Retirement! We think that when we get to that next place or next stage, we’ll be happy. When we get married, then we’ll be happy. When we have kids, then we’ll be happy. When we retire…. As hundreds of memes and a quick google search will tell you, happiness is a journey not a destination. But it was a pre-internet age, and this was the first time I had even considered the idea of happiness, let alone embracing it where and when you are. It was a profound moment, and without sounding too clichéd, I kept Maureen’s story close to my heart and used it as a touchstone as I grew (aged?) through life. As I look back, the best I can say is, I’ve really tried.
It’s not a new concept, I know. Carpe diem. Stop and smell the roses. Yolo. (Oh it was a momentous day when kids stopped saying that word!) When someone does something selfless or generous or life-altering, people often lament, “Why can’t we be like that everyday?” Ummmm. You can. But you have to make a conscious decision to try. Same thing with happiness. I think that at some level we all understand the idea, but we lose sight of it in doing household chores, driving kids to practices, and nagging. The minutia of everyday life. In our North American culture, it’s also easy to mistake materialism with happiness, to get hung up on ‘stuff.’ It’s a hard habit to break, but I digress.
As much as none of us need anything, I still believe in the sentiment of gift-giving, so at Christmastime, I gave my mom a mug. I knew she would like it as it was a Finnish brand, iitala, plus I wanted to support a local store that an intern at our school co-owned. My only condition was YOU HAVE TO USE IT. I didn’t want it put on a shelf as a decoration. (Granted, it is lovely. The Finns are design masters.) But when I went home at Easter, there was the mug. On a shelf. As a decoration. Mom!!
I’ve heard the word ‘nudge’ get used a lot recently. I like it. It’s a subtle thing. Like the little tap on a student’s shoulder as a redirect, or the kazillion messages a little eye contact can convey. So I gave my mom a nudge with a tweet I saw: “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion.” It’s like that scientific law that says an object at rest stays at rest, and an object in motion stays in motion. UNLESS it gets nudged lol. Mom called me back to say she was having coffee in her new mug.
Yes, there are things that should be kept for special occasions. If everything is special, then nothing is. I get that too. But if I am truly embracing happiness in each moment, then I give as much as I can and tuck away as little as possible. That goes for our teaching selves too.
It’s not always easy. This past week has been a tough one. I had a huge to-do list of work and home stuff to accomplish with my holiday week, but ended up catching a cold at Easter and almost none of it got done. So frustrating. Now the list waits until summer, and with our temperature still at -16 this morning, that feels eons away. But in finding some happiness in each moment, I managed to read a few books as I was relegated to the couch. That was a good thing, as there’s never enough time to read!
Then on Friday night, like all of Saskatchewan, I was absolutely shaken by the news about the Humboldt Broncos bus accident that killed fifteen people and injured fourteen more. As the names and details continue to come out, each story personalizes and compounds the tragedy even more. Unthinkable. Heart-breaking. As Scott Moir wrote, “The death of young people will never make sense.” No. It never does. There is no happiness here, but in true prairie spirit, there is resolve and resilience in things like blood drives, donations, Stars and EMT support, organ donation awareness, candlelight vigils, and many many people hugging their kids a little tighter. A little longer. It is a random, senseless, gut-wrenching reminder and one I wish we didn’t get in this way: that being alive truly is the special occasion.
Kiitos-Hiy Hiy-Thanks for reading!
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