The other day, I realized I was happy. When the feeling visited me, I wasn’t doing anything particularly remarkable. I was sitting on my patio, reading a novel, drinking tea, the summer sun sinking low on the horizon, and I looked up and saw a monarch butterfly alight on the hedge near my outstretched foot. And as I watched her pause there, briefly, I realized something that was remarkable: in that moment, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. And I thought to myself: I am lucky.
I have spent years chasing that elusive thing that people call “happiness.” Running off to Europe or running into therapy. Retreating to island hideaways in the South Pacific or in the Pacific Northwest. Trying every diet, every exercise regimen, every “feel good” prescription from self-help books to spiritual counseling to many, many failed attempts at mindfulness and meditation.
At times, I found that thing that I was seeking. I found it in the breach of a Humpback whale in the sapphire waters off Maui; or at the top of Malá Strana, gazing down with wonder on the red tiled rooftops of Prague; or in the cards of an eighty-six-year-old Tarot reader named Miss Irene in the back of a Voodoo shop in New Orleans.
But whenever those moments came, I always had the sense that – beautiful as they were – they weren’t meant to last. I had worked so hard to chase them down that it was almost as though I brought them into existence by the sheer force of my own will. And then, as quickly as they arrived, they were gone. Inevitably, the old familiar ache and its accompanying emptiness returned, followed by the persistent question, “Why don’t I feel any better?”
I suppose that when I finally stopped running, I did so out of sheer exhaustion. I was tired of working so hard with so little to show for it. And I was tired of trying to fake it to make it. As my therapist told me, “Sarah, sometimes, there are situations in life that can’t be fixed. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.”
Shortly thereafter – after said beloved therapist took a new job and relocated to Oregon (sob) – life handed me just that: the opportunity to do nothing. To take a break, to slow down, and to take some real time off. And I took it. And it is in this pause that I found something I wasn’t able to find in all of the running and searching and seeking: I found comfortable footing upon the ground of uncertainty. I found that sometimes, it’s O.K. to be lost.
As I finish this blog post, I’m sitting on the patio of my one-bedroom bungalow on Cashio Street, the sunset casting its tangerine glow on the terra cotta tiles beneath my bare feet. I love this little cottage, love the way it fell into my lap when I needed it the most, love the way its four walls have sheltered me and kept me safe, allowing me to rebuild after everything around me had been smashed and shattered. But I also know – as I have always known – that this isn’t a forever place. It’s merely a rest stop on the way to something better.
But for now, for this moment, everything is perfect. Everything is exactly what I need. And the knowledge that I can be so at peace with not knowing what’s coming next, that I don’t need to know, is the biggest indicator of all that something powerful within me has begun to shift. And I wonder if maybe the thing that I was searching for so intently wasn’t happiness, after all. Maybe the thing that I was searching for was faith. Not faith in the traditional, religious sense, but instead, faith in myself. Faith that no matter the challenge or change, I’ll be able to meet it head on. Faith that, after having been through the storm, and after having come out the other side, I’m stronger than I was before. Faith that no matter what happens, I’ll be O.K.
Until next time, friends.
What a beautiful piece you shared today. When you said, “I found comfortable footing upon the ground of uncertainty. I found that sometimes, it’s O.K. to be lost”, I thought of a quote from JRR Tolkien: “Not all those who wander are lost.” I think perhaps sometimes we might feel more lost then we are, regardless thank you for sharing. Your pictures are beautiful as well.
Thank you so much! I love that Tolkien quote too. ❤️
The Quote, that you began your article with, made me curious. It was so interesting to read about you personal development and feelings. Keep writing! 😉
I will! It’s from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart. Check it out and let me know what you think! ❤️
I will check it! 😉
You are a GREAT writer! Loved this post because it reminded me of myself and my own blog (thinkthehappythoughts.com), started years ago when I decided to venture on a quest to find, be and stay HAPPY! Love reading your stuff! 🙂
What a lovely thing to say! I’m so glad you enjoy reading it. Thank you. ❤️❤️
I always love to read your posts on this blog. It’s so great and makes me contemplate 🙂
Thank you! I love receiving your kind comments! 😘
My favorite post yet!
Thanks Erika! I didn’t know you were reading it, but I’m awfully glad that you are! ❤️
This may be the best recipe for happiness I’ve read in a while:
“I was sitting on my patio, reading a novel, drinking tea, the summer sun sinking low on the horizon, and I looked up and saw a monarch butterfly alight on the hedge near my outstretched foot.”
Thanks for doing that, and commemorating it for the rest of us . . .
Thank you Richard! I recently discovered your blog – because of your interview with Cheri Lucas Rowlands – and I’m really enjoying it. I’m adding When Breath Becomes Air to my reading list because of your beautiful blog about it. Thank you!
I absolutely love your writing, it inspires me and I’m always delighted to get the notification that you’ve posted something. The quote in the beginning is a keeper for sure! Glad to hear life is bright for you.
Oh that’s so lovely to hear – I can’t thank you enough for your kind words. The quote is from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart. I’ve only read passages, but what I have read is amazing. ❤️
Thank you, I’ll have to check it out. I’ve never heard of that book.
Please do – she’s a famous (modern) Buddhist and so very wise. I’d love to hear what you think!
Your imagery of which you share, you convey a span in sense of overwhelming serene’ as if peacefulness is there’ and so it must be’, the feel of warm Cali clime ‘, evenings where sunsets in silence shout forth hues of demand for our soul attention, the scents of flowers’ of floral trees’ bloomed and blooming’ as hues of pastels’ there pictured and at your soul and feet’ are oranges rich’ upon thick green stalks reaching high’.
‘Where you reside’ the homes where dwellers dwell’ created long ago of strong hands trawling stucco over flat even surfaces, hear the scrape’ or the hand pattering of a trade of craftsmen of centuries past, Anasazi…
‘Your love for flowers will always be’ and they shall always live among your soul and abode. What you convey in pen’ and type’ you speak the art of living’ of being’ and in both we are so alive’ in which we do not know which way the wind blows’ where it comes from or where to it is going’ but in spirit in soul we are within it’ we are human souls within our vessel in constant changing motion.
‘You have learned that some do take half a life span to come to realize that we are butterfly’.
Brock, as always, I’m so appreciative of you dropping by and weaving some poetry into the comments section of Extra Dry Martini. Thank you for reading, and for your kind and thoughtful words. 🌺
I really enjoyed your post. I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately or rather depressed. Trying figure out how is it, if at all possible to stay in a happy state of mind. How to deal with the day to day stress of your life and just be Happy. Your post momentarily gave my mind a break and it was wonderful.
Wow, that is absolutely the nicest compliment you could have ever paid me. Thank you so much for that. I’m glad it helped and I hope you continue to find more of those moments. I love Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way and it might help you. She talks about our capacity for delight coming from the gift of paying attention. In other words, finding pleasure in little moments and everyday things can be a great source of joy. I wish you well! ❤
It’s is so true’ reading you Sarah is like running barefoot through fields of cool green clover. Sarah you’re truly an Oasis for the soul. Keep sharing of your writings and images with flowers and of vivid blue skies; with respect I say’ as for your self images’ I said it before and I’ll say it again’ you’re are stunning’ and should be chiseled in pure white marble and cast in bronze’ Encore.
You flatter me my friend. Thank you.