I read with interest in my little book that there are seven roads to happiness that are never closed. I really like being happy, but life does not always hand us up unlimited and all pervasive happiness, so these seven secrets have turned out to be useful. I'm finding that the more I can work these into my life, the happier I am. The hardest one is song. I know that humming and singing and good music lifts the spirits --I know because my daughter Emily has done just that since she was very little, and she is perhaps the happiest of us all. But singing doesn't bubble up from within me. I would describe my inner self as a large place with tall trees and fresh breezes. It is quiet there and I like it that way, so I don't sing alot, I walk among the trees. I do know, however, that when the dark voices are crowding into my head, I need to sing.
Gratitude and thanksgiving are supposedly separate, but they seem pretty close to me. There is much to be thankful for. There was a song in my youth that went, "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone..." and how true it is. When I twist my ankle, I realize how wonderful it is to walk unhindered. When my tooth was in constant pain a few weeks back, I wondered at the miracle of chewing and drinking cold water under normal conditions. When the 9th grade Biology class dissected a cow's eye in January, I was amazed at the beauty and complexity, and grateful for my precious sight. Most recently, my mother has come to live with me. She has forgotten many things, and people too-- past and present-- and it has reminded me that I truly cherish the memories that I have of March 25, 1979 when David asked me to marry him and February 23, 2008 when I met my cousin Dennis and many moments, hours and days in between.
It is important for me to remember that faithfulness in little things brings happiness. It's easy for me pass over the little things and hop on to the "big" things. Mother Theresa agrees that doing little things with great love is where it's at. Tonight I gave my mother a foot massage. Last night I did too. The goal is to heal her feet which were flaking off skin when she came on Thursday. This is a little thing. I am not commanding a submarine or teaching a classroom and managing a state's sewage issues. I'm rubbing my mother's feet. How shall I do this? As one more task to cross off my list? Or as an opportunity to communicate love, to give her some pleasure, some security, some warm touch. It is a moment between us, and taking time to put love into it brings me great happiness.
Thoughtfulness in the home is one I have had to consciously learn. This one's hard for me because I love to accomplish things. I like my lists, and moving from one item to the next can be very satisfying. For me. For the rest of the people who live with me, it can be an aching burden. They would rather have my thoughtfulness. I missed my sister's birthday last Tuesday, because I was busy. It did not make me happy when the bank teller said to her on Friday as we set up a checking account together, "Happy Birthday, Linda," and I'm sure it did not make her happy to have no warm phone call, or thoughtful message come to her mailbox. My daughter Rachel has written this point painfully on my heart: "Write me a message when you send me something!" Take the time to think what means something to someone else, I have to remind myself, it brings them happiness, which comes back to you.
It get easier now. Having a low emotional pain threshold, I value contentment. I can be happy with very little. I don't need expensive anything. I don't need big gifts - a jar of rock is very fine. I'm satisfied with a few clothes I can find at the thrift store, a few good books, and a couple excellent friends, my husband being one of them. I'm satisfied to learn something new and be useful in some way every day. Having my hands in the soil, making a meal that I can share with someone, sewing a quilt from old flannel shirts is enough for me. Contentment is most definately a road to happiness that is never closed.
Ahhh. Now I have arrived at my favorite: the beauties of nature. Nature offers up unending subjects for happiness. The loons are back from the ocean for such a brief time in the summer and they treat us to music so hauntingly beautiful that I cannot get enough. Their mating plummage is elegant, and their habits fascinating. Great joy. One day last week I did my morning walk alone, and was startled by a loon calling high up. Could it be? Where was he? I searched the sky and found him coming from some unknown location, also alone, and on his way to some body of water. I wanted to go with him. I wanted to lift off Lawrence Hill and be pulled along in his wake. "Take me with you," I cried after him.
But this spring the aromas of the flowers has captured my heart. First the spring beauties, those tiny pink striped flowers that bloom in the woods in May. Put your nose down to them, and this beautiful aroma comes to greet you. "Lord, I want to smell good like them, make my life a wonderful aroma" I prayed. After the spring beauties came the lilacs and the lily of the valleys. Then the honeysuckle and wild roses, and now the peonies and milkweed. It is absolutely captivating. Not everything in nature smells good, but some are given a special grace that is so pleasing. I'm trying to gather all these things up, and I find there are too many to hold, so many opportunities for happiness, that I wonder, today, that I can ever be fearful, or frustrated, or frantic. Those moments will come again, I'm sure, but now I know that there are seven fern-strewn roads to happiness that are always open.