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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Creating happiness

© Another Day in the Country

Every weekend, I habitually approach Saturday and Sunday as if I were still in the working world, needing a break from the 9-to-5 grind.

But I’m not anyone’s full-time employee any longer. I “work” one day a week basically, and the rest of the week is pretty much the same as the weekend.

There isn’t anything very exciting happening in my town. Last weekend, Jess and I went to a movie in Salina. It was a good movie because it started a discussion on our way back home.

The film was based on a true story about two brothers with a dream of being teen rock stars. They got so far as cutting a record, but their fledgling fame went nowhere.

Thirty years later, one brother was still playing small town gigs, and the other managing their family’s farm, when they were rediscovered by memorabilia collectors.

Here was their chance to have their old record re-cut and perhaps tour singing their old tunes.

The touring career they thought would be so pleasurable at 20 wasn’t as tantalizing at 50. Those songs they sang were old hat, and they’d long ago gone on to something new.

Just as fashions change, what sparks happiness often changes, too.

This was a movie about dreams that we have, paths we take, opportunities missed, choices made, and how impossible it is to go back and pick up where we left off, because we all change as the years go by.

The thing that we thought would ensure happiness may no longer work. Our search for happiness in life is an on-going, ever-present challenge.

In the bathroom, of all places, at Centre, I found a poster about happiness. I guess a bathroom stall is a good place to catch people’s attention because they are sitting down, looking straight ahead, and hopefully smart enough to have put their cell phone away some place safe.

I’d been thinking about happiness because of talks with my teenage grandson. He’s at that age where happiness seems very elusive and dependent mostly on outside circumstances he can’t control.

So, I read suggestions on this “How to Find Happiness” poster very intently. In fact, I got my phone, returned, and took a picture of it to send to Dagfinnr.

On the other end of the life spectrum from my favorite teenager, I, too, find happiness somewhat elusive at times, and I’m constantly refining my definition of what it is to be happy.

Sometimes, I’m happy just to be getting up out of bed, making plans for the day.

Sometimes, happiness is picking a bouquet of flowers that grasshoppers have missed.

Some days, it is watching my ducks cavort in their puddle of water. Other days, it is seeing the UPS guy.

The poster suggested meditation and getting more sleep would be helpful. Practicing smiling was another hot tip that I learned a long time ago.

That’s the thing: At my age, I’ve read a lot of hot tips and tried out a host of techniques.

I was looking at myself in the mirror several decades past and realized that an aging face, as skin sags and lines deepen, is a grumpy face, but if you smile, you get an instant face lift. You look happier, kinder, more approachable.

This increases your chance of someone smiling back, maybe even becoming a friend. And that shoots the happiness equation right to the top of the charts.

Practicing gratitude was on the happiness poster along with helping others.

These were all tried and true tips I had expected to see. Then I saw one that I didn’t anticipate. Plan a vacation that you may never go on.

Planning a vacation is a hard one for me, because planning around everyone’s schedules is such a chore, and I’ve never in my life just taken a vacation alone.

Where would I even want to go? What would be affordable? I started making a list.

I’ve often thought I’d like to visit some new country — maybe Spain or Greece — where I’d rent a house for a month or for a summer and I’d just paint country scenes.

River cruises are something else I’ve wanted to try — on a smaller cruise ship or a river barge. I have friends who’ve done bike-and-barge trips in Europe and love it, but I’m not that consistent of a biker, and I see dollar signs just thinking about it.

I asked myself where I would like to go in the United States of America and then pondered all the different places I’ve seen.

What came to mind was a trip I took years ago to visit Idaho in the fall. I got this little happiness tingle just thinking about my friends who live in Sun Valley. We’ve done a lot of traveling together through the years. They are good traveling buds.

With a smile on my face, I began planning a pretend trip to a jazz festival that happens every fall.

When was it happening this year? What about driving? Would it be fun to see fall colors in Colorado? Maybe Jess would go with me? Perhaps we’d visit our cousins in Denver, on the way? What airport would I fly to? Boise? Oh, that would make it quite a trip for friends to pick me up; don’t want that. What are the other options?

I’m planning away, writing down options, and then I thought, why make this just pretend? So, I called my friends, made reservations, and am happy to say, on another day in the country, I’m actually going!

Last modified Oct. 5, 2023

 

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