When I was younger, I was a voracious reader. I was one of those children that would pick up and book and would not be able to put it down until I had finished it. In this day and age, if I start a book, I’m still like that. I can’t put it down. I don’t check my phone, I won’t answer messages, I don’t want to talk. I just want to read. I’ve entered a new universe – and that’s it. Don’t disturb me.
So this is why I can’t read anymore.
If you’re a reader – you’re lost to the world. However, for the people around you, it’s not much fun. Children, for example. They still need to be fed. They need someone to talk to. (In fairness, that’s why I had two children). Partners – they want to ‘share’ experiences with you. Hard to do that, when someone is lost in a world of their own.
I don’t just like stories though, sometimes I like to read and be inspired by quotes and insightful soundbites from wise people who just add a different perspective to life. These soundbites are everywhere you go. You see them on billboards. There’s art work and wall hangings dedicated to them. People share them on social media all the time. You can google ‘famous inspirational quotes’ and within a nanosecond, you’ll be bombarded with an infinite number of images. Some will resonate with you – some you take with a pinch of salt, I love seeing who said the soundbite in the first place – makes me wonder about their journey in life.
One of the messages that I keep noticing is related to living in the moment. I suppose millions and millions of people around the world may be healthier than humans have ever been before, many have more money and wealth, more educated, better looking, more access to technology, in touch with more and more people. But we aren’t happy. People just don’t seem to be happy.
These soundbites that I read, remind me that happiness isn’t a goal. It’s a choice. To be happy, you have to live in the moment. Be present. So here’s an example – when you’re single, you want to be with someone – straight or gay, I don’t care, but you want to find a partner. And then you do. Yay! You’re happy for a bit, then you might be thinking, well, I’ll be happy when we get married. And you do. So, you’re happy for a bit. Your next step might me children, or a bigger house/apartment, a better job, more money, more holidays, private schools – and you think to yourself – when I reach that goal – I’ll be happy.
Happiness is therefore a pursuit, instead of a state to mind. (I said that! You can attribute that soundbite to me! Thank you!)
When I was teaching Year 6, one of our RE topics was Buddhism. I had to do some research before teaching the children to ensure that I understood what I was going to be discussing. What I found out, blew my mind, and I still think about the teachings years later, they stayed with me. One of the teachings that blew my mind at the time, was how people and ‘things’ cannot make you happy. They do not have the power to do that. It’s unfair to put that pressure and expectation on a person to make you happy. Possessing objects can’t make you happy, and if it does – that happiness is temporary. I reflected on this long and hard. I thought about the number of times I had gone shopping alone, or with friends. How I’d see a new handbag, or shoes, or make up, or jewellery – and I knew, that if I bought those things – I’d be so incredibly happy. I was. Only for a short while. I was. But then, that rush disappeared. And like an addict, I’d need to feel that sensation of joy again, which made me purchase more things. Honestly, that research that I did, made me more mindful as a shopper. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no ascetic monk who had no interest in material possessions. I like nice things. But what’s different is that I know that these nice things are not related to my mental well-being.
This year, as some of you know, my youngest daughter had her tonsils removed. We didn’t know how long her recovery would take, and there were other expenses that took place as well. Normally, we always go away for a break in the summer – we’ve never been abroad with the children, but our stay-cations have always been fun. We didn’t do that this summer….Have we been unhappy? No! In fact, I’ve had one of the loveliest summer holidays ever. Yes, we didn’t go away, but we’ve been on day trips. Even on the days that we haven’t done a blessed thing – we’ve spent the days together, talking, joking, sharing things together, having fun. Being present. Being present! Being present!
One of the other soundbites that I’m noticing more and more as I look around, is the need to practise the art of being grateful. You cannot be happy – long term I mean, if you do not reflect upon and grateful for, what you have already. There may be times when you feel that you have nothing to be grateful for, perhaps things have gone wrong, or people have let you down (remember, they can’t – they don’t have that power) – then be grateful for the fact that you have food, shelter, clean, running water.
I’ve read so many times – ‘Remember, your bad day, is somebody else’s dream life!’ How often do we think about whether this is true?
I’m not saying that I have any solutions, or am the font of knowledge about anything. All I know is that in order to be happy in the long run – you have to practise it. You have to submerge yourself in what’s around you and be in that moment. You cannot compare what everyone else is doing, with what you’re doing, their journey is different to yours. And be grateful. Find things daily to be grateful for. Life is beautiful – if you want it to be. Enjoy every moment.