Years ago, on a total whim, I bought a sign (which looks as if it is old and part of a train). The sign says “Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of life”. It’s a pretty mainstream saying now, but at that time it looked like a new philosophy to me. Because the sign is large, and it was/ is in my kitchen, I was/am forced to look at it every day. This is a good thing.
A daily reminder that being happy is a state, not an achievement. I am happier now than I have ever been, and this has been a process. A journey. An unravelling. The sign has been part of it.
When I was a teenager I had anorexia. I thought that being thin equated to being beautiful and being beautiful would make me socially popular and that having lots of friends would make me happy. I strove for perfection, I had in mind a trajectory for my life which included a successful career and a neat spacious house and some very clever children. I became more and more conservative in my thinking , joined the public service, rose up through the ranks, met a wonderful husband, bought and sold real estate , watched our children succeed in many ways, was invited on boards and led a hectic social life. Was I happy? I don’t think I even thought about it, I was on a mission to prove a point.
Like most women, I eventually reached the glass ceiling in my career, reinventing myself in a few ways and changing directions. I felt awful- the map for myself as a CEO of some small charitable organisation became totally unreachable. Eventually, after persuading a few dubious managers, I went back to direct client service, dropped $50,000 in salary, and started to feel much better.
The world then came crashing in on me in a lot of ways- healthwise. I required several major surgeries, I was made redundant, my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, we had two big fires on the farm, and then a flood followed by severe drought. And yet I continued to be happier and happier. Content. Needing and wanting less, expecting less.
My position now is that I have been unemployed for six years, receive no formal income, still have a sizeable mortgage, and am blissfully happy. In this series of articles I will attempt to explain how this state of contentment has encroached into my psyche and soul. How it has been surprisingly rewarding in ways I would never have expected. And how I have truly experienced miracles – daily.
The things I have discovered that give me the most joy are grandchildren, growing our own food, being close to animals and the simple things like sunshine, new lambs, watching lambs playing at sunset, eggs hatching and lots of laughter. When you think yourself lucky – you are.