Happiness. One might say that, in my family, it is more a privilege than a right. It doesn't always come naturally to us, being happy. But trying does.
We are a family of artists and musicians and scientists and poets. The natural edge of depression carves our creativity. It makes us sharp. It makes us try.
So that's how I grew up; creative, mostly. And always looking for happiness. At first I found it in painting, in making music, in listening to music, in writing stories. And then I found it in books, in movies, in characters. Happiness eventually came in the form of others, in friendships with peers, relationships with family, kindred spirits in animals. And then happiness came from being in love. After many years of trying, after many years of looking, I found happiness everywhere.
The past few years have been the happiest of my life.
I will never take happiness for granted. So when it meets me in art, in people, in animals, and in moments, I soak it up.
This afternoon, on the tail end of a lovely weekend spent with my sister, a weekend filled relaxing and exploring and discussing creative ideas, I took my Labrador Mollie for a short walk. Mollie finds happiness in everything, as most Labradors do. Her tail wags with every step, with every new person she walks by, with every flower she pauses to sniff. Mollie is the best teacher in finding happiness in small moments.
We walked up to Cottage Row, a square of historic cottages along one of San Francisco's Mini Parks (yes, San Francisco has such a thing called Mini Parks). True to taking in every moment, Mollie stopped every two inches to sniff flowers and plants and, I'm sure, less pleasant things. At one point, she even climbed fully into a plant to get a better scent. I pulled on her leash to keep walking, and she pulled back with all of her body weight to keep sniffing. I sighed and gave up.
In that moment of giving up, I decided to look around me. To listen around me. In that moment of giving up, I found pure, unadulterated happiness. The world stopped for a few seconds, was silent for a few seconds. And then a church bell started ringing in the distance. Birds sang and fluttered through the leaves above us. A water fountain trickled in a nearby backyard. The sky was bright blue and white light filtered through the big green leaves of the Mini Park's garden. And I was there, surrounded by all of this beauty, breathing and standing. Healthy, able, whole, and happy.
I will never take happiness for granted. And if I do, I'm sure this four-legged one will stop to remind me. Because, if it is not always within us, happiness most certainly is all around us.