Friday, May 24, 2019

The Habit of Happiness

So to begin, my apologies.  No, I am not still "in the mountains", although honestly, as I live in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you might say I'm ALWAYS there!  Anyway, I had planned to get right back to posting on Monday, but guess what happens when you go camping for three days?  You come home with a lot of stuff to unpack and put back in place, and a TON of laundry. How does that always happen? But just so you'll know, that's the reason for my absence the past few days. I've been a little pre-occupied!

That being said, I wouldn't trade it for the wonderful experience we had at Trail Days.  There is just
nothing like the AT Community.  Such laid back, fun-loving people! I didn't even mind there wild drum dances around the bonfire at night. We didn't participate, just not our thing, but I actually kind of enjoyed being lulled to sleep by the rhythm of the drums. And let me just tell you, if there's are drums, dancing and bonfires in celebration of Jesus' return, you can count me in!

I will admit though, that coming home and settling back into the routine and the "dailiness" of life was a little hard and left me feeling a little down.  I've had a lot on my mind recently, which has left me a bit restless. Which is why I was so thankful to get away for a few days to have the fun of the festival to distract me. But come Monday, and along with all the loads of laundry, I picked up a heavy load of doubt and worry, and topped it off with a big dose of discontent with "life as usual".

But then I was reminded of an article I read back in January, once again from Sarah Ban Breathnach's book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.  I can't even tell you how often I personally reference this book, or how-many-times it has provided the balm for the aches of my soul, and this day was no different.

In the passage I'm referencing, The Underrated Duty, she encourages us with these words;

Picture taken behind the Old Mill in Damascus. I didn't take many pictures this trip,
to be honest, I was too busy having fun!

"Perhaps you think you'll be happy when you get a bigger kitchen, or a new job, or the perfect someone with whom to share your life. But don't you want to start making happiness a habit right now? Every morning when we wake up we've been given a wonderful gift - another-day-of-life - so let's make the most of it. Let's adopt a new state of mind about happiness, and stop thinking that things outside of our control will bring us happiness."

When I read those words I was immediately convicted, as only a few minutes before I was definitely wallowing in a big case of the "if only's".  You know what I mean? "If only we had more of _______", or "less of _____________".  If only I was ______________". I was full and deep into that mindset, wishing I was still back at camp, basking in the fullness of the sun, without a care in the world. But instead, there I was, two loads into five loads of laundry and swishing a dirty toilet.  Then I read this, and I was reminded that's it's all part of the same life, and each element depends upon the other. Without clean clothes and the right gear, we couldn't even plan for special times away. Which naturally means things must be washed, gear must be retrieved from and placed back in storage, and yes, that makes a mess coming and going. And while packing for a trip is always fun, unpacking can be just as enjoyable if I change my perspective. It may not be "fun" to put clothes and gear away, but I'm grateful that we have these things and that it all has a place. It makes it so much easier when our next adventure rolls around, to know it ready and waiting. I'm thankful to have clothes on my back, and to know that my family is covered. We actually have more than we need, and when I consider that I realize how ungrateful I am at times. I have a family to clean, cook and do laundry for, and that is a blessing not afforded to all.

Reading this passage reminded me of my previous post, naturally as they were inspired by the same book. But where before we looked at discovering what makes us happy, in this passage we view happiness as "habit". Susan even references it as a "living emotion". And while knowing what makes you happy is important, you can just as easily grow discontent when you experience things that don't make you happy. One of the things that makes me happy is a clean house, but I can tell you that there are a number of tasks involved in that process that make me anything but, and it is in those cases that the habit of happiness, of being content in the process, plays an important role.

I also want to take a few minutes here to clarify a few things. While I love Sarah's writings and am
often encouraged by them, as a Christian I also realize that God is often less concerned with my happiness and more attentive to my character. And while "the pursuit of happiness" may be guaranteed by the Constitution, I am fully aware that God often uses circumstances that would be deemed as less than ideal to shape and mold us. And this is where I personally believe the "habit of happiness" can fully come into play. I may not be living my dream life right now, but that doesn't mean that there is no beauty or happiness to be found in the here and now. Regardless of my current circumstances, happiness is here for the taking!  It can be found in a cool breeze on a hot summer day. In the birdsong in the early morning, and in the hues of the sunset at the end of the day. This is the "living emotion" of happiness. So there are things in life I may wish I could change. Even if I don't see the fulfillment of that today, there is always one small step that I can take, right here, right now, that will move me closer to reaching that goal. And of course there are things I can't change, like  the shape of my toes (I'm being completely honest here!). So I can either sit around and wish they looked different, pay for plastic surgery (no way), or instead, I can decide to be grateful and happy about the fact that I have feet and I am able to walk, that, or maybe focus on a physical feature that I do like.  It's all in the mindset I choose to take!

Basically it all boils down to this  I can choose to be happy and make happiness a habit. Or not. And while that may sound simple enough, I know that for a chronically worried pessimist like me, it will take intention and effort. With that, I have another idea for an element I am considering for my Journal of Delight and Discovery that I mentioned in my previous post.  It's nothing groundbreaking, and like the journal itself, it's something I've done in the past that made  a big change in my life. I'll share more with you about that in a few days, but for now, guess what's on my agenda again today?  You guessed it, LAUNDRY! Only today, I'm going to do it and be happy about it!

Until then my friends, I choose happy!  How about you?

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