I found this question in the draft of a book I’m beta-reading for a friend. The book will soon be published, and you’ll learn more about it before long. Meanwhile, although answers to this happiness question could easily fill a book, my initial list has helped me find a focus to reboot this blog.
Let’s take a look at my list. In addition to obvious things like laughing with family and friends, blowing dandelion fluff, piles of freshly washed and folded clothing, having someone else fix my breakfast and that sort of thing, I listed
- meaningful connection with people who share my interests and values
- discovering something wonderful
- sharing wonderful discoveries with those who will appreciate them
- the satisfaction of polishing a piece of writing – or doing any job well
- reading masterful writing
- playfulness in writing and life
- writing true to myself and my voice
No real surprise here. Involvement in the global writing community makes ME happy! For over sixteen years I’ve been studying and practicing different aspects of life writing and sharing what I’ve learned with others in classes, writing groups and privately. I love that!
But as with other things, it’s easy to go along with the crowd, to be swept up in trends, to keep telling people what you think they want to hear. It’s easy to stick with the same old same old, the tried and true, to say and write what others are saying and writing.
That’s a recipe for burnout.
Recognizing that I was drifting into serious burnout with writing and teaching, I’ve taken an extended break. For a month I didn’t even write email. My husband and I flew to Rome for a few days before boarding the Celebrity Silhouette cruise ship to loop around the Mediterranean for two weeks. We visited Malta, the Greek island of Kephalos, Ashdod (nearest port to Jerusalem), Haifa, Ephesus in Turkey, Athens, Sicily and Naples before returning to Rome. We stayed on the ship for two more weeks, visiting Toulon in Provence, the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona and Tenerife in the Canary Islands before heading across the Atlantic to Ft. Lauderdale.
We had a great time with without email and Internet for a month, opting for digital detox. I took this one step further and wrote nothing other than a few trip notes. I did read. Between constant Trivia games I read mysteries and memoir and most of a book about writing. But I didn’t write.
By the end of the month I felt alone in a crowd of 3500 people. I met dozens of interesting people, but no writers. Nobody I met gave a hoot about writing, and few even read. Only one was more than marginally digitally literate. I felt like I was on the wrong planet.
Compiling that list of things that make me happy has brought me home to my keyboard, refreshed and ready to write. In playful new ways. With new focus. I’ll fill you in more on that focus in future posts.
Write now: pull out a piece of paper – the back of an envelope or piece of junk mail will do. Make a list of things that make YOU happy. Aim for 100. Hang onto this list. We’ll work with it more later. When you finish, pick one simple thing from the list and do it. Then do a quick Happy Dance.