This is the month in which we celebrate our country’s independence. I was born in Philadelphia and have lived in the Philadelphia area most of my life. Every day I have the opportunity to drive by Independence Hall and the Liberty. And yet, every year I like to play tourist around the 4thof July and visit Philadelphia’s sites connected to the America Revolution.
Jefferson found it important enough to include in the Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness was an inalienable right. Pursuing happiness – that really seems counter to the Puritanical mindset that I feel still is prevalent in our society – you know, all work, no play is the measure of success. Unfortunately, most people I know feel that working while on vacation is a badge of honor – the good soldier. Coming into the office on weekend – another badge. I understand that there might be times that working extra hours is needed – but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m pointing out this insane belief that the true measure of an effective employee is to work all of the time.
Interesting, I read that for the Danes, someone who is seen working after hours or on the weekend is considered ineffective – as if they are not competent enough to get their work finished during normal work hours. Some offices actually schedule interventions to get these after-hours employees back on track to working only during normal business hours.
Some societies, like the Danes, actually encourage the pursuit of happiness in our daily lives. They believe workers are more productive with a shorter work day so that they have time to enjoy their family and friends – and pursue their interests in addition to working. Unlike our country, most countries encourage workers to take vacations, they have more generous vacation policies – people are encouraged to….pursue happiness.
I’ve cultivated a healthy work/life balance. But what I realized is that what I’ve stopped doing is pursuing happiness. Have you ever found yourself doing something that you haven’t done for a while and remembering how much you like doing what you were doing but had pushed it to the side for far too long? Happiness comes in small packages and large ones – sitting outside in the summer and listening to a concert on the lawn, watching fireflies, laying on the grass, sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee, iced tea, or glass of wine, settling in with a good book, binge watching your favorite television show on a rainy day, driving to the ocean, mountains, or lake to spend some time in nature, going to a 60-minute yoga class or a week-long yoga retreat,
It can be as invigorating as swimming in a clear mountain lake or as relaxing as sitting on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay watching the sailboats glide across the water.
I noticed that I have a tendency to side-step the pursuit of happiness to handle the mundane – the laundry, housekeeping, grocery shopping, bill paying, self-imposed obligations that don’t bring me happiness. I noticed – and now I’m making a concerted effort to pursue happiness with a vengeance. I’m doing more of what bring me joy – usually in small steps but I’m mindful of its importance. There’s been one giant step though, and that was me registering for a 2019 retreat in Ireland with one of my favorite authors! Woot!
Get still and think back to those times when you were really truly happy – when you got that fluttering in your stomach, when your soul spoke to you and said thanks. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I always find happiness when I attend evensong, or evening prayer in Anglican churches. I especially make a point of attending evensong when I visit England. I’ve sat in cathedrals in places such York, Chester, and Lichfield as the tourists were filing out and I took my place in a wooden pew, the pinkish-orange light of the setting sun filtering through the stained glass as the voices of the choir wash over me. Pure happiness that I pursued by lingering in the town to experience evensong.
The pursuit of happiness is integral to our well-being. It’s nourishing to the soul and the body. And as Jefferson told us, it’s an unalienable right. Pursue happiness today and always.
P.S. I’ll be speaking at the Cinnaminson Library (NJ) on July 18 about memoir writing and reading from my book Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages. Thanks for the wonderful comments I’ve received on the book. Some of you have asked what you can do to spread word on the book. If you’ve purchased it on Amazon please leave a review. Tell a friend. Invite me to your book club or local library! I appreciate your support of the book. It’s actually going to be profiled in a newspaper in England in the next few weeks since a large part of the book takes place in England!
I’d also love to hear from you on your pursuit of happiness. Tell me on my Facebook page, Anne Greco Writer, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.