I want to cry. There is a mushy dumpling of tears in my throat this very moment. The reason is that I think I'll finally be able to share with you what I know about crafting a happy life. I've done it and I believe so can you.
I don’t even want to take the time to let this dumpling dissolve into the saltwater of emotions. The waters of wisdom are always ebbing and flowing, I need to be brave and plunge in. Let me not be held back by the need to get it perfectly right.
Can you be brave with me? Let go of the need for things to be perfectly right? I hope so because those are two of the ingredients of happiness--to stick your chin out at the musts and shoulds. It's time to stop hoping for a gold star if we’re good. I attended school in Germany, we didn’t have gold stars. But we had Poesie stickers.
My first year in school, Poesie albums were the rage. I mean it. Our hearts raged with desire and longing for such books. "Poesie" is the German word for poetry, so these were poetry books. They were most often red or pink or, like the one I had, a beautiful Wedgewood blue. The cover would be padded. There'd be a lock. You could buy, or receive as reward from your teacher, Poesiebildchen, adorable Victorian stickers depicting flowers and hearts and birds with lace in their dainty beaks. Children with lambs and guardian angels with fluffy white wings. You took a golden key from its hiding place, carefully stuck it into its lock and opened your treasure. You pored over the pages until you found the right spot to paste your glittering sticker. Maybe you copied down a beautiful new poem you’d learned in school that day or wrote your own. Then you spent the afternoon looking through your prized possessions, your eyes lingering on white doves flanking entwined hearts, cherubs resting on clouds, little red robins guarding eggs in their nests. You had all the time in the world.
And you still do.
Ugh, even I don't believe it as I write this. Life is so complicated now, isn't it? Who has time for the things the heart desires? Maybe when you retire, you can do the things you really wanted to do. What a risk! It's better to make the life you want now, not later. Here is what it will take to be happy.
Eat dessert first
Be a rebel and eat dessert first because who knows if you'll live to eat the main course. All kinds of people had a perfectly reasonable expectation to live to supper and didn't. For me, writing a book is kind of being a rebel. Instead of following, I'm getting get out in front. Won't you be a rebel with me? Wanting a happy life, that's audacious. You picked up this book, you must be audacious, too.
Flout the limits
What could you do right now to defy the limitations you bought into? Stop reading and do it. Why? Because it will make you happy. Don't believe in the limiting beliefs that are being pushed on you. Anytime you need something else first before you can have what you want, hold your ears. You don't need to get skinny to find love. You don't need to toil at a job you don't love before you're allowed to follow your authentic path. Leave people who don't like you alone. You're not required to make everyone love you. But don't wait for love before you, yourself love.
Apply love like a tool
belle hooks aptly wrote in All About Love:
"Love is not a feeling, it is an action."
Being happy isn't about reframing reality with better thoughts. It isn't brought about by disciplining your mind and focusing on your goals (how can you expect to get where you want to go if you have no sovereignty over your own thoughts?). It isn't caused through imagining it, or money, or getting out into nature more. These are all some basic tools for wellness but they don't necessarily culminate in happiness.
Happiness is only possible where there is love. And that’s where you’re screwed right now. Because that’s not in your tool box. Wait, you say, it is, too! No it isn’t. Undoubtedly you love things, people, places, ideas. But that’s love as a feeling, not as an action.
In the occupation of happiness, love is an action done with skill and technique. For example, the skill to sidestep an inflamed ego or bout of insecurity or uncertainty. Or listening to know where and when to apply love.
Love, as all feelings, is something that comes over you, as Eric Clapton croons so beautifully. But love as an action comes from within you. Whether you sense it or not, you're full to the brim with love. You are an ocean of love. You’re pouring it like manna from heaven, like ambrosia from the heart of plenty. You either already know that or you don't yet believe it. To be happy, you need to believe in love and understand it's more than a feeling.
When you do, you can apply it like a salve, a poultice, dressing. Love, when applied nurtures, heals, supports, inspires, frees, and beautifies. And all those things directed towards yourself (and others) cause a feeling of happiness.
When you understand love that way, you can begin to apply it. Exactly how to do that is described in Chapter 4.
That love is within you doesn't mean you can access it. Often, the detritus of disappointments, hurts, grievances and complaints thoroughly covers love, maybe even buries it.
So, that's the job--to restore access to the love within you.
You can do this by clearing the debris of life's shocks and fears from love like sand from buried gold nuggets. And once you polish that gold, its gleam is warmer than that of any other substance. There's nothing a good, as warm, as inviting and healing as love.
How do you retrieve love? The gold catcher -- things that reflect your love
Why I loved those pretty Victorian poetry pictures so much is that they reflected back the love already in me.
What reflects your love?
The first thought that comes to mind is so often the truth. If you thought nothing, then you might have dismissed that first thought before you could catch it. Just try again.
Brené Brown wrote in Daring Greatly:
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of love."
Whether it’s an activity, thing, feeling, thought, action, whether it is for yourself or someone else, for it to trigger your love, you need to allow yourself to be open to it happening.
Meet yourself where you are: If you like cute animal videos, watch them and connect with the feeling of love you feel. At first it may not seem like love. You may say, "I like it because it's cute." When you dig deeper, you will notice it's love, actually. If not cute animals, a hand-made piece of pottery may cause love to well up. Or yellow spring-time daffodils. A baby's face. Your loved one's eyes. Your work as a healer, artist, guide.
Ask yourself this question: Where, exactly, is the love these things cause me to feel? Ask yourself, How did this love get inside me? Did these things put it there? They didn't, did they? They reflected, or better said, incited the love that was already in you.
Incite, from Latin incitare, from in- ‘towards’ + citare ‘rouse’.
One of the things that lead you to craft a happy life, is identifying and seeking out what arouses your love.