“Happy holidays,” we wish friends and strangers. Happy. We want to be happy. We want others to be happy. New shoes make me happy. Vodka makes me happy. The beach makes me happy. My kids’ snuggles makes me happy.
But see, I don’t want to be happy. And I don’t want you to be happy. I’m not a Grinch. But I am realistic. Happiness comes and goes. This fleeting pick-me-up feeling comes at the first sip of seasonal Starbucks’ coffee drinks, and lasts only as long as the Venti cup lasts. Possibly even longer as it migrates to my hips.
If we strive for happy, we’re always chasing. Chasing something that isn’t substantial. But if we dig deep and seek joy and contentment, that feeling of being full is long-lasting. This feeling of being filled weaves in and out of life events and daily moments and life’s tragedies and celebrations.
There’s a difference between a satisfied life, and a satisfactory life. I’ve been mindful in the past few years to create a very satisfied life. I fill it with people who make me a kinder, better person. I fill it with activities that feed my soul and challenge me to spend time in discomfort.
Moments of chaos still crop up, stressors and sad things occur. But I’m mindful to juggle people and things each day that each say “Ah!” in my life. So that when I string each of these sacred moments together, it lights up my life with the very deep feeling of being full. Filled. Content. Satisfied in an exhale-and-smile-sort of way.
When I was younger, I lived a very satisfactory life. I was successful in school and in my career. I had friends, had intimate partners, participated in activities, traveled. I did what we’re all supposed to do–held a job, had a car, dressed nicely, exercised, showered daily, went out with friends, had hobbies, stayed out of jail. But it was all just satisfactory. It was “Meh.” which is very different than “Ah.”
I used to have this inner itch, this inner hunger for something more. I felt unsettled. I was seeking something to fill me. Was it another advanced degree? A promotion? A new hobby? A new boyfriend? A bigger city to live in? I reached for them all. And I was still hollow inside.
Until I learned how to be more mindful in my life. Until I learned the difference between happiness and contentment. Until I learned how to say No to things and people that drained me instead of filled me. Until I learned how to be brave and try things that scared me and yet resonated with me. Until I learned to be courageous enough to create real connections with people who teach me to be the kind of person I want to be. Until I learned to stop being concerned about the outcome, and live in the process instead. Until I learned to fill myself from the inside.
So this holiday season, as we string festive lights along the roof tops and around trees, I urge you to take a moment and look at your string of life moments. Does it light up your life? Does it fill you? If not, replace some of those “Meh” lights with “Ah” lights until your string of life shines with joy and contentment. It is each of these decisions every moment of who we choose to share our selves with, what activities we choose to put our selves into, how we share our selves with the world; it is each of these moments each day that create your string of life lights. Be mindful of what wattage of light you shine into this world. Wishing you all a satisfied, content, full life.