Tag Archives: life

the attainment of happiness

21 Nov

I’ve spent the last few months thinking a lot about happiness. How to get it, mostly. The answer, I’ve found, lies in the same place most answers lie – in finding a balance. In this case, a balance between change and contentment. Between identifying what it is that is making you unhappy and altering those factors, and learning how to be happy in whatever circumstances you currently find yourself.

One of my favorite things in life is when things keep popping up in different ways and different places that all lead back to the same idea or concept, things that are so closely related that it makes it so obvious what lesson life is teaching you right now. It reminds me of when somehow I realize that I’m studying the same exact thing, albeit in different ways, in three of my different and completely unrelated classes. I’m going through one of these times right now – not in school, but in life. I think it started around the beginning of this semester when this period of general malaise and discontent started. I started trying to figure what it was that was making me unhappy when, on the surface, it seemed I had no reason to be – and I started trying to figure out how I could get happy again.

When I mentioned something along these lines to my – I don’t even know what to call her, my therapist? That just sounds so weird – anyway, her name is Charis, and when I mentioned to her how inexplicably unhappy I had been feeling lately, she directed me to a mindfulness lab that a couple of Rosemead students had started to teach on Wednesday nights. I only went once, but it’s really not a difficult concept, and once you’ve grasped it you can pretty much just practice it on your own with no outside guidance, unless you want to challenge yourself more and more with it. Basically, mindfulness, or mindful meditation, is something that I think was originally taken from Buddhist meditative practices, but it really doesn’t have to have anything to do with the Buddhist religion. All it is, is simply stopping, or pausing, and becoming aware of your surroundings – and then accepting them. It’s about noticing what’s going on in your mind and your body, and letting it happen instead of fighting it. It is bringing your complete attention to the present – not the past, not the future, but now, this moment. It’s a meditative practice, but it’s something that should ideally be brought to every moment of your life for true effectiveness.

This is what mindfulness means to me. I am a high-anxiety person. I always have some sort of thought simmering underneath the surface about planning for the future, worry about something I’m anticipating, or something of that sort. When I remember to be mindful, when I pull all of my attention to focus to this moment, I become okay with this moment, no matter what is happening. It’s strange and hard to describe, but it brings such a high level of calm to my brain to stop thinking about what’s going to happen. It’s a way of taking a deep breath with my soul and recalibrating myself within my surroundings, instead of attempting to control my surroundings – which is really impossible. I never want to totally lose my thirst for the change element of life, for my ambition, for personalizing my circumstances as much as possible – but what it’s so important to remember is that sometimes I can’t change things. I can only change the way I encounter and deal with them, the way I process them through my psyche and my actions.

Cut to last weekend, when I’m doing a last-minute reading of Samuel Johnson’s philosophical fable The History of Rasselas for my British lit class. Imagine my surprise when this strange story I’ve never heard of out of my Norton anthology starts sounding really familiar as Johnson posthumously draws parallels between my life and that of Rasselas, unbeknownst to him. Rasselas is a prince of Abyssinia who lives in this place called the happy valley with all the other princes and princesses, who have never known any other place. Every need or desire that the royal sons and daughters could possibly foreseeably call for is thought of and provided for. And yet, in the face of this life lived in the lap of luxury, with no clear desires to be seen, Rasselas finds himself in a state of discontent. He realizes that he does have a desire – he desires something, anything, to desire. He comes to the conclusion that contentment in life is partially found in identifying and meeting one’s needs, but he has never had the chance to do this. He feels that there must be something better out there, and so he escapes from the happy valley to seek for his choice of life, to find the contentment he longs for.

Spoiler alert: Rasselas does not find the happiness he thought he would in the outside world, and ends up returning to Abyssinia, his high expectations having been disappointed. But reading this story brought into focus a thought I had been sort of looking at out of the corners of my eyes for a while – the idea that happiness is largely not created by your external circumstances, but your internal circumstances. Even if Rasselas continued to search for happiness, he would not have found it, because it’s clear that his main problem was that he just wasn’t the kind of person who found contentment easily. I know this because I am one of those people. I am good at identifying things in my life that I want to change, pretty good at changing them, and not so good at staying happy with these changes. So I’ve started to realize that the problem isn’t with my circumstances; the problem is with me.

And then I came across this article online last week.

“Life only sucks if you do.

I know, that is a strong statement. But you see, here’s the hard truth – life isn’t how we see it; how we see life is how WE ARE.

If you’re having a stressful day, you are actually bringing stress to the day.

If people are mean, you are bringing the judgment of mean to everyone you see.

If you can’t seem to get a break, it’s because you are choosing to see failure as permanent instead of a sign showing you where to go.

If life isn’t fair, then the rules you have made up about life are holding you back…

We get from life what we bring to it. Plain and simple.

This doesn’t mean things will always go our way; this doesn’t meant that tragedy won’t strike; this doesn’t mean that life won’t be challenging.

But, what this does mean is that we have the power to apply an empowering meaning to what happens and we can choose to learn and grow. Anyone who is successful has overcome challenges, personally, professionally and spiritually.

Our aim should be to train our minds to be strong like strong muscles, so that we can apply an empowering meaning to tough times. As we walk The Path we must become the person it takes to manifest our dreams, otherwise we are simply wishing, hoping and dreaming. We must act.

Going to the gym with weak muscles and just positive thinking your way through to being able to curl 100lbs won’t do it. We have to work. And we have to be willing to go through the pain, but instead of being held captive by the pain of growth, love it and be grateful for it.”

And now I decide how I want to be. Do I still want to look honestly at my life and identify the things that I could change to make life easier, happier, better, and then change those things? Yes. I always want to be growing, changing, knowing myself more and creating the life that I want to live. But I also want to learn to take things in stride. To face setbacks with determination and action, not with dejection and complaining. I want to find an inner equilibrium, something that will keep me steady through every stage of my life. A quote from Rasselas: “Do not disturb your mind with other hopes or fears than reason may suggest: If you are pleased with prognostics of good, you will be terrified likewise with tokens of evil, and your whole life will be a prey to superstition.” I take this with a grain of salt. I don’t want to lose the enthusiasm I feel when good things happen in my life, but my mind definitely gets disturbed by things a little too easily. I want to be just a little bit more steady than I already am. I want to focus just a little less attention on changing my external circumstances and just a little more attention on strengthening my internal state. That way, I know I’ll be ready to face whatever comes my way – and I’ll be able to do it with a smile on my face.



16 Nov

Middlesex, a miniature pinscher, and questionably-colored nail polish.

Fall in La Mirada

The insanity that is my “school purse.” That’s three books, one beat-up Bible, one planner, one laptop, one notebook, one wallet, one huge camera, one pair of sunglasses that miraculously aren’t broken (yet), and two cookies from McDonald’s. Not pictured: a ton of other crap.

The fact that I captured this moment of terror on camera…

Big Bear Lake at sunset.

Hiking in the snow (I’ll post more pictures from Big Bear when I get my disposable camera film developed!)

Christmas glee.

10 things that make me really happy:

16 Nov

1. An email from my American lit professor telling me I did a “superb job” on my written midterm

2. Getting new issues of The New Yorker faster than I can read them!
(Those darn articles are so long!)

3. Figuring out that the secret to making it through a podcast is to listen to it in the car (Thanks, new little iTrip!)

4. Triple peanut butter ice cream
(Kyle and I have been working our way through all the flavors of Ralphs’ Private Selection ice cream. This one is INTENSE.)

5. Making dinner and eating it while listening to This American Life curled up on a little corner of our kitchen counter

6. Moments at Disneyland that continue to make me laugh long after they happened (“Did we just exorcise a demon?”)

7. Before Sunset (and, actually, Before Sunrise).
Both of which are available on Instant Netflix (my favorite kind of movie!)

8. Watching 2 Broke Girls every week

9. Our Love Is Easy by Melody Gardot and Moon River by The Honey Trees

10. Making my own breakfast burritos and watching Lost* (okay, the number of things on this list that have to do with media and entertainment is ridiculous).

*I have ONE episode left! One!

possibly the most unproductive weekend of my life.

7 Nov

What I did this weekend:

  • sat at home all day on Friday (because I deserved to)
  • went to the Burger Parlor for dinner with Kyle and his dad, who came down to drop off a car for Kyle to drive while he looks for a new one…
  • …then we went to Disneyland on a whim and I laughed my head off for the entire duration of our ride on Space Mountain
  • planned on going to help my church strip the floor of the Legion building and then go to a three-hour chapel to make up for the fact that I’ve been to four chapels this semester so far…
  • …but ended up staying in my sweatpants until 1 pm and watching Coco Before Chanel and Confessions of a Shopaholic with Raquel while I painted my nails
  • went on an impulsive run to Albertson’s for hot chocolate packets, fat-free milk, whipped cream in a can, and red velvet cupcakes
  • made hot chocolate on the stove for the first time (I actually kind of enjoy living without a microwave…but a dishwasher, not so much)
  • drove up to the Arclight to see Martha Marcy May Marlene with Kyle, but we got there really late and ended up walking around Hollywood for three hours while we waited for the next showing (and the movie was incredible, by the way)
  • got hot chocolate at Starbucks (disappointing), went to church, then had lunch at Watson’s Drug and Soda Fountain with Mom, Kyle, brother, and brother’s friend Ben
  • walked around Old Town Orange all afternoon and got sick of antique stores
  • ran into Graham at Jalapenos when I went to grab a burrito
  • went home and read some Virginia Woolf before going to bed.
Did I say unproductive? I meant insanely fun.

10 things that make me really happy:

3 Nov

1. Watching leaves blow down the street and off the trees in sheets, thanks to the gloriously strong wind that was blowing yesterday!

2. Making black bean and feta cheese quesadillas (although I think I’m going to stick to making burritos from now on with those particular ingredients, because feta cheese is not so good at the whole melting and holding the tortillas together thing. Which leads to more black beans on the plate and less in my tummy.)

3. Sushi + Slumdog Millionaire

4. Making French toast for all of my roommates (and the guy who came to turn our pilot light on!)

5. Thinking of creative Christmas gift ideas for everyone!

6. Inside jokes

7. Getting an $1800 scholarship for this year (Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Judy Phillips! I don’t really know who you are, but you sure made my day and your generosity is such a blessing!)

8. Taking a shower and feeling instantly 100% better

9. Driving with a miniature pinscher in my lap, his little head tucked up under my chin

10. Writing with pink and green highlighters

a little countdown…

2 Nov

19 days until we leave for Utah. 21 days until Thanksgiving.
42 days until this semester is over.
52 days until Christmas…
and 59 days until 2012!
155 days until spring break.
205 days until graduation…

mid-week nine.

26 Oct

It’s going to be really strange when the rhythm of my life isn’t conducted by the unique dynamic of whatever semester I happen to be in. It’s really interesting to think about the way the last four and almost a half years of my life have been segregated into semesters – some wonderful and some not-so-wonderful. Between different semesters, I have different routines, am taking different classes, have different work schedules, wake up at different times, hang out with different people, and may even have lived in different places. Last semester, I worked Monday/Wednesday/Friday and went to school Tuesday/Thursday. Tuesdays were my favorite day of the week. I had class from 8 to 8 and then a cohort group meeting at 10. I was living in McComber and, to be honest, I don’t even remember what I usually did for fun. I had just started watching the babykids and didn’t know where I was going to be living in the fall.

This semester, every day is very different from all the other days, but every week is practically identical. Sundays I go to church. Mondays I have class and counseling at 7. Tuesdays to Thursdays I have class and then work. After work on Thursdays I drive down to Antonucci’s in south county and then spend the night at my parents’ house so I can wake up early for work at auction.com on Friday morning. Saturdays are my only days that really have any variable at all. This is probably a part of the reason that I’ve been feeling such malaise lately.

It helps to try to think of, laugh about, and celebrate the small ways that my weeks are different from each other. The last week and a half were pretty brutal, workload-wise. I had a 2100-word written midterm due last Saturday night for Race & Ethnicity in American Lit. The Sunday night after, I had a written midterm due for Acts. Wednesday to Friday, classes were dismissed for Torrey Conference, but as every Biola student knows, it’s the exact opposite of a break. I had 10 pages of fiction due for my novel class on Thursday that I ended up not finishing until Monday morning. Yesterday, I ditched Theology to work on the Church Fathers presentation I had to give in class at 1:30 that I hadn’t been able to work on that weekend because of my 10 pages that were like pulling teeth for three days straight. I had a four-page reflection assignment due in American Lit this morning (in addition to the weekly reading) that I stayed up till 1 am last night to write. And, after all this, sinking into my seat in American Lit 10 minutes late this morning with 13 freshly-printed pages in front of me, I thought, Okay, I can kind of relax now. I have a paper due for Acts on Monday, but this weekend is over, I finished everything, and it’s back to the daily grind. And then, all of a sudden, my professor looks at me and says, “Mallorey, you’re giving your presentation today right?” Cue deer caught in headlights. I didn’t even know what to say. I still have no idea how I missed that deadline, but to be honest, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise, because if I had had another presentation to work on over the last few days in addition to everything else, I think I’d be dead right now.

So even though I still have a lot of homework to catch up on, I’m giving myself a little break (okay…a big one) and trying to rest as much as possible this week while still being minimally as productive as life demands. I got eight hours of sleep last night and it felt glorious. This afternoon I made pasta and watched three episodes of Lost. I really do want to get caught up this week once and for all, but for now I’m keeping myself accountable to the promise I made to not just blog on Friday mornings, but instead to chronicle all the little details of my life all week long.

Some things that are happening so far this week:

I felt happy and pleasantly surprised when reading something well-written by one of my classmates, instead of jealous.
Does this mean I’m growing up or something?
I wish I lived somewhere with more cool little places to go right within my neighborhood.
Sometimes it’s annoying to have to drive at least fifteen minutes to go anywhere kind of interesting. (Someday soon…)
I’ve been trying to take more and more pictures. Just of the little things that happen every day. Like this:

You can’t really tell in this picture, but this morning I realized Lydia and I were both wearing plaid shirts. I thought it called for a picture.
(And yes, that is our disgustingly messy kitchen behind us.)
Then we went to chapel with Lauren and my brother.
We got donuts because we’re commuters and that’s awesome.
Sometimes I’m sitting on the couch doing homework and I look up and realize everyone else has left the house, one by one.
It’s a nice kind of quiet.
Chicken sandwiches and natural-cut sea salt from Wendy’s are delicious. And cheap. I’m thinking about more Wendy’s in my life.
I’m SHAMELESSLY obsessed with this video.

And I can’t stop listening to the song in it either. I want it to be the soundtrack to my whole life.
I bought a whole bag of fun-size candy bars from CVS on Friday…all for me! They’re gone now…
On Sunday Kyle and I read went to the park by my house and read Lolita.
My yellow blanket is apparently perfect for spreading on grass as well as keeping warm inside with. Except it’s kind of smelly now.
(That just reminded me that I desperately need to do laundry…um…)
I think Coldplay is really great.
I finally got a new little iPod player for my car, after the CD player breaking.
And the iPod player I borrowed from my dad not working. And having to listen to the radio for a month.
I’m a happy girl now.
I saw geese (I think? I’m no bird expert…) flying south on two separate occasions yesterday, for the first time.
When the October weather isn’t hot and weird, it’s beautiful and foggy. I love it.
There are so many funny little clever details in Monsters Inc. Those Pixar guys are geniuses, I tell you.
Also, this cat comes out from its hiding place to greet me almost every time I walk to school.

It’s really sweet and always rubs up against my legs. Today I was on my home and not running late,
so I stopped to pet it. And then…it followed me halfway home.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to coax it after me most of the way…