Happiness is an accomplishment.
You know, those little tags attached to tea bags that similar to fortune cookies, have clever, inspiring messages on them? Some I relate to more than others, but this one really resonated with me as I made my cup of tea this afternoon. I’ll set the stage a little bit here for context: I had just gotten home from watching a Xavier Basketball game with a couple friends (XU did not win, but I will put my feelings on that aside for the sake of this blog post). I heated the water, picked out my mug - this is of course the most important step - and opened the tea pouch to read what my little message would be for the day. It read, “Happiness is an accomplishment”. This message made me pause. I have never once thought about happiness in such a fashion. Happiness seems to be the baseline expectation these days. Between social media and our ability to showcase our “best selves” constantly, all we see is others being happy all the time. So naturally, we do the same with what we then pick and choose to share back with the world. We always want to be our “best self”. But how often is that not really the reality we are experiencing? For me, some days happiness is easy, the good feels are flowing and I'm crushing it. Other days, happiness can seem like this unattainable goal that everyone else is achieving and I can’t seem to quite reach it. I’m not always able to pinpoint exactly what makes some days happy and other days not so much but social media and other external influences are constantly telling us that happiness looks a certain way and we have to meet that expectation all the time. If we don't, then we aren't measuring up. Friends, that simply is just not true; happiness is not one size fits all.
Going back to this afternoon, I make myself a cup of tea and think about why this idea of happiness as an accomplishment struck a chord. Today, in that moment I realized, I felt incredibly happy. What’s striking for me about this, is that I don’t typically spend my Saturdays this way. For the past ~2 years, I have spent much of my Saturday’s in solitude. This started almost exactly 2 years ago actually when I listened to a podcast on Sabbath and it completely flipped my outlook on life upside down. The idea of not crashing after a long week of work desperate for rest, but instead working from rest was a concept I had never considered or thought plausible. So over the last 2 years, every Saturday I would not make any plans to see people in order to “rest” and spend time reading, journaling, internally working through my problems etc. In theory, sure sounds great. Looking back, my idea of what rest should look like never left me feeling fully rested. It was actually completely exhausting. As an extravert, alone time in large amounts is difficult and sucks the energy completely out of me. I find rest and rejuvenation in quality time with other people. So, my understanding of how I was going to achieve this blissful, restful state was to suck it up and learn to be alone. Now don't get me wrong, alone time can be a really good thing (you introverts out there geek out on this stuff) but it looks different for everyone and is important to understand for yourself what is a healthy amount and what things are truly restful for you personally. This practice I had put in place was not a healthy balance and wasn't working for me.
Quick tangent here: The saying, “the lone wolf dies” is not just a figure of speech, it’s 100% on point. Like wolves, who live in packs for a reason and generally do not survive alone, humans also need other humans. Our minds, emotions and physical bodies die significantly faster without the connection and interaction of other human beings. Hugs are proven to boost our health and make us happier, laughing is linked to increased longevity and happiness (I mean, who really laughs that much alone without feeling a little weird?). All of that to say, we are not meant to be alone. We need our wolf pack! I bring all of this up, not to belabor how we are similar to wolves and shouldn’t be alone (although this is a hill I stand on to defend), but because I’m having a moment of reflection on what my own thoughts, actions and learnings have been on my attempts at achieving happiness. Forcing myself to be alone every Saturday determined to find more of my inner self really did not bring me closer to experiencing happiness in those moments BUT I learned a lot on what healthy rest and happiness looks like for me.
Back to today: after doing something totally different than what I typically do on Saturdays for the last 2 years – I slept in (and by that I mean like 7:30am), went to a cycling class with one of my best friends, stopped at a local bakery to pick up some coffee and fresh baked bread on the way home (shoutout to Breadsmith), actually got ready (we all know this is a big deal these days) then headed to a local brewery to watch XU play UCONN and enjoy great food, beer and time with great friends. After coming home and reading this message from my Yogi Tea, happiness is an accomplishment, I smiled and thought to myself, “wow, I have done this, I have achieved something today and that is happiness”.
I don’t regret the Saturday’s I spent working on being alone. I learned a lot and being okay with being alone really is something I have long time struggled with and in these past 2 years I have grown immensely. Ultimately, I think that time not only made me stronger, but now allows me to truly appreciate the time I get to spend doing things I enjoy with my wolf pack OR alone if I so choose. It has shown me that being a busybody isn't something to always be proud of. It has shown me there is power in the quiet but there is also rest in the loud and crazy. Happiness is an achievement and I can be proud that I am happy.
Happiness can also be tricky. Not sure if there is anyone else out there that struggles with doing things for yourself or things that make you happy, but I'll admit I certainly do. Why is that? Why are we not able to believe that doing something just for ourselves and no other reason is okay? That spending a day without with being "productive" in society's eyes is actually okay? It should be encouraged and celebrated, not leave us feeling guilty and unproductive. If I am not able to be truly happy with just myself, how can I be that with anyone else? How can I be happy for anyone else? I have a dear friend who is going through a Self-Love journey right now and it’s truly inspiring. She talks specifically about this in one of her podcast episodes that if we can’t love ourselves, how will it be possible to 1) truly have love for other people and 2) receive love from other people. Self-love is a constant journey, but my hope is that I can start to see these small, yet significant moments like today in reflection over a cup of tea, as wins in self love and a step closing to finding my happy.
So friends, if you don’t feel like you have accomplished anything today, I hope you can find something that makes you happy and DO IT. Because happiness is an accomplishment, and we all deserve it.