Thursday, February 26, 2009

Is happiness a trick?

I just came across a blog entry from an old friend of mine, someone whom I admire and am glad to have run across years ago.

Linda and I met skydiving. I was a newbie and she was an instructor, and she did my Level 6 (for those uninitiated in the lingo, there are 7 levels to become a solo skydiver) and I admired her so much that I was determined to make her proud of me. I did fine and went on to graduate, and actually made many thousands more jumps. My canopy is presently back in the shop for a reline but I intend to make more jumps when the weather warms up here in Washington state.

I am a naturally happy person. In my youth I heard myself referred to as a pollyanna, and I guess that's somewhat true (whatever that means). The other day I ran across a blog called The Happiness Project and read it with a lot of interest. The blogger recently interviewed Penelope Trunk and I quote,
I am not sure that I think the discussion of "Am I happy?" is productive. I think life is extremely difficult, for everyone, and that in order to get through life we have tricks for ourselves to continue the journey and happiness is sort of a trick.
Or maybe all you really need is to be born with a happiness gene. Or something. My friend Linda (first post up there) has something most of us would like to have: the ability to see positive outcomes from really tough life experiences.

I was terrified to think about retiring from my job of three decades, and stop the weekend-to-weekend jumping that occupied my life for such a long time. But when we moved up here to Bellingham from Boulder, a strange thing happened: I suddenly allowed myself to look at life from the perspective of a Senior -- even better than that, a Retired Senior. I played like I was stepping into the shoes of someone else, that I could always go back to the Life I Had Before. It worked; I made the transition with little discomfort, and I am now deeply entrenched in my new life of less than a year.

Snow fell here yesterday and last night -- I really thought I'd left all that behind in Boulder, but this environment continues to surprise me in very positive ways. Wet, yes: but also lush and green with mountains that have ferns and moss. And also clouds and sun and ocean and... birds.

I love my birds and look forward to planting a hummingbird garden and hanging a feeder for them in a month or so. I hung three feeders that I can see from my desk, with juncos and house sparrows on the ground, greedy steller jays in the big platform feeder along with pine siskins and, my favorite, chickadees. Those chickadees are so friendly I swear they wait until I'm out there filling the feeders to swoop in and check me out.

And I love my workouts at the Y. Riding the bus there every morning has become a huge plus (no need to find a parking place) and I've got friends who sit with me and we discuss our lives. And then there's the Senior Trailblazers (link goes to my Flickr account with pictures of some of the hikes I've gone on around here). Since September I've started learning about the hikes in Whatcom County (where Bellingham sits; it goes all the way up to the Canadian border 18 miles north).

Happiness consists, for me these days, of being outside of the apartment at least for a few hours each day, whether hiking or sweating at the Y, of watching my birds chomp down the birdseed, reading the news of the day online, of sharing thoughts and aspirations with my partner, and basically giving thanks for what's been possible in this uncertain economic environment. I might not have enough money to make many jumps this summer, but I'll make a few for sure; I might not be able to travel to Europe but I can sure leave the country by making a day trip to Vancouver; and I might not have a whole lot of disposable income, but I'm really, really happy.

And best of all, I have friends like Linda who inspire me, and I recently joined Facebook and read daily about the exploits of friends and family. Happiness is a state of mind, not a trick of the mind... isn't it?


  1. I don't think happiness is something we have to trick ourselves into. As you say, it's a state of mind, determined (I believe) by our love for others, but that doesn't necessarily mean we can always feel happy. Sometimes our most obvious times of happiness (or joy) are momentary, fleeting, but those moments can have very long-lasting effects, and we should cherish them for their quality, not their quantity. A single smile, given or received, can have great power to uplift.

    We struggle to reach a peak, and then we dance and glory in the moment, but we don't live at the peak. We turn right around and continue with our struggles, we even learn to be thankful for them. Day to day, we live with pain, but we also live with our memories of happy times, and in the knowledge that there are many more wonderful (albeit possibly fleeting) moments to come.

  2. How lovely! Thanks, Buz, for those thoughts.


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