I stumbled across an article this week on happiness, which is a topic of interest to romance authors.
At some point in the romance novel, every main character is presented with a choice: Stick with your old coping mechanisms, and go back to being half alive and lonely, or grow some courage, do as love commands rather than as safety or pride compels, and go for that Happily Ever After. (The villains, by the way, often get the same choice, and cling to their revenge, victimhood, and other baggage (until they get their own book, of course).)
It’s a fine theory–happiness through moral and emotional courage, with a big dose of hormones thrown in–but most of us aren’t living in the pages of a romance novel. What do we do to bring happiness closer? Turns out, little things mean a lot. Sunshine, sweet fragrances, a good night’s sleep, hanging with your pets, listening to your playlist, cultivating happy people, lending a hand to the folks around you, keeping your relationships real, ditching the miserable job, and simply being grateful all have a major impact on happiness.
I did this. Worked through two college degrees, got the Washington DC 80-hour a week job (slept in the dark room at work when I had to!), and then charged into law school five nights a week while still working more than full time–and of, course, I worked out at least three nights a week and seldom slept more than four hours a night.
Never did it occur to me to ask myself if I was happy. The answer would have been either “No,” or “What’s happy got to do with anything?” I didn’t know what else to do. I was exhausted, lonely, and scared. Not until those miseries resulted in some really dumb decisions did I stop, find a good therapist, and admit that I’d created a life that was killing me.
The good news is that most of us thrash our way clear of these cul de sacs of inexperience and ignorance. As we get older, we get wiser and happier. We eventually take notice that Life is Short, and we find the courage–the love of self and family– to make changes in the direction of happiness. We emphasize relationships, we volunteer, we plant flowers, we get a dog or a cat (or a horse!), we hang out with nice people (on blogs, even), we read happily ever after stories, and bounce along to our favorite music.
It’s not complicated, but it is profound. Were you ever in danger of amounting to an unhappy mess? Why? Or is there somebody in your life who needs permission to be happier? For one commenter, I’ll send a spring bouquet FROM YOU to the person of your choice.