Happiness is….

driving to work with my sunroof open in November,

discovering that Queso is so much more than I ever imagined,

realizing that I’ve become quite particular about the quality and freshness of the homemade tortillas I buy,

understanding why Texas is so friggin’ special and unlike any place else on earth,

living in a city that has at least one festival every single weekend,

playing tennis year-round outside,

cycling year-round outside with some of the best people I’ve ever had the honor and privilege to know,

living in an area where strangers talk to one another in line, in stores and on the street,

living in a major metropolitan city surrounded by deer, coyotes, owls, hawks…and on and on and on,

being surrounded by people who are real, authentic, honest, genuine and down right beautiful from the inside out,

living in vibrance,

walking Lilly and helping her write notes to her Mommy,

seeing how happy and content my kitties are in the warm, fresh air, watching the deer and other wildlife,

live music…everywhere…all the time…without any effort,

being educated on the hundreds of varieties of tequila and not caring if I don’t remember,

having friends who don’t fade away because I moved and some who have become even closer in order to mitigate the distance,

having bonds that hold,

phone dates with friends far away and conversations as fluid and smooth as if I were next door,

receiving surprise gifts and cards in the mail and text messages for no reason other than to say hi,

hardly ever wearing a coat,

wearing cowboy boots and fitting in with everyone else wearing theirs,

long sunny days and beautiful sunsets over and over and over,

knowing that I am loved and appreciating the fact that I can now recognize the difference between real and fake, healthy and co-dependent,

connecting with people regardless of their position or status,

seeing things with more light and joy than I ever imagined possible,

knowing that it takes a whole lot to knock me down and when I do, I get back up,

realizing that I’m strong enough to be vulnerable and courageous enough to open my heart,

realizing that I can still trust and love and laugh in abundance,

discovering that I can still kick ass in ping pong,

not caring a bit that I can’t really Two Step but continue to try,

liking who I am and not being overly concerned if you don’t,

not falling prey to being impressed with outside things and being moved by the subtle, genuine inside things,

knowing what and who I like, respect, and revere and living a life that honors those things,

doing little things for people without them knowing,

having compassion for those who have hurt me deeply and forgiving them because they’re just people,

helping us laugh a little longer and perhaps a little louder,

ultimately realizing that happiness comes from genuine gratitude and it’s all there waiting for you when you stop trying to grasp it and when you let go of the fear and limitations.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

Austin, Texas. Mid-November. Like much of the country, the temperature hovered around freezing. Within a span of two hours I received the following responses to my similarly posed question:                     

                             “How are you doing/how’s it going today?”

“This is ridiculous, do you know how cold it was when I woke up this morning? I did not move here for this. This is my definition of miserable.”

“Good to see you again Ma’am. I got no complaints, happy to be here one more day, feeling blessed. How are you doin’ this evening?”

Same question. Two different responses. One from a well-paid, highly educated professional and the other from an underpaid, employed homeless person.

                                                   Perspective.

I write and allude to it often. It seems illusive at times, wiggly almost…it comes, it goes as soon as you have it, it will duck and hide and (if we’re lucky) resurface again. Those who you’d think would have it don’t and those who you wouldn’t think have it do. Sometimes perspective is skewed to the point of sadness and sometimes it’s skewed to the point of humorous. Over and over, time and again, I find myself surprised at those who have it and those who don’t. I’ve certainly experienced a total lack of perspective: dumbfounded, hurt, and confused at someone or something, my point of reference skewed and my perspective upside down, inside out or long gone…and yet it returns and offers me balance one again.

I love to travel because it gives me all new perspective. The quote from St. Augustine is one of my favorites and resonates with me:

             “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Travel affords one the opportunity to learn, gain and own new perspective. Perspective isn’t on page one, you have to go further than that. Traveling through a country that doesn’t have toilet paper, or water safe enough to brush your teeth, or dirty clothes that are laundered and ironed within hours of dropping them on the floor or sitting at a dinner where your fork is continuously replaced so you don’t have to eat with a dirty utensil…this gives a person perspective. Seeing people who survive on less than a dollar a day and people who routinely spend ten thousand dollars a day…all of this gives one the opportunity to grasp a little more perspective to move beyond page one.

Yet St. Augustine didn’t really define what travel actually means. Perhaps we don’t always need to travel outside our state, our country or continent to gain new perspective. Perhaps we need only travel outside our comfort zone.

              Our experiences don’t define who we are, our perspective does.

You’re cold, in your warm home with your loving family or on your way to your highly paid job and have to warm up your car for ten whole minutes so you don’t have to sit on a cold car seat which has seat-heaters anyway? And you complain about this?

You’re homeless and working a full-time job as a laborer for a construction company and it takes you 90 minutes to get to work because you rely on the bus service and because of the schedule it takes two full hours to get back “home” to the homeless shelter and you barely make it back in time to eat dinner before you are assigned a mat on the floor for the evening with less than 24 inches between you and the people on mats on either side of you? And you are grateful for this?

                                          Perspective.   It isn’t a guarantee.

You don’t have it just because you grow older and you don’t have it just because you are educated or financially solvent. If you don’t step outside your comfort zone it’s virtually impossible to obtain, which is what I believe St. Augustine meant. Perspective doesn’t come to you or knock on your door but it is there, attainable and waiting if you seek it out.

Travel expands the mind and broadens our outlook, it is the only way we can turn the pages in our book. Once you experience a different culture or a different way of life the mind doesn’t shrink back to where it was, rather it expands and makes room for perspective. To gain perspective we need to travel but travel isn’t limited to suitcases, passports and reservations. When we get outside our comfort zone, we move beyond page one. Sometimes travel equates to lands far, far away and sometimes it equates to simply listening to others and putting ourselves in their shoes even for just a moment. Perspective is there, you don’t need to travel around the world, simply travel into someone else’s.

And the two responses to my question? I was surprised at one, inspired by the other and grateful for both…they helped me turn another page.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed

                Have you ever had the experience of hearing a sound or perhaps
seeing or smelling something and immediately your mind travels
back in time and relives a memory?

Maybe a particular song takes you back to your high school prom or the whiff of fresh cut grass or seeing a display for S’mores in the grocery store transports you to another time in your life.

As I stood behind the counter at a resource center for Austin-area homeless men, serving Chicken Fricassee with peas and spinach salad, I was enjoying being smack dab in the moment (where everyone says we’re supposed to live anyway). Neither thinking ahead to what I needed to do once I got home, nor thinking behind mulling over all the things that happened throughout my day I was focused on the meal, the hungry men and the experience. And then Chet walked up and politely said to me, “no pea’s please”  and immediately my mind traveled to the 1980’s…high school, my favorite local band and their album,“Two B’s Please”. When that impromptu mind travel experience happens I enjoy residing in both worlds…this particular time serving food in Austin while remembering a band and concerts in a tiny enclave in Southwest Virginia.

I have worked with, volunteered for, known and learned from many people who are either currently experiencing homelessness or have done so in their past. I worked alongside a young man who, as a result of bad luck and a greedy landlord, lost his apartment and was homeless during the notorious and relentless Maine winter. His primary concern? His dog.

Not having a home to call your own is without a doubt a challenging existence and one I cannot fathom having the strength to endure. In my hometown of Austin, like many, the #1 reason people are homeless is due to a lack of an affordable place to live…not because they are drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill or lazy.

           They are homeless due to the economic reality of supply and demand.

Most of the men who utilize the homeless resource center in Austin have jobs. They are polite, gracious, respectful and they may not have a home but they have their dignity. And quite a few of them, like Chet, don’t like peas. Chet caught my attention because his southern inflection of “no peas please” took me back to my youth. As I talked with him it turns out my ear had not let me down, Chet was raised in Southwest Virginia surprisingly close to where I was from which is why the inflection in his voice sounded familiar. Chet had been in the Army, stationed in Texas and had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. After completing his tours of duty, he decided to stay in Texas and moved to Austin.

As we continued to talk, Chet explained that he grew up poor and didn’t have a lot of choices. Peas were cheap and plentiful and Chet’s mother served them almost every night for supper. As Chet explained,“I got burned out on peas, my Momma forced me to eat them and now I’m adult and I’m never eating them again”.

And with that, my mind traveled back to a former U.S. President who stated something remarkably similar about his aversion to broccoli.
And once again, therein squats the toad.
We.   Are.   All.   The.   Same.

We’re the same, we are unique and we have our differences but when it comes right down to the bottom line…same, same, same. George doesn’t like broccoli, Chet doesn’t like peas. Neither man wants to live his adulthood eating a food he doesn’t like.

Consider this:  Does it matter that one man is a former U.S. President and the other is a former soldier for the U.S. Army? Does it matter that one has a home (multiple, to be accurate) and one doesn’t? Does it matter that one grew up with privilege and the other grew up in poverty? Can we respect them both equally for their choices, likes and dislikes? Are we able to recognize our judgments and our expectations of people when we think a little deeper, when we dare to explore what’s beneath the surface of our thoughts and opinions?

If their least favorite food was the only available choice, I highly doubt either man would starve – they would likely eat whatever they had to in order to sustain themselves. Both men shared the fact that they saw themselves in positons of power and decisiveness and proclaimed their preference. Therefore, George isn’t served broccoli and Chet isn’t served peas.

And for me?  I was reminded me of a local, Southwestern Virginia band, singing about football games and end zones and that “Sweet Virginia Breeze”…pea’s (and broccoli) nowhere to be found.

Thanks for reading,
~ Haven

Source: New feed