So, I am gridlocked in a traffic jam on the M25. Stationary. My Sat Nav says I am going to be nearly two hours late for my arrival in Eastbourne – and I feel a tad stressed. I call my friend (hands free!) – not quite how I had envisaged my first Saturday off in donkeys.
Rob sounds delighted. That extra two hours means he can go for a swim (he’s a sea swimmer) before I arrive. Phew. He’s happy – relief settles in.
I choose my favourite ‘happy songs’ on my phone (you can’t go wrong with a bit of Bazza Manilow!) and I sit back in my seat. The sun is shining brightly (it helps I love my car and the roof is down), and I sing full throttle, without inhibition, without care, from the base of my lungs. I am truly happy; life is good. Surrounded by traffic, fumes, grumpy faces – I feel at peace but alive. Ten out of ten. A four-hour journey of joy.
Many years ago a wise friend said she would be just as happy standing at the top of Kilimanjaro on her own, than if she were with the one she loved. Surely not – nothing can compete with a moment of happiness shared? We discussed, disagreed, dived in and out of various personality type differences (I like being with people, she’s quite happy on her own). So we parked it, without full conclusion or assent.
Cut to my traffic jam; I finally understood what she meant. There are different types of happiness. Had someone I loved been sitting next to me I would have been utterly joyous too. But there, on that hot and steamy M25, goodness knows what air was entering my lungs as I warbled full volume – I guess I had her Kilimanjaro.
It has taken me a long time, years of ‘happyness’ work, to reach a point where I am truly happy on my own. When I was younger more than one person had said to me that they were concerned for my wellbeing. So much of my happiness was dependent on being with others, sharing with others; what would happen if others weren’t around? At that time I took that to heart, I was young, insecure, and I started to question and worry about the one thing that I knew whatever, whenever, wherever brought my joy.
Many years later, I think I know what they meant. It was good to have my Kilimanjaro. It IS good to be at one with myself, to like my own company, and not ‘need’ others to always be present. However, and for me this is a big however, people are my joy. Interacting, connecting, sharing, chatting, is my number one ‘happy activity’. So why would I not want that for my life?
For some it will be playing the piano, for Rob it may be sea swimming. For me it’s that connection with another human being. Plus, as we all know, research shows that community, loving, being loved, giving and sharing is a great contributor to happiness and wellbeing.
Research shows that strong social relationships and community enables people to feel more connected to others, have higher self esteem and have lower rates of depression and anxiety. It can also strengthen our immune system, which helps us to recover from disease faster and may even increase our lifespan!
So I’m now at a BBQ (yes another BBQ, and yes it did rain again!), and I am surrounded by the people I truly love. Eating, laughing, sharing memories, hopes, dreams and thoughts. Bazza is playing in the background again. And I am happy, truly happy. A 10 out of 10. Again.
Happiness comes in many shapes and forms. But for me I think I needed to find my Kilimanjaro. That has allowed the other joys to flourish even more – to fully flow, and to be ever-present. My loved ones will always be a source of joy, happiness and peace in my life, that hasn’t changed. I just think I may have. Quite a bit.
“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”