24 July 2007

Happiness is lurking

I was talking to a woman who came in to work yesterday. She is one of our regulars and although she usually presents as sad, lonely and broken, yesterday she was as happy as I've ever seen her. She had discovered happiness. She didn't know it but it was lurking in her life, waiting for her to come looking.

I talked to her a couple of months ago when she was complaining that her nails were broken and her hands were dirty because she had been "made" to work. Apparently she had found a place to live with her children and her rent was reduced significantly if she did some gardening and cleaning for the woman who owned the house. She hadn't really done any physical work before and found it difficult and "embarrassing" - her word, not mine. I advised her to think about why she was doing this work and what she was getting out of it, and to also allow herself to experience the satisfaction of her work at the end of each day. She said she did that and was amazed that along with the relief she felt when she finished working, she also felt satisfaction and pride in a job well done. Her self esteem began to increase, she started feeling good about herself and what she was doing, and she felt happy, for the first time in years. Now she feels hopeful and positive and wants get a "real" job so she can give her children "a good life", again her words.

I believe w
e find our own happiness. No one has it delivered on a silver platter. I also know you don't find it by sitting watching TV all day, or by shopping for it. And it's not those big milestone events which, although they give you a real rush of joy and are high points in your life, are only fleeting moments. Happiness is usually small, so sometimes it's hard to find and recognise, and it usually isn't one thing, it's an accumulation of small things. It helps too to acknowledge happiness. To actually say, or think - THIS makes me happy. I think this acknowledgement helps you remember the small fragments of happiness as you add them to your basket.

A long time ago I decided I would appreciate and be mindful of everything that happened to me on a particular morning. I had a shower, and instead of just getting wet and washing myself, I felt the warm water running over me, I could smell the lemon soap I was using, I massaged and stretched. When I got out of the shower, I wrapped myself in a big towel and dried myself off. I felt really good - that ordinary shower had changed. I had really experienced it. I went on that morning to truly enjoy the taste of my tea, to appreciate that I was sitting in a lovely spot, the weather was warm and I felt good. I thought about it so I really experienced it. Each task I completed was appreciated, not just for adding to the feeling of warmth in my home but also for the feeling of satisfaction it gave me. Well, you get the picture. At the end of the morning my shower, breakfast and chores had given me a lot, rather than taken from me. That made me happy. I continued on. I thought about what I was doing and each task made me feel worthy, satisfied and content. At the end of the day I thought back on what I'd done and along with the sense of satisfaction, I felt strengthened and happy that I'd been so productive. It also made me sleep well that night and when I woke the next morning, I felt calm and restored.

What I had done was to find worth and happiness in my day. I appreciated it for what it was and realised that everything has meaning. When you start living like that, when you truly appreciate what you experience, be that those things you love doing as well as those you don't, you get the full measure of the day. That starts building up your self respect because you know you've done what needed doing - you stepped up and did it. And when you look back and add up all those pieces of satisfaction, the little achievements, the hard work, the bits of appreciation, smiles from your family, the thank yous, the full bellies, the washing clean and folded, a friend's hug, that warm shower, feeling safe, the knowledge that you did your best, that, my friends, adds up to happiness. Seek, and you will find.
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