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.
Graphic from allposters.com


  1. For a long time now I have believed that happiness is a choice. In the past I have suffered from depression until I decided enough is enough. Each morning when I wake up no matter how I feel I tell myself "today is a good day" and I smile to myself. Slowly my attitude changed, my happiness and contentment grew.
    I started keeping a gratitude journal many years ago and it made me focus on what I had rather than what I (thought I) didn't have. I spent (wasted) alot of time competing with some imaginary 'Joneses' which can only ever bring frustration and stress, never happiness.
    I woke up one day and realised I already had everything I needed to be happy and everyday I am grateful.
    Now I get great pleasure from all the little things, putting wood on the fire, hanging out the washing, baking a cake, even hand washing the dishes!
    I have also found that happiness is contagious. My household always seems happy and contented. I don't think my almost 20yr old DS has an unhappy bone in his body:)

  2. Oh Rhonda I wonder do you realise just how wise you are? Thank you for being generous and sharing your wisdom and knowledge with all of us.

    I too believe that happiness is a choice and when I slow down, live in the moment and appreciate all that is around me I too am truly happy, but when I get stressed and resort to auto pilot I can forget how good my life is. I do have a charmed life and I DO appreciate it so very much. It's all about perspective really. Michelle you are so right about it affecting the whole household and all the people we come into contact with.

  3. Lady, you should write a book. You way with words is a gift.

  4. oops that last comment was me Lenny

  5. Rhonda, you write so be beautifully. I have ordered a copy of the book Home comforts from the library. Im finding that Im getting alot of inspiration from you as well, this blog is wonderful. I cant wait till your book gets published and I know there will be a long line to purchase it. I had a good day in the home yesturday, I was washing the dishes and looking out the window planning my big veg garden I know I will love doing the dishes and watching my garden thrive, I think you mentioned that one before. Thanks Rhonda. Neisha

  6. I just found your blog and I love it. You are a wonderful writer and I want to thank you for sharing your day with me.
    You are the only one that talks about not spending as a key component of living simply. I love a good deal as much as the next person but how much time/energy/money is wasted by ladies spending their days looking for "bargains" at the thrift shop?

    Thanks again,

  7. Thank you for such an inspirational and motivating post Rhonda. As Dot said you have a lovely way with words. A gift indeed!

  8. I too believe that happiness is something you make for yourself. I guess I have and will always be an optimist and I can usually see the good in most situations. Keep up the inspiring thoughts Rhonda :) I'll be in that line to buy your book.

  9. Thank you for another beautiful post Rhonda. Its true, so much of the time, we are thinking of the past or the future that we forget to actually LIVE today.

    Peace is right there - its in the present moment.

    Thank you.

  10. I lived with someone for a while who was convinced that I was the key to his happiness & if he wasn't ecstatic all the time it was my fault. I could never get him to see that you have to make your own happiness & then share that with others. He died, never learning that lesson & blaming everybody else for the mess he'd made of his life.

    I try to look for beauty in the ordinary every day, like the kittens playing on a bank outside my window, or my daughter's pride in the work she's put into the rag rug that we're making together ~ a completely new skill for her & a strange new tool to master.

    You explain things so well, thank you

  11. Thank you so much, ladies. I'm pleased you appreciate what I write. You're all so generous in your praise, I feel quite lovely when I read what you write.


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