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Happiness Is In Simple Things

Marilyn Briant's The Pax Principles is a Red Ribbon Winner 2020 The Wishing Shelf Book Awards and Bronze Medal Winner Living Now Awards 2021


Time With Grandchildren

I was away in England spending some time with my family several years ago. My grandchildren and I went into central London, to the British and Natural History museums. It was a little cold and rainy, but happiness that morning for the three of us, was looking at dinosaur skeletons and mummies and coins from a long time ago.

We had lunch and dinner out, having travelled by train and tube, which was something of a fun experience in itself! I told them about working in London when I was just out of school, and how crowded everything was in the rush hour. They were happy listening to me share my memories and playing around on the train and with the games in the museums.

I had taken them to the park earlier in the week and was not surprised that happiness for them came from the almost two hours they spent on the swings, slides and climbing frames. Happiness for me simply came from being there, watching their enjoyment and feeling glad to just be with them.

A Sibling Getaway

Then there was the happiness I felt when I was in North Yorkshire, where my younger sister, brother and I rented a house for a week. It would be hard for me to recall a more beautiful area that I have visited in England, or anywhere else for that matter. Just about every small town or village was quaint and pretty, and every view across the moors brought smiles of delight to our faces.

Not only that, we were just so glad to be spending time together. Time that was full of laughter and sharing. Time we each acknowledged seemed all the more precious because we live so far away and usually don’t see each other more than once a year now.

With the window open so I could hear the birds singing, I meditated each morning alone in my room, surrounded by the moors—green hills and lush countryside. And I thought about happiness. About the gratitude I felt for my own good fortune—for being in a place of peace and joy—for eyes that see, ears that hear and a heart that is open to wonder and the beauty of nature.

I thought about how relaxed and happy my brother seems when he spends time with my sister and me—a welcome break from living alone. About how happy my sister was every day we were together, and I was truly glad. A nurse who works in the psychiatric wing of a hospital, she has been recovering from the trauma of three separate attacks from the same violent patient.

In The Simple Things

Yes, looking back on that lovely week we spent together, I can recall so many moments of happiness which took us by surprise. The ewe and two black-faced lambs we suddenly came upon, cuddled up by the side of the road; the little dog from next door who ran like a maniac up and down the garden, then rolled over so we could rub his tummy; the steep inclines down which we slowly drove, terrified until we reached the bottom where the sea in all its vastness stretched out before us, as far as we could see.

Happiness too, was the pleasure we found in the simplest of things—stroking the little white cat we saw curled up in a plant box outside someone’s house; the feel of sun on our frozen hands and feet in the early morning as my sister and I led llamas out on a trek around a farm; and the two of us singing along to the Simon and Garfunkel songs we knew by heart, at a theatre show.

Having An Open, Loving Heart

On my penultimate day in England, I took a bus trip into Oxford to meet my older sister, her husband and her daughter and my great nephew. Cute as a button, this little boy had us smiling and laughing as he unclipped and re-clipped my watch strap, over and over again. Interestingly, as he finished his lunch he told me, “Now I’ve made everyone happy.” Puzzled, I looked up at my niece, who explained he had been told, “eating all your food will make everyone happy today.”

Hmm, I questioned, though I didn’t say a word, "Is this where some of our ideas about happiness come from? Were we taught early on we are responsible for how other people feel? And does that lead to believing it is more important to focus on the happiness of those around us, and not our own?"

I realized it then and acknowledge it now - happiness does not come from pleasing others, or from anything outside of me. It comes from having an open and loving heart, from allowing all kinds of wonderful moments to take me by surprise, from being in awe of nature and the beauty that is all around me.

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