A dear friend asked me recently if I was happy. The question was out of the blue. Me being me, I asked for clarification. Did they mean happy in that exact moment or happy with where I’m at in my life in general? Either way, it’s a good question. It stops you in your tracks but doesn’t allow you to overthink the answer. Are you happy? Don’t pause. Just answer.
We should ask this question of ourselves and our loved ones more often. As another birthday approaches, it seems an appropriate time to ponder my sense of happiness at this point in my journey.
Fundamentally, I haven’t changed. My basic joy meter requires the same simple pleasures: quality time with people I genuinely love, laughing with my small circle of friends and goofing around with my kids. I cherish alone time with my Carpenter, and do my best to ensure there is some Me time too. Of course, I need musical accompaniment for all of the above. The soundtrack of my life is as diverse as my moods. The rest is pretty basic: chip dip, a great book, comedy sketches that cross the line, watching my favourite sports and taking some time each day to snuggle with my dog. I’m easily made happy, except on the days when I’m not. Life happens. Eventually I find my way back to happy.
My outlook is different now. Happiness is less about looking ahead to the future, which is all I ever seemed to do in my got-to-make-life-goals of my 20s and have-to-achieve-life-goals of my 30s. The 40s have been more of a settling, without actually settling on anything. I’m no longer interested in dwelling in what was, or replaying every decision that got me to this point. Looking backward won’t take me forward. For me, happiness is a fleeting sensation that comes and goes, because I’m still pretty focused on the day-to-day of just doing, getting by, steadying the course, making deadlines and dinners. It sounds cliché to say it, but happiness at this stage of my game is really about the here and now.
And as completely freaked out as I am about aging, I am realizing there is something intriguing, inspiring even, about this stage of life that has me redefining how I feel, seek out and enjoy the things in life that bring me joy. Perhaps it’s maturity (snort, as if), or perhaps it’s just accepting some truths about my life. What made me content 10 years ago, five years ago even, is not necessarily what would make me happy today.
Compromise and responsibility are my realities, but when balanced with the above fundamentals, you realize it’s not the grandness of things that brings the biggest joy, it’s the sacredness of the simplest moments; the unexpected text messages, the joke perfectly timed, the volumes spoken in silence and the bliss of belly laughter.
It’s the power of a hug and the humanity of a smile.
It seems the more candles on the gluten-free cake, the smaller the number of things I need to be happy. I never told you my answer to the question “am I happy?”
Yes. Absolutely. Sometimes. Most of the time. And I’m smart enough to know it. But on my birthday, I will wish for time. More time living and less time just dreaming about it. Don’t pause. Just answer.