I’m generally an outrageously happy person. I find great pleasure in so many ordinary things, like food, beer, wine, coffee, sightseeing, nature, architecture, the arts, activities, and adventures. I love the world; the countryside, the mountains, the coast, the plains, cities, large and small. I love people; my family, my friends, complete strangers that I find myself in conversation with, usually at a bar or a restaurant. I am in love with life and with the world. I can’t get enough!
Lately, though, I’ve been letting little things get me down. Nothing major, just little things; other peoples’ moods, slow drivers, especially tourists, on perfectly paved, winding, country roads, technology, like texts that don’t arrive timely, old, slow-computing computers, and autocorrect. Like I said, nothing major, just the nitnoid little stuff that occurs every day. And, by the way, Microsoft doesn’t like the word “nitnoid”, but I Googled it, and it’s real enough, according to Wiktionary and UD (urban dictionary). So, there, Microsoft, you and your squiggly little red line being all judgey judgey (more red squiggly lines).
But notice, please, I’m taking responsibility for my bummer attitude. I clearly said, “I’ve been letting little things get me down”. I let them. I am in control and I’ve been allowing things to get to me. My experience, my mood, my world, my attitude, are all for me to determine. How I react to what I experience, to who I encounter, is 100%, up to me.
So often I hear people say, “This makes me happy” or “that makes me unhappy”. Why do they give anyone or anything the permission to influence their feelings, their mood, their experience, their world? It baffles me and I want to help! I want everyone to be happy! All the time! I like happy people; I try to surround myself with (only) happy people. Know that the first step to being happy is that you can be, simply by choosing to be. We are in complete control over how we react to things that bother us, upset us, even hurt us. We are never able to control others, nor are they, truthfully, ever able to control us. You can’t make me unhappy. Nor can you make me happy. My happiness is my responsibility, it is my job.
Does this explain why terrible things happen to some people and they take it in stride, plow through, conquer the situation, grow from the experience, and smile the whole while? Does this also explain why other folks seem to live charmed lives and are miserable all of the time? I think so. And I want to help! I want everyone to be happy! All the time!
I have a story, bear with me, there is a point:
Somewhere in this world, I have a half-sister. I was raised the only child of a couple who came together later in life, each after a previous divorce. My father had a daughter from his first marriage, and shortly after her birth, he went to England to serve in World War II. Upon his return, his wife and daughter were with another man and a divorce resulted. That other man raised the young girl as his own and my dad was completely unknown
I first found out about this sister person when I was, perhaps, nine or ten years old, which, as an only child, was all I ever wanted; a sibling. I’d ask for a brother or sister for my birthday every year. I’d sit on Santa’s lap and ask for a brother or sister every Christmas. As my parents were older when they met and married, I was, well, what can I say, a blessing. Another healthy baby would have been, as the doctor said, “pressing luck”.
I remember finding a picture of a little girl with blond ringlets, it was in a dusty, old, shoebox, in the garage, in a cupboard, over my dad’s workbench. I’m not sure what I was doing rummaging around in his cupboards, over the workbench, in the garage; it was clearly not my territory. I’m not sure if I asked about picture once I discovered it, or if I got busted, standing on my dad’s workbench, rummaging through dusty old shoeboxes in his cupboards. But, somehow, I came to know her name. Joy.
Many years later, my mom explained to me that my dad always thought, someday, Joy would search for him, reconnect with him, be a part of his life, and, so, part of our life, my life. She never did, not until he was in his late eighties. She sent a letter and explained that her son was having some health issues, heart disease, and she’d always suspected that my dad was her biological father. She waited until her stepfather passed away before taking any action, out of respect to the man who raised her as his own. My dad confirmed that he was her biological father and had suffered from heart disease for several decades. She asked if he’d had any other children and my existence, and age, were disclosed. It seems I am about the age of her son. She scoffed, either because of the age similarity between me and, well, I guess, my dad’s grandson, or because I’ve managed my health fairly well, thus far, and do not have any heart disease. Or both. My dad asked if they could meet, reconnect, maybe, get to know each other. Joy said no, and that was the last that was ever heard from her. My dad was stoic, but disappointed. It made him sad.
My father has since succumbed to his heart disease, at the age of 91. Seems he had a good, long life in spite of his trials. I no longer have any desire to meet this sister person. She broke my dad’s heart and while I’m one to forgive quite readily, for my own peace, I have no need for bitter people in my life, even if they go by the name “joy”.
I have a couple of cousins, about Joy’s age. Joy lived across the street from one of my cousins, and close to the other, during their early childhood years. They played together and attended each other’s’ birthday parties, and everything. My cousins have both long since lost contact with Joy. One cousin, in particular, has lost contact with Joy in both a literal and figurative sense. At my father’s memorial service, this particular cousin approached me. She looked me in the eye, very solemnly, very dramatically, and said, “I hope you’ll find joy.” I thought that was so sweet, I replied, “Oh, thank you, I will, I have, and you, too.” It wasn’t until a few hours later that it dawned on me; she wasn’t wishing me happiness, she wanted me to find Joy, with a capital “J”, the person, not joy with a lower case “j”, a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. And that totally explained that weird look on her face, the awkward pause, the odd little gasp.
True to my word, I look for joy every day. Joy with a lower case “j”. And I find it, whether in a lovely flower, a great evening with friends, a loving embrace, a fascinating conversation with a complete stranger, an exquisite beer, a scrumptious meal, a sweet kiss, a delightful wine, an unforgettable adventure.
I want you to find joy, too. Every day.
My first suggestion is to be present. Live in the moment. Leave the past in the past, that’s where you find regret and depression. Leave the future in the future, that’s where you find worry and anxiety. Focus on now, that’s the only place you’ll ever find joy.
My second suggestion; only hang around positive people, yourself included. While it may seem impossible to surround yourself with only upbeat people, with so many unhappy people in our midst, the more positive you are, the more positive others around you are likely to be. Like many things, it begins with you. Remember, when you simply can’t avoid the negativity of others, you can choose how those negative people influence your reaction, your mood, and your life.
Lastly, keep it simple; be awake, be aware, be connected. Put down your smartphone, stop texting and messaging and enjoy the one you’re with. Enjoy your surroundings; the sky, the earth, the marvelous creations of people. Be inspired by the ordinary and life will defy ordinary.
I look for joy daily, I find joy daily. As a tribute to joy, the feeling of great pleasure and happiness, here in my blog, in my occasional vlogs, and ALL of my social media posts, I will hashtag joyful things I find #IFoundJoy. I encourage you to do the same! Let’s do this, because we all deserve to find joy!
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