Saturday, 3 May 2014

Seeking Happiness

Rules for Happiness:
something to do,
someone to love, 
something to hope for.
Immanuel Kant

I think Immanuel  (an 18th century German Philosopher) was onto something. 

Last year my mum told me she was worried about me, that I didn't seem happy. Which was absolutely true, but then I couldn't remember a time when I was happy. I have had a bunch of moments of happiness, but by nature I am not a content person. I am really only at my best when I feel like I am achieving something and have something to strive for. Which is tough when you spend a heck of a lot of time striving but not yet achieving.

That is why, in January, when I heard about 100 Happy Days, I had to give it a go.

My 100 happy days finished on April 25th, which, in Australia (and New Zealand) is ANZAC day, a day of remembrance for those who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations. Remembrance for me is about gratitude and respect (that is just where it sits in my head) so this coincidence resonated with me. Practising gratitude is one of the major things that they say ('they' being the ones who know things) brings happiness. 

I stumbled across this graphic the other day

There is a more detailed article here

Oddly, or perhaps not oddly, the 100 happy days project increased some of these behaviours in me.

Because I had to take a photo everyday of something that made me happy I had to consciously note the times when I felt happy. That was probably the most significant thing. Quite often I felt happy or good about something quite a few times in the day on otherwise ordinary days where I would not have acknowledged those moments pre-project.

There is a day that really sticks in my head. It was one of those days off that isn't a day off, busy with jobs and full of appointments. One of the early ones was for a fairly routine scan- except it wasn't. The radiologist was fastidious and kept checking and rechecking a particular area and it was clear that she had detected something. But she didn't say anything about it to me, barely made eye contact in fact, which allowed my anxiety to go to town. I spent the rest of the afternoon clawing my way into a deep dark pit; trying to hold myself together in the supermarket, at the petstore, making small talk with my osteopath. When the bookworm finally came through the door after work he was met with a crumbling shaking bundle. He made me make a doctors appointment for the next day to get the results, supported me through mutiple calls and texts to try to get someone to cover me at work and promised me over and over that whatever the results, we would get through it. That night I had nothing to post in my 100 happy days album and couldn't fathom how I was going to continue on this project. Then something occurred to me; I took a picture of my boys walking up the driveway as we took Ted on his bedtime pee stroll and I realised, nomatter what, how much I had to be thankful for.

It turns out there was a minor abnormality, not a dangerous one, and the fastidiousness was to rule out the dangerous type. This became a happy moment too- after a night of not sleeping and a day and a half of barely breathing, my doctors words "There is nothing here I am concerned about" were the most beautiful sounds in the universe. When I got home to The Bookworm we hugged and cried and drank sparkling wine.

I became better at gratitude. At thanking people for the ways they helped me, and being more inclined to notice ways I could help others in return. The routine of posting a picture to facebook each evening became a bit of a ritual and an exercise in gratitude. 

I went out more. I did not want my project to become "100 days of pictures of wine and dinner" so I made more effort to contact friends and to say yes to invitations. I have been pretty bad at saying yes for a while. I work a lot and often finish late/start early and I thought socialising made me tired- which it does (not the socialising part but the lack of sleep part) but it also invigorates me and reminds me of the things I am passionate about. Good conversation with great people is hugely therapeutic.

I got a new job on day 22 and left the Wine Shop With No Wine. The new job is at a winery and there is nothing more beautiful than sunsets/morning sun/afternoon sun/rain/drizzle/autumn (OK I'll stop now) in a vineyard. I typically pop outside at least once a day to take a quick snap of a pretty sky or the turning leaves, and often when I finish work I take an extra moment to soak up the heat of the afternoon or stop my car to take a photo of the sky before I turn onto the main road. I still do this, even now that I don't have to.

I still don't meditate, practise smiling (I already know how to smile :) and if I ever get to plan a trip I am damned well going to take it. 

I am going to sleep more though. That's a promise. This project has actually reduced my sleep. I don't know how many times I have been all tucked up in bed when I remembered I hadn't posted a photo and had to pop back downstairs and do so. A friend suggested that I should do 365 Happy Days but I think, instead, I will sleep. 

What I have realised is that writing (blogging) makes me bloody happy. I love writing my thoughts, fears, ideas and joys and sending them out to the world. I love taking pictures and editing them, knowing that someone other than the IT guy who is trying to retrieve my hard drive when my computer eventually dies, will see them. The reflective process and putting those thoughts into words helps to quieten my mind. Except when I get a really great idea for something I want to write and I haven't got a pen and can't use my phone- although I've recently discovered the voice memo function.

Back to Immanuel

Rules for Happiness:
something to do,            I think maybe that could be writing, and wine, definitely wine.
someone to love,            Well Sorted.
something to hope for.    Where do I start...

I thought I might share 10 of my favourite photos from the project:

    Day 3: Indulging my wine nerd after the most delightful evening 

    Day 15: a snippet of time to write and think

caramel mud cake with chocolate ganache frosting
    Day 26: late b'day cake- homemade caramel mud with dark chocolate ganache

chateau beauregard pommerol
                   Day 37: First this happened and then I got Willow in the 'which Joss  
                   Weedon heroine are you' buzzfeed quiz. Exceptional evening.

                   Day 40: horrible day but nighttime strolls with my boys did help

                   Day 65: pumping over. This winemaking stuff gets me so ridiculously excited

                   Day 66: I've turned this boy into a wine geek. Also had a lovely birthday with so much happiness 

                   Day 73: "Who you are" at La Mama

                   Day 85: stunning wine. Stunning company 

    Day 96: it's Ted-day         

You can read my half way report here

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