I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me more anxious than to be asked: Are you happy? I am a worrier, you see, genetically hard-wired to anticipate disaster, chaos, and catastrophe. I’m the half of the couple who—at least in theory—needs to be prepared for the worst. You never go on hikes without water, wool, or sunscreen. And you never, ever take a road trip without jumper cables, flares, or renewing your Triple A membership. Get my meaning?
I call it being safety conscious. My husband calls it a little bit crazy. But here’s the thing: sometimes I am proven right. Sometimes terrible things do happen. Which sets me on a whole different trajectory of worry: Did I somehow manifest the badness? And if so, am I somehow inadequate when it comes to manifesting feelings of contentment and happiness?
In her wise and wonderful blog The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin resolves to “act the way she wants to feel,” in an effort to “lighten up.” She also quotes Thich Nhat Hanh, who writes: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
So this past Sunday, when B and I decided to take a hike in the local bird sanctuary, I resolved not to bring the bug spray…or any wool whatsoever (Okay, so the 87˚temperature helped with that decision).
No maps would be consulted, no, not by me. Instead, I’d keep my mind trained on the happiness target…and my husband’s cute behind as he blazed the trail in front of me.
And yes, even though the engine light had gone on in the Subaru earlier that week—and would most certainly still be on when we returned to the car after our hike—I vowed to force a smile—and trust that it was “just some kind of computer error,” as our family mechanic advised.
Looking out at Reilly pond on that glorious, clear summer day, sitting next to the man I love, I could almost feel my forced smile relax into one that was far more authentic. Could…it…be…happiness?