I admit it; I am full of idiosyncrasies.
Idiosyncrasies is a funny – and fancy – word which means: a mode of behavior or way of thought peculiar to an individual. In short, it means quirks. However, I like the word idiosyncrasies best, maybe because it sounds so quirky.
Allow me to give you a few examples of my very human peculiarities:
I like adventure. Yet, for whatever odd and irrational reason, when I am asked to do something fun and on the spur of the moment (especially by hubs), I usually opt out. Have I seriously gotten this boring?
I love the great outdoors. It nourishes my soul. Nature, especially when its green and it involves water (which are in short supply in Southern Arizona) – is good medicine. It calms my spirit and feeds my soul. Nevertheless, I won’t drive the one hour to go to the mountains to commune with nature and fill my happiness tank.
I maintain a long list of new activities I want to do or try. However, I don’t take the time to do them.
And so, the list goes on, to lengthy to narrate.
Enters The Happiness Project
These bizarre shortcomings were in part the reason I was so taken by the book, The Happiness Project. For me, this experiment meant committing and holding myself to this self-imposed undertaking. No more excuses, no more delaying month after month until years have passed. No more wishing for happiness while doing nothing to change my outlook — or behaviors — for that matter. No more bellyaching.
If life was passing me by this was due in great part to my inaction, I was now challenging the status quo.
To assist me in my new Happiness endeavor, I committed to following some commandments some of which were labeled thus:
It wouldn’t be long before I was called upon to exercise my Happiness muscles and the strength of my commitment was put to the test.
Late September, hubs and I went on a picnic on Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon takes us 9157 feet above sea level. While this may not seem like a big deal. After all, the Earth is replete with mountains far higher than this “mount.” For us Tucsonians, however, Mount Lemmon is almost worshipped!
Mount Lemmon means trees — as in trees, evergreens, and aspens — and cooler temperatures by thirty degrees! In the Summer, desert dwellers can, therefore, enjoy two-digit temperatures rather than the 110s below. In the Winter, this mountain means snow and skiing or tubing. It also means four complete seasons. All natural elements foreign to those living at the foot of this mountain.
It was a lovely Fall day with a hint of monsoon storms remaining in the distance. As we drove up the winding road, my sweet husband was sharing from his heart all the reasons he enjoys biking up this curvy mountain road during a full moon (mostly in the still darkness). For the curious, biking up a mountain is not something I aspire to do…ever. Day or night.
I decided to be bold and fun as I announced:
“I would love to come here with you to see the sunrise and the moonset.”
“Really?”, he replied smiling but definitely surprised. Mornings and I have had a love-hate relationship. Over the years, raising babies has left me loving my sleep and my bed’s embrace rather than taking the time to enjoy the rising sun.
“Yes! Absolutely!”, I replied
“You know, this means a 4 AM departure to ensure we arrive here by sunrise?”, he intoned sheepishly. This man wanted me to engage myself with eyes wide open.
“Not a problem, it will be fun, and I want to experience this with you. I’m game,” I said with a return smile.
The Oracle: Google
Further research and a short consultation with almighty Google kindly and efficiently let us know the next moonset/sunrise was on October 5th, just a few days away.
Upon our return home, I boldly marked the calendar. October 5th, it was a date.
As life is sure to go, it threw us a curveball.
One of our sons needed a small cavity filled (as in three months ago). Between his busy schedule and mine, time had run away from us and when I made the appointment — for sooner rather than later — the only date which worked for us both, you guessed it, was on October 5th.
There was no way I could get up at 3:30 AM, drive one hour and a half to the mountain, watch the sunrise and drive home in time to take him to his appointment.
This sunrise-moonset date was a bust before it started.
I dejectedly erased my date from the calendar. However, undeterred, I marked it for the following full moon. Hubs and I were going to have that rendezvous!
Life is full of opportunities for do-overs which is a good thing since life is also messy.
Wednesday, October 4th came. Around 3:30 PM, hubs intoned with the glee of a toddler: “you want to go see the sunset and the moon rise tonight?”
“Right now?”, I asked surprised.
“Yes!”, he replied, “but if you want to go, we need to leave now to make it.”
My normal answer would have been no.
No, I am not ready.
No, I haven’t made dinner what will the kids eat?
No, I don’t feel like it.
Hubs was a tad surprised but, nonetheless, thrilled.
We scrambled to get ready, and shouted to our children our “byes” and “I love yous” as we scampered to the car.
One stop at Baggin’s for two sandwiches accompanied by an oversized cookie and off we went.
As we started climbing the steep mountain road, I had the sneaky suspicion we might not make it in time to view the sunset.
“How many more miles? Are we gonna make it?,” I asked.
“I think so, but it’s going to be tight.”
As we rounded the corner ahead, I could see the bright red sun about to dip over the mountains. My heart sank. I had said “yes”, and the stinking sun could not wait for me?
Assinine, I know.
Another corner, and a change in direction, I could now see the full moon rising in the sky.
Let me get this straight, the sun would set before we made it to our viewing spot and the moon had already risen?
I was disenchanted. If I were a two-year-old, I would have stuck my bottom lip out in dismay. I won’t lie, internally, I did that very thing.
This was not my plan. I had said yes. Everything was supposed to align and work out, right?
At this juncture, I reminded myself of commandments number 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9, which are: be present, let it go, have fun, enjoy the process, and find the beautiful pieces.
In that instant, in the release of what I wanted for what was, my lesson came.
My First Splendid Truth
My expectations of how this date was “supposed” to be robbed me of the way it was. The “I wish” was stealing my now and I was not about to let that happen!
The Now – while it did not fit my mind’s picture – was magnificent.
Hubs parked our car.
We disembarked, grabbed our food, and walked to the edge of a massive rock formation in the soft light of dusk. We sat on a large boulder overlooking the city as the bright colors of the setting sun changed from orange to crimson. The city’s streetlights flickered on and shimmered in the gathering darkness.
I spotted the first star of the night high up in the sky. My Love and I joked about how the stars seem to wink at us.
In perfect contentment, we ate our sandwiches and cookies (at Baggin’s, every sandwich comes with a small cookie).
We laughed and talked.
We oohed and aahed at the show Nature was displaying “just for us.”
The buzz of the night insects was serenading us. I mentioned to hubs that the night was noisy, not silent as I had expected. It was indeed cacophonous, colorful, and just plain breathtaking. I could have readily missed it all because “this” was not MY plan.
This moment was perfect.
My First Splendid Truth
From this unplanned moment, I learned my first splendid truth was: Happiness is where you look for it, right now.
I know this sounds so cliche and trite.
Maybe this sounds so cliche because it’s true.
If I don’t intend to be happy, I won’t be. Happiness comes sandwiched between “moments.” It comes stealthily, unplanned, raw, and maybe in a way we didn’t expect. Most certainly, in an unanticipated manner. One we couldn’t — or wouldn’t — plan.
Yet, happiness still comes nonetheless. Most often, it tiptoes through common and random events, as if we gather more enjoyment because we had to be still and fully present to recognize and absorb it. Happiness is a mistress of disguise. It doesn’t usually make a grand entrance, all adorned and obvious. Happiness prefers to be quiet, soft and unassuming.
How many such moments have I missed because they were not part of my plan?
Probably too many.
While after such realization, I would be inclined to go down the slippery road of “if onlies” – also referred to as regrets – I remembered commandment number 4, let it go.
Although I may have missed some happy moments in the past, I could not retrieve them no matter how regretful I may feel now. No amount of self-retribution, negative self-talk, or regret would change the past. If I did not choose to let this go, it would surely poison my Now.
And, because we humans have the power of choice, I grateful said thank you for the lesson, and the beautiful evening with my Love. The happy memories we made were a gift.
In the gathering darkness, I remembered commandment number 6 — have fun & smile — and I smiled!
This happiness stuff is magic!