Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Happy like it's your job

I used to think happy was something we were entitled to. Once all the things lined up just right then poof- congratulations- Happy. I thought some people were lucky and happy came to them naturally. Or maybe they were just happy because they were rich or perfect or had one of everything in the world. I wanted to be happy so I sat and waited for my entitled dose to come along.

And I sat and I sat and I sat and waited for a particular brand of happy that never came my way. Which made sense because I never found rich or flawless or finally collected one of all the things in the Universe. So I started to trek to find my own happiness, just in case it couldn't find me. 

And then life happened to me. Real life. Struggle. Fear. Hot searing pain that pierced into my heart. I was so sad, not only about the circumstances but about the fact that my now imperfect life would never know happy again. I mourned the death of happy like it was a person. Or oxygen. How in the world are you supposed to find happy when you know certain imperfect circumstances in your life are never ever going to change? I didn't think happiness was an option in a world so flawed. But I was wrong. 

Absolutely wrong.

Happiness is planting your feet firmly in the chaos of life and holding tight to a willingness to look for beauty. Happiness is not an absence of imperfection but the ability to overlook it in order to notice the good stuff. Look around - the formula for happiness is not all the riches in the world. It's not physical beauty or one of everything. It's not perfect health. It's not the things we buy or the way we look. Focusing on all of those things are actually distractions on the road to happy, and are unfortunately detours that some people never ever make it around. Don't let that happen to you. Choose happy. Be happy. Here are some simple ways to start. 

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Surround yourself with happy when you can. Happiness feeds (and therefore creates) more happy. Same with sadness. Pay attention to your focus. What and who are you filling yourself up with? Choose good things. Positive things. What are your triggers that bring you down? Maybe it's watching the News. Maybe it's Facebook or an energy sucking friend or family member. Stop doing things out of guilt or obligation with the people that make you feel bad. Take that happy back for yourself. Say no to the things that bring you down. When do you feel your best? Maybe it's while you are reading, or at church, or while running.

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For me it's while taking pictures. I'm grateful for the way it makes me notice the beauty of light. 

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The way it melted its golden goodness on Parker made me feel so at peace. I was so happy I couldn't wait to share it with my camera.

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Chasing light makes me so happy.

Spend HALF as much time taking care of yourself as you do bashing, second guessing, rushing, criticizing and cutting down. Organize your thoughts- challenge yourself into new ways of thinking. 

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When you start to ruminate or obsess- just think STOP. Refocus. Focus on solutions, not problems.  Psychologist David Lykken believes we can absolutely pursue happiness. We can do this by thwarting negative emotions such as pessimism, resentment, and anger. And we can foster positive emotions, such as empathy, serenity, and especially gratitude. We can do this every damn day from the moment we wake up. 

Make time for a hobby. If you don't have one try many on for size. If you have that figured out do something to contribute to it daily. Whether it's three minutes or thirty. Make time for you. Guilt free time. It's not selfish it's self preservation. It's a gorgeous reminder that life is not all obligation- it's also adventure. The more time you give to you the more it creates for others. Spend five extra minutes getting ready in the morning as an investment in you. Look around and practice grateful just for YOU. Not for Facebook. Not to show others: I'm so blessed. But just to FEEL. I read an article about a young woman with cystic fibrosis who was getting married. Life expectancy of those with this disease is improving, but many die in their 20's and 30's. Breathing is extremely difficult and often painful. They have to use oxygen. After I read this I just sat there in awe of the fact that I have working lungs. It's an amazing gift and one that I take for granted. Reading about other's struggles helps me remember how much I have to be grateful for.

Do things for other without expecting anything in return. Help people. A million different people in tiny different ways. I know, I know- you are busy. But we trick ourselves into thinking what we do must be big or expensive or elaborate and time consuming to make a difference. That's just not true. It can be tiny. Drag the neighbors trash cans up their curb on trash day. Wave cars in the lane in front of you and stop being in such a damn hurry, bring a teacher an apple, push someones grocery cart back to the store for them. Little. Tiny. Daily things. They are like prayers with legs ,trickling forward and changing the world.

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Go practice happy. Happy like it's your job and you are damned good at it. Don't sit and wait for it- go and create it now. 


  1. Thank you for this! Beautiful writing, breathtaking photographs. I can't wait to put your words into practice! I read every post, but don't typically comment. I love your blog, and am grateful for your writing.

  2. Love this! Just what I needed to hear today!!:)

  3. you are inspirational....every post brings a tear to my eye and make my circumstances seem not so bad and some days actually BEAUTIFUL!!!

  4. After my son's diagnosis I was convinced I could never be truly happy again. At times I still feel that way, even two years later, but i'm beginning to see some hope and i'm grateful for that. Little by little i'm starting to find happy can be hard, but i'll never stop trying. My son finds happy so easily, and that makes me happy. -K

  5. Thanks for this. Really needed it today. Greyson and Parker are adorable.

  6. This post will be one that I bookmark and re-read many times in the future. I think we all struggle with this happiness thing for many different reasons. I plan on starting every single day reading the Carlos Castenada quote. It really resonated with me - like it was exactly what my soul needed at this moment in time. I thank you for the inspiration, the kinship, and the beautiful photos.

  7. You don't know me. I live in Charlotte, NC. I know you though. I have you saved to favorites. I read you. I feel you. I cry for you. I pray for you. I pray for you. I pray for you. I read you. I cheer with you. I soak up your courage. I fall into the photographs of your life and sit there looking around praising God for giving the world you... for giving us your gift of eloquence, your creative eye, your transparent heart. You, sweet woman, are earning your crown. I pray for you, for your sons, for your marriage, for your health, for wisdom, for discernment, for a hedge of protection all around all of you as you travel back and forth to therapy and out in the yard to watch the trash truck. You are precious to me. Thank you for these words about "happy". Thank you for sharing you... always.

    Rhonda in Charlotte, NC

  8. Well said-Love, love, love this!!!!