Tuesday, 1 September 2015

PROJECT HAPPINESS

Hello dear Michael,

I wonder how the sun has been shining where you are (in my imagination it shines brilliantly day in and day out) and if you have been out for a paddle of late. You posted that photo on Facebook and then I consulted a map and took to wondering if it was the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea you were paddling on? I would love to dip my toes in the Arabian Sea and these letters back and forth make me wish there was something that needed to be hand delivered.

You asked me about happiness. This is surely worth a whole letter's worth of replying! I've been treading a path for as long as I can remember of trying to understand myself as best I possibly can. My work in this area is never done and I suspect this is for a number of reasons: one is a forest for the trees issue. Another is that I'm prone to changing without letting myself know I'm doing so. And yet another is that I can convince myself of quite anything, so sometimes I end up with the wrong end of the stick. Despite these things, I persevere, and I think as I get older I find myself more and more holding the right end of the stick, changing less rapidly, and standing in not so densely packed areas of the forest (if that makes sense!)

One of the things that I've loved contemplating, and love to hear that you're contemplating, is what makes me happy. And gosh, where do I start? (Probably by saying that I hope you don't regret asking me. I can sense that I'm about to take the long route around answering). 
I've discovered that there are a lot of things that I do out of habit, impulse or necessity that add nothing to my happiness. Facebook is the perfect example. How wonderful that all those people I know are in the same place, (and it's a great thing, without it I never would have reconnected with you) but it often feels like a party that I don't need to turn up to. Recently I have found some ways of connecting with people more closely (this blog is one of them) that make me happier.
My quick temper works against my happiness at every turn. I have been endeavoring of late to switch it off and am pleased to report some small successes in this area.
My iPhone makes my life so much easier and I wouldn't be without it, but it doesn't make me happy because I resent it for the hours I waste on it. 
I love the feeling of getting into bed, but sleep doesn't make me happy as it seems like a dreadful waste of time. What’s more, I am perpetually tired because the hours I most enjoy are first thing in the morning and late at night; I simply can't choose between them. Breakfast makes me happy, dinner not so much. Lunch is an almighty pain. 
I love the afterglow of a run, and to some extent the actual process, but I hate trying to get myself out the door. And I resent the time I waste mooching around in my running gear once I'm home. I blame myself for that.
I can't think of anything that makes me happier than connecting through words.

There are small things that make me catch my breath with happiness: the feel of Arlo's hand in mine when we walk. Hearing my sons’ voices at school as they pass by my reading recovery room at playtime. Watching people eating and enjoying the things I've baked. A good compliment. Talking in bed at 2am. The feel of Ben's hand up my nighty (can I say that?!?) (I'm going to say it anyway). I don't know if oversharing makes me happy, but I certainly go ahead and do it anyway.
  
There is a great New York author who wrote a book about a happiness project she spent a year completing. I learnt many and bountiful things from her and I quote her all the time. The biggest thing she taught me is to be Rachel. That involves accepting that the things I like are the things I like, even if other people don't. And also accepting that some things I think I should like, I'm never going to. Here's a good example: I would like to be a cool skiing type, but for two reasons I never will be. One is that I hate to be cold, and two: I never willingly put myself in the line of injury. That's entirely different from you though isn't it? Cold hands and grazed elbows will never stop you grabbing your skateboard and heading off outside. My dislike of being cold makes me a very indoorsy person here in Wellington.

Another example of being Rachel involves knowing that I feel a need to be useful. It also involves accepting that I love to do geeky stuff like knitting and crocheting and making stuff.  Put that together and I find myself at my happiest when a task is productive and creative. In that way baking works better for me than colouring in, even though colouring in can be quite irresistible and it's quite the latest thing to promote mindfulness apparently.

Mindfulness almost caused me to have a heart attack the other day. I was walking home from work and the sky was heavy with low cloud lying like a fluffy mattress across the sky. I noticed first the beautiful light that it was creating, and how the neighbors pink magnolia stood out against the grey background. I noticed the air was completely still and heavy and when a tui started to call out loudly to its friend I realised that that was the only sound I could hear. I was completely surrounded and engaged by the grey and the pink and the still and the birdsong and then a lady slammed her car door outside the kindergarten and I almost jumped out of my skin! Frights and expletives always go hand in hand for me and this time it was JESUS!! Which in turn gave the door-slaming lady a fright. So then I just pretended nothing had happened and wandered inside and made a decision to be a bit more careful of where I get up to that mindfulness bizzo.

I approve of your milk drinking ways MB (maybe you could drink a half litre for my Jesse who can no longer stomach it). The people that have judged you on it have missed an opportunity to sit down with you and chat about homogenized vs trim, milk requirements in tea and coffee and which flavor of Nippy's iced milk is the best. Without a doubt (in my mind at least) it's coffee. Maybe you could discuss these issues with the hot girl when you finally get to take her out for a beverage. the Nippy's question will find out what she's really made of.

With love to you,
Rachel xx

PS: I forgot to add a picture last time. I'll remedy that here and now.  
PPS: And I have thought of one more thing that makes me happy. This blog. It is just the right ratio of challenge to reward and it keeps me thinking. Thank you.





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