Happiness is a funny thing. Sometimes it hits you just as hard as its arch-nemesis, sadness and/or depression.
And then you don't know what to do about it.
You don't want to talk about it, because then you'll *JINX* it. You don't want to celebrate anything too wildly, because you don't want to seem boastful or like you are rubbing it in anyone's face. And because of the nature of our often cruel and spiteful world, you hold your breath, silently enjoying your happy, while at the same time, constantly looking over your shoulder, waiting for that ominous other shoe to drop.
But why should anyone feel ashamed of being happy? That just seems incredibly counter intuitive to the whole concept.
Yet, there it is.
I'd like to blame the Internet for this shame (or more specifically, Facebook), but that's not quite right. The Internet, for all that we capitalize the word, it not an identity, not a person or persons that we can "blame" for our happiness, our sadness, or any emotion that we feel. The Internet is a means of communicating, of connecting and of sharing information. How we FEEL about that information is completely up to us. We are in charge of our use of it and of how much or how little of it we filter.
Last week, I read about tech journalist Paul Miller's return to the Internet after 365 days offline. I think most people, including Paul, expected this grand epiphany to occur during his time away from the digital world. He left the internet to find the 'Real Paul', because he thought that being online had somehow 'corrupted' him. What he in fact ended up realizing was not quite what he had in mind.
What I do know is that I can't blame the internet, or any circumstance, for my problems. I have many of the same priorities I had before I left the internet: family, friends, work, learning. And I have no guarantee I'll stick with them when I get back on the internet — I probably won't, to be honest. But at least I'll know that it's not the internet's fault. I'll know who's responsible, and who can fix it.
Right now, at this moment in my life, I am happier than I have been in months.
Life does not feel overwhelming to me right now. Maybe it is because I have slowed down and am paying closer attention to the little things more. Maybe it's because I am paying someone a crap-load of money to let me cry buckets in her office and leave all of the sadness there before our time is up. Maybe it's because I have FINALLY realized that flying by the seat of one's pants is not always the best way to go about one's life, especially when you are the one responsible for other, smaller people's lives as well.
I believe that a strange combination of a lot of little things has added up to me being a happier, more calm, more zen version of me than I have ever been before. Some of these things may seem silly, but here are just a few examples of what makes me feel happy these days.
All the beds are made every morning in our house. I never thought of unmade beds as a big deal before. We were just going to go to sleep in them again in 12-16 hours, so why bother making them? Well, I am here to tell you that it does make a difference. A made bed looks better, it makes you feel ORGANIZED and it gives you a good jumping off point in the mornings. And why spend all that money on a fancy duvet cover only to crumple it up in a ball every day?
Being on time. For those of you who don't know me very well, punctuality is NOT one of my virtues. It's a running joke within my family that I am told to arrive at least 30 minutes before the actual start time for any important events. My clock in my car is set 17 minutes ahead for the same reason. It got to the point that the one time a few months ago when we were early for an appointment and I mentioned this to the kids, my son looked at me and said, "Mom, what does early mean?" I vowed then and there to change that and for the most part, I have. Now he asks me if we are going to be TOO early everywhere we go.
Date nights. My husband and I have always had date nights, but we used to fill them with things to do. We would go to a movie or shop or stroll through Ikea or go for a drive. Date nights now are dinner at a new restaurant we haven't tried before. They are a minimum of three hours long and we eat wonderful food and we TALK. We talk about our life, we talk about others, we discuss plans for the future, we people watch and and *sometimes* we make up funny stories about the folks at the next table. We sit across the table and give each other our undivided attention. It's not just about getting out of the house and away from the kids, it's about growing together and discovering all over again why we love each other so much. And... *ahem*... all that intellectual stimulation makes for great foreplay!
No more Facebook. I know it seems silly and according to Paul, was not what was making him unhappy, but for me, not engaging on Facebook has somehow given me a release from something that was holding me back. I can't quite articulate what that something was just yet, but I do know that it is not there anymore. I admit that I do creep on FB sometimes and have to keep my account active to manage the page for the Natural Urban Mamas community, but I do not LIKE or COMMENT on anything. It simply doesn't seem genuine to me anymore and although I can see and love all the new baby/new house/new car/fabulous vacations that you are all posting about, I really would rather we went for coffee or I popped over to see you and the baby/house/car/pictures in person.
Losing the fear of just being ME. The other day, my good friend Jen Banks asked me to present an award at The Yeggies, a celebration of all the local and amazing social media folks in my fair city. I was thrilled to do so and immediately said yes. The wonderful Tanis Miller won for Best in Family and Parenting and it was an honour to present the woman who inspired me to blog this well-deserved award. Afterwards someone asked me if I was scared speaking in front of a room full of so many people. I said no, not at all. I may have been nervous right before I hit the stage, but I was not afraid. A few weeks ago, I changed my Twitter handle from @SAHFeminist to @NatashaChiam. And while it is a bit scary to put one's REAL name out there for all the Internet to see, it felt right. Just like being up on a stage with a microphone in front of me does.
It's a strange thing to be fearless. I don't think that it means to fear nothing. That would just be silly, because if a tiger escaped from the zoo and made its way to my back yard, trust me, there would be FEAR (and possibly some soiled underpants as well). I think fearless means to be brave and the dictionary defines brave as "being able to face fear and danger without flinching." *I* say being brave and fearless means being able to face LIFE without flinching.
And in that regard, I believe that fearlessness is a direct line to happiness. If we can face our lives without flinching, if we can own who we are, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, and if we can do so honestly, than one day, without you even seeing it coming, HAPPINESS is going to come right up to you, smack you in the face and say,
Photo Credit: Sparklerawk on Flickr
What about you? How do you define happiness? Or fearlessness?