I was always a very happy child. I moved through life blissfully. I was the apple of my dad’s eye and loved unquestionably by my mother. As the youngest of eight children, I got a lot of one on one time with my parents. My siblings and I knew we were cherished by our parents and each other. We weren’t rich but we always had what we needed.
My happiness was never dependent on material things. It was the small things. It was Sunday dinners eaten, the game nights played, and the road trips taken. Small moments that are now treasured memories. Memories that feed my soul.
My mornings are consistent during the work week. Twenty minutes of meditation followed by a protein pack breakfast, personal prep and off to work. I listen to audio-books during my commute to get grounded and prep my mind for the workday. I have several authors that I keep in heavy rotation. They are my go to books for days I need a little extra push. One morning I picked “A Path Made Clear” by Oprah Winfrey. I really liked and appreciated Oprah’s mission, to educate and to elevate those around her with no specific theology or pathology.
Each time I listen to my audio-books, a different message resonates. This particular day, it was Oprah’s conversation with Goldie Hawn that got my attention. Goldie Hawn talked about when she was a child various people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was always, “happy”. Apparently, this confused the adults around her, surely the child didn’t understand the question. But, she held strong and continued to answer that question the same way each time they asked. Now that takes determination.
That’s one of the reasons I love children. Their emotions are pure and simple, they want what they want, their motives are straight forward, and their energy is boundless. Goldie’s experience is exactly what many of us do to our children. We minimize the importance of happiness. Somehow happiness is seen as being frivolous or something that is a temporary state or needs to be contained.
So, what is being happy? When I looked at interviews with people who have lived to be 100 years old, there were common themes in their life experiences. There were a few who felt that a daily glass of scotch or can of beer was the key and one woman was sure her never getting married allowed her to live to 107. While I can’t argue with those theories, there were other consistent themes, three themes in particular that resonated with me. First, do not worry about the things you cannot control. They suggest you do the best you can with what you have, with what you know and where you are; then release your need to control the outcome. Second, forgive yourself for mistakes. One woman thought that people are just too hard on themselves. We have a tendency to forgive strangers before we forgive ourselves. Finally, make a habit of doing things that nourish your mind, your body or your soul. Do things that make you feel good. Life is too short to devote time and energy to doing something you hate. This does not mean you should not do the necessary tasks required to sustain or to maintain your life. It means you should do things that make you happy and do them frequently just because they make you happy.
For me, happiness hasn’t always been easy. As I matured, happiness was inconsistent, elusive and sometimes fleeting, much different from my childhood. It was often directly impacted by the level happiness of those around me. My environment, specifically people in my environment, influenced whether I felt happy at any given moment.
Fast forward to today to the matured me, I have become protective of my happiness. I have learned that I can provide a supportive shoulder or nurturing embrace to someone in need without sacrificing my happiness. I carry a picture of young me as a reminder. When in doubt, I look at that picture. A picture of young Shelly happy and hamming it up for the camera, living in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not blissful every moment of the day, but I do actively seek to increase the minutes per day that I am quite pleased with my existence. I count my blessings and celebrate my wins, large or small.
Hearing Goldie Hawn’s response to Oprah’s question, jogged memories of my own happiness legacy. It reminded me to resist the pull of negativity, the tsunami of self-doubt and live my own normal, my happiness normal. Now, I trust myself to make good decisions based on what I have, what I know and where I am; then I accept the outcome. I also realize that when I look in the mirror and I see mature Shelly, she is living in the moment, living good and living happy with no regrets. Thanks Goldie.