Loving Life With Exclamation Marks

Truth: I don’t always feel happy, or even positive. In fact, now and again I get days where I can really feel quite down. On days like those, you won’t find me posting jaunty captions on Instagram, or commenting on other people’s photographs. In my own experience, social media can be a tricky instrument to get involved with when you find yourself feeling under par.

Thankfully, days like those don’t come to me very often. For the most part, I’m a positive person who likes to share a positive outlook on the world. I think it’s important, though, to acknowledge that we can’t all be happy on a round-the-clock basis. Life isn’t like that.

Besides, I wonder if there’s something better than being round-the-clock happy.

That simple sense of being satisfied.

Of being grateful.

Of being fundamentally content.

Feet in Flower Petals

Although I might not have happiness completely sussed, something I do think I’m pretty good at is contentment. Underlying all the ups and downs of life, I do have a solid foundation in terms of being grateful for everything I have. A lot of this, I think, comes from awareness and attention – noticing the small parts of everyday life that are actually pretty magical. I can get excited about things that might, on the face of it, seem minuscule – the smell of old books, an ordinary Saturday brunch with my family, the sharp tang of a sea breeze, freshly brewed coffee.

All anchoring me back to that place of underlying contentment – a protection that’s still there for me even when the day itself is not so bright.

Flatlay picture of personalised gratitude journal with flowers and blanket

I was pleased, the other day, to find that this ability seems to have passed on to my children. As we sat spectating at a sports event, I gave my ten year old a notepad to doodle on to pass the time.

When I glanced over to see what he was doing, I noticed he had written ‘I LOVE MY LIFE!’ in big letters on the page in front of him. So I asked him – via the notepad – what it was he loved so much about his life. His answer? ‘Family, friends, school, the earth, video games.’ In that small moment I felt like he had built a protective coat of armour around his life. A superpower he can draw on to remind him that even in the sad times, life is for loving.

For loving with exclamation marks, no less.

But then I remember that this was the same child who, years ago, woke up one morning and called out: ‘So much to look forward to!’

He actually had this contentment thing sussed a while back (you can read about that here).

And on happiness? Well, when asked for his definition of paradise, Johnny Cash once answered: ‘This morning, with her, having coffee’ (referring to his wife June Carter). Perhaps more of us could benefit from considering what our definition of paradise really, truly is. Because usually, it’s not out there on the horizon, waiting to be unveiled when we’ve achieved this or that, or reached some far-off target.

It’s right in front of us, tucked away in the ordinary moments.

Asking us to say ‘I see you.’ And ‘thankyou.’

And waiting for us to reach out and grab it with both hands.