Happiness Is A Process

We Need To Recognize That Happiness Is The Journey, Not The Destination

Stop waiting to reach the peak, and recognize the climb.

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I went for a run today and had an epiphany. This epiphany may just apply to myself alone, but I honestly feel that many people will be able to see themselves in it as much as I do.

My epiphany is that there are two forms of happiness. There is feeling happy, and then there is the recognization of happiness, and no, those aren't the same thing.

We spend so much time searching for happiness. Many of us dedicate our lives to finding happiness, and we believe that to be the best, or even only, way to live. Yet, somehow, we still feel like there's something missing in our lives. That's because we spend too much time looking for things to make us happy, and not enough time recognizing when we are experiencing happiness in the process.

See the thing is that feeling happy is an emotion. You are happy when you are surprised with concert tickets to your favorite band, when your parents tell you they're getting a dog, when you see that you got an A on an exam you were stressing about, and so on. These are fleeting moments of emotion. They don't last for long and don't contribute to your status of living a happy life.

Feeling happy is not a state of being. When someone asks you, “Are you happy?" you think of what you have in your life that is happy. Whether it be the college you attend, the friends you have, the dog you love, or the hobbies you really enjoy. When someone asks you that question, you respond with whether or not you believe yourself to be living a happy life. You don't respond with what current state of being you are in.

Then there is happiness. Happiness once again is not a state of being. Happiness, as I've recently realized, is a process. Happiness is taking a road trip with your friends when you stop at sketchy gas stations to pee and get snacks and then you all fight over who has aux. Happiness is seeing your mom after a month and telling her all about the frat dude who you met last weekend and the professor who you can't stand. Happiness is actually going on that run that you told yourself you would go on, even if it sucks.

Our problem in our search for happiness is that we expect it to show us a big flashy sign saying “Here it is!" when in reality a small sign has been there multiple times and you just haven't noticed.

In order to completely experience your processes of happiness, you need to acknowledge them.

If someone asked me right now, “Are you happy?" I would say yes, and not because I am happy at this moment, but because I am proud of myself for going on that run 10 minutes ago.

There was a point on my run when I thought to myself, “Wow, I said I was going to go for a run and I actually did. I'm running right now. This is happiness." Those are the exact words I thought: “This is happiness." And now is the moment where you, the reader, think to yourself: “Hold up, she was running and— happy???" No. I did not want to be on that run, I was out of shape from a weekend visiting friends and I was exhausted from a long bus ride home.

See I wasn't experiencing the emotion of happy, but I was able to acknowledge that what I was doing was a process of happiness. Acknowledging in the moment that I was experiencing that process was mindset-changing for me.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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A Few Birthday Thoughts

Goodbye teenage years, hello twenties!

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So, it is looking like I am about to leave my teenage years behind. I think that I want to reflect back on this time in my life and think about what I want to keep with me in my twenties and maybe some things I can let go. My teenage years have been full of love from my family and friends; hard work to make good grades in school and creating art. I developed several great friendships that I have held on to across the miles even though I went to college 14 hours away from our previous home. I am so thankful for the friendships I have made in college as well.

It seems like friends you make in your childhood and younger years can really stand the test of time. Maybe it is because when you became friends you were truly who you were. Everyone was genuine and didn't put up walls to protect themselves. You got to know someone on a deeper more personal level more quickly than if you had met later in life. I also think we laughed even more as children and that always creates good memories to look back on. So I think in my twenties I will try to hang on to the "childish" way of making friends. I will try to show my true self and will accept them for who they are, and we will laugh....a lot.

I think a good thing to let go of is always trying to make dead-end relationships work. When we were children on the playground and we tried to play a game together or jump rope and it just wasn't working, we would run off and find someone else. It was easy. It was just natural. Now sometimes I find myself trying to stay in a relationship by being overly nice, giving gifts, trying to find what pushes the persons "good" buttons. I might spend so much time trying to figure this person out that I leave out more solid relationships that are worth my time. So in my twenties, I will try to be more realistic about who to spend my time on. Some people are just never going to stand the test of time. I can continue to be cordial but won't let them rule my time and thought life.

As children, we loved our parents and siblings and would show love to them in a myriad of ways. Maybe it was hugs, pictures on the fridge, good night kisses, playing games, or just quality time spent together as a family. Starting my twenties, I am mature enough to realize the value of these people in my life. Thankfully, I have always known this. I was never the type that was embarrassed if someone saw me walking with my Mom or Dad or being dropped off in the Mom Van somewhere. I always knew these people loved me more than anyone else I was about to meet. But in my twenties, I plan to keep up with my family even when I am eight hours away from them. We are never too old to need the love of family.

As weird as it is to say goodbye to my teenage years, it's honestly helped me to soak in the precious moments of everyday life and treasure them even more. Every year when birthdays come around, it always serves as a reminder how quickly the days, months, and years fly by. I think that has been one difficult part of this birthday season. It's hard to say goodbye to the past, without a clear map of the future. But, I must remind myself that this is why growing up is a beautiful thing- as we live life and experience new things, we are better prepared for what the future may hold. Everything that I have experienced in my 20 years has served an important purpose- to make me into the person I am supposed to become. Yes, life is always changing and so am I... and change can be hard. Very hard. But one thing to remember is God is always constant. He will never change. No matter what number is on your birthday cake, He is always there...the same God yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Rock that we will always be able to cling to. Isn't that a wonderful thought? Even if we don't know what's in His plans for us in the coming year, it's important to make Him a part of our plans. Rather than worry about change, let's embrace it all- the good and the bad- and look to the Lord to see how He will guide and shape us.

Teenage years- the time has come. I must say goodbye to you now. But, you will never be forgotten. I will hold your memories in my heart forever. Twenties- I am excited for all that awaits me.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9

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