R U Happy?

Happiness can be elusive. Is it an emotion or a feeling? Opinions vary.

In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” That’s a good start, at least in terms of defining what happiness is.

I was talking with a longtime friend yesterday about happiness, and its opposites. I mentioned to him that I thought the key to successfully staying in whatever game happen to be playing, is “managing your down periods.”

I no longer work a 9 to 5 job. As a freelancer, I often work 5:30 (or earlier) in the morning until 7:00 at night. Other days, I might go for a morning run or swim and not start my “official” work day until later. Then, I’ll fill-in with bursts of “work” activity often ending after dinner. I work weekends and I don’t have paid vacations.

Yesterday, I had meeting notes from the previous week’s work in Franklin County to pull together and distribute to my respective groups. I was working at 4:30 am banging away on my laptop. Then, I had to shift gears around 9:00 to get some things out related to my freelance writing. Then, I had a scheduled call to make at 10:00. After that I hammered away until just after noon. Then I fixed myself lunch while reading, gathered my umpire’s gear, and headed out for a 90 minute drive to do a solo umpiring gig in Fryeburg.

Time on the road provides opportunities to think.

When I was younger, happiness was something that was out in the future, dependent on outside circumstances or acquisitions. As I’ve lived my life, I’ve discovered that happiness is actually intrinsic. It is dependent on your own state, not the state of others. I’m pretty sure that the amount of money you make doesn’t matter much, either. If it did, then rich people would always be happy and the poor wouldn’t. I know this isn’t true.

I hear the word “luck” being tossed around, as in “you’re lucky because (fill-in the blank).” Often, I could flip that definitive with my own “you’re lucky because__________” statement. I don’t put much stock in luck—I never buy lottery tickets.

All of us have opportunities and challenges. My circumstances aren’t unique, and yours likely aren’t, either. “How are you managing your life?” might be the more important question to be asking.

I mentioned umpiring earlier, and I wrote a blog post about getting back into it. It would be easy to whine about having to in essence, pick up a part-time job to keep myself in the freelance game and writing for part of my living.

I pulled my left hamstring (I think) on Monday, and yesterday, I was really stiff.  I was feeling a little sorry for myself about having to umpire Thursday’s game.

Getting dressed out of my trunk, the mosquitoes were enjoying chewing on my exposed skin and swarming around my head. I was being eaten alive. Finally dressed, I walked onto the field and was told by the home coach that I was 30 minutes early, as the game had been moved from 3:30 to 4:00. The visiting team still hadn’t arrived and I was doing the game by myself, meaning I had no partner back-up for 7 innings. I wasn’t very happy at that moment.

In the past, this would have affected my ability to do the job I was being paid to perform. Instead, I walked back to my car, removed my jersey and chest protector and sat inside my car with my windows up. “This sucks” I thought. Then I realized I needed to give myself a little personal pep talk.

Back on the field at 3:50, I had my pregame with both coaches and then went out and umpired my best game of the spring. Walking off the field, I was sweaty, sore, but I felt really good about what I had just done for the past two hours.

Was I happy? Maybe—more important, I was satisfied that I had done my best, learned a couple of new things, and my 90 minute drive back home was a pleasant one. I knew I’d return home for some pizza, a nice salad, and I’d get to have a beer with my better half and we’d debrief about the events of the day.

Just thinking about that makes me happy.

6 thoughts on “R U Happy?

  1. You’re amazing. I don’t know how you manage to keep all the different balls in the air, but I guess you do. Would love to have you talk to my kids in the fall about some of your writing.

    • I’m not sure about “amazing,” Rhonda, but thanks.

      I’d welcome the opportunity to talk about story and narrative nonfiction with your budding writers in the fall. I’ll be in touch.

  2. Take a look at the tags for your post. They say a lot about how you define happiness.

  3. @Sally You are way too kind and generous. I thank you for such a nice compliment and am glad to count you as a friend

    @LP I just did and it’s very interesting. Writing and Miss Mary (Baumer) are definitely part of my happiness equation. And as challenging as freelance work can be, especially keeping work in the pipeline, I don’t ever see myself capable of sitting at a desk for 40+ hours a week, working for people I don’t respect.

    • I agree….noone wants to work for people like that…what is especially difficult in the workplace is people “who don’t respect you.” And I think in this age of technology where we are looking more at a screen than listening to a person/ hearing their story and/or looking into their face in order to see the many shades of expression of who “they” are. People are not machines with remote controls after all, they are still flesh and blood with a heart, a soul and most of all their own unique spirit. I wonder sometimes if there is still a realization of that….or do we just all become robots…to survive.

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