Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shh...It's a Surprise!!

Unexpected Joys

Life Can Be Shocking

Shh...It's a Surprise!!
If I have learned anything over the course of the past couple days it's that people, things, and life are unpredictable. As soon as I have finally come to terms with the way things are, expecting and accepting each day to be pretty much the same as every other, life shocks me by treating me to unexpected joys. Because of my multiple times in treatment for my eating disorder I have had the opportunity to make a countless numbers of friends of varying ages, from all over the world, and from numerous different paths of life; but, of course, there are those few friends with whom I created instantaneous, unbreakable bonds who I continue to think about every single day. Unfortunately a number of factors- time, distance, work, lapses and relapses, and life in general- prevent us from seeing and talking to each other as frequently as I would like. But no matter what, these extraordinary friends will forever have a special place in my heart, and regardless of what happens I will always consider them to be my best friends, even part of my family. Our level of closeness makes every interaction that we have invaluable and fills me with a level of excitement and happiness that is not even possible to articulate. 
When we do get to see each other I find myself wondering if the situation is truly real or if it is just a dream; it wouldn't be a completely insane notion considering I do often dream about seeing these good friends who I rarely have the chance to interact and/or be with. But over the past few days life has surprised me by turning my dreams into realities on two separate occasions. The first event involved one of my dearest friends from treatment who I literally consider to be a second mother to me. She is nearly 40 years old, a college professor, married, and has her doctorates; clearly we lead very different lives. But somehow despite our differences we have been able to create and sustain an incomparable connection. However, sadly she is often very sick, involved in her eating disorder and dropping to scarily low weights, which makes it nearly impossible for us to be in contact with each other; she is either frequently intentionally isolating or too exhausted to even attempt to focus on her relationships with other people after fulfilling the obligations that her full-time job demands. She has recently pulled one of her "disappearing acts" and I decided to text her just to check in and let her know that she was on my mind. I wasn't even expecting a response so I was certainly shocked when she texted me back and suggested that we get together because she was going to be in the area. We met up and talked for only a little over an hour while she had time to kill between meetings. But, this face-to-face interaction was one of the most joyful experiences that I have had in a long time. 
Life shocked me by providing me with this unexpected joy, the opportunity to see, hug, and connect with my second mom, and it reminded me that we don't always need to be actively pursuing happiness; often, it will find us when we are least expecting it.

Callan's guide to happiness-
"Resist chasing after happiness and give happiness a chance to sneak up on you and 'find' you in unexpected moments."

- Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your "Joie de Vivre"

I can't imagine a more appropriate quote for this entry and my personal experience. I most definitely wasn't expecting life to surprise me with this happy and gratifying experience. I sent a text to my friend out of the blue with no expectation that she would even bother responding. She was pulling one of her "disappearing acts" that she tends to engage in when she is not doing well with her eating disorder. But happiness chose to "sneak up" and "find" me when my friend suggested that we get together. I wasn't looking for happiness, yet I managed to come across it anyways because life opted to shock me with an unexpected joy. After seeing my friend I was completely elated and I couldn't imagine that my day could possibly get any better. But, again, I was wrong. Life was not through surprising me with unexpected and unsolicited pleasure. 
So Happy, Andy Warhol (1958)
Later that evening I heard from my other best friend from treatment (I have 3, each from a different time in treatment) who I literally haven't been in contact with in months. We are basically identical in almost every way- same eating disorder, same height, same hair color, same likes and dislikes, same cigarettes, same habits (good as well as bad), same attitude about our illness, and same perspectives about fun, happiness, and life- it's almost creepy. Our similarities are so strong and significant that we even refer to each other as "twinny." Our intense bond was strong and instantaneous and we became inseparable after only a few hours of knowing each other. We could finish each other's sentences, changed in front of each other, comforted one another, were ridiculously honest with each other, and trusted and loved each other despite the short length of our relationship. During this past spring we managed to get together almost every week and we always were able to have an absurd and fabulous time no matter what we were doing. She had the ability to make me feel alive and forget about my worries and issues. But as time went by, and we both became increasingly engaged in other areas of our lives, we haven't been able to stay in touch to the same degree that we once could. 
Me and my "twinny" !
I still love her unconditionally and I am pretty sure that the feeling is mutual but we just can't seem to consistently turn these feelings into actions. I constantly will send texts that go unanswered. We try to make plans and they nearly always fall through. Maintaining contact just seems impossibly difficult; so, although I consider her to be my "twin" and one of my dearest friends, I don't expect to hear from her or see her very often. Yesterday she surprised me when she reached out to me via Facebook. This initial message led to a series of messages, which ultimately resulted in lengthy text conversations, and again offered me an unexpected joy. Just communicating with her was able to provoke the happy, warm, and good feelings that I had experienced when we were able to spend time together. This second interaction solidified my belief that life can be shocking and that happiness will "find" us even when we are not actively looking for it nor expecting it.

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."

- John Barrymore

This quote is so true for me in both these situations. When I initially texted my second mother I wasn't looking for a response and I wasn't hoping or anticipating that she would provide me with any more joy than I already had. (I was feeling pretty good at the time so I wasn't necessarily on the look out for opportunities that would bring me happiness.) After seeing my friend I was feeling even better, so again, I wasn't on the hunt for additional happiness. In fact, I was thinking, "How could I possibly feel any better than I do right now?" But then my other friend, my "twin," contacted me unexpectedly, allowing further happiness to "sneak" into my life. I wasn't wanting or looking for more happiness or joy; it just came to me by surprise the "a door" that had apparently been "left open!" 

This is what my good friends do for me-
I know that these situations may sound small or insignificant but they truly meant the world to me, filling me with a level of joy that I haven't had in a long time. I have gotten so used to my predictable, structured, monotonous and somewhat mundane life that I have forgotten what it feels like to experience a pleasant surprise. The surprise doesn't need to be huge or monumental in order for it to make a big impact on you and your life in a positive way.

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."

- Robert Brault

I picked this quote because it brings up the potential significance of the supposedly "little things," such as my recent interactions with my two best friends. I agree with this notion, but a part of me feels the need to counter Brault's statement, questioning, Why do we need to wait until a later point in time to recognize and/or ascribe value to these "little things?" 
In my mind anything that brings us joy, no matter how small or simple they may seem, are worthy of being deemed significant or "big." In actuality, sometimes it's these "little things" that provide us with the highest degrees of happiness. You may not understand why these recent unexpected joys brought me the amount of excitement that they did. You might not get why I consider basic communication with friends as a "big thing." But really, none of that is important; what matters is that I recognize how valuable these surprises were to me and my happiness. Likewise, I probably don't understand the importance and/or value of all of the "little things" that bring you joy. Again, my lack of understanding is insignificant. I am suggesting that we look at Brault's quote and take it one step further. Lets not wait to recognize the worth of all the small and simple things that bring us pleasure. Instead, I am encouraging us to denote these things as "big" right now. In this moment we can choose to give these "little things" the credit that they deserve. 

" can find happiness anywhere and everywhere...when we are not really concentrating on capturing [it], [it] will suddenly appear in our peripheral vision..."

- Jamie Cat Callan, Bonjour, Happiness! Secrets to Finding Your "Joie de Vivre"

We don't always need to be searching for happiness. Occasionally life will shock us by throwing it in our laps. If we acknowledge that the "little things" are actually "big" simply because of the fact that they bring us gladness the more likely we are to see that happiness truly is "anywhere and everywhere" and the more frequently we will be gifted unexpected joys. I have a long list of seemingly tiny, common, or trivial things that provide with a level of delight that others would consider uncalled for or inappropriate. 
My favorite simple pleasures include fancy stationary, stickers, any and all things involving France, expensive candles, and Hello Kitty. (This is just a short sampling from my lengthy list of little delights.)  My extensive list of diverse likes allows life to surprise me and provide me with unexpected joys on a regular basis. I will walk into the drug store to buy cigarettes and then all of a sudden...surprise- they are selling Hello Kitty stickers and Pez dispensers, consequently instantly lifting my spirits when I did not expect it. I head into my school's bookstore to pick up a text book for class and I am lured by the card section, which catches me off guard because it offers my favorite brand of luxury stationary and cards. Yet again, unexpected and instant happiness is tossed my way.
I go into Urban Outfitters in order to buy some new tights (considering mine always seem to have a run in them) and the first thing I see is a display filled with expensive, beautifully fragrant candles. I went in for a basic necessity and was surprised when I found that the store sold one of my favorite "little things." I entered expecting to leave with only a few pairs of tights in hand. Instead, I left with not just tights, and not just a candle, but a little bit of joy and a smile on my face as well. Why am I blabbering on and telling you all this, talking about candles and Hello Kitty and daily errands? Well, it's because I am trying to demonstrate to you that happiness really is "anywhere and everywhere." The more open we are to ascribing value to the small things that bring us pleasure, the more likely it is that life will shock us with unexpected joys. My best friends, who I rarely see and don't get to speak to that often, reached out to me and I was absolutely thrilled. Others may consider my level of gladness to be an over reaction or silly; however, connecting with close friends is yet another "little thing" that I regard as a "big thing." Life shocked me when I heard from my friends and I was blessed with two separate experiences of unexpected joy.
"My best friends...reached out to me and I was absolutely thrilled."
Think about the different things in life that bring you happiness- magazines, decorative pillows, picture frames, lip balm, cup cakes, coffee table books, anything at all! Give these "little things," which others may not see the meaningfulness of, the value and significance they they deserve. These pleasures are "big things" for no other reason than the fact that they fill you with cheerfulness. Once you have ascribed them the value you that they deserve I think you will discover that you are surprised with unexpected joys more and more. Don't disregard how substantial these simple pleasures are and don't allow yourself to forget that life can be shocking. Unexpected joys will find you when you are least expecting it. You may not be actively pursuing happiness but that does not mean that it will not find you anyways. 

Be open to embracing life's happy surprises,

Life can be shocking, bringing unexpected joys !

1 comment:

  1. Are you paying over $5 per pack of cigs? I'm buying my cigs over at Duty Free Depot and I'm saving over 50%.