A new year seems like a good time to look at happiness. I've also been influenced by Lin Yutang's book The Importance of Living. In Chapter 6, "The Feast of Life" he recounts Chin Shengt'an's Thirty-three Happy Moments. This list caused me to think of some of my own happy moments. They are not earth-shattering, not necessarily long-lived, but joyful. I made a list of happinesses that sprang to mind without too much concentration. I discovered that just thinking about my moments of happiness made me happy.
Lin Yutang says that happiness must include the senses, not just thoughts. Most of my happy times are those in which I was completely in the moment, no thoughts, just experiencing.
My Ten Moments of Happiness in random order
1. Two years after we were married, my husband and I bought Eurail passes and traveled in Europe. We took a boat across Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. We got off at Mt. Pilatus and took a cable car to the top. When we got out of the car, we were met with a "Sound of Music" mountain scene--tall snow-topped mountains, a green meadow with little yellow flowers, and little paths and roads disappearing into the distance. I had never seen anything so beautiful. Spontaneously, tears filled my eyes and I was literally speechless.
2. When my daughter was about ten, we went to Sugar Mountain Ski Resort with a friend and her son. She went to visit her daughter at college in Boone. While she went to the college, my daughter and I decided to try to ski, though we'd never even seen a pair of skis. We rented equipment wearing our jeans and Florida coats and headed for the Beginners' slope. Using a tow rope we got to the top of the gentle slope. Going down was ecstatic. We were skiing! Though I imagine anyone else would have doubted that. Snow was falling, the air was cold and we were totally in the very exciting moment.
3. During a trip to England, my husband and I rented a car to travel around. As an English teacher who had taught The Canterbury Tales for years, I had to see Canterbury. We walked through the ancient gate into the city and there was Canterbury Cathedral looking just like it did in the English book photo. Just like the Swiss mountains, the scene with all the personal history I brought to it made me cry. We toured the cathedral and all the time I had a sense of awe--this is it, this is where the Canterbury characters were traveling.
Gate into city of Canterbury.
Outside area of Canterbury Cathedral.
4. Analyzing my moments of happiness, most of them have been during travel. Seeing new places, obviously makes me happy. One of the most memorable travel moments for both my husband and myself was at another cathedral, The Basicilica of Sacre Coeur of Paris. It sits on top of a very tall hill to the north of the main part of the city in an area favored by artists, Montmartre. Just being there was happy for me, but then we went into the Cathedral. It was late afternoon and time for vespers. As we sat looking at the altar, nuns all in white filed into the choir area. Then they started singing. Their voices were high with pure tones. There was no musical instrument accompaniment. It would have been superfluous. Angels singing could not have been more beautiful. I have no words to truly describe their sound.
5. One moment not related to travel was the first time I saw my baby daughter. She was born just before the natural birth movement. My generation preferred to be out cold during the delivery. She was born at 12:20am, but I did not awaken until after noon the next day. A nurse brought the little pink-blanketed bundle to me after I could focus. She lay there on my arm, silently. She was the most beautiful being I had ever seen. It was love at first sight. I've had friends say, "That can't be true. Mother-baby bonding takes weeks." Not for me. I loved her instantly and totally and really have never stopped.
6., 7., 8. Many of my recent travel happinesses have been in New York City. It is the most exciting city! The streets just vibrate and there is so very much to do and see. Here are photos of three of my favorite moments:
At the Metropolitan Opera "La Boheme" at
Lincoln Center. I'm trying to look like it is not my
first time there.
My husband and I enjoy a NY Harbor Tour.
With my daughter and granddaughter at a Broadway
musical. The three of us went to NYC to celebrate
my granddaughter's high school graduation. We had
a fantastic weekend.
9. My daughter and her family lived in England for four years. I visited many times. One Christmas when my husband traveled with me, the two of us and my daughter's family went ice skating at a rink at Hampton Court Palace, one of King Henry VIII's palaces. It was exhilarating to skate with the palace in the background and just to be in such a historic place. I just loved it!
Skating rink at Hampton Court Palace. This photo is an
internet photo, not taken by me.
10. Finally, nothing makes me as happy as a parade, especially small town parades that
bring out the firetrucks, police motorcycles, and even ambulances. All of us say at the
annual Opening of the Beaches Parade here in Jacksonville, that there better not be an
emergency while a parade is happening. In fact, all the emergency vehicles are slowly progressing down the streets in a line. Small town parades are creative. Bands, marchers, all those involved seem so happy to be there. A parade is just joyous.
Take a moment to think about your happiness. You probably have more than you realize.