Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The secret of happiness (is inside you)
I've been reading a lot about happiness lately, which seems like a singularly American pursuit (who else has the time and money to devote to such a task?). First there was Ariel Gore's Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness , then Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, followed by positive psychology guru Martin Seligman's Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. Most recently I finished The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky. All of these offered practical exercises to help you increase your potential for happiness. These were simple things like practicing gratitude and performing random acts of kindness. Most strategies focused on living in the present moment and appreciating what you already have instead of looking for outside things (or people) for fulfillment.
It's odd to me how you can know something in your heart (and even your head), and yet live in a way that contradicts it. My life is absolutely beautiful, and yet how often do I complain and think "If only I had this..." or "If only this were different I would be so much happier..." We may profess that money doesn't buy happiness, yet spend our time working to buy more of the things we so desperately want. We look to other people to "complete" us, knowing that this is impossible. Ultimately, the key to happiness is inside ourselves...we already possess the tools we need.
One of my disappointments has been that I have not traveled as much as I expected to as an adult. I am perfectly settled in a cozy home with my sweet family, but I dream of a day when we will be able to explore new places. Thanks to my husband, I had the opportunity to do just that this week. I'm currently at a creativity conference for ministers in Winter Park, Florida. Tomorrow we will spend a magical day in one of the happiest places on earth, Disney World, to study their culture and the way they use creativity to draw visitors into their story (much as we ministers aim to draw our congregations into the larger Story of God). I'm here by myself for five glorious days, in a quiet hotel room, escaping the snow in Virginia for lovely 80 degree sunny days. I've met and talked with leaders whose books I've devoured, and savored rare time to eat fine meals, reflect, and be challenged. Sounds perfect, right? Well, I'm learning that perfection, like happiness, is all a matter of perspective. It is a wonderful gift, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity. But running through the airport, dealing with the ups and downs (literally) of airplane travel, and missing my family has exhausted me to the point of realizing that perhaps the traveling life is not for me. Absence does make the heart grow fonder, it seems, and gives me a greater appreciation for what I have waiting for me at home.