Happiness is sitting in the laverie on a cold chair next to an old man, and his knowing smile as I try to figure out how to work the coin operated machine. Happiness is in having time, in being present. It’s unhurried, moment by moment contentment. It’s walking through the empty streets of Paris late at night after sharing a few beers and far too many cigarettes with new Canadian friends. Happiness is la rentrée, it’s coming home and realizing home is everywhere. Paris, France 2014
Sometimes I feel so happy, so overwhelmed with blessings that I feel embarrassed. How is it possible to feel this way, so satisfied with buying a baguette at the boulangerie and sharing a breakfast of pain au chocolat at 1pm in the afternoon? Am I crazy? Have I lost my mind? Or have I found it?
I thought I might feel sad or loss when leaving Ghana and returning to France. I thought the lack of family and friends, the missing of every day Ghanian life would temper la rentrée to Paris. I was worried it wouldn’t be the same. Yet, somewhere along the line, it wasn’t my circumstances that determined my state of being, it was me.
Lena, my German twin sister in Africa.
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in / my heart) i am never without it (anywhere / i go you go, my dear;)” -e.e. cummings
Teiman, Ghana 2014
You might think, “Of course she’s happy, she’s traveling the world, staying in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. Happiness is a given.” Maybe you’re right. My travels have definitely added to my happiness, I can’t deny that. But it’s giving into the moment that makes this possible.
It’s taking whatever life offers…the malaria ridden mosquito bites and bribery, the dusty, relentless wind that colors everything a grayish rouge, the church services amplified with broken speakers until 3:30am in the morning. It’s accepting when I’m lost or confused. It’s letting the tears fall when I feel helpless or indignant.
Tulum, Mexico 2013
It’s letting someone love me and take care of me, even if tomorrow they may be gone.
Somewhere along the way I stopped asking for more. I stopped looking for ways to improve or maximize my experience. I got tired of sitting in the wave pool before the waves came on, trying to create my own current and splashing around like a fool. Instead of creating the flow, I decided to give into it. I’ve learned not to take responsibility for what happens, only how I respond.
I’m not sure if this is wrong or right.
The key for me is to remain present. 100%, every day present with what is happening right now. I’ve never been good at this–always remembering the past and its glorifications or disappointments, looking ahead to avoid future heartache, or trying to set myself up to attain future goals, always achieving, achieving, achieving…
Yet, my mind and body are most satisfied when I pay attention to my immediate needs. When I concentrate on how I feel and what I’m experiencing today, my intuition kicks into high gear. I can remain in a state of openness and awareness, adjusting my life on a smaller scale, fine tuning and then playing life’s song again and again.
“But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
Paris, France 2014
How do I hold onto this? How do I not let this present happiness slip through my fingers? The secret is to let it go. It’s permission to let my emotions come to the surface without letting them control my behavior. Accept when I feel nervous, excited, frustrated, worried. Take accountability. Acknowledge it, and then release it. Release the struggle, the manipulation, stress, and fear.
Walk on the water. Take the step out of the boat and walk towards the Light. Don’t look down. The Universe rewards those who take risks. It rewards courage. It rewards flexibility and faith. Let your worries and happiness soar with the wind. Soar, soar, soar.
Appalachian Trail, North Carolina/Tennessee, 2013