It ain’t rocket science.
Thanksgiving has and will always be my favorite holiday. Why you ask? It’s all about the food, being with people you choose to be with (can’t speak for everyone here), and there are no presents involved. I’m attending a Thanksgiving dinner today with all of the trimmings . . . happiness.
I witnessed the death of a 17 year old girl this week and I’m experiencing a bit of PTSD. Sleep has been elusive; the tape of how it went down is playing on a loop in my head. I’m revisiting a past blog in order to break the cycle and be more present.
Thoughts about happiness has been occupying a great deal of my time lately. I’ve been taking stock of my life and wondering the following:
- Am I happy? I mean happy most of the time. I know there are degrees of happiness; let’s say moderately pleased.
- What makes me happy?
- What do I need to do to be happier? Or what do I need in my life?
- Is it okay to settle for happy moments versus overall happiness?
- Are my expectations reasonable? Why or why not?
- How do I assess my own happiness?
- Do others interfere with my happiness?
- Do I make myself unhappy?
- What does being happy feel like?
- What were the happiest times of my life? Do I ponder those moments enough?
- Who makes me happy?
- Why does being happy matter?
- How does my state of happiness affect others?
- Organic moments of joy versus contrived moments — does it matter?
I’m not going to go through these questions and answer them one by one. I am instead demonstrating where my head is at this stage of my life and how might create my own present and future. I’ll be sixty in a few months (I’m now almost 63) and whether I like it or not, age factors into my happiness. It’s a milestone that forces you to take inventory and consider your future.
Health is a difficult reality. On one hand I want to live as healthy a life as possible, so that I can enjoy a good quality of life; on the other hand there are many choices that I make that bring me joy, however, these choices have a negative impact on my health. For example, my daily 5:00 p.m. cocktail. I usually only have one and I know that by itself, that is not a bad thing, but there are a couple of other considerations: 1) the cocktail contains empty calories with no nutritional value, 2) when I’m with friends, I will give myself permission to have more than one, and 3) I also have a glass (or two) of wine with dinner. I am not an alcoholic and I don’t drink to get drunk. Still, I know that I would probably drop a few pounds if I stopped drinking. Truth is I enjoy that time of day when I relax and have a drink; I enjoy the taste of a cocktail or wine. I have made the conscious decision to continue drinking and monitor my intake; try my best to keep it at two or three portions a night. I have a very similar relationship with food, which also provides for a good deal of my happiness. Most of what I eat is fresh, healthy and delicious; however, there is that ten percent of my diet that I know is unhealthy. Again, one has to know oneself and choose wisely. And get a regular check-up to be aware of what your body can tolerate.
Note: It doesn’t help that two of my dearest married friends had cocktails at 5:00 p.m. and ate what ever they wanted and had/have very healthy and long lives. One of them just recently passed away at age 95 and the other is alive and healthy at 90. Of course I know that everyone has a different genetic make-up and many, many other factors contribute to a long and healthy life.
I have always said that I’d rather live to be 80 and enjoy the bounty of life, then live to be 90 and deny myself much of what I truly love. This lifestyle choice doesn’t work for everyone. I am happy to say that I am almost 63 years old and medication free. I workout five days a week and only suffer the normal aches and pains that come with aging.
It’s odd how little we talk about our own path. We usually talk about other people and their habits or we generalize about society as a whole. It seems that people are either ashamed of their choices or choose to hide them. I wrote about my drinking habits this week in hopes of getting feedback from my readers. Am I kidding myself? Do my habits seem healthy? Unhealthy?
Note: I have cutback to cocktails in the evening twice a week. I sleep better, enjoy food more, and spend less on alcohol.
The first view is the backside of my apartment and it represents my morning view. This morning, I watched the lunar eclipse. I have a clear view of Faro, the mountains and the morning moon. This view inspires me and reminds me that I am alive and that each day is a new and different day. The morning light is filled with color; most of the year I can watch the sunrise from my terrace. I also have a magnificent view of the Ria Formosa. The Ria is every changing and dynamic.
The second view is just after the sun has set in the evening. This view is facing southwest from the front of my apartment. This view represents the quiet of the evening — soft, diffused light
Front views at different times of the day on different days:
There is a spot in my dining room where I can see both views. Depending on the time of day, every view is different and new. It’s like slowly moving still photographs marking time. I stand in this spot at least once a day to marvel at the light and color. [This has been a great reminder — I cannot take this for granted.]
Family can complicate happiness. I love my family dearly and my happiness is all wrapped up in their happiness. I constantly consider the amount of control or the lack of control I possess related to their happiness. I can make my sister laugh or buy my brother a nice present; I can spend hours on the phone with my niece listening to her talk about esoteric adventures; I can daydream about how my mom would take us shopping as children, pass an underwear bin, grab a pair and put it over her head; and I can spend time remembering my four siblings who have left us. A reminder of how finite and fleeting life can be. My family, for the most part, makes me happy.
Good friends know when you are unhappy; they know it before you do. My friends question my emotional state of mind on a regular basis. Thoughts are always churning and when that’s happening I don’t always smile. When I’m not smiling, my friends get concerned and I have to reassure them that everything is okay. There are times when I am not happy — for my good friends, that’s okay.
I consider my good friends, my family. No doubt my good friends make me happy. Sometimes they make me sad, but I realize that peaks and valleys are a normal part of life.
Plans: Travel, Entertainment, Dining and Adventure
Making plans and executing them is all about creating memories. I read an anonymous quote many years ago that went something like this:
“We don’t remember days, we remember moments.”
Those words stuck with me and I have always tried to create moments or cement moments into my memory. Like the time I was mountain biking through a dense wooded area in Mexico. For a few moments I felt as free as a bird and more alive than I had ever felt. It was exhilarating, I remember this happy moment as if it happened yesterday. I have many moments like this one and I recall these moments frequently.
Since arriving in Portugal, I have been creating these moments as often as possible.
New: This week I reconnected with a friend with whom I had been estranged from. This individual and I had been close friends for over 25 years. The how and why of the estrangement doesn’t matter, what matters is this: If you love someone and you do not speak because of a misunderstanding or something that happened a long time ago, consider a conversation. It may open a door that could lead to reconciliation. We get to do this thing called life once; why not carry love, trust and hope, rather than bitterness and pain.
The Future: Goals and Aspirations
I have come to realize that no matter how hard I try, there are certain “life concerns” that occupy my mind. When I’m in total control, rested, and have plans for the near future, I can keep these concerns in check and focus on my positive future plans. I also know that there are times when no amount of positive thinking or intervention by friends or family, can help put me in a happy place. When this happens I make myself as comfortable as possible and allow my thoughts to flow organically. The unhappy stuff usually passes pretty quickly when I allow myself to just feel or think whatever it is I’m feeling or thinking. I’ve learned that fighting my natural inclinations only makes me more anxious — know thyself.
A Funny thing happened on the way home:
My friend Susan is visiting from Maine for a few days (2019). Unlike most of my friends, she reads my blog (as Bianca del Rio would say, “I ain’t mad at that”). So we were on a train to Tavira and I was talking about what I needed to include in this week’s “happiness” blog.
“I need to remember to make a note about how happiness directly correlates with being grateful, in my blog.”
We talked about how fortunate I am to be living this abundant life in Portugal. Not long after this conversation, we were sitting in the backseat of an Uber and the driver took us through a section of Faro I had never seen. The driver was surprised to learn that I live in Faro. She looked back at us in the rearview mirror and she said,
“Faro is a happy place.”
What more can I say.