Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Journey Continues

About a week ago, this article showed up on my Facebook page for the second time.  Curious, I opened it up and was quite thrilled to read it.  In the past I have posted blogs about finding happiness through gratitude. As I have said before, it has taken many conscious decisions to make it here, and the journey is far from over. In fact I think the journey needs to continue as long as I'm here.  The start of my journey began with taking a look into myself and "what made me tick", in a manner of speaking.  I didn't read a how-to book or article.  I just knew what I wanted, and I knew that I would guide myself through the journey.  So it was really heartening to receive affirmation that I was doing something right.  I have made small changes to my life that helped with the bigger changes.  I am much happier, more content and at peace with myself than I have ever been.  Once again, let me just say that I am nowhere near perfect, but I'm in a much better place than I was a few years ago.  That is the whole point.  Change takes time.

 Please indulge me as I share my journey with you.  


A random act of kindness goes a long way.  You may never know how your kindness affects others, but it gets paid forward more often than not.  Here is an example of a selfless act that was paid forward at least seven times, that I experienced while ordering coffee at a drive-through window.

A customer ahead of me in the drive-through asked the barista to put on their tab the order placed by the next car in line. The next car was so moved that they did the same for the car behind them, and so on. The barista herself was so taken aback, she had tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat as she told me of the kindness of the customers ahead of me. Can you imagine what it feels like to drive up to order coffee and to hear that someone you don't know had already picked up your tab? Of course, I was so elated by the fact, that I very willingly paid it forward.

I do know that not all of us can afford this type of random act, especially if you don't know how many people are in the next car or how much it is going to cost. But I have realized that any little thing I do for someone else can give me a good feeling.  When I'm in a check-out line at the grocery store and someone behind me has just one or two items, I let them go ahead of me.  How much of a difference is it really going to make if I had to wait a couple of minutes longer?  I also make it a point to be kind to mothers of young children.  Also, since I grew up in a culture that respects the elderly, I continue to extend that value in my life.


I wake up as early on weekends during summer as I do on weekdays.  In the silence of the morning, I relax with a cup of coffee on the deck of our apartment.  I listen to the birds chirp as the sun makes its way up in the sky.  I breathe in the fresh air and savor the peace and solitude. Then around 9:30 a.m., I pick up JackJack's leash.  He goes crazy from the anticipation of what is going to happen next.  We get into the car and drive 2 exits west on the freeway, to the off-leash dog park.  JackJack whines with excitement all the way there.  Once we are at our destination, it's all he can to from totally losing it.  I put his yellow soccer ball into his mouth to minimize the whining.  We make our way to the off-leash section of the park and to the lake.  I throw the ball as far into the water as I can, and he swims in to retrieve it.  We do this for hours.  I just cannot describe how it feels to be by a lake, with the natural beauty of trees and hills around me, and to see JackJack enjoy himself so much in this environment.  The best part of it all is that it doesn't cost me a dime!  

I seek other ways to pep up my day.   I love to cook, but through the years I stopped cooking as much as I used to.  I don't know if I allowed myself to be influenced by those who believe that cooking is a chore that one could do without.  However, once I really thought about it I began to realize that it was something that I thoroughly enjoyed.  There was something about the ritual, or maybe it was the creative aspect of it that took cooking from "Slaving Over a Hot Stove" to "Creating food that looks, smells and tastes good." I began to cook again.  Every day.  Yes, it was great to have a hot-off-the-stove meal every day, but that was not the reason I was doing it. Cooking actually relaxed me after a long day at work.  Go figure, but it did.  


I made it a point to make a trip to India earlier this year, so I could reconnect to my roots.  The trip was made so much more pleasurable because of the sheer happiness of everyone around me, as we enjoyed each others' company, as we celebrated a family wedding, as we let our hair down and danced, as we partook of meals together.  The one word to collectively describe that holiday was FUN.  There was hardly a moment that went by when something fun wasn't happening. None of those moments would be anything without the people with whom I enjoyed every single moment.  Back in the place I now call home, I am fortunate to  have such wonderful friends.  I come from an amazing family.  Almost everyone I know are by default, happy people.   I am blessed by the fact that at work too, I work with a great immediate and extended team of people.  I share a great camaraderie with everyone in my life.  We talk, we eat, we drink, we play poker, we socialize. So it would seem like this is an easy step to accomplish, right?  Wrong.  In surrounding myself with positive people, I also had to minimize my contact with people who were dragging me down.  That was tough. However, if I was doing this for myself, I had to do it.  The only way I could think of to handle this was to disallow myself to become part of their drama and negativity by cutting back on my time with them.  


I grew up in a cultural environment in which it was never okay to make mistakes of any kind.  If I did, there were consequences, even though some of the mistakes I made weren't earth-shattering or destructive but rather were just a part of my growing up.  However, since every mistake I made was met with consequences that didn't necessarily justify the action, I carried this into my adulthood by beating myself up about every little thing I did wrong.  Of course, this caused me to blow everything way out of proportion.  I developed a very pessimistic attitude, with which came the belief that I was stupid and worthless because I couldn't do anything right.  I did not acknowledge anything positive that existed in my life from my accomplishments, because I was so fixated on those stupid little negative things that went wrong.  I made a decision that every day I would celebrate little victories.  I also made a decision to look at mistakes as a learning opportunity.  Once I actually began to think about things, I realized that my successes more than outweighed my mistakes. 


Music has always been a huge part of my life.  I used to sing in the church choir, I learned to play the piano, I used to listen to it as much as I could.  I used to try to convince my mother that listening to music while doing my homework would help me focus.  My mother would have none of it, telling me that if the music played I wouldn't be able to concentrate.  There was nothing I could say to change my mother's mind, even though music would actually have the opposite effect on me than what she thought.  Now that I am an adult, music follows me almost everywhere.  If I don't have music playing while I'm driving, cooking, even at work, I don't think I can fully function.  The only time I don't have music playing is when I am asleep. Oh, and during those still, silent moments like my early morning ritual of coffee on the deck while listening to birds make their own music.  Apparently, according to the article quoted in the beginning of this blog, "Music is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy."  Who knew?  All I knew was that it made me feel good.  


I have saved the best and most important for last.  This is how it all began that Thanksgiving a few years ago, when my uncle quoted the song, "Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."  Even if you don't believe in God, just acknowledging the good things you have in your life makes all the difference.  It begins with appreciation.  I began to appreciate everything in my life.  I appreciated the job I had, when there were so many unemployed people around me.  I appreciated a roof over my head, one that in addition to being a place to live in, also afforded me an almost non-existent commute.  I appreciated the fact that I food to eat, with the starving millions all over the world.  Gratitude for what I have make me realize how blessed I am.  These are just my beliefs, and I don't enforce them on anyone.  Neither do I make any apologies for what I believe.  Everything that I have and everything that I am is a blessing bestowed on me because of God's grace extended to me.  This is how I perceive the people reading my blog as well, as a blessing.  You are giving me your precious and valuable time by reading this blog.  And for that I thank you.

I would like to end this blog by saying that this is MY journey.  By no means am I implying that this is as easy or as difficult as you make it to be.  I know people who are suffering from depression (one of my very good friends is struggling with it).  I am not judging them, nor am I telling them to shake it off or get over it, because it isn't my place to do so.  I have no idea what they are going through, nor do I know what anyone is experiencing right now.  Each one's journey is their own.  I am not comparing myself to anyone else, or measuring my happiness by their yardstick.  I am simply looking back to where I used to be and where I am now.  While I am not necessarily "Supremely Happy", I am quite content with how far I've come, and every step I take makes me more the person I am happy to be,

Love and peace.