (most importantly) that you get staying power.  The memory and the belief that my children know that I was there and I always will be there for everything from the banal to the extraordinary.

And that for me is happiness.  And when I gut check, I know that there is no paying job that would be worth the loss of any of that for me.  Which is why Neruda's quote is day, while doing dishes watching the craziness emerge around me, I realized, I'm happy....just not in the ways that I thought I would be...but joy filled I am.  The real cultivation of happiness.

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