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WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

Lost: One Happy

20 comments | September 4th, 2012

(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.)

20 comments

  • Therese

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    Right now, I am an apartment manager for a senior/disabled complex. My middle son is currently serving in Afghanistan (yay, he leaves there on Friday!) We have been making up boxes of goodies for the airman. I send them off to Ethan, and he shares them. Since he is coming home (again, YAY!!), I am going to continue this and send them off to an organization called Soliders Angels, which makes up goodies bags for our soldiers. Makes me happy, makes my wonderful residents happy too!

    Report this comment

    • Cathy

      Posted on September 6, 2012

      Therese, I know military families don’t hear this often enough… THANK YOU for your son’s service and the support you give him! Thanks also for talking about Solders Angels – I too will send goodies their way, since my dear friends have also finally returned from Afghanistan.

      Report this comment

  • Victoria

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    Compliment a stranger on her purse/ dress/ hair…. while waiting in a line up, or some such. She’ll smile, you’ll smile back and forget your worries for a small moment.

    Report this comment

  • KirstyB

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    This totally reminds me of the “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” book!

    I’m getting ready to prepare breakfast at the senior center on Friday. I wasn’t planning on going but it kind of fell into my lap. I’m sure it will be a great morning and I feel like we all need to make a little more effort to connect with people in our communities that don’t always have a lot to look forward too. Who knows? It might become a regular activity for me! :)

    Report this comment

  • kw1223

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I volunteer with dog rescue. I’ve been doing it for years. For me, knowing that I pulled a dog doomed to his or her death out of a shelter and united him or her with a family who didn’t know they couldn’t live without THIS particular dog, makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. My youngest does it with me, it’s kind of “our thing” where she doesn’t have to share me with her sister.

    Report this comment

  • Ann from St. Peter MN

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I loved being a Chemo Angel. I got paired up with children who were going through chemotherapy. The premise of the organization is to match a volunteer with a patient (adult or child) and you become their Chemo Angel. All that is required is that you mail them something once a week – little trinkets, notes of encouragement, etc. I especially liked having the little kids – it was fun to shop for a little kid again! If anyone is interested, go to chemoangels.org

    Report this comment

  • Brandi

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I volunteer in an adventure yard for kids with developmental disabilities (down’s syndrome, autism, etc)

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  • Katie K.

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I used to love to volunteer at our school library. I also find there are times I really need to focus on the good things already in my life. Sometimes I make a mental list of things I am grateful for in my head as I fall asleep.

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  • Anna

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I am prone to a pity party or two now and then. I moved far away from family, who probably wouldn’t have time for me anyway. I find myself spending long hours at the computer searching for something that makes me feel a part of something.
    And holidays? blech. Most holidays leave me feeling lonely and sad.
    So- when I’m on the computer feeling alone, I reach out to someone else and send her a note. Usually my heart guides the words.
    For holidays, I try to find someone else who doesn’t have family and invite them to our house. It helps a lot.
    And finally… just this week, I drove twenty miles to take a young adult to the grocery store that’s only two miles away. Her mom had a stroke and she doesn’t have a car, and so many people tell themselves that there’s somebody else better suited for the job, closer in distance, closer in relationship. I try not to cop-out.
    This fall, my homeschooling kids are going to be away for a day, except my three year old. I think I might try to find something for us to do, too.

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  • Arnebya

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I am extremely happy when tutoring adults in reading comprehension/phonics. It’s slow going sometimes, especially if a person becomes frustrated, but it’s so very rewarding too. And I haven’t met a homeless person yet who didn’t appreciate a warm greeting. Hell, that goes for strangers on the subway too. It makes me feel good to say good morning to the person I sit next to on the train only for the person to brighten up, surprised, and return the gesture. Hold a door for someone. It’s a tiny thing, but usually people are surprised (and quite grateful). But, most recently, in the grocery store, I helped a woman buy toilet paper. She was short on money and had to decide which items to put back. When she reached for the toilet paper, I simply whispered please don’t put that back. I’ll get it for you. Instant tears. She wanted to say no, but in the grand scheme of things, sometimes you have to put your pride behind you. I guess it felt good to me to help her while secretly knowing that I was pushing the negative balance myself.

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  • Deirdre

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I have enjoyed volunteering at my kids’ school library. I love helping kids find books, and talking to them about what they’ve enjoyed reading, etc. And re-shelving books is actually pleasant, especially because there is a specific place for everything. That is something I’ve struggled with at home, so there is a sense of accomplishment, especially when the return cart is empty. But my purely selfish happy time is singing in the choir at church. I call rehearsal night my therapy night. I may leave my home in a grouchy mood, but there is something about singing with a group of wonderful people (and a wide range of vocal ability), that just makes eases my heart. Choir starts up again tomorrow night, and I cannot wait.

    Report this comment

  • Andrea

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I have not been able to do it for a couple of years but one of my best feel good days every year is taking a Saturday afternoon and offering to wrap gifts at the local mall’s charity gift wrapping center. Nothing like seeing all the happy people AND getting my happy on through one of my favorite things, gift wrapping. A total aside–years ago, just out of college and in my first job, I really needed extra cash and got hired by my local (and now defunct) Filene’s Department Store. I had the good fortune to get the first assignment of wrapping boxes for a gift display. The second assignment for the job was working in the teddy bear give away center. Best.Job.Ever.

    Anyway, I like the suggestion above of giving a stranger a super compliment. Everyone feels good after that.

    Now, go find your happy.

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  • addy

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    I do the good deeds no one sees. I don’t want accolades for my efforts. I just want to help. Put a $20 bill in the dryer of two very young people at the laundry. Carry someones purchases in while they deal with a phone call. Tie a small child’s shoelaces so he can catch up to his sibling without falling on the sidewalk. These make me happy.

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  • Sharon K

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    All of the things other’s have said, the tiny things for other people. walking the dog and watching her wriggle on top of a dead bug – she is soooo in the happy moment. watching the cats wriggle in the sun. knitting complicated hats and donating them to the mental health activity center.
    this video titled validation
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao
    go ahead, watch it. you’ll smile a tiny bit.

    Report this comment

  • Rocky Mountain Woman

    Posted on September 5, 2012

    Cooking for my friends can help me get my happy back. Then there’s Celexa and wine…hah!

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  • Heather

    Posted on September 6, 2012

    I work at the church’s food pantry and it is awesome–you end up feeling like Santa Clause! Seeing the grateful families get what they need is a wonderful feeling and you meet so many nice people. It also makes me do things like order cases of toilet paper when it is on sale or bottles of laundry detergent when I get a great buy, or feminine products or diapers–all the stuff you don’t get from food stamps that people still need. You see the same people every week (sadly sometimes) and build relationships. I told one guy about a job I knew was opening at my company and he ended up getting it and is now a volunteer too instead of needing the food. There is nothing better than that feeling!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on September 6, 2012

    When I lived in Conyers,I volunteered with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Hard work but so rewarding. Now I agree with the smile, hold a door, lift a package or contribute a little to someone else’s groceries. All f these things make me happy. Becky

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  • Nicole

    Posted on September 7, 2012

    I keep hearing that line from Amazing Grace “I was lost but now I’m found” in my head. Why does it seem that happiness is more fleeting than sadness?

    Report this comment

  • Brigid

    Posted on September 8, 2012

    Somehow I have missed a few of your posts, and that just won’t do. Harumpf. Anyway, 15 minutes ago I said to (OK, truth, I texted) a friend “I’ve lost my fun. I used to be fun. You remember that, right?” I have sucked the fun out of every fun thing my kids and I do together lately. At times, I even have a conversation with myself – “You’re doing in again. Stop. Don’t suck the fun out of this tooooooo!” And chances are by the time I have that conversation, it’s too late.
    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost your happy. I think you’re doing amazingly well at life right now when life has decided to gang up on you. If you see my fun, send it my way and if I see you’re happy, I’ll deliver it to you.

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  • Mame Harlow

    Posted on September 11, 2012

    A few years ago I spent a week with a sick relative to give her caregiver a break. I did it meaning to do a nice thing for him but as it turned out nice things happened to me at every hands turn. It was one of the best weeks of my life.

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