Thursday Truth: The Secret to Happiness

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words to live by- meme by Charlotte Porter

words to live by

My favorite teacher of all time was my English teacher my senior year of high school.  Ms. Lee.

She was strict and had very high standards, but she also had a patient, soft side.

When I was in the throes of deep teenage angst over the end of my first relationship, she sat with me for many hours, talked to me with genuine interest and compassion.  Something about her suggested that maybe she too had a tortured side, and this was how she could understand without any judgement.

She was quirky and a little mysterious and paid me compliments for random attributes like my knees and eyebrows.

Her presence in my life made me feel worthwhile, intelligent, beautiful, and like there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

She took time with me that no one else did.  I had a very small social circle at the time, and felt alone.  I had a tendency to shut down and isolate, but Ms. Lee helped me feel connected and conscious.

I kept in touch with her for a while after graduation, through letters and the occasional tea.  As so often is the case, we lost contact with one another.  A few years back, I tried to search for her on the internet, and also by calling my former high school.  I never found her.  It has crossed my mind that she would be elderly now or possibly no longer on the planet.

One thing I learned from my high school English teacher, Ms. Lee, was the secret to happiness.

Ms. Lee had a banner up across one of the walls of her classroom.  It was printed out on one of those dot-matrix printers that now seem so old timey.  In grey pixilated letters, it read:  The secret to happiness is having something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.  

Over the years, these words have rung true time and time again.  Note that they do not say “someone” to love or look forward to.  They encourage self reliance and self esteem.  They encourage a person to develop a strong sense of self, to connect with inner strength and confidence.

Over the years, that “something” might change.  It has for me.  In high school and college, it was dance.  Then, in my twenties, I went for a time when I didn’t have a “something” and sort of floundered in depression and weirdness.  Grad school and social work definitely gave me something to love, do and look forward to.

And these days, I have my children and family.

I remember a moment so long ago when I thanked her for her kindness.

“Along the way, people have been kind to me, and this is my way of returning the favor.”

In other words, she was “paying it forward” nearly two decades before that saying was en vogue.

I think of her words often.  I like to think that in some way I am repaying her when I sit with my clients.  Many times I repeat her secret of happiness to them, and think fondly on Ms. Lee.

What do you think are the secrets to happiness?  

Ps, I made the meme at the top myself–  my very first!

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6 responses »

  1. For me the secret is ‘be present’. Because my version of having it all is my children, but I am petrified of losing them (or myself dying anytime soon). For those moments when I can really manage to be present, as opposed to just knowing that I should be, I feel so much better about my fears. Bloody hard work though 😉

    • Yeah. I totally hear ya’! I often have those fears too, and find that if I label them as “dread thoughts” and try to move on that it helps a little. If I don’t check myself, I can totally get swept away thinking about bears and sharks eating my kids (totally NOT a reality where we live..) Being present and mindfully aware is key. You are so right. Thank you so much for your comment. I always like hearing from you!

  2. I’m still working on my secret to happiness. I know an important part of it is accepting myself and not making that acceptance dependent upon what other people think. So, freeing myself from judgement of others and of myself-a constant work! Another part is being in nature, and yoga. They both sooth my soul and bring peace to my mind and heart.

    Slightly unrelated, but how did you make the meme? What program/site did you use?

    • Mmmmm, good thoughts. . . I so wish I had more time for yoga, but I do random stretches when I find a moment and it is very grounding. I’m happy to hear you are working on self acceptance as well! I will have to mosey over to your blog and maybe we can support one another on this weird and wonderful journey towards self acceptance! As for the meme, I actually found a free app on my iphone and made it with that using one of my own photos. Surprisingly easy! The app is called “make a meme,” and also has a lot of goofy stock photos you can use. Thank you so much for your comment and for stopping by!

  3. Secret to happiness? Mine would be that as I fill my heart with gratitude for each and every aspect of my life, I invite happiness into it also. Happiness also comes with liking what you have rather than having what you like. And one more things: Avoiding judgements also contributes to happiness. The more accepting I am, the more I can enjoy my life as it is for what it brings me. Thanks for asking.

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