In Pursuit of Happiness (and a little Zen)

Happy Friday. I’ve decided that every Friday will be deemed such as I begin my pursuit of the Art of Happiness and I would love to have you join me.

zen art of happiness buddha
Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss

Our journey begins with a little book of big ideas, and my 15-year-old daughter gave it to me for my birthday last summer. She knew intuitively that I was stressed and unhappy… overworked and stymied creatively by my job, worried about my mother selling her house now that she had bought a new one, concerned about our cat’s health and then my own when my doctor found a lump in my breast.

I was too stressed and busy that summer to even begin the lovely little book she had chosen for me. Besides, I was consumed with worry and wonder about this new vast plateau on which I now found myself: middle age.

It began on schedule with the big 4-0: A few months in, my father-in-law died. Two years later my father followed. My company was laying off staff in my department, piling the work on me and taking away any writing opportunities. I’d been married almost 20 years, worked throughout, had a daughter and a son, a dog and a cat. It seemed all my life until 40 was focused on the next big event, when suddenly I realized I had ticked off life’s milestones and found there was no longer any universal plan or promise. Certainly I wasn’t looking forward to the next big change, menopause. So, I spent much of my early forties embroiled in the quintessential mid-life crisis (minus the cute sports car and pool boy).

Enter Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss. It had me at the first paragraph:

There is only one way to achieve lasting happiness. That way is simply: Be happy.

After I rid my head of the annoying 80s lyrics, “Don’t worry, be happy,” I asked myself, “Wow, could it really be that simple?” I grew up in a glass-is-half-full, “I think I can” household where Nego, Nego thoughts were not allowed, but still my woeful Wednesday birthright managed to trump that positivity at times. I think though, that I am now ready for a positive takover.

The summer ended in late September, and with it my job of 10 years and my worry over my health after a mammogram determined I had a benign cyst. It was time to pursue my happiness and change my perception of life and work. I began with a blogging class and the creation of kellybmusing.

Creative fulfillment, check.

But what about the nagging feeling that you have nothing left to look forward to except getting older, grayer, and fatter? That adulthood is just dealing with one depressing challenge after another? Losing loved ones, jobs, weathering super storms and power outages, paying ever-increasing bills, watching violence escalate at home and abroad.

According to this book, it all begins with a simple perception–a foundation of thought and philosophy that promises to change our world:

Every event that befalls me is absolutely the best possible event that could occur.

I’m assuming most of you are smirking right now and uttering “yeah, right” at your computer screens. I did the same, and it took me a couple months to ponder this before I could move on to understand how it could possibly be true in a world sometimes overwhelmed with negativity and violence.

Trust me, it’s an idea worth pursuing. Join me on the journey, and we’ll spread the zen together.


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