Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Happiness is....


I don't dare define happiness for anybody. Some people surf 60-ft waves. Others curl up with a good book. I take my binoculars and try to find rare birds. But the point is, there is something that makes us happy, and it usually has nothing to do with money--or at least, very little to do with money.

Yeah, yeah, we've all heard the "money doesn't buy happiness" shpiel before, and wondered how people could possibly be addicted to buying things. This isn't about any of that--after all, it's a natural living blog, and not a frugality one.

But it's true that most of the things that make us happy are free, or pretty damn close. Yes, my binoculars cost $60 (and no, I'm not complaining about that, just saying) but they've lasted almost 12 years, and they work well enough. We like to hang out with friends, spend time with family, train for a marathon, etc. They cost us in time, and not in dollars and cents, and that, I think, is what makes them so easy to forgo. It's not hard to buy orange juice, but to decide to spend Sunday morning freezing your @$$ off in the cold and hoping to see a smew is a rather unimpressive way to spend your precious time if you need orange juice.

I would argue, though, that it's a price worth paying. Taking time on a regular basis to reconnect with what makes life enjoyable for you is a way to avoid the pressure to buy so that you can be. What I mean by that, is stepping away from the consumer culture foisted upon us by all those TV ads and all the glam and glitter of shiny mailings and malls that tell us that we want to be the next pixie-stick supermodel and have cellulite-free legs, and focus on what we really want. It lets us be ourselves, rather than the cliches (yes, there should be an accent over the "e") that entertainment execs think we want to be.

Taking time away from "what you should be" and spending time with "what you are" can be life-changing, or just a nice way to relax. The better you know yourself, the better you understand what you need--and usually, it's got nothing to do with artificial colorings, credit cards, or any of the trappings of the electronic age. No, you don't have to live in a cave. But you do have to live with yourself, so it's a good idea to make sure you're as happy as you can be.

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