that happy

If you had told me a year ago that I would soon fall for a short, bald, portly man who felt like sunshine, I would have called you crazy. But fall I did… for a man I refer to here as Lee.

Even before we’d met, I sketched out a vision of what I wanted, in terms of lifestyle and a mate:

  • Regular travel — especially opportunities to adventure, ski or escape the cold midwestern winters.
  • Good food. A prospective mate must love sushi. And wine. And my cooking.
  • Some toys… I’d love a boat, enjoy biking, paddle boarding and more.
  • Experiences with someone who enjoys live music, theater, cooking and says “yes” to fun of all kinds.
  • A partner whose income as, at minimum, equal to mine. (I’ve had to support a man before. I did not enjoy it.)
  • And, looking ahead, I want his children to be at least as old as mine… because when mine are off to college, the heavens open up, the hallelujah chorus plays and even more travel and fun can begin for us as my / our children are off chasing their own dreams!

I never imagined I’d find all these things, even if in a package I didn’t expect — or, at first, appreciate. But he was persistent, kind, generous and thoughtful, not to mention intelligent and a ton of fun! He said yes to me, up until it was a no.

And, now, if you asked me what I want in life, I’d simply refer back to the time Lee and I spent together and say, “I want to feel that happy.” I honestly can’t imagine feeling more happy, content and fulfilled. Lee dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s; we seemed like a near perfect fit.

If it sounds like I’m crediting a man for all my happiness, that’s simply not true. I am a happy person because I’ve shaped my life and psyche to cultivate and nurture my own happiness. But there’s something to be said for finding someone with whom to share it all…

I’ve had to work extremely hard to get past the hurt, grief, anger and disappointment of the loss of said relationship. I’m finally moving on, meeting new men and allowing myself to have fun on dates.

So far, there have been no Lees…but I’ll know I’ve met someone special when I feel that happy.

the pinnacle of happiness

In the past few years, there have been books, articles and studies appearing nearly everywhere you look about happiness. There’s even an app for that — more likely several. The elusive state of happiness has become an industry unto itself. And even more recently, the enlightened self-help literature appears to be pointing toward finding meaning as a greater predictor of life satisfaction than chasing happiness.

What does this tell us? People are so disconnected from meaning, contentment, fulfillment that it’s become an industry to study and try to find it.

However you define that feeling of fulfillment or synchronicity, those transcendent moments when you feel complete, whole, your cup overflowing, I feel blessed to say I’ve experienced many such moments in my four and a half decades alive. Several have been in nature, such as that sensation at the top of a ski slope in the mountains on a clear day when it feels as though I’m more taking off in flight than skiing — or that first time I caught a wave, or reached a summit. Sometimes it’s the endorphins of exercise that do it. Meditation. Orgasm. And certainly select moments of parenting / relating to my children. Sometimes, being in love.

I think that feeling may have been what caused Lee to blurt out a grossly pre-mature “I love you” on our last night together in paradise.

And I certainly felt that way one Sunday when I promised to take my youngest child sledding. Lee and I had brunch plans with friends, but I promised we’d go sledding after. Mind you, I’d let Lee know he was welcome, but I didn’t exactly expect he’d want to join us. Unbeknownst to me, he’d packed snow pants and boots for that very reason.

It was sunny and warm for a winter day, and even my eldest wanted to join us. The four of us loaded Lee’s car with sleds and drove to the hill. We hiked up, jockeyed momentarily to claim a favorite sled and rode down, shrieking and laughing…then again and again.

There was a moment at the top of the hill after a few runs when Lee and I looked at one another and smiled — and I felt that whole, connected, fulfilled sensation, happiness radiating in every direction — I felt both grounded and soaring, expansive, my heart overflowing with gratitude. The sun was shining, my lungs were full of fresh air, my pulse was strong and — for maybe the first time ever — I felt a strong sense that my dream of finding a genuine partner who was not only a match for me, but also fit into my family seamlessly, was a real possibility… that maybe I would be able to provide for my children the healthy, loving example of partnership I wanted for more than just myself. It was, for me, the pinnacle of happiness and contentment.

After another run, Lee and I walked arm in arm up the hill. “You’re my kind of guy,” I told him. I could see he was as happy as I was. I thought perhaps I’d truly met a kindred soul.

We ended our outing with hot chocolates from the coffee shop, and I later teased Lee about bribing my children. “Shhh,” he said conspiratorially, “It appears to be working.”

And that’s how we were together — fun-loving, playful — and, somehow it seemed, better together than apart. With Lee, I felt like a priority:  secure, at ease and natural. Even in the dark depths of winter, it seemed as though the sun was nearly always shining.

It was still too early in our relationship to know whether we might have a future, but I was happier than I could remember  being in a long time… maybe happier than I’d ever been in a relationship.

feeling blessed

I have long known the power of gratitude, and I genuinely try to be a practitioner of gratitude consciousness, remaining ever aware of my blessings. This is difficult to do when one’s primary relationship is toxic and while going through a divorce, so there were several years during which I struggled mightily to maintain a positive outlook.

I can honestly say that I’m mostly there now…feeling happy and blessed is my normal state of mind. Further, I believe I’m experiencing the results of this energy; things I’ve wanted to manifest for some time are practically hurtling toward me.

Take, for example, my home:  I’ve had contractors for two separate household projects either begin work or call to move up the start date of their respective projects. How perfect that I’ve just had a long weekend with a free day to drive around shopping for paint colors, tile, knobs and fixtures until I was positively exhausted! How cool to have finally found a combination of elements that inspired me and I believe will come together perfectly!

The other day, one of my children proclaimed me “awesome” and went on to enumerate the reasons I’m a great mother. It warmed my heart!

Another example is all the friends, neighbors and even complete strangers who’ve offered to set me up on dates. A wonderful married couple in my neighborhood are conspiring to have a backyard party where I will be in the company of a single man they think might be a match — at the very least we have a few things in common. And the woman who helped me at a tile shop the other day asked me if I’d like to meet her brother-in-law. Yes.

Finally, I was reading a book about financial abundance (money) that suggested writing down everything incoming each day, regardless of the source. (Obviously, this is meant for entrepreneurs, not folks like me who receive a salary.) Still, I added up my salary, bonus and even the support I receive for my children and realized that the number I’d given myself as an annual target a couple of years ago has already been surpassed. I finally feel as though I’ve recovered (financially) from my divorce and can really focus on planning for my and my family’s future. It’s time to set a new goal and open myself to other ways of receiving!

Getting to spend two days on the lake — getting sunshine, exercise and a chance to catch up with girlfriends — over this long holiday weekend was the icing on the cake. As a dear friend often says, “to the bounty!”

Cheers…to the bounty, indeed!

so…what’s changed?

When I think about where I was just over a year ago, I marvel at the transformation that’s taken place!

Then, I was beginning a new romance on the shaky legs of a newborn colt. I so needed to be liked, to be loved… It was a beautiful, healthy relationship that fed a hunger inside me in all the ways that I needed. I am so eternally grateful for that!

Now, I have more confidence, acceptance and contentedness than ever. I’m not looking for anything — I mean, except for that physical itch to be scratched. And I’m pretty okay with that.

In fact, I’m feeling a sort of holistic peace settle over all aspects of my life. Yes, I work my ass off! Yes, I run around trying to balance that with the parenting, housekeeping and social life. Yes, I wish I had more time for me — to exercise, read, write, play… But I love what I do, I feel challenged all the time, I find time to ride my motorcycle, socialize with friends and do some of the things I enjoy. My life is far from perfect — far from ideal, even — and, yet, I am more content than ever.

So this is how happiness feels!

a little glimpse into the mind of me

As if those of you who follow or find me here don’t get enough drivel, I thought I’d share a story about how I managed to welcome into my yard one of my favorite things…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves; this story begins with a watch:

I got one of those emails, you know the ones, where they send you the fabulous shopping deal once a day and you have to pounce immediately or someone’s already bought the designer handbag calling your name…in any case, among the fab finds for this particular day were watches.

The fact that my computer and my mobile phone and all manner of other devices seem to remind me of the time ad nauseam notwithstanding, something inside my head thought, “My, now this is a handsome watch! And on sale for just $245! Now this is for me! I would actually wear a watch if I had this one!”

I went so far as to share the link with a friend, with whom I happened to be on the phone, so that he could view, admire and share my appreciation of this fine specimen of Swiss engineering. He concurred that it was, indeed, a stellar timepiece.

And then, even as we talked, I realized: This watch is not going to make me happy, lovely accessory though it might be! I get enough of the time…it’s there on my computer screen, there on my phone. I am regularly reminded of the time already…too often, in fact! Do you know what would make me happy? A hammock! Now that — which at the time struck me as a fair opposite to a watch — will make me happy!

Moments later I was on another website, perusing styles and happily adding a hammock, stand and hardware to my shopping cart. Days later, my backyard was in bidness!

So you see, if you find me occasionally off on tangents or difficult to follow, just imagine what it’s like being inside this head! It can be whack, but it’s an awfully fun ride.

p.s. In case you were wondering, a hammock does equal happiness!

a few random things about me

I keep a gratitude journal, and find great value in noticing and reflecting on the blessings each of us knows in our lives. I genuinely believe that gratitude is among the most powerful emotions, and I’ve personally experienced profound changes in my life from practicing it.

I dance in my kitchen and sing along with the radio, iTunes or Pandora…despite the fact that I might as well be tone-deaf. I am a truly average singer, and I limit my karaoke episodes to bi-annual occasions and I choose either rap or The Tide is High by Blondie for the limited vocal range required.

When I’m having a really crabby day, I force myself to step out of my emotional stinginess by tipping better. It always helps to realize that there are others in society around me that contribute to my lifestyle, and I am able to be more generous and contribute to theirs. It doesn’t always make me feel better in the moment, but I like the idea of how this practice forces me to step outside of my own bad mood and give.

I like hats. All kinds of hats. But I only look good in some of them.

One of my dreams is to live in a custom-built modern home that may incorporate reclaimed shipping containers. What a cool concept! And I think modern can be incredibly warm and inviting.

I believe we create karma, and that we will attract the energy we put out into the universe.

I love reading fortunes from fortune cookies! And horoscopes. Fun! And I actually believe there can be some validity to the latter of these.

My longest committed relationship is with my hair stylist, with whom I’ve been for roughly 16.5 years.

I was a “Becky Homecky” in my youth:  I learned to bake, garden, sew and craft, participated in my county’s 4-H program and even won a trip or two to the State Fair for my efforts. Still, I have many friends who can out Martha me.

I am more religious about seeing my applied kinesiologist/chiropractor once a month than I am about anything else. He does this muscle testing stuff that allows him to have a dialogue with my body’s energy. I know, it sounds crazy…I always feel as though I’m saying something like, “I was abducted by a UFO…No, really! You’ve got to believe me!” But I always walk out feeling better.

I am a Libra, a romantic, a fool for love. I crush easily and hard. I am in love with being in love. Maybe even addicted to it.

I try to eat organic and local foods, recycle, compost and otherwise minimize my impact on the environment.

I’m a late bloomer. Many of the relationship lessons I’ve learned along the way and I’m writing about now are things I feel I should have learned earlier or known intuitively.

I’m a sucker for cheesy romantic pop songs, a la “Marry Me” by Train to actually good songs like “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. (I also like good music…usually alternative…often via the public radio station here.)

I miss traveling internationally. It’s been too long, and Italy, France and Thailand are calling! I’d prefer to immerse myself into the culture and learn through connecting to the natives than by engaging in the typical tourist experiences.

I was once told by a “seer” that my spiritual symbol is a frog. I sit and I sit and I sit…and then I leap. Right now, my legs are starting to twitch. Watch how far I go!

I’m a complete blabbermouth. If you tell me something is a secret, I will take it to my grave. If you don’t tell me it’s a secret, there’s a good likelihood that absolutely everyone knows. I also have little discretion and no filter. There, I said it.

I am equally comfortable in worn jeans at a dive bar and in a cocktail dress at the opera. I relish the great diversity of experiences life has to offer!

I believe commitment has its own rewards. I believe that working on a relationship and emerging stronger and more resilient after a difficult time will pay great dividends to those who persevere.

I don’t believe in saving things for a special occasion that will never come. Every day is special. (I do, however, keep a stash of activities for children that I can pull out on a rainy day.)

My cup is always at least half full and, often, overflowing! Happiness and optimism are conscious decisions and an outlook we can choose to adopt. I also believe these qualities can be taught or nurtured in our children.

My deepest desire is to find someone to share with — a companion, mate and co-conspirator! But I have a pretty damn rockin’ life independently, as well. Oh, and write. My other deepest desire is to write…which I’m doing…now, in fact. I’m writing right now.