When I was in the Navy and at sea for long stretches of time doing work I often did not enjoy, I would make lists of things that made me happy. Usually they were tangible things like morning coffee, pens that scritch pleasantly across paper, good books, trees (I missed the color green so much when I was at sea.)
I recently started making a new list, and I noticed less tangible things were coming to mind. They were instead experiences that bring me – in various ways – real joy. And they aren’t things that necessarily happen on a day-to-day basis. But I live for the moments in which in these things occur.
That’s what I wanted to create. A list of moments for which my life is worth living.
(These are in no particular order.)
1. Physical, Mental & Emotional Pain
I started with a weird one. It might make me sound like a bit of a sado-masochist … but no. I am a firm believer (after many years of denying it) that pain not only makes you stronger, but reaffirms to your body and mind that you are alive. Truly alive. Not just passively moving through the world, but actively engaged in curating your life. You cannot be bold and also be free of pain and embarrassment. I have a lot to say about pain, more than I can say here, so suffice it to say that it doesn’t (always) repel me simply because I know there are lessons to be learned from it. And learning makes me happy.
2. New Insights
There are moments when I’m reading a book or a blog post or a news article or listening to a podcast and something tugs at my brain like an excited puppy because I’ve just come across some insight – a word, a phrase, a paragraph – that instantly teaches me something new about myself or someone I love. I don’t know how to describe the joy this brings, knowing that I’m just a little bit smarter – in a way that will affect my entire life philosophy. It’s intoxicating. It can happen in conversations, too, which brings me to …
3. Interesting, Intelligent, Intimate Conversations
These aren’t easy to come by, though it helps if you yourself are willing to be vulnerable and nonjudgmental, which encourages others to do the same. There are obvious people in your life with whom these conversations occur, but I sometimes have the most enlightening conversations with near strangers. And bartenders. Talking at parties and work gatherings and things like that often exhausts me – so much work for so little depth. I know when I’m having a conversation worth having when I’m energized by it instead.
4. Kissing in Public
God, I love this so much.
5. Deep Hearty Laughter
There are few things I love more than laughing. And my laugh is deep. And hearty. And apparently very entertaining to those who aren’t expecting it.
One of things I notice about this brief list is that none of it requires money. It’s all free and available to anyone. And will often happen whether you want it to or not so you might as well make the most of it. And of life in general.