Happiness is a bunch of little things


For the past five weeks, my time has not been my own.  I’ve emerged from the fog of Air Force Commissioned Officer Training, and I have so many thoughts and words about the experience, which I will share eventually.  Most of what I learned had to do with leadership and the military and our country, of course, but I found myself thinking at least as much about the kind of life I have created for myself.

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There is nothing like being pulled away from one’s home and loved ones and routines that resets perspective.

And five weeks is short.  I cannot imagine those people who are gone for months or years, and to add further stress, in dangerous, life-or-death environments.

Soon I get to go home and hug my husband and my babies and return to a life I am so incredibly grateful to have.

I attended training with about 370 other trainees, and all of us would agree that our time was not exactly enjoyable or fun (it wasn’t supposed to be).  We may have enjoyed one another, but the accessions environment? Not so much.

Happiness comes as a result of big things--jobs we like, people we love, places that make us feel safe--but also a million little things.  Happiness is a cup of good coffee waiting for you when you wake up in the morning, freshly laundered sheets that feel good against your skin, your favorite fresh fruit ready for you in the fridge when you get home from work, the tree next to the window by your desk that catches the light in just the right way when you check your email for the final time before dinner.  

I have mentioned before that to some extent, I believe we can buy happiness--for me, I choose to spend rather than save on quality groceries and massages, for instance.  We can also set our daily rhythms to give us pleasure. I listen to podcasts in the car and on walks. I set my coffee to wake me up in the morning. I watch Instagram stories while brushing my teeth.  I catch up with my husband while we clean the kitchen at night and finish (most of) the chores before the kids go to bed. I give my kids choices of the books I want to read to them before their bedtimes.  

None of these decisions is hard or profound.  Yet they make my minutes happier, which in turn makes my days and weeks happier.  When I stepped away from my “real life,” I easily saw how much of a good life is cultivated; it doesn’t just happen.  Happiness is deliberately made, not spontaneously emitted.

Sure, we stumble across those wonderful moments when a wave of joy washes over us because of something we could not foresee or set into motion.  Luck and good fortune partly play into the picture. However, we have more agency than we admit. Happiness builds, one decision at a time.