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I’ve been thinking about happiness quite a bit lately. I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, which was a fun read
simply because a lot of what she said made sense but also because it frequently
made me laugh out loud. One of
Rubin’s assertions is that in order to be really happy, we have to be
ourselves. Duh, right? Well, it’s probably not as simple as it
sounds though we’ve been told this from the beginning, particularly those of us
of the “Free to Be You and Me” generation.
In the book, she reminds herself to “Be Gretchen”, that what
is fun for one person might not be fun for another. This really resonated with me. For years, I tried to love skiing and cold weather
sports. Rob was a ski patrolman
for years, and besides cycling, skiing is probably his all-time favorite
activity. I wanted to be a part of
that, so, like all good ASU students in Boone, I signed up for skiing as a P.E.
credit. I bought a pair of skis, and
I spent countless hours sitting huddled by a space heater at the Summit House
at Hawksnest. Then, I learned to
snowboard. Happiness on the
mountain had to come, right? I
mean, after all, skiing or snowboarding is what cool, outdoorsy girls do,
Then I had kids.
And for 10 years, I was either pregnant or had a child far too small for
skis so I, thankfully, was stuck either at home or inside the lodge. But kids get older, so this past
winter, all four of us loaded up for our first family ski trip. I dusted off the snowboard and
headed up the mountain, and here’s what I discovered. I freakin’ hate being wet and cold. I hate cold wind that rips through my
clothing. I hate snow blowers,
long lines and chair lifts. In
fact, I pretty much hate snow sports.
What a revelation.
Part of me is disappointed that I won’t be participating in
the Libbert winter sports fest every year, especially since Harper Lee seems to
love it almost as much as her dad, but just because they love it, it doesn’t
mean that I have to. There are
plenty of things we can all do together, and skiing does not have to be one of
them. What’s fun for one person
may not be fun for me, and that’s OK.
I was recently reminded of this idea again when a friend
told me she would not feel fulfilled by being a stay-at-home mom, which I
totally get but don’t feel myself.
For a while, I’ve felt bad about being “just” a stay-at-home mom because
it surely must mean that I lack some sense of personal drive and ambition. I mean, who could possibly find
fulfillment in meal planning and trips to the library and making Sunday School
paper crafts? Well, as it turns
out, I do.
I sat down the other night and really thought about what it
is that brings me great joy. My
family and my home top the list above all other things. I actually like cleaning and cooking
and gardening and caring for animals.
I like endless games of Checkers and Candy Land and reading Curious George Goes to the Hospital over
and over again. Being a mom and
creating a home, a place of warmth, security and memories is my number one
source of happiness. It is what
keeps me close to God.
Following that, a little further down the list but still
very important, is creating. I
like writing, making up stories, painting, crafting, working with my hands, and
playing. It’s probably why I
became a teacher. I love words and
language and creative thinking, and those are the things I like to employ in my
classroom, but now that I have children, I feel like I can expand on those
things even more and with greater freedom.
I also find great pleasure in volunteering though I know
many believe money is more important than happiness. Obviously, given my vocation choices, I have not always
regarded life in this way. I will
say that I fully recognize the many blessings in my life and I am grateful to
God everyday for all that I’ve been given. My opportunities, for as long as I can remember, have been
wonderfully abundant, and it’s because of this that I get a lot of satisfaction
from giving back to others. I like
doing work that I feel is worthwhile and important, things that have socially
redeeming value, things that may make someone else’s life, even if only in the
smallest way, a little bit better.
Church and school have provided me with wonderful ways that I might work
to help others, and in doing so, I feel like I have gained so much.
I also love running.
People can find this type of satisfaction in many ways; running, I
realize, is not for everyone, but for me, it is one of the simplest ways I know
to celebrate life. I love pushing
myself to my limits and finding out I can do more than I thought I could. I like seeing improvements over time,
and when the improvements get smaller or less frequent, I like to set new
goals. I also find that having
other people think I’m a little bit crazy is a tremendous amount of fun. (I get my kicks where I can.) And finally, there is a physical and
psychological change that occurs when I’m running in the woods. The smell of damp earth, leaves and
pine needles creates a reaction in me that I can’t quite explain, but it
borders on spiritual, which moves me into my last great joy.
Cultivating my spiritual side is very important to me, and I
find, as I list out the things that are most important to me, that mothering,
writing, creating, running, and volunteering are all spiritual practices for
me. They satisfy things beyond the
physical or even the mental. They
bring my life meaning and make me feel whole. And maybe that’s what joy is—whatever feeds us spiritually.
Every spirit is different so it only stands to reason that
what feeds us all spiritually, what gives us each our own special joy should
also be different. So I am OK with
and even happy about just being Stacey, whatever that might mean.
*Journal topic for today: What brings joy to your life?