Do you ever wonder why we are so bad at predicting what will make us happy? Maybe you don't have this problem. In fact, I hope you don't. Since I've recently read a book on the topic (Stumbling on Happiness) it seems there are quite a few of us, though.
The biggest shame is that what makes me happy now are things I never would have predicted. Why is that a shame? Well, because I couldn't plan ahead for it - I was busy investing myself in other things. If you had told 16-year-old me tonight's happy evening would be spent listening to my husband singing folk songs while I sipped hot cocoa and the dog slept on my feet I would have thought you were mental. My vision then of what I thought would make me happy was completely different (ok, there might have been cocoa and a dog). First off, I was never one to dream of marriage or domestic bliss. It wouldn't have made my top 100 list of concerns back then, yet it has nearly dominated my life since meeting my romantic, energetic, outrageously intelligent husband when I was 17. Second, I had never heard of folk bands like Brother's Four and The Kingston Trio, music that he had grown up with while I was fed rock, blues, and R&B. So I wasn't even capable of correctly envisioning tonight's entertainment or imagining why I would enjoy it.
Because of tonight's deep happiness I have developed a formula: your attention span / (predisposition + something unexpected). In tonight's example there are multiple pieces to my predisposition that fit in: love of music, a tendency to be quiet and contemplative (thus enjoying a "night in"), and a desire to see the people I love being happy. The something unexpected comes from both enjoying what I call "living in each other's pockets" (being in constant company with one another), and from him sharing something I didn't know before meeting him. Seriously, I don't think that things I can come up with on my own ever delight me as deeply as things I gain from others. Lastly is the first part of the equation. The importance of attention span has taken me the longest to learn. As a child I was blessed with that contemplative nature and not many responsibilities so I had attention span to spare, but starting in my late teens I was constantly on the go - too much to do and no time to do it. Come to find, if you don't have the energy to be present you can't be happy. Probably the most important point of Stumbling on Happiness is that happiness needs to be enjoyed when it's here.
While I've been typing up my reflections my husband, unaware of the direction of my thoughts and pleased that I have "indulged" him in being able to perform some of his favorite music, has tried to make it up to me with one of "our" songs that served as the first dance at our wedding, "What a Wonderful World." What a wonderful world indeed.
I hope that your day has some measure of the happiness that I've enjoyed tonight.