It is not autumn yet, and the leaves on the trees are still quite green and healthy. However, I had to rake the backyard today because the maple has had a very fertile season and the grass was full of little helicopter seed pods. Even as I raked them into a sizable pile, they were actively falling from the tree. Some hit the back of my neck with force and bounced to the ground, others were more of a tickle and fell down the back of my shirt. It was peaceful.
Thunder started to rumble, and my daughter became frightened. She was standing on the side porch, splashing in the water table with her brother. I always try to explain to her that thunder is nothing to be afraid of, that it's just the sky's way of saying hello and letting us know it's about to give us a gift of rain. This time, she bought it and as the rain began to fall, we ran around the yard. We spun in dizzy circles, danced, ran through the wet droplets and looked up at the gray clouds, squinting.
I didn't waste time today with the internet, not with social media nor depressing images and stories of an ironic war in a holy land. I didn't stare at my phone, eagerly awaiting interactions that weren't going to come. Something about today was simple, and it fostered the contentment that had been hard to find lately. I was happy today, that simple true happiness that grows inside us when we make the choice to nurture it.
True happiness is not contingent upon external circumstances. It is not dependent upon how much money we have, how large our circle of friends, how loved we are, how much property or material goods we have. It is instead a product of gratitude, a conscious choice to hold a mirror up to our lives and see all the beauty contained therein instead of staring out a window onto someone else's life. If you have to look outside for happiness, you'll never find it.
Lately, I've lost sight of the important things in my life. I've focused on one dead branch in an otherwise overgrown and robust garden and made that misery the focal point of my existence - this one tiny thing that my life lacks. Pathetically, I've clutched those dead leaves to my chest and lamented, "Why me?" I've fantasized about that wilting plant and how much nicer my garden would be if only it could be healed, if only someone would rush to my rescue and pull the rotting roots from my soil.
No one is coming. The universe doesn't owe me that. The universe doesn't owe any of us anything. The only thing we can do is pull the offending rot from our own lives, and look out onto our garden and its ripe fruits and vegetables with happiness knowing that the universe didn't owe us that, either. But here it is, to be enjoyed for what it is.
The truth is, my life is full of simple beauty. I have a hard-working husband who excels in his job and provides for his family's every need. Because of his efforts, I am able to be a stay-at-home mom and raise our children myself, giving them the loving guidance and attention they wouldn't get with anyone else. I grocery shop without a budget, I cook amazing meals in a beautiful kitchen in a home we own, I put my children to bed in their own rooms, then spend the rest of my evening pursuing intellectual hobbies without any real worry hanging over my head. I have a tarantula my husband didn't want, two cats my husband didn't want, and might be getting a dog (which will actually be a compromise).
I brought my kids in from the rain and straight up to the bath tub. Grains of sand settled on the bottom, blades of dead grass floated to the top, remnants of a day spent in joy. We continued to splash and play as I scrubbed them down with castille soap that smelled of spicy lavender, then dried them off with fluffy towels and watched my little nudists run right to my daughter's room to jump on the bed before I wrestled them into clothes.
Happiness is a choice, and I choose to be happy.
*I feel I need to note that my unhappiness is in no way related to my son's autism. Anyone who might not know what else is going on in my life or my head (and that's everyone, because no one knows what goes on up there) might jump to that conclusion, unfortunately. My children are beautiful gifts and their own personalities, whether diagnostically labeled or not, are the spices of my otherwise dull life.