It’s Possible To Be Happy During A Pandemic
I know, because I am.
I see the suffering and chaos in the news and I just sigh. I know that there is suffering out there. I know that people are hurting. I know that my country is going through an enormous transformation right now. Change is really uncomfortable, even if the change is for the better. And through all of this, I have found that I’m happy.
Not everyone is suffering through the pandemic. Yes, there is some discomfort in my life, but on balance, my life is not bad. At this moment, I’m filled with wonder as to how I managed to escape so much suffering in the world. I sometimes think that the reason I am the way I am today is that I made a decision to be happy with what I have. I made a decision to err on the side of peace.
Peace is really attractive. Peace is like money in the bank. Peace attracts peace just like an accumulation of money attracts more money. I have found that my habits have helped me to get to this place of peace.
I have been fortunate to have a job in the field of information technology. I’m not the most social creature so I’m a good fit for the job. I love working with the command line. I love the way the output relates to the command. I love the transparency of the command line. Grep is my friend. I love that my job depends more on my talents than my social skills.
So when my employer asked us to work from home — indefinitely — I was already there. I had already been working just a few days a week at the office. I had the gear, the connection, and a room set aside for my home office. And it works great. All of it. I don’t miss anyone from work. I don’t miss the commute. I don’t miss the office. Everything I could want or need is just a few steps away. I really don’t miss the restrooms at work.
Since I’m not commuting to work, I get to spend more time with my family. I have more time to write in the morning. I’m not really a TV guy, especially in the morning. I’ve never liked the way TV disrupts my peace in the morning, so I avoid it. I have more comfort in the solitude of the morning. I use that time to organize my thoughts and make plans for the future.
I’m spending more time with my kids and my wife now. We go hiking on the weekends. We go outside to play, to walk, to do the yard work. I play ping pong with my wife almost every day now. I just love putting a spin on the ball. I love the sweat. I love feeling my bare feet on the floor. I love the arc of the ball.
I’m teaching my kids to play poker with chips. My older daughter can bluff like a boss. My younger daughter is learning the poker hands. In this game, they are learning a skill called risk assessment. I love the feeling I have when we’re together. Sometimes my wife joins in and she cleans up at the table. She’s very good at bluffing.
I have a table that had been leaning against the wall in my garage for a couple of years. A couple of months ago, I finally got the chance to haul that table downstairs to my basement and I put it together. That table is just beautiful, but my wife didn’t like it in the kitchen, so now it serves as a puzzle table. I’m working on a 1,000 piece puzzle now. Even my kids are getting into it, trying to find pieces and making them fit.
We have a couple of jump ropes. I’m teaching the kids to jump rope and they’re teaching themselves to jump rope. We jump rope together, too. Two of us will swing the rope while one in the middle jumps.
I know that this sounds like I’m gloating. I’m not. I’m just supremely grateful for what I have now. Everything that you see above is about something I already have. I didn’t have to buy something else to be happy, I made a decision to be happy with what I have now. I improvised with my family using what we already have, to be happy.
When I’m looking for happiness, I go for the low hanging fruit. I look for what I already have and use it. I look for new ways to use it. I tend to what I have to keep it up. I’m gentle with what I have because I only like to buy things once. I’m mindful of what I have now so that I will use it.
I have made a point of erring on the side peace now for many years. I have worn this groove of peace in my brain and in my life. Peace doesn’t have to be boring. Peace can be groovy. I have worn this groove by making a habit of noticing irritation in my life and reminding myself that, “This too, shall pass”. And it passes. I don’t have to drink prune juice to make it pass. I only need to wait for the discomfort to pass, I only need to wait for the feelings to pass.
So many times have I felt the urge to shoot back when someone criticizes me. So many times have I felt the urge to take someone else’s inventory, to tell them what they did wrong, that they could have done better, that they have no place to criticize me. But I let it pass. I let it go. I consider the source. I consider the possibility that the other person lacks the capacity to do better. I remind myself that the universe is a reflection of everything that I’m thinking and feeling right now. Huh. Another virtuous circle.
I am practiced in the art of peace. If my girls misbehave, I don’t jump down their throats and tell them how bad they are. I acknowledge what happened, and I explain what my expectations are and why I have those expectations. If they hurt me, Instead of saying, “Stop that!”, I say, “Ouch, that hurts”. Then they stop because they have empathy for me. They have empathy for me because I model empathy for them.
I model peace for my family every day. I make a decision every day with everyone, to err on the side peace. At work, at home, when I’m out and about, I model peace. If someone makes a mistake, I let it slide. I offer to help fix the mistake. I console the other person and I leave the criticism others more qualified. If someone steps on my foot, I say, “That’s alright. I have another one.”
I practice peace over and over again. All peace, all the time. I have worn a very deep groove in my brain by practicing peace. It is that practice of peace that has brought me the prosperity that I enjoy today. I’m not rich in terms of money or property. I’m rich in terms of time and attention. I give other people my attention. I give other people my time. It always comes back. Always.
I have tried other ways of being. I have been angry. I’ve been sad. I still have my moments, sure. But in moments of quiet solitude, I look around and notice what I have and I find gratitude for it. I let everything that is in my life be enough. I let people be enough. I let possessions be enough. I let the day be enough. I don’t have to go to Disneyland after winning the Super Bowl. Whatever I have done today, it’s enough.
I have done all of this with a sense of wonder that it just works. Everything that I do, everything that I think, every feeling I choose to have, is reflected right back to me. So I am mindful of my choices in life. I know that everything I do comes at a cost. When I make a choice, I consider the possible outcomes, but I make no predictions.
If I choose to be angry, the universe is angry. If I choose to be sad, the universe is sad. If I choose to be happy, the universe is happy with me. If I choose to be at peace, as one, then the universe is there for me. The people in my life reflect my decisions. My surroundings are a reflection of all my decisions up to this point in time.
If you want to be happy, even during a pandemic, find a reason to be happy. Then take notice of what happens next.