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Kitty Shea
From Live Better America
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Daily Happiness Is Already Ours

My 6-year-old cat had been diagnosed with cancer that day, yet there she was, crouched tigress-like behind the shower curtain, uncharacteristically jutting out a Seal Point Siamese paw as I brushed my teeth: feline fusillade aimed at my bare feet. Ivy wanted to play! My heart leapt, so immediate and piercing was my happiness. Her leukemic backstory hardly registered or mattered, so delightful was the gesture.

Ironically (or appropriately, depending how metaphysical we want to get), this amusing scene took place between the "Happy Holidays" heralds of December and the party horns of "Happy New Year." Courting happiness was, at the time, keenly on my radar as seasonally imperative. I had shopped, decorated, baked, gift-wrapped, donned velvet, hugged, air-kissed, worshipped and toasted, and all were perfectly nice. But there I was, in my bathroom of all places, with my cat of all "people," experiencing a sensation that, in its goofy simplicity, rivaled if not exceeded the happiness hype swirling about the calendar. I hadn't sought it, bought it or thought it, but easy, true happiness was mine in that moment. Ivy wanted to play!

Holidays and birthdays ramp up our happiness expectations to often unattainably high levels: to happiness with an uppercase "H" befitting the greeting card stanzas. When the tinsel and streamers come down, it's only understandable that our happiness meters need resetting. (Sometimes -- and you know this is true -- the greatest happiness arrives when the occasions end, but we won't go there now.) Our return to routine is a chance to recommit to everyday happiness and grab it in its lowercase forms; a chance to keep our inner votive candles lit, so to speak, as we stash away the candelabra.

My lingering smile about Ivy's paw swipe left me wondering how many other happiness hits I get on a daily basis but fail to notice, either because they don't rank up there with the biggies -- relationship or job happiness, say -- or because I'm too busy doing what needs to get done. Who has time to check in and ask "Am I happy today?" Are we even inclined to formally designate happiness as such when it's unattached to a major holiday or life event?

I decided to devote a day to dialing in and documenting whatever made me happy. Awakening to fresh winter white and stopping, actually stopping, to watch to my enormous hound make a snow dog angel: happy. Licking foam off the inner lid of my decaf latte: happy. Making plans to go ice-skating: happy. Bobbing my head and swiveling my seated hips to funky music while driving: happy. Seeing in my 85-year-old father's facial profile both my grandpa and Abe Lincoln, and appreciating that Dad's still alive: happy.

It wasn't even 10 a.m. Not one thing of significance had occurred, but a whole bunch of pleasurable "nothings" had. Granted, none of them changed Ivy's white blood cell count, but glossing over my fear and sadness was never the intent. Contradictory emotions can coexist. All were just happy occurrences that were happening anyway. By consciously recognizing them and assigning the label "happy," I had myself a sweet buzz going. And I liked it, liked myself, liked the day. I was happy. And it's mine -- ours -- to experience again tomorrow.

To what degree do you consciously think about whether you're happy? Any triggers or inspiration to share?

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