Lately, I have been preoccupied with the idea of happiness and what our sources of joy in this limited life can and should be. Questions that infinitely fascinate me include:
- Is happiness a byproduct or a goal?
- Can happiness become an idol?
- Is happiness a feeling or is joy a choice?
- Is it foolish to chose happiness over success? How are these related?
- Is it selfish to seek one’s own happiness or is my happiness leading to others happiness?
- What does the Bible teach us about choosing joy?
- Does choosing joy mean ignoring reality? Does being cynical make one appear more educated?
I am a verbal processor, and these questions have been the subject of many of my recent conversations with friends and family. I could rant forever about these ideas — probably without coming to any real conclusions. I was going to gather information and write ONE AMAZING BLOG POST about happiness but have found that these questions are too large for one blog post. They may even be too expansive for one book, or perhaps too large for this mysterious life.
However, as Dr. Suess reminds us, “sometimes the questions are complicated, and the answers are simple.”
I recently read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and was very inspired by her resolve to change her life in simple ways in order to produce more joy. While this book has been criticized as a self-serving list of “common sense” principles, I found it inspirational. Maybe I just need to be reminded about common sense rules of life more than other people. I found her book inspiring because while her changes were primarily about her, they lead to a more harmonious atmosphere for her family and furthered her community.
So, for today, I will focus on one simple change in my life that I am hoping will lead to greater happiness (or joy, or vitality, or productivity, or fulfillment, or whatever.)
I have been trying to embrace and enjoy the mornings.
I am resolving to wake up earlier. Not crazy early, though. When searching online for famous early risers, I found out that a bunch of CEOs of various important companies wake up at 4:30 am to talk to business associates in Asia and get a jump on the days news so that by the time they get in to work they know more than anyone else. That isn’t really my goal. (Actually, another goal I am working on is not being someone I’m not. I’m not a business-oriented person and I can’t make myself one. See my complete list of personal rules below) I do believe I can wake early and that mindful time in the morning is unique and important.
Rising early regularly is difficult for me, because on a work day I am already out of my door by 7:45. I honestly love the idea of waking at 6, and having a whole 90 minutes to myself. Of course, this would mean going to bed at ten every night, which would cause me to miss out on many of my beloved social weeknight traditions (I’m not only referring to weeknight drink specials — even my humble book club doesn’t meet until 8pm) Right now, I am simply working on making a change from waking up at 7:30 to waking up at 6:45. Instead of bolting out the door in clothes pulled randomly from my closet, make-up half done and full mug of coffee spilling onto my hands — I will take time to look out the window while my coffee brews, locate my glasses and what I want to read during my lunch break, read my daily devotion while I eat breakfast, and check the weather before getting dressed.
On Wednesday evenings, I babysit a delightful ten-year-old. He is an introverted, only child who prefers to watch shows such as How It’s Made and Myth Busters and is a devout vegetarian. He also goes to bed every night at 8:00 pm, without argument. He is allowed to read or draw for a half an hour until “lights out” (the two words most children dread) at 8:30. I never need to remind him that it is time to turn off our third episode of Bones for the evening and head upstairs. Once, I asked him if he enjoyed sleeping in on the weekends. “Sometimes I will sleep in until 7.” he answered. I refrained from teasing him and simply responded. “That’s not very late.”
“I usually wake up at 5am on school days,” he explained, “Then I get to have two hours to myself before my parents wake up. I like having time where no one is asking me any questions.”
I have always operated as someone who does not require very much “Caroline time.” In fact, too much Caroline time freaks me out, and when I find myself faced with several empty hours I literally have to schedule my life down in one-hour segments so I don’t go on major Facebook and Pinterest binges. It is not in my nature to want to wake early, but it is somewhat in my nature to be a morning person. I enjoy writing in the morning. I am a “once I’m up, I’m up” person. I can hit snooze numerous times from the bed, but once I’ve washed my face and turned on the electric kettle, I am ready to face the day.
I have found that time to myself in the morning is very different than time to myself in the afternoon and evening. Something about the mind being clear, or the sun rising, or the idea of God meeting you in the morning stillness, perhaps.
Waking early is a sign of embracing the gift of life. I am grateful for today. If I am healthy and have slept well for the past six to eight hours, I will be awake—living simply and receiving new mercies.
If you are interested in other small rules that I have created in order to pursue joy (and–hopefully–bring joy to others) here is my complete list (inspired by Rubin’s 12 Commandments):
- be caroline
- act how i want to feel
- love like jesus (to love is to give)
- do it now
- embrace and enjoy the morning
- go outside
- throw it out / let it go
- remain calm
- pray (out loud) for others
- write it down
- ask God for the energy/strength
- complete this sentence regularly: I am grateful for _______