Friday, September 26, 2014

My Life Essentials for Happiness: Then and Now



I recently allowed myself a little trip down Memory Lane, vis-a-vis some writing I did about ten years ago.

Good God, was that ever eye-opening.

Writing has not, until the last two years, been a regular thing in my life. I have wanted to write, but hated the act of sitting down to write. It has only been through discipline - and a regular writing gig - that I have finally made peace with the more frustrating parts of writing and have made it a part of my routine. It is becoming habit. And I'm glad of this, because I look forward to reading what I'm writing now in the coming years. It's an excellent way to see how things have changed, and how they've stayed the same. It's the road map of your life, showing you where you've been so you have a better idea of where you are and where you may be going.

There is nothing more telling than reading what you have written, especially of moments long forgotten. Reliving the experience of being a recently divorced, single-and-not-loving-it, twenty-something, struggling artist in NYC was both unpleasant and enlightening. It was unpleasant to live most of that stuff. It's unpleasant to be reminded of it. But thank God I've gotten to the point where it is enlightening.

I made a list on May 6th, 2004, of the ten things I needed in my life to be happy. I was four months into a six month national theater tour, living out of a suitcase and spending every night in a different city, usually in a crappy motel room shared with three other people. I became used to a life of depravation, and to my surprise discovered that I was happier than I had been in a long time. In my attempt to define what, exactly, was making me so happy, I came up with this list:

Ten Essentials for Life Happiness

  1. My own bed (I had been sharing a bed with another actor - totally platonic - for four months and missed having the bed all to myself.)
  2. A good book, a real page turner
  3. Some great tunes for singing along
  4. Delicious food and drink at least once a week (Mexican food and Chai Lattes)
  5. Clean clothes
  6. Companionship/good conversation
  7. A little time alone every day
  8. Nasal spray and aspirin
  9. An opportunity to be creative
  10. A hot shower
What surprised me most when reading this, ten years later, is that very little has changed. With perhaps the exception of #1 (now that I happily share a bed with Hubs), those all pretty much hit the nail on the head, even now. My creative soul has stayed true to itself, all these years, and no matter what choices I make, what I try to do to evade those things I really want in order to behave in a way that everyone else thinks is "responsible", that simple list is what I need to be happy. I might add a little piece of earth with which to garden, and the food choices now lean more towards Indian food and great wine, but the companionship, the presence of art and music, the opportunity to be alone, my basic needs met - these are really all I need to be happy. And the damn nasal spray and aspirin - my sinuses still bother me and I haven't been able to really kick that habit in a way that sticks.

What do you need to be happy? What are the basics that you can pare your life down to in order to feel content and fulfilled on a daily basis? What can you get rid of that isn't serving you, or is weighing you down needlessly with additional responsibility?