October 17, 2013: The Happiness Factor

Date night conversation
Thursday night was date night. On this particular evening, Garrett and I chose sushi with a little wine for me and beer for him. As always, date night was our time to talk about anything and everything with no interruptions. No kids. No guests to entertain and no agenda. An open forum to enjoy each other's company.

We have solved many of life's problems out to dinner alone or on a long road trip. The topics vary and we never lack for conversation. Just as it should be.

Although we talked about many things on our most recent date, the topic that stuck with me was centered on happiness. What makes us happy? How do we gauge our own happiness? A recent article I read on the subject brought some good thoughts to our discussion.

I asked Garrett to tell me, at that moment his happiness factor. And then on a scale from one to ten, I asked him to estimate mine. The conversation that followed revolved around what impacted this factor. An honest conversation.

People are wired differently, so factors vary. But what holds true is that the things people think make them happy really don't. So often people will say they're a five on the happiness factor, but would be a nine IF...they had loads of money, a better job, companionship, a house on the beach, etc...

The reality is that waiting for the things that make you happy is really a farce. Things don't make you happy. People make you happy. Feelings make you happy. Acceptance of your circumstances or making positive change for the better; all high on the happiness factor. Typically the fancy boat, view to the mountains, or new exciting relationship are short-lived. It really is what you do with the great gifts you're given and knowing when you've been given a gift that is less transparent to the human eye.

Garrett ranked me an eight after my inquiry on my own happiness state. He was right. Typically I run between a seven and a nine. Rarely do I fall below this range and on a good day, I can hit a ten. Things that contributed to my momentary eight? Happy kids, meaningful companionship, balcony friends, healthy parents, feeling like I make a positive difference, financial stability, a lovable dog, a new challenge ahead of me.

Why not a nine? Jeans were a little tight, sleep a little sparse, behind on e-mails, and not completely on the same page with my boyfriend. All fixable. And tomorrow the list will be most likely be different, but just as long. Life is never perfect. It's what you make of it.

On our way home, I got a call from my parents. Dad had a medical procedure done and was updating me. Although I don't like to hear of my parent's pain, I was happy that they continue to be in good health and enjoying life. Dad went on to prove my thesis on the happiness factor without even knowing it.

When I asked how he and mom were doing outside of the procedure, I could feel the warmth in his voice. "We are so happy" he said. He went on to explain how he and Mom loved their days together. They walked, worked on projects, and went to garage sales. Their hobby of refurbishing and reselling old items brings them on frequent trips to the post office. Dad gleamed through the phone as he told me the people at the post office knew them on a first name basis. My parents enjoyed this stop. It was part of their daily routine and their happiness.

There are no glamorous palm trees or beaches in my parent's hometown of Kingman. They don't own a private jet or drive a fancy car. But they have a very high happiness factor.

I love my parents. Just thinking about them makes me happy. It's contagious. I can only hope that one day the people at the post office will greet me and know me by name. It is so much more fulfilling to enjoy the small things than waiting for happiness to come to me.


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