What makes us happy?  Is it winning the lottery or getting a surprise million-dollar legacy?  In our current economy, such windfalls might sound even better than usual.  I haven’t seen Slumdog Millionaire (see trailer here) yet, but I gather that such a fantasy becomes reality in that film.  Once I see the film, I will review it here, because the other reviews suggest a connection between destiny and life story.

The destiny of each of our lives comes from paying close attention to what we love, hate, and desire.  The more we know about story structure, therefore, the more we navigate our lives with awareness.  The joy of being aware is that the smallest of experiences can equal the large.

During this vacation, I tracked my inner happiness barometer and discovered that suggesting a trip to Starbucks after Stuart and I mailed off our Christmas presents, having him respond with enthusiasm, and then splurging on a mocha with whipped cream for me and a caramel apple spice for him, gave us both disproportionate delight.  We emptied out the change we keep in the car into the tip jar, and had another thrill when the young man behind the counter said “thank you!”  The dollar bill folded into the Salvation Army bucket at Macy’s elicited a broad smile from a woman ringing the bell.  Having been bell ringers myself, Stuart and I knew that just a few of these exchanges make all the difference when you stand in the cold.

Yesterday I had the flu, so happiness was when Stuart brought me ice and a diet 7-Up and put clean sheets on the bed.

Some happiness comes from accomplishment.  But the difference between finishing a doctorate and getting rid of all the accumulated paper on the desk is smaller than most people imagine.  Gaining fame and riches without gaining appreciation, attention, awareness, and gratitude is less satisfying than doing small things with attention and love, day after day.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Susan Neufeldt on January 8, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    What a lovely tale of daily love! I so recognize the small distance between a clean desk and a dissertation written.

  2. Shirley on January 9, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Susan! You know how exciting it is to find someone cares enough to add a thought.

  3. shirleyhs on January 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Susan! You know how exciting it is to find someone cares enough to add a thought.

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