What makes us happiest? asks Dr. Alex Jadad after a lifetime helping people at the end of their lives. So many had regrets for missed opportunities. And he thought why wait till the end? Why not ask it earlier? Now, when you have time ahead of you. He noticed that people could say what mattered most to them, but when they looked at their lives, most of their daily activity had no connection. It was a treadmill of “shoulds.”
So he went home one day and asked his family, “What makes you happiest?” Not happy, but happIEST. As a result he and his family sold their house, gave away all but two suitcases of belongings and went to live in a hotel. That was ten years ago – and they are still there, feeling free of clutter and “shoulds” as in “I should mow the lawn.”
So I asked myself what makes me happiest. It is not travel, meals out or going to the theatre. In fact, it is a great relief to find that all the things I can't do because of my back are not the things that make me happiest. Sure, they bring (or would if I could do them) transient change and stimulus, but don't make me happy the way sitting by a stove on a winter evening does.
I feel most happy cooking (since I reframed it from a drudge- like “should” to a creative joy); connecting with people, whether a close friend or at the checkout counter; discovering new information and asking “what if?”
Do I want to live out of a suitcase? No. Which leads to another insight: I need a home and feel lost, invisible (stateless?) without one. But not as a showcase. It couldn't be as we are too busy living in it, with piles of books and a cat, for anyone to regard it as a status symbol! My home is a place where we think and argue about ideas. It is full of cooking smells such as roasting garlic and chicken soup, warmth from a flickering stove and furniture bequeathed by elderly aunts.
Oddly, I am actually doing what makes me happiest, but not by choice. My life is this way precisely because I can't do of all the things I thought I wanted to do!
Living Happily – Interview with Dr. Alex Jadad – link