Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shiny Happy People

For a long time, I've thought of happiness much like the song in the title. Not something that serious, intellectual people practiced. Contentment, yes. Even joy. But happiness, no. So shallow and superficial.

Maybe it's all just semantics though. How do I define happiness for me? Do I define myself as a happy person? Or do I choose to define myself by the challenges and struggles I face in life?

In the book I'm reading, the author noticed that his Stress Recovery group always began negatively. Each person took turns reporting the stress they had the past week. Those with the most drama were held in higher esteem as they got more attention and more time to talk. One day he decided to mix things up. He challenged the group to share with each individual in the room, one different thing that gave them happiness in the past week. Immediately people had objections. "That would be about twenty different things!" one woman panicked. However he persisted and people in the group rose to the challenge.

It made a world of difference to the group dynamic. Instead of defining themselves by their stress, members started defining themselves by what gave them joy. Things they were grateful for. What made them happy.

Recognizing an opportunity to make yet another list, I got out a piece of paper while my students were taking their grammar tests Friday. Not sure if I could do twenty, I numbered my paper to ten. Surely I could squeeze out ten. After starting such a daunting task, not only did I get ten but easily got twenty and thensome! I hesitate posting my list because it seems like bragging but why is being happy something to be ashamed of? So here goes:

One caveat: these things did not cause me to be happy. One of the truths I've learned is that nothing can make me happy or unhappy. "Circumstances and situations do colour life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the colour shall be." This is where those "rose-coloured glasses" come in handy, eh?

Without further ado, here's my week!
1) Paid holiday- the first celebration of Ontario's Family Day!
2) Relaxing at a Korean spa (jimjilbang)
3) Enjoyed watching "Rent," "Tales of the City" and "Noah's Arc."
4) Had great avocado and sushi roll at a great new Korean restaurant (Soban) on Yonge/Gloucester.
5) Great workout at the gym Tuesday followed by a tai chi class
6) dinner with coworker and AT Thursday night in Koreatown.
7) Sunny days plural!
8) Found my brother on Facebook!
9) chatted on gmail with my cousin. laughed a lot.
10) coffee Sunday with friend Mark at Java Jive
11) Reading three Sandman novels.
12) Great nap Tuesday after work!
13) my BF taking care of me while I was sick.
14) very affirming student evaluation comments
15) great time with friends at Madonnarama at fly
16) no credit card balance this month for the first time in a long time!
17) (homemade) Christmas card from dear university friend with cute pictures of her kids.
18) A free ticket to "And Furthermore They Bite!" at the Toronto Symphony with my friend and her delightful four-year old.
19) getting salmon bibimap for dinner at home!
20) watching a video clip in church today of my minister receiving the Order of Canada and singing "O Canada!" afterwards. Especially the bit about "glorious and free."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

If You're Happy and You Know It

As if one isn't enough, I've joined yet another book club! This one meets only after church during the Lenten season. I was interested because observing Lent isn't a tradition I grew up with. Plus I'm hoping this will be a way for me to meet people in the the church. My only problem with this book club is ironically the book!

I'm even embarrassed to reveal the title! "Happiness Now!" Exclamation Mark! It just begs to be mocked. As I rule, I generally shy from crossing the fiction/non-fiction divide and I would place "self-help/personal growth" at the very depths of non-fiction. It's sooooo not my thing. It reminds me too much of Charlotte in "Sex in the City" walking down the aisle of a bookstore getting increasingly depressed. Or like Marie in "When Harry Met Sally" when she leans over and murmurs to Sally, "Someone is staring at you in "personal growth."

It's not that I'm against happiness per se. I like to be positive and find contentment in life. I'm just leery of the pursuit of happiness (yes I know it's unAmerican). I'm reminded of my close friend who was always trying to find happiness. In the end he gave up hope and ended his life. He just couldn't find any joy in life.

Also I have to wonder- is it selfish to want to be happy? To want "it all"? Or should I be content and grateful for what I already have? My mother always told me that happiness is a choice and we control our own emotions. (She also told me when I came out that she would rather me be "good than happy"- so does this mean it's sinful/wrong to be happy?) And if happiness is indeed merely a state of mind, something within to be discovered, does this contentment in turn breed complacency?

And is happiness solely an internal thing? When I made a list of situations when I felt happy, I was either with family or friends or I was in service to others. Conversely, situations that cause unhappiness are also external as well. I pose this question: what if one can't find happiness internally, on their own?

I actually don't think there is anything wrong with receiving outside help like counseling or medication. Some people use music or art to get to a happy place. Others use sex, drugs (legal or illegal) to get to a state of happiness. It boggles my mind to think of so many unhappy people in the world searching for external solutions for something so internal.

Which brings me back to the God who isn't outside but is inside of me. Reminding me that I am worthy of loving. Reminding me that I am a beautiful creation, made in His image, not broken or in need of repair. And that's pretty amazing, when you stop to think about it.

So who knows? Maybe happiness can be now! Stay tuned!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes We Can!

I rarely post video clips on here. However this was one of the more creative ventures I've seen in a long time. It's such a postive message I couldn't help sharing this with you! The US has so much untapped potential. Change is here, if we want it.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I Am God's Special Creation

I love my church. I love love it. Today to proclaim Black History Month, we had an amazing member of our church talk about her life experiences as a young black immigrant woman in Canada. She concluded with a Marianne Williamson quotation that Nelson Mandela used in his 1994 Inaugural Speech. Check it out!

Our Greatest Fear
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate,
but that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant,gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.
And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Isn't that amazing!? Such a refreshing perspective!
For our special music we had this talented performer sing first Somewhere Over the Rainbow and then Gloria Gaynor's "I Am What I Am." It brought the house down. Standing ovation. Tears all around me. It blew everyone away. I'm including it here with the change that he made in the lyrics. It's my hope that these messages will encourage, inspire and challenge you as they have done the same to me!
I am what I am
I am God's own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook
Or the ovation
It's my world
That I want to have a little pride
My world
And it's not a place I have to hide in
Life's not worth a damn
Till I can say "I am what I am "
I am what I am
I don't want praise
I don't want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it's noise
I think it's pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle?
Why not see things from a different angle ?
Your life is a sham
Till you can shout out
I am what I am!
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the aces, sometimes the deuces
It's one life and there's no return and no deposit
One life so it's time to open up your closet
Life's not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am
I am useful
I am I am
I am true
I am somebody
I am as good as you
Yes I am