Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Daily Practice of Happiness

I met a woman recently whose family is concerned about her--she's in her late 80s, slipping slowly into Alzheimer's and a little confused, but still with life and personality in her eyes. She really likes people. I had met her before, but didn't thik she would remember me. Her face lit up, and she said,"Oh, I've missed you! Where have you been?"

Her family adores her. We talked for awhile, and it struck me, and it had before, that this was a woman who has been happy all of her life. She looked for the goodness in her life throughout, and she found it. She's had plenty of cares in her world, but she has focused on the good things going on in her life.

And I began to wonder, is happiness a gift or a talent? I think we expect it to be just given to us. We don't expect to work to expand it, to make it grow, to sustain it. Every day, though, our attitudes, our expectations and our focus have a great deal to do with whether that day is happy or sad.

Sometimes, life is just sad. Several decades ago, I was terribly sad for a spell, and I started a habit of waking up in the morning and writing down the good things I expected to happen. I remember one day all I could think of was, "the sun came up." Every evening I would review my list and write down any additional good things that had happened. And there always were some. Every single day. I learned to look hard for those things.

If happiness is a talent, then some are more gifted at it than others, and I believe this to be true. Some just excel at it. I had to practice, because I have a melancholy streak that rises periodically--but as the years have passed, learning to focus on each day's blessings has helped keep maloncholy at bay. No matter what, these days I know with certainty every day will have good things happening in it. No matter what.

I plan to pratice happiness, and keep getting better at it on a daily basis.

This old woman I talked to is fading now, but she is retaining the central essence of her personality, I believe, through long practice. She is happy. She is kind. She is loved.