You know how I know? I keep saying it. Out loud. To myself.
There are different phrasings that arise: I’ll be driving down the road, some road, heading somewhere, anywhere, and I’ll hear myself say “God, I’m so happy right now.” I might be sitting by a river playing my guitar and the words “I’m just so happy” will eek forth. or simply “Boy, I’m happy” when I’m hanging out in my camp, by a fire or perhaps taking a stroll. It’s one thing to be happy and another thing entirely when the words spontaneously arise and emerge quite on their own and are spoken out loud, even though alone. This happiness is not just conceptual, but is a felt sensation, a buoyancy, a physical lightness of spirit. It has a notable sense of ease with it. A feeling of just being in a flow with existence.
This feeling has had different flavors, but it has been fairly pervasive throughout this trip. I think this sense of happiness is arising on this longer van trip in part due to the spaciousness that I am being afforded. I wrote in my recent posts “Some Kind of Freedom” and “Freedom from Doing” about various flavors and experiences of freedom I have been having and I am certain that all of this is related. On this trip, I have been able to go where I want and do only that which I want to do, spending almost all of my time either in beautiful places in nature, or with people whose company I really enjoy. Importantly for me, I have been trying to not do too much, doing my best to allow the natural rhythms of my days to simply flow as they will.
I recognize that in many ways, not only is this van journey a privilege, but it can be a privilege simply to be happy. Life is challenging for most everyone on one level or another, and for some the obstacles to ease and joy are nearly impossible to see over, especially when mental health issues are present. Although it is not impossible to find, happiness tends to be elusive when life’s barriers are notably present.
(interlude: A telemarketer just called and I greeted him by singing “Forget your troubles, come on get happy, you better chase all your cares away. Sing Hallelujah come on get happy….” I tried to get him to sing along with me but he opted to hang up instead. Oh well… )
As I write this, I notice there are some familiar voices within me that are saying that I can’t publish this. What I run up against is this old feeling that I need to dim my light around other people who might otherwise be struggling within the present moment of their lives. I somehow internalized at a very young age that it was not only unwise, but potentially unsafe to shine my light. My brother in particular was one who took somewhat sinister pride in beating the joy out of me. It has taken me this lifetime to come to a place where I recognize that it is not only my right to be happy but perhaps even my responsibility to allow myself to be happy, to flourish and to share with others whatever gifts I my have nurtured or been granted.
I have worked very hard in my life at trying to grind down the rougher edges of my soul that I might walk more freely and not catch my joy on many of the snag points of life. Occasionally committed periods of therapy have been invaluable toward that end as have decades of inquiry and journaling, and all the exploration and curiosity which has resulted in the writing over 300 posts on this site. I’ve expanded through opening my heart to new people, loves and experiences, as well as to people who have proven challenging to me. I’ve learned to apologize when I fall short whether or not others do the same, and to orient the core of my life around developing and living with integrity. I’ve sought the simple and eschewed the complicated, learned to develop a discernment for what is really true in my life, and practiced letting go of that which doesn’t serve me or others. I have with pain and trepidation walked away from challenging relationships that my heart really didn’t want to leave. Years ago now, I extricated myself from the hamster wheel of my urban professional life and have managed through my own efforts and capacities, happenstance and more than my fair share of grace to create a life which offers more freedom than most all others I know. I’ve learned to give my heart and to bathe in grief when love ones pass and I have learned the value of offering myself and my capacities in service to others.
So while happiness may be a privilege, when granted a window of opportunity I believe it is cultivated as well, and I am blessed enough to find myself in the midst of just such a period of manifestation. Much to my joy and appreciation, I am currently parked in the Casa Roma along the Hoh River in the Olympic National Forest and am experiencing one of my more blissful days in memory: morning yoga as the sun came up; singing with my guitar alongside the river, delicious meals; a couple of naps; time for writing and reflection; a persistently refreshing breeze on this perfectly sunny day; and a herd of elk lazily fording their way across this river just downstream.
To close, I just want to clarify something. This isn’t a raucous, ebullient happiness. If you want to see that rendition, here’s a pic of me playing the washboard at the Oregon Country Fair. That particular day I was beaming in a cheeks-cramping-because-I-was-smiling-so-much kind of way. The happiness I’m experiencing now is perhaps more ordinary, but in a way much more profound. It’s more of a settled, inner joy gently brimming its way up and filling me with a relaxed ease. So before you say, “I’m glad you’re so happy,” I’m not necessarily “so” happy. I’m just simply, decidedly and unmistakably so.