1. TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I learned about (not) happy. Who knows exactly why, perhaps the changing of the seasons here has tweaked something and allowed a full expression of emotion for all that has transpired over the past several months.
A series of deep, often darkly funny conversations revealed, again, the nuance that I don’t strive for happiness but health.
My eldest son recently (just pre-Covid) lost a friend — He told me that that was the moment he understood that life wasn’t about happiness. In fact, much of life is, well, “neutral” with moments of really bad and really good on either side. (His words)
Around his age, my step-mom was the first person to express that idea to me — she’s a Jungian analyst and wise — and I balked. What? Not happy — Funnily enough, my 20-something all-black-wearing, dark French film loving 80’s self couldn’t bear the idea that life wasn’t ultimately about being happy.
I can' say that the one thing over the years that has made me most contented, most emotionally healthy, was letting go of the false dream of being happy.
Letting go of chasing happiness in order to experience the full range of emotions life has to offer seems counter intuitive but it’s so important.
Here’s to the full cup of life, without the rainbow sprinkles.
This week, during the conversation with my son actually, I remembered that I had a large poster with the above quote on my bedroom wall when I was young.
I also had that cat, paws over a gymnastics bar, hanging for dear life with “Hang in There, Baby” in big letters.
What comes up for you when challenged to let go of happiness? Resistance? Relief? Try writing on happiness with starters such as
Consider happiness this week. Try sitting still for a few minutes at least once. Lie or sit (or honestly, any comfortable position) breathe in deep for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 8. Do at least 3 deep, belly breaths like that until you feel your body let go just a bit, your breathing slow, your heart rate slow a bit.
As thoughts come up (or in, ultimately through) acknowledge them and watch them go Just watch them. Watch them like you might watch a movie, or clouds floating by in the sky.
This is just something to consider afterward: Perhaps happiness (or contentedness) is partially about letting go? A bit of negative white space?
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Which, come on, we do all actually want, right?
The deep thought this week is simply that by giving up a pursuit of happiness as a goal and opening up to a wider range of emotions, weirdly, happy ones (contentment, pleasure, joy, meaning, etc) are more plentiful.
Rainbow sprinkles on *all* your cupcakes!
9. Hero: Francis Su — Mathmetician
Why? He got a standing ovation at the Joint Mathematics Meetings of the MAA and the American Mathematical Society for a talk called “Mathematics for Human Flourishing.”
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
Wild and Precious Podcast, the audio partner to 10 Things, is available everywhere you download podcasts. Not Happy episode Thursday.