Monday, March 20, 2017

International Day of Happiness

Today is Tuesday, March 21st, but in America--where I am from (I'll live in South Korea as an expat for 15 more months) it is Monday, March 20th, and that means....

It's International Day of Happiness!

Hooray! (*throws confetti*)

I love laughter. I love smiling. I love seeing the positive--even when there's not much positivity around me. I consider it a challenge, one I accept willingly. My life is better when I'm happy. How about yours?

Over the last few years, I've discovered something super cool: I am in charge of my own happiness. Huh! Who knew?? For decades, I've been declaring that when I had more money, I would be happy. When I moved to a bigger house, I would be happy. When ____ said ____ to me, I would be happy. When ___ did ____, I would be happy. When ____ was given to me, I would be happy. When I had __ around of children, I would be happy. When I sold __ amount of books, I would be happy.......and so on, and so forth, etc etc etc....the list goes on and on.

But I had it all wrong. Like, totally wrong. It isn't up to other people to make me happy. It isn't anyone else's responsibility to create joy for me. It's my responsibility to create joy for myself.  Oh, and not only that, but it's not my responsibility to create joy for others. I'm not burdened with the job of making sure everyone around me is happy. That's not my job, just as it isn't so-and-so's job to make me happy. You see?? It's all so basic, but sort of complex, too.

And you know...once I realized all of that, everything else just sort of fell into place.

Now I find joy wherever I need to.

For are the things that bring ME joy:

1.) Good books. (Literally nothing better in the world than a well written book that takes me away from real life for a while--too many folks get stuck on reading trendy, hipster, thought provoking literary fiction, so they can stroke their beards and feel enlightened. Not me. I prefer good, old fashioned romance. I don't care if it makes me smarter, does it make me laugh? Does it make me sigh and hug the book after I'm done reading it? Yes?? Then I'll read it twice.)

2.) When my kids succeed. (My kids are growing up. They don't need me as much, which is every bit as scary as it is liberating. But this week my son made his college choice, and sent his mission papers off. He leaves for Africa for a service trip in less than a week, and will go kayaking and hiking in Australia in May. The kid is just successful, and it gives me joy. He turned out okay, despite a rough start, (they all did!) and it makes me happy.)

3.) My tribe. (When we moved from Washington State to South Korea, I felt like I'd lost all of my friends. <though, thanks to social media, I've managed to keep some of them--woo hoo!> Finding a new tribe here has been difficult, to say the least. The expat community here is tight, but diverse. Finding people to mesh with is about more than going to the same church, or having kids who are friends. It's about accepting and tolerating differing lifestyles, religious beliefs, or political stances. It's about listening beyond accents, and trying to hear the words people are saying. It's about finding folks to lean on, and depend on, despite having only known them for 2 years, instead of 10. When I had my cancer scare in Dec/Jan, I discovered that I had a pretty amazing tribe. Not only back at home in the USA, but here in South Korea, and I'm infinitely grateful for that. They make me feel safe...and feeling safe makes me happy!)

4.) Laughing with my husband. (Every wife will say her husband is her best friend, but when I say it, I literally mean it. This guy...he listens to everything I say, even when it's ugly. He knows everything about me, good and bad, and he still digs me. If something happened to him, it wouldn't just crush me because he is my husband, but also because he's my bestest, closest confidant. The coolest part about our relationship is how much we laugh together. To other people, my husband comes across as stiff, cold, and serious. But to know him well, is to know how dry and witty he is. He is probably the funniest guy I've ever known. Nothing beats laughing with him.)

5.) I'm writing again. (After months--well years-- of unproductive writing, I am finally back in the saddle, and working on some great new books. There's nothing that feels better than creating more stories of humor and romance to share with my awesome readership. Plus...when I'm not writing, it's like having constipation of the brain. It backs up and makes me nutty. But when the words flow onto a page, it is like my brain health increases by 80%! Increased brain health makes me happy.

6.) Warm beaches. (This Saturday I am going to Guam with a friend. She said to me when I was having my tumor removed, "Get a clean bill of health, and I'll take you somewhere sunny!" And sure enough--by the grace of God--I got a clean bill of health. Now we're going to Guam. In my forties, my travel aspirations changed. I used to want to see cities and buildings and skyscrapers and bridges. <likely because I was raised in the country> but I've evolved. Now I want to see sand, feel warm air on my skin, and sit under palm trees while waves lap nearby. Being at the beach fills me with joy!)

7.) Scorched rice soup. (Ok, so this is a new development. When we first moved to Korea, I was utterly repulsed by the food. I thought that most of it stemmed from a dare, otherwise nobody would be eating the stuff these fine folks consider delicacies. I mean, I still don't understand why everything is covered in freaking red pepper flakes!!!! I've learned that if it's red, I don't even try it. I'm a wuss with spice. Blech. However, there are a few foods I've started to enjoy here in Korea. For instance: white kimchee. Still smells like feet, still fermented and gross, but not spicy--and so good for my gut! Second, Korean BBQ. It's just grilled beef. And it's tasty wrapped in lettuce. I dig it. Shabu-Shabu..which is actually Japanese, but Koreans eat it all the time <Korea was occupied by Japan a few times> and it's freaking delightful. Most recently I've become obsessed with scorched rice soup. It's a broth made with the scorched, browned rice from the bottom of the pot. I eat it with spicy soup, adding spoonfuls of the spicy broth to the rice to flavor it. It makes my toes curl, and that makes me happy.)

White kimchee....all the sour, none of the spice. Thank you, LAWD.

Scorched rice soup is my favorite. 

I could eat shabu shabu every single day.

Korean BBQ. Utterly simple. Completely tasty.

8.) Open spaces and wild land. (Basically rural America. I'm enjoying my expat adventure, but I've managed to grow a real appreciation about where I came from. Clear air, the smell of grass, unfiltered sunshine, rolling plains....utter bliss. Home makes me happy.)

What brings you joy? What makes you happy? Why aren't you doing it?? Find what makes you happy and pursue it. Don't pressure someone else to bring you joy, find joy yourself. It tastes sweeter that way.

Happy International Day of Happiness!