Any student of human nature knows that a lot of unhappiness comes from wanting things that you hope to have someday or missing the things that you used to have but don’t any more. We’ll be happy when we meet Mr. Right, go on vacation, earn tenure, or lose thirty pounds. Or we wish for the days when Mr. Right wasn’t so boring, when the kids actually liked going on vacation with us, when we had the enthusiasm of a new instructor, or when we were sure people liked us for ourselves and not our thin shapes. No wonder so many people are constantly discontented.
With all the past and future getting in the way, it’s sometimes hard to see happiness when it’s banging on your door, yelling, “Hey, I’m here, right now. Just open the door and let me in.”
For example, yesterday, I was getting ready to go to the Y when I got a text. My four-year-old buddy wanted to come swimming. But I was going to the Y because I need to lose ten pounds, and everyone complains that my pool is too cold. So I told her to go to her aunt’s instead. But her aunt’s pool was crowded. Luckily, it was then that I realized that I was being an idiot. My little buddy wanted to spend time with me, and it won’t be terribly long before she finds me way too uncool to hang out with. And wasn’t playing in the pool going to burn as many calories as running around the track? So I quickly told her to come on over, which she did with her mom and two cousins. And we ended up having a fun summer day.
It’s been my experience that happiness is often just waiting for me if I’ll take a moment and look around and stop wishing for a perfect future or remembering some (mythical) perfect past. Sometimes it’s in the guise of a neighbor’s cat who wants to play when I come home from work. Sometimes, it’s there when I’m playing the piano and realize I know more chords than I did last time. Sometimes, it’s reading a perfect poem by Mary Oliver.
Sadly, it’s taken me a long to recognize this great truth about happiness: The more happy moments you let in the door, the more that show up knocking.