As a mum of two hyperactive children, I don’t often get to read. By the time evening crawls around and after a busy day of refereeing arguments, pretending to be my 3-year-old’s baby and finding everything my son has hidden, I’m usually pretty knackered.
But in an effort to force myself out of the addictive world of social media and the internet, I’ve started reading Mo Gawdat’s “Solve for Happy” at bedtime. I am only a few pages in as I can read approximately 500 words before I fall asleep. And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t a book review nor am I sponsored in any way by Gawdat or Amazon. But this book is already making me think about what makes me happy, and how I tackle happiness in this new land of Gaa Gaa I find myself in (see what I’ve done there).
As faithful readers of my blog know, I’ve recently become a stay at home Mum. I know I am beyond lucky to be spending so much time with my kids. But for some reason, my inner lucky and inner happy don’t always communicate, and I sometimes feel a bit unhappy. Why? I don’t want to be all Carrie Bradshaw about it, but I want to know:
“What really makes me happy?”
Gawdat recommends that in order to get to the root of happiness, you write a happiness list. Not that revolutionary right? But when I sat down to do mine, I found that the most mundane things make me happy. Coffee. Cheese. Sleep. Cliff Richard calendars. The usual. And some other things that confirmed I am a bit of an oddball – like a tidy house.
I bloody love a tidy and clean house. Love it. It makes me SO happy and at peace. I sometimes wonder if I’m a bit OCD about tidiness, as I genuinely can’t rest in mess. And with two toddlers, there is always mess.
The only exception and room I can ‘let go’ is the kid’s playroom, as I’ve trained myself to shut the door on that shit and not look at it. So my happiness parameters have shifted to accommodate the fact that kids seem to like throwing toys everywhere and existing in chaos.
The key here is the phrase ‘happiness parameters’. As Gawdat explains, we are the ones who set these parameters. We decide what makes us happy and how we react to situations that make us unhappy. Sounds obvious and easy right? So why can it always go so wrong?
I know the answer in part. Societal conditioning. It has to be. We are all born happy. Little blank slates, ready to learn how to thrive in this terrifying and beautiful world. We have a few basic functions that need fulfilling but everything else, our preferences, likes and joy all come from things we choose. We are all just like the honey bee – flying around trying to eat, survive and eventually procreate. We need love and kindness and have to dodge the fly swat that is life in order to find it. We need to seek it out, recognise it and hang onto it like it the last bit of summer pollen. And it’s hard.
But children don’t seem to find it hard at all. I sat down my 3 and 4-year old last week to do some drawing and whilst they scrawled pictures of spiders and flowers I wrote their happiness lists. Like me, they had the most basic things on there. Dancing. Magic tricks. Slides. Swimming. Cake. The colour purple (not the film, unless my 3-year-old has a secret Netflix subscription). Playing ball. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Burping. All pretty standard answers really.
After writing the happiness lists and comparing them with mine, I was pleased to discover we all had the same number one. Being together. Well both kids said ‘getting cuddles and kisses from Mummy and Daddy,’ and mine said ‘being with my family,’ but essentially they are the same.
So after writing these lists, all my unhappy ‘feels’ from being a stay at home Mum faded into the background. They ceased to matter. I can recognise, address and then dismiss them. I am allowed to miss adult company and being able to have a hot beverage in one beautiful sitting, but it doesn’t need to fuel my unhappy. The frustration of spending hours in the bathroom trying to teach toddlers how to wipe their bum becomes rewarding. The repetition of the phrases “stop eating your bogies” and “please don’t draw on your brother” stop niggling. It is ALL worth it. Because as long as we are together we are happy, and it’s as simple as that.
And so here is the lesson for me. I am going to be the ‘happy’ I want to be. I will take a leaf from my children’s dog-eared books. I will find joy and cling to it – and recognise it’s mine. Everyone has different states of happy, and we are all conditioned to believe we can only be happy if we have that car, that house, that life. And it’s all bollocks. We all find happiness in different places, and we all deserve it.
Be the bee. Bee happy.