Happiness—that’s what’s on my mind.
What is the definition of happiness? I’m sure to each person it has a different meaning. Overall, happiness is described as a feeling of contentment or well-being. Perhaps joy, peace, serenity, tranquility…you get the idea. It’s just being happy (and if you know it, clap your hands and shout hooray!).
Happiness is easy to define, but attaining happiness may be more of a struggle or a search. How can we define what specifically makes us happy when there are so many factors that come into play? And what is considered an acceptable level of happiness? Are we just okay with feeling okay or do we need to feel elated, ecstatic, yippty-skippity over-the-top happy?
I’ve thought about happiness over the past months since we’ve been keeping ourselves occupied in the confines of our own homes, out of the public realm. To be honest, home lockdown (or whatever the proper terminology is) didn’t bother me a bit. The cold weather helped make staying at home more tolerable and the fact that I work from home gave me the luxury of no adjustment to my “normal” life.
What did bother me is letting issues of unhappiness begin to leak in when quiet times presented themselves. I don’t know about you, but try as I might, when my brain goes to neutral, it actually starts drumming up things that I really wish it wouldn’t. Past losses, regrets, reviewing decisions that I wish I could have changed to produce a better outcome. The same old stuff I guess: could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.
I get bummed about things that I had no control over, but think how much easier life could be if I did have that ability.
I miss my son who will be forever 19; I miss seeing my grandchildren; I miss my beloved dog companions whom we lost within three months of each other just this spring. I miss a busy household and cooking for a crowd of kids—I guess that’s the Empty Nest Syndrome. In some way, I miss chaos, as odd as that may sound, because it is so unpredictable yet satisfying at the end of the day when you can lay back and think, “Well, we did a great job today,” and wait to see what the next day will bring.
I’m bummed that a family reunion scheduled for the end of this July to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday had to be cancelled due to “the virus.” As some regular readers may know, I’m considered a pack sacker in this neck of the woods. My family is scattered throughout the country, so our family visits are few and far between, making them even more special when we are able to gather. This year a family reunion will not be so, but plans are in the works for next year.
I’m somewhat of an enigma in that I embrace my quiet time at home, but I’m also a very social person and enjoy the company of friends and the laughter and verbal sparring that being in a social setting provides. Now that social life has begun to open up, we are, once again, able to visit and spend time with friends and family.
I’m a hugger, so the social distancing regulations did put a damper on my happy level in that I wasn’t able to give friends and family the expected big hug along with the standard Minnesota goodbye ritual. Now that things appear to be loosening up a bit, I am once again a happy hugger (I always ask permission first!)
So, how do I find happiness?
Spending time with my loved ones and friends; sitting on a porch chair absorbing some sun on a warm day; holding a grandchild in my lap reading a book to them for the umpteenth time; having my son stop by with friends and enjoying the youthful banter that young adults bring; closing my eyes and enjoying the fresh air on the lake as my husband and I take an afternoon cruise on the boat; talking to my mom and dad on a regular basis to fill them in on what’s happening “up north”; being grateful for handing out and receiving advice or encouragement when needed; a nap; helping others; laughter and tears—both are so healing; a great meal paired with a glass of wine; listening to the waves lap on the shoreline as a boat passes by; the call of a loon on the lake.
Now, my latest source of happiness is waiting for a new puppy. Hopefully we will welcome a miniature schnauzer to our home in August. I can’t wait to snuggle with her, smell her sweet puppy smells, have her tucked in with me at night (yes, our dogs sleep in bed with us), and then there will be the potty training and all the rest that goes along with welcoming a new pet to the home—bring it on! Happiness! I’m so ready!
Happiness is personal for each of us and is always in flux. Something in which you may find joy on one day could be superseded the next day by another set of circumstances.
Discovering a tomato or fresh bloom on a plant, news of an upcoming wedding or birth of a child, a great weather forecast. It’s what life hands out to us to find our own happiness moment by moment. Nature, nurture, a hug, laughter… happiness is in the eye of the beholder.
Kirsten Reichel lives in Cook, MN. She is a Hometown Focus staff writer and columnist and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.