How to be Happy: It Takes as Long as It Takes

Molly“If you’re rushed, you’re wrong.” – My dad

Ever have those days where you feel like you don’t even have time to pee? Sorry to be gross, but hey, some days are like that. Or at least they feel that way.  Bouncing from one thing to the next, plowing through. Getting distracted by all kinds of urgent-but-not-important types of things. Falling in a stupor on the couch at the end of the day, trying to decompress with something mindless…

Sounds appealing, no? Well, no. But still, some days are just like that.

I know I’ve talked before about mindfulness and slowing down to take in the experiences of life as they come, and how I strive to do that, and how I think it contributes to greater happiness.  Hmm, somehow the idea of “striving to be mindful” sounds odd – aspire, maybe.

Anyhow, two things happened recently that helped me remember another tenet of happiness: letting things happen in their own time. We’ve talked about it a little bit before in terms of trying to control other people or events, but let’s think specifically today about trying to control the timing of things.

The first brain-spark was a book I read called What Alice ForgotIt was a surprisingly fun read, even though the subject seemed like it could be really scary. Alice hits her head and wakes up thinking it’s 10 years ago. So she thinks she’s 29 and pregnant with her first child, when in reality she’s 39, has 3 kids, and is in the middle of a divorce. I’ll say no more, except that one of the things Older Alice was, was Busy. (Kindly notice the capital B.) She was always rushing around, and Younger Alice, who had a tendency to take things more slowly, was mystified. Why would she feel she had to do all these things, and so quickly?

Sometimes I feel like Younger Alice, too. I look at all my stinkin’ lists and piles of stuff to do and think, Hey, wait! Didn’t I used to take naps in college? Didn’t I used to watch the rain run down the window when I was a kid? I’m pretty sure I used to sit in the back yard doing ABSOLUTELY nothing, for at least some amount of time. Possibly looking at bugs and grass? Yeah, that seems familiar. I used to be….unproductive! And it was okay…

I like having a full, busy life. I would not trade a thing! But I also know that sometimes I can say “yes” to too much, pressure myself and get overwhelmed and feel all put-upon, as I know I’ve written about before.  Sound familiar? We must resist the urge to overcommit, to rush, to scamper.  Stop and breathe!

The second thing some of you know about already, so feel free to skim if you like. It happened during our recent family jaunt to Mackinac Island. If you’ve never been, it’s great. Small enough that you can pretty much do anything in a few days, no cars, water all around, usually does not get too hot. I call it a little slice of old-time paradise. Oh, and the fudge. Yeah!

We’ve made the island trip a summer tradition for the last 4 years, and every year we try something new. Last year it was the “Maze of Mirrors” (silly) and glo-golf (fun though I really stunk, compared to my usual daytime putt-putt splendor). This year, we rented our own horse-drawn buggy. We had done the group tours a few times and already knew all the highlights from that. This way, we could do our own thing, and see parts of the island that we hadn’t before. Cool, right?

And then there was Molly. The stable owners of course ask you if you have any horse experience, which Better Half did. I had ridden a horse exactly once, so we scratched the idea of me driving (though I may make a bid for next year).  The owners said, “Oh, he can handle Molly.” We thought maybe she would be “high spirited” or something. They told us there was a certain corner where something  had spooked her, and she wouldn’t turn a certain way. Anyhow, it sounded like no big deal. We planned on a 1-hour trail, but the nice people at the stable said we could do a longer loop (to avoid the troublesome corner) and it would take maybe an hour 45, but they wouldn’t charge us over the hour. DEAL MAGNET! I thought.

We waited about 20 min for Molly to “finish her break” and then we were off. They tell you that trotting the horses is fine but no galloping, and please only walk the horses up hills.

Turns out that was not going to be a problem.

Molly started off clip-clipping along, maybe a little slower than expected, but hey, we were just getting started. Then we notice that she isn’t getting any faster, no matter the number or volume of “giddy up, Molly”s. Better Half does not want to be abusive with the reins, so he’s sort of lightly flicking them. People are whizzing past on bikes (expected). Then we see an elderly gent completely leave us in the dust…in his motorized wheelchair.

We were learning, less than a mile into it, that Molly does the Island at her own pace.

We finally got to the halfway point (45 min later than expected) where a seasoned cowpoke (aptly named Buck) awaited. His job was to hold Molly while we had some refreshments and a bathroom break. Buck said little but seemed to have a knowing hint of a smile. We decided to take our snacks in the buggy. It’s not that we had any particular timetable, but we did want to get to dinner before the sun set, some 3 hours hence.  The kids joked that “Molly” must be short for “molasses”.

The second half, Molly picked up the pace. We referred to it as “really truckin’ “, by which I mean the preschooler and his mom who were strolling alongside us on the road occasionally fell behind. Molly stopped and snorted at every hill. She stopped and looked at every stable, and even at a large pile of manure (they have to store it somewhere). Other horses from the same stable walked (or even trotted) past us. We urged Molly to follow her friends, to no avail. Molly does the island at her own pace.

We made it back to Jack’s Livery, some 2 1/2 hours later. Buck had beat us back (he probably walked) and was smoking on a bench by the door.  The owners thanked us for “taking care of Molly”, which I think meant letting her walk at her Molly pace and not getting all cranky with her.

I think next year we will request Shorty or Bud.

The thing was, even though we were all getting a little irritated at the incredibly slow pace, we also realized that nothing was going to really move Molly along, at least nothing that we were willing to do. So we all pretty much relaxed and enjoyed the ride, pun intended.  I didn’t even realize that Molly had been such a highlight of the trip until after the fact. The picture above is Molly with Buck, if you haven’t guessed already.

The quote above is from my very wise father.  When I was a teenager and learning to drive, he must have said that a million times. I used to sigh and say, “Yeah, Dad.” but you know, I was a teenager. I didn’t really get it. I now understand how much he must have been biting his tongue and using deep breathing while enduring driving practice with me. And how right he was! Resist the rush!

So now, I’m trying to remember Molly plodding along, just sauntering on her trek, when I feel rushed and stressed and all that.   She knew the value of letting it take as long as it takes, and enjoying the view and the company along the way. Molly must have had a dad like mine.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit around and do Nothing for a few minutes…