Big car. Big House. Perfect Spouse. Magazine worthy living room. Boat. Dog. Six-pack. Five-star hotel vacations. Society tells us a lot about what supposedly will make us happy. Just simply acquire all of these things, In reality, this version of 'the dream' is accessible to very few people. This type of lifestyle inevitably leads many people to make absolutely baffling financial decisions, and land themselves in a lot of debt, with heaps and heaps of things that they don't need, which in turn, help to make them miserable.
The happy silver lining?
You shouldn't strive for it anyway.
But wait, you say. What if the car-house-spouse-boat-dog-BoraBora is really what I want?
Power to you, wonderfolk! If it really is what you want. This lifestyle isn't necessarily bad (although I'm personally inclined to think it is, especially if everyone attempts to strive for this two-car household way of life. It's purely unsustainable).
But what if it's not what you want, and you don't even know it? It's hard to tell sometimes when we're constantly bombarded with advertising and media, showing us all the joy we will have, if only we buy this beautiful mid-century inspired furniture. If only we drive a brand new model Volvo. If only we get the iPhone. It's not just TV, though.
Even blogs are guilty. Hell, blogs and bloggers are especially guilty. We curate images which show just the corner of a life— the tidy corner, with the branded desktop. The most perfect cupcake of a batch, shot with a rustic wooden backdrop and vintage cupcake tin. We don't often see all of the mess, the apartment we live in that isn't decorated, and has nothing on the walls. The desk covered in paint, written on papers, tea cups, tissues and notebooks (guuuuuuilty).
These lives are made to seem highly attractive. And I'm certainly not immune— nor do I not participate. I'm just as guilty as everyone else for using the corner of my desk without half a foot of crap on it to take photos.
What I'm getting at here, is that finding out what truly brings you joy is a conscious effort. It takes time to shake of the expectations of society, and to decide that actually camping makes you happy. Actually biking to get groceries on a beautiful sunny fall day makes you happy. I'm finding out what makes me truly happy, and it's a journey, not a destination.
Okay, get to it, girl.
Last September, I was inspired by Kathleen Dean Moore, who briefly mentioned making this "happiness jar" to determine which activities in her life were really the ones causing the most happiness. So I began to do the same. I began to write down each thing that made me feel both that ecstatic, warm, joyous feeling, and the calm, steady, quieter happiness as well. Each one I wrote on a small piece of paper, folded and put it into the jar. I didn't look at any one again, and I did my best to forget about what was written on them.
Yesterday, I pulled them all out to consider what the year had brought me, and to see if the things I thought made me the happiest, the things I was striving for, were really the things that did it.
I had a hypothesis: Perhaps I will find that what makes me happiest are simple things, things that don't cost a lot of money.
Bang on. I'll share some of them with you now.
- "Writing, and thinking of become a published author. February 2nd, 2015."
- "Sitting down to eat dinner with Adam. Calm. Knitting a hat. Thinking of my future possibilities. January 5th, 2015."
- "Thinking about the harvest time. September, 25th, 2014."
- "Breathing the air outside— so fresh and beautiful. Being in the park. Knitting. May 14th, 2015."
- "A nice breakfast. Making tea. Having time to read fiction. November 23rd, 2014."
- "Having a productive day. October 17th, 2014."
- "Happy— and scared. Thinking about asking Adam to marry me. October 2nd, 2014."
I was equal parts surprised, and satisfied. The things that came up again and again were simple, and lovely. Writing, reading. Sitting down to enjoy meals slowly. Being outside, and enjoying the lovely aspects of each season. Spending time with Adam. The things I worried about, and a lot of the things I was striving for at the time never made it there for one moment. I never wrote down "Big paycheck." "Yarn haul." "Bought more books." "Bought a dress." None of these things came close. The things that made me so happy I was driven to write them down on little scraps of paper, and put them in the jar, were beautifully, perfectly simple.
What I didn't expect? That I would want to keep doing it. That I would want to continue to store away reminders, and to see how I change and grow, and if those things that bring me joy stay constant from month to month, and year to year.
I challenge you to do the same, Muses! For ONE MONTH, write down all of the things on a small scrap of folded paper (with the date) that make you happy. Heart pounding, big grin, dance in your living room, deep breath of glee, HAPPY. Don't look in the jar. Try not to think to hard about it.
Journal about your expectations. What do you currently think makes you happy? What are your goals and dreams? What do you think the outcome will be like?
In one month, dump out your Happiness Jar, and review it's folded contents. Surprised? Get that journal out again and write about what you've found. Was it what you expected? Which themes came up again and again? How can you bring more of this into your life?
Alternatively, although much less 'positive', you could include those things in a separate jar which cause you frustration in fury. Compare them with those things which bring you joy, and consider how you can begin to eliminate them from your life.
So, my brilliant muses,
I CHALLENGE YOU.
Comment below if you're going to take The Happiness Jar Challenge in the coming month. Challenge others. Pass on the joy! Oh, and the image above? Pin it! Print it out! Post it on your blog! Share it with everyone.