The Lesson My Sixth-Month Old is Teaching Me
Louise Jane, our first child, premiered in October. She is an eternal gift, a blessing in an aviator hat. Lou hit the six-month mark at the end of April. Half a year with a newborn is brief in memory, but long in action. There is time for overthinking and concentrated monitoring. I have observed a healthy amount about Louise: the way her dimples pop when her smile cannot be contained, her preference of brown tissue paper over any store-bought toy, the pink skin that develops around her eyebrows after a good cry, the raspy, unrhythmic laugh from the back of her throat when her eyes trail Opal. Documenting her is effortless. I watch, I write. One reoccurring observation rises above the rest. It is not about Lou’s quirks or the way her eyes are undergoing a metamorphosis, bursting hazel from the center like a daisy. Louise is a teacher; every day the same lesson:
It doesn’t take much to be happy.
Louise holds a simple honesty in her daily existence. The majority of her days are composed of playing, sleeping, eating, loving and dispensing through various openings. When these needs are met, Lou is a happy girl. Fed and rested, stimulated and loved – this is all she desires. Her happiness is rooted in the fundamental. Mundane activities bring her extraordinary joy.
Eating and rest and small acts of love, these basic life needs have reached an arrogant assumption in my life. I know they will be available. I cannot experience happiness unless they are met; yet the quotidian availability of these needs lessens their ability to bring me joy on their own. It is not enough to sit and eat oatmeal as the sun climbs awake or receive a spiky kiss from Ben courtesy of his beard or sleep deeply through the night; I need more to be happy.
My daily dose of happiness is found through accomplishment. I fixate on rolling through a to-do list to induce contentment. Happiness will shower me if I thrift the perfect side table for the guest bedroom, if the laundry basket is empty, if my blog has a new essay every week, if I land one more writing gig for the month. More is more is more. The happiness high felt when an action is scribbled out in completion is brilliant. It is brilliant and it is fleeting. Sometimes the contentment only lasts a few minutes, then I am on to the next task to earn my fix again. It is a hamster wheel, exhausting and never-ending.
Louise, without awareness of her actions, shows me how to be happy in the uncomplicated. She doesn’t preach to me how or where to find happiness; she just practices it. We sit at the kitchen table – me with my sweet potato wrap and her with her slippery avocado. We fill our bellies, we share time. It is simple. I work to stay present in this singular moment. It isn’t easy. My mind is often divided among many tasks at once; it is a Safari browser– too many tabs open. When I find my mind wandering, I watch Louise. She paints her highchair tray neon green and occasionally gets some remnants in her mouth. She is delighted by the texture and color. The jury is still out on the taste. Avocado and my focus gives her happiness. Full stop. There is no need for more. I take a breath. I step off the hamster wheel.
I cannot silence the complications I’ve built around me. The cup of my life was full a long time ago. It now overflows. I accept the state I’ve created. What I can do is learn from Louise and practice basking in happiness where it obviously exists - right in front of my nose in the mundane, everyday makings of life. Lasting happiness, happiness that builds on itself to create a stronger self-foundation and fulfillment, is not generated from the more, but from the fundamental. The more I put on my plate in an attempt to catch happiness, the more elusive and short-lived it is. Louise is the teacher I didn’t know I needed. She is smiling at me right now. I am happy. Full stop.
Photos by Rose Colored Creative