12 Things (Practicing Happiness)

I want to show you a poem that has been living rent free in my head since stumbling upon it.

“Poem in which I practice happiness,” by Joe Dunthorne, as found in New Statesman 2016

There’s much to love about it. It’s cheerful, and charming, and the images! That last line?! Maybe even more so, though, I love the idea of happiness as a practice. I love the idea that it’s something that may not come easily all the time. Something that requires work. Maybe even something we can get better at, with time.

So, listen. I get it. It’s been hard to be happy lately. There are devastating, horrible things being brought to the light everywhere we look right now, and expressing happiness in the midst of horrible things can often come across as tone deaf and deflective. But happy isn’t a state of constant being, and these are the times to do the work.

Alas. Here are 12 things that never fail to make me happy. The process of searching my brain for the simplest things that bring me the most contentment was so restorative and I cannot recommend this activity enough.

  1. The solidarity that happens when someone makes a Spongebob reference
  2. When my dad says “I’m Chuck Bass.”
  3. The first time you roll down the windows and feel the air when you get off the freeway at the beach
  4. That little squeeze between sisters when you’re at church together and you both know exactly why that was what you needed to hear
  5. When you’re not as drunk as your friends so you have that clarity as you watch them dancing to Mamma Mia holding their cats and think holy shit this is exactly how I wanted my life to be
  6. The things that come up in that moment on Facetime with someone you miss where both of you are trying to think of something to say because you don’t want to stop talking, like YES I would love to see everything you bought at Trader Joes and be walked through your entire skincare routine
  7. Having someone sit on your toilet listening to music while you straighten your hair
  8. The little routines, like following the boy around when he gets ready to leave for work and watching him fill up all his silly little pockets to soak up the last couple of minutes before he leaves
  9. When a song comes on in your car and hits you just like right there and takes you back to a feeling you forgot you ever felt and it’s golden hour and the mountains look all purple and it’s just warm enough to roll down your windows a little and let a song you’ve heard a million times wash over you anew
  10. The secret love language that forms between lovers and best friends, and a moment where you can kind of step back enough to see how your correspondence is nothing but inside jokes and shared vernacular and weirdly contextualized noises that no one but you two understand. (And when that vernacular seeps into regular conversation with someone other than said lover/best friend and you accidentally say you need to change your sockalones or have to explain why you call all wet food gravy. )
  11. The things it does to your brain when you smell sunscreen or wet asphalt or bug spray or your grandma’s favorite lotion
  12. Falling asleep on your parents’ leather couch watching a movie you’ve seen a hundred times and waking up to the credit sequence music to move into bed and feeling as though you’ve somehow tricked the universe into slowing down time because you still have so much longer to sleep

It’s not perfect, but I’m practicing.

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