Tag Archives: happiness

Do what makes you happy.

I love the expression, “do what makes you happy,” but somehow that seems hard to do. I was asked recently by my youngest daughter what makes me happy. I quickly responded that she and her sister make me happy. It’s true. I never wanted children originally. I had a career as a television news producer. I liked pursuing stories and hanging out with my colleagues. I liked that my priest and I went on cool vacations to exotic locations.  I liked having no one to worry about except me, my priest and our dogs.  Yet one day something changed.

I was visiting my grandmother and parents at our summer home in Canada and recently one of our elderly neighbors had died.  The husband, now a widower, was sitting on his porch alone.  He looked sad and lonely.  I said to my grandmother that I felt sorry for him and she said, “he  never had chick nor child, hide nor hare.  You will be sitting alone one day on the porch with just your husband and no one will visit you either.”

It hit me then.  One day when my job is over and I am old, it will just be me and my priest alone.  Maybe we still have good friends, maybe we don’t, but the idea of just being old and alone crushed me.  I told my priest immediately that I was making a trip to my gynecologist and seeing if I could crank out a kid.  I was 29 years old.  I got pregnant two months later and Maggie was born two months after I turned 30.

My grandmother never got to meet her.  She died when I was 6 weeks pregnant.  I hadn’t told anyone I was pregnant, but my grandmother knew.  I was home for Christmas and she touched my nonexistent belly.  She said, “you’re pregnant.”  I was stunned.  How could she possibly know?  She said she could tell and she was happy.  My grandmother’s name was Margaret.  The little girl in my belly would grow up with the same name and she still hears marvelous stories of my awesome grandma.

Pippa was a result of Maggie desperately wanting a sister.  I could hear her in her room at night praying for a sister.  I was happy with just having Maggie, but she wanted more and it had to be a girl.   I tried to tell her that I couldn’t guarantee her a sister (as a side note, I also really didn’t want to grow a penis, so I wanted a girl too).  The idea of creating a little boy and all of his parts, freaked me out.  God answered Maggie’s prayers.  Even the one where she prayed her baby didn’t have red hair because she didn’t want to be jealous of her.  Maggie loves my red hair and she used to think only mermaids and really lucky people got to have red hair.  She did wear an Ariel wig a lot as a little girl.

To get back to my main point, I think my quick answer to Pippa that being a mom makes me happy, is true.  I didn’t know that when I was consciously avoiding getting pregnant.  My priest always said he would like to have kids, but he also said it was up to me.  He claims he knew I would change my mind.  He said that he watched me with kids and knew I loved them.  He saw me working at summer camp and running  kids games at our cottage.  He knew, but he didn’t push me or even really tell me.   It all came down to one lonely man sitting on his porch.

I understand that being a parent is not for everyone.  People live full and happy lives alone.  They surround themselves with friends and they make themselves invaluable.  They find happiness in a million different things.  I still find happiness in a long run or a hike in the forest, but if I was being honest, I am most happy when I am with my girls and my priest.  Hearing them laugh or even fight, makes my heart sing.  When they tell me they love me for no other reason than they just felt like it, I feel warm and content.  Being a mom is the last job I thought I wanted.  Sometimes wise people and God know what you want more than you do.

Being happy with what you have.

I am not always good about being happy with what I have.  When I was living at home (USA), I loved nothing better than going to Target.  I never needed anything, I just liked to wander the store and see if anything spoke to me.  Sometimes new bed linens would call my name or a gadget for my kitchen.  All items I could live without, but yet somehow they made their way into my basket.

My daughters have more clothing than they could possibly need.  Yet, when I saw a cute new  swimsuit for one of my girls, I would buy it thinking you can never have too many swimsuits, right?  Shorts and  t-shirts were spilling out of their drawers and still I would buy more.  I knew I was a consumer and I knew I needed to stop.

We moved to Portugal.  There are new stores here and even cooler “stuff.”  But, I have told myself that I have enough.  Enough clothing, enough toys for the kids…enough of it all.  I wanted to turn a new leaf and use what I have and be mindful of anything I think I might want.

Portugal isn’t a wealthy country.  The majority of people don’t make loads of money.  They make enough to live.  They make enough to enjoy a coffee out with their friends.  Many are conservative in what they buy.

On my run today, I saw this tiled wall.


The owner of the home clearly didn’t have all of the matching tiles to fix their wall, but they fixed it with what they had.  It looks messy, but it also looks beautiful.  They made do.  It struck me that at home, I always work so hard to make sure everything looks ‘perfect.’  Clean home, tidy yard, nice garden…when I need to worry less about what the outside world sees and more about what brings me joy.  I like dandelions.  I like wild flowers.  I liked running past this yard today where the owners let the flowers do what they wanted to.  It was  unkempt, but it was lovely.

I am on a journey to consume less and be happy with what I have.  Living in Portugal makes me appreciate that my friends here are welcoming and gracious and generous with what they have whether they have a lot or very little.  They never want to go on a shopping date, but would rather have a chat in their garden.  We drink coffee or tea and relax.  No pressure.  No pretense.

I am enjoying learning to live with less and I feel like a much happier person for it.  I still go shopping, but I purchase things we need, not just stuff.  I am also mindfully teaching the girls the value of money and the necessity of using resources wisely.  Showing the children that money is better spent exploring our new home or experiencing a new adventure isn’t much of a challenge when you live in a spectacular country that values history and preserving nature.  Once again…thank you Portugal.