Lost: One Happy
(by Mir from WouldaShoulda)
I have a confession to make: I seem to have lost my Happy. And I know better! I should've kept better track of it, or taken action as soon as I suspected it'd gone missing, but I'm going through a rough patch and I just kind of let things slide for a while. I assumed it would wander back on its own. But so far… no dice.
It's not about feeling unattractive or less than—surefire ways to lose track of your happy, to be sure—or feeling snubbed or left out, either. Sure, there's various matters in my relationships and in my own head that could probably use some tweaking. That's normal stuff, though. This isn't about feeling inadequate in some way. It's just about feeling… lost. Kind of powerless in the face of all the many awful things that go on in the world that are totally out of my control. (Weird, but it turns out that no matter how hard you try to control things which are not, in fact, yours to control, it doesn't work. How is that fair?)
So I got to thinking about other times in my life when this sort of wallowing "meh"ness was successfully sent packing in favor of feeling whole and good and, you know, happy. What I'm about to say is a complete cliche, and like a lot of cliches, it's totally true: The absolute most effective way for me to re-find a lost Happy is to turn my back on my own wants and needs and put myself in service for someone who has genuine unmet needs (beyond just being neurotic).
It's really hard to feel sorry for yourself when you're feeding homeless people, it turns out.
I'm trying to think of an appropriate service I can commit myself to right now, both something that fills a community need and fits into my schedule. I got to thinking about things I've done in the past and how they've helped me. I mean, it's not the point that it helps ME, but it is a nice little effect.
There was the year I felt my daughter was getting a little too spoiled and gimme-gimme-ish, so I signed her up to ring the bell for the Salvation Army bucket at our local supermarket. She was only seven at the time; it's not like I could;ve just dropped her off and left, or anything. It was December in New England—quite cold—and I was prepared for an hour of misery with her. But… something happened. For one thing, people are a lot more generous with the bucket when there's a cute little girl ringing the bell, and for another, generosity is infectious. The more they gave, the harder my daughter rang the bell. She jumped around to stay warm. We ended up dancing and singing Christmas carols and being a little disappointed when the next bell-ringer came along at the end of our hour.
For years we made up shoeboxes every year for Operation Christmas Child. It was a family affair; the kids loved going to the Dollar Store with me to pick out as many small goodies as possible to cram into those boxes for kids they'd never meet. I would save the biggest shoeboxes I had, then pack them with the precision of a Jenga tower just to make everything fit. Then my kids would make a card to go on top, complete with a picture of themselves, to say who they were and how much fun they'd had packing the box and that they hoped the recipient would love it. The last several years—now that my kids are older—we've gotten away from doing that, somehow. I will definitely start up again this year; that was one of my very favorite things to shop for and put together.
I've worked in local soup kitchens before, a day here and there. Whenever I do it, I wonder why I don't do it more often. It's hard work, usually in a too-hot kitchen and wearing a scratchy hairnet, but I always feel tired in the best possible I-did-something-worthwhile kind of way, after. I've been a Big Sister, mentored at a neighborhood school, volunteered on committees, worked charity fundraisers, all of that stuff. I never regret it. But I'm embarrassed to say that sometimes I just… forget to make it a priority. When you stop doing the things you enjoy, it's easy to stop doing everything.
I think that's how I'm going to go re-find my Happy, by not looking for it at all. Instead, I'll just make it a priority to find a way to help contribute to someone else's Happy, and then, most likely, my own will resurface. Funny how that works.
What's your favorite way to find your Happy? I'd love some more ideas of ways to give my time to make a difference, too, if you'll share.
(For more Mir go to wouldashoulda.com. You'll be glad you did.)