Based on the experimental evidence from the last month there are some things I need to make a more regular part of my life to increase my happiness.
Spend more time with people who are glad to see me. This past weekend I got to see several people whom I like very much, but whom I have not seen in a long time. Each of them lit up and faced me with a smile to greet me. Spending hours talking over everything small and large was truly enjoyable, but that instantaneous glad-to-see-you reaction was an instant mood lifter. I could hear it in the voice of a friend I talked to on the phone as well. It made the self doubting voices scatter and find somewhere else to be.
Seek out more new things. Going to Antelope Island was marvelous. Going to the art museum with Kiki gave my brain all sorts of new thoughts to think. Even the trip to the dump was interesting and sparked new trains of thought. New experiences engage my brain and feed my creativity.
Teach more often. I’ve taught some art lessons in kids’ classes as part of a volunteer program. Preparing was fun, teaching was fun, and I walked out feeling energized. A local conference has invited me to teach next spring. My brain has been happily percolating plans to make those classes the best ever. I love teaching. I love the moment when I look out at the audience and can tell that my words have been interesting or useful.
Embrace my organizational talents. I plan and organize almost reflexively. Even when something is clearly not my responsibility or not my problem some part of my brain will latch onto it and think through how it could be solved or done better. This is valuable and essential in our business. Yet somehow I wanted to discount this gift. I wanted to be appreciated for my creative efforts not my administration. But pulling organization out of chaos is a huge creative act. When I see my organization as creative it becomes a soul-filling activity rather than a draining one.
Save money to fund dreams, not just fend off bills. I’m not really sure how I forgot this one. I used to do it all the time. In our early marriage every spare bit of money was put away so that some day we could afford for Howard to quit his corporate job. Then that dream arrived and all the money went toward making sure we could keep it. We have kept it, but I lost the habit of stashing money into savings. This meant that when an unexpected expense came finding the money to cover it required juggling and stress. Three months ago I decided I wanted to fund a family trip next summer. I started stashing money away for it. Last month I raided that stash completely dry to pay a medical bill and was grateful that dreaming had preserved funds which otherwise would have disappeared somewhere less important. Today I stashed away money for that trip again. I honestly don’t know if we’ll get to take the trip, but saving for it makes me happy. Having a financial buffer to pull from makes me happy. Either way I am less stressed. Saving money is a good thing.
Snuggle and hug the kids. I sometimes forget the power of touch. When I hug my children regularly fights are less frequent and less severe. Snuggling little kids is instinctive, it is easy to fall out of the habit when they get bigger, particularly when they are bigger than me. I can’t snuggle my teens, but I can pat a shoulder as I walk by. I can hug them before bed. I can remember to focus my attention on them when they need something. All of these things remind me that being with my kids is fun, not just a series of challenges which need to be tackled.
I’m not going to try to organize a systematic plan to fit all of these things into my life. Instead I’ve written them on a page in my River Song journal. Since I’m thumbing through that book at least a couple of times per week, I’ll keep running across the list. Bit by bit I’ll absorb and internalize these thoughts. Then they will naturally express themselves in my actions. I’m also watching to see what other things I’ve missed observing that make me happy. It is like a scavenger hunt where I compile the list as I go.