I commute to work 15 miles and (usually) 45 minutes each way during the worst possible times of the day.
Rush hour in Denver is typically brutal - especially on Friday afternoons when traffic starts backing up around 3 p.m. as the masses make a mad dash for the cooler air of the Rocky Mountains.
This Friday was no exception.
Stuck on the highway driving about as fast as I can walk, my mind wandered off on a tangent about happiness as I watched an older, red Jeep Cherokee weaving in and out of lanes, attempting to get to wherever he was going just that much faster. In other words, he was driving like a jerk. However, he wasn't bothering me any. I found his efforts rather amusing and I noticed and appreciated that each time he made a lane change, he'd give a nice courtesy wave to the person he'd just cut off. Frankly, several times that person was me - which should tell you how well his maneuvering was working out for him. That is to say it wasn't working. At all.
As I approached my exit, I darted over to the faster moving exit only lane and, as I passed by him on the right, I glanced over at him out of curiosity. He looked over at me - a young man, perhaps mid-20's. He grinned, he waved as though I was his co-conspirator. I laughed and waved back.
Moments later, having successfully exited the snarl of I-25, I happened past a bus stop and saw a tall, thin man - mid-30's - with curly strawberry blond hair, standing there, looking down at his cell phone and grinning. He was, by all accounts, rather plain. But, when he looked up at me at the moment I passed, his face was positively beautiful in its glow of pure pleasure. A love text message received perhaps or a particularly nice conversation just had. I have no idea. But the look on his face - the unadulterated joy of it - was infectious. I smiled again.
That's when it occurred to me...
Wisdom dictates we are responsible for our own happiness. When we refuse to accept responsibility for what we feel, we doom ourselves to unhappiness. When we have unrealistic expectations of others to make us happy, thereby forcing the onus onto others to fulfill us, there is no possible long term successful outcome. Mostly, because we are selfish creatures and are most often too busy making it all about ourselves instead of another.
And because I am Infinitely WiseTM *cough* *sputter* *cough*, I support this belief.
However, when I was driving home that day after a very long day, a very long week, and I was weary and hot, two men I've never seen before and will likely never see again, made me happy.
Because both of them appeared happy and seemed to have some happiness to spare, yes. But also? Because I was paying attention and let someone else's sunshine in.
Think about it.
What makes you happy? What makes your day?
For me, it's hearing someone I love laugh or, better yet, making them laugh. It's getting an opportunity to express gratitude and also to receive someone else's sincere gratitude for even a small token gesture. It's spending time with people I care about in pleasurable circumstances. It's acknowledging a stranger on the street with a wave, a smile, a "hi". It's receiving comments from people I know and people I don't all over the world. It's making thoughtful comments. It's knowing a certain assistant manager at my local grocery always comes over to greet me whenever she sees me. It's taking the time to listen to a sad friend or to buy supper for a broke friend. It's touching the face or holding the hand of someone who needs the affection and attention. It's receiving flowers from Canada, a card from California, a book from North Carolina...and then passing it on. It is seeing someone else happy and feeling happy that they are happy regardless if I've had a hand in it. It's donating to a good cause.
Happiness is giving and receiving - consciously as well as passively.
Doesn't that suggest my happiness depends on others?
So...my own happiness is my own responsibility. I get that. I totally do. But the kindness of others, the love and happiness of others, most certainly contributes to just how happy I feel. If I can give in some small way to someone else's happiness...even if it's just by sending a "hee hee" or a "<3" text message...and hoping the recipient appreciates it and will, somehow someday, reciprocate the gesture or that the gesture will be repaid in some way via someone else?
That makes me happy.
And I want to pay it forward.