(Gratuitous cat photo.)
A friend said to me recently, “I love reading your blog because you sound so happy.” I do? I do! I even sound happy to me. I didn’t know anyone else noticed. I was quick to remind her that my life isn’t perfect. But I do love my life, and that is because a couple of years ago I started living my life for myself rather than for other people. This isn’t as self-centered as it sounds. Pursuing happiness is a factor of self-interest, not of selfishness. Selfishness is not caring about how other people feel. Self-interest is caring about how other people feel then balancing that against caring about how you feel, too, and accepting that you’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness, only your own. Women, in particular, have a hard time with this concept.
A couple of years ago when I first came to live in this slanted little house, I was thinking about my own happiness. But I care about how my actions affect other people, especially my children, and one of the reasons I am happy now is because my children are happy, too. So many good things have happened for me and for the people I care about, things that I could never have predicted when I was just putting one foot in front of the other, pushing the boulder of outside negativity off my chest every day to get up and keep going. This road home was not an easy one.
But today, I am surrounded by the people, places, and things that feel good, down deep, that feel peaceful and positive and right, for me and for my children. I made a radical, and I mean radical, change in the direction of my life–and it all started with actually opening my heart one day to the question–are you happy? This is a massively frightening question to face because if the answer is no, then what are you doing to do about it? (Most likely, the answer to that question is going to be a lot of trouble.) I didn’t even really know what I wanted, what I needed to be happy. I just knew that I wasn’t and that it was time to go in search of it. I ended up in the least expected place, down a country road to a farm you have to drive through three creeks to reach. I didn’t know exactly where I was headed when I started. I put myself on a road with no map and let my heart find the way on its own.
This is my life, not anyone else’s idea of what my life should be. I delight in happening upon sheep, driving my cousin’s mother to the little store, fording rivers in a 4WD I never would have imagined I’d need, watching snow fall over the hills, and I love, absolutely love, finding chickens in the road. I get excited about things like buying farm boots. Give me a thornless blackberry bush and I might swoon. I love everything about my life, and there was never any point in the past where I could have honestly made that statement. And that, I believe, is what life should be like and why I wouldn’t take back one painful step it took to get here (though I wouldn’t want to relive it for a million bucks). It is true that nothing worth having comes easy, and possibly more true of happiness than anything else.
But it’s also true that it’s worth having.
And for me, happiness is chickens in the road, and everything that means. What about you? What does happiness mean to you?