Thursday, July 31, 2014

Choosing Happiness

I have been a life-long early riser. The girls I used to wake up at slumber parties at 6am will tell you this. (I would eventually learn to just entertain myself for three hours or so until the *normal* time for children who have sleepovers arose. I would do so by playing quietly with my friends' Barbies or memorizing the pictures and figurines in their respective bedrooms. That doesn't sound creepy, right?)

My propensity for early rising came in handy on our recent European journey as we had more time to see all of the things, and I've made a commitment to continue waking up early this summer so that I would have more "me" time and resent having to run off and spend my day watching someone else's child a lot less (I do really like the family and child I nanny!!! It's not them, it's totally me).

When I came back from my European "tour" ( i will be bougie and henceforth call it that ) and went to see Father for spiritual direction, he asked me how I was going to keep all of the graces received from the trip going. Well, that was a good question. I kinda shrugged my shoulders and said: "I dunno know. Keep praying and read Scripture?!" Standard Catholic spiritual direction answer.

So turns out, this getting up early in the summer and taking some time to do just that- pray and read Scripture- *is* the way that I am keeping the graces of my trip going. Because seriously without it, I could return quickly to the Debbie Downer I all too easily become most days out of the year.

NBC, please don't sue me for the use of this picture. The joke would really be on you...

Take for instance this morning: My body is sore and doing things that I'm pretty sure just come with being 33, but I DONT LIKE IT. I wobble to my bathroom and think to myself that I look like a 91 year old grandmother sans cane (not MY 91 year old grandmother, though, because that woman does vodka shots for breakfast and still mows her own backyard) meanwhile knocking a bottle of hot pink nail polish  (I think the color is actually called Cajun Shrimp. Actually, I know this because why would you name a nail color that? And please don't judge me for owning it...) off of my shelf immediately shattering it all over the commode and the wall. Cut to getting into my car and seeing that the tire pressure light is* still* on after I filled the tires with air yesterday meaning that I will have to now take my car in and figure out what to do with the child who will no doubt not love spending her morning in an auto repair shop instead of taking her dolls to the pool. 

We've all had these mornings, I'm sure. Minus the shrimp colored nail polish as we have already established that I'm probably the only woman who owns such a thing. I wanted to crawl out of my body and scream. The internet told me I needed to get the following things to remove nail polish from a wall: rubbing alcohol, a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, water, soap, and acetone. But I knew that what I needed to do to right then was to pray.

I am now going to in a complete non-sequitur jump from talking about my trivial day to Thomistic philosophy because that is what I do.

I teach my students the difference between "joy" and "happiness" using St Thomas Aquinas' definitions (which I may have borrowed from Fr James Martin, SJ's book, "Between Heaven and Mirth." Check it out!). In Latin, the words are delectatio (delight) and gaudium (joy). Delight pertains to sensory things while Gaudium is “attainment of an object that one regards as good for oneself or another.” This goes along with Aquinas' definition of love which I know I've used over and over again: "the effective willing of the good of the other." Ergo, joy is connected to love.

I often point out to the students that a joyful person does not always have to be happy. We can love and attain the good and not be necessarily emotionally happy. Happiness is about the tangible things, the sensory. And while joy and love are the surperior good, we all know that our culture is obsessed with the sensory.

Where am I going with all of this???! Well, all of these things are a choice. We choose to do the good for others, which means we choose love and joy. Likewise, we can choose happiness.

It started with the Happiness Project for me- choosing to find one image of tangible happiness, something that I could point to, each day. Then came the grace of the European "tour" (ahem), and now I am choosing to see the positive in each day with the help of my daily prayer and God's grace.

So here are today's positives so far: When I took my car in today, the child did not freak out that we had to spend our morning perhaps not as planned. The repairmen quickly found the screw that had screwed my up my car (heh) and I was only out of $15 instead of a tire. The nail polish will still be there when I get home and I will deal with it after i get that pedicure I had planned with a friend. Thus, my happy for the day.

We can't let the lies of the devil or Facebook or both convince us that everyone else is happier than we are. As I tell my students, God's grace is a free gift always waiting there for us. We just have to choose to open it each day. You like that metaphor? Never go into a classroom without a metaphor. Pro tip.

Also, I refuse to acknowledge that tomorrow is the beginning of August. That may be a misuse of the choice for happiness but shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...let me have my happy for now.

Enjoy the rest of summer (while i do everything in my power to hold onto it!!)


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