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Creating Happiness

It isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we forget and need to be reminded.

With the Winter Solstice and Holidays behind me, I find myself in a very reflective mood thinking about the upcoming New Year.

A podcast I recently listened to, On Purpose by Jay Shetty, outlined 9 powerful questions to ponder as you prepare for the New Year. I didn’t make it past the first one:

1. What made you feel the happiest this last year?

I have been faithful to my daily practice of Happiness Habits through the year, staying true to the Buddha’s imperative that Happiness is the way. And when times seemed especially tough, I reminded myself that happiness is something you decide on.

But what made me feel the happiest? Not just happy, but happiest?

In the podcast, Jay suggested looking at the pictures you took on your phone over the last year for clues about what made you happy. Surprisingly, that was truly insightful, but “happiest” still failed to jump out at me. Looking through the pictures, though, reminded me of the words of a dear friend (blogpost Gobsmacked):

It isn’t that we don’t know, it’s that we forget and need to be reminded. I’m sure that you’ll remember. —Ray

So, off I went in search of the photo albums my parents created documenting my childhood. It has been years since I looked at them, but with the questions of remembering and happiness top of mind, I was looking at them with a fresh perspective. And I immediately saw two things:

  • Outside, I was in perpetual motion. I was on my bike, at the pool, on roller skates, building forts, setting new records on my pogo stick, increasing the height of my Romper Stompers, climbing trees, picking worms to go fishing, going down the slide at the playground head first, at summer camp. I was like the Energizer Bunny.

  • Inside, I was totally absorbed in my own world. I was reading, coloring, playing with color forms, or building with my Froebel blocks.

Looking at the pictures, I smiled remembering the sheer joy of Colorforms. The pictures showed the original geometric set, then later several sets of Peanuts Colorforms. Oh the endless stories I created using the permutations and combinations of the characters provided. And how could I not be thrilled with a brand-new box of crayons—the 64 box with built in sharpener! And the sheer joy of building elaborate castles and forts. Happily, I would sit and create for hours, lost in the stories I made up. And the very best part, when I finished a story, I could get lost in a new book, build something new, find a new page to color, or rearrange the Colorform pieces again. How simple it was back then to just to start fresh and create a new and different story.

Creating a new and different story made me think of Anne Lamott’s suggestion that the stories we tell ourselves should be thought of as shitty first drafts. A place to start, but a very rough and often skewed version of reality; a draft needing to be reworked and edited. I experience the shitty first draft as the voice in my head telling me the stories of how others are to blame, how I was right to take offense, how things are not my fault, how I am right to judge, etc. How amazing would it be to pick up the pieces of the shitty first draft and create a new and positive story in its place?

What if I was able to parse through the stories I tell myself, those shitty first drafts that I perseverate over, and willingly leave them behind, creating something new and positive in their place? Is that so farfetched? Is that possible? Wow—now that would bring a new level of happiness to my life.

As always happens on my path, as I follow the crumbs, there is inevitably an overlap or a subtle context waiting to be discovered and considered. In thinking through my wayfinding practices for 2022 (see blog post A Resolute 2022) I declared:

to connect wholeheartedly

Defining a wayfinding principle is one thing, but putting it into practice is another. Could returning to my childhood love of creating help me not only connect with myself, but with others? Would creating help me vanquish my shitty first draft stories by giving me a happy place to focus and create new stories built on kindness, compassion, and empathy?

All I could see in the pictures of my childhood was sheer happiness and delight as I showed off my creations for the camera. I was actually brought to tears to see the light shining from that original version of me. And the more I allowed myself to feel that delight, the more creative adventures I remembered—from the fun of weaving hot pads on a mini loom, to macraméing three-tiered hanging potholders, to tumbling rocks and using the stones to make jewelry, to a mini potter’s wheel, and yes, who could forget the edible creations I made in my Suzy Homemaker Easy Bake Oven! How had I lost the sheer joy of creating?

So, in the new year, I am going to “create” my way to the happiest me I can be. I have ordered a set of Colorforms, a coloring journal where I can create and contemplate, and 120 markers. Woo Hoo—120 possibilities in a box! A world of new stories just waiting to be created.

And Ray, if you are listening, I am remembering . . .


PS. What makes you the happiest? Please add your comments.


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