Things We Suck Happiness From

Coffee addicts know that tea is no substitute for the ‘real thing.’ After six days without that rich, brown nectar of heaven, I know this for sure. I don’t know how much caffeine tea has in it, but not enough to stave off the headache and muscle ache of withdrawal.

Poor me. ūüėČ I’m sure going to enjoy my big cup of coffee tomorrow.

Last week I talked about how I’d given up TV for the majority of the month as a way to purge clutter from my life. This week, I added coffee to the list of banned things. When you start to equate a good cup of coffee with true happiness, it’s probably time.

It wasn’t long before I regretted it.

When I work day shift, every evening is¬†scheduled for an appointment, or spent frantically cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and trying to get my writing done. As a homebody, I don’t like these weeks. I just want to be at home in front of my laptop… with coffee. I was sick with a cold this week. I also had a lot on my mind–mostly stuff I can’t go into. While normally I can deal with the stressful schedule at work, this week I often developed shortness of breath and chest pain by the end of the day.

Normally I’d go home, sit in my easy chair with a cup of coffee and watch a few mindless YouTube videos. During the day, I sometimes hold out that chair and coffee mug like the proverbial carrot in front of the donkey. “Just a little farther, and then you can have it.” But this week I’d get home tired, sick and weepy and none of my ‘medication’ would be there.

I grew up thinking that people with real problems used alcohol and drugs to numb their pain. It’s become uncomfortably obvious that most people have their ways of self-medication, inane, ‘harmless’ things to make them feel better. It’s not bad to drink coffee, or watch TV, or drink a glass of wine. But many souls like me use these things like patches instead of facing the real issues.

Then, when we take away our crutches, we fall. We’re sad. A girl I know talked about how sad she was when she gave up sugar and sweets for the month. It was her birthday, and she couldn’t have cake, and she was depressed. You can also observe how upset people get when the weather is rainy in the summer, or frigid in the winter. Are we really basing our happiness on externals like that? Yes, that is the primary way humans attempt to bring happiness into their lives.

What is the alternative? I would posit two–with the caveat that I’m just trying to figure this out myself.

Chris Brady said, “To be happy, you’ve got to give happy.” That is to say that when we’re feeling low, we need to take our eyes off ourselves and bring happiness to others.

Second, we need a solid internal constitution, or foundation of principles to fall back on when our externals fail us. What is our anchor?

Personally, I need to learn to seek out Jesus as my friend, constant companion and life giver. There is no switch I can flip to learn that, but in the bleakness of the workweek, there were sweet moments when I paced back and forth in front of my coating pan or crashed in my comfy chair and prayed. Even if what I prayed was¬†pathetic things like “make me happy, pleaaase.” ūüôā

5 Fun Things Challenge: Day 3 Proof of Life

Hello Friends,

Three days I embarked on the ‘5 Fun Things’ challenge, a contest with myself to do a minimum of one thing every day–just for the heck of it. ¬†This is an attempt to lighten up, enjoy life, and rest more.

So, what have I done so far?

As much as I liked OutstandingBachelor’s idea to page myself at work without disguising my voice, I work in a factory and I was afraid the supervisor would give me the gears if I called “Geralyn to Geralyn” over the two-way radio. ¬†I can’t afford to get on her bad side right now. ūüôā

Instead…

Day 1: Friday

1. I drew ‘Crash Test Dougie’ in the dust on the encapsulator machine. ¬†Crash Test Dougie is a stick man with buckteeth and a big hat, whom I used to scrawl over my physics homework in high school. ¬†Instead of being filled in with dust, Dougie became more and more distinct as the day went on.

2. Canceled the supper menu, which was tomato soup (who eats tomato soup on Friday night?  Boring!) and made pizza instead.

3. Invented a Pumpkin Spice Latte Frappe/Protein Shake. ¬†It’s more intense than Starbucks and without the high-fructose corn syrup!

4. Watched three episodes of The Mentalist with my sister.

Day 2: Saturday

1. Rerouted my run through a park so I could look at the flowers.  I discovered ornamental cabbages.

2. Went to a fireworks show.  They shot the fireworks off to Disney tunes!

Day 3: Sunday

1. Shot guns with my brother.

2. Went on an ‘adventure run’. ¬†I ran through my parents’ acreage–terrain composed of knee high grass, wildflowers, and the occasional ‘cow pie.’

Not my usual stomping grounds.
Not my usual stomping grounds.

Am I accomplishing the point?

I’m learning to keep my eyes open for fun, and then seize the opportunity when it comes. ¬†I hope to make this a habit.

It reminds me of Jim Carey’s ‘Yes Man,’ where he says ‘yes’ to everything people ask him to do.

I’d ¬†say to myself, “Run through the park and look at the flowers.”

“No, I’m tired.”

(Weedling, now) “It’ll be fun.”

“Oh, okay.”

Or, Jon says, “Do you want to come shoot with me?”

(Internally) “But I have stuff to do!”

“Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.”

(Externally) “Oh, okay.”

I used to live by the philosophy that to refuse adventure was to impeach my courage and honour.  Maybe this challenge will restore some of my former spirit.  Two days to go.  Will you join me?

Happiness Ain’t on Friday

Can I just be happy where I am?

I doubt there’s one of us who doesn’t clock-watch from time to time. I hear it in the locker room at work: “four more hours” or “two more days until Friday.” And then “It’s Friday!” as if it were the second coming.

So Friday comes, and I wait to get off work. And then I have the long-awaited weekend… and it doesn’t deliver. I think I’ll be happy and relax, but I can’t. I have too much to do, or worse, I’m bored.

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Just before Christmas, when months of work without much time off had piled up, I held out Christmas shutdown–twelve glorious days of holidays–out in front of me like the proverbial carrot. I’d rest then, I’d write then, I’d have fun then.

And my holidays were good… but they weren’t great. I wanted to write, but I just spun my tires. I anticipated the Christmas gatherings, only to not enjoy them all that much.

What the heck?

The future just won’t deliver. I say “I’ll be happier when…” or “I’ll be able to afford this when…” and that day eludes me. Will I ever reach a spot where I say “Yes. This is good?”

It reminds me of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes, the ancient wisdom book, who says “Meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.” And that’s pretty dang depressing

The Apostle Paul said he knew how to be content in all circumstances–and he wasn’t speaking of work or home, holiday or workweek, but starving and feasting, freedom or imprisonment, abuse, ridicule, or acclaim. He could be content, though Christ who strengthened him.

So I believe it’s possible to be happy–whether I am scrubbing out a coating pan at work, washing the dishes, preparing for another shift at the clothing store, or doing things I love like writing, reading and drinking coffee (all at once, perhaps).

The only question is, how? I wrote this over the course of a work day, and there were a few guesses I came up with.

1. Give Happy

Chris Brady said “to be happy, you got to give happy.” If I think about what made me happy this week, it wasn’t my evening off, two disks of Criminal Minds, or a sleep-in (which I didn’t get). It was lounging on the grass, talking and praying with my friends, laughing with coworkers and making a coffee frappe for my aunt. So maybe I should take my eyes off myself.

2. Know Where You’re Going

Easier said than done, I know, but some of my best times have been those moments ‘in the zone,’ chasing hard after a goal.

3. A Cheerful Attitude

Sometimes all you can change is your attitude. There doesn’t need to be any of this ‘if only it were Friday,’ whining. It isn’t Friday, okay?

Well, it may be by the time you read this.

But I can’t change what day it is. So I may as well enjoy what I can about it.

Truth is, Paul’s state of contentment feels about as distant as some mystical nirvana. But I’m sure of one thing: constantly chasing after happiness like it’s around the next bend isn’t working for me. Happiness ain’t on Friday.