What Makes YOU Happy?

happy-stick-girlThis question, “What makes you happy?” is so simple, but who ever stops to consider it? I hope you will, as I have been doing the last couple of days. It could change your life.

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.


Linda said...

How nice to read all this, and I'm happy for you, happy you've found refreshment and new excitement in writing! Looking forward to more info from you on what's in your future. I wish you the very best

Karen Walker said...

Hi Sharon,
Sounds like a wonderful "real" vacation. We've been so some of those places and would love to hear details about your trip. I like this kind of exercise because it really does help re-focus where the priorities need to be. Take care.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thanks for your thoughts Linda. I will have more to say in a few days.

Karen, I thought of you in Rome and Naples. I hope the exercise helps as you reconsider priorities and focus.

lourdes herold said...

I am glad you are back writing and well rested from your trip. Hope to see you at the monroeville writers group in the near future. Lulu

wangiwriter said...

That's great. Sometimes you just have to take a complete break, then come back refreshed and eager to go on with what you took a break from. :-)

Sharon Lippincott said...

Lourdes and Wangi, I recently heard or read that sometimes you have to get completely lost to find your way. Ah so. Thanks for your thoughts.

marian beaman said...

What makes me happy? Moving items from the To Do to the Did column. Along with my siblings I have tried to find a permanent home for my aunt's pet schnauzer, then sort, box, and remove the contents of Mother's house, and finally set up a Special Needs Trust for my brother Mark. Some of these items took more than a year to accomplish. I felt like the distraught Bartholomew Cubbins with more than 500 hats to remove. But it all came together last week. Blog post material!

I need to get crackin' on my first memoir draft. But first I need a month like you describe. We've visited many of your trip highlights but Ephesus in Turkey caught my eye featured on Rick Steves' Travels in Europe yesterday. Great question, Sharon.

Joan Z. Rough said...

Sounds like a magnificent trip. I truly believe in taking breaks for as long as you can and as often as possible. Burn out is not a pleasant place to be. When our life juice is wanting, it's time for a refill. There is nothing better than travel!

Sherrey said...

So glad to see you writing on the blog again and with an inkling of more to come! Your trip sounds wonderful, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. A break like yours is good for the soul and the muse!

ShirleyHS said...

I tried to leave a "welcome back" comment yesterday, but I don't see it here. Testing to see if my Google connection works after IPhone upgrade last week.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Marian, happiness radiates from your list and fits with my "doing any job well" item, although I freely admit that sometimes relief at being finally finished at all may overwhelm happy feelings at times. Thank you for being specific and giving all of us more food for thought.

Joan, sounds like travel makes you happy too. Might we run into each other somewhere sometime?

Sherrey and Shirley, thanks for the welcome thoughts.

SuziCate said...

Good for you. Stepping away always refreshes and centers me. I like your list...definitely things that promote happiness.

kathleen pooler said...

Welcome back, Sharon! So happy the trip offered you refreshment and renewal. It's a great reminder to take time off and allow "digital detox". It's great to have you back. Love the list and look forward to hearing more from you.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Thank you SuziCate and Kathy. Responses to this post are so encouraging and definitely underscore my item about being connected to the global writing community. We are global indeed, stretching from England to Australia and South Africa. Traveling by Skype and Kindle is much simpler and less expensive than taking to sky or sea.