We often believe that if we just have one more thing, a little more money, or lose a little weight we will be happy. Is it "stuff" that makes us happy?
Henry David Thoreau said, "Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder."
As a mother of six, I learned from Allen Saunders when he said, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." I also learned to laugh and love every moment on the unexpected journey. I will never stop making plans. I will never stop being grateful that my higher power knows more than I and has better plans. Erin Oscarson, my daughter had one of those spontaneous moments:
Several years ago, I had a hilariously awful experience that taught me something profound. I had a 2-year-old daughter and brand new arm chairs in the living room of my first home. My sweet little girl, just days into potty training, yelled "uh oh!" from the living room. The blood drained from my face. I made a mad dash from the room to rescue my chairs. As I grabbed the paper towel roll, it snagged the glass water pitcher sending it to the floor where it shattered. I decided to leave it where it was for the moment and continue on my mission. I reached the living room just in time to watch my freshly watered plant, dirt and all, being dumped onto the only dry arm chair. The other chair had a large wet spot and a sad looking little girl on it. At that very moment, my neighbor walked in to pick up her daughter, and the door handle fell off. Then something happened. Everything became hysterically funny, and I dropped to my knees in laughter. I'm sure my neighbor was ready to have me committed, but I learned a valuable lesson. I had the choice of laughing at my predicament, or crying. I chose laughter, and I was happier because of it. Abraham Lincoln said, "People are just about as happy as they make their minds up to be." I learned this first hand that day.
Through the years, we have had experiences that called for tears or stress, but we chose to meet them with courage and often laughter. For example:
When Erin's husband was deployed for Iraq.
When we both lived in a haunted Victorian house.
When Erin's husband lost his job his gallbladder and appendix at the same time.
When Erin had her first two children half a world away from her family, and support.
When Shannon's husband packed the moving truck with boxes meant for the dump, and took all their earthly possessions to the dump. Then, moved a truck of garbage 800 miles.
When Erin accidentally sprayed her entire strawberry patch with Roundup.
When Shannon tried to dye her hair back to her natural color. She successfully went from platinum blond to flat black.
Not all of these were life-altering events; some made us laugh and some required more than a few tears to release the grief. However, whenever possible we chose to be happy. Even if it meant putting our heads down and plowing through it, one breath at a time. Serious tragedy cannot be avoided, but even in our darkest days, we seem able to find just a little light. Here is what we have learned on the road to happiness:
Get comfortable being you
This is easier said than done. Most women look to the accomplishments of others and judge themselves. Don't fall victim to this disservice. Be wary of Pinterest dysmorphic disorder, a disease caused by comparing yourself to others whom you only see photo-shopped or in a controlled camera environment. You are unique. Discover yourself and love you as a work of art in progress.
Perspective is a requirement
Life has some pretty heavy moments. When children fight, husbands forget birthdays, or friends say the wrong things remember you are lucky to have loved ones to forget your special days, or even offend you. Don't hold on to little frustrations if you can let them go.
Prayer can be a valuable tool
Prayer at the beginning of your day sets the tone for the rest of the day. Request help from your God. There are things we cannot fix or solve. Sometimes trusting your higher power can help you with something beyond your ability to change or control.
Learn to love yourself through service
When we are gentle and loving with others, we can be gentle and loving with ourselves. Focus out and create beauty within. When you use your talents to serve it's easier to stop comparing yourself. Seeing and loving others as they really are allows us to love who we really are. Mother Teresa said, "We can do no great things; only small things with great love."
Make time to grieve
If you need time, take it. Give yourself one minute, or 5 minutes, or a whole night to cry. Crying can be very cleansing for the soul. Sometimes, knowing that after the kids are in bed you are going to crawl into a warm bath and have a good cry can get you through a particularly hard day.
Laugh it out
When all else fails, and you have a choice to make, choose to laugh. Find a way to be happy in the darkest of moments and you will have lit the candle that leads you away.
These are a few tools we have learned through our experiences. Life is filled with moments of awe, beauty, love, tragedy and sometimes just silliness. We can't stop the heartbreak, but we can find happiness in the strangest and most unexpected places.