Kicking Leaves: Keys to Happiness

Keys to Happiness

The other day, as I was driving, I saw what seemed like a perfectly "normal" silver haired man happily kicking up leaves as he walked down the sidewalk. His look was of pure joy and delight. I could see that he just couldn't resist the crisp, golden leaves and I was amused that he was so openly public with his childlike display.

It struck me, too, that his delight was in such stark contrast to my brooding on "serious" topics as I drove to the office. I couldn't help but wonder that maybe he attained some wisdom in his later years about his own happiness. In my mind, I began to create a story about him-- that maybe once in his life he was too serious or bitter. Maybe he neglected his family and worked too hard. Then maybe he had a brush with death and he just "got it." Or...perhaps he was had always been a man who recognized a small, delicious moment and seized it.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to express all kinds of feelings, from joy to sadness and how his behavior might just be the key to overall happiness. What we can learn from kids is that they don't put a lid on their feelings. When they're happy, they're happy. When they're sad, they're sad. As adults, we learn how to contain our experiences, letting out only socially appropriate expressions that reflect what's going on. And, while I know we can’t go around skipping in quiet libraries or weeping in our cubicles, I do wonder about the cost of not really expressing our feelings. Do we just become numb? Do we stop recognizing the opportunities to express joy or honor pain the pain we carry? If we don’t acknowledge the pain, isn’t this what leads to heart attacks and road rage and depression? If we don’t express joy or take delight in the simple, well then really, what’s the point of all those crisp gold leaves waiting to be played in?

This weekend I need to rake the yard and if the moment seizes me, I might just roll around in my big pile – in front of the neighbors and all!

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