How to be happy; a simple guide.

When I think about our generation, certain ‘catch phrases’ and driving thoughts come to mind. We’re obsessively passionate about ‘pursuing our dreams’ and we’re the Kings and Queens of YOLO. We’re all about changing our uni preferences, our jobs and our friends in order to live the type of life we’ve decided we want. There are many other defining characteristics of our generation but one I’ve noticed is a desire to be considered deep yet understood and an overarching goal of achieving bliss. In fact, we want deep bliss.

As much as a generation changes and moves with culture and the times; the rest of the world is slow to catch up. Our parent’s and employers don’t really understand our constant need to be complex and our drive to live the ‘dream’. My world is filled with both types of people; deep thinkers and people who just want to be happy and then people who want to be both. The two however, seem to be mutually exclusive. The more you think and the more you contemplate – the more you realise how deeply unhappy you are and how you need to make a change and get your life right again. The two forces end up becoming a vicious cycle and we can’t seem to be happy or deep or understood.

I’ve definitely been there. Our generation seems to think there’s something romantic attached to being a ‘deep thinker’ and to being ‘complex’ or ‘misunderstood’ yet at the same time, we want every type of success and happiness in the world and wonder why it doesn’t work out. After lots of time and attempts to be both happy and deep I’ve come to realise something.

It really doesn’t take much to be happy.

Our generation doesn’t really believe the above statement. To be really, truly happy we think we need to have a certain amount of things. A good, fulfilling and preferably high paying job where we hopefully don’t have to do too much work or ever be stressed. A large number of friends of whom you feel deeply connected with all of them and somehow have time to hang out with all of them and that also happen to be very good looking. A wonderfully impacting relationship with God/other spiritual being that helps define us and give us “meaning”. A love type relationship that challenges us to be better than were the last day and makes us always feel like a baaabe. A plethora of university qualifications and other numerous skills such as but not limited to: some form of artistic ability (drawing/music are high on the list), sporting prowess and the gift of the gab or some other socially enhancing personality trait. It would also help if we had a great house, a great car and if no one was ever mean to us – ever. We want wicked holidays, epic Instagram photos with 80+ likes of said holiday photos. We want to be clever and well-read and really ‘up to date’ on certain topics of interest and it of course, would be best if we sponsored one more children in Africa and if we had the time – we’d also be volunteering for a cause that also attributed further ‘meaning’ to our world.

‘It really doesn’t take much to be happy’ feels like a lie.

A month or more ago I had this ‘wow’ moment when I sat down in bed with a cup of tea before I went to sleep and thought to myself “I am so happy right now – in fact, all I think I need in life is a good cup of tea.”

It feels.. so trivial doesn’t it? Tea Steff? Really?
In fact, it actually feels like I must be lying – or at the very least exaggerating.
But I wasn’t. I was so into this cup of tea and I was truly happy.

The ‘deep thinker’ within tried to come up with some intrinsic metaphoric reason for why tea was making me happy but I came up with nothing except the fact that if I could become so happy from drinking a cup of tea, then anything additional on top of my tea – would cause my life to be, well, AMAZING. So I rolled with it. For a season in time I forced myself to become that person who finds everything pretty awesome.

I would walk outside and think ‘My isn’t the air beautiful and crisp today. I love breathing fresh air’. I would receive an email at work and think ‘Oh they added a smiley face in their message – that’s SO nice’. I would get more green lights than red on the way home and think ‘WINNING’.

I made the simple things in life.. My everything. I tried to focus on only simple, easy to achieve, smile inducing things and told myself how happy they made me.

I thought it would feel trivial. Just like believing that I’d reached life’s peak while drinking a cup of tea was a limited way of thinking. I thought I wouldn’t feel deep anymore and that somehow by living simply, I’d lose any intellectual and emotional depth that I once possessed when I was deep but truthfully, a little unhappy. But I didn’t – in fact; my life increasingly had more and more meaning.

Why? Because the more I practised simplicity the more my simple little joys became infused with meaning.

Because when I drank my tea at night – I ended up thinking about how great it was that I had a job to come home from, even if it did make me tired. I would sit in bed feeling warm and appreciating my home and that I can afford to live in it. It would make me aware of how other people didn’t get the same luxury. I ended up feeling so darn lucky that something so simple could make me so happy.

What once was tea – ended up being gratitude, perspective and that ‘I’m so darn lucky’ feeling.

When I would walk outside for an errand at work – I ended up thinking about how the seasons work, and how beautiful it is that grass continues to grow even once it’s been cut and how the patterns on the leaves that had fallen on the grass have their own unique design and how that reminds me of snowflakes and how no snowflake is the same which makes me thinking of how wonderfully unique I am because God made me that way.

What once was a work errand – ended up becoming worship, fascination and unique sense of purpose.

In order to live happily – one must learn the art of living a simply deep life.

As soon as I adopted the above principle, everything became better. Surprisingly, everything became deeper and the happy, reflective, stoic, grateful kind of deep not the moody, what are we even here for, damaging deep.

I never thought being happy was so simple.

Advertisements

Train Travel

My new job requires me to ride the train to work.

I sort of loath public transport but out of all of them; train travel is the lessor of evils so it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened but it’s definitely not like ‘wow wahoo yipee’ either. I don’t like the train because I find it sort of stressful. Sure, once you take a seat (or a stand if you’re unlucky) you’re all set, but the whole concept of racing to make sure you don’t miss the train makes me nervous. I get nervous as I see the train arriving and I can see that lady/man starting to run. I pray and will their legs to run faster so that they don’t miss their train and end up late to work. And then I pray that it never happens to me. I also find the train quite depressing. It’s like the least cheery place on earth. If you looked up Disneyland in the dictionary, it would have “Train Travel” as the antonym. Everyone is on their way to their lame corporate jobs and it’s like cracking a smile is a massive social faux pas just like talking too loudly in the ‘quiet carriage’.

That’s a tad dramatic you say? You’re probably right. But there’s still a vibe. Lots of racing and lots of straight faces. People aren’t rude on trains (Buses are another matter) but they aren’t happy either.

The other day I was riding the train home and was struck with this sudden rush of gratitude. I was riding home on the train from my job. MY JOB. The very fact that I had one is a blessing, especially when I’d just been out of work. The fact that I could drive to the station and then catch public transport is a blessing. I get to catch an express train home which makes my trip that much faster. I get to look out the window on my mostly smooth journey and see mostly trees and blue skies. That’s a blessing.
I won’t bother/bore you by listing every other single blessing that I have, because most of them I’m actually pretty good at remembering (food, shelter, freedom) but it’s the little things I tend to forget to be grateful for. The little things like train travel.

And so on that train ride home, I smiled. I looked out the window and smiled.

I hope when someone saw me that afternoon, they were surprised by my smile and pleasantly so. I hope they realised that they too, could be grateful for train travel. I’m not saying I’m about to revolutionise public transport forever and try and give Disneyland a run for its money as the happiest place on earth. I just hope someone else smiles on my next train ride. That would make me happy.

Happy Talk

Who says you can’t be happy all the time? I know, but I’m still going to try. Lifehouse Family.

Replacing a dead pair of shoes with a brand new pair and the feeling of kicking off a pair of new shoes you are wearing in. Happy.

Texts, letters, postcards, emails – any form of written encouragement. Happy.

Catchy riffs and carefully constructed lyrics. There’s something about the power of a beautifully written song that sends me to my happy place.

Ticking things off lists, feeling productive. Happy.

An equally balanced friendship. It sounds mathematical but knowing you are appreciated in a friendship and feeling so grateful for the other person – knowing the other person is in the exact same place is actually rather wonderful and it makes me happy.

The presence of God. The inexplicable presence. Happy.

Small pleasures like lipstick stains on a coffee cup, the quick squeeze in a long embrace, wearing socks to bed only to kick them off under the covers and hitting snooze on Saturdays. That’s happiness.

Christmas time. I love carols, presents and sleeping on Christmas afternoon – it’s the only time I like to nap. Happy Happy Happy Christmas.

Losing your stomach in a fast car. Driving fast, being driven fast. Fast cars.

People have the love language ‘gifts’ all wrong. We don’t just want things and more things and perferably more expensive things. The very fact that you thought of me and then took any time or any amount of money at all is enough. It makes me happy when someone understands that and then does there best to show me love this way.

The look in someone’s eyes when God speaks to them and they just get it.

The rare opportunities I get to spend with my whole family. Happy Steffany.

Impersonations and accents. Deliveries in the post. Nailing a rap.

It makes me happy when someone understands that the Steffany the world sees is a myth and it makes me even happier when someone tries to discover what’s beyond that.

Writing makes me happy. I love to sit and write about nothing and everything. Sometimes when I have nothing to say – I just rewrite lyrics or poems. Just putting a pen to paper makes me happy.

Finding that comfy position. Whether it’s with a book in an amazing couch, that illusive sleeping position or the perfect fit within someone’s arms. There’s nothing quite like it.

Acting. Creating something from nothing.

Alliteration. Books. An empty house. Getting ready at my own pace. Answering questions – either about myself or on behalf of other people.

Helping other people. Sharing my mistakes in order to help someone else grow. It makes me happy to know that my pain wasn’t for naught.

My best friends. People who know me and who I switch off with. I love feeling free. I love not wearing “makeup” with them. I love that people are as honest with me as I am with them. I love that I live in a country, grew up in a family and am surrounded by friends who have encouraged me to be exactly who I am.

That, makes me extremely happy.

#happyheart

When I was a little girl I made a lot of friends. My mum told me a story about how one day we went to the beach and I found another little girl on the beach to play with. She recalls how I came running up to her and said ‘Okay Mum, Suzy is coming back to my house to play now’. ‘Who is Suzy?’ my mum asked. ‘Muuum, she’s my best friend. I just met her 10 minutes ago’. Apparently this story was common throughout my childhood. I was bold enough that I just went up to kids and said ‘Ok, do you want to play with me now?’

Until fairly recently, I thought that this was pretty normal. I mean, I think it’s normal for kids to make friends easily and quite quickly but somewhere along the way we get hurt and insecure and making friends becomes harder. Making real friends becomes harder because all of a sudden you are trusting people with your heart and your deepest fears and greatest hopes instead of just with your toys and your Mum’s dress up heels.

A couple of months ago I met this girl. She was a friend of a friend and I probably only chatted to her briefly the next few times I saw her. She seemed really nice, pretty and easy to talk to but I kind of thought, as I often do – ‘Already at maximum friend capacity’.

However the next few weeks and its activities brought us together in more ways than one. You know when you just have a moment with someone. You unintentionally reveal some odd quirk about yourself and the other person jumps in such surprise as that is also their odd quirk. You find out their celebrity crush is the same as yours. You connect. Those moments where you just know that you stumbled across something special. Someone who without doing anything, makes your heart extraordinarily happy.

Sometimes I’m really glad I listen to my heart rather than to my brain. My brain said I didn’t need any more friends but my heart had other ideas. I actually did need this. By opening myself up to a new relationship, it didn’t increase my burden, it actually lightened it. Sometimes we close ourselves off to new things because we are afraid of ‘more’. Sometimes we don’t realise that God stretches our hearts to make room for new loves. I never want to be someone who shies away from enlargement.

I’ve realized the key to life isn’t how many friends you have – it’s which friends you have. I need people in my life that will let me be me. Who can point out the qualities in me that I’d forgotten about and say ‘Hey, you’re amazing’. People who make me laugh, people who laugh with me and sometimes, at me. I need people who I can be real with, who notice when I’m not being real and people who aren’t afraid to say something about it. People who make your life better, people who make you better.

I think I’ll always be that little girl on the beach. I think I’ll always easily find new people to be friends with. But I’ve realized how rare genuine relationships really are. Those people are special. Those friendships are to be valued and treasured.

So to my new and old friends who love me like family – to the few people who I let see the very best and the very worst of me. Thank you.

Anything good in my life is a direct reflection of the way you have shaped my life and shaped me. You have made me happier than I can adequately explain with words.

I’m not used to it, but I can learn.
There’s nothing to it.
I’ve never been happier.

No one is as lucky as us.
We’re not at the end but we already won.
No no one, is as lucky as us.

Paramore – Where the Lines Overlap.

Thoughts from the road.

This weekend I checked two things off my ‘The Last Single Girl’ list.

13. Go on a vacation by myself.

21. Go on a road trip.

This weekend I went on a road trip by myself.

Honestly it was one of best ideas/decisions/things I’ve had/made/done. I’d been feeling a little bit ‘bleh’ and decided just to do something a little bit spontaneous. I decided last Friday to go. Booked that night and the following Saturday morning I was off! I wasn’t too worried about having only myself for company, however I thought a one night trip would be a good starting place.

I stopped off for coffee at Blaine & Tegan’s before I left. Caffeine is critical for long drives but it also makes me happy. It also felt a bit like I had a cute little send off.

I drove to Byron Bay, which I’d actually never been to before. I drove up to the lighthouse.. walked around. Drove down to the beach. Sat on the beach and contempated life.

I had lunch and coffee at Bayleaf. Felt a bit judged with my slick hair and Prada handbag but got over it enough to enjoy the experience. And then I drove the last and longer leg of my journey on to Coffs Harbour. I stopped only once more to take a few photos and arrived in Coffs Harbour at 5pm.

When I road trip, I road trip in style. No backpackers or seedy motels. Resort luxury baby! Private access to the beach, a room that didn’t need to be that big. Pools, grassy lawns, sneaking a peak at a wedding they had that night. Yes, I think I’d make the right choice.

I wandered down to the jetty.. basked in the delightfully pink sunset. Picked up some dinner and settled in for some election updates which was all that was really on tv that night. I snuck a midnight (actually 8.30pm) swim and froze to death. Used every towel they provided me (6 in total). Took 2 showers and a bath and just generally enjoyed doing nothing.

Upon a recommendation from a local (B Ward represent) I went to Urban for breakfast, LOVED it. Stopped in at the beach again and then headed home.

Important lessons to be learnt from road trips.

  1. You are not invincible. My calves are aching today. I feel ridiculously tired, not relaxed. Whoops.
  2. Take a car with cruise control. Ouch. Seriously, my calves are SO sore.
  3. Go luxury. It’s worth it.
  4. Take photos. Lots of them.
  5. If you feel the need to talk to yourself, do it. I didn’t talk to myself, but I certainly did laugh out loud. Quite a lot. I laughed when I got to my room and realised how big it was. I laughed when I thought I’d take a shortcut back to my car from the beach and walked directly into a caravan park.
  6. Still talk to people. I think complete isolation is a bad idea when you travel alone.
  7. The whole point of being alone is that you can do things on your own timeframe. Eat dinner at 5pm, or 9pm if you wish. Stay up late, go to bed early, sleep in. Do whatEVER you want. WhenEVER you want.
  8. Get an amazing playlist. A mix between new songs and classics you love.
  9. Use a GPS. Not maps. I downloaded TomTom for my iPhone. Works a treat.. yells out directions to you and even if you have your headphones in, it will dim your music and let you know amazing things like ‘Keep going on Pacific Hwy for 76 km’. Ok great. Like I had other options.
  10. Snacks. That’s what I sort of forgot about. I should have gotten really into it and planned a little esky situation. Nope. Whoops.
  11. Look up places you want to go before hand. Research your coffee joints.
  12. Remember that there’s a time difference between the states. I got home way earlier than I needed to be due to a little thing we call Day Light Savings. Darn.

So many times I would sit/stand somewhere beautiful and think ‘Boy, I’m having such a good time’. And I would want to tell someone, but there was no one, and realising that was the main reason I was having such a good time was such a liberating experience. There’s something very important and necessary about open roads, relying on a map, street names you aren’t familiar with and a tiny bit of risk.

I’m sorry if you never see me on the weekends anymore, I will be adding more oil to my car (whoops again) and be road tripping all around our great country. Happy travels.

Strength in Joy

Lately I’ve been so aware of the heartache of life. Situations that people find themselves in where there actually is a physical response to emotional pain. A literal heart ache. In talking, thinking and praying through these situations I keep coming back to the words ‘The Joy of the Lord is my strength’. The phrase comes from Nehemiah 8:10 in which we are instructed ‘Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’.

I think it’s one of those wonderful things we say to people who are grieving but I never want to be someone who just says things for the sake of saying things and so it warranted further thought.

I’ve never been more aware of the acute difference between Joy and Happiness. Happy is an emotion, joy is state of mind. Happy is temporary, Joy is eternal. There’s something so powerful about true joy and I think that’s why we tell people ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength’. It’s not some iffy wiffy statement that proclaims, if you are happy and you just try a little bit harder to find some ‘joy’ in this trial, there you will find your strength. Fooey! Anyone who tells someone that, hasn’t been through heart ache or is having you on.

Have you ever met someone with true joy? So often it seems like nothing gets them down, that somehow they turn every hardship into opportunity. These are people who have grasped pure joy. People with joy aren’t easily beaten, they aren’t easily bruised and when they are, they have the strength to rise and try again.

If true joy seems a little unattainable, or a little too tough at times the best news that I have is that it’s the joy OF the Lord that is your strength. Supernatural and complete joy only comes from God. Let his joy and delight be your joy and delight. It won’t fix your problems, but you will find strength in pain.

1 Chronicles 16:27
Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.

Psalm 28:7
The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

20120314-104506.jpg

March Madness

Things I can be thankful for/excited about in March:

  • The opportunity to celebrate. I think everyone I know is born in March! That’s probably the first lie I’ve told on this blog because so many people are born in July too. But March is an especially big birthday month for me, which is great, I love celebrating people and birthdays.
  • University. Look, I don’t always love university. In fact, mostly I don’t. But I CAN be grateful for it. I start a new major (I think it’s actually more of a minor but I can never tell with my uni) this year and I think it will be a big challenge.
  • I’m grateful for grace. I think I will need God’s grace this month. So many things, so little time.
  • I’m excited about the Hunger Games movie which comes out in March. I LOVED these books and I think they actually won’t destroy them in the movie. I get goosebumps every time I see the trailer and I’m so glad March is here.
  • I’m excited for sweet little moments. I’ve been having so many moments lately where I am so overwhelmed by life. Someone will let me know how much they love this blog and I just die a little with happiness. God whispers in my ear that he’s proud of me and I die a little with happiness. Someone sends me a text that just makes me laugh so hard that I die a little with happiness.
  • I’m grateful for the last year when I’ve been able to see my brother every weekend. He moves to Sydney this month and our relationship will be long distance, along with my Dad. It really sucks to have half your family live in another state but I’m know I’m still lucky.
  • I’m grateful that once Pierson does move, the 4th bedroom will return to the old scrapbooking/study room that I know and love.
  • I’m excited about COLD weather! Well, not freezing weather, but I’m grateful that the sticky, sweltering Queensland summer is on it’s way out. I love scarves and jackets and I want them in my life.
  • I’m so grateful for how wonderfully happy I feel nearly all the time. I’m excited about life and what all of Autumn holds.. but I will especially appreciate and enjoy March, because it is here now.

Happy March everyone! I hope it’s the perfect mix of warm days and pleasantly cool evenings.

Love and hot cups of tea,

.Steffany.

Clean White Love

Hello my lovely friends and blog readers,

Welcome to Spring! In my opinion, spring is by far the best season. The weather is perfect, I’m born in spring, the flowers are delicious, its wedding season and all of sudden you feel like things that were difficult to achieve in winter, are now possible in spring.

This spring proves to be the best so far. One the 17th of September, my best friend, Tegan Churcher, will become Mrs Tegan Swanborough and this profound and precious occurrence will make this September amazing.

Most of the time I remember that I am a grown up now. I go to say things like ‘When I grow up I want to be a race-car driver’ and then realize that I actually am basically all grown up. I’m not old by any stretch of the imagination, but I am technically grown up. I have a job, bills, responsibilities. Most of the time I remember I am grown up.

Except for when I don’t remember. And I still feel about 12/17 years old and I wonder how I am even old enough to get a speeding ticket, am I really old enough to chaperone my sister on her schoolies cruise? I don’t think so.

I’m also not old enough for my best friend of the last 15 and ¾ years to be getting married. Now I have other friends who are married. My first close friend from school got married at 19, and I had a bit of a flip out then too. But then it became more normal, not so with Tegan. I think it’s because I’ve know her since I was 7.

To me we’re still sitting on the stairs at her parents place drinking green cordial and laughing about nothing. To me we’re still making our own Christmas decorations and decorating our bedrooms. We’re still making dance routines to the Backstreet Boys. We still have fairy parties and McDonalds parties. To me it still feels like the days when I used to try and force Tegan into going for a swim in her pool because I thought it was warm enough. Tegan was very over the novelty of a pool because she actually had one at her house. I still feel like we’re old enough to turn the trampoline up on its side and throw our bodies at it to try and knock it over and land on the trampoline. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we were swinging on the playground and I got my hair caught in the swing as Tegan twisted me up so that when I untwisted I would spin around in circles. To me we’re still doing fashion parades and playing offices. I remember when we did ‘Twinkle’ the musical together, and I remember having Christmas Eve parties together, I remember talking about our first boyfriends back in primary school and it really wasn’t THAT long ago.

There’s something about knowing someone as well as I know Tegan, that I know marriage doesn’t really change anything much with us. We’ve done best friendship long distance, we survived seasons of boyfriends, break ups and seasons of both being single, we’ve survived financial troubles, and parental troubles and I know, that nothing really shakes our friendship. We’ve sustained one or two knocks, but in the end, they’ve just made it better.

I actually can’t adequately express how grateful I am for Tegan. I honestly don’t know how people survive without friendships like this. There are only really a few people that shape you as a person, and for me, those people are Jesus Christ, my father and Tegan Maree.

I can’t wait to see you get married. I can’t wait to see my childhood best friend and my adult best friend get married to one of the most amazing guys I know. I’m so proud of you. I’m so honoured to know you and to be a part of your life and your big day.

Quote of the Day

A large income in the best recipies for happiness I ever heard of.
Jane Austen – Mansfielf Park

This quote is actually from yesterday. I went to a quote of the day website, and checked out yesterday’s quotes as well. It was a fun thing to do at the end of my lunch break. Tyring to get back into the habit of blogging. Baby steps. Quotes count!

Most people would like to be delivered from temptation, but would like it to keep in touch.

Robert Orben