(This post first appeared on Paper Lantern Writers)
If you asked me today if I was happy, I’d say yes without hesitating. If you asked me why, however, I couldn’t answer right away. Many things are currently going right in my life that I’m proud of or excited about, but I am also feeling frustrated and sad about some things. True happiness, though, is the balance of all emotions, not the absence of negative ones.
There are events in our lives that we cannot completely control, like the job market, the weather, the health of our family members, and the breakdown of an appliance, to name a few. Over the past year or so, I’ve felt euphoric and depressed about each of these. I mean, who wants their oven to give up the ghost a week before your annual baking day? What do you do when your 91 year old father-in-law refuses to wear a mask yet gallivants all over town? I’m sure all of you who live in California have been frustrated by watching your healthy garden die from lack of rain. This year my sons both looked for new jobs, both in new towns that required them to move. As a writer, every day that I intend to write and don’t is a failure. On the very worst day, however, it’s important to remember that emotions cycle. For every down there is an up. Focus on what makes you happy.
Happiness is health. Throughout this pandemic, my immediate family has been able to avoid COVID by doing the mask/vaccine/social distancing thing. My husband, son, and I lost over 100 pounds in total, and we’re keeping it off. That makes me happy.
Happiness is another finished novel. Writers know how hard it is to take an idea and turn it into a polished book. The pandemic made it especially hard, but just after Christmas this year, my sixth novel will be sent off to the publisher. That makes me happy.
Happiness is a warm puppy. Charles Schultz knew what he was talking about. My yellow Labrador is getting older now, a little hard of hearing, but she loves her walks, her dinner, and her cookies after going outside. She loves to snuggle in front of the TV after dinner each night and snore while I pet her soft ears. That makes me happy.
Happiness is family. Whether they are far or near, whether they call once a day or once a week, whether their presence at holiday gatherings is a delight or a chore, family members bring happiness. My husband’s constant support on a daily basis certainly does. This year, my grandson’s first Christmas will be in my home. That makes me happy.
When I’m happy, so many details cause it. When I’m sad, everything makes it worse. If I cling to those things that make me the happiest, though, I know the negative emotions will pass. For this holiday season, no matter what is dominating your life right now, I hope you take time to reflect on the core elements that make you the happiest. Think about the joy these things bring you, not the frustration that sometimes accompanies them. If you are full of joy at this time, share it with others. Happy holidays to all of you.