Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.
I borrowed my kids’ childhood to be happy; to be curious, silly, and grown-up. To ride horses, play soccer, blow bubbles, and paint faces. To see wonder and awe, to hide from fear and cynicism. I borrowed their school days to provide structure, and their games to connect to sports my body no longer allowed me to play. I borrowed their friends’ mommies to create circles of support and their teachers to introduce new concepts into my aging brain.
No wonder that my children’s ascent into adulthood coincided with my descent into a dark maze, complete with dead ends and unexpected connecting paths. Only now, two years into the journey of life-after-children do I have a sense of purpose, a goal, to shape my decisions: Get old AND get happy. As Eleanor Roosevelt so succinctly pointed out, happiness is a by-product of what one does, thinks, creates. Taking cues from Benjamin Franklin’s Chart of Virtues and Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Challenge I have created dkays Happy Is As Happy Does initiative, a five-pronged challenge to structure my time, energy and resources in ways that produce a happy me:
BE a 3G Network: be gracious, be generous, be grateful.
Out of clutter, find simplicity: de-clutter, design, delegate, discover.
Get serious about play: lighten up, loosen standards, enjoy failure.
Capture the story: write, camera, action.
Live a sustaining, sustainable life: connect, enjoy, create.
Still a work in progress, I have nevertheless begun to use these guidelines to shape a day’s routines, to reshape expectations and even to monitor how I converse with my children. My assessment tool is just a simple chart, my goals to the left, which I mark with a flourish at day’s end. I am aiming for a page of waahoo!s and yippee!s, not Ben Franklin’s virtuous clean slate. I haven’t thought out too too much about the specific resolutions that constitute success for each goal, finding it very satisfactory to take it weekly or seasonally.
For instance, capturing this story for this blogpost counts. I am forced to practice my craft, and fine-tune this nebulous but profound project. Great big yahoo! tonight. Another example, cutting my lavender: the seasonal delight of harvesting goodies from a garden, mine or a nearby farmer, counts for “Live a sustaining, sustainable life”. I am learning the routine for Dance Day, July 31, sponsored by Dizzy Feet Foundation; I am not learning very fast or dancing very well, but I am having FUN!!! Yippee for play! The mantra “be generous, be gracious, be grateful” is beginning to just melt into my breathing. Soothing, liberating, and contagious, I hope by nightfall to put lots of checks next to my “BE a 3G network.” Next, away from this computer, lies the clutter that awaits simplification.
Ah! I do, therefore, I am –happy.